Friday, October 17, 2014

Curled Kitten & a Poetry Peek with Emily

Students - Today's verse is about our new kitten, Fiona.  I saw her curled up on Georgia's blanket, and I loved the sound of "kitten" and "camouflage" together.  The rest of the poem just grew around those sounds.  It is fun for me to read.

Can you find other similar sounds in the poem?  

Look for consonants that repeat near each other.  This is called consonance. 

Look for vowels that repeat near each other. This is called assonance.

Alliteration is when sounds at the beginnings of words repeat near each other.

When you write a poem, experiment with the sounds at the starts of words and also the vowels inside of words.  Rhyme is not the only way to play with sound.  

Is there a daily image you love?  If so, do not miss a chance to write about it.  I love seeing Fiona curled all around the house, and now I can read this poem to her as she sleeps.

Today I am honored to welcome Emily, a fourth grade poet from Louisana.  Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche, is one of Emily's teachers, and I am thankful to share her poem today at The Poem Farm.  It is an acrostic, but it is so well written that you might not even realize this if we didn't tell you.

I asked Emily if she would be willing to share how she writes.  She replied...

My tips for writing a good poem would be the following:
I don't really know how I do it; I just love to write.  I want to be a poet.

Emily is a poet already, and I very much hope to have the opportunity to read more of her work.  Students - I recommend trying one of these writing tips when you write.  What do you think Emily means when she refers to a "lazy" poem? 

Much gratitude to both Emily and Margaret for this Poetry Peek today.  

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Today's Little Ditty with Michelle.  Head on over for some new poems and to visit with some new and old friends too. 

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Each Seed - Finding Poem Ideas by Looking Around


Money Plant
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday I wasn't sure what to write about (not an uncommon event).  I thought I might write about walking with my dogs, Cali and Sage.  I thought I might write about how sometimes life surprises you.  Then I looked around, and I saw the stalk of money plant I'd picked a few weeks ago.  Sometimes people call this plant silver dollars.  Its Latin name is Lunaria annua, or yearly moon.  It is also called honesty.  I love it.

Looking at the coins, I got to thinking about how many plants toss seeds around.  I adore blowing dandelions, opening milkweed pods, ripping burdocks apart, and collecting acorns.  'Just picked these up by the mailbox in September. They're brown now.

Handful of Acorns
Photo by Amy LV

When I sat down to write yesterday, I just loved the idea of plants throwing seeds (like snowballs) at each other.  It makes them seem so playful.  But they're like parents too, those plants, saying "Farewell" to their wee ones.

Part of this poem - the first part - is just a description, telling about what is happening.  Then, halfway through it switches to a mask voice, the voice of mother plant bidding adieu.  You can do this in your writing too.  Start by describing something...then, make it talk!

And if you don't have a writing idea right away, just look around.  Write about something you see right in front of your face, something you might usually just walk right by.

"Maple Mother" from 2010 is what I would consider a cousin poem to today's verse.  One of the fun things about writing many many poems is that I find themes that tickle my fancy again and again.  "Money Plant" from 2012 is another cousin in this family.

You can watch me open the money plant seedpods below if you'd like.  I think that they are incredibly beautiful.

If you are a classroom of readers that is interested in some money plant seeds for planting, please just let me know in the comments, and I will be able to mail some money plant seeds to a few classrooms of young writers.

Congratulations to Kristie Miner! You have won the fabulous book and notebook offered as a giveaway by Angela Stockman of the Western New York Writer's Studio over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks!  Please send me your snail mail address so that your gifts can wing their way to you.  And everyone - please know - I welcome you and your students to share your notebooks in that space as well.  The more the merrier!  Any boys or men out there with notebooks to share?  We could use a few more of those.

Tricia is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Please fly on over to her place to discover all of the poetic goodies our friends are offering up today.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Writing about Writing & a Poetry Peek

Photo by Amy LV

Students - One of the best parts of my days is when I have the opportunity to visit classrooms wtih writing workshops.  This week I had the chance to visit a third grade and a kindergarten classroom, both humming with writing and love.  At home here, I write all alone, but I, too, look for people to be a part of my writing circle.  You are these people.  The teachers and students I visit are these people.  My poetry friends are these people.  It really does feel "almost like a hug" when one has the chance to write and share with others.

Receiving a kind note from Jen Westervelt (you'll read words from her in a moment) reminded me that I have written about writing several times, so her note got me searching the files to see what I could find. This draft was a scrap written over a year ago, and I found it in my files. 
This short verse felt worth finishing, even with that weird little last nonsense line.  I didn't want to finish it in the spring of 2013, but this week I did.  So, thank you to Jen and to Lillie and Willow and all of the students in this class for inspiring me - through your words - to comb through my digital files.  I was happy to find today's small poem and hope that others in writing workshps know the feeling I describe.

Being a writer-packrat can be very helpful.  Don't throw those notebooks away or erase those files.  Someday, down the line, you might find a scrap that you wish to revisit.  Look through your old notebooks sometime, maybe even today.  Surprise your new self with the interesting thoughts of your old self.  Take an old piece and make it new.

Today I am very happy to host sixth grade English teacher Jen Westervelt, from Sherburne-Earlville Middle School in Sherburne, NY.  Many grateful welcomes to Jen as she introduces her students.

As part of Scholastic's TRAITS WRITING PROGRAM, my sixth grade students have been exploring the connections between the Writing Process (Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing...) and the Writing Traits (Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Voice, Presentation, and Conventions).  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's poem,"Writing Time," served as inspiration for these poems.    


Poems are like Paintings
Except telling a story through words
You might stare and be waiting
For great inspiration to come

You might get an idea one day
While walking down the street
It might start “hello” or  “far far away”
Or even great George the giant

Use transition, organization, ideas, and voice
These are all important in poems
There might be a sentence like “there is Boise”
Or “Hi my name is Bob”

This is all about you
The poem you write
And the ideas you use

If you do what you like
Could be poems about bikes
There’s no way you’ll  ever fail

Lillie Ashton

Writing is Life

Writing is life, It's naturally nice to write about life.
Like when your kindhearted friend sends you a letter, so 
you can feel radiant and beautiful and somewhat better.   
Writing is a source of showing you 
care about your friends that are everywhere and anywhere.So,
writing is life,
you can write to anyone even if he/she lives in the 
middle of nowhere.

Willow Austin  

Thank you very much to Jen, Lillie, and Willow for joining us with these thoughtful words and lines.  It is a joy to have you all here at The Poem Farm today.

Students are often our best teachers, and I continue to be thankful for the young writers from the Western New York Young Writer's Studio who are currently sharing their notebooks over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  If you have not yet taken a look at these students' notebooks, I encourage you to come on over and get some new ideas for your own notebook.  Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway of a book and a notebook too!

Jama is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at the delicious Jama's Alphabet Soup.  Head on over for tea, croissants, and poems.  What could be better?

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Big Dipper - Paying Attention & Reading Aloud

Finding a Friend
by Amy LV

Students - Two nights ago, my husband and I went for a walk in the dark.  It's very dark on our road as there are no streetlights and only four homes on the road.  This means that we can see many many stars.  As we walked, we looked up at the stars, pointing to the ones we recognized, calmed by just knowing they were there.

Today's poem is about someting that is always above me at night.  The Big Dipper is always here. But sometimes I don't pay attention.  Life is full of so many things that we don't pay attention to.  But today, or tomorrow, or next week...I challenge you to pay attention to something you usually just ignore.  Look at that long toenail.  Watch the spider spin her web.  Feel rain fall and run off of your own eyebrows.  Then...write.  See what you get.

For those of you who are new here, one thing I like to do sometimes is to share my drafts, just to show how messy writing can be.  When I am seriously writing, my hand might fly across the page of my notebook, crossing out and changing words left and right.  

"Big Dipper" Drafts
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

The one thing I always do when I write a poem is that I read it aloud.  I read today's verse over and over out loud to myself.  Each time I wanted to write a new line, I read what I had so far out loud. Then I listened inside of myself for a possible next line.  Then I read the poem with the new line, asking myself, "Does this work?"  If it did, I left it.  If not, I crossed it out.  Then I went back to the top to read again with the new line, listening for what the NEXT line might be.

Your ears are your poem writing buddies.  Use them.

I often find comfort in the sky.  If you like the nighttime sky and today's poem, you might also enjoy reading "Orion" or "Everynight Everywhere" - two poems also here at The Poem Farm.

On a scientific note, the Big Dipper is actually not a whole constellation.  It is an asterism, or a smaller group of stars that has a name but is not as big as a constellation.  The Big Dipper is part of the constellation of Ursa Major.  One of the great things about the Big Dipper is that if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can always see it.  It is a steady pal up there.  And if you can find the Big Dipper, you can find The Little Dipper.  And the North Star too.

Visit Wonderopolis if you would like to learn more about the Big Dipper.

This week, I feel so lucky to host four (4!) student notebook keepers over at my other blog.  Please visit Sharing Our Notebooks to peek into the pages of the notebooks of: Sydney, Julia, Peter, and Erin, all writers who are part of the WNY Young Writer's Studio community.  There is a wonderful giveaway of a book and notebook too.  Please stop by and leave a comment for these thoughtful young writers.

Laura is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Writing the World for Kids.  All are welcome to visit Laura's web home, taste this week's yummy poem treats, and enjoy Laura's new series of poems and new book announcement.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry Friday is Here - and a Healing Poem Too

is here today!

Photo by Amy LV

Students - This poem is for anyone who needs it.  I was not sure whether to write about the bowl of gorgeous tomatoes on our table or about all of the people I know who are somehow suffering right now, suffering with different sadnesses.  I needed to write about the second thing, about how helpful it can be to find other people who have been through what we are going through, no matter what our struggles may be.  

Whenever I need help with a hard time, I always turn to family and poems, friends and books.  I try to be a helpful friend, too, and sometimes I am...and sometimes, without meaning to, I say the wrong things. When that happens, I can only try again. That is all any one of us can do, our very best, every day, knowing the path is sometimes steep but that kind others have gone before.

Sometimes, even if you are not going through a tough time yourself, you feel what others are feeling.  You, too, can write about those feelings.  It helps.  

Language-wise, you will notice that this poem has some rhymes and some repetition too.  What do you notice about the rhyme?  What do you notice about the repetition?

Now...let's celebrate!  It is Poetry Friday, and once every few months, I am allowed to host the guests.  All through today, I will update this space with news from the Kidlitosphere: original poems and ideas, classroom stories and new books, favorite poems and found treasures.  All are invited to leave links to poetry posts in the comments, and I will add them below .  

If you have not visited my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, lately, I have the present pleasure of hosting poet and novelist, Irene Latham and her notebooks.  There's even a giveaway of Irene's beautiful book, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!  And enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!  I am grateful that you are my Someones.


The Roundup!

Over at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme, Matt Forrest shares news about a new adult anthology of which he's a part.

At TeacherDance, Linda celebrates the Cybils' judge announcements along with a memory of a small lovely moment of summer.

Douglas offers an original poem about gravity, taken from the newly published GUYS READ: TRUE STORIES, edited by Jon Scieszka. Find this poem at the Florian Cafe.

It's Homecoming season and Laura's daughter's going to her first high school dance. Should she wear a dress or push the envelope and go in a tux? At Author Amok, Laura's post about HS dances and challenging norms features Sue Ellen Thompson's poem "The Paper Dress."

Bridget at wee words for wee ones has an original poem, "Real Estate on the Web," about the importance of truth in advertising when selling a "home."

At Susan Taylor Brown, Susan is in with an original poem, "Celebrate With Me," which is modeled on a Lucile Clifton poem and has become her personal anthem.

Inspired by Renee's poem at No Water River last week, Laura does something she rarely does: shares a poem written for a family member.  You can read her poem for Maddie at Writing the World for Kids.

Heidi also shares a poem for a family member, a poem about her son and sleep, over at My Juicy Little Universe.

Tabatha brings us an uplifting butterfly theme today at The Opposite of Indifference.

At Michelle's Today's Little Ditty, Liana Mahoney is visiting Limerick Alley with a toad and some great news.

Margaret's post at Reflections on the Teche is an invitation to Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery and an offering of her original poem, "Deception Pass."

Mary Lee offers us "Autumn" by Linda Pastan over at A Year of Reading.

 At Keri Recommends, Keri is in with Joyce Sutphen's "First Words" and with some words for our poetry community too.

Jama joins in with a little birthday party for Cornelius Bear over at Alphabet Soup. Enjoy the poems and cookies, and bring Cornelius some warm wishes.

At The Logonauts, Katie teaches poetry and geography with her favorite J. Patrick Lewis poem about latitude and longitude.

At Reading, Teaching, Learning, Holly also celebrates Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery and shares her original poem, "City of a Hundred Spires."

Over at Random Noodling, Diane offers "Almost," the last of her Sketchbook Project poems. At Kurious Kitty, for Talk Like a Pirate Day, she shares "The Parrot" by James Merrill.

Carol's post, at Beyond LiteracyLink, revolves around these last bits of summer serenity with a photograph taken by her daughter and a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson.

After a long break, Liz is happy to be back at the Poetry Friday table with a poem about tomatoes.  Find it at Elizabeth Steinglass.

At Penny Parker Klostermann, Penny shares Episode 2 of A GREAT Nephew & a GREAT Aunt at my blog today.

Violet offers her found poem titled "Paul Simon Reunion" at Violet Nesdoly/poems.

Karen is having breakfast with Billy Collins today at Karen Edmisten.

Over at Dori Reads, Doraine shares one of her favorite Lucille Clifton poems, "blessing the boats."

At Hope is the Word, Amy shares Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life" along with some thoughts about her family's discussion and study.

At Musings, Joyce shares a visit with poet, storyteller, and national treasure, Ashley Bryan.

JoAnn begins a new series of posts about creativity with a sympathetic note to herself and anyone else who might need it. Today's post at Teaching Authors includes a wonderful Ted Kooser poem about creativity.

Anastasia offers VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon over at Booktalking.

At Buildingsroman, Little Willow shares Lucy Frank's poem, "Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling."

Tanita shares Christine De Luca's "The Morning After" at [fiction, instead of lies].

At Poetry for Kids Joy, Joy is counting acorns with an original poem you might wish to act out.

Ramona offers Julia Kasdorf's "What I Learned from My Mother" at Pleasures from the Page.

Ruth, at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town, is in with "The Yellow Dress," by Amy Beeder.

At Check It Out, Jone announces the Cybils Poetry Panelists and Judges and also points us toward Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery.

Tricia offers two James Stevenson poems over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Crystal is trying to slow down, and in doing so, she shares an original poem titled "A Lesson From My Dog" at Reading Through Life.

At Gathering Books, Fats is in with Walt Whitman and "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer."

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Dogs - Combining Reality and Fantasy

Dog Brushing
by Amy LV

Students - Today's verse grew from an interruption.  I was writing in my notebook yesterday morning when our daughter walked into the room to tell me how when pulling some burdocks from Sage, she pulled out a huge clump of fur.  This reminded me of times we've brushed huge piles of fur out of Sage, times we've said, "We could make a new dog out of this pile!"

Once again, I learned that paying attention to the world - even when writing - can yield an idea.  It may be a weird idea, but an idea nonetheless.

Sound-wise, today's poem is a little bit breathless.  I could have broken it up into stanzas (where would you do this?) but instead, I kept the lines in one big blob.  I did this because I like the way the lines run all into each other, the way this makes a reader read more quickly.  It feels like a story-I-want-to-tell-now!

Often, I will take a bit from my real life and then play with the reality, adding just a wee bit of fantasy.  The dog is real.  We really brush her.  We really get a pile of fur. The fur pile really feels large enough to make a new dog. But the magic words?  Nope.  And the new dog growing?  Nope.  That's where I play.  Try this yourself  sometime. Start real.  End unreal. 

Our Dog Sage
Photo by ? LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Free Verse and a Visit from Irene Latham

Wet Leaves
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is a quiet poem, and it is about the picture you see above, a picture I took just yesterday.  On my way into a school yesterday morning, after an 80 minute drive in the rainy dark, I emerged from my car to see these magical leaves, made even more magical by rain and morning sun.  

While part of me wished to hurry into school, another part of me said, "Stop, Amy. Take a picture of this.  You will want to remember this pretty scene, here where you least expected to find one."  I could have taken a picture with my mind.  I could have stopped to draw the scene.  Instead, yesterday, I took a photograph.  And here it is. In photo captured then and later, captured with the photo of words.

This is a quiet poem because this small still life gave me a quiet feeling inside.  So rather than focusing on rhyme-playfuness today, my poem focuses on focus - on looking carefully at one beautiful, surprise life-painting just left there in my busy path. If you have visited The Poem Farm before, you may know that I sometimes push myself to write free verse, unrhymed, poems. This moves me out of my comfortable home in rhyme and bouncy meter.

When you look around at the world, not at a screen and not at the busythoughts inside of your head, you will see beauty in many surprising places.  Each time I do, I feel tremendously lucky.

Speaking of lucky...

Today we are all lucky to welcome poet and novelist Irene Latham.  I invited Irene to share about revision and her newest book, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, a cool, informative, and beautifully written collection of poems about animals from the African grasslands. 

Available through
your Independent Bookseller
or through Amazon

Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to talk about revision! The Poem Farm is one of my favorite places to visit... so warm and inspiring!

Rarely have I written a poem that didn't go through extensive revisions. Simply changing one word in a poem constitutes a new draft... and often it is that one word that I can't imagine until it wakes me up in the middle of the night! I love watching a poem become more clearly what it was meant to be all along. One of the best ways to be able to “see” this is to allow a poem to rest between drafts. Just like bread, a poem needs a chance to breathe after it's been kneaded. Then you can come back to it and bake it to a nice golden-brown in your mind's oven.

I'm not sure a poem is ever really done, but at some point, we must stop and move on. I was revising the poems in DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST right up until we went to press. A litmus test that I use for myself when putting together a collection is this: if this poem is the only poem a reader ever reads out of this book, will I be satisfied with that? It took me a long time to find the “yes” to that question regarding the snake poem. It's kind of a tricky poem, as it includes all five snake species native to the African continent. That's asking a lot of a poem! Anyhow, here's the poem that appeared in the version of the book when it was first acquired by Millbrook Press:

Lifestyles of the Sleek and Sinuous

My name is Black Mamba.
Wanna chasssssssssssse?

            Boomslang, that's me.
            Welcome to my treehouse.

They call me Cape Cobra.
Seen any weaver birds lately?

            Saw-scaled Viper's my name.
            When I sizzle, you shake.

I go by Puff Adder.
Step on me, if you dare.

See how I tried to include in each couplet a quality unique to that particular kind of snake? That was a good approach, and I wanted to keep it. BUT. I wanted to employ more poetic techniques to really make this poem shine, so I kept at it.

Lifestyles of the Sleek and Sinuous

Black Mamba


Cape Cobra
weaver birds.

            Saw-scaled Viper
            rubs, shrugs

Puff Adder
hisses –
rarely misses.

See how I kept some of the things that were working in the earlier version, but pared the poem AND amped up all the remaining word choices? I made sure there was rhyme in every couplet while still giving information unique to each snake. And now, yes, if this is the only poem you read out of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, I am satisfied that you've gotten a taste of what the rest of the book holds. No weakling poems allowed! The goal in a collection is to make each and every poem shiny enough to be the title poem. It's something to strive for, anyway. :)

Click to Enlarge this Spread from DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST

If you're reading this, and writing your own poems, be patient with yourself. Remember that we have millions of words to choose from, so endless variations are possible. Keep tinkering – that's where the joy is! And also, rest. You'll know when it's time to stop.

Thank you, Amy, for having me – and for all the ways you share the love of poetry with the world! xo

I am very grateful to Irene for joining us today here at The Poem Farm and also at Sharing Our Notebooks.  To peek into Irene's notebooks, head over there, peek away, and comment to be entered to win your own copy of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST.

Renee is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at No Water River.  All are welcome to join in, visit, share, and love poetry in her joyous space today.

Please share a comment below if you wish.