Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Nativity - Stories in Daily Pictures

Our Family's Nativity Set
Photo by Amy LV

Students - This poem is true.  That's all there is to it.  I just wrote the truth.  Our family is Christian, and last week, when I set up our Nativity set on the second Sunday in Advent, I was struck by all of the stories it holds.  I remembered back to the childhood Nativity Set I loved playing with as a little girl, arranging the straw and the angel and shepherd over and over again.  I remembered when our friends Glenn and Paula gave Mark and I this Nativity set for our wedding twenty years ago.  I remembered where each piece of our Nativity has come from.  And I was grateful.

When it was time to write, the poem just showed up.  It may be the most personal poem I've shared here.  I wrote the words that asked to be written.

Today's poem is in free verse.  It does not have a special rhyme or meter that holds it together; it just sounds like talking.  But I did read it over and over again, out loud to myself, to listen to the music of the prose.

I wish you a week full of joyous surprises and small stories in dusty boxes.  The daily pictures that you see and fall in love with each day may be the very pictures that tell you exactly what to write in your own notebook.

Paul is graciously hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at These 4 Corners. Visit his online home to find all kinds of poetry goodness, all around the Kidlitosphere, all week long.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beautiful - Writing from a Sketch

Looking Heavenward
by Amy LV

Students - I got the idea for today's poem from, um...well...resting.  Here's the story.  This morning, I was all set, ready to post a poem that I had written long before today.  I had a poem, a picture, and thoughts.  It was just about ready to publish here.  Then I realized, "Hey...this poem would fit well in my forthcoming book, WITH MY HANDS: POEMS ABOUT MAKING THINGS.  I should see if my editor likes it enough to include it."  So I sent that poem to my editor at Clarion.  And so my post idea for here was gone.  See, a poem going in a book needs to be saved for the book.  Back to square one.

This evening, sitting by the heater, I was not sure where to begin.  My head rested on my arms, and I flipped through my notebook only to find this little sketch of a mouse looking at the sky.  Then the poem just grew as I closed my eyes and eveningdreamed.  It is similar to some other poems I have written, most notably one about a star and a starfish that I cannot completely recall. I seem to like the idea of small creatures looking up at the sky. How could I not?

I rather floated my way through this poem.  For now, my favorite parts of it are "so full of woe" and those last three lines that break the rhyme pattern: I'm small.  I'm small.  I'm small.  

Today's poem is a story poem that grew from a sketch.  You might wish to make a sketch or drawing and then write from it.  You might wish to go back to an old sketch or drawing and write from that.  You see, ideas come from everywhere...even old doodles.

In happy writing news, I am thrilled to share that just today, I completed revisions for my forthcoming READ! READ! READ!, a book of poems about reading to be published by Wordsong.  I can't wait to tell you who the illustrator will be. I can't wait to find out myself.

Anastasia is hosting today's Poetry Friday extravaganza over at Booktalking #kidlit.  Head on over to check out the Kidlitosphere poem fun for this week!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Grace - Still Thankful After Thanksgiving

So Much Grace
by Amy LV

Students - This simple poem is offers my thoughts about yesterday.  I adore Thanksgiving, and here, on the day after Thanksgiving, I am still so full of gratitude for family, for good friends in my daily life and far away and here in Poetry Friday land.

The holiday season ahead of us is one filled with excitement and goodness.  I am excited to make a gingerbread house, to decorate, to fold more stars for our windows, and to make sweet and spicy walnuts.  But right now, and in many small pauses throughout the month, I plan to stop.  Stop to look around at the simple beauties before me.  Stop to feel thankful. Stop to write about the small surprising things that make life grand.  

This poem just tells of a normal everyday part of our family's life - dinner grace.  But yesterday, somehow, it felt different, perhaps because there were more of us around the table, perhaps because I am more aware that life does not always stay the same.  It is important that I feel thankful now for now.  

What are you thankful for?  Big things and small things...they all count. And you know what?  Each one of the things on your list could inspire some writing.  That's where I will continue in my notebook later today.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, you can learn the winners of this month's books!

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Carol's Corner.  Visit her place to find poetry and good poetry people.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

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.