Author Archives: Buffy Silverman

Drawn from Nature

Happy April! Happy National Poetry Month! I’m planning on reviving my long-neglected blog this month with reviews of picture books, and use them as springboards for my own writing. One of the benefits of being a judge for the Cybils poetry award is that I’ve received a few new picture books to review. This week I’d like to introduce you to a favorite.

Have you ever flipped through the pages of a new book and been astonished at what the author created? That’s what the experience of looking at Drawn from Nature was for me. The book features intricate collages of plants and animals, each made from hundreds of pressed leaves and flowers. This visual feast is arranged as a journey through the seasons, beginning with the spring bird chorus, travelling through summer meadows and autumn fruits, and ending with a winter night. I can’t imagine the patience required to assemble these collages into creatures and scenes that seem to fly off the page. Take a look at this handsome owl (my scanning skills are not the finest, so you really need to view the book to get the full impact!)

Or this stunning fox:

The book opens with the sound and sight of early-morning birds singing to establish a territory and attract a mate. I hesitate to pair the visual beauty with my words. But since one of my goals in reviewing is to motivate my own writing, I’m giving it a try. Here’s a draft of a poem about the male Red-winged blackbirds that recently returned to Michigan. They squawk at my feeder in the morning and evening, when they are taking a break from setting up territories in the swamp that borders our yard.

Spring Soldier

Wearing his sleek black uniform
he proudly parades his rank
with epaulets adorning his shoulders,
red as pressed maple leaves
fringed with aspen yellow.

His wardrobe for the new season
dazzles with the brilliance of autumn’s past.

Guarding his garrison,
he halts each enemy incursion.
Spread wings and flicked tail announce
my branch, my tree,
as he patrols his borders,

commanding, calling, brawling,
conk-a-ree, don’t mess with me!
–©Buffy Silverman, 2018

Find Drawn from Nature at your library or bookstore and prepare to savor it and be inspired (thanks to Candlewick Press for sharing it with me) or check it out here. This is a book I would have pored over for hours when I was a kid, and then pressed some treasures and tried to make my own collages. Speaking of folks who like to make things, be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm who is hosting all of today’s poetry-month goodies.

Merry Happy Poetry Friday!

Welcome to Poetry Friday! I’m happy to host the party this week. I imagine many of you are busy with last-minute Christmas preparations. Are your stockings hung? Your presents wrapped? Your cookies decorated? Your house clean enough for in-laws and cousins? I wish you a Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year. And for those of you, like me, who have finished lighting your menorahs, I hope you had a happy Chanukah.

Last week looked jolly and white. Now that winter has officially arrived, it’s muddy and gray outside.

Christmas has often left me feeling conflicted. There seemed to be a reason to not celebrate when I was a child–we were Jewish and Christmas belonged to Christians. We celebrated Chanukah, but my parents kept it as the minor holiday that it was intended to be–new socks or boots were about as exciting as it got. But when I met my husband and visited his family, I found out that for them Christmas was an orgy of presents, with a little magic and not much religion on the side. What had I been missing all these years?!

For almost 10 years we lived near his family and celebrated with them. Then we moved half-way across the country, and it was clear that if we were going to celebrate Christmas, it would be up to me.  And, er, I was Jewish. So for most of their childhood, my kids grew up without Christmas and I felt slightly guilty about not keeping their father’s family’s traditions. My now-adult kids have assured me that they didn’t feel Christmas-deprived (we did a little more present-giving at Chanukah time than when I was a kid.) This poem is for them and for me.

On Tuesday, the final night of Chanukah, we lit the oil menorah that my great-grandparents brought with them from Lithuania. We did not burn the house down.

December 24th

The latkes were eaten.
The dreidels were spun.
The candles had flickered.
The presents? All done.

My clothes smelled like oil
from donuts we’d fried.
I scraped away wax,
set menorahs aside.

I read my new books.
New socks warmed my feet.
My sled gathered dust
as snow turned to sleet.

Tomorrow was Christmas
for friends– but not me.
I’d have eggrolls to nosh
and movies to see!
–©Buffy Silverman, 12/2017

Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope they bring light in this season of darkness. In the spirit of shining a light, I’m also sharing a poem (with permission) that Margarita Engle posted this week on Facebook. The poem features the seven words banned from CDC agency budget documents.

EVIDENCE-BASED, A Poem Against Tyranny

When words are banned by a president
who imagines that limiting language
is his entitlement, all poets must use
our vulnerable freedom of speech
before we lose it the way transgender people
can lose rights, the White House has lost
diversity, and any fetus might lose hope for
a healthy future, simply because
medicine is only for the rich,
and science-based facts
are prohibited—but only UNTIL
the deceptive election is investigated,
and truth once again
sets us free.
–©Margarita Engle, National Young People’s Poet Laureate

Now, more than ever, we need to share words that light the darkness. And what better way to do so than with poetry? Please leave your poetry links below.

Old Cherry

I’m fortunate to live in a neighborhood that’s surrounded by woods and a lake. The downside of living in the woods, however, is losing those trees. Our neighborhood lost hundreds of trees about 15 years ago during some powerful straight line winds. We were lucky that only a couple of standing dead trees fell on our property during that storm, and the surviving trees in the neighborhood have filled in the gaps in the ensuing years.

But many of our trees are aging, and this week we had to have two taken down. One was a huge red oak that was likely two hundred years old. Its crown towered over our roof, and it had started to lean precariously. Carpenter ants and other critters had hollowed out the base of the trunk (fun fact that I learned from an arborist: if you hammer on a trunk you can hear the difference between solid and hollow wood.) I knew it had to come down, but it still felt like a huge loss. I’ve looked at that tree every morning for the past 20 years, and written about many animals that inhabited it.

The other tree was a 100-foot tall cherry that had lost a huge limb about a month ago, and had a large split between the two remaining trunks. Downy woodpeckers had worked the cherry’s broken stubs for many years. This summer I watched a pileated woodpecker drumming near the tree’s top.

So it’s not surprising that when I thought about this month’s challenge on Today’s Little Ditty, my mind turned to old trees. Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, challenged writers to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful. Several of our trees fit the bill.

Old Cherry

You stand in spring
barely a bud growing
on tired branches.
Woodpecker tests your trunk, tat-a-tat,
chipping sweet, soft wood.

This old cherry still stands near our house.

Your roots search
for sustenance in summer drought.
Patches of bark slough off your trunk.
Beetles inscribe your weathered wood
with tales of their youth.

Tattered leaves wither and drop
as summer turns to fall.
You rest, naked against the gray sky.
Rain seeps into ancient scars
carrying spores of rot close to your heart.

Winter covers your crown.
Ice encases each sparkling twig.
Creaking, an old limb
cracks and breaks,
thumping on frozen ground.

Lighter, you wait for snowmelt
and endure.
–©Buffy Silverman

Hoping you had a joyful Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for generous and supportive poetry pals in the Poetry Friday community–Carol has today’s Poetry Friday roundup.

It’s Halloweensie Time Again!

I missed Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie fest last year, so I’m glad to participate again this year. The prompt is to “write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words candy corn, monster, and shadow. (Candy corn will be counted as 1 word.) Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)”

I’ve always wondered where candy corn comes from–and now I know the answer! Read on to find out the true story, as told by yours truly:

I have no photos of crows, but here’s a black dog waiting and watching.

Farmer McMonster’s Halloween Harvest

Farmer McMonster planted some seeds.
He watered and hoed, he yanked out the weeds.

Monster-sized crows assembled and waited.
When corn stalks grew skyward, they cackled, elated.

They clustered like storm clouds, a shadowy herd–
McMonster’s old scarecrow did not scare one bird.

They settled on corn ears and tore off each shuck.
Poking and pecking, their black beaks got stuck!

For Farmer McMonster had hoodwinked those crows,
and now he had candy corn growing in rows!

He shooed off the crows (they winged out of sight)
then gathered his crop for Halloween night.
–©Buffy Silverman

Be sure to stop over at Susanna’s blog and read some Halloweensie Treats!


A Peace Day Poem

One of the beauties of Facebook is finding out about the existence of things like International Day of Peace, and being inspired by others to write something for it. Fall is making itself known in Michigan, and I can’t think of anything more peaceful than watching the seasons change. So here’s an acrostic to celebrate both Autumn and Peace:


Passing between field and woods, the scent of autumn fills my lungs.
Each step stirs a cauldron of earth. Fallen leaves crackle, bees
Alight on goldenrod. The thrum of cicadas competes with the
Cawing insistence of crows and the gathering rattle of cranes,
Eclipsed only by the rumble of thunder, by the turning of time.
–©Buffy Silverman, September 21, 2017


Margarita Engle & Amy Ludwig VanDerwater are hosting a PeaceDay padlet–check out some writing and art projects celebrating peace there.

And it’s almost Friday–Amy’s also hosting Poetry Friday at The Poem Farm.

Poetry Swap–Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I shared most of the goodies I received during the summer poetry swap. Today I’m sharing my final treat. Jone‘s poem came beautifully mounted with an easel-thingy (the technical term, I’m sure) and is now sitting on my desk. And what a jewel it is–both the photo and the words that accompany it. I love the poem’s focus on presence in the moment. That’s the beauty of observing nature (especially through a camera) for me–focusing on the wonders of the moment.

©jone rush macculloch

And now, for your mild amusement, here are the poems that I sent my swapees. Someday I will learn how to use a simple program that allows me to lay-out poems on photographs. But in the meantime my kind daughter loaned her talents and put these together (which, come to think about it, is the simplest program I can imagine…) I chose a poem to send to Keri to match a photo I took of a spider building a web on a plant on our deck–the sunlight on her web added a bit of magic. (I cheated a bit for this one and revised a poem that I wrote for Today’s Little Ditty’s final spring challenge.)

© Buffy Silverman

I spend a lot of time down at our swampy dock, spying on dragonflies and damselflies. This green dragonfly inspired the poem I sent to Tabatha:

©Buffy Silverman

One evening I observed a damselfly just emerging from its nymphal skin. I thought I would write a single poem for Linda with photos of both the empty skin (called an exuvia, which is a fun word to say) and the new adult. But somehow that morphed into a haiku about the change, and a tanka about observing the critter. Should I admit that I borrowed the title of the book I was reading for the final line of the haiku? (The book, which I recommend, is not about insect metamorphosis!)

©Buffy Silverman

I had the good fortune to meet Nikki Grimes this summer, at a dinner that Ed Spicer gave in her honor. Nikki read from her collection, One Last Word, and I was taken both with her glorious poems and the golden shovel form. I really wanted to try writing a golden shovel, so that’s what I did with my poem for Irene, using a line from her poem “Tree for All” from Dear Wandering Wildebeest as the source for my end words: “Owls nest in my hidden knothole; my cradle cozies brand-new wings.” The photograph that accompanied the poem is of an itty-bitty monarch caterpillar, munching on some swamp milkweed blossoms.

©Buffy Silverman

For most of the summer I had a photograph on my desktop of an unopened Black-eyed Susan flower. I wanted to write something to go with it, but had no idea what. When I thought about writing a poem for Heidi, who often shares her teacher life, the flower became a student at the start of the school year.

©Buffy Silverman

And there you have it…writing and receiving poems for the summer swap, as always, was a highlight of my summer. Kat’s got all of today’s poetry friday highlights–all the way from oz!

Watching the Eclipse

Did we really drive 1000 miles to southern Illinois and back to view the eclipse? Indeed we did. It was two minutes of awe-inspiring amazement (and hours of bumper-to-bumper highway driving and backroads after we ditched the crowds.) The sky during totality was other-worldly and glorious, like nothing I’d ever seen.

We were well-equipped for sky gazing, with eclipse glasses and solar filter film covering our binoculars and telescope. The elder offspring took many photos through the telescope, and we were able to see sunspots and solar flares. Here are several of those spectacular photos (all eclipse photos © Jake Conner) and a poem inspired by the day.















Bite by bite
the moon swallows the sun,
leaving a crooked smile.

The grin grows thinner,
a curtain of darkness descends,
melting humid air.

Clouds of starlings sweep the sky,
spectral sunset falls
in every direction.

All at once the heavens blaze,
dancing fire rings the moon,
phantom sun glows a ghostly light.

As if in a dream, the moment passes.

The solar crescent flips and waxes.
The moon surrenders the spotlight,
disgorging the growing sun.
–©Buffy Silverman, August 21, 2017

Happy Poetry Friday!  Visit Jone at Check It Out for the roundup of all of today’s posts.

Summer Poetry Swap….and story time for the eclipse!

This summer I again participated in the summer poetry swap, organized by  Tabatha Yeatts. Like most of you, my mailbox is usually home to bills and catalogs. But not in the summer–every couple of weeks my mailbox grins with poetry treats! And because I’m generous, I’m willing to share my goodies.

My summer adventure kicked-off with a collage and poem from Keri Collins Lewis. I loved Keri’s invitation to explore:











Next up, Carol Varsalona gifted me a nature journal and a poem inspired by her morning observation–a good model for said-journal!

Watching in Awe

In pensive stillness,
she stood.
From the window
I watched.
She came in peace,
baby does
not in sight.
she moved
behind trees,
careful to hide
her caramel silhouette.

into the silence,
as if with
she communed
with nature.
morning light
caught her eye.
She delicately
passed on by.
–Carol Varsalona


Heidi Mordhorst used Tabatha’s terrific poetry swap logo and my own nature/science obsession to inspire her colorful poem:


green rides into yellow
glowing molecules of chlorophyll
rolling through particles golden as pollen
motion of stem sugaring under sunshine
summer chemistry
–Heidi Mordhorst



Imagine my surprise when I opened Margaret Simon‘s envelope and saw that some of my monarch photos that I had posted on Facebook had inspired her poem! Margaret also gave me plaque/collage she made, with a raft of buffleheads (my favorite water fowl) and the good advice to “Be impeccable with your word.”

From a tiny egg
the size of a pinky fingernail,
iridescent like a snow globe,
a monarch grows.

From a swamp milkweed,
caterpillar sheds his newborn skin
earning stripes along the way,
a monarch grows.

From a neaby leaf,
chrysalis dangles like a green lantern
darkening more each day
a monarch grows.

From a see-through shelter,
butterfly unfolds as a scarf from a magicians’s hand,
spreads wide orange kite-wings,
a monarch flies.
–Margaret Simon

Thanks for the treats, summer swappers. It’s been a welcome respite from what’s going on in the world today. (As have been the green lanterns I’ve got dangling at home, waiting for that magician’s hand to work its wonders.)

And finally, to make a long post even longer, I’m sharing a timely story I wrote for the July/August issue of Click Magazine. Back in April the editor asked me to write a read-aloud story about the upcoming eclipse. Feel free to read it with your favorite 5 or 6 year old and try out the activities!

Happy eclipse watching, and Happy Poetry Friday. Be sure to visit Kay for all of this week’s posts.

Happy Mac-N-Cheese Day!

If you’re a Poetry Friday regular, you already know that today is National Macaroni and Cheese Day. Leave it to Tabatha to suggest a Poetry Friday Mac-n-Cheese celebration (yes, that same Tabatha who organizes the splendid Summer Poetry Swap–more about the poetry treasures I’ve received in a late summer post.)

I make a mean macaroni and cheese, and we enjoy eating it fairly regularly around here. But my pasta love was really not inspiring much poetry love, so I started brainstorming other ideas. A detective named Mac N. Cheese? A worm named Mac who toiled through cheesy soil? Hmmm…maybe not. Here’s where my brainstorming eventually led:

Mac and Cheese (A Love Story)

Mac loved Cheese.
She rubbed his ears.
She brushed his fuzzy back.

Rafa, who belongs to a friend, stays at Camp Buffy when her family is away. She turned into a swamp monster in her younger days, while searching for a run-away ball. I can’t find the photographic evidence.

Cheese loved Mac.
He licked her face.
His tail went thwack-a-thwack!

Let’s play ball!
Cheese nudged Mac’s hand.
She threw it long and hard.

Cheese bounded off,
a furry streak
across the grassy yard,

sniffing here,
zipping there—
a wild, zigzag romp,

down the hill,
past the fence,
into the neighbor’s swamp….

Rafa and Dakota, the resident hound, staying out of the swamp.

Stop! yelled Mac.
but Cheese ran on
through deep and sticky muck,

goo and gush,
oozy slime
‘til Cheese’s legs were stuck!

Mac arrived
with leash in hand.
She clipped it on his collar,

picked him up
and hauled him home.
She didn’t gripe or holler.

Cheese’s fur
was thick with crud,
and smelly as a skunk.

Mac washed Cheese
(Cheese soaked Mac.)
No more grime and gunk.

Dakota, at the edge of the yard and swamp. Good dog!

Mac loved Cheese.
She rubbed his ears.
She brushed his furry back.

Cheese loved Mac.
He licked her face.
His tail went thwack-a-thwack!
–©Buffy Silverman, 07/14/2017

I can’t wait to read what other poems have been cooked up for today! Visit The Opposite of Indifference to find all the delicious offerings.

Welcome to Poetry Friday!

When I began my blog a few years back, I had big plans of studying and reviewing poetry books that would hopefully inspire my own writing. Somehow that never happened. I think I felt unqualified to share my opinions with the world. But today I’m putting a tiny toe in the water and reviewing a new favorite.

Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, If You Were the Moon,  is a charmer. The book opens with a conversation between a young girl and the moon, with the moon explaining all that the child would do if she had her wish to be the moon.  The whimsical list begins with the moon engaged in activities familiar to a youngster: Hovering near her mother, spinning like a twilight ballerina, and teasing the Earth with peek-a-boo. Each spread includes a brief description that highlights the science behind the moon’s activities: the origin of the moon, its rotation around Earth, and why the moon appears to wax and wane. As the story progresses, the moon’s actions become more magical: lighting a pathway to the sea, weaving a spell over wonderers, and whispering wisdom from the sky. The nonfiction descriptions also move to less familiar and equally magical facts about the moon: leading sea turtles, inspiring artists, and guiding farmers. I can imagine a young child pretending to be the moon and acting out the simple text. And an older child would devour the facts that are explained so clearly.

As a writer, I found this book a creative and imaginative way to explore science. So I decided to see what I could come up with using it as a model. My first step was to type out the simple text. That led me to see more clearly what the book encompasses, from understanding basic facts about the moon (how the moon formed, its gravitational pull, orbit, phases, lunar surface, light) to how the moon has inspired people through music, art, poetry, human exploration, and a guide for agriculture. Wow! What topic could I choose that might have such a wide range of possibilities? I made a list and decided to try to write an “If You Were a Book” story. That’s not a usual topic for me (what, no creepy crawlies!?) But maybe that’s the beauty of using another story as a model–it got me to think farther afield. Here’s the opening of a draft:

“Another book! Another book!” said Emma.

But Mama said, “Goodnight.”

Emma looked longingly at the books on her shelf.  “I wish I could slip between your covers and sleep inside your pages. I wish I was a book!”

Emma’s books straightened their spines. They opened their hearts and whispered their secrets….

If you were a book, you would…

Play with kites and kittens.

Climb the tallest tree.

Walk in someone else’s shoes.

Swim with sharks and polliwogs.

Sail on a pirate ship.

Shine on a rainy day…

Although this was a fun exercise, I wasn’t really satisfied with this draft. Maybe it doesn’t have the cohesiveness of a more focused topic like the moon. I’m now playing with another draft with a rhyming opening and closing–we’ll see where it leads. But in any case, I found that thinking about a story as a reviewer led me to also think about it as a writer. It’s something I plan to do again!

Wishing you a Happy June, and a Happy Poetry Friday! Mr. Linky and I are glad to be your hosts today. Please leave your links below.