There’s a new prompt over at Today’s Little Ditty. Liz Steinglass, talented poet, supportive pal, and author of the forthcoming collection Soccerverse, has challenged us to write a poem giving instructions to an inanimate object about how to do its job. When I was considering what to write for the challenge, a male goldfinch flew to our window feeder. It was a cloudy day, but the goldfinch’s feathers spoke of sunlight. The goldfinch didn’t really look like he needed any instructions from me, but I wrote him some anyway:
Instructions for a Goldfinch
Wear a suit of sunshine on a May morning. Perch on the bird feeder. Crack sunflower seeds with your strong beak. Leave a pile of empty hulls. Beware the stalking cat, the squawking hawk. Sing a song of snack food, Potato Chip! Potato Chip! as you swing your wings in rollercoaster flight.
Then I rechecked the prompt’s instructions. Inanimate object? Um, Mr. Goldfinch would likely not appreciate being classified as inanimate. But his feathers are not very animate without the bird’s assistance. So I started to write again:
Instructions for a Feather
Blanket a bird with downy warmth. Feel the air lift you and rise. Use every crayon in your box: flamingo pink, bluebird blue, oriole orange, sparrow brown. Let troubles roll off you like water on a duck’s back. Signal your strength and sex appeal. Know when to blend and hide. Bend but do not break.
The benefit of not following instructions is that you end up with two poems for the price of one! Happy Poetry Friday and thanks for visiting. And be sure to visit Dani at Doing the Work that Matters for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.
The Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem, brainchild of Irene Latham, took a different turn this year. Matt started us off with a borrowed song line, and suggested that we compose through communal borrowing. All fine and good if you have some knowledge of song lyrics. That might have been me in my youth, but now, not so much. So how the heck will I continue this journey of our narrator who is smiling on summer, leaning out the window to Kodachrome days (observed by an unseen narrator), walking with some unknown and possibly tenuous “we” for the chance of a lifetime, seizing the sky, the day, the waves, closer and closer to ? Yikes, I have no idea, but will take a break in my rambling to search for something.
I’m back. The spouse and I went to see Beautiful, The Carole King Musical when it came to Kalamazoo a few weeks ago. I started searching through some Carole King songs, and found uncertainty, grief, and lyrics about you (that, I realize now, was a large part of the musical.) Hmmm… Maybe I should stick with Heidi’s turn to we, and explore this possibly new relationship. But then I wondered if Heidi’s line could be about a physical destination that represents the relationship? Like, possibly, someplace Way Over Yonder? I’m not sure my wandering has advanced the poem, but will leave it to Michelle to find our path. Happy PassoverEasterSpringSaturday!
Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem 2019
Endless summer; I can see for miles… Fun, fun, fun – and the whole world smiles. No time for school – just time to play, we swim the laughin’ sea each and every day.
You had only to rise, lean from your window, the curtain opens on a portrait of today. Kodachrome greens, dazzling blue, It’s the chance of a lifetime,
make it last forever-ready? Set? Let’s Go! Come, we’ll take a walk, the sun is shining down, Not a cloud in the sky got the sun in my eyes. Tomorrow’s here. It’s called today.
Gonna get me a piece o’ the sky. I wanna fly like an eagle, to the sea and there’s a tiger in my veins. Oh, won’t you come with me waltzing the waves, diving the deep? It’s not easy to know less than one minute old we’re closer now than light years to go To the land where the honey runs
I do not have a Spotify account to update this, but here’s THE PLAYLIST!
Found Lines: L1 The Who, ‘I Can See for Miles’ / The Beach Boys, ‘Endless Summer’ L2 The Beach Boys, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’/Dean Martin, “When You’re Smiling” L3 The Jamies, “Summertime, Summertime’ L4 The Doors, ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ / Led Zeppelin, ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ L5 Ray Bradbury, ‘Dandelion Wine’ L6 Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning” L7 Paul Simon, “Kodachrome,” “Dazzling Blue” L8 Dan Fogelberg, “Run for the Roses” L9 Spice Girls, “Wannabe”/Will Smith, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” L10 The Beatles, “Good Day Sunshine” L11 The Carpenters, “Top of the World” L12 Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Underneath the Lovely London Sky” from MARY POPPINS L13 Carole King, “Hi-de-ho (That Sweet Roll)” L14 Steve Miller, “Fly Like An Eagle” L15 Don Felder, “Wild Life” L16 Nowlenn Leroy, “Song of the Sea” (lullaby) L17 Sara Bareilles, “She Used to Be Mine” from WAITRESS L18 Stevie Wonder, “Isn’t She Lovely” L19 R.E.M., “Find the River” L20Carole King, “Way Over Yonder”
Here’s the journey our poem has taken, and where it’s headed next:
To celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18th) I’ve written a poem about…pockets! I have vivid memories of collections that came home in my older offspring’s pockets–pebbles, seeds and other treasures. That memory and the aforementioned Pocket Day inspired this poem:
Anyone who thinks that it’s quiet in the country has not spent time at my house. Right now the spring peepers are peeppeeppeeping outside my window. Soon the chorus frogs will join in, followed by toads and gray tree frogs. When summer starts, there’ll be green frogs and bull frogs. And of course, the birds serenade from sunup to sundown, with red-winged blackbirds leading the pack right now.
I’m a fan of all this amphibian and avian bluster, and was delighted when an F&G of Georgia Heard’s new book, BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! Animal Poems for Two or More Voices showed up unexpectedly in my mail box. This book is sure to be a crowd pleaser in elementary school classrooms. Consider this froggy sample:
I can imagine a classroom filled with alternating choruses of froggy sounds! The book’s noisy journey continues with geese, fish, mockingbirds, rattlesnakes, honeybees, and more. Backmatter gives more details about the animals and the function of their sounds (I was pleased that Georgia wrote that toads are actually a type of frog, addressing a common misconception. And did you know that a big claw snapping shrimp makes a sound that is louder than a jet engine? I did not!) The poems in this book beg to be read aloud with a whole passel of kids.
This April I’m planning to read and review more poetry books, and to use the books as inspiration for my own writing. Liz Steinglass and I are once again exchanging daily poems. There’s nothing like knowing that someone expects you to write something to get yourself going!
Here’s the opening stanzas of a noisy poem that I’ve played with the past couple of days, inspired by my attempts to locate and photograph a peeper. I failed to spot the peeper, but I did spy a muskrat, some wood ducks, and inspiration:
How to Find a Spring Peeper
Stand quietly on the marshy shore. Listen. One voice peeps, then another and another,
peep, peep, peep, loud and strong insistent, persistent–
until crackle, creak… you step on a stick and silence falls.
A single peep begins again near the thick brush. It’s echoed by another and another.
A songster peeps barely two feet from where you stand, invisible to your human eyes.
The poem continues with other animals that are hanging out at the vernal pond across the street from my house, and more peeping. In the poem, a peeper is finally spotted. My camera and I hope to be successful in real life, but so far they have sung and sung without my locating one!
There’s lots of April poetry goodness flying around the internets. Head over to Karen Edmisten’s blog for the Poetry Friday party and a John Ashbery poem.
Welcome to Poetry Friday! Mr. Linky and I invite you to add your links below.
The Poetry Friday community adds light to the world, and I am pleased to be hosting at a time when we yearn for light, on this winter’s solstice. The full moon will also be shining some extra light tonight. According to earthsky.org, the actual full moon (when the moon is exactly 180°opposite the sun) occurs during the day on Saturday, at 12:29 pm EST. But glance up at the sky between December 20-22nd, and the moon will brim with light. You won’t get another chance to see a winter solstice full moon until 2029, so I hope you’ll head out after sunset, look to the east, and enjoy the light.
And while you’re out there, you might consider the majesty of the universe. One of my favorite picture books of this year, The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes, does just that. With lyrical yet accessible language and awe-inspiring illustrations, the book takes the reader from the time before the Big Bang through the creation of the universe, to the start of the solar system and the beginning of Earth, through the evolution of life to the birth of the child who is sharing this book with a loving adult, connecting it all with the understanding that “All of us, the stuff of stars.”
Is it possible for a picture book to capture the grandeur and mystery of the origin of the universe? That’s a tall order, but this book comes close for me. It is both scientifically accurate and understandable to a young reader, with words and art that inspire wonder. I think this book would be equally at home in an elementary school classroom and in a middle or high school physics and biology class.
It is certainly a book that I would have read many times to my kids when they were young, and it is a great mentor text for me now. As a writer and reader, I think it shows that any science subject can be explained to young readers. And that poetry is the perfect medium for it!
I was so taken with this book that I nominated it for a Cybils award (not something I had previously done) as a nonfiction picture book. It was moved to the fiction category. I could imagine classifying it as a poetry book but I’m unsure why it would be called fiction. (If anyone can explain that to me, please tell me in the comments!) But in any case, if you have not read Stuff of Stars, I think you will enjoy it.
Wishing you a happy solstice, joyful holidays, and a poetry-filled new year!
Monday morning we awoke to the season’s first heavy snow. Branches had fallen, including a tree that took out the power to my neighborhood. We survived the one day outage, and got to enjoy a morning of cross-country skiing on Wednesday.
There’s nothing more magical than that first snow. Every twig and branch sparkled. We haven’t had school-aged kids for almost 10 years, but I still smiled when I heard the no school announcement! I headed out with my camera to enjoy the wonder. The fresh whiteness was soon covered with dog tracks and boot prints.
And today’s mail brought more snowy magic! Lucky me, I found a package from uber-talented and joyful poet Irene Latham for the winter poetry swap! The package overflowed with treasures–paper snowflakes that were recycled from a My Little Pony book (google helped me identify the source of the snowflakes from the Ms. Wiggins, Lulu, and Anna names I spotted,) a very fun journal that was made from a recycled Dr. Seuss The Foot Book, and best of all, a gorgeous poem written by Irene (with words recycled from my poem in The Poetry of US!) Here’s the poem and a few snowflakes for you to savor:
Thank you, Irene–and thanks to Tabatha for organizing the poetry swap! Be sure to visit Carol’s Corner for today’s Poetry Friday roundup.
Lucky me! Last week’s mail had a treasure chest of a new book, Sing a Song of Seasons, A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon and selected by Fiona Waters. As you might guess from the title, this delightful collection has one poem for each day of the year, celebrating the sights and sounds of the natural world. Many of the poems are familiar classics–for example, Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” for January 6th, William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” for April 3rd, and Carl Sandberg’s “Fog” for October 23rd. Others are less well-known (at least unknown to me) but thoroughly charming. All are simple enough to read aloud to young children, and show a slice of what is occurring as each season progresses.
Both the poems and the artwork inspire wonder–they make me want to head outside and observe something small or something big! The artwork is particularly captivating. Each illustration runs across two pages, with one to four poems on it. Geese fly across the pages of October, as do colorful leaves, rainstorms, foggy harbors, night creatures, and pumpkins and bats. Consider this leafy masterpiece, with four poems for today through Monday (the book is too large and my scanner too mediocre to combine these into one illustration, so you’ll have to imagine them side-by-side:)
I think this book would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library–imagine a ritual of reading the day’s poem, either by a teacher or student. What discussions might the illustrations and poems spark? What observations might they inspire? Where might they lead students’ writing? What mood would they set for a morning or afternoon?
Sing a Song of Seasons would also be a treasure for a home library. I remember when my daughter was in fourth grade and received a children’s collection of Emily Dickinson poetry. We shared many together, and then she read them over and over on her own, eventually memorizing quite a few. I think that book turned her into a writer! And I believe this book could also turn many youngsters into poetry lovers and writers.
For a children’s poetry writer, this book is a bounty of inspiration. Last week on a rainy afternoon I read several October rain poems. The patter of the poems echoed the sounds of the storm outside my window. I collected some of the words from the rainy pages and sprinkled them into this poem:
Gray clouds grumble.
Whips and howls,
dark sky growls.
The hound’s howls alerted me to a package at my doorstep on Wednesday. I added my own howls of joy as I tore open the package’s cardboard wrapper and found a copy of J. Patrick Lewis’ newest National Geographic anthology–The Poetry of US. I’ve only begun dipping my toe in this book, and plan to spend time savoring its many poems (more than 200!) and photographs. The anthology takes the reader on a journey across the United States, sharing the beauty, diversity, and challenges of our country. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of wonder and delight as you flip through the pages, traveling around this complicated country of ours. And for me, it’s a needed antidote to the divisiveness and discouragement of the daily news cycle.
The book begins with poems celebrating symbols of the United States (Joyce Sidman’s “Our Rose” and Steve Withrow’s “Naming the American Eagle” are both a pleasure to read) and continues with new and old poems of what divides and unites us, by Carole Boston Weatherford, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. Then the book starts its epic geographical journey, beginning in New England, reaching across the Midwest and Great Plains, traveling to the Pacific and beyond to the US Territories. Along the way we learn of history and holidays, festivals and food, wildlife and wild places, and the struggles and triumphs of people who live in towns and cities.
One of the great joys of having a poem in this volume is sharing space with poetry friends, some of whom I’ve met in real life and other who I know online. The members of my online group of poetry encouragers/critiquers all have poems in The Poetry of Us. They’ve generously given me permission to share their poems, which I think give a hint of the span of the anthology.
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ shape poem, “Mass Ascension” floats over the Albuquerque balloon festival:
Renee LaTulippe’s “Child Chant” takes the reader back in time to the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and one of the causes of the westward migration:
Liz Steinglass’ persona poem, “The Menorah” focuses on both the light of Chanukah and the experience of many immigrant families:
Pat Lewis asked me to write about the Holland, Michigan tulip festival. Although I live only an hour from Holland, I had not actually visited during the festival. But youtube came to my rescue so I could cyber-attend (and I have since been inspired to go to the festival–twice!)
I hope you’ll check out this terrific anthology that includes poems by many Poetry Friday regulars. Order it online or from your local bookstore, or request it at your library.
Head over to The Opposite of Indifference where anthologizer/poet/all-around-generous human being Tabatha has the roundup for this week’s Poetry Friday blogs (and a poem of Gingko leaves and friendship.)
This month’s challenge at Today’s Little Ditty is to write letters to ourselves that we don’t necessarily have to answer. I was going to skip the challenge, as I have not been having very productive conversations with myself! But I just read the poems posted for the challenge, and figured I could come up with something. And so I have–it’s more of a rough draft than I would usually share, but I am trying to get back to posting more often, so will start with this.
Not that many years ago, the land where we live was an oak savanna. When we moved into our house the towering oak trees still grew, but the savanna had been turned into a lawn. Not exactly a lush lawn, but lawn nonetheless. For many years my husband mowed front and back, then front and occasionally back, and has finally skipped the back altogether except for a path down to the lake. I’ve planted a few prairie plants and scattered some seeds, but mostly we’re letting nature take its course. Right now we’ve got goldenrod and asters blooming where the grass once grew. Our new “wilderness” inspired this (and I’ll bet you can guess the answers to the questions!)
If the lawn mower stays silent on Sunday mornings,
the green carpet untamed,
the grass inching ever taller,
will the frothy foam of spittlebugs
appear in June?
Will rabbits stand on hind legs
and reach for dandelion seeds?
Will goldenrod and asters
bloom among autumn grasses?