Friday, January 14, 2022

Gather Family Stories & Go


My Great Grandmother's Headstone
Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY

Students - I spend lots of time thinking about today and tomorrow and yesterday. But lately, I find myself thinking about many yesterdays ago. My mother is writing her parents' and grandparents' stories, and I love reading these echoes of our past and thinking about how they may have changed me without me even knowing it. She is doing this through Storyworth, an online service that helps you print a book, one story at a time, all throughout the year. Last year she wrote her own life stories, and this year she is writing memories about her/our ancestors.

My Mom's First Book

My mom has given me permission to share her story about her Grandma Katherine. Enjoy this delightful step back in time:

by Deborah Ludwig, January 11, 2022

   Katherine Moeser Dreyer was my dad’s mom.  She was an amazing person in so many ways and had such a wonderful impact on my early life.  My mom was ill a lot as I was growing up and I lived at Grandma and Grandpa Dreyers for much of the time.  Grandma came from Germany when she was a little girl with her two older sisters Minnie and Margaret.  The three girls had been orphaned and the family felt they would have a better life in Rochester, New York living with an uncle who operated a successful butcher shop.  She learned English and was able to go back and forth in her conversations in both languages.  She stuck to German when I was around, especially while discussing family gossip.
     Grandma was an excellent cook.  I sat in that large kitchen watching her and her sister Minnie get everything ready for her wonderful vegetable soup.  Minnie and her husband Fred lived with my grandparents in their half of the double side by side home they owned.  My grandma did most of the work in those days as my grandfather William had fallen off the stairs of a bus and had a hard time getting around.  He was a clothing cutter for Hickey Freeman in Rochester before his accident.  Grandma was known for her special dinners of sauerbraten, red cabbage, and potato pancakes.  Her baking was amazing.  Every Saturday my dad and I stopped at their home on Hobart Street and picked up a home-made fruit kuchen which can never be duplicated. They always had fruit all over the top and my favorite was cherry.  Dad and I would go in to the house around noon on Saturday and pick up his shirts all cleaned and ironed.  My mother stopped doing his work shirts when he said his mother did them better.  Grandma and grandpa would be watching The Big Top Circus show on their black and white tv.,  Grandpa smoking his cigar.
      When they celebrated their 50th anniversary, I was too young to attend the party and sat at the top of the stairs watching all the celebrations.  Grandma hated to be called Kate and I have a vase she got on this occasion that said Bill and Kate.  I am sure she hated it.  Years later it broke, but I was able to find someone to fix it and still treasure it today.
   Grandma had a gorgeous garden full of huge daises, poppies ,  and so many other lovely plants.  She was so proud of it and I spent many a day in that garden and on their front porch, dreaming and reading as a kid tends to do.    
  When I was really little, I would walk two blocks with her to the grocery store, and then she would buy me a piece of furniture for my doll house.  Those days were really special.
    She used to stoke the furnace in the basement with coal and even lost her engagement ring doing that.  My Uncle Fred had a secret cabinet in that basement with either wine or liquor which was totally off limits to me.  Once I even got to witness the coal delivery and to me it was exciting to watch that coal come down the chute.
   I knew my grandma was getting older when I had to thread her needle for her as she said her eyes weren’t so good anymore.  She was beautiful with waist length long white hair and when she let it down to brush it, I thought she was amazing. I would sit near that claw foot tub and watch her let it cascade.
     Grandma had a tiny parlor with the most beautiful glass swan filled with red water to tell the humidity.  I would perch on the formal sofa or chair and watch it by the hour.  This was the fancy room as the dining room was more like the family rooms of today.
      I can still see her on her knees lacing my grandfather’s high button shoes which were even old-fashioned for the 1950’s.   She was the life and breath of this family.   The picture of the little girl hanging in her bedroom still stays with me as this was the room I always slept in.
     When I was 10 years old, my mother came into my room in the morning and told me grandma had died.  She was 78 and had washed and ironed all her curtains that day.  I missed her so much and it was the end of a very special time in my life.

Do you know any of your family's old stories? If so, consider keeping a page in your notebook to list the ones you remember. You can also ask questions of your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, questions like:
  • What was school like when you were my age?
  • What was your favorite toy?
  • Can you tell me about a special memory you hae of time with one of your grandparents?
  • How did our family members settle in the cities where they lived?
  • Will you please tell me something about your great grandparents?
  • What is this object? (Find something in your house that looks old.) What is its story?
Once you have a story that particulary interests you, you can ask more questions about it:
  • Is there anything else you can add to what yo told me?
  • Do you remember anything else about that?
  • Are there any photographs or objects that I can see connected to this?
  • Is there anyone else I can ask to learn more?
Try taking one story or memory that you have learned about your family and writing it as a poem. You might, as I did, choose to take a lesson from the story. You'll notice that my poem tells the story first, and then it tells what I take away from it. 

Or, you might choose to simply tell the story. If you are uncertain of a particular detail, you may choose to invent it. For example, I do not know for sure that my great grandmother and her sisters held hands on the boat, but I sure imagine that they must have. How scary it must have been for them...

Our family histories are part of us, and I am looking forward to learning more. Who are these people in these photographs? How I wish I could speak to them today.

Mary Lee is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at A(nother) Year of Reading with a wise poem titled "What the Pomegranate Knows." Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

I wish you fascination in your story-collecting journey.


Please share a comment below if you wish. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Remember Imagination

Happy 2022 to You!

Snug Mug
Drawing by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is a true memory poem. When I was in upper elementary school, our classrooms were very cold. And so my friends and I did exactly what this poem describes - we pretended to drink hot cocoa...and we really did feel warmer inside. Looking back, I think it was because we were together and we were using our imaginations to help our bodies.

It has been many years since I have remembered these moments, perhaps thinking of them now because my 2022 happy goal is to drink more real hot chocolate. In fact, I am drinking hot chocolate right now!

This Morning's Drink
Photo by Amy LV

A writer like you or me can turn any true memory into a free verse poem. By adding a few more words and taking out the line breaks, I could have written this as a story. But with fewer words and line breaks, it is a poem. 

If you are seeking a writing idea, I suggest you try beginning with the two words I remember... I recommend this sometimes and sometimes turn to this strategy myself. Sometimes memories are waiting to be called up.

Also, imagination. When have you pretended something in your life? The world of pretend is a world full of writing ideas!

It is a new year, and this means that Sylvia Vardell is sharing her annual "Sneak Peek" list of children's poetry collections and anthologies, poem picture books and novels in verse to be published this year. Find all of the goodness at Poetry for Children, a treasure box of poetry and poetry resources. I am so happy to share that I have a book on this list together with illustrator Emma Virj√°n - our IF THIS BIRD HAD POCKETS: A POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY CELEBRATION - will be out on March 1, 2022.

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Beyond Literacy Link, sharing her "One Little Word" for this year along with a winter poem to go right along with it. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

I am grateful to be starting a new year with you and with a so many days of poetry possibility stretched out before us. Stay warm, dear friends, in your body and in your imagination too.


Please share a comment below if you wish. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Go Ahead...Give a Direction


Winnie in the Chair Fort
Photo by Amy LV

Tuck in the Chair Fort
Photo by Amy LV

Students - You may be thinking, "Didn't Amy just write a poem about animal forts?" And yes. In November, I shared this poem about just that. See, people often do, think about, and write about the same idea over and over again. And here, on New Year's Eve at a strange time in history, making pet forts is a point of happiness in our little home. The one you see above is a simple scarf and chair fort. Today, I think I will make Winnie and Tuck yet another fort out of boxes. And for me, one of blankets and books.

We are standing on a threshold between 2021 and 2022. If you stand where one meets another room, that meeting place is called a threshold, and you can have one foot in each space. Today is kind of like that, with one foot in the old year and one in the new. As one old year meets and touches one new year, I will be making a box fort for cats. Simple. Joy.

What advice do you have for someone at this important time? You might consider beginning or titling a poem with the words, "Go Ahead" and then give a small or big direction to your readers, suggesting something to do or try or think about on this threshold between years. You might write a "Go Ahead" poem about another time of life. It is all up to you, as you are the writer.

Direction-giving poems give our readers something to consider. They can open up tiny and wide possibilities for ways to live. Writing helps me figure out how to live, and I hope it may do this for you too.

Thank you to author Jan Godown Annino. The other day I'd shared a photo of Winnie in this chairscarf fort, and Jan asked me about making a fort for a toy cat. That question stuck with me and led to today's "best stuffed bear" line!

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Carol's Corner. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

As you cross over to 2022 from 2021, I wish you and your families and loved ones a season of safety and simple joys. Writing can be here for us when times are light and for when times are dark. Poetry is like a little flashlight. Let yours shine.


Please share a comment below if you wish. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Making New from Old

Tree from Aunt Tom's & Aunt Kay's Jewelry
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I have had my great aunts' old jewelry for a long time. When I was in high school, I used to wear some of it, and it has been around my life for decades. This fall, I saw some Christmas trees made from old costume jewelry, and I bought a wooden cone to make one. Yesterday I finally sat down and did it. I sat at the kitchen table for a few hours, just me, my Leatherman (like a Swiss Army knife) and my glue gun. Yes, I had lots of things to do, but taking this time to sit and make was a true gift.

My Great Aunt Tom (real name Edythe) was my mother's mother's sister, and my Great Aunt Kay (really Katharine, and I have her name as my middle name) was my father's mother's sister. As my parents were both only children and three of my grandparents had died before I was two years old, these were the family outside of our small family-of-four that I remember. Gluing their bracelets and earrings and necklace bits to this tree shape brought me a sense of togetherness from ages ago, and even though Aunt Kay died in 1983 and Aunt Tom died in 1998, I could still smell their perfumes.

This making was bittersweet; I felt both happy and sad at the same time. But more happy!

Anyway, I am very pleased with this heavy, sparkly little tree, and I will love pulling it out each year. I made a new thing from old things, and it brought me joy. Have you ever made something new from something old? If so, you might use that making as a start for a writing idea. If not, you might want to try it out. Just take some time, find something old that you are allowed to work with, and see what you can make. Then...write! I would love to hear about your findings and your makings. 

Here is a picture of the costume jewelry tree before I got too far. You can see the green jewelry box on the left that belonged to my Great Aunt Tom, and you can see the suitcase on the right which held much of my Great Aunt Kay's jewelry. As I worked, I thought about them, two such different and fascinating women, branches from my family tree.

Making the Tree
Photo by Amy LV

It is truly winter, and I would like to say thank you to Tabatha Yeatts, Mary Lee Hahn, and Laura Shovan for setting up a Winter Poetry Swap for all of us interested Poetry Friday folks. I was fortunate to be paired with Buffy Silverman, a poet I truly admire and host of today's Poetry Friday roundup. 

I treasure the poem and bouquet that Buffy shared with me, right on Solstice Eve, a time of year I cherish. If you close your eyes and ask someone to read her words to you, you will hear oaks and see reds and grays and browns, hear geese and feel that slate-blue sky and white-winter snow. I already ate the delicious toffee that she sent...and I cannot wait to use the creamy goat's milk soap. Thank you, Buffy, for this most lovely invitation into winter.

Buffy is indeed hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Buffy Silverman, and as we were Winter Poetry Swap partners...she is sharing my poem to her along with her wonderful poem, "A Tree's Secrets," simply perfect for this moment. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

Happy last week of 2021! I will see you next Friday, my friends...on the last day of this year.


Please share a comment below if you wish. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Listening & A Poetry Peek

Woolly Bear on Wood
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I have been stacking a lot of wood for winter these days, and as I've done so, I have found three soft woolly bears tucked in the load of wood that was dumped in our yard. They are adorable, I simply love them, and I have written about them a few times here.

If you are looking for something to write this week, consider looking at and for creatures. Listen to the creature you choose. If it doesn't say anything, pretend! What might it say. What would you do?

I did tuck every one of those three woolly bears into my gorgeous, freshly-stacked pile. We're all ready for the big Western New York snows now.

You can learn more about woolly bear caterpillars here in The Westborough News "Nature Notes" column written by Annie Reid.

Today is such a special day here! It is the first Poetry Peek in a long time, and I could not feel more excited and grateful to welcome these fourth grade poets -  and their teachers Ms. Lewis and Ms. Miner - from Tioughnioga Riverside Academy in Whitney Point, NY.  These students are regular celebrators of Poetry Friday and are like old friends here at The Poem Farm. Ms. Miner and I have known each other for a long time, and we were reconnected by student poet Maykayla who shared her beautifu list poem "Blue" with me back in November. 

In the slideshow below, you will have the opportunity to read twenty poems, each with a note from the poet about where they found inspiration. I have not spoken with these poets about their process, but reading their words, it is easy to see that they have studied line breaks, careful word selection, repetition, comparisons (similes and metaphors) and solid endings. What do you notice when reading? What will ou learn from them?

As I read each poem and looked carefully at each joyful, thoughtful illustration, I felt as if I got to take twenty small vacations, right from my desk, kittens by my side.

Thank you, poets from Whitney Point! Thank you, Makayla! Today we celebrate you!

And reader friends, please enjoy these poems, a poetry anthology on your screen...

To enlarge the presentation, simply click the three dots at the bottom of it, and select ENTER FULL SCREEN.

Jone is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Jone Rush MacCulloch with a double golden shovel poem, a gift poem, and a call for folks to join the Winter Poem Swap. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.

I wish you a warm and woolly week ahead!


Please share a comment below if you wish. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

They're Not...They're...


Draft of Poem
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I dedicate this poem to my new first grade friends from Ms. Rose's class and Ms. Ferrari's class at Furnace Woods Elementary School in Cortlandt, NY. We had a virtual visit yesterday (they at their school, me in my old camper), and one thing we talked about is the importance of making changes to our work. I loved meeting with these thoughtful students, and this is the poem I was drafting before and after our visits. You can see how many changes I made to it in my notebook!

Sometimes people think of cross outs and scratch outs as "mistakes." But I don't see them that way at all. They are really growing marks, showing the birth of new ideas and understandings.

So if you cross something out in your work to replace it with a new idea or to simply leave space where it needs to be...celebrate that and celebrate you!

Can you think of a time when you thought of something one way and then realized that it is not that way at all? This could be the good start to a poem. If you wish, you could even begin by writing:

They're not....


It's not....

It can be helpful to have a starter and then keep it or not once you get going. 

Your writing is yours. I wish you scribbles!

Cathy is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Merely Day by Day with a gentle and generous poem that she wrote for the Poetry Friday community. It speaks of all teachers and all who give. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.


Friday, December 3, 2021

Surprises, Decisions, & Changes


Debby and Cooper, December 2, 2021
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Sometimes we are surprised by something wonderful! This happened for my mother yesterday. After losing her beloved Max in October, Max of the (JOHN AND BETSY poems), she was not sure she would ever want another dog.

Then...Cooper showed up. My sister and I are convinced that Max sent Cooper to her. And also convinced that Max is teaching Cooper to be a very excellent (and very housetrained) puppy, even from the great beyond.

Have you ever been surprised by something wonderful? Or have you ever changed your mind about something you felt sure about? Has your heart ever had to make a big decision? My mom had many mixed feelings about getting a new dog. She was a bit afraid that she might not love him as much as she loved Max, a little nervous about taking on such a big project, and still sad for her loss. But she is an overflowing-with-love person, and so of course Cooper, with Max's help, found her.

If you aren't sure what to write about this week, consider writing about a surprise or a big decision or a change of heart. This could be based on a true story from your life, from someone else's life, or it could be complete fiction. You might even include voices in your poem as I did, using the real words you imagine or remember someone would say or think.

Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Michelle Kogan with a celebration of "holidaze" through joyful, hopeful, poetry and art. Please know that all are welcome each Friday as folks share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship.