Friday, September 22, 2017

Poetry Friday & Falling in Love with Meter


Two Pen Cases
Photo by Amy LV

Students -  I fell in love with a meter last week.  Yep, I did.  I was home, just reading in this book...

Frost Collection
Photo by Amy LV

...and I came across this poem, Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost.  I read it quietly.  And then I read it out loud, just listening to the rolling rhythm. I loved the story, but I really loved the meter.

Asking for Roses - in the Public Domain
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

And while I was at it, I fell in love with the rhyme scheme too.  I thought it was so NEAT that the word roses ended every single one of the six stanzas.  And that there were six rhymes for the word roses, each ending the second line of each stanza.  I took some notes about Frost's rhymes.

Frost's Rhymes
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

Then I decided to try my hand at Frost's lovable meter, choosing first my six-times repeated word (writing!) and its associated rhymes.  I needed seven words that words that could make sense together.  I visited RhymeZone to scout out rhymes, selecting the ones you see on my notebook page below. Honestly, at first, I did not think that the words below would work.  I worried that they would not sound forced.  But I pushed on.

Possible Rhymes
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

I kept trying, kept writing, kept scribbling.  Below you can see that my writing process really does require significant crossing out, something I find much more comfortable with pen on paper.  Initial drafts for me need some serious black-pen-scribbling.

(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

As always, I read and listened, read and listened until I liked how the poem sounded.  Then I took it to my keyboard and continued revising a word here, a word there, over the course of a week.  And I am pretty happy.  My poem's meter learned from another poem's meter.  And I learned too.

It is true that you, too, can fall in love with a poem and a meter, just as I did with Frost's Asking for Roses.  I share a poem about this on the back cover of my new READ! READ! READ! (Wordsong), illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke, and released just this past Tuesday.

Back Cover Snip of READ! READ! READ!

Read poems aloud often.  And talk about the different meters you admire with your writing friends. Experimenting with meter is a wondrous way to challenge ourselves.  Allow yourself to breathe in a meter you've never breathed in before, and you may just be surprised by the words that follow!

I am so happy to welcome author Caroline Starr Rose to my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks this month. Please stop by to read her notebook poem, to peek into her notebooks, and to enter her book giveaway! And know...I seek student notebook sharers over there...please consider sharing!

It's my pleasure to host the Poetry Friday roundup here today.  If you wish to share the link to your poetry post, please do so below at the Inlinkz Link-Up, and I will be around to comment today and throughout the weekend.  

All visitors - we welcome everyone to this poemgathering every single week.  Anyone may read.  Anyone may comment.  Anyone may link in!  Happy Poetry Week ahead!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Happy Book Birthday to READ! READ! READ!

My Family's Deacon's Bench
Photo by Amy LV

Students - When I was a little girl, my mom would regularly take my sister Heidi and me to the Vestal Public Library. We loved selecting our own books, and sometimes we even checked out sculptures, displaying them in our home for a week or two. (I distinctly remember the bunny sculpture...we checked it out several times.)  Sometimes Mom would go to the library without us, to refresh our book stock, and when she did, she'd pile up our books - one pile for Heidi, one pile for me - on this bench which lived in our front hall.

Today's book birthday celebration poem is about an object.  We are always surrounded by objects - inside and outside.  If you ever feel stuck for a writing idea, just pick one of those objects you see - I do this often. Follow your mind. If you wait, something will always show up on your page.

This bench you see above now lives in our home in Holland, NY.  I giggled as I filled it with my copies of my new book with talented illustrator Ryan O'Rourke for today's birthday of READ! READ! READ!  Back when I was a girl, I never would have imagined that this dream would come true, that I would write a book that lived on library shelves.  I never imagined that I'd have the opportunity to dedicate a book to a son, the little brother of our home...

Dedication Page of READ! READ! READ!
(Click to Enlarge)

Yes, children turn into grown-ups...and I did too.  And it's true that we never know what the days and years will bring. Yet I have learned this - if we hang on dearly to what we love doing and making, we learn about ourselves, and sometimes we have chances to share what we learn. I feel lucky to share these poems, to have been part of a team with amazing editor Rebecca Davis, fabulous illustrator Ryan O'Rourke, and all of the completely wonderful people at Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.  Thank you to my best-ever agent Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown Ltd.  Thank you, all! 

To read more about our new book, please visit these bloggers who have posted about READ! READ! READ!  Much gratitude, friends, for these kind posts.

Boyds Mills Press (donating books) and I (signing and shipping books) are holding a giveaway for this book, joyfully illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. This giveaway runs through tomorrow, September 20, and there will be five winners of one signed book each.  You may enter HERE.

Thank you so much for stopping by to celebrate with and on all of the days that we share poems together.  I am very grateful for you, my poemfriends, and never more than on a day of celebration.


Amazing Book Cookie by MamaSeuffertSweets
Photo by Amy LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 15, 2017

SPARK 34: Seek Out a Challenge...With a Deadline!

Spent Magnolia Pistils
by Jonathan Ottke
Click to Enlarge

Response to Jonathan Ottke's Photograph

Students - Early this month, I participated in SPARK: ART FROM WRITING, WRITING FROM ART, Amy Souza's wonderful community of people sharing work to inspire more work.  Since 2010, on a regular basis, Amy opens up an invitation.  Anyone who wishes may sign up to work with a partner.  Amy assigns the partners and then each pair trades a piece of art or music with a piece of writing.  The partners each have ten days to create a new piece of work based on the other's inspiration piece.   I was paired with artist Jonathan Ottke, and we each sent each other a piece and we each created a new reponse piece, he from my poem Bottles, me from his photograph, Spent Magnolia Pistils.

I feel fortunate to have received Jonathan Ottke's lovely photograph, Spent Magnolia Pistils, above, as my inspiration piece. I love the stillness and the fragile feeling I have inside when I look at this image. It makes me think about beauty and about death and goodbye.  Studying Jonathan's photo and thinking my own thoughts inspired me to write my response poem And so it is.

Here is what Jonathan wrote to me about taking photographs:  With photography - you capture a photo - you usually don't create it unless its a still life in a studio.  I was interested in photographing the magnolias in a new way and went to Capitol Hill where they have a nice line of trees and found, and captured this.  The poem is apropos, because my uncle is dying and has only weeks to live, it was very touching for me.

I gave Jonathan a two-year-old poem, Bottles, as his inspiration piece. But of course I had to revise and tweak the poem before I sent it to him.  Much time had passed since I had read it, and I knew it could be stronger. Here is the older draft, at The Poem Farm in June 2015.  And below is the revised version.

by Jonathan Ottke
Inspired by Amy LV's Poem
(Click to Enlarge)

I asked Jonathan to tell me about how he arrived at his response art piece, inspired by my poem.  He said, I usually see the general outlines of a work in my mind once I've worked out he idea.  For this one, I thought of a modified version of the letters of the alphabet.  Where instead of letters each one represented a memory.  Once I had the squares, all that was left was filling each one with swirls and lines of my imagination and memories.

He was also generous to share the intermediate step for the Bottles response:

Intermediate Art Step
by Jonathan Ottke
Click to Enlarge

I find Jonathan's piece whimsical and fascinating.  I just keep studying it, and each time I see new pictures and imagine new imaginings.

Working with someone else, sharing work to find new ideas and to strive toward a deadline is a grand way to push ourselves as makers.  I am grateful to Amy Souza of SPARK for pairing me with Jonathan and for making this space for so many of us to work together.

You might consider trying this.  Find another maker...promise to trade a piece of written, visual, or musical art. Choose a number of days to each make new response pieces inspired by the ones you are given.  And see what happens!  Often what happens...will be a SPARK!

Lucky me this week to be visiting Irene Latham's Live Your Poem!  She invited me to visit to share a bit behind the scenes of READ! READ! READ!, and I couldn't be happier.  Boyds Mills Press (donating books) and I (signing and shipping books) are holding a giveaway for this forthcoming (Tuesday!) book, joyfully illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke.

This giveaway runs through September 20 (Wednesday!), and there will be five winners of one signed book each.  You may enter HERE.

Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Today's Little Ditty. She is sharing words of Peace and an invitation to share on the Peace Padlet that Margarita Engle and I have put together, and too, she is sharing an invitation to write peace poems. Teachers - please take a peek at the Padlet, and add to it if you are willing.  And please know....Poetry Friday is for everyone.  We welcome you every single week!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Writers Find Inspiration in Music

Buffalo Philharmonic Poster
Click to Enlarge

Students - I was thrilled this past July when Robin Parkinson, Director of Education and Community Engagement of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra asked if I would be interested in writing for the BPO.  I said, "Yes, please!" 

Robin explained the project, answered my many questions, and I wrote a series of poems for the 2017-2018 Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's MUSIC FOR YOUTH Concert Series.  The poems go along with Benjamin Britten's beautiful THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA, and they will be read aloud during each concert, between the different musical variations.

It was new for me to write poems to go along with short pieces of gorgeous music.  I listened and listened to the variations over and over again.  I consulted the list of musical terms provided by Robin and asked the members of the BPO as well as musician friends on Facebook and Twitter to share words they would use to describe the sounds of various orchestral instruments.

I read and consulted the following books:

Click to Enlarge

I wrote and listened, wrote and listened.  Wrote and listened and revised, revised, revised.  And I learned so very much. This project was a gift to me, a person who never played an orchestral instrument...and a person who always wanted to learn more about the orchestra.  I did!  

Here is an article about the project and the concert from the Fall 2017 BPO Education Newsletter:

Excerpt from the BPO Fall Education Newsletter
Click to Enlarge

One never knows what any day will bring.  This was a surprise project, and I adored it. Thank you, Robin.  Thank you, BPO.  Thank you, music teachers who recommended me.  I hope you enjoy the poems...all HERE. I certainly love Britten's music.

Music provides endless inspiration.  If you ever find yourself unsure of what to write, try listening to music.  Close your eyes, and let your mind see images connected to what you hear.  Music can help you see new pictures in your head, can help you find new thoughts to write.

In other news, I am grateful to announce that there were two winners of my author visit auction item through KidLit Cares to benefit Harvey Relief.  Thank you to Kate Messner for holding this important auction.  Thank you to Tom Marshall and Helen Khanji of Stony Lane Elementary in Paramus, NJ and to Kristie Miner of Tioughnioga Riverside Academy in Whitney Point, NY for bidding. Together we raised $1125 for the Global Giving for Harvey Relief Fund.  And the whole auction has raised over $93,000.

Boyds Mills Press (donating books) and I (signing and shipping books) are holding a giveaway for my forthcoming READ! READ! READ!, joyfully illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke.

This giveaway runs through September 19, and there will be five winners of one signed book each.  You may enter HERE.

Matt Forrest Esenwine is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme. Please stop by to check out all of the poetry links for this week and to celebrate his new picture book FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, illustrated by Fred Koehler. And please know....Poetry Friday is for everyone.  We welcome you every single week!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Poems Grow from the Seasons & Current News

Giggle! Giggle!
by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem showed up in my notebook with its own voice.  I was writing and thinking...and after a few false poem starts, these words appeared.  I believe that this small poem grew from a combination of my thoughts about a fresh school year, musings on being new (our daughter is a new college student), and from current news about the numbers of people who must flee their homes due to war or disaster.  One friend can shelter a person from a storm.  We can each reach out a hand.

Pay attention to your own feelings about the seasons of the year and the news you hear and see. Our emotions mix with the world, and we can combine feelings and observations into new art.

Pay attention, too, to books that move you. I am quite sure that this poem also grew from two of my favorite picture books, picture books that I often read aloud: EACH KINDNESS by Jaccqueline Woodson and BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon.

I have missed The Poem Farm online these past few weeks, but I had a beautiful summer at The Poem Farm in real life.  I wrote a collection of poems for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's 2017-2018 children's concert, and I look forward to attending a show or two.  I taught some classes, made all kinds of goodies from fruit, visited Assateague Island to camp on the beach with wild horses, and read a few great books...  It was a good summer.  And too, it's good to be back.

Now, as the year begins, I look forward to two new books to be published this fall.  READ! READ! READ! , illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke, will be out this month with Wordsong, and POEMS ARE TEACHERS: HOW STUDYING POETRY STRENGTHENS OUR WRITING IN ALL GENRES will be out in October with Heinemann.  Please visit Goodreads to be entered in my giveaway for a signed copy of READ! READ! READ!

I also have an in-person school visit up for bid in Kate Messner's KitLit Cares auction for Hurricane Harvey Relief.  This auction is full of Skype visits, signed books, manuscript critiques, conferences admissions...all up for bid with all proceeds benefiting those affected by Harvey.  Please consider bidding and sharing the link.

It has been a treat to host Jessica Fries-Gaither at Sharing Our Notebooks...where she shares all about keeping a Scientist Notebook  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there, so please stop by when your notebook wishes for a bit of love.  I invite you to share your notebook...

Kathryn Apel is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at her place with a celebration of creativity. All are always welcome to this weekly gathering of poetry and friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Celebrate Summer with FOUR Poetry Peeks Today!

We Did It!
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Life is chock full of moments to feel happy about.  One accomplishment to feel happy about is a writing piece finished and shared with friends or with readers we do not even know.  Today I am grateful to share all kinds of writing by poets and songwriters of different ages.  Today's poem is for the writers of the pieces you are about to read...and for all of you who celebrate writing with me all year long.  Thank you!

Please sit back and take great pleasure in these works...

First, I welcome First Grade Teacher Mark Kehl of Arcade Elementary in Arcade, NY and his young poet, Colton.

From Mark:

Colton had overheard his parents talk about their previous home.  He is only 8 but is writing about a house that they had for 11 years.  He is an old soul.

Welcome, now, to First Grade Teacher Amanda Urbanski and her poets from Cattaraugus - Little Valley Elementary School in Cattaraugus, NY.

A musical welcome to Music Teacher Heather Holden and Songwriter Zoe Lesika of Lindbergh Elementary in Buffalo, NY.  Zoe approached Heather with the beautiful melody she wrote which turns my "Song" from FOREST HAS A SONG into a real song.  It is beautiful, and I am so grateful to Zoe for writing it and for Heather for reaching out and sharing it.

Illustration by Robin Gourley
(Click to enlarge)

Beautiful melody by Zoe Lesika

And a hearty welcome to Sixth Grade Teacher Helene Albrecht and her two classes of poets from  Oradell Public Schools in Oradell, NJ.  

From Helene:

During Poetry Month we began over a month long unit on poetry where students were immersed in reading and writing different kinds of poetry.  The children listened to music while writing poetry inspired by paint chip colors. They also wrote color poems by Writing the Rainbow, The Poem Farm's challenge to pick a random crayon from a box of crayons to create poems. 

I introduced my students to blackout poetry using different text. The amazing pictures that were created can be found on our Instagram  Many of the ideas for poems, such as list poems and just because poems, came from 30 Days of Poetry, a name many of us ELA teachers use to describe our poetry units.  Among others, I used the following websites as resources: Mrs. McKeown's Thirty Days of Poetry, 30 Days of Poetry, 30 Days of Poetry (II).

At the end of our Poetry Unit, we invited the parents in so that we could share our creations. The children chose one of their favorite poems from their Poetry Notebook and created a slide for our class slide shows which you can view below.

Lucky, lucky us.  Thank you to everybody who was part of these beautiful celebrations.  I celebrate and thank all of you today!   Please, kind reader...leave these writers a kind comment.

If you have not yet visited, Linda Rief has opened her gorgeous notebooks this month over at  my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. Please visit and leave a comment by next Thursday, July 29 to be entered into a giveaway of one of Linda's books.  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there!y

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday by celebrating her students and their over at my juicy little universe.  Visit her warm space for this week's roundup of poetry and friendship.

Happy happy summer to all!  I am on a blogging holiday for July...and maybe longer. During this time, I will complete a writing project for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, draft a proposal with an illustrator, organize the poems already here, and make some jam!  You can still find me at The Poem Farm Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram, sharing old poems from the archives and other things I find along the path of summer.  Much joy!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, June 16, 2017

We Write Poems for Friends and Occasions & A Peek!

Farewell, Frogs!
by Amy LV

Students - I wrote today's poem for some kindergarten friends in Weston, MA. Christie Wyman's students of Country School have been caring for tadpoles, and this week it was time to let them go.  They are frogs now.  And the kindergarteners have grown too.

Sometimes people write poems for special occasions.  We can write poems for birthdays, for goodbyes, for hellos, for funerals and anniversaries and to say thank you.  When I learned that Mrs. Wyman's students would be saying goodbye to their frog friends, for whom they've even kept a Frog Blog, I felt this poem inside of me.  (Some of you may have noticed that it is on the same theme as last week's poem, "To My Kitten"...writers get into moods sometimes.)

Summer is a wide open time to think about the people you love and care about. Perhaps you, too, will write poems for special days throughout July and August. Remember - you don't need a holiday on the calendar to have a special day.  You can make up your own, just as the main character in Byrd Baylor's I'M IN CHARGE OF CELEBRATIONS does.

We have a writing celebration here today too...

Today I am so happy to welcome Second Grade Teacher Kristine Cordes and her student poets from Jefferson Ave Elementary in Fairport, NY!  What a treat!

My second graders love to write poetry and have even chosen to write poetry when they have options for free choice.  

We started our poetry unit by discussing the “mysteries that stir within us” (this was not my idea).  I challenged students to think about any and all experiences and moments in their lives that created feeling such as happiness, sadness, excitement, boredom, and more.  We wrote down these ideas in our composition notebooks in an “idea” section.  We also referred to our “heart maps” (a graphic organizer with collections of meaningful small moments) and our “I” map (a collection of things they know about and could teach someone ).  

Once we realized that we each have a lot of great ideas at our fingertips that we can use for poetry, we looked at several books written by poets and used these as our mentor texts for what we could try to do.  We noticed: how line breaks are used; that poems don’t have to rhyme; a poem can tell a story, it can be a list, or it can be an observation of something. 

We looked at everything through different eyes and tried to make comparisons between the world, our experiences and our creativity. There are no wrong answers and no wrong ways to write a poem! 

Many students who struggled, benefited from first thinking of a small moment, writing a few sentences about it and then experimenting with line breaks to turn this story into a poem.  They really loved this because it showed them that they have the poem inside their minds! 

We explored writing about our favorite color and connecting it to a special memory and they really loved writing weather poems after a recent visit by Glenn Johnson from Channel 13!  

Our class enjoyed poetry so much that we created a class anthology and sent it away to Scholastic to be made into a real hard cover book!  Each day, students had a chance to write a new poem or revise/edit a rough draft of an old poem and place it in their “Poetry Pockets” displayed in the hallway for anyone passing by to read.  The poems in this collection reflect our innermost feelings, experiences and thoughts.   Enjoy!

Thank you, Mrs. Cordes and thank you, poets, for this wonderful Poetry Friday present.  I wish you all summertimes full of full hearts, stories, and poems.

I am so happy that Linda Rief has opened her gorgeous notebooks this week at Sharing Our Notebooks. lease visit and leave a comment by Thursday, July 29 to be entered into a giveaway of one of Linda's books.  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there!

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Carol's Corner with a beautiful feature about the new Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith.  All are always welcome to this weekly gathering of poetry and friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.