Thursday, November 30, 2023

lucky us: lục bát

Greetings on this first (not sixth, not eighth) of December!  I have sixes and eights on my mind because the Inklings are challenged (again so soon?) by dear Molly to try a Vietnamese poetry form called the lục bát. Her charge went like this:
Last month there was an Ethical ELA challenge to write a lục bát poem. I was really intrigued by the interwoven rhyme scheme. ... Here’s a link to more information about this form: luc bats Or maybe you’ll get inspired by something in this fascinating blog post about Vietnamese language and poetry:
And if that’s not working for you, feel free to do whatever the hell you want :)

I do appreciate Molly's plainspokenness and flexibility, but I went for the lục bát--which means, in Sino-Vietnamese, "six eight". It has a looping, syllable-counted rhyme scheme that looks like this:


From Wikipedia I also learned that Vietnamese, being a tonal language, bestows a pattern of flat (bằng) and sharp (trắc) tones to the lines of a Lục bát that sounds like this, if you know how to do it.

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng 

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng trắc bằng.

That's pretty cool, right?
So first I just goofed around with the six-eight idea and wrote certainly the most foolish lục bát ever:

six shakes, cuz seven ate

nine; swelled up; celebrates their new

round belly, how they grew

from two scrappy sticks who spent all

their lives between the balls

of six and eight, now calls their name

“sweet sixteen,” got some game,

lords ten over the same fat six

which crowded seven’s sticks

forever. now lil six just quakes.

          draft ©HM 2023 

But this morning I decided to get serious and it really helped to know that the lục bát has "iambic tendency." I know someone who died last week 1 month shy of 100, and now Henry Kissinger as well.

I have a strong feeling that the last word should match one of the previous ones, like A or D, so there it is.  Are you hoping to live to 100?

Pop in to all the other Inklings to see what they've done with the sixes and the eights, and if you've had enough of that you might enjoy this 6's to 9's song.

Catherine @ Reading to the Core
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Two other notes:  the November issue of WHISPERshout Poetry Magazine features moon poems you won't want to miss (2nd and 3rd grade poets keep knocking my socks off).

And, yesterday kicked off the UN Conference of Parties on Climate, or COP28.

Here's an explainer about this year's COP from the UN and from The Guardian, and why it matters. (Yep, it matters for exactly the reasons you think it does.)

Here are Grist's "4 Issues to Watch."

And here's We Don't Have Time, a world citizen organization which streams live from COP28 and gives a good overview and update from each day's sessions with options to dig deeper if you have time.  Because we DON'T have time.

Finally, I'm thanking Anastasia Suen at Small Poems for hosting us, and for the little book TODDLER TWO that I read and read with my toddler back when Anastasia was just getting going with her publishing career! Happy publication anniversary, Anastasia!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

#ncte23 & a record set

Greetings, poetry friends, and happy Thankstaking. Yes, you read that right.  Carole Lindstrom (author of many books telling the stories of Native peoples here in the U.S. of A.) laughed when she said it during a session I attended at NCTE this past weekend, but she meant it--in her family they call it "Thankstaking" as a way of remembering what the First Thanksgiving eventually led to for the indigenous people of North America. I also find it wryly useful, and I give thanks for all the Native creators who are bringing their light to children's literature.  

Traci Sorell is one of them, and her talk at the Children's Literature Assembly Breakfast was mightily enlightening, and I'm donating to the Highlights Foundation Native Creatives Scholarship Fund that she's spearheading. 

I enjoyed my conference, most especially being with many of the Poetry Friday friends we all know and love, and yet there's never enough time to go deep, to write together, to follow up on the ideas and the practices we encounter--so there's always some regret about what didn't happen!

Still, there was plenty to enjoy and celebrate with Mary Lee, Margaret Simon, Laura Shovan, Laura Purdie Salas, Amy LV, Mary Cronin, (and if I've missed out any other PF regulars I'm sorry and will come back and edit). Poetry people are the best!

And yet.
And yet.

Last night I opened an email from The Atlantic's Weekly Planet and learned that at the same time many of us were blithely enjoying a session highlighting Georgia Heard, winner of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award, and her new book with Rebecca Kai Dotlich (member of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee), we humans set a record that has me shook.

The irony is that I'm not sure I can do anything more powerful than write a poem in response. Today, anyway.  Maybe tomorrow I can do something more green future, less Black Friday.

I'm grateful for Ruth, who is hosting us today at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.   See you there, fellow humans.

Friday, November 10, 2023


Greetings, PF Friends--a quick one today, just to highlight a poem I used in my new WHISPERshout Workshop this week.  We were reading and writing moon poems, and while I haven't gotten my hands on Irene's THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON yet...

I do have this anthology collected by Roger Stevens and published by the British press Otter-Barry. In it I found a really great poem for helping kids to notice a range of poetry techniques.

Grace Nichols, a Guyanese-born poet, is an unsung hero here States-side, but is quite famous in England.  Listen for the Caribbean rhythms here.

Look at the moon!

A crescent sky-ship sailing

out of a cloudy cocoon

Look at the moon!

A cauldron of amber

spelling, rain-come-soon

 Each group had fun marking up the poem (which I admit I abridged to make it fit on the chart paper!).  And what do you think about that comma?  Is it a typo?

We're making pinhole art (mine below) and writing about it, and there will certainly be an issue of WHISPERshout Poetry Magazine dedicated to it! 

Go here to read the most recent, October issue of the magazine if you haven't yet, and don't forget to tell the young poets you may know that their poems are welcome and can be submitted using this form.

Thanks to Karen for hosting us at her shockingly clever blog, and I'll see you next week from NCTE--WHEEEE!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

hallowed be a rest

Greetings, all, and happy November!  The hiatus is over, at least for now. I'm back in time meet the challenge set by our very flexible friend Linda Mitchell, who charged us thus:

Write a prose piece–find a poem in it.
Or, write a poem, expand it into a prose piece.
Or, find a prose piece, transform it into a poem
Or, find a poem and transpose it into a prose piece.
Any interpretation of this prompt is perfect.
Going rogue is acceptable too.

I seem to have colored perfectly outside the lines: I made a poetry-kind-of-object, and then transformed it into a prose piece.


I decided also to make a version for younger readers:

I wonder if you prefer one version over the other, and why.  

Thanks to Buffy Silverman at her blog for hosting us today along with the first flakes of snow where she is--wow!  Here's where you can see the rest of our critique group's responses to the challenge:

Catherine @ Reading to the Core

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

And thank you for being willing to welcome folks back when they have been away a while.  If you feel like being EXTRA supportive, go like my WHISPERshout Page on Facebook, and maybe join me on Bluesky, now that I have officially defected from Twittx.  May poetry prevail!