Friday, March 6, 2015

SPARKing Again - Collaborating with an Artist

Last week, I participated in Spark once more.  It had been a while since I had taken part in Amy Souza's brainchild where perfect friends or strangers swap art, music, or writing and are given ten days to make new art, music, or writing inspired by what they have been given.  I was so happily paired with artist Tora Estep.

Here you see the painting I received on the first day, and right after, you will see the poem that it inspired.

The Magpies

Below is the poem I gave to Tora on day one of our collaboration.  Right after, you will see her painting that grew from it.


Students - it is great fun to be part of this kind of collaboration, and this is why I have taken part in Spark several times. (If you wish, you can see all of the Spark collaborations I've been a part of here.)  And as I always say, try it!  Consider getting with a friend and swapping art or music or writing.  Give yourself a handful of days by which you must each create something new from what you have received.  If you do try it, please let me know...if it's poetry, I'd adore featuring you here.

We are so much more together than each of us can ever be alone.  Collaborating is a joy.

Speaking of collaborating, this week we celebrated a baby poetry book birthday! So many congratulations to Lee Bennett Hopkins and Alyssa Nassner for their new snuggly board book, LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET.  I am honored to have a poem in this book - it's cuddling with poems by so many of my poetry friends.

Robyn Campbell is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at her site, Robyn Campbell.  Visit there to learn about all of the poetry goodies being passed around all day, all night, all week long!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Struck by a Tiny Paper Home

Squishy's Paper Home
Home by Alex and Friends
Photo by Amy LV

Students - This past Wednesday, I visited Plank South Elementary School in Webster, NY, and at the end of the day, fourth grader Alex showed me her small toy turtle Squishy (can you see part of his name on that yellow sticky note?), and his neat paper home.  She began with the folded walls and floor, and her friends were helping her build the rest (not exactly in the way my poem says...I made some parts up).  When I saw this paper home, I thought, "If I were Squishy, I'd be happy to have such a cozy place to live!"  

When I was a young girl, I loved making homes for little animals out of boxes and anything I could find.  So, seeing Squishy's home struck something inside of me. Much of writing is about just this - being struck by things. And then notice when you are struck.  What do you find funny or quirky or deeply sad or fascinating? These are the things you should write about.  Taking pictures helps me to remember, but so does my notebook and so does this blog.  Now, because I wrapped my arms and ink and time around this memory, Alex and her friends and Squishy will always have a little piece of real estate in my heart.  Thank you, Alex!

You will notice that there is a rhyme scheme to this poem.  It is almost in squished together quatrains, except for the last lines which stretch out from four to five in order to slow down the ending.

I am so pleased to welcome Natalie S. today!  Earlier this week, I also visited another school - Douglas J. Regan Intermediate in Lockport, NY.  As a part of that visit, I had the opportunity to eat lunch and write with several fourth grade writers, including Natalie from Breann Kolacz's class.  Natalie offered to share this poem with all of us for today's Poetry Friday gathering.

Old Bedroom
by Natalie S.

Come join me 
As you open the door
You will see 
The bright 
Yellow wall
With the 
Butterflies and 
Everywhere you look
Is a memory I’ll
Treasure for ever
You see the 
Bright sun through
The big window
You can hear 
The birds chirping
As they soar 
Among the clouds
And stars

Don't you feel like you are there?  Thank you so much, Natalie, for this lovely tour of memory and beauty.

Gena has won this month's drawing over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Gena, if you see this, please drop me a line with your snail mail address and your choice of book. Congratulations!  And to all who notebook or know notebookers, I am looking for new posters over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Right now I am particularly interested in all kinds of unusual notebooks and also notebooks kept by boys or men.  It would be good to get some guy notebooks up over there, so if you know any notebooker of any age, I would so appreciate it if you would send that person my way.

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup today over at My Juicy Little Universe.  Be sure to CHeck out the CHallenge she has offered for MarCH!

Please share a commnent below if you wish.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

100 Reasons to be Thankful

Celebrating with Gratitude
by Amy LV

Students - This week, my friend, second grade teacher Sheila Cocilova, and I have been talking about writing occasion poems.  She has been writing poems about Dr. Seuss, and I have been thinking about the fullness of February. The other week, a wise friend (Who were you?  I forgot!) told me that someone should write a poem for February, a month stuffed with special days, or August, a month with almost none. Writing back and forth with Sheila reminded me that the 100th day of school is near now, and her work on those Dr. Seuss poems inspired me to try writing an occasion poem too.

It can be wonderful to get an idea from a friend!  On a day when you're not sure what to write, why not just walk around and look at what everyone else has been writing?  Perhaps all friends could just put out their folders or notebooks and folks could walk around quietly, reading what each writer has placed on top to share. Allow each of these offerings to invite you into a new writing idea you might not have planned on your own.  Today I have Sheila to thank for mine.  Thank you, Sheila!

And thank you as well to Tarak McLain.  Several years ago, I heard Tarak's voice sharing thirty of one hundred of his important beliefs on a This I Believe npr program.  His voice and thoughtfulness have helped me and have helped many students of all ages find ideas for their own opinion writing.

Today's small verse, as you have likely figured out, is a simple list poem.  And a thankful list is something you can keep yourself.  Science shows that people who write down and think about what they are thankful for are happier people?  This makes sense, don't you think?  You can keep a poster of things and moments to be thankful for with your classmates or you can keep your own gratitude journal like my friend Catie does.  I once knew a teacher and class of students who kept gratitude journals as part of their writers notebooks.  There are many ways to be thankful on this beautiful planet.

Here's an invitation!  I hereby invite any class that begins a 100 Reasons Celebration List to share it here.  Teachers - Please just send me an e-mail to with your photograph, and I will add your picture (the year doesn't matter...these posts come back each year in varioius ways) to the bottom of today's post. 

I am thankful to have made so many friends here at The Poem Farm.  Thank YOU!

Speaking of gratitude, if you haven't yet seen Olga McLaren's Grandmother Journals over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, don't miss them.  They're something else.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 20, 2015

That Moment Before Snapping a Photograph

Turkey Tree
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday I was lucky enough to see nine turkeys in that small empty tree you see above...not the evergreen, but the deciduous tree in front.  I was driving my car along, and when I looked out the window, I could not believe my eyes.  The tree looked to be covered in enormous and strange ornaments.  But they really were turkeys!  This picture is the moment after they all flew away.  Can you still hear their wings flapping?

Today's poem is a free verse poem, no rhyme or regular meter at all.  But I still read it aloud many times to be sure that the rhythms - while not regular - sang each into the next.  When you write a free verse poem, many of the decisions you will make are decisions about line breaks.  Where exactly would you like the reader to pause, even for just a wee bit?  Put your line breaks there.

It is interesting to write from photographs, and if you visit here regularly, you know that I do this often.  Usually, though, I write about the moment in the photograph or something from the photograph that anyone could see.  Today, though, my focus is on a different moment.  You might try this too. Find a photograph or think of one and write about the moment before or the moment after the picture was taken.  The piece you write could be true or it could come from your own wild imagination.  You might write a poem, but you could also write a story, or anything else.  The ways we best find ideas will work for us across all types of writing.

Mary Lee Hahn is the winner of last week's giveaway of LEND A HAND written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd.  Mary Lee, please just send me an e-mail and let me know if you would like the book sent to you or to a friend!

If you have not yet visited Olga McLaren's grandmother journals over at my blog Sharing Our Notebooks, I welcome you to do so.  She has written an inspiring post, and there is a giveaway as well.

Linda Baie is hosting this Poetry Friday Palooza over at TeacherDance.  Please head on over there to enjoy the poems, the festivities, and the friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hearts - A Little List Poem of Love

Sock Heart
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Happy almost Valentine's Day! We call our little home Heart Rock Farm because we love finding rocks shaped like hearts in our creek.  Many people like to find hearts in the world: in petals, in clouds, in patterns on our pets' fur.  We can find hearts and we can make them ourselves.  Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Don't you think it would be fun to leave little secret hearts around your home for the ones you love?  (Warning: the sock heart is tricky.  It took me a while!)

Today's poem is a list poem.  Each line is simply one more way to bring hearts into our lives.  Then, as with most list poems, you hear that change, that twist, that surprise at the end.  If I had simply ended the poem with another way to make a heart, the reader might not realize that the poem was finished. However, by breaking the pattern at the end of the poem, I make this clear.

Here are two more Valentine poems from The Poem Farm archives: "February 14" from 2011 and "February 13" from 2012.

In honor of Valentine's Day and love, today I would like to offer a recommendation and a giveaway of LEND A HAND: POEMS ABOUT GIVING written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd.  This is a book that reminds me of the many ways people are kind, and of the many ways I can be kind too.  You can read the Kirkus review of this wonderful book here.  I will draw one name from the commenters on today's post next Thursday, February 19 to be announced next Poetry Friday.  This person will win a copy of LEND A HAND.

Teachers and Other Adults - If you enjoy poetry and poetry books and poetry quotes and news, please know that I keep a Poem Farm Facebook Page as well. Over there, I share news about books and awards and poetry goodness that comes my way during the week.

This month over at my other online home, Sharing Our Notebooks, I could not more pleased to host Olga McLaren and her Grandmother Journals.  Please visit and comment on Olga's post to be entered into a book giveaway.

Cathy is hosting today's sweet Poetry Friday party over at Merely Day By Day. Pack up your heart, and head on over to join the roundup.

I wish you many surprise hearts today, tomorrow, all week long!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friendship - Writing from Words, Writing from Joys

Word Blanket by the Students of Wealthy Elementary
Photo by Amy LV

Poem from My Website

Wealthy Word Blanket Close Up
Photo by Amy LV

Students - What a magnificent week it has been for me here in the East Grand Rapids School District in Michigan!  I have had the opportunity to love poetry with children in all three elementary schools and could not be more thankful.

The picture you see above is of a paper word blanket with one favorite-word-square made by each student in Wealthy School.  When I walked into this school on Wednesday, I was tickled and humbled to find that my "Word Blanket" poem had come to life in this glorious rainbow paper quilt.  

Today's poem grew from a close up photograph I took of this quilt, also above. You will be able to find some of the poem's words in the quilt squares as I wrote my poem straight from this portion of the quilt.  The feelings of today's poem grew from the feelings in my heart which is telling me that I am very lucky indeed to have met so many new friends this week.

You can write from the Wealthy Elementary word blanket too if you wish.  Simply enlarge the quilt picture by clicking on it and choose a word or two to get you started!

So much gratitude to Third Grade Teacher and Poetry Club advisor Kim Doele, Principal Anthony Morey, Art Teacher Peri denDulk, and to all of the teachers and parents who made art, read poems, set up beautiful lunch tables, coordinated displays, and made this week a magical wonderland of poetry.  As I walked into school yesterday, I found a mom writing this on her child's locker whiteboard.  It is a great question that each of us can ask ourselves every single day.

Locker Note from a Mom at Wealthy Elementary
Photo by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

I feel so thankful to have spent this time at Wealthy Elementary.  Late this afternoon, I was given a beautiful framed quilted tree, just like the one in the Word Blanket above.  Both were made by parent Gloriana Zimdar, and now, when I do not know what to write...I will look at it and feel my friendship with the people at this wonderful school.

Gorgeous Quilted Tree by Gloriana Zimdar
(A Match to the Word Blanket Tree)
Photo by Amy LV

Here are two teachers' blog posts about this past poetry week at Wealthy School. Read Poetry Club advisor and Third Grade Teacher Kim Doele's post here at Mrs. Doele's Third Grade.  And here you can read Mrs Goodman's Second Grade Blog post.  All I can say is...I am a lucky and grateful person.

Award-wise, this was a wonderful week for poetry!  Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect to learn of the poetry books that won awards and honors at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter meeting in Chicago this week. Congratulations to all!

Liz is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Elizabeth Steinglass.  Visit her cozy online home today to join us in a poetry celebration that holds all of us in the same poetry hug.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ducks, Requests, & a Poetry Peek with Emma

Word Play
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem grew out of a request.  On Wednesday, I received the following e-mail:

It was great fun to come home from teaching a class and to find this note.  I loved sitting in snowy Holland, NY, imagining classrooms of students - across the whole world from me - reading all about ducks this term. So this one is for you, for Rose and for all of the teachers and children and duck lovers in Murray Bridge, South Australia.  Thank you for the idea, and so many happy wishes to you for a celebration of ducky books over the next few weeks.  I welcome you to send some of your own poems (ducky or not) to be published here in this space should you wish.

Sometimes writing from someone else's idea can take you in a new direction than you might have ever found on your own.  This can be a gift indeed.

You will notice that today's poem is full of wordplay.  I very much enjoyed playing with the words in this poem. I started with thinking about waddle and paddle and then just looked for more by using RhymeZone, one of my favorite little workbenches online.  It's a joy to let the words burble around in my mouth sometimes, just listening to them snuggle up next to each other.  And of course I like writing in the voice of another, writing a mask poem, today asa mama duck.

Here is a great little clip of a duck swimming.  You can really see those feet at work.

If you would like a bit of information to go along with your duck books and poetry, you can learn more about ducks at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology site, All About Birds or a-z animals

Today I am so pleased to welcome fifth grade poet Emma Trowbridge, a student of my friend, library media specialist Dr. Vida Zuljevic at Rosalind Franklin STEM Elementary in Pasco, Washington.  A couple of weeks ago, Vida wrote me a note about Emma that read, in part, "Yesterday, she came to give me two new poems and I said jokingly "Emma, you are like a poetry machine" and we both laughed. Then she looked at me and said "I don't know why, but where ever I look I see a poem in it. I sit and write, and that's it!"

This Poetry Peek is in honor of Emma's writing and in honor of Vida's work in encouraging her.  Welcome, Emma!

First, none of my poems would be available without my AWESOME library teacher. She realized my talent and asked me to write more. Now a lot of people can see my poems. To get inspiration, you have to look around the world. You could write about changing seasons, maybe about your family, or something beautiful; something in your life. I love writing poems. It puts light into my life like the brightness of a burning torch. In other simpler words, it makes me happy that I can make others happy through poetry.

Dog, Sort of…
Emma Trowbridge

A dog is a man’s best friend.
They’ll always have a paw to lend.
I have one myself. Well sort of, in a way.
If you ask my baby sister, here’s what she will say,
She’ll say she’s a dog, even though she’s not.
She’s crazy, I’ll admit, but I still love her a lot.
She crawls on the floor like a dog on its feet
If you tell her to sit down, she will take a seat.
I’m okay with her being a puppy and not a girl,
But if she ever licks me, I swear, I’d hurl!

I was busy doing my homework and my sister was bugging me. “Bark. Bark! BARK!” She wouldn’t stop barking. I knew in a flash to write a poem.

The Important Thing About My Dad
Emma Trowbridge

The important thing about my dad 
is that he supports me in everything I do
and I am thankful for my dad.
He is in the army.
He loves me.
He has a very sharp mind.
He also wears glasses, like me.
He doesn’t always smile
But he can bring joy to anyone
 in any tough or exciting situation.
But the most important thing about my dad 
is that he supports me in everything I do
and that I’m thankful for my dad.

My dad inspires me. He supports me and he makes me happy I decided to write a poem about someone who is special to me and that’s him.

Emma Trowbridge 

White snow like fluffy, white kitten on the road
Ice on windows, excited kids everywhere that it hangs
Never ending fun for all of the hyper snowman builders and it’s
Time for hot cocoa, brown like a hibernating bear
Eating peppermint sticks  off of the Christmas tree like sneaky bandits and getting
Ready for another day of fun tomorrow.

I love winter. In fact, it’s my favorite season. I am inspired by the white snow. It makes me think of kittens; lots and lots of white kittens. So I wrote up this poem.

Emma Trowbridge

I walk into a mattress store 
and all I see are beds galore! 
I jump on mattresses almost piled to the top. 
Jumpity-jump and a hop-hop-hop.
Then finally I see a memory foam bed
I practically fly over just to try to rest my head.
I am super tired from jumping around
So I pass out instantly like I fell on the ground. 
When I walk up, I see my mom. 
She says to get up now, 
because it’s time for my prom!

I thought up something random. Sometimes, you can just go crazy with it and let your mind run wild. Just like the girl in this poem.

Giving Trees
Emma Trowbridge

There is a thing that has thick, brown bark.
It is no dog or a great white shark.
It’s not even an animal but it does still matter.
The size of this thing is so very much fatter.
The thing that I am describing to you is a tree
And they all have an impact on you and me.
I’ll tell you the reason why, and it’s this:
They give us oxygen through photosynthesis.
That’s not the only reason we need them so much.
In a way, trees are like our wooden crutch.
They give us syrup from sap and all our paper, too.
So now you see the reason; I’m sure you do.
We have to save them quick before they all die out. 
So go ahead and save the world, let out a big shout.
We can all save the world, or just you or just me.
Let’s save the population of the giving tree.

My mom was driving me somewhere and I happened to have paper. I was looking outside and I saw a tree stump. It reminded me of trees and that’s when inspiration struck.

Poetic Poem
Emma Trowbridge

To be an inspired poet
You have just to look around.
Be confident because there’s no inspiration
When you are looking at the ground.
Everyone can be a poet;
You just have to try
Don’t copy anybody’s work though
Or they’ll think you’re sly.
You can copy techniques though,
Or some different ways to write.
You can write a factual poem
Like on the zooming speed of light!
You can also write a humorous poem, 
One to tickle your funny bone.
You can get inspiration by looking
At a blanket that’s neatly sewn.
My point is that poems aren’t hard to write,
So write on, you’ll surely be alright.

Thank you so much to Emma for sharing these rich and joyous poems and thoughts with us today.  And thank you to Vida for bringing her work to The Poem Farm.

Paul is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at These 4 Corners.  As is true each week, all are welcome to join the poetry fun, to learn new poems, find new friends.

Please share a comment below if you wish.