Monthly Archives: April 2013

2013 Progressive Poem

bricks.3For the past 19 days the progressive poem has pirouetted, sambaed, jitterbugged, swung, and soared around the blogosphere.  Line-by-line the poets before me danced their way to dizzying heights, and then safely brought this creation to earth.  But yesterday Irene Latham, mastermind of the progressive poem, posed a problem with her line: And if you should topple, if you should flop…

Which leaves it to me to decide how to pick the poem up after it dives off of life’s trapeze.  I’ll admit it.  My first thought was–give up!  As in: Then it’s time for this poem to stop.  But that line presents a bit of a problem for the ten poets who follow.  And really, I might think about giving up, but after twenty-some years I’m still writing.  So how else to solve the problem?  Then it occurred to me that I could solve this the way I solve all my writing problems.  Procrastination!  I could let our poem wallow in defeat a bit longer, and leave it to Tabatha, Laura, Joanna, Katya, Diane, Robyn, Ruth, Laura, Denise and April to scrape off the dust and get this three-ring circus flying again.  And so I have:

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging

from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–
limb-by-line-by-limb envision, pyramidic penned precision.

And if you should topple, if you should flop
if your meter takes a beating; your rhyme runs out of steam—

Now it’s Tabatha’s turn to decide where our poem will go.  Look on the sidebar to see links for where the poem will travel next.

Lives of billiard balls, dinosaurs, bugs, and bread

There’s a new poetry challenge up on David Harrison’s blog, from Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis.  The game is to write a parody of the seventh quatrain of Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life:”

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time ;

The instructions include an example from Hemingway, and a couple by the poet laureate himself, and from David Harrison.  Theirs have wonderful humor and word play.  My attempts aren’t going to make anyone laugh out loud, but I had fun writing them:

Lives of billiard balls remind us
we might take a knock or four;
but steady hands will persevere
and even up the score.

Lives of dinosaurs remind us
We might rule the earth for ages,
‘Til other creatures find our fossils
And write our story on their pages.

Cicadas’ lives remind us,
all things come to those who wait,
Thirteen years beneath the ground—
Three weeks to buzzz and mate.

Lives of ladybugs remind us,
Nature bluffs and it deceives;
we admire scarlet costumes,
while poison seeps from beetles’ knees.

Lives of grocery stores remind us,
buy some pickles; processed cheese;
wonder bread; chips and cheetos;
food with lifetime guarantees.

And that’s probably more time than I should have spent playing with these!18923_original

Check out what’s going on for Poetry Friday at Irene Latham’s Live Your Poem…  And while your there, read the Progressive Poem’s progress.  I’m up next!


Happy National Haiku Poetry Day!

Did you know that today was Haiku Day?  I did not, until I read a facebook post with a link to Robyn Hood Black’s bog, about 5 minutes ago.  I have not written much haiku–I think most of my poetry ideas are too long and convoluted for that form–but I always admire these succinct moments.  Last week I was inspired to write a haiku after watching Laura Purdie Salas’ poem starter video with a poem from GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys.

So in honor of haiku day, I’ll post this recent, unbaked snippet:

spring rain softens soil
earth’s scent rises on wind’s whispers
robin prizes worms
— Buffy Silverman, all rights reserved

I’m not entirely satisfied with that second line.  I’ve also played with:

earthy scent rides the wind
earth’s scent rises
earth’s scent rides windy sighs
earth’s scent rises on wind’s bluster

I’m guessing the second choice is most haiku-ish.  But it somehow feels incomplete.  So for now, I’ll leave you with the whispering wind.


Happy Poetry Month, with a side of diamantes?

I’m amazed by the creativity coursing over the blogosphere. It makes me feel a bit of a slacker, as I’m not adding much to the April poetry celebration. I suppose my novice blogger status justifies my lack of original contributions…maybe next year I’ll commit to something creative for the month.

Today I’m in Manistee, Michigan for my last school visit of the school year. Actually, it might be my last school visit until 2014-2015, since we are spending next year in Durham, North Carolina for my husband’s sabbatical, and all of my school visit invitations come from Michiganders. (Any North Carolinians out there reading this?  I’d love to visit your neighborhood school!)

I think this visit will be a treat. Instead of speaking to hundreds of kids at an assembly, I’ve got three small sessions (about 50 kids each) for the young author’s day at the Intermediate School District. Each teacher from all the elementary schools in the county selected two students to represent their class.

Typically my school visits focus on my nonfiction writing. I like to present a few approaches to the same topic–usually an informational text, a creative nonfiction story, and a poem. I try to make my presentations as interactive as I can with a large group, having younger kids act out parts of a story and older kids participate by reciting poems for two voices.  I ask the kids lots of questions–  and I wear funny hats!

Because I’m working with small groups in Manistee I’m planning to take the participation one step further–we’re going to write a group poem at the end of the 2-3 (FROGGIES!) and 4-6 (BATS) sessions.  I’ve led poetry and nonfiction writing workshops, but this will be different–it will be a short (5-10 minute?) activity, and the entire group will write one poem.  I’ll start by having kids “collect” their favorite words from a few poems.  Then we’ll brainstorm words for a diamante (frog to fly; bat to moth.)  I’ll plug in some of the words we brainstorm to write a draft.  Not sure how well this will work, but I’ll give it the old AprilPoetryMonth try.Screen shot 2013-04-03 at 8.44.47 PM

Do you have any quick poetry activities that have worked well with large groups?  If you’d like, share them in the comments!

Addendum–Friday Night

The diamantes were a nice way to wrap up the sessions, and got many of the quieter kids participating.  I think if I were to do this again, I might compose several diamantes in a session, to use more of the kids’ suggestions, or have the kids work in small groups.  It’s pretty easy to fill in a pre-made template, and doing several would let more students feel like they had a hand in creating a poem.  And they came up with plenty of strong words. Here are the poems that we put together:



smooth slimy

leaping pouncing bulging

pond tongue wings eyes

buzzing crawling struggling

creepy hairy


by Manistee Michigan Young Authors Participants, Grades 2-3



quiet stealthy

swooping spinning hunting

predator cabin prey wings

fluttering dashing diving

fragile quiet


by Manistee Michigan Young Authors Participants, Grades 4-6

I love that the older kids suggested quiet as an adjective for both the bat and moth–and how well that bridges the beginning and the end.