Friday, January 18, 2019

Honoring a Life: Mary Oliver


Letterpress Cards, Printed December 2019
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Our earth lost a great poet in Mary Oliver yesterday.  Mary Oliver was an award-winning poet who wrote books and books poems about the natural world and her relationship to it. She believed that poetry "mustn't be fancy" and many of us have loved her poems for a long time. She drew her last breath at 83, and many of us are thinking about her with gratitude today.

Today's poem is a poem about Mary Oliver's death, and the deer, wild geese, grasshoppers, sea, sunrises, and nuthatches all joined me.  These, of course, feature in her poetry, and I imagined that yesterday, at the moment of her death...they all stopped in place.  I enjoyed rereading some of her work as I chose these images.

In Oliver's poem, "Sometimes" we read these words, beautiful advice for all poets and humans.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Last month, our friend Dave came to visit us. We are housing his letterpress in our barn, and he taught us how to use it. He asked us to select a quote to print.  We chose Mary Oliver's words as you can see on the above cards.  Below, you can see the type set into the chase of the press.

The Form in the Chase
Photo by Amy LV

And here is the chase snapped into place, ready to print.

Quote in Place for Printing
Photo by Amy LV

Our family has been talking about how this was a perfect quote to choose, and how strange it is that now the author of these words is no longer with us.  We are happy we chose to pay tribute to her wise voice with our little print project. So much gratitude to Dave for teaching us.  

Writing about people who are gone is healing and helpful. If you have ever loved and lost a person or a pet, you might consider writing about this person.  If you choose to write about a person, you, too, might wish to use some of his or her own words in your poem as I did by naming the creatures Mary Oliver wrote about.  Through writing, we can honor a life.

Tricia is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect, honoring the life of poet Mary Oliver with Oliver's "In Blackwater Woods". Please know that the Poetry Friday community shares poems and poemlove each Friday, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in with us.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Memory...and a Reflection

Today On My Road
Photo by Amy LV




Students - Yep. This poem is true. The rock actually spoke to me.  Or I spoke and thought it was the rock speaking. Either way, I listened and I wrote. I made a hopscotch board and hopped it out in this winter sunshine.  

And guess what...Miss Fiona Kitty thinks the game of hopscotch looks pretty interesting too.

Fiona Visits Hopscotch
Photo by Amy LV

Earlier today I read a book about a friend's childhood, and this got me thinking about my own. My family lived on a not-so-busy road, and I remember playing hopscotch. One of my favorite sounds, still, is the sound of a rock hitting the pavement. I like to play hopscotch and to kick a rock down a road, just seeing how long I can keep it going before I lose the rock somehow.

You may notice that the first stanza of today's poem is about something happening, the second stanza is about the next thing happening, and the last stanza is a reflection on those two happenings.  Sometimes writing takes us forward. Sometimes it makes us look back.  If you have never done this before, you might wish to write a poem about a memory and then end it with your own thoughts about your memory, looking-back-thoughts.

Or you might choose to write about a favorite sound.

Or you might recall an outdoor game you like to play or once played.

Or you may take inspiration in an object that is in front of your face right now.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a chance to get outside.  Sun and fresh air are good for all of us!

Talking Rock and Draft
Photo by Amy LV

I am late to last week's Poetry Friday roundup at Kathryn Apel's place. There you will find the second roundup of 2019 as well as Kat's first few "Insta-poetry posts of this year. Please know that the Poetry Friday community shares poems and poemlove each Friday, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in with us.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Simple Likes, Simple Truths


My Favorite Thrift Store Mug
Photo by Amy LV




Students - Sometimes small and simple objects and foods and drinks are best.  Sometimes it feels good to just write a few lines about one thing that makes you happy.  Tea is simple, and tea makes me happy.

I like to drink tea.  Tea is easy to make and cozy to drink. And to make tea, all you need to do is to heat up some water in a kettle or a pot or a mug and then steep tea leaves in the water using a tea ball or teabag.  After a few minutes, the flavor of these leaves has entered the water and...there it is...tea!  Some people mix sugar or milk or honey with their tea, but I mostly drink it plain.  

Which simple foods or drinks or objects make you happy?  You may wish to make a list of such happiness-things, a list you could write from now or return to later.  When we write about the small things that bring us joy, we have the chance to relive them on paper. And in doing so, our writing will feel joyful too.

If you wish, feel free to copy the below phrase and then fill in the second half with your own words.

I like the simple fact of....

After your writing takes off, you may end up crossing out those first six words or you may keep them, but sometimes beginning with a phrase can get a writer started.

But back to tea.  Tea comes in many flavors, and various tea bags, boxes, and tins are decorated in different ways.  Some people make crafts with tea bag wrappers, and I adore this decoupaged box made and given to me by my teacher and friend Valerie Bang-Jensen.  It is one of my treasures.

Decoupaged Tea Box by Valerie Bang-Jensen
Photo by Amy LV

Sylvia hosts this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Poetry for Children with a sneak peek of 2019 poetry books! Please know that the Poetry Friday community shares poems and poemlove each Friday, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in with us.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Ideas from Friends & Best Lists



Sage and Cali
Photo by Amy LV



Students - I am always seeking new and interesting topics for writing, and last week, I read this writing suggestion from my friend, the wise Rebekah O'Dell, on Twitter.


This got me thinking about best lists.  And about how terrible I am at favorites. And then, on a snow-hike, about how our family does have two best dogs. And of course about how everyone's dog is a best dog.

So, yes, young writing friends.  Way does indeed lead onto way in writing.  Keep your eyes and ears and all of those holes in your head open for learning and observing.  You never know which one plus which other one in your life will add up to the two of a little poem.

And who knows, perhaps Rebekah's suggestion to think about "bests" will inspire you too.  Mine is a list poem, but I could have chosen my best book from the year and written a story poem about snuggling up on the couch with it. Or I might have chosen my best 2018 day and written a poem from that day's point of view.  Or I could have taken Rebekah's advice and written a poem detailing all of the reasons that one particular something is one of the best of its kind.  Actually....now I really want to do this and likely will. Likely tomorrow. Likely in my notebook (with this shiny new fountain pen).  Maybe a poem...maybe prose.

The best thing about writing? The possibilities are endless.  Every single year.

Donna is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Mainely Write with an introduction to a few of her yard angels and a poem about the reading angel. This community is here and sharing poems and poemlove every Poetry Friday, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Poem for the Winter Solstice



Warm Wool and a Window Star
Photo (Woolens and Star Too) by Amy LV




Students - Today's poem is an occasion poem...I wrote it for the occasion of the winter solstice which is today!  Today marks the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year.  After tonight at 5:23pm, our days in the Northern Hemisphere will each grow a bit longer.  Can you feel it?

My poem today is not in a special form, and it does not rhyme.  To make it a poem, I did a few things.  You will note the line breaks, some lines holding only one word each.  These line breaks changed many times.  And I read the poem over and over again for rhythm and to select and reselect the very just-right words I needed.  You might notice some repeated sounds.  I love free verse poems, and I plan to write more of them in 2019 as they help me focus more carefully on techniques other than perfect rhyme and counted rhythm.

One line that I may come back to from this poem is you will find me.  I might write a poem saying, Next year/you will find me or Someday/you will find me...  You are welcome to borrow or adapt this line if you like it. I often borrow lines from poems I like.

If you wish, you may learn more about the winter solstice at Wonderopolis.  Who knows...we may be standing outside in our colorful woolens at the same time tonight.  There will be a full moon and a meteor shower too, so it's a big night.

Buffy is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Buffy's Blog with a bit more about the winter solstice and a lovely book recommendation. This community is here and sharing poems and poemlove every Poetry Friday, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Stories About People We Meet



Three Keys
Photo by Amy LV


(I will record this poem as soon as my voice returns!)

Students - Today's poem idea came from a lucky meeting I had just this week, a meeting with a young boy at East View Elementary in Olean, NY who really does collect keys and brought his collection to school for show and tell earlier this year.  Since I also like keys, we had a little talk about them...and next time we meet, we'll each bring our keys to share.  (I will give him one of mine!)  With permission of his mom, here is a picture of Reagan with his key collection:

The Real Key Collector
Photo by Amy Martin

Each day, every one of us has the chance to chat with people, to learn about their interests and hobbies and loves.  Sometimes one of these chats will flip a switch inside of our writing selves, will cause us to say, "This is so interesting!  I want to write about it!"  But first, we must listen.  Try that this week: listen to people you normally may not have listened to.  Ask questions.  And later, jot what you remember.  Any one of your observations or fascinations may grow into a piece of writing.

Now, please know that this poem is not completely factual.  The only part I know is factual is that there lives a boy with a key collection.  I do not know what his key box is made of, or if his collection includes a diary key or two skate keys.  These parts I made up.  But the boy with the key collection...that's true.  I know him!  Writers can do this -- mix a bit of true and a bit of fiction to make a new story.

If you are ever  unsure of how to begin a poem or a story of your own, try starting with these words -- There once lived a...  As some of you know, I do this often.  You can always erase or cross out or delete this line later if you wish, but it is a good and clear doorway in.

Please visit my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, to find out the winner of the moon journal! 

Laura is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at her generous blog today, celebrating Jona Colson's new book SAID THROUGH GLASS.  Please know that every Poetry Friday, we gather together to share books, and poetry ideas all at one blog.  Everyone is always welcome to visit, comment, and post.  We invite you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 7, 2018

SPARK: Painting from Writing





Endless Treasures

Students - If you read my post last week, you read these words: 

Once again, as I have several times before, I just participated in SPARK: ART FROM WRITING, WRITING FROM ART, an online opportunity to write or make art inspired by others' work.  This community of ever-changing writers and artists is gathered up by Amy Souza, who since 2010 has matched folks to write and create within a ten day time period, each from a traded-on-Day-1 inspiration piece. Any adult is welcome to sign up for a pairing, and I can imagine a school doing this same exercise, matching writers and artists with each other for a set period of creating-time. 

And today, you see the second half of my pairing with Jan Irene Miller.  You may have noticed that my poem comes in this post before her poem.  This is because I sent her the poem at the beginning of SPARK 39, and she created the painting from her thoughts and feelings about the poem's words. So in both posts, last week's and this week's, you are seeing the works in the order created: one inspiration piece and one response piece.

I asked Jan Irene about her process in creating this magical painting.  She wrote:


I read your poem and “sat with it” for several days. I was musing on nature and forever and the countless items of beauty to wonder at. The poem made me think of children, how they find wonder and magic in all the shapes, textures and sizes before they get too bogged down in understanding science. This sense of wonder and magic apparently produced a color scheme to the liking of the child within me. 

I began with four pieces of heavy paper, and filled them with acrylic colors and water. I lined them up and down until I felt what I was working with. I played with the media. On day 7 I got out a piece of paper I had gessoed and put the color flow onto the paper and let the process unfold as a child might. And that’s that!

One of my favorite parts of being a writer is the connections I am lucky enough to make with others.  It is an honor to have my small collection of words interpreted by Jan Irene in such a beautiful and whimsical way, and I am grateful to Amy Souza and to Jan Irene herself for this round of SPARK!  Jan Irene's work brings new life to my own, and her painting helps me to understand myself somehow.  That's art for you.

Liz is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup today at Elizabeth Steinglass with her beautiful poem "The Menorah." Please know that every Poetry Friday, we gather together to share books, and poetry ideas all at one blog.  Everyone is always welcome to visit, comment, and post.  We invite you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.