Friday, August 26, 2016

Lift Words & Carry these Words into a New Poem


Welcome to My Porch
by Amy LV




Students - While many of my poems are not actually about my life, today's list poem is  indeed about our house.  It is a very old house, from the early 1800s, and it's messy and happy and full of funny things.  I wish you could come over and play with my nesting dolls and kaleidoscope and our jar full of rocks.

Today's poem grew from a freewrite I did in my notebook after reading a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver - "The Place I Want to Get Back To."  Oliver's poem ends like this:

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
Gratitude.

As you may have noticed, I admired Oliver's line, "I live in the house..." and so I decided to write from it. My poem is completely different, but my idea began with a few of Oliver's words.

This is a wonderful way to get your own writing started.  Read first.  Then write.  If you are not sure how to begin your day's writing, simply lift a word or a few words from another and begin there.  Don't copy whole stanzas or lines...lift for inspiration and not to copy!

I like to think of today's poem as an invitation poem.  It directs the reader to do something, how to approach the house, what to expect.  Feel free to try this.

Or consider writing a poem that describes a place, line-by-line.  This is, after all, really just a list poem.  A list of things you'll see as you approach our home.

And those last two lines.  I wanted them to be punchy - two syllables each.

There is so much to play with in a poem...

This month's guest at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, is Alexandra Zurbrick.  I invite you to drop by, peek into Ally's notebooks, and leave her a comment.  You may just win one of her favorite writing books...your chance to enter ends Sunday.

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at my juicy little universe.  Her classroom opens for visitors today, and she welcomes us too.  Thank you, Heidi!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, August 12, 2016

This morning I saw... - Readreadread and Write!



Small Friend
by Amy LV




Students - This week has found me reading Mary Oliver's book RED BIRD.


Mary Oliver writes beautiful poems about nature, and as it has been a magical summer here in Western New York, the combination of reading Oliver's poetry and the view from my windows has placed me in a nature-y mood.

I was also reading some of my favorite poems by another of my favorite poets who paints gorgeous pictures of the natural world - Joyce Sidman - including her sweet and true Dog in Bed.

Too, I read the poem "Samuel" by Bobbi Katz several times, a poem about keeping a salamander as a pet and feeling badly about its death.

All of these things came together to make today's poem.  Mary and Joyce unknowingly offered me their nature spirits, and I borrowed Joyce's indented "I wonder" line too.  Bobbi got me thinking about salamanders.  Ellen Bass made me think about being the first or last person to do something with her poem If You Knew.  And without realizing it, Marjorie Saiser, poet of she gives me the watch off her arm, inspired me to write a poem in which the title runs straight into the first line, where the title really IS the first line.

My suggestion for today, young friends, is this - read many many poems.  The more you read, the more ideas you will have, for topic and for fashioning the shape and sound of your poems.  Get those sounds inside of you...and they will come back out!

Want to hear a funny and true salamander story?  When we were looking at houses twelve years ago, my husband Mark decided that he must live in a home with salamanders on the property.  So this became one of the necessary attributes of any home we would buy - it would have salamanders.  And we do!

This week I would like to send a big thank you hug to Donna Smith of Mainely Write, my poetry partner for this year's Summer Poem Swap generously organized by Tabatha Yeatts.  Donna wrote a word-celebrationi poem and had it printed on a tote bag (which I have been happily using to carry my lunch) along with one of my own watercolor paintings.  The joy of words in this poem makes me so happy, and I adore the structure too.  It is one I will want to play with.  So thank you, Donna - for your words, for this bag, and for a writing inspiration!  And thank you, Tabatha, for putting the two of us together.

Here is Donna's poem:

Humble Jumble

Write to fly-
Words rumbling
Lift to sky;

Fly to soar -
Words mumbling
Set to roar;

Soar to wake -
Words stumbling
Till they snake;

Wake to see -
Words tumbling
From a tree;

See to write -
Words scumbling
Rays of light.

by Donna JT Smith

And here is my new bag!

Wonderful Gift from Donna
Photo by Amy LV

I sent Donna a wish poem for her new life as a motorcyclist, and some little goodies from Spain.  Such fun to share...

Speaking of sharing, I am delighted to host Alexandra Zurbrick at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, this month.  I invite you to drop by, peek into Ally's notebooks, and leave her a comment.  You may just win one of her favorite writing books!

Birthday Girl Julianne is hosting today's Poetry Friday party this week over at To Read To Write To Be. Please feel free to drop by her place, wish her a happy birthday, and begin your journey through this week's poetry offerings.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, August 5, 2016

An Untrue (But Grand) Secret: Writing Pretend Truths


Great Rock
Photo by Amy LV


Students - After reading today's poem, you may be thinking that I really do carry a rock in my pocket all of the time.  I don't.  But I want to.  And I do think about doing so.  And someday...I may.  I do, however, love rocks, all kinds of rocks, and I adore the sound that a rock makes when it hits the road.  Always have.

Sometime earlier this week, I held a rock, and another time earlier this week, I hopped on a hopscotch board we found on a quiet sidewalk.  The combination of these two things brought me to this poem. I enjoyed thinking about a secret tucked inside of a pocket and the idea that we do all have secrets and small treasures that others do not know about.

What sound do you love?

What do you keep in your pocket?

What secret might you share?  A true one...or a pretend one?

It's an honor to host Alexandra Zurbrick at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, this month.  Please head on over, peek into Ally's notebooks, and leave her a comment.  You may just win one of her favorite writing books!

Tara is hosting today's Poetry Friday fiesta over at A Teaching Life.  Poetry Friday is for everyone, and I invite you to visit the posts and just wallow in words all weekend...

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Inspired by Nature, Inspired by a Teacher


Fingernail Clams Feeding from Western New York Woodland Vernal Pool
(Scooped from a Vernal Pool in Winter, Returned in Spring)
Video by Mark VanDerwater




Students - It is good to have a special place where you can go to be alone, to think and to pay attention to the world.  Here on our property, we have a vernal pool, a little body of water that just stays for part of the year, and my husband Mark loves to go and visit the critters.  There is a vernal pool at his high school too, and above, you can see a video Mark took of some of the teeny critters in wintertime, after they had warmed up inside his classroom.

When we are quiet and when we visit a place again and again, watching and writing, looking and drawing, we can learn very much.  About the world and about ourselves too.

I have another teacher friend who loves vernal pools too...

Today I am absolutely delighted to introduce Christie Wyman, a wise kindergarten teacher at Country Elementary School in Weston, Massachusetts.  I have followed Christie's beautiful teaching on Twitter (@MrsWymansClass), and I feel very lucky to welcome her and her last year's students to The Poem Farm today.  Enjoy this watercolor celebration of words...paying tribute to some plants and animals who live close by.  Welcome, Christie!  Welcome, writers and artists!


My Kindergarten students and I are inspired daily by the natural beauty of the school grounds of our PreK-3rd Grade elementary school and adjacent town conservation trails. 


Not far along one of the walking trails sits a vernal pool -- the first in a series of them, in fact. We visit this particular spot every 6-8 weeks to observe the changing of the seasons, learn about communities and habitats, and the wildlife that make their home in this truly magical place. Some animals are seen; some leave signs of their presence; others remain elusive throughout the year.


As the year progresses, our knowledge about vernal pools and their inhabitants grows. We use a schema chart with Post-its to record our thinking throughout the year, including our current and new learning, our misconceptions, and questions. Nature’s “cast of characters” inspired us in a new direction this year --writing poetry about them and painting their portraits in watercolors.

We began our poetry project by adopting a character. Each student researched their vernal pool community inhabitant and made a list of facts they had learned. After individually conferring about these facts, we gently -- ever so gently -- shaped them to take on a different form: poetry. Some Kindergarten poets chose to have their character do the talking, while others preferred to ask them questions. All are a lovely intermingling of science content knowledge and literacy learning. 

We’d like to introduce them to you now!





















Thank you so much, Christie and students, for joining us today.  These poems are works of art are luscious, and if the critters and trees could read...they would surely feel honored.

Teachers - This is an exquisite example of tying poetry and art to science, and these young writers' poems would be magnificent mentor texts for other young writers studying habitats near to their own schoolyards.

In other happy news...  Many many congratulations to wise poet Irene Latham, winner of the 2016 International Literacy Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for her wonderful DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST!  Irene shared a bit of her revision process here in 2014, and I am so happy that her book - and her gifts - have been recognized with this generous award from Lee Bennett Hopkins.


Chelanne is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Books4Learning, and she offers a peek into Irene's book too.  Don't miss!  Each Friday, someone new hosts Poetry Friday, a listing of the week's poems and poetry ideas all around the blogosphere. All are always welcome to visit and share.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 15, 2016

For My Faraway Friend - Poems about Real Feelings


Cat in La Alberca, Spain
Photo by Amy LV




Students - I just returned from a week in La Alberca, Spain, as part of a program that included both Spanish and English speaking adults.  It was a beautiful time, and in one short week, all of us became good friends.  Now, we are all back or heading back to our own homes, knowing how far away we all live from each other, wondering if we will ever meet again.  It reminded me of my childhood days at summer camp, when a week can begin with complete strangers and end with dear friends.

So, today's poem is about the real feelings I have in my heart right now.  Though I took many actual photographs of the time with my new Spanish and Anglo friends, I also took pictures with my heart.  And those will always be with me.

What feelings are in your heart right now?  There are probably many, feelings right in the living room of your heart, and feelings in the attic too.  Poke around.  You might just find a poem idea in there.

Mary Lee is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Year of Reading.  Visit her place to find out what all of the moo-ing is all about!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Reminders from History - A Poem for Older Children



Postcard - Anne Frank House, Facade Secret Annex
Photo by Allard Bovenberg




Students - I am this week volunteering at an English immersion adult week in La Alberca, Spain with Diverbo.  There are fourteen English speaking adults here (from Canada, England, Australia, and the United States) and there are nine Spaniards.  The job of the English speakers is to only speak English, as the Spanish people are here to strengthen their English.

On the way to Spain, my daughters (part of the Diverbo teen program) and I spent a day in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and we visited the Anne Frank House and Museum.  Walking through the rooms where young Anne wrote about her life during the horrors of Nazi rule made me think about the power humans have - for evil and for good.

Anne's father, Otto Frank, really did mark lines on the wall in the Secret Annex, to show his daughters' growth.  And Anne pasted pictures of royalty and movie stars upon her wall, to make it feel like home, even though it was not home, but a secret annex where Anne's family, another family, and one more man stayed in hopes of staying safe.  They were all killed for being Jewish, all except for Anne's father Otto, who survived Auschwitz and had Anne's diary published after the war.

I am grateful to Anne for writing, as her story is the story of many.  Because she wrote it down, we have a small window into one child's life - one normal child's life in the most dire of circumstances.  Many children today live in terrible circumstances, and Anne's diary and legacy reminds me of this.  Too, her words remind me of my responsibility.  How am I helping, as Anne's family's friends tried to help her?

To learn a bit more about what a helping person does, I am reading ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED (there is also a documentary by the same name) by Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold.  Miep Gies was one of the employees of Otto Frank, Anne's father.  Miep, her husband, and others brought food to Anne and her family and tried to keep them safe; this was at risk to their own safety, but they did what was right.  After Otto Frank returned, Miep gave him Anne's diary and other writings.  She had kept them, hoping to one day return them to Anne.

A Book by a Helper
Photo by Amy LV

There are many ways to learn about the world.  We widen our horizons and deepen our understandings by reading, talking with others, traveling, and allowing ourselves to think and write about what we notice and observe and believe.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at The Logonauts with Katie.  Here you will discover many poetry happenings around the blogosphere this week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 1, 2016

It Might Have Been Different - Listening for Echoes



Amy, November 1970
Photo by Debby or George Ludwig



Students - Today's poem is, I suppose, a cross between my own curiosity about what my life would have been like if I'd been born elsewhere (would I be me?) and my sadness about racism and fighting and war.  Each of us is plopped into a life situation beyond our control, and at some point....we begin controlling it more and more.  I feel very fortunate to live in a peaceful place, yet I am very aware that it could have been different.

Writing that last sentence, I heard an echo in it.  In her wonderful poem Otherwise, poet Jane Kenyon repeats the line, "It might/have been otherwise."  And at this moment, I know for certain that the title of today's poem came straight from Kenyon's poem, one I have read over and over again.

Remember to reread poems and books that you love.  When we do this, the rhythms and melodies of line and story become embroidered upon our own writing hearts.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, you can find out who won the book giveaway of Aimee Buckner's NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW.  Coming next over there is recent high school graduate, Alexandra Zurbrick, and I am excited to welcome her.

Today you can find Poetry Friday over at Tabatha's place, Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference. Please stop on by and check out this week's poetry joy.

Please share a comment below if you wish.