Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Progressive Poem Is Here!

Welcome to the Progressive Poem! Each day in April the Progressive Poem travels from blog to blog, gaining a line at each stop. I’m happy to participate again in this wonderful community writing game, masterminded by Irene Latham. Today I’ll add a few new words as our poem prepares to wrap its tendrils closer to Earth.

But before we get to the new line, let’s travel back in time to our baby poem’s birthday. Heidi challenged us to jot down our thoughts about the first line and predict where the poem might go. Here’s what I wrote on April 1, after Liz set the poem in motion with a terrific line which spoke to me as a nature-obsessed writer:

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.

I love the lyricalness of this line—the cozy bed for soil, the image of a seed stretching in bed. And it’s perfect for the beginning of spring! Right away, I am thinking of this in terms of the natural world. If I were writing this poem, I’d stick to the science of a seed growing and try to match the wonderful imagery and language. But I’m not the only author…and I’m guessing the poem will diverge from a nature/seasonal view. Where will it go? I have no idea!

The poem certainly has journeyed from the start of spring, taking a trip on owl wings to the moon and landing at a lunar birthday celebration.  Yesterday Renee suggested that it was time to start gathering tendrils and head little Jasmine home. So of course, my first thought for a line was: and headed back home. Now that’s a lyrical line….or, maybe not. I scratched my head a little longer, and thought a bit more. Maybe we can just forget about describing the earth-bound trip, and assume that Jasmine has found her way home. Or maybe someone more clever than moi will wrap it all up neatly and I can delay a bit longer…

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.
Oh, what wonderful dreams she had!
Blooming in midnight moonlight, dancing with
the pulse of a thousand stars, sweet Jasmine
invented a game.
“Moon?” she called across warm honeyed air.
“I’m sad you’re alone; come join Owl and me.
We’re feasting on stardrops, we’ll share them with you.”
“Come find me,” Moon called, hiding behind a cloud.
Secure in gentle talons’ embrace, Jasmine rose
and set. She split, twining up Owl’s toes, pale
moonbeams sliding in between, Whoosh, Jasmine goes.
Owl flew Jasmine between clouds and moon to Lee’s party!
Moon, that wily bright balloon, was NOT alone.
……………………………………………..Jas grinned,
…………………………………………………………………a new,
a trellis Sky held out to her, made of braided wind and song.
Her green melody line twisted and clung.
Because she was twining poet’s jasmine, she
wiggled a wink back at Moon, and began her poem.
Her whispered words floated on a puff of wind,
filled with light and starsong. “Revelers, lean in –
let’s add to this merriment a game that grows
wordgifts for Lee. He’s a man who knows
selection, collection, and wisely advising
these dreamers, word-weavers, and friends.”
Jas enfolded Moon-Sky-Owl into the cup of her petals,
lifted new greens to the warming rays of spring sun

And now it’s Kat’s turn to root this plant, while I sit back and sip a cup of Jasmine tea.

Here’s a list of all the contributors to the poem, where it’s been to date, and where it will travel in the next few days:


4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
29 April at Teaching Authors
30 Doraine at Dori Reads


Irene is hosting Poetry Friday today–check out what goodies the blogosphere is serving on this final Friday of April!

Spectacular Lee

If you are a frequenter of Poetry Friday, you know that today is the birthday of a champion of children’s Poetry (with a capital P!)—Lee Bennett Hopkins. And if you are a reader of children’s poetry, you no doubt have been delighted by Lee’s many poetry anthologies.

To celebrate Lee’s birthday, I’m going to continue my April project of reviewing a book each Friday and using it to inspire my own writing. I’ve got several Hopkins anthologies on my shelf to choose from, but there’s one that holds a special place in my poetry heart– Spectacular Science, Lee’s 1999 anthology that celebrates science. When I first explored combining my nonfiction bent with children’s poetry, I read and reread Spectacular Science. Study this book and you’ll find the works of master poets, from Valerie Worth to Carl Sandberg, writing about topics that speak to the curiosity of both scientists and children.

I had the good fortune to hear Lee speak via Skype a couple of years ago at The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children, a Highlights Foundation workshop led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. Lee spoke about how to put heart in a poem: “I’m interested in giving children beauty. I want kids to feel something, to have emotion…. As a poet you want to expand their view, to get them to look up.”

Spectacular Science certainly succeeds in expanding the reader’s view and getting them to look up, down, and all around. Kids are naturally scientists—they observe their world and ask questions. The poems in this book are brimming with observation and wonder. They invite a reader to look closely at everything from microscopic organisms to the stars. Consider “Under the Microscope,” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, which celebrates both microscope and creatures it allows us to see:

Some of the poems ask questions that capture a child’s curiosity about what they observe, like Aileen Fisher’s “The Seed:”

Others explore the sense of wonder that inspires scientists and young people alike. Alice Schertle’s “Dinosaur Bone” is one of my all-time favorite poems.

This quote from Bernice Cullinan which Sylvia Vardell posted on her Poetry for Children blog this week addresses how poetry and science are made for one another.

Every poem in this collection is a model of clear-eyed observation, wonder, and delightful language. I hope I’ve whet your appetite with a few selections from Spectacular Science . If you aim to write science poetry, you owe it to yourself to find a copy of this book and pore over its contents.

Revisiting Spectacular Science (along with dreaming about spring finally reaching Michigan!) provided inspiration for a poem I wrote this week:

Spring Questions

How does a robin weave a nest
where eggs stay safe and snug?
How does a spider spin a web
that traps a hapless bug?

How does a beaver dam and shape
a stream into a lake?
Who digs the hole beneath your shrub—
a chipmunk or a snake?

Who taught raccoon to lift a latch
and plan his midnight caper?
Who taught a wasp to chomp a stem
and turn it into paper?

What will you learn when you watch and wonder,
ponder the questions here?
What can you make when you weave and spin,
construct and engineer?
— ©Buffy Silverman, 2018

Head over to Life on the Deckle Edge where Robyn is hosting a birthday party and poetry celebration!

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.