Friday, November 15, 2019

milkweed...and monarchs

Photo by Amy LV

I will add an audio recording this evening.

Students - I find milkweed to be one of the most beautiful plants in our yard's fall landscape. When I see a full pod of wishes, I sometimes blow them into air, making wishes for strangers. And I know that these seeds will plant themselves, growing food for monarch caterpillars come spring.

In the above photograph and below video, taken a couple of weeks ago, you can see a milkweed pod in our pasture. Notice how the seeds are holding on. But in just a few more gusts of they'll go, planting themselves in new dirt homes.

You probably noticed that I had some fun playing with the spacing of the words in this poem. I wanted to mirror the feeling of milkweed wish movement.

And why no capitals? Well, I'm not sure about that. Somehow this poem felt softer to me without capitals and punctuation, I suppose.

If you are interested in learning more about milkweed and how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harvests milkweed seeds to plant for monarch butterflies, visit HERE. Among other things, you will see a wonderful photograph of milkweed seeds all tight in the pod...that is the milkweed-stage I always think looks fish-like.

If you'd like to see summer milkweed plants in our front garden and read a poem about monarchs and how we love to see them passing through, HERE you go.

Michelle is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Today's Little Ditty with a hearty welcome to the 2017-2018 edition of THE BEST OF TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY! We invite everybody to join in each Friday as we share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship. Check out my left sidebar to learn where to find this poetry goodness every week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Playing with Form and Story

Stamp by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem came from the strangeness of the connections of life. Yes, I like shipwrecks. Yes, I am fascinated by cemeteries. And yes, I consulted this book edited by Ron Padgett book today, searching for a form to try.

Paperback Handbook of Poetic Forms Book

I opened up to the ballad page, and suddenly I was writing. Is this exactly a ballad? I am not sure. But I followed the trail. For there is, young writer, always a trail. Keep seeking. Keep seeking. Listen to everything. Jot things down. Our minds are full of hills and valleys, and if we hike them regularly, there are always new surprises.

Edited by Ron Padgett

I was thrilled this afternoon to receive the folded and gathered pages of our forthcoming book, WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!, a friend to READ! READ! READ! Once again, Ryan O'Rourke's illustrations glow from the page. I am so grateful to him, to my brilliant editor Rebecca Davis, and to the whole amazing team at Boyds Mills and Kane. It will be tricky to wait until March 17, but it will be fun to have a book released next St. Patrick's Day!

Book Friends
Photo by Amy LV

Irene is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Live Your Poem with some exquisitely wise words for all of us. We welcome everybody to join in each Friday as we share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship. Check out my left sidebar to learn where to find this poetry goodness every week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 1, 2019


Sunlight, Cornstalks, Barn
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I fell in love with sun shining through cornstalks the other day. And so I wrote about it. Thinking about this led me to think about the many ways and places I am enchanted by sunlight. So why not throw a party? A party in a poem.

Today's poem is a free verse poem, no rhyme at all. But do know that I read it aloud as I wrote, to listen for the music. I invite you to write a "Someday..." poem of your own if you wish!

Tabatha is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at The Opposite of Indifference with ideas for holding your own writing retreat, the Winter Poetry Swap, and a wise poem by Samantha Reynolds. 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 this poetry fellowship roundup every week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Playing with Rhyme

Imagined Ghost and Pie
by Amy LV

Students - I am having a fine time carving and stamping erasers again, making Halloween cards for family. Last week's poem about Little Vampire Girl is still on my mind, and as Halloween is next Thursday, it's pumpkin carving time around here. So yesterday, a poem about a ghost began to float through my mind.

Our Kitchen Table Right Now
Photo by Amy LV

As I jotted Halloween-y things, found myself wondering if any words rhyme with invisible...and I found one on RhymeZone: divisible. I was so happy that I started to play with these two words until this poem emerged.

Sometimes a poem can spring from wordplay. If you want to try this out yourself, make some lists of rhyming words in your notebook. Choose a couple and just play around with them until you find something surprising. Follow the thread...see where it leads you.

Karen is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Karen Edmisten with a beautiful poem for October by Helen Hunt Jackson. 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 this poetry fellowship roundup every week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

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 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.

Please share a comment below if you wish.