What’s the Buzz? Marvelous Mary Lee…. and Cicadas!

Today the Poetry Friday community is celebrating Mary Lee Hahn’s retirement from teaching, after 37 years! I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mary Lee in person, but after interacting with her online I know that she’s the kind of caring, thoughtful, and talented teacher we wish for all of our kiddos. I love thinking about the thousands of students who learned to love reading and writing from Mary Lee. She’s also a force for poetry, wrangling the Poetry Friday hosts and writing her own wonderful poetry.

One of Mary Lee’s poems that is seared in my brain was written several years ago for the March Madness Poetry contest. It was about a cooper’s hawk that Mary Lee described as dressed in conservative browns (I think/hope I’m remembering correctly?) I tried to find that poem online and intended to write something inspired by it, but apparently the competition’s early years are no longer posted. (If you still have the poem and want to post it in the comments, Mary Lee, I’ll add it here!)

So I’m on to plan B. Last week Mary Lee posted a poem about periodical cicadas. I think that was bouncing around my brain when I took a mini virtual poetry workshop from Highlights on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Laura Shovan gave an assignment after the first session–to write a current events poem, using ten words from a news article. I reread a NYTimes essay by Margaret Renkl entitled The Cicadas Are Coming. It’s Not an Invasion. It’s a Miracle. Then I incorporated my chosen words in a free-verse poem. Part B of the assignment was to write a fixed form poem, based on the first poem. I thought the repetition in a triolet would recreate the constant buzzing of the cicadas. Here’s my second poem, with title thanks to Mary Lee.

At the Oak’s Brown Skirt (a title lifted.. er…I mean borrowed from Mary Lee’s poem.)

Cast off your skin—your armor’s gone.
A new shell hardens. Buzz your song.
You’ll thrum and pulse to greet the dawn.
Cast off your skin. Your armor’s gone.
Now thrum and pulse to greet the dawn
and woo a mate amid the throng.
Cast off your skin—your armor’s gone.
Your dark shell hardens. Buzz your song!
©Buffy Silverman

We are too far west for brood X, but the toads are having one last buzzing hurrah!

Many thanks to Mary Lee for all she’s done to inspire this wonderful Poetry Friday community–I can’t wait to watch what’s next for Marvelous Mary Lee. Be sure to wonder and wander over to Christie Wyman’s blog for today’s Poetry Friday Roundup. Like Mary Lee, Christie brings poetry and nature into her classroom!

17 thoughts on “What’s the Buzz? Marvelous Mary Lee…. and Cicadas!

  1. Hmm…I’ll have to go back to my 2013 notebooks to see if I can find said poem. It’s nowhere in my digital archives. Who’s to say whose memory is faulty here?!?! Nevertheless, I’m proud to be an inspiration to one who I admire so much. Your cicada poem is all kinds of perfect! I’m not sure when/if we’ll get any, but I finally heard and saw them about 20 minutes west of where we live. Thank you for all your kind words. Hoping we get to meet someday IRL!!

  2. Such a great poem, Buffy, that truly sings. I love the repeating line. It makes me want to find some cicadas, although I haven’t seen any around here yet.

  3. You’re right about the triolet form being a great one for hearing the cicadas singing in your poem. This is wonderful, Buffy! So tell me, if that toad’s throat “bubble” POPS, will Brood X jump out? (You know me… I can never keep my nature facts straight. We’ll call it creative license.)

  4. Buffy, you are buzzing along in style. Yesterday, the family went to a brewery and there were so many cicada holes and Brood X creatures that I could not believe it. It was a mini-science lesson for my granddaughter as we checked out the area and found a new one for the picnic.

  5. Buffy, this poem is perfection…love the casting off, the buzz your song and the brown skirt borrowed from Mary Lee. A wonderful tribute to another wonderful poet, our Mary Lee.

  6. The triolet repetition makes it exactly right, Buffy! I am envious of those who are seeing these cicadas but happy to see the pictures! Mary Lee’s title creates the aura that I imagine the poem you cannot find will show, too! Lovely celebratory post!

  7. Oh, wow – this is all lovely, and that shot of the toad is great!!!!
    I really like that poem of Mary Lee’s as well, and I think you did it justice. It seems an odd thing to rejoice in losing one’s armor, but if new skin causes those wee bugs to be able to sing, then all the better. We have cicadas here in California, but now I’m on the lookout for a gorgeous toad like that. Thanks for the nature walk!

  8. Gorgeous language in your triolet, Buffy. It is singing a shrill cicada song. I have been reading about Brood X. And following along on Laura Shovan’s instagram. Excitement!

  9. Buffy, this poem is absolutely gorgeous. A pure, lovely song. Love. And great title borrowed from Mary Lee! xo

  10. Buffy,
    I love your cicada song. The triolet is perfect–it is singsongy splendor. I’m adding the triolet to my inspiration list and will give it a try. Thanks!

  11. I feel as if I’ve had a marvelous walk outdoors in Nature with you & #MarvelousMaryLee with this post, Buffy. It makes me want to be able to order a MLH chapbook! And that toad triolet & foto [yours, too?} are terrific! Happy Poets Friday & a weekend of outdoor wonders to you.

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