Friday, January 27, 2023

It Is True. (What Is True?)

Dance
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater



Students - This week I read a new-to-me poem written by a poet who died many years ago. Right away I felt like we were friends, as if its words had lived in my heart forever, that we had known each other for our whole lives. I felt so grateful. And while a person and a poem can not exaaaaactly hold hands and dance, it felt just like we did.

Today's poem once again takes an actual memory and brings it into the world of of make-believe. You may have noticed before that I do this often - begin with a moment that really happened and then allow it to bring me to a new and imaginary place. This is one of my favorite truths of writing: we do not always need to direct our writing, rather, we can sometimes take its hand and follow.

As I wrote this poem, I kept scribbling and scribbling, crossing out lines and reading the words aloud until they sounded just right. I could not find the ending for quite a while, but I kept writing and kept listening....and at last the lesson found me. Today's poem is a bit of a lesson poem, sharing in its final lines something I have learned: it is true/that you can find/and recognize/the thing/you never knew/you missed.

Know this: you need not know the ending of your poem before you write it. Follow the trail of wordcrumbs, and follow where they lead you. Keep your mind open for possible lessons and learnings. And remember too that your poem need not rhyme. To know if it will sound good to you, just keep reading it aloud as you go. Each time you write a line, read your poem again - up to that line - and listen for what comes next. Often, the line will be right there...waiting for you.

You may be wondering about the title of this new-to-me-best-friend-poem. I will share it soon, but for now, we are still getting to know each other. Have you ever had a little secret or treasure that you were not quite ready to share quite yet?

Jan is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Bookseed Studio with a celebration of the inspiring author illustrator Sharon Lovejoy, writer of one of my favorites, ROOTS, SHOOTS, BUCKETS, AND BOOTS: GARDENING TOGETHER WITH CHILDREN. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

May you find a surprising truth (or poem or treasure or teeny secret) this week. What is true for you?

xo,

Amy

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If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
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Friday, January 20, 2023

Copying Quotes and Listening

Quote from My Notebook
Photo by Amy LV



Students - I woke up very early this morning with some words in my mind:

Late last night - I walked outside - and stars fell from the sky.

I didn't get out of bed right away. Instead I stayed and thought for just a couple of extra minutes, repeating these words, asking myself, "What might the next line be?" Soon I turned on the light, snapped up my notebook, and began drafting the messy lines you see below.

Morning Drafting
Photo by Amy LV

While I am not sure, I think that the idea for this poem draft came from a quote that I copied from a book into my notebook just this week:

Perhaps they are not stars, 
but rather openings in heaven 
where the love of our lost ones 
pours through and shines down 
upon us to let us know 
that they are happy.
Inuit Proverb

Copying snips and bits of beautiful writing, collecting these into my notebook and including the names of authors and writers along with them is a way for me to hold onto words I love. Sometimes these words find me in other ways, creating new ideas and poems. Had I not copied this proverb into my notebook this week, I honestly do not believe that I would have written today's magic-trimmed poem.

Allow enough space in your life to let lines drift into the window of your mind. And know this: the more regularly you write, the more often interesting sentences will surprise you when you least expect them. Keep a notebook (or a napkin!) nearby for when this happens. Listen to your inner writing voice. It may speak when you don't have a pen in your hand.

Too, remember that your notebook is your place, and in its pages you are always free to write some magical memories of your own.

I feel very lucky to have spent most of this week visiting schools and working with teachers in the Wyckoff School District in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Thank you to the teachers and students of Washington School, Coolidge School, and Lincoln School for so warmly inviting me into your classrooms. I can't wait to visit Sicomac School and to return to you all in February!

Sharing Notebooks and Writing Possibilities
Photo from the Washington School Twitter Feed

Marcie is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Marcie Flinchum Atkins with some recommendations of books to go with her WAIT, REST, PAUSE: DORMANCY IN NATURE. (I am unable to link to this post yet, but will as soon as it is available.) Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

Remember: a memory may be real....or it may be real in spirit.

xo,

Amy

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If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.

Friday, January 13, 2023

A Found Object, A Few Words

Spring Memory
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Some of you may have heard about the big winter storm we had here in the Buffalo, NY area last month. My mom's neighborhood was buried snow and felt so many heavy winds that a few of her trees blew to the ground. Last weekend, my husband went and cut them down and up. In one, he found the nest you see above on our woodpile. It is woven of sticks and rootlets and even a few ribbons that Mr. Cardinal found and brought to Ms. Cardinal who did the building.

My mom remembers last spring, the cardinals flying in and out of the cedar. So quickly one season moves to the next, so quickly an old cedar is here and then only a memory. And now the nest has traveled to our home where we admire it.

I knew that I wanted to write about this cardinal nest, but how? Should I write an ode to nests? A letter from the cardinal? I finally settled on haiku, a form that asks for few words, the form where less is always and truly more. 

To put my mind and heart in the mood of this nest and genre, I read the poems in the archive of the Haiku Society of America's Haiku Award winners, in memory of Harold G. Henderson. If you ever wish to write a certain type of poem, it helps so much to first read many examples. This puts a writer in the spirit of the writing, and I believe that I would not have written today's poem without having climbed up onto the shoulders of great haiku writers through reading.

Thank you to my friend Robyn Hood Black, artist, poet, and author who inspires me with her own haiku and knowledge of this form. You can read some of her haiku thoughts and her own haiku here at her website.

Susan is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Chicken Spaghetti. (I am unable to link to this post yet, but will as soon as it is available.) Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

May nature offer your a surprise gift this week.

xo,

Amy

Please share a comment below if you wish. 
If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Write from a T-Shirt

Choose Love T-Shirt
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Our city of Buffalo, NY experienced a very sad and difficult last year with a racially motivated mass shooting in a grocery store, a paralyzing storm, and most recently a grave injury to Damar Hamlin, a young player for The Buffalo Bills. 

Today's poem grew from my admiration for Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott, Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the players from both teams, medical professionals, our community, and all who have been so kind. If you watch football, you will notice that the Bills helmets have one of three decals on the back: Stop Hate, End Racism, or Choose Love.


Last week, my husband sent t-shirts with the words Choose Love to all of his old high school friends. They're a big group, and they enjoy watching Bills games together from across the country, texting and chatting through the plays. These t-shirts 100% benefit the Buffalo Together Commuity Response Fund, "created to work together toward a more just and equitable community after the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, on May 14, 2022." If you are interested in purchasing one, you may do so HERE


Today's poem came from a grateful place inside of me, a place that honors all of the people who have responded with leadership and rightness during tragedies. It also, simply enough, comes from a t-shirt.

Read the t-shirts you see. Might there be some words you could write from?

Think about who you admire. What words do they say or embody that might lift you into a poem?

Catherine is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core with a poem about change and the story of how it came to be. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

May Damar Hamlin continue to get well, and may we all learn from the examples of great leaders.

xo,

Amy

Please share a comment below if you wish. 
If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Best Part Of...

Pick Me!
Photo by Hope VanDerwater



Students - Two weeks ago, I shared a poem about our wondrous and lost cat, Tuck. In that post, I mentioned that we would be visiting the SPCA to find a new cat for our cat Winnie. Well, we found Claude. Here he is with his country-tail, Monet.

Claude and Monet
Photo by Amy LV

Claude is a super snuggly and chatty cat with Copper eyes and a sense of gratitude floating around him. Winnie and Fiona (our beautiful black kitty who didn't need a cat as she is very independent) are starting to like him. The whole dance of cat friendship is a funny one indeed, and it will surely offer more poems.

Copper-Eyed Claude
Photo by Hope VanDerwater

While there are many many parts of Claude I could (and will) write about, today I focused on one - his magnificent tail. Some of you may have read and written from this book by Wendy Ewald, THE BEST PART OF ME, a book of writings by children about their favorite parts of their bodies accompanied by beautiful photographs.


We can write about the "best part" of anything - the best part of a pet, of a book, of a room, of a park. And of course, there doesn't need to be just ONE best part. Claude (and each of us) has many best parts!

Consider making a list of "best parts" in your notebook and seeing if one seems like an interesting topic to write more about.

We welcome Claude to our home and I welcome him to The Poem Farm. If you could see him in person, he would curl up on your shoulder and purr!

Karen is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Karen Edmisten with wonderful poem titled "Be Kind" by Michael Blumenthal. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

Meow!

xo,

Amy

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If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Copy Quotes. Find Them. Write.

Candlelight
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Today's poem grew from a quote, this quote by writer Phillip Pullman:

"After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are what we most need in the world."

I read the quote and then imagined a real person living it, surviving a difficult time of darkness by the light of a remembered story. Stories and poems help me get through difficult times too, and even though they are not physically solid like rocks and candles are, they are solid to our spirits.

I had copied Pullman's quote into my notebook back in October, and then, when I wasn't sure what to write a poem about, I just read through my notebook looking for memories, words, ideas. His quote jumped right out at me.

This is only one of the many values I find in keeping a notebook, having a place to return to when you want to write but do not know where to start. Consider copying quotes into your own notebook, or looking for quotes in books for inspiration when you're not sure where to start. A quote can be like a candle too, illuminating the path as we start a new writing journey.

You may have noticed that today's poem (like last week's!) has a circular structure, beginning and ending with many of the same words. Try this with one of your drafts. Circles can bring a pleasing sense of form to words.

Michelle is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at More Art for All with a cozy poem and artwork as well as bits from an interesting article she read. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

Light to you, my friends.

xo,

Amy

Please share a comment below if you wish. 
If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Then and Now Can Be Sad

Our Tuck
Photo by Amy LV


Students - I have written about "Fluffy" (Winnie) and "Gray" (Tuck) here before, and some of you may remember the poem I wrote about Tuck being many different colors of gray

Life is filled with all kinds of moments, and while loving Tuck was filled with joy...losing him has been filled with sadness. He was the most loving and wise boy, and the last day we saw him was October 8. Winnie got sick for a bit after he was gone, and while she is healthy now, she really misses him too. We have another good kitty named Fiona, but she is not interested in cat friends, so Winnie feels the loss of Tuck.

Today my daughter and I will visit the SPCA and perhaps we will come home with a friend for Winnie. This will of course create all kinds of craziness and need for friendship classes, but we may do it anyway. And while we will love a new cat as we always do, we will always remember sweet Tuck. We will always hope that he is out there living a good life with good people. Not knowing can be the hardest part.

Today's poem tells a story of the way something once was...and how it has changed. You can write a poem like this too if you wish. The change does not need to be a sad change as mine is - it might be a happy change or a surprising change or a strange change or any kind of change you would like to write about. And the story doesn't even need to be true at all.

You may have noticed that this is a circle poem, that is the beginning and the ending are the same. Well...almost the same. There is a change because there was a change. The saddest part of this poem for me is the verbs in the last two lines - is and was. The two cats are different from each other in this way now...

It was difficult for me to read today's poem out loud, and I have not written a lot about Tuck as I miss him so much. But I do believe that all of life is worth writing about, and so I will write about him again, honoring his soft, gray spirit.

Catherine is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core with a neat poem which answers an unasked question - she left the question for readers to figure out...and I happily did. She and her poetry group The Inklings all tried this out, inspired by my poem Answer. I am honored and am looking forward to reading them all. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

Will Winnie Find a New Friend?
Photo by Amy LV

I wish for you a then-and-now full of joy this week. And too, a place to save and honor your own sadnesses.

xo,

Amy

Please share a comment below if you wish. 
If you are under 13 years old, please only comment with a parent
or as part of a group with your teacher.