Friday, November 21, 2014

Morning Song - Copying Rhymes & Rhythms

Weather Report for This Week - Holland, NY
From the National Weather Service

Kitten Fiona Watches Snow
Photo by Amy LV

Students - As you can see in the forecast above, it has been a very snowy week south of Buffalo here.  So I knew I would write about snow again. (How could I not? I did yesterday too.)  But HOW would I write about snow?  I did not know and thought about it a lot while shoveling the driveway.

I decided to open a book and find a poem and use the same rhythm as the poem I found.  In THE POETRY TROUPE, by Isabel Wilner, a writer I was fortunate enough to take a class with once, I came across the poem, "Song" by Elizabeth Coatsworth.  As you see below, I copied this poem into my notebook and noted the number of lines, number of syllables per line, and rhyme scheme.  Then I used the same number of lines, same number of syllables per line (almost), and same rhyme scheme for my own poem.

Coatsworth on Left/Me on Right
Photo by Amy LV

So while my poem is about something very different, Elizabeth Coatsworth gave me a boost with my rhythm and rhyme.  Some of you have seen me stand on other poets' shoulders so directly before; it is a favorite way for me to explore writing, a favorite way to grow.

This is a wonderful exercise if you ever wish to stretch yourself or if you ever feel you're in a writing rut.  Sometimes my writing sticks with the same rhythms, so experimenting with new ones keeps me limber.  Find a book with a poem you like, and just play around with the lines and rhythms.  See if you find a new writing you inside of the old writing you.

On a wonderous book note, I could not be more pleased to learn that Jacqueline Woodson has won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her gorgeous memoir in verse, BROWN GIRL DREAMING. 

I may have never folded down more corners in a book than I have in my copy of Woodson's memoir in poems. This book is honest, beautiful, wise, and full of love.

In the author's note, Woodson writes, "The people who came before me worked so hard to make this world a better place for me.  I know my work is to make the world a better place for those coming after.  As long as I can remember this, I can continue to do the work I was put here to do."

BROWN GIRL DREAMING makes the world a better place.  I dearly hope this snow lets up so that I will be able to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak at NCTE tomorrow.  And I dearly hope that if you have not read this book will.

Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, I am grateful to host teacher, literacy coach, author, and founder of Book Love...Penny Kittle!  Please check out her notebooks, the great exercise she offers us, and leave a comment by Monday, November 24 to be entered into a book giveaway.

Celebrate Poetry Friday at Tapestry of Words with Becky today! All are welcome to visit her place find the varied poems and poem sharings around the Kidlitosphere in this third week of November.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter List - List Poems Can Tell Stories

Dining Room Window
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Greetings from the land of snow!  Our family lives south of Buffalo, NY, and as you may have read in the news, snow has been falling like crazy in the towns nearby.  We only have about a foot here (two more expected over the next day) but some towns have five feet of snow!  This is a lot of snow.  Even the bit we have at the end of our driveway was so heavy that it broke this (lifetime guarantee - the new one is in the mail) shovel right in half.

Photo by Henry LV

As the roads are impassable, we have all been home playing games, shoveling, making cookies, and thinking snowy thoughts.  We've even sung a few bars of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and perhaps this is why I wrote about a snowman today.

This poem is a list, and it tells a story too.  On my early drafts, I wrote out the numbers as words, but when I moved to typing the poem, I decided to try numbers. I think that the numbers have a more list-y look, and that this makes the warm story part of the poem more surprising.  I have loved every snowman I've ever made...and tomorrow, if it warms up, we just might need to make a new snowman here.

I like the idea of a list poem turning into a story, and I will definitely try it again.

Teachers - right now I am reading Thomas Newkirk's wonderful new MINDS MADE FOR STORIES, a book which proposes, "That narrative is the deep structure of all good sustained writing.  All good writing." I highly recommend this book along with anything else that Thomas Newkirk has ever written.

Greetings to my teacher friends already at #NCTE2014!  I hope to arrive on Friday as today's flight has been cancelled.  If you are a teacher attending NCTE, Janet Wong has put together a list of some of the poetry sessions you might wish to attend.

Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, I am so happy to host teacher, literacy coach, author, and founder of Book Love...Penny Kittle!  Please check out her notebooks, the great exercise she offers us, and leave a comment by Monday, November 24 to be entered into a book giveaway.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 14, 2014

True Story - Poems Can Tell Stories

 Parakeet and Sparrows
by Amy LV

Students - This story is true, just as the title says!  Earlier this fall, I was visiting a different neighborhood and saw a parakeet hanging out with a flock of sparrows.  It was one of the most magical and curious things that I have ever seen, and sometimes I catch myself still wondering how the parakeet came to join those sparrows.

Poems can tell stories, and today's poem does tell a story, a true one.  Sometimes when I sit to write, I think about stories I love to tell, stories I love to remember and think about.  Sometimes, as in my poem Ketchup Man,  I make stories up. Sometimes, as in my poem After the Wedding, I write a story poem inspired by a fairy tale. And sometimes, as in my poem Luigi del Bianco, a story poem idea comes from a moment in history.

When we write stories or story poems, we can choose the person who will tell the story.  Today's poem is in the person's voice, but I could write it again in the parakeet's voice or in a sparrow's voice.  Maybe I will try this.

But today I started with the words:

Let me tell you a story....

I didn't keep these words in the poem, but they got me started.

You might try this should you ever feel a little unsure of what to write.  Just start with, Let me tell you a story...

Today's poem has a rather steady meter, so I did a lot of reading aloud and tapping as I wrote.  And as is often the case, the ending was the trickiest part.  I wrote and rewrote so many endings.  None of them included the reference to the expression, Birds of a feather flock together until this last one.  It just felt right.  Sometimes you know.

This week, over at Sharing Our Notebooks, I am thrilled to welcome teacher, literacy coach, author, and founder of Book Love...Penny Kittle!  Please check out her notebooks, the great exercise she offers us, and leave a comment to be entered into a book giveaway.

I very much look forward to attending and presenting next week at the 2014 NCTE Convention.  I am honored to be on a panel with Irene Latham, Ann Marie Corgill, Katie DiCesare, and Kathy Collins.  I am grateful to be on the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children committee and excited to be on that panel and to announce the next NCTE Poetry Award winner.  Too, I will host a table at the Chidren's Literature Luncheon as FOREST HAS A SONG is a 2014 CLA/NCTE Notable book.  Most of all, I can't wait to see many friends, new and old.

Keri is hosting today's Poetry Friday celebration over at Keri Recommends.  Stop on by and enjoy all of the poetry offerings in the Kidlitosphere today.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Saw - Poems about Conversations & Colors

Photo by Amy LV

Corn Stalks and Queen Anne's Lace
Photo by Amy LV

Students - The idea for this poem has been in my mind for a long time, for many years ago, my husband did tell me that he loved the color brown. From that day on, I saw brown differently.  Whereas before I never would have considered brown beautiful, now I too, love its many shades.  Often I think about brown, notice brown, am grateful for brown.  Friends (and husbands) who help you grow are gifts indeed.

Today's poem was inspired by a color and by a conversation.  On my drive to Syracuse, NY yesterday, looking at all of the roadside browns, pausing to take pictures,I was reminded of this old conversation about brown.  Finally, I've captured something that has been rolling around in my mind for years.

Did you notice that "I saw" is a very short line, two words on a line all alone?  That was a revision.  When I first wrote this verse, it did not have a title.  Rereading to find a title, I considered "Brown" and considered "Once" but I wanted the title to convey more meaning than that.  I wanted the title to show that I was changed, that at last, "I Saw."  Once I changed the title, the line needed to be changed as well, to reflect the importance of seeing and understanding.  Those two words deserved their own line, so I changed the line break from:

I saw one hundred wondrous browns


I saw
one hundred wondrous browns

When you begin to write today, you might think about questions and colors too.

What conversation has been rolling around in your mind?

What color is striking your eye these days?

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Be a Ghost - Listy How-To Poems

Fionacat & Amyghost
Photo by Henry LV

Students - Happy Halloween!  I love Halloween, mostly because I love making costumes and carving jack o'lanterns.  When I was a girl, my dad and I would always get big appliance boxes, and we'd make crazy costumes: stove, refrigerator, table...  It is tons of fun to make a costume from old clothes and crazy bits of this and that. Tonight I will be a ghost.  We had a couple of white sheets leftover from our girls' toga day at high school, and so one is now the ghost costume you see above.  Our children are dressing up as a sea anemone, a plastic army guy, and Robin Hood.

Today's poem is simply a set of directions, a how-to poem, a list.  I had fun imagining all of the different things that would be important for a person who wishes to dress as a ghost, especially the black-cat-hugging-part as our little Fiona celebrates her first Halloween this year. 

As with any list poem, I like to to have a bit of a twist, a surprise at the end. Wouldn't it be funny to be snuggled in your bed and to find two eyeholes in your top sheet?

Linda is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at TeacherDance.  There you will find a gathering of poems, poets, and poetry news all around the Kidlitosphere this week.

Happy Poetry Halloween Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dear Brain, - Free Verse Letter Poems

 Whole Brain & Right Brain
Photo by Mark LV

Holding a Real Brain
Photo by Mark LV

Students - On Wednesday, my husband and I went to a great event called Love Yer Brain put on by Hallwalls, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and the UB College of Arts & Sciences.  It was an evening of talks about the brain, by scientists and artists.  It so fascinating that the two of us just cannot stop talking about it.

Dr. Christopher Cohan even brought two real brains, and as you see above, he allowed us to hold them.  It was humbling, and I stood in awe and gratitude, holding the brain of someone I would never know, would never talk to.  Someone who donated his or her body to science.  I thanked the brain in my hands.

The next day, I wanted to talk to my own brain.  I began to imagine a letter to my brain, and I have started the letter here, knowing that there might be more later.  As I wrote, I loved the idea that while I'm writing the poem about my brain, it's really my brain writing about itself!

This is a free verse poem, and when I write free verse, I often write a line or two and then read the poem so far, aloud, to myself...listening for the next line or two.  This process repeats itself line-by-line, through the whole poem.

Once again, I am reminded that it is stimulating to go new places, read about new topics, dive into new experiences.   There are many free and fascinating opportunities in the world, and we can fill ourselves easily with the offerings of others.  This, in turn, gives us more to think about, more to understand, more ideas to play with in our writing,more to offer to others.

I encourage you to try something completely different this week. Read a totally different type of book.  Eat a food you usually don't eat.  Sit in a quiet place outside and just stare.  Listen carefully to someone you often don't listen to.  Stretch your brain.  After all, we each only get one.

And if you'd like another writing exercise to try...try writing a free verse letter poem.  Choose something - anything that fascinates you - and write a letter to it.  You might surprise yourself.

Cathy Mere and her wonderful brain are hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Merely Day by Day.  There you will find all kinds of poems, poetry fun, and all are welcome to leave links to share.  We're a friendly bunch in here, and if you're new to Poetry Friday, I hope you will come back!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Curled Kitten & a Poetry Peek with Emily

Students - Today's verse is about our new kitten, Fiona.  I saw her curled up on Georgia's blanket, and I loved the sound of "kitten" and "camouflage" together.  The rest of the poem just grew around those sounds.  It is fun for me to read.

Can you find other similar sounds in the poem?  

Look for consonants that repeat near each other.  This is called consonance. 

Look for vowels that repeat near each other. This is called assonance.

Alliteration is when sounds at the beginnings of words repeat near each other.

When you write a poem, experiment with the sounds at the starts of words and also the vowels inside of words.  Rhyme is not the only way to play with sound.  

Is there a daily image you love?  If so, do not miss a chance to write about it.  I love seeing Fiona curled all around the house, and now I can read this poem to her as she sleeps.

Today I am honored to welcome Emily, a fourth grade poet from Louisana.  Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche, is one of Emily's teachers, and I am thankful to share her poem today at The Poem Farm.  It is an acrostic, but it is so well written that you might not even realize this if we didn't tell you.

I asked Emily if she would be willing to share how she writes.  She replied...

My tips for writing a good poem would be the following:
I don't really know how I do it; I just love to write.  I want to be a poet.

Emily is a poet already, and I very much hope to have the opportunity to read more of her work.  Students - I recommend trying one of these writing tips when you write.  What do you think Emily means when she refers to a "lazy" poem? 

Much gratitude to both Emily and Margaret for this Poetry Peek today.  

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Today's Little Ditty with Michelle.  Head on over for some new poems and to visit with some new and old friends too. 

Please share a comment below if you wish.