Friday, September 26, 2014

Big Dipper - Paying Attention & Reading Aloud

Finding a Friend
by Amy LV

Students - Two nights ago, my husband and I went for a walk in the dark.  It's very dark on our road as there are no streetlights and only four homes on the road.  This means that we can see many many stars.  As we walked, we looked up at the stars, pointing to the ones we recognized, calmed by just knowing they were there.

Today's poem is about someting that is always above me at night.  The Big Dipper is always here. But sometimes I don't pay attention.  Life is full of so many things that we don't pay attention to.  But today, or tomorrow, or next week...I challenge you to pay attention to something you usually just ignore.  Look at that long toenail.  Watch the spider spin her web.  Feel rain fall and run off of your own eyebrows.  Then...write.  See what you get.

For those of you who are new here, one thing I like to do sometimes is to share my drafts, just to show how messy writing can be.  When I am seriously writing, my hand might fly across the page of my notebook, crossing out and changing words left and right.  

"Big Dipper" Drafts
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

The one thing I always do when I write a poem is that I read it aloud.  I read today's verse over and over out loud to myself.  Each time I wanted to write a new line, I read what I had so far out loud. Then I listened inside of myself for a possible next line.  Then I read the poem with the new line, asking myself, "Does this work?"  If it did, I left it.  If not, I crossed it out.  Then I went back to the top to read again with the new line, listening for what the NEXT line might be.

Your ears are your poem writing buddies.  Use them.

I often find comfort in the sky.  If you like the nighttime sky and today's poem, you might also enjoy reading "Orion" or "Everynight Everywhere" - two poems also here at The Poem Farm.

On a scientific note, the Big Dipper is actually not a whole constellation.  It is an asterism, or a smaller group of stars that has a name but is not as big as a constellation.  The Big Dipper is part of the constellation of Ursa Major.  One of the great things about the Big Dipper is that if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can always see it.  It is a steady pal up there.  And if you can find the Big Dipper, you can find The Little Dipper.  And the North Star too.

Visit Wonderopolis if you would like to learn more about the Big Dipper.

This week, I feel so lucky to host four (4!) student notebook keepers over at my other blog.  Please visit Sharing Our Notebooks to peek into the pages of the notebooks of: Sydney, Julia, Peter, and Erin, all writers who are part of the WNY Young Writer's Studio community.  There is a wonderful giveaway of a book and notebook too.  Please stop by and leave a comment for these thoughtful young writers.

Laura is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Writing the World for Kids.  All are welcome to visit Laura's web home, taste this week's yummy poem treats, and enjoy Laura's new series of poems and new book announcement.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry Friday is Here - and a Healing Poem Too

is here today!

Photo by Amy LV

Students - This poem is for anyone who needs it.  I was not sure whether to write about the bowl of gorgeous tomatoes on our table or about all of the people I know who are somehow suffering right now, suffering with different sadnesses.  I needed to write about the second thing, about how helpful it can be to find other people who have been through what we are going through, no matter what our struggles may be.  

Whenever I need help with a hard time, I always turn to family and poems, friends and books.  I try to be a helpful friend, too, and sometimes I am...and sometimes, without meaning to, I say the wrong things. When that happens, I can only try again. That is all any one of us can do, our very best, every day, knowing the path is sometimes steep but that kind others have gone before.

Sometimes, even if you are not going through a tough time yourself, you feel what others are feeling.  You, too, can write about those feelings.  It helps.  

Language-wise, you will notice that this poem has some rhymes and some repetition too.  What do you notice about the rhyme?  What do you notice about the repetition?

Now...let's celebrate!  It is Poetry Friday, and once every few months, I am allowed to host the guests.  All through today, I will update this space with news from the Kidlitosphere: original poems and ideas, classroom stories and new books, favorite poems and found treasures.  All are invited to leave links to poetry posts in the comments, and I will add them below .  

If you have not visited my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, lately, I have the present pleasure of hosting poet and novelist, Irene Latham and her notebooks.  There's even a giveaway of Irene's beautiful book, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST.

Welcome, welcome, welcome!  And enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!  I am grateful that you are my Someones.


The Roundup!

Over at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme, Matt Forrest shares news about a new adult anthology of which he's a part.

At TeacherDance, Linda celebrates the Cybils' judge announcements along with a memory of a small lovely moment of summer.

Douglas offers an original poem about gravity, taken from the newly published GUYS READ: TRUE STORIES, edited by Jon Scieszka. Find this poem at the Florian Cafe.

It's Homecoming season and Laura's daughter's going to her first high school dance. Should she wear a dress or push the envelope and go in a tux? At Author Amok, Laura's post about HS dances and challenging norms features Sue Ellen Thompson's poem "The Paper Dress."

Bridget at wee words for wee ones has an original poem, "Real Estate on the Web," about the importance of truth in advertising when selling a "home."

At Susan Taylor Brown, Susan is in with an original poem, "Celebrate With Me," which is modeled on a Lucile Clifton poem and has become her personal anthem.

Inspired by Renee's poem at No Water River last week, Laura does something she rarely does: shares a poem written for a family member.  You can read her poem for Maddie at Writing the World for Kids.

Heidi also shares a poem for a family member, a poem about her son and sleep, over at My Juicy Little Universe.

Tabatha brings us an uplifting butterfly theme today at The Opposite of Indifference.

At Michelle's Today's Little Ditty, Liana Mahoney is visiting Limerick Alley with a toad and some great news.

Margaret's post at Reflections on the Teche is an invitation to Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery and an offering of her original poem, "Deception Pass."

Mary Lee offers us "Autumn" by Linda Pastan over at A Year of Reading.

 At Keri Recommends, Keri is in with Joyce Sutphen's "First Words" and with some words for our poetry community too.

Jama joins in with a little birthday party for Cornelius Bear over at Alphabet Soup. Enjoy the poems and cookies, and bring Cornelius some warm wishes.

At The Logonauts, Katie teaches poetry and geography with her favorite J. Patrick Lewis poem about latitude and longitude.

At Reading, Teaching, Learning, Holly also celebrates Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery and shares her original poem, "City of a Hundred Spires."

Over at Random Noodling, Diane offers "Almost," the last of her Sketchbook Project poems. At Kurious Kitty, for Talk Like a Pirate Day, she shares "The Parrot" by James Merrill.

Carol's post, at Beyond LiteracyLink, revolves around these last bits of summer serenity with a photograph taken by her daughter and a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson.

After a long break, Liz is happy to be back at the Poetry Friday table with a poem about tomatoes.  Find it at Elizabeth Steinglass.

At Penny Parker Klostermann, Penny shares Episode 2 of A GREAT Nephew & a GREAT Aunt at my blog today.

Violet offers her found poem titled "Paul Simon Reunion" at Violet Nesdoly/poems.

Karen is having breakfast with Billy Collins today at Karen Edmisten.

Over at Dori Reads, Doraine shares one of her favorite Lucille Clifton poems, "blessing the boats."

At Hope is the Word, Amy shares Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life" along with some thoughts about her family's discussion and study.

At Musings, Joyce shares a visit with poet, storyteller, and national treasure, Ashley Bryan.

JoAnn begins a new series of posts about creativity with a sympathetic note to herself and anyone else who might need it. Today's post at Teaching Authors includes a wonderful Ted Kooser poem about creativity.

Anastasia offers VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon over at Booktalking.

At Buildingsroman, Little Willow shares Lucy Frank's poem, "Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling."

Tanita shares Christine De Luca's "The Morning After" at [fiction, instead of lies].

At Poetry for Kids Joy, Joy is counting acorns with an original poem you might wish to act out.

Ramona offers Julia Kasdorf's "What I Learned from My Mother" at Pleasures from the Page.

Ruth, at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town, is in with "The Yellow Dress," by Amy Beeder.

At Check It Out, Jone announces the Cybils Poetry Panelists and Judges and also points us toward Carol's Summer Serenity Gallery.

Tricia offers two James Stevenson poems over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Crystal is trying to slow down, and in doing so, she shares an original poem titled "A Lesson From My Dog" at Reading Through Life.

At Gathering Books, Fats is in with Walt Whitman and "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer."

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Dogs - Combining Reality and Fantasy

Dog Brushing
by Amy LV

Students - Today's verse grew from an interruption.  I was writing in my notebook yesterday morning when our daughter walked into the room to tell me how when pulling some burdocks from Sage, she pulled out a huge clump of fur.  This reminded me of times we've brushed huge piles of fur out of Sage, times we've said, "We could make a new dog out of this pile!"

Once again, I learned that paying attention to the world - even when writing - can yield an idea.  It may be a weird idea, but an idea nonetheless.

Sound-wise, today's poem is a little bit breathless.  I could have broken it up into stanzas (where would you do this?) but instead, I kept the lines in one big blob.  I did this because I like the way the lines run all into each other, the way this makes a reader read more quickly.  It feels like a story-I-want-to-tell-now!

Often, I will take a bit from my real life and then play with the reality, adding just a wee bit of fantasy.  The dog is real.  We really brush her.  We really get a pile of fur. The fur pile really feels large enough to make a new dog. But the magic words?  Nope.  And the new dog growing?  Nope.  That's where I play.  Try this yourself  sometime. Start real.  End unreal. 

Our Dog Sage
Photo by ? LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Free Verse and a Visit from Irene Latham

Wet Leaves
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is a quiet poem, and it is about the picture you see above, a picture I took just yesterday.  On my way into a school yesterday morning, after an 80 minute drive in the rainy dark, I emerged from my car to see these magical leaves, made even more magical by rain and morning sun.  

While part of me wished to hurry into school, another part of me said, "Stop, Amy. Take a picture of this.  You will want to remember this pretty scene, here where you least expected to find one."  I could have taken a picture with my mind.  I could have stopped to draw the scene.  Instead, yesterday, I took a photograph.  And here it is. In photo captured then and later, captured with the photo of words.

This is a quiet poem because this small still life gave me a quiet feeling inside.  So rather than focusing on rhyme-playfuness today, my poem focuses on focus - on looking carefully at one beautiful, surprise life-painting just left there in my busy path. If you have visited The Poem Farm before, you may know that I sometimes push myself to write free verse, unrhymed, poems. This moves me out of my comfortable home in rhyme and bouncy meter.

When you look around at the world, not at a screen and not at the busythoughts inside of your head, you will see beauty in many surprising places.  Each time I do, I feel tremendously lucky.

Speaking of lucky...

Today we are all lucky to welcome poet and novelist Irene Latham.  I invited Irene to share about revision and her newest book, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, a cool, informative, and beautifully written collection of poems about animals from the African grasslands. 

Available through
your Independent Bookseller
or through Amazon

Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to talk about revision! The Poem Farm is one of my favorite places to visit... so warm and inspiring!

Rarely have I written a poem that didn't go through extensive revisions. Simply changing one word in a poem constitutes a new draft... and often it is that one word that I can't imagine until it wakes me up in the middle of the night! I love watching a poem become more clearly what it was meant to be all along. One of the best ways to be able to “see” this is to allow a poem to rest between drafts. Just like bread, a poem needs a chance to breathe after it's been kneaded. Then you can come back to it and bake it to a nice golden-brown in your mind's oven.

I'm not sure a poem is ever really done, but at some point, we must stop and move on. I was revising the poems in DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST right up until we went to press. A litmus test that I use for myself when putting together a collection is this: if this poem is the only poem a reader ever reads out of this book, will I be satisfied with that? It took me a long time to find the “yes” to that question regarding the snake poem. It's kind of a tricky poem, as it includes all five snake species native to the African continent. That's asking a lot of a poem! Anyhow, here's the poem that appeared in the version of the book when it was first acquired by Millbrook Press:

Lifestyles of the Sleek and Sinuous

My name is Black Mamba.
Wanna chasssssssssssse?

            Boomslang, that's me.
            Welcome to my treehouse.

They call me Cape Cobra.
Seen any weaver birds lately?

            Saw-scaled Viper's my name.
            When I sizzle, you shake.

I go by Puff Adder.
Step on me, if you dare.

See how I tried to include in each couplet a quality unique to that particular kind of snake? That was a good approach, and I wanted to keep it. BUT. I wanted to employ more poetic techniques to really make this poem shine, so I kept at it.

Lifestyles of the Sleek and Sinuous

Black Mamba


Cape Cobra
weaver birds.

            Saw-scaled Viper
            rubs, shrugs

Puff Adder
hisses –
rarely misses.

See how I kept some of the things that were working in the earlier version, but pared the poem AND amped up all the remaining word choices? I made sure there was rhyme in every couplet while still giving information unique to each snake. And now, yes, if this is the only poem you read out of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, I am satisfied that you've gotten a taste of what the rest of the book holds. No weakling poems allowed! The goal in a collection is to make each and every poem shiny enough to be the title poem. It's something to strive for, anyway. :)

Click to Enlarge this Spread from DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST

If you're reading this, and writing your own poems, be patient with yourself. Remember that we have millions of words to choose from, so endless variations are possible. Keep tinkering – that's where the joy is! And also, rest. You'll know when it's time to stop.

Thank you, Amy, for having me – and for all the ways you share the love of poetry with the world! xo

I am very grateful to Irene for joining us today here at The Poem Farm and also at Sharing Our Notebooks.  To peek into Irene's notebooks, head over there, peek away, and comment to be entered to win your own copy of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST.

Renee is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at No Water River.  All are welcome to join in, visit, share, and love poetry in her joyous space today.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Am the New Kid - and a New Book Too!

New Kid
by Amy LV

Students - I have been the new kid, each of our children has been the new kid, my friend Rosie is the new kid this year, and at the start of school, I am just thinking about that feeling of being new.

When I was the new kid (a few times as I went to three elementary schools and then studied as an exchange student after high school), I especially remember not knowing where to look.  Other people were laughing and talking, but not me.  Where should I look?  Each time, that new-kid-feeling went away in time, but during that new-kid-time, I was uncomfortable.

This poem is to honor all of the new kids in new classrooms this year.  And it is also to remind all of us not-new-kids to reach out, say hello, be a welcoming force in this world.

When you sit down to write today, you might try to remember a feeling you once had.  It may be a feeling you have not had in a while, but you remember it clearly.  You might even think of someone you know who has been having a big feeling lately, try to imagine how that person feels.  Close your eyes and feel a feeling.  Then, maybe, try writing in that feeling-voice.  See if you can call it back with your words.

Did you notice how I repeated the line:

Will someone say hi?

at the beginning and the ending of the poem.  Sometimes using such a circular structure, or ending where you began, can be a great way to help a poem hold together.

And now...a new book on the scene!

  Available through
your Independent Bookseller

I am so happy to announce a book birthday, this September 1, of MANGER, the latest stunner of a poetry anthology by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann and starred by Kirkus.  The poems in the book are described as follows:

There is a legend that describes how, at midnight on Christmas Eve, all creatures are granted the power of speech for one hour. In this rich collection, Lee Bennett Hopkins and a dozen other poets imagine what responses they might offer. The poems represent a diverse group of animals, but all come together with one singular purpose: celebrating the joy of the miraculous event.

This collection of graceful poems provides readers with a Nativity story unlike any other -- at times gently humorous, at times profound, but always inviting readers to appreciate the wonder of Christmas. This book is a perfect gift for the holiday season.

I am honored to have written the sheep poem for this book.  When Lee asked me to do so, it felt completely right as we then had a flock of sheep living in our yard.  Here is the poem I wrote from a sheep's point of view.

from MANGER by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Art by Helen Cann, Sheep Poem by Amy LV
Image from Helen Cann's Website - Click to Enlarge

Much later, when Lee shared the gorgeous and tender illustrations by Helen Cann, I was astounded by how the sheep Helen imagined for Lee's book looked exactly like our oldest and most loving ram, ReRa, the first ram of our flock, now gone after a long life.  Of course Helen and I never communicated about this sheep, yet perhaps - magically - we did.

Mark Trims ReRa's Hooves, 2011
Photo by Amy LV

MANGER is on my Christmas list as a book to give this year, and I highly recommend it for all who love books about Christmas, animals, poetry, and love.

Laura Shovan is hosting this week's Poetry Friday party over at Author Amok.  There you will find a delicious buffet of blogs to visit...all celebrating poetry!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, August 29, 2014

She Sells Seashells - Borrowing Lines

Painted Seashells by A. - Ocean City, Maryland
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Our family spent last week camping on Assateague Island, and one evening brought us to the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland.  There I met a young girl, perhaps twelve years old, who sells seashells down by the seashore, just like in the tongue twister.  I was enchanted by her and by her shells, and I bought one to hang on our Christmas tree this year.  (As soon as I find this shell, I will share a photo of it with you.) I asked permission to take the picture of all of this young artist's shells, and she kindly allowed me to do so.

Later, I saw some other customers talking with her about her work.

Seashell Seller - Ocean City, MD
Photo by Amy LV

One reason I love writing poetry is that it causes me to stop more often, to pay close attention to the beautiful people and things I find along the path of life.  And when a moment of life crosses a song or poem or book or tongue twister that I already have in my heart - well, wow!  That is like a small spark glowing.  I was excited all week to come back to this old wooden desk, to write about this creative child and her salty, painty shells.

You may have noticed that today's poem uses words from the famous tongue twister, and sometimes poets do this - borrow lines from other poems, songs, sayings.  There is even a type of poem called a cento, wherein a poem is completely made up of lines from other poems.  You might want to try some borrowing in your own writing. Simply open a poetry book, read some poems, choose a line you love, and let it inspire a poem of your own.  You might begin your poem with the line you love, or you might tuck it into the middle of your poem.  You might choose a line from a poem or song that you already have inside of you, as I did today.  If you borrow a line from a famous poem or song, your readers will have fun discovering it and remembering that other song or poem too. Your piece and the other piece will echo back and forth to each other.

Remember, borrowing one line is very different from copying someone else's poem.  If you read a poem by another poet, and if you love it, copy it into your notebook and include the author's name.  It is wondrous to have a collection of poems that match your soul completely.

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I'm sure she sells sea-shore shells.

Did you know that this seashell tongue twister was originally part of a song written by Terry Sullivan in 1908?  It is based on a real woman named Mary Anning.

I have been away for much of the summer: teaching, making jam, playing in water.  But now fall calls, and so I am back, here at the old desk, so happy to see you again.  

Jone is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Check it Out.  Hop on over there to meet some new poetry friends, visit with some old ones, and simply enjoy the offerings.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wizard at the Fair - Writing Observations as Memories

Artist Jerry Ward at the Erie County Fair
August 7, 2014
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday, as I watched Jerry Ward carve this bust of Don Quixote, I was transported to a new place inside of myself.  A man appeared from inside of a tree trunk, and it was magical!  Sawdust smells tickled my nose, and I sat mesmerized by this chainsaw artist.  I knew that I would write a poem about my feeling because some moments in our lives just call out to us, "I am a poem!  I am a poem!" and this was one of them.

After Jerry finished carving the bust, he turned to the audience - sitting on big logs - and told us that he releases figures from wood.  When I began to write, this Don Quixote came to life in my poem, happy to be free after many so many years.

My first draft of today's free verse poem was in the present tense: "I sit/watching/the Wizard of Wood..." But as I wrote, I realized that poem would work better in the past tense.  Sometimes when people think about their memories, they think about years and long ago.  But memories are falling around us like twinkling raindrops...every single minute.  You can take something that happened to you today - and write about it in the past tense voice, as if it happened long before.  

What has happened to you today already?  What might happen in the next few hours?  If you live your life paying attention to everything, you will see how a now-happening might just be a poem in the making.  Open your eyes!  Open your ears!  What do you find?

Jerry Ward's Don Quixote at the Erie County Fair
August 7, 2014
Photo by Amy LV

To see more of Jerry Ward's artwork, visit his website here and read about how "Wood is mystical."

Mary Lee is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Year of Reading.  Do not miss the poem she shares with us today.  You, too, might "snort your morning tea!"

Please share a comment below if you wish.