Saturday, January 25, 2020

An Object Passed On and On...


Inscription from My Grandmother to My Mother
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is just a little bit of free verse about an object - a poem book that lives in my family. Yesterday my friend Brett Vogelsinger shared this photo and question on Twitter.

Well, I DID remember! My mother had this book when I was a child, and I remember reading it over and over again, just loving the images and words. As it happens, last night I visited my mom and found the copy. 

A Family Favorite
(The spots on on the cover were likely made by me!)
Photo by Amy LV

My mom's mom (my grandmother) had given the book to my own mother as a gift, and she had made notes on the pages of some of her favorite poems. My grandma and mom were both teachers, and this was a teacher-to-teacher present given early in my mom's teaching career. Below you can see my grandma as a young woman. She always loved poetry, and both she and her father - my great grandfather John Conolly - wrote poems.

Florence (Dorrie) Conolly Dreyer as a Young Woman

Notes from Grandma
Photo by Amy LV

I feel lucky that my grandmother wrote in this book and lucky that my mom has kept it. Even though Grandma has been gone from a long time, through these notes and favorite poems, she speaks to us again. 

Do you have an object in your home that brings to mind someone important to you? While one person might look at a particular object and not see anything special, objects do hold and hide stories and connections. Sometimes we just need to sit with something, hold it, think about it, and listen. Writing can be slow that way. Slow is good.

I have happy news! After a long hiatus, there is a post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. Stephanie Affinito has shared her wonderful 'One Little Thing' notebook which has already inspired me to begin one of my own. Visit the post and comment by February 2 for a chance to win a copy of Ralph Fletcher's A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK.

Kathryn is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup...all the way from Kathryn Apel. Visit her post for a couple of poems and a short clip describing one of her author visits to the US. 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 each week of the year.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Farewell to Fleeting Things

by Amy LV

Students - It has not been a very snowy winter here in Upstate New York, but we did get a little bit of snow yesterday, and we are expected to have more snow tomorrow. Falling snow is peaceful, and when I have the chance to catch a perfect snowflake on my mitten, to wonder at its exquisite angles and patterns, I am amazed. I really would like to have a snowflake as a pet. But of course such a friendship would only last for a very short time.

Some of life's most lovely gifts are fleeting: snowflakes, golden hour (the pretty-light-time right after sunrise and before sunset), the full moon, blushing trees, blooming flowers, blackberries. Try noticing something in your day today that is here now...but not for long. Hello and farewell indeed...

You might have wondered about all of that repetition at the end of this poem. I decided to keep repeating the word farewell and all of those s sounds simply to stretch out the sound of goodbye.

Catherine is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core with some lovely #haikuforhope she had shared in December on Twitter. 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 each week of the year.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Papa: Writing from Struggle

Photo by Amy LV

Students - Occasionally when people get older, they develop serious memory and reasoning problems. You may have heard of Alzheimers Disease, a severe condition affecting memory and reasoning. Today's poem is about how even when an older person may develop dementia (an overarching term which includes Alzheimers), this person is still the same person. If you love someone who has developed such problems, one thing to do is to remember what they once loved and knew and talked about. Talk about these things. You can ask questions about times from long ago, and your loved one may even remember the faraway past better than yesterday. If your loved one does not remember, do not worry. Just show your love.

My poem today is written in three quatrains with the even lines repeating. It is a simple structure, and I hope to share a simple message: We can still love those we love, even when they change, even when they struggle. This is when people need our love most.

Watch for struggle in your days. You might choose to write about it. We all struggle in different ways at different times, and finding words for such moments and years can help us...and others too.

Sally is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at SALLYMURPHY.COM.AU with a book announcement, a poem, and information about her offering for #authorsforfireys. 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 each week of the year.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Death and Mystery and Love

Mini Monster and Me, Fall 2019
Cat and Mom Selfie

Students - The other week, I wrote in my notebook a bit about the ghosts of dead pets coming to visit their owners. I wondered on paper how these dead pets know how to find their loved humans if they have moved to new homes. I think about this because I have loved many animals in my life, including our current seven: Cali (dog), Sage (dog), Sarah (cat), Mini Monster (cat), Pickles (cat), Firepaw (cat), and Fiona (cat). I believe that we will always be connected somehow, just as I am forever linked to my childhood dogs Thor and Valentine, and Mark's and my first dog Eli.

In Cynthia Rylant's soulful books DOG HEAVEN and CAT HEAVEN, she describes these animal Heavens, and my mind and heart will always carry the scene in DOG HEAVEN when the dog visits the family who loved him on Earth.

This idea of pet-ghosts visiting us is a mystery that haunts me in a very good way.

Mini Monster, in the above picture, is a very special cat to me right now. Some of you may know this. If you are interested in reading a 2010 essay about him, you may do so HERE. This piece also appears in Katherine Bomer's THE JOURNEY IS EVERYTHING (Heinemann, 2016).

Today's poem is an almost - sonnet.  It has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter (daDA daDA daDA daDA daDA) with the even lines rhyming.  Then, at the end, the final couplet rhymes too.  You will note a turn after line 8, a change in focus. My poem does not rhyme every alternate line, though, so it's not a true English sonnet.  

If you are thinking about your own poetry, one suggestion I have is to read lots of poems aloud. Tap out the meters, feel the rhythms in your hands and your feet and your body. Poems are songs. Poetry is music. Listen and feel others' poems inside of you, and these poems will offer your own writing more possibility, as the rhythms that live in us cannot help but come out in our writing.

What mystery haunts you? There's a poem there...I promise. Hours after writing this post, I realized that this topic of visitors in sleep must be deeply on my mind. See, my poem Two Girls, from November 8, 2019's post is also about this topic and also speaks to the reader at the end. I am going to pay attention to this curious and current interest.

Carol is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Carol's Corner with Maya Angelou's gorgeous poem titled Continue. 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 in this beautiful new year before us.

All peace and bravery and laughter and light to you and your loved ones in this new year...this new decade!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Writing with the Senses

Finnish Coffee Braids
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I baked the bread you see in this picture yesterday afternoon, and it really IS Mrs. Roske's braided bread recipe. When I was a little girl, our church had a yearly bake sale, and every year I waited for that bread. Every year we bought it...if it was still there. This is a Finnish bread made with my favorite spice, cardamom, and as you can see, it's brushed with a sugar glaze. It is fun to paint the bread with a paintbrush!

Beginning today's poem, I planned to write a free verse poem, though a little rhyme did creep in. More important is the repetition of Mrs. Roske's braided bread, because hearing those words again in the poem mimics the way I thought about that bread in my mind over and over -- before, during, and after eating.

Does my stomach really have ears? Well, in a way. In a way. And for a poem, in a way is enough. In fact, sometimes in a way is even better than really.

I feel very lucky to still have this recipe, copied from our church's old cookbook. And as I plan to do more bread baking, it felt right to begin again with my favorite.

Favorite Old Recipe
Photo by Amy LV

Do you have a food that sings to your stomach? Do you love a smell that sings to your nose? Is there a sight that sings to your eyes? Or a texture that sings to your sense of touch? Remember, our senses feed our poetry selves. Pay attention to your senses. You might even make lists in your notebook of favorite things to see, smell, touch, hear, and taste. Any one item from any one list could call a new piece of writing from within you. If you like, mix your senses up a bit as I did, allowing my stomach to hear.

As you write, you may choose to play with a repeating word or line. If you're unsure if your choice works, read the words aloud a couple of different ways to see which sounds (feels) best to your ear (stomach).

Happy New Year wishes to all of you, and thank you for your companionship on my writing journey. I am grateful for you. If you'd like to find a Poem Farm New Year Poem, here you go:

2011 - January 1
2014 - New Year's Eve
2016 - Wisdom

Michelle is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Michelle Kogan with a poem and artwork reminding readers of the importance of activism at this time in our earth's history. 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 throughout the new year ahead.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Winter Triolet

Photo by Amy LV

Students - I adore candles. I love looking into a flame and thinking about the past and the now and the future. I like to play with the wax of a candle and to watch a flame flicker with a breeze or my breath. I am grateful for the tiny bit of warmth that one candle can offer. In these dark days of Western New York winter, candlelight is a gift of hope, and today I try to honor this gift with a few words.

What gives you hope? Might you write about it for the first time or again?

Today's poem is a special kind of poem called a triolet. You will note that it has 8 lines and lots of repetition. In a triolet, lines 1, 4, and 7 are the same. Lines 2 and 8 are the same. And the rhyme scheme goes like this: A B a A a b A B. In poetry language, this means that lines 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 end with the same rhyming sound as do lines 6 and 8. Notice the matching capital letters for the lines which match each other.

I like writing poems with strict forms sometimes because such writing forces my hand. This means that I have to work with what is given: number of lines, repetition, rhyme patterns. I have fewer choices to make and will often make interesting choices based on the constraint. For me, choice works like Goldilocks and her porridge: I don't like too much, and I don't like too little either. 

A triolet felt just right today, partly because no one made me do it. Rather, I read a triolet by my friend, Author and Poet Laura Shovan the other day. I believe that her fine writing placed this form firmly in my head.

And yes, I did write these in the middle of the night.  I finished it at 3:53am today.

Screenshot by Amy LV

Writing Longhand in Bed
(Gotta find my notebook!)
Photo by Amy LV

As we begin our stride into a new year, I wish each one of you beautiful days of light balancing darkness and hope balancing despair. Our world is full of both, and small bits of light shine brightly, whether they are candles or people. You are lights for me, and I am grateful.

Buffy is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Buffy's Blog with a fabulous review of a Liz Garton Scanlon's new beautiful book, ONE DARK BIRD, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. 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, December 13, 2019

Inspired by Vida Sreta Žuljević

Vida Sreta Žuljević & Her Creations

Students - Today's poem grew from a story shared with me by my friend Vida who you see in the above photograph, surrounded by enchanting handmade animals and dolls. When I read her beautiful words, words that you will soon read, I wished to write a poem inspired by her generosity. As we live our lives, we will at times meet people who inspire us greatly. Vida is one such person in my life. So I invited her to The Poem Farm, to share the story about the photo you see above.

Strangely enough, today, this Friday the 13th morning, after waking up and rereading this poem, I felt something familiar. It reminded me of a song. I knew the song was from LES MISERABLES (which I saw on stage this week), but I did not know which song. I listened to several and realized that today's poem can be loosely sung to Valjean Arrested Valjean Forgiven. Yes, I did watch LES MIS this week, and no I did not realize that this song had lived inside of me as I wrote about Vida. I had to sing it to myself to see if I was right. The workings of the mind are surprising, that is for sure.

A warmest welcome to my dear friend, Vida, who joins us from her home city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And too, a great thank you to the young poets who made this gift-to-the-world possible. Please click to enlarge any illustrations.

Vida Sreta Žuljević:

I fulfilled my New Year's resolution to knit/crochet/sew one hundred toys and ornaments, sell them, and then donate all the money to children from socio-economically deprived families who attend the multi-ethnic, inclusive early learning center "Sunny Bridge,” the only one of its kind (out of 21 early learning centers) in our city, Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From Google Maps

100 Toys & Ornaments, All Made by Vida

I encouraged and instructed children (my granddaughters and my friends’ children/grandchildren) to write poems about the toys I was making and to participate that way in this fund-raising as well. I informed the children that I'd send their poems and illustration to a local publisher to publish a collection of their poems.  

They wrote some wonderful poems in three different forms: cinquain, acrostic, and couplets, and they drew the illustrations to each. All the children-authors agreed with the idea to donate the proceeds from the books to the ELC "Sunny Bridge" along with the money earned from my toys. I liked that idea very much and named this whole project "Children to Children." 

The event was held at the Gallery of the City's Cultural Center on Dec. 3, 2019. The director of the ELC "Sunny Bridge" and I wrote a short program in which we reflected a little on my 40 years’ experience working with children in four countries on two continents and on my continuous volunteering since my retirement in the U.S. and my return to my home city, Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Then, the young poets I worked with, whose poems about the toys were published in the beautifully designed collection, read their poems (How could I do anything without poetry!). 

At the same time, we projected their wishes for all the children in the world on a wall. There were such touching, heartfelt wishes from these little heads! My granddaughter, Bianca, who lives in Washington State, was videotaped and appeared on the screen greeting the people and wishing us a successful event and good earnings from Grandma's toy fund-raising event to help children in need. Her two poems were included in the book, too. My gosh! My heart barely handled that much emotion! 

People in the audience were mesmerized. There were children from the children's choir "Male mostarske kiše" (Mostar's Little Raindrops) performing children’s songs, a fifth-grade pianist, a 15-year-old guitar player performing John Lennon's “Imagine” (Wow!), lots of fun and laughter, and of course, some dance. The gallery was packed. 

The 100 toys were sold in 15 minutes after they were placed onto the tables. If we’d had 200 toys, they would have been gone! But the people attending the event, the children, the employees of “Sunny Bridge,” their director, and I were way beyond happy. 

It was a night of genuine love, genuine humanity, and a genuine feeling of togetherness on many different levels (despite the many kinds of divisions in our city ever since the latest war in the early nineties). And the " glue" that brought us all together were the children of our city, children in need. 

We hope that this will be just a pebble that starts a ripple-effect of love, compassion, and humanity in general in our city and wider. 

If anyone who is reading this post is interested in donating money to the children in need that attend the early learning center "Sunny Bridge" in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, below is their bank's SWIFT number, at which the donations can be deposited in foreign currencies (such as USD).

Name: Multietnički inkluzivni vrtić ''Sunčani most'' ***
Address: Muje Pašića bb, 88000 Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bank: Sparkasse Banka, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

*** ''Sunčani most'' translates to "Sunny Bridge,” which is the name of the early learning center. Preceding its name is its designation as a multi-ethnic and inclusive early learning center.

Thank you, Vida...thank you for all of this goodness.

It would be impossible for me to feel more grateful to know Vida and to have the opportunity to share this story with you. Every single person can do good. Each of us can offer a hand in some way. If you find yourself combining poetry with kind actions, please let me know. I would love to feature your work as well.

Elizabeth is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at at Elizabeth Steinglass with a cool and surprising poem about a favorite word. 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.