Snowflakes at Dusk

I’ve enjoyed photography since high school, when I had the opportunity to take a photography class (how lucky was I to attend a public school that thought photography was a good use of time and resources!) For many years my camera focused on our kids, but when digital photography became popular, I left the family photos to my son. Then a few years ago my husband bought me a Canon Rebel for my birthday–and I fell in love with photography again. I occasionally post birds and bugs on Facebook, and sometimes (although not often enough) I use my photos for poetry prompts.

Earlier this week I tried taking photos of snowflakes for the first time. I am no Snowflake Bentley, but I managed to get a decent shot of the flakes on our picnic table in the low afternoon light. When I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Snowflakes at dusk,” Matt Forrest Essenwine commented that it would be the perfect title for a poem. I decided to take his challenge.

snowflakeI started with a random list of impressions/thoughts from the afternoon snow:

speckles of white swirl and melt //fading light
Speckles of white in black fur
Slow drift
Perfect crystals before melting on jacket sleeves
Slip off pine needles
Cover crunchy ground with soft fluff
Bird tracks under feeder
Frozen ground crunches under black paws–

And then I wrote: What ties all this together??

Other than my being outside with the hound, I had no idea. I tried to focus on a small detail, and that led me to haiku. Although I admire haikus that I read online (like those by Robyn, Diane, and Liz) I’ve never really understood what makes them work. But far be that from stopping me–and I figured I could use my title as one line, so the poem was one-third written!  Here are a couple of mediocre attempts:

snowflakes at dusk–
new fluff softens
the frozen ground
–Buffy Silverman

snowflakes at dusk—
bird tracks fill
and disappear
–Buffy Silverman

Both of those felt a bit slight to me, but nothing else seemed to gel. When I was reading in bed that night (Circling the Sun by Paula McLain) I was taken by the descriptions of the African sky. McLain’s words sparked some ideas, and I jotted them down. In the morning, I turned my scribbles into this:

Snowflakes at Dusk

The air brims with flakes–
crystalline stars that drift and fall,
speckling black dogs and gray branches,
erasing bird tracks below the feeder,
muffling the crunch of frozen ground.
–Buffy Silverman

So there you go, Matt. Three poems for the price of one! If my snowflake photo inspires you, dear readers, please share a poem in the comments.

Happy Poetry Friday. Tabatha has this week’s round-up at The Opposite of Indifference.

It’s Poetry Friday!

Happy Poetry Friday! Mr. Linky has kindly volunteered to help with the round-up this week. Please leave your links in the form at the end of this post.

November was an exciting month for me. My husband and I went on a service-learning trip to the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala with a group from our temple. We have not travelled a lot, and we have never had an experience remotely like this before. I admit to being nervous before the trip–I was worried about being overwhelmed or depressed by the poverty. I was concerned that I would not be able to communicate with people with my almost non-existent knowledge of Spanish. And I did not want to feel like a rich American who had come to swoop in and solve problems that I knew little about.

But my concerns were unfounded. Guatemala is a place of amazing beauty. And while the poverty is severe, the people we met did not act downtrodden or depressed. In fact, the children of these families were cheerful and eager to join in on our projects. I hope we contributed in some small way to improving the lives of a few families. I know I gained immensely from the experience.

Our group worked primarily with two Guatemalan organizations: The Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP) and Mayan Families. One of IMAP’s main goals is to create food sovereignty with organic gardens that preserve Mayan seed banks and promote biodiversity. We helped put in a garden for a single mom and her children who lived in a community built after the 2005 hurricane displaced indigenous farmers from their land. It was amazing to see the change in the family’s small yard–and wonderful to see how the kids jumped in to dig and plant (by the second day 13-year old Lesley had decided that she was going to be a gardener when she grows up.) IMG_6494We worked on several projects with Mayan Families, including building a chicken coop for a single mom and her 10 children (who lived in three rooms with a leaky tin roof.) The oldest son works as a builder’s assistant and was enamored with the power tools that the group had brought. The younger kids jumped in with hammering and painting. We also built stoves for families that had previously used open flames for cooking.

I’ve whittled down my 1000 photos from the trip to a not-quite-manageable number. Here are a few of my favorites, and a draft of a poem inspired by the experience.IMG_6874  IMG_6803                                 IMG_6868         IMG_6900  IMG_6775IMG_6959IMG_7086 IMG_7200

Eight Days in Guatemala

A hoe, a rake,
new skills to learn–

we plant, we grow,
we reap in turn.

With hammer and nails
with wood and scraps,

we join and build,
we bridge our gaps.

A gesture, a smile,
to give, to take,

with work and cheer,
new worlds to make.
–Buffy Silverman, November, 2015

A Celebration of Wild

_MG_5983Irene Latham, one of the nicest people I’ve never met (and an amazing poet) is hosting a Wild 10 Year Blogiversary Celebration today. In honor of her blogiversary, she’s asked folks to contribute a wild-themed poem.

The wildest creature in my life is our new dog, Dakota. We’ve had Dakota for about two months–he was a stray Plott hound who lived in prison for 10 weeks, learning some basic commands and good behavior before being put up for adoption. I hope he brought joy to the inmates who trained him–he’s a sweetheart of a dog with soulful brown eyes and a penchant for leaning on anyone willing to pet him. Dakota inspired this poem, and Irene gave me an excuse to share some photos of Dakota. Thank you both!

Dog Days

A tang of sky
A sniff of breeze
A bark, a cry
A dash through trees
A track, a trail
A bound, a leap
A snug of tail
A ball of sleep
–©Buffy Silverman

_MG_0036_MG_6263_MG_0035_MG_6267_MG_5924

 

It’s Halloweensie Time!

Just in time for Halloween, Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog is chock-full of fun-sized stories! Susanna is hosting her 5th Annual Halloweensie Contest. The rules for this year’s contest are to write a 100-word or less Halloween story for kids, using the words costume, dark, and haunt (or any variation like costumed, darkened, haunted, etc.) If you’re reading this and it’s before Friday, October 30th at 11:59 pm, you’ve still got time to join the halloweensie parade. Visit Susanna’s blog to find links to all the Halloweensie entries.

Here’s mine:

halloweendebut

My kind daughter put my poem on the above image (thank you, Widescreen Wallpapers!) and darkened the web line that ran through it. She also said I should post the poem without the image, in case anyone who uses text-to-speech software wanted to read it. That’s something I never would have thought of (and why I depend on my kids to keep me up-to-date.)  So here’s the non-image enhanced version:

Spider’s Halloween Debut
by Buffy Silverman

Spider spun her sticky web
and scrutinized the scene below.
A ghoulish ghost and ghastly witch
were putting on a scary show

to entertain a costumed crew
who bravely watched the chilling sight.
The audience heard gruesome groans
and shivered in the cold, dark night.

Spider itched to join the fun,
to haunt, to scare, to steal the show.
She dropped a line and skittered down,
but no one looked… so she let go

and landed on the witch’s neck.
Spider scampered, spider crawled,
She heard a screech! She heard a howl!
Creepy spider spooked them all.

Happy Halloween and Happy Early Poetry Friday. Visit Jone at Check it Out for more poetry friday treats.

Monarch Magic

One of the highlights of my summer was sharing our dining room table with a pair of monarch caterpillars. Several years ago I planted swamp milkweed at the edge of our swampy lake, and now we’ve got a healthy crop of milkweed. The original plants were cast-offs from a research project of one of my husband’s grad students. I picked some milkweed flowers for a reception in honor of said graduate student after she defended her thesis this summer. A couple of days later I noticed two teeny monarch caterpillars on the flowers! For weeks I photographed the caterpillars as they nibbled and grew, and then changed into chrysalids.

I often use my photographs as poetry prompts, so this summer’s caterpillars starred in a couple of my summer swap poems. My talented daughter did the layout of all my swap poems. The first one, for Linda Baie ( this week’s poetry friday host,) was written when the caterpillars were barely visible as they munched flower buds.

metamorphosis

© Buffy Silverman

About 10 days later the caterpillars had grown almost as long as the milkweed leaves they were devouring, and then changed into chrysalids. I posted quite a few photos of the kids on Facebook, and Vicky Lorencen commented that she liked their striped pajamas. Striped pajamas led me to think about clown suits. That circus image inspired my next summer swap poem, written for Keri Collins Lewis:

© Buffy Silverman

© Buffy Silverman

We were out-of-town when the first butterfly emerged, but I got to watch and photograph the second one. I’ll refrain from posting the hundreds of photos I took…but you can scroll down and enjoy a bit of the magic:

_MG_5081 _MG_5109 _MG_5117

_MG_5121 _MG_5160 _MG_5326

_MG_5397 _MG_5457

Happy Poetry Friday!

Sharing Summer’s Bounty

I’ve had a fairly busy summer–working on more books for Lerner, a couple of Click articles, and some other small writing gigs. Often when I have work-for-hire assignments, poetry flies out the window. But this summer I’ve managed to write some poetry too. Liz Steinglass and I exchanged daily poems in July (which allowed us both to complete drafts of collections we started during our exchange in April.) My critique group held it’s annual retreat, which is always a productive and inspiring time. AND I participated in Tabatha’s Summer Poetry Swap! The main reason I signed up for the swap is for the deadlines–I wish I could say I always write every day, but without some kind of accountability I lose focus.

The summer swap has a wonderful added benefit: my mailbox fills with poetry! I shared a couple of earlier swap poems here. Today I’m posting the final three poems I received.

I could have used Tabatha Yeatts‘ inspiration when I was struggling to write my final March Madness poem about gargoyles! Tabatha’s laughing, splashing, open-mouthed gargoyle has so much spunk and attitude–and I appreciated that she wrote a “Things To Do” poem, as I had played with that form recently on my blog.

©Tabatha Yeatts

©Tabatha Yeatts

I guess I’ve earned a reputation as a dragonfly lover, because Irene Latham sent me my second dragonfly poem of the swap. I was also happy to recognize that Nikki Grimes’ challenge on Today’s Little Ditty inspired Irene’s iridescent, helicoptering dragonfly.

©Irene Latham

©Irene Latham

Linda Baie’s “Blowing Out the Summer Candles” was not the final poem I received in the swap. But it is full of the bounty and sweetness of summer’s end, and the perfect poem to close my post with:

©Linda Baie

©Linda Baie

Thanks to all my summer swappers! Be sure to visit Sylvia at Poetry for Children to share this week’s Poetry Friday harvest.

 

 

Buffy Silverman

August 7, 2015

I’m participating in the summer poetry swap again this year, organized by Tabatha Yeatts. Most of my mail is of the junk variety, so it’s a treat to open an envelope and find poetry! My first swapper was Diane Mayr, whose random noodling is a poetry delight. Diane took her inspiration from the dragonfly on my blog.

©Diane Mayr

©Diane Mayr

One of the things I enjoy about the swap is seeing the different approaches that poets take–I love that Diane’s poem combines science and art, and goes from historic to realistic to fantastic. Imagining a dragonfly making off with the occasional small child definitely appeals to my strange sense of humor!

When I received Diane’s poem I realized that I had better get moving on my first swap poem, which was meant to go to Diane. I thought I might write a dragonfly poem in return. But then I remembered that I had recently photographed a newly-emerged damselfly, complete with the damsel’s nymphal skin. And since Diane wrote about damsels and nymphs, I was set. Here’s the mask poem I wrote to go with the photo:

©Buffy Silverman

©Buffy Silverman

For the second swap, Tabatha gave an optional prompt of writing a small sonnet. According to Tabatha, a small sonnet has seven couplets, with an AB or BA rhyme scheme. Each line is 5 syllables, with the first line rhyming with the title. PLUS at least one line has 5 monosyllabic words, and at least one line is one 5 syllable word. Talk about a challenge! The poem I sent to Carol Varsalona did not have a 5 syllable word, but I think I managed to follow the rest of the form’s rules. And I got to include a dragonfly! The photo that inspired the poem was taken with my left hand because my right hand was otherwise occupied:

©Buffy Silverman

©Buffy Silverman

The poem that Keri Collins Lewis sent me for the second swap made me blush–it was about me! I’m pretty sure no one has ever written a poem with moi as the subject before, and it is unlikely to happen again, so I will treasure this one.

©Keri Collins Lewis

©Keri Collins Lewis

I’ve got more poetry swap treasures to share, but I’ll save them for another week. Tabatha has all this week’s poetry friday offerings at The Opposite of Indifference.

 

It’s Poetry Friday!

18923_originalWelcome to Poetry Friday! I’ve had a busy couple of months, filled with travel for young author presentations, school visits, and a big work-for-hire project. I’m looking forward to a more relaxed summer–but not so relaxed that I return to my slacker ways and forget to write! In an effort to jumpstart some summer writing, I participated in The Love of Poetry Challenge that was meandering around Facebook the past couple of weeks, and decided to write some poems to go with the gazillion and one photographs I’ve taken in May.

My inspiration for one poem was Elaine Magliaro’s “Things to Do If You Are a Pencil,” from Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard. I love the way this poem turns a pencil into a dancer who creates a poem:

Things to Do If You Are a Pencil

Be sharp.
Wear a slick yellow suit
and a pink top hat.
Tap your toes on the tabletop,
(read the rest of the poem here.)

Last week I got the chance to get up close and personal with a trilling gray tree frog, and think about things that froggy might do. My husband was clearing a clogged gutter and scared a calling male tree frog off a downspout. I further tormented the poor frog by moving him to a photogenic spot for his portrait. He leapt away after a few shots–here is the list poem I wrote as a tribute to him:_MG_2851

Things to Do If You Are a Tree Frog

Thaw in springtime. Climb a tree
and vault
from branch to branch.
Stick the landing with your toes.
Dress in barky gray or leafy green.
Join a choir.
Trill from treetops.
Wait for love to find you.
Buffy Silverman, all rights reserved

This style must have seeped into my brain, because I found myself starting another list poem today for Laura Salas’ 15 word-or-less challenge.  The dangling window washer’s boots that were in the challenge photograph somehow disappeared when I expanded the poem, but the window (or at least the window ledge) remains in this draft:

Things to Do If You Are a Window Ledge:

Cradle a nest of falcons.
Feel the grip of ivy’s roots.
Adopt a flower box.
Wear a cloak of cat or squirrel.
Warm up in the summer sun.
Welcome an evening breeze.
Buffy Silverman, all rights reserved

Come fill your Friday with poetry!  Please leave your links in the comment section, and I’ll add them throughout the day.

Jan Annino shares lines of a summer hat poem from E.B. White, an original summer poem, and a list of cool tips for a pregnant pal in humid hot, heated Florida.

Laura Purdie Salas and the other members of the Poetry Seven have been writing odes. Laura pays tribute to junk food.

Robyn Hood Black is studying nursery rhymes and offers a couple of views of “Mary, Mary.” I vote for the cowslips.

Jama’s Alphabet Soup is serving one of my favorite desserts–brownies–with a poem and recipe from Judyth Hill.

Penny Parker Klostermann features a trio of guests on A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt: the poetry and artwork of Carrie Finnison and Carrie’s son and daughter.

Diane Mayr has an original and updated take on “Summertime” at Random Noodling. At Kurious Kitty Diane celebrates National Donut Day.

Joyce Ray has taken up the fiddle! Her violin lessons inspired an original poem, based on the  “Say” poems by Nikki Grimes in her book Words with Wings.

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman has also been writing odes and shares one with an…errr… provocative title: “Ode to the F-word.”

Matt Forrest Esenwine shares an original poem and invites folks to check out his post about Poetry Voiceovers.

Over at Friendly Fairytales, Brenda is traveling by magic carpet ride with her original poem.

It’s time for a new challenge at Today’s Little Ditty. Michelle welcomes Corey Rosen Schwartz and her latest picture book, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?

Tanita Davis also shares an ode today. She sings to her bling with an Ode to Adornment.

A special congratulations to Linda Baie who retires today after teaching for 26 years! She’s thinking less of what’s next and more of just being present.

Carol Varsalona invites Poetry Friday friends to contribute a poem/photo combination to her newest gallery. She shares “Envisioning Spring’s Symphony.”

Lorie Ann Grover has some thoughts of a feathered nature with her haiku, Beak Retreat.

Greg Pincus is also celebrating National Donut Day over at Gottabook!

Over at The Drift Record Julie is thinking of 1) squirrels, 2) transcendentalists and 3) talent, all via a little poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson called “Fable.”

Tabatha Yeatts shares shares an Australian bush poem today by Louis Lavater.

Today at The Poem Farm, Amy has an apology poem and an invitation to notebookers!

And here’s another ode from Andromeda–exploring the sad and rrrrrrippiting connection between frogs and knitting.

Speaking of odes (and seven of you are) Sara is thinking tangentially with her “An Ode to…well you’ll see–I think” at Read Write Believe. 

Heidi is back with a “Things To Do” poem, this one by Bobbi Katz (who Heidi thinks invented the form) who inspired the poem of Elaine that inspired the poems of Buffy.

Tricia has also been writing odes. I’ll admit that I often find myself thinking of new lines/rewriting a poem on the porcelain throne. Tricia found inspiration there too with her “Ode to Where My Backside’s Been.”

Kimberley shares a poetic recipe for bread starter that’s handed down from baker to baker…and teaching second graders!

Mary Lee shares a poem by Billy Collins and her own thoughts about silence as the school year comes to a close. Be sure to answer Mary Lee’s call for roundup hosts for July-December.

Over at Reflections on the Teche Margaret has written a poem from the notes she took while listening to a traiteur, a Creole healer.

Jim shares an original pantoum (which my auto-corrector wants to change to phantom..) that should put us all in mind for summer: “I’m Jealous of the Watermelon Seed.”

Donna has been playing in the tall grass, and has a poem to show for it at Mainely Write.

Liz is also contributing an ode–this one inspired by her curls and her girls.

There’s a birthday party (have a happy!) with plenty of cat love (or at least cat poems) at Gathering Books. 

Ruth shares “Deep Enough to Dream” a summery song by Chris Rice.

Sherry shares Tolkien’s “Goblin Feet” at Semicolon.

Janet reviews “Doggy slippers: poems by Jorge Lujan” (with the contribution of Latin American children), translated by Elisa Amado with pictures by Isol.

If you’ve spent too much time in the sun and need a little cool down, head over to Dori Reads for a n(ice) penguin poem by Dennis Webster.

Speaking of the weather, Joy knows what to do on a gray day. Read her poem, “Of this Day,” on Poetry for Kids Joy.

Jone shares three student poems at Check It Out.

At her Hatbooks blog, Holly writes about the Kenji Miyazawa poem “Ame ni mo makezu” often translated as “Strong in the Rain.”

Over at TeachingAuthors April shares 3 Ways to Inspire A Poem…with a poem about a little god who’s looking for a poem…and what the clouds say about that.

Cathy has been watching fluff floating in the air. She shares two poems about “summer snow.”

Happy Yesterday Birthday to Ramona, and her birthday twin–Joyce Sidman. Ramona is celebrating Joyce’s poetry, in honor of their shared birthday.

Over at Poetry for Children Sylvia shares this week’s exciting poetry news: Jacqueline Woodson is the new Young People’s Poet Laureate! Sylvia also shares a favorite poem from Jacqueline’s Brown Girl Dreaming.

That’s all for now, folks. If I missed your link or made an error please let me know!

 

Bicycle Tree

I’ve been exchanging poems with Liz Steinglass for National Poetry Month. It’s been a fun challenge and a treat to find Liz’s mostly desk-inspired poems in my inbox each day. I started the month looking for a theme and for a few days wrote poems about trees. Then I stumbled on a different theme, but today I’m sharing one of the tree poems. It was inspired by an amazing photo that my daughter found on the internets, taken on Vashon Island in Washington state. (We did not see this tree when we took our kiddos to Vashon, where my husband’s sister lives, almost 20 years ago. But it is high on my list if/when we return.)

Photo by Ethan Welty/Tandem from http://blogs.sierraclub.org/sierradaily/2011/08/bicycle-eating-trees.html

Photo by Ethan Welty/Tandem

Bicycle Tree

On a cool spring night
a boy leaned his red bicycle
against a young fir tree
and wandered away.

The bicycle waited patiently
for the boy’s return.

The tree grew and grew,
enveloping the frame,
embracing and lifting it
higher and higher.

Fifty years later
when the boy returned

along the road that had crumbled
past the house that no longer stood
through the woods that had grown
to the giant tree that shadowed the ground

the rusty bicycle, no longer leaning,
half-swallowed by wood and bark,

still waited.

–Buffy Silverman, all rights reserved

There are a lot of stories floating around the internet about how the bike ended up in the tree. Here’s one that may or may not be true.

Be sure to visit Renee at No Water River for the complete Poetry Friday roundup. Happy Final Friday of National Poetry Month!18923_original

 

 

The Progressive Poem: Who is that Fisherman?

Welcome to the Progressive Poem!

One of the highlights of National Poetry Month for me is participating in Irene Latham’s progressive poem. The poem is a group venture in the month of April, with each poet adding a new line and sending it on its journey. And today the poem has landed here!

Our girl/mermaid has had quite an adventure as she bounced around the internet (look at the sidebar on the right for a complete map of her trip.) She started in a net-less state on the delta, with bare feet, fast hands, wild hair, a mysterious handbag, and a beautiful bracelet. Then after tripping over her tail and slipping in the swamp, she listens to ibises, remembers sage advice from her grandmother, and seizes a paddle. Yesterday, after some spectacular research by Ruth, she looked into the eyes of a startled fisherman in his green pirogue and carrying his crawfish trap. Now what??

Maybe she thinks of escape… Maybe the fisherman will spark a new romance… Maybe he is her missing kin, the link to her mysterious, shape-shifting past…

Maybe I only need to write one line and let others decide the ultimate destination! So here it is:

 

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder, on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.

Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms. Her hair flows,
snows in wild wind as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,

pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones, and steps through the curved doorway.

Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide… splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,

listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp–
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory.

Born from the oyster, expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.

The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips–
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.

Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled fisherman

with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–

Now it’s Sheila’s turn!

Happy Poetry Friday! Visit Life on the Deckle Edge where Robyn has this week’s round-up.