Friday, October 18, 2019

Find Inspiration in Illustration


Little Vampire Girl




Students - Life is a joyous journey! This Monday I drove a few hours to Clayton, NY to work with the good and generous teachers of the Thousand Islands School District. In my hotel room on Monday evening, I came across MacKenzie Haley's illustration of Little Vampire Girl. I commented on MacKenzie's Twitter post, she wrote back, I wrote back, she wrote back, I wrote back, she wrote back, I wrote a poem, and here we are.

Twitter Comment Thread

When I saw this MacKenzie's illustration, I wanted to talk with Little Vampire Girl, her rainbow-y unicorn, and Moon too.

And you know what?  In writing...I can. I loved imagining Little Vampire Girl talking with Wise Moon.  Had I eaten something different for dinner or slept a different number of hours last night, perhaps I might have written a different poem. One never knows. 

This poem tells a story. Even though a poem often has short lines and may rhyme and use a meter, a poem can tell a story. We can find or create a character or two and make something happen. We can invent conversations and settings and plots. We can build worlds in lines and stanzas, even very pretend ones involving conversations between imaginary and celestial beings.

We need never be stuck for ideas for our world is full of images: in museums, in magazines, on walls of our dentists' offices, in books, on the fabrics we wear and sleep under. We can draw our own images or from our friends' images or from art hanging in the kindergarten hallway at school. The art of others can awaken art inside of us. Each time we open our eyes, we can choose to be inspired.

Thank you, MacKenzie Haley, for your kindness in allowing me to share your Little Vampire Girl here today. I want to hug her! And yes, I AM willing to take a risk with my neck.

Congratulations to Linda Mitchell!  You have won a copy of Marilyn Singer's WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS OF CITY ANIMALS, illustrated by Gordy Wright and published by Words Pictures/Quarto. Please send me your snail mail address, Linda, and I will get this book right off to you!

Jama is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup. We welcome everybody to join us each Friday as we share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship. Check out my left sidebar to learn where to find the roundup each Friday.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Our Beehive Brains Make Metaphors



Beehive Brain
by Amy LV




Students - Lately, I have been thinking about how the more different things we do in life, the more we learn. And the more we learn and know, the more we can write about. The more we understand about the world and how it works, the more comparisons and metaphors and similes we can make. If we did not have beehives in our yard, I may not have decided to write about how a beehive is like a brain. Experience grows a writing garden. See, a beehive is NOT a brain. And a brain is NOT a beehive. But they are similar to each other, and in writing My brain is a hive, I make a metaphor, or comparison, calling one thing another thing that it is not actually, but is like.

Learning something new develops our brains, and as my husband Mark has taken on beekeeping, I have learned from him about bees and hives and caring for these creatures. Watching bees got me to thinking about our amazing brains. As bees gather nectar to make honey, we gather ideas to make writing. We gather ideas to make paintings and songs. We gather ideas to make our lives as we wish them to be. Our brains can be as busy as beehives!

In the below video, you can see some of our bees working away in the frames of a hive. Unlike bees, we can choose what to put in our beehive brains. How do we wish to grow our brains? What do we wish to learn about? I think about this a lot.

You may have noticed a couple of wordsmushes and one made up word in today's poem. One of my favorite parts of writing poetry is playing with words. One can do a lot with the 26 letters that make up our English language. And those of you who speak more languages...you have even more letters and words to work with.

A Peek Inside a Hive
Video by Mark VanDerwater

Thank you to all of the librarians, teachers, administrators, tech people, custodians, secretaries, and students of the Williamsville Central School District in Williamsville, NY. Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate to spend six days at the following elementary schools: Dodge, Heim, Maple East, Maple West, Forest, and Country Parkway. I feel very lucky and dedicate today's poem to everyone at those schools. Thank you for spending time with me.

Please don't miss yesterday's post HERE. Award-winning author Marilyn Singer came for a visit with her latest book, WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS OF CITY ANIMALS. She shares a bit about her writing process, a reverso poem from the book, and her publisher, Words Pictures/Quarto, has offered a book giveaway too.

Catherine is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core. Visit her place to celebrate gratitude this week, with a poem, a video, a new anthology by Miranda Paul, and a giveaway too. Please know that we gather each Friday, sharing poems and poemlove, and all are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Welcome to Author Marilyn Singer

Marilyn in her Office
Photo by Steve Aronson

Today I am very happy to welcome award-winning author Marilyn Singer, who has written over 100 books for children and young adults. Marilyn joins us to celebrate her latest book, WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS OF CITY ANIMALS, illustrated by Gordy Wright and published by Words Pictures/Quarto

An author in many genres (she says variety keeps her from getting bored), Marilyn lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Steve, a poodle, a cat, and two collared doves. She is no stranger to animals, and no stranger to wordplay! It is an absolute pleasure to host Marilyn here and to learn the story behind her latest poetry collection. Many thank yous to Marilyn for her time and also to Words Pictures/Quarto for offering a giveaway to a commenter on today's post.

Enjoy Marilyn's generous sharing of this backstory, and after you read, consider taking on her challenge to try a form of poetry she invented...the reverso!


In Brooklyn, New York, where I live, there are more inhabitants than just people, dogs, and cats. On any given day, I might see pigeons, sparrows, squirrels, a variety of insects and spiders, and also the occasional rat.  Those are the animals people often hear about in the city. But in Brooklyn alone, there are also red tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, monk parakeets, a variety of other birds, raccoons, opossums, bats, and many other creatures. In fact, in cities all over the world, you can find a wide variety of animals—and some of these critters are quite surprising, from rhesus monkeys in New Delhi and wild boars in Berlin to reticulated pythons swimming through sewers in Singapore and river crabs living under ancient ruins in Rome.

Years ago, I got interested in city animals and I wanted to write a prose book about ones found in America.  An editor suggested that I go global.  I’ve always liked research, but, at that time, people did not own home computers—if you can imagine that—so it was difficult to find articles and to contact people in different countries.  And I certainly couldn’t afford to travel around the world to see the animals in person.  

Fast forward several decades:  the internet became available and research became a lot easier.  I decided to revisit my idea.  Only this time, instead of a prose nonfiction book, I chose to write a book of poems, which would include some prose to explain more about both the critters and the cities in which they lived.  This time, the research was really enjoyable and it revealed a number of surprises, such as those crabs in Rome and the wave of huntsman spiders that enter homes to escape the rainy season in Cape Town, South Africa.   Furthermore, I thought it would be a fun challenge to write the poems in a variety of forms, including one I created:  the reverso.  

A reverso is one poem with two halves.  The second half reverses the lines of the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it has to say something different from that first half.   I didn’t choose which animal went with which form in advance.  I just went with the flow.  Monarch butterflies seemed to want a reverso, perhaps because they travel long distances to overwinter and so do tourists, so a reverso is what they got.  ;-)

©2019 Quarto Publishing, Used with Permission
(Click to Enlarge)


Monarch Butterflies: Pacific Grove, California

After such a long and perilous journey
across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks and distant plains,
they leave behind
the trail of sweet-nectared flowers,
grateful for
their needed winter's rest in Butterfly Town,
hanging from the eucalyptus, still as dead leaves.
We tourists pause to marvel at these precious pollinators
at last taking time off from work.

At last taking time off from work,
we tourists pause to marvel at these precious pollinators,
hanging from the eucalyptus, still as dead leaves
(their needed winter's rest in Butterfly Town),
grateful for
the trail of sweet-nectared flowers
they leave behind
across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks, and distant plains
after such a long and perilous journey.

The final result of this research and writing was WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS ABOUT CITY ANIMALS, published by Words Pictures/Quarto and illustrated by the wonderful Gordy Wright.  

Oh — and I did get to visit those monarchs in Pacific Grove, as well as the bats in Austin, Texas and, of course, the peregrines in New York.  I hope I get to see some of these other creatures in their urban habitats someday.  I hope you get to see some of them, too!

Some Questions and Ideas for You:
  • Walk around your city or town.  What animals do you see? 
  • What cities would you like to visit and what critters would you like to see there?
  • Try writing a poem about a city critter you have seen or would like to see.  Now try writing a prose piece.  How do the pieces differ?  Or do that in a team—one poet and one prose writer.
  • What poetry forms do you like?  Can you write a haiku about your critter?  Can you write about it in another form?
  • Try a reverso!  It’s not easy, but it is fun!

 Thank you, Marilyn, for joining us here today! It is an honor to feature a writer I so admire.

To learn more about WILD IN THE STREETS, visit these blog tour stops:

Mile High Reading

Thank you again to Words Pictures/Quarto for offering a copy of this book. If you would like to be entered into the giveaway, please just leave a comment by 11:59pm on Thursday, October 17, 2019.


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Friday, October 4, 2019

If I had to choose...



A Snip from My Notebook
by Amy LV




Students - Today's poem came from somewhere, but I am not sure where. It is true that I flipped through and read some of my current notebook before writing, and it is true that I came across this little moth sketch above, so I guess the idea may have grown from there. Too, I've been carrying around my kaleidoscope to school visits, so the word kaleidoscope is on my mind as well.

The other week I wrote a poem titled The Real Me, also about imagined lives. One gift of writing is all of the imagined lives you wish to have can live in your notebook or on your computer screen. Today's poem allowed me to imagine two same-but-different-lives and then to choose one over the other. Feel free to play with the title line, If I had to choose.  I welcome you to see if it leads you somewhere interesting. I think I will use it again as it reminds me of the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BOOKS I once so loved.

This poem is a free verse poem - no rhyme - but I so enjoyed choosing each word, reading aloud again and again to discover which images felt and sounded just right. And who knows. As is often the case, one day I may revisit this poem and make some changes. Writing changes and grows as we do. Writing forgives and blooms when we least expect it. Writing can be plain as a moth or bright as a butterfly. We, the writers, choose.

Moths are quite mystical, methinks. Look at one up close sometime!

Cheriee is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup (for the first time!) with a celebration of Robert Heidbreder over at Library Matters. Please know that we gather each Friday, sharing poems and poemlove, and all are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Special Objects & Senses


Aunt Tom's Jewelry Box
Photo by Amy LV




Students - I have written about my wonderful Aunt Tom (Edythe) and her green jewelry box before, HERE in 2016.  She was a fabulous human, a flapper and musician, an glittery-eyed artist. She was my Grandma Florence's sister, and as I didn't have any aunts and uncles or cousins (my parents are only children), she was one of my few relatives. Below you can see her as a young woman. The photograph is from my Great Grandfather John's album, an album I am lucky to have.

My Great Aunt, Edythe Toebe
Photo by ?

Today's poem does not rhyme. Poems need not rhyme. But you will note that it does pay attention to where the lines break. The line that begins She has been gone stands alone because 20 years is a long time, and I wanted to leave space around those words.

I brought a few senses in here too. Which senses can you find in the poem: sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste?

If you are writing a poem or story or bit of nonfiction or notebook entry, consider your senses. Which have you included? Which might you include? 

And if you are not sure of what to write about, do you have a relative who makes you smile? Have you ever been given something that once belonged to someone now gone?

It has been a wonderful week of author visits in the Williamsville School District. Thank you to all students, teachers, and administrators at Maple East Elementary, Maple West Elementary, and Dodge Elementary for our time together.  I look forward to visiting the other Williamsville elementary schools in a couple of weeks.

Carol is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup as well as a celebration of summer at her place, Beyond Literacy Link. Please know that we gather each Friday, sharing poems and poemlove, and all are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Real Me - Who Are You?



Maple Leaf
Photo by Amy LV




Students - Today's poem grew from an exercise in which I wrote from the line "In my other life..." I free wrote from this line earlier this week and revisited that list to write this list poem. In revisions, I changed the phrase "In my other life..." to the phrase "I am" because it felt and sounded right to me. This initial "In my other life" exercise comes from THE ART OF VOICE by Tony Hoagland with Kay Cosgrove, a book I am working through chapter by chapter. Writers are always trying to grow, and I am too.

Some of you may be familiar with George Ella Lyon's famous poem and type of poem to write - the Where I'm From poem. The difference here is that these things I say I am in today's poem are not clearly traced back to my own tracable history but instead, are linked to my imagination and dreams. We are each from reality and we are each from imagination too. My words today take me beyond my daily life to other "me's" I could be.

Who is the the imagination-and-dreams-you?

This week you will find Linda hosting the Poetry Friday roundup over at TeacherDance. Visit her site for this week's offerings as well as a cover reveal and introduction to the forthcoming DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD (February 2020) by Irene Latham and Charles Waters and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Please know that we gather each Friday, sharing poems and poemlove, and all are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 13, 2019

What Do You Wonder About?


I Wonder About This Piece of Glass
Photo by Amy LV




Students - I do like to wonder. And last week a welder did tell me about this wonder of his. I have wondered about how machines work...but never about the machines that make the machines. I always wonder about food in grocery carts and know that if I worked in a shop, I would likely make up stories in my head about all of the shoppers.  

If you do not have your own notebook, know that one great reason to keep one is to gather snips and snaps of conversation. A writer never knows what will come in handy later, so best to gather lots of words. I love the idea and the sound of these words -- the machines that make the machines.

What do you wonder about?  If you wish, feel free to take the line I like to wonder about... and run with it.  See where it takes you. You may choose not to keep the line in your final writing, but it may fly you somewhere surprising. Often when I write, I am not looking for a final product but rather a gust of idea-wind to take me on a little flight of fancy thought.

Note that today's poem is free verse. It does not rhyme (except for that ending) and is rather conversational. I wanted the poem to sound as if I was musing in my head and enjoyed repeating the word wonder many times throughout.

This week I wish you all spoken keys of possibility...

Today you will find Laura hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Writing the World for Kids. Visit her site for this week's offerings as well as a joyful celebration and fun, autumnal giveaway of Laura's latest book -- SNACK, SNOOZE, SKEDADDLE (Lerner/Milbrook). Please know that we gather each Friday, sharing poems and poemlove, and all are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.