Friday, January 13, 2017

What to Write? Assign Yourself an Idea and Structure!


Thinking Cactus
by Amy LV


  
Students - For this week's poem, I knew that I write a poem following the meter of someone else's poem.  But as of yesterday, I had not yet chosen which poem.  Nor had I chosen an idea.

I decided to force myself to find an idea by looking around the Aurora Town Public Library.

I looked at bookshelves, deciding to write a poem inspired by a book title.  I almost did too...I almost wrote a poem inspired by the title MAKING MISTAKES ON PURPOSE.  Can you find that book on the shelf below?

Bookshelf at the Aurora Town Public Library
Photo by Amy LV

Then I looked at magazines and the succulent wreath caught my eye.  I thought about cacti and how much I admire their toughness.  It was just a fleeting thought.

Magazines at the Aurora Town Public Library
Photo by Amy LV

I began freewriting about cacti to get some thinking down in my notebook.

Freewriting about Cacti
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

Now, I had already assigned myself the task of writing a poem that matched the meter of another poet's poem.  So, I read in this book by Nancy Larrick to choose a meter and rhyme scheme to copy.

Beautiful Library Discard I'd Brought with Me
Photo by Amy LV

And I decided to imitate the meter and rhyme scheme of a poem I have always loved, the poem by Christina Rossetti that begins "Hurt No Living Thing" - in the public domain.

By Christina Rossetti 
Photo by Amy LV

Then it was time to get to work.  I had given myself an assignment: write a cactus poem in the meter and rhyme scheme of Rossetti's poem.  Below you can see some of that work. Note the numbers next to my lines - count to see if they match the numbers of syllables in Rossetti's lines.  What do you notice about the rhymes in each poem?

Draft of "Once"
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

I played and I wrote and I tapped the table and I read aloud...and at the end of it all, I had written the silly verse you find above.  (To be truthful, I had a little giggle with cactus/fact is.)

Writing a new piece is a little bit like taking a trip.  Part destination, much exploration.  You might wish to document the journey of one of your pieces sometime.  And if you have never given yourself an assignment, try that too.  You might use mine or you might make up something completely new, just for you.  The important thing is to follow through.

As I left the library last evening, I giggled again as - for the first time - I saw:

this Christmas cactus...in bloom

Christmas Cactus at the Aurora Town Public Library
Photo by Amy LV

this jade plant, also a succulent.

Jade Plant at the Aurora Town Public Library
Photo by Amy LV

It's funny how once I start thinking about a thing...I see it everywhere!  Has this ever happened to you?

Congratulations to Linda A. for winning last week's giveaway - a signed copy of FINDING WONDERS by Jeannine Atkins!  Linda, please send me an e-mail to amy@amylv.com with your snail mail address, and I will pass it along to Jeannine. Thank you, Jeannine, for the beautiful post and book!

Keri is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at her place, Keri Recommends.  Please visit her place to think about reflection and to learn about what's happening poetry-wise all around the Kidlitosphere this week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Finding Questions and Wonders with Jeannine Atkins



Winter Chickadee
Photo by Amy LV




Students - Today's poem came from my own wonders about migrating birds (How do they KNOW?) and from the birds we see in our yard each winter. Today I share a questioning nature poem - from Chickadee's point of view - in honor of our special guest, a poet I admire so deeply.

Jeannine Atkins

It is my absolute honor to welcome Jeannine Atkins, author of, among other books, BORROWED NAMES, LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE, VIEWS FROM A WINDOW SEAT, and her latest...gorgeous...FINDING WONDERS.  Stay tuned for her forthcoming STONE MIRRORS (later this month) but today, please enjoy Jeannine's words about FINDING WONDERS, a book that has received stars from both Booklist and The Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books, a book that has been named a Book that Makes a Difference by The Horn Book, a book that has made me cry and cheer out loud.

I asked Jeannine, "Do you feel that you BECOME these girls when you write about them?"

She answered, Yes, there is some sense of channeling, of reading enough and getting the details till I feel like I have a special key.

Welcome, Jeannine!  Please tell us about this latest book.


Finding Wonders is about three girls who were born in earlier centuries and whose lives focused on the close looking needed in science. Poems often begin with close looking, too. I want to see past words, which sometimes seem in the way, to what’s in front of my eyes.

A Room in the Queen’s Gallery in London
Honoring the Plants and tools Maria Merian Worked with 
after Sailing from Europe to South America in 1699
Photo by Jeannine Atkins

Maria Sibylla Merian grew up helping her stepfather in his studio and learning to paint. She loved the colors of butterflies, moths, and flowers, but she was even more fascinated to watch how a small animal changed, from a caterpillar or silkworm to a chrysalis or cocoon, then to a butterfly or moth. Maria Merian’s paintings had to be still, but sometimes she painted all the stages of a life in one picture.

Maria Sibylla Merian’s Work on Display
in the Queen’s Gallery in London
Photo by Jeannine Atkins


To write some poems, I also wanted to show these small creatures in motion. I watched videos of silkworms spinning sticky silk around themselves, and weeks later, breaking open the cocoon. I wrote metaphors comparing the spinning to dancing and twirling a spoon around a cake to frost it.


Can you watch an action, such as a caterpillar crawling up grass or a spider making a web? Try comparing the motion to something from your own life.

Writing about Mary Anning, the first person to make a living selling fossils, meant I had to imagine her life, back before there was a word for “dinosaur.” In my mind’s eye, I saw Mary walking down the beach, picking up what she called curiosities. These stones with an impression of plants or animals are what we call fossils. I wrote about the questions these stones might have raised in her mind.

Trilobites and Ammonites 
Such as those Mary Anning Collected
Photo by Jeannine Atkins

Choose a scientist from the past to write a poem about. What do you know now that she or he wouldn’t know then? Can you write a poem as a conversation between you and this scientist, speaking about something now known that wasn’t known long ago?

Thank you so much to Jeannine for joining us here this week...and we are even luckier still because Jeannine is offering a giveaway of one signed copy of her book to a commenter on this post.  The winner will be posted in this same space next Friday, January 13, so please leave your comment by Thursday evening, January 12.

For more about FINDING WONDERS, visit here:

Doraine Bennett's post at Dori Reads, November 18, 2016
Linda Mitchell's post at A Word Edgewise, January 6, 2016

Linda is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at TeacherDance.  Head on over and join the poetry joy.  All are always welcome.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gingerbread Doves: Funny Family Stories Make Good Poems

December 23, 2016

The Poem Farm is taking an internet-free holiday through the New Year!
Many joyous wishes to you and yours during this time of light.
Peace,
Amy



Two Girls Decorate Gingerbread Doves at Grandma's House
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Today's poem sprouted from something that happened last weekend.  I don't even need to tell you what happened because the poem and the photograph above tell the whole story.  We had such a good time at my mom's house, and you can see our two girls happily decorating.

When I began writing toward this poem, my first words were inspired by the red tin of cookies sitting on our coffee table.  

Tiny Gingerbread Cookies
Photo by Amy LV

I began writing about cookies whispering to me. Then I imagined that these cookies were the great-grandchildren of the famed Gingerbread Boy of storybook lore.  And then I remembered last weekend.  I remembered the giggles we all had over the two styles of cookie that our girls decorated together: one style by one sister, one by the other.

Gingerbread Cookies of All Kinds
(Can You Find the Shark?)
Photo by Amy LV

Pay attention to when you laugh.  In laughter, in family giggles, in guffaws and snorts...we discover the joyous poems of our lives.  I wish you so so many good laughs this winter season!

If you, like I, enjoy discovering old and wonderful picture books, don't miss THE BEDSPREAD by Sylvia Fair.  Our youngest daughter's nursery school teacher recommended it to us as she had two daughters who were very different from each other...and we do too!  Writing today's poem brought me back to this old favorite.


Tabatha is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at The Opposite of Indifference.  Join her, and all of us, in finding goodness in poetry and life all week long.  Everyone is always invited to Poetry Friday, and the tea is always on.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Celebrating Simple, Humble Objects with Our Words



Winter Projects
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Today's poem is a celebration of simple mittens.  I love mittens, I love yarn, and I love the short 'i' sound.  And so today's small temple of words comes together around these three loves.  

Sometimes in life, one goes through times of despair and worry, grumpiness and uncertainty.  I've been feeling these things lately, and so this week I decided to turn my attention toward humble objects that bring me and the world small measures of joy and beauty.  You can see yesterday's notebook words around this idea here --

December 1, 2016 Notebook Snip
Photo by Amy LV

I do spend bits of winter days knitting cozy projects, and today the words and wool come together as one.

Any one of us can choose to turn our attention to the humble nouns around us. Check your closet and pockets.  What do you see, feel drawn to, love?  Try choosing something that does not require batteries or electricity.  Go as simple as you can.  Appreciate small things.  And write about them.

Hand-stitched Notebooks by Stitch Buffalo Refugee Artisans
Photo by Amy LV

In case you missed it last month, just like last year, The Poem Farm will be giving a Christmas gift of free shipping for anyone who would like to order two or more hand-stitched notebooks or bird ornaments.  These are beautiful pieces made by refugee artisan women in Buffalo, NY through Stitch Buffalo.  They do not ship, but only sell locally, so this is a special opportunity. You can read my post and learn more information HERE.  

To read last year's Stitch Buffalo post and poem, visit HERE.  I am so happy and thankful to share that in two weeks, The Poem Farm readers have purchased over $1600 of birds and notebooks, most all of which will go directly to the individual artisans who made each item.  Thank you!

Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, you can find the winner to my latest book giveaway.  And I am currently seeking a new writer over there, so if you are a young student notebook keeper, please let your teacher know if you would be interested in sharing your notebook pages.  Together with your parents and teacher, I would love to celebrate your notebook!

Bridget is hosting today's Poetry Friday fiesta over at wee words for wee ones.  Join her, and all of us, in finding goodness in poetry and life all week long.  Everyone is always invited to Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Milkweed - Feeling Thankful in the Cold


Wishes 2016
Photo by Amy LV



Students - Today I am thinking that Thanksgiving comes at just the right time.  Here in the Northeastern United States, the colorful leaves have mostly fallen, and we can feel snow and a long winter in the air.  Winter lasts for many months 'round these parts, and so the cold days of November are a beautiful time to think about gratitude.  

Today, as I walked up to the pasture with our dogs, I marveled at the exquisite milkweed plant you see atop this post.  It was easy to feel thankful as I touched their little angel wings and felt warm and hopeful inside.

Notice the repetition in today's poem.  Sometimes repetition can emphasize what a writer wishes to express. And I am, indeed, thankful for small natural beauties.  

If ever you're unsure of what to write about, I recommend a walk outside.  Just look around and up and down and here and there.  I imagine that you, too, will find something that fills you with gratitude.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to my friends far and wide.  I am thankful for you.

Stitch Buffalo Stitched Birds - Free Shipping Through December 15
Photo by Amy LV

In case you missed it last week, just like last year, The Poem Farm will be giving a Christmas gift of free shipping for anyone who would like to order two or more handstitched notebooks or bird ornaments.  These are beautiful pieces made by refugee artisan women in Buffalo, NY through Stitch Buffalo.  They do not ship, but only sell locally, so this is a special opportunity. You can read my post and learn more information HERE.  

To read last year's Stitch Buffalo post and poem, visit HERE.  I am so happy and thankful to share that in one week, The Poem Farm readers have purchased $935 of birds and notebooks, most all of which will go directly to the individual artisans who made each item.  Thank you!

At the moment, I am in Atlanta, Georgia for the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention.  I look forward to speaking with and meeting up with good friends.  If you're at NCTE, please look for me.  I'll have a bag full of poems to share and would love to give you one or two.


This month I am grateful to have artist Tim Needles visiting my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  His notebooks are inspiring and great fun, and I encourage you to check them out.  Too, the book giveaway on his post ends this Sunday, November 20.

Brenda is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Friendly Fairy Tales.  All are always welcome in this warm community of folks who love poems and people.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Birds, Hope, and A Way to Give

Handstitched Bird by Stitch Buffalo Artisans
Photo by Shelby Deck

Find this poem at The Poetry Foundation
It is in the public domain.



Students - Today I was thinking about Emily Dickinson's poem, the one you just read.  It is a poem that stays inside of one's heart, a poem you can pull out and hold when you need it.

Today I also wanted to write something, and when I did not know what to write, the words of Emily whispered into my ear.  Her words helped to write my own.  

Handstitched Birds by Stitch Buffalo Artisans
Photo by Shelby Deck




When you read my poem, you will notice that many of the words are the same words that Emily used, but I have used them in different places and ways.  You will also notice that the rhyme scheme and meter of my poem matches Emily's.  Her poem helped me write today, in more ways than I feel able to explain.

The other week, I wrote about poems having friends, and I hope that the poem I wrote today, below, might be a good friend for Emily's words.  The more poems we know, the more poems will come to our minds when we need them.  And every once in a while, a poem we love may inspire us to write a new poem in its honor, to be its pal.

Writing can help us make sense of the world, and it can help us do good, each in our small way.  Today I am happy to share that just like last year, I will be offering free shipping on the gorgeous handstitched birds you see above, birds made by refugee artisan women of Stitch Buffalo, living in Buffalo, NY.  

Artisans of Stitch Buffalo
Photo by Shelby Deck

And this year, I have something new and lovely to share.   Just for us, and just announced today, these artisans have begun making writers notebooks with pen pouches, small notebook covers designed to hold 5" x 8" Moleskine-style notebooks. Each includes a notebook and pen.

Sewn and Handstitched Notebooks by Stitch Buffalo Artisans
Photo by Shelby Deck

In the words of activists Dawne Hoeg and Shelby Deck --

The vision for Stitch Buffalo was conceived with an impulse to unite the communal craft of textile arts with Buffalo’s growing refugee population. Our goals were to: educate individuals in contemporary textile design methods, nourish and honor global textile traditions, provide cross-cultural interaction, providing a supportive social network, stimulate literacy skills, improve financial opportunities, create a community of women supporting women.

Over the two and a half years, Stitch Buffalo has grown from one Congolese woman to more than than 50 women from all over the world who come on a weekly basis for skill training and creative support in the vast and beautiful field of textile art and design.  Along the way, non-refugee participants have enriched the class as well, further deepening the experience for everyone involved.

Each item sold creates financial and artistic opportunity in the life of the woman who made it and a truly unique connection for the person who purchases it.

If you would like to learn more about Stitch Buffalo, enjoy the clip below.



The cost of each embroidered hanging feathered friend is $20, and the cost of each writers notebook with pen holder is $25.  I will pay your shipping for an order of any two items or more. You will receive a surprise color and for each item you purchase, and 70% of the money will go directly to the refugee woman who stitched the piece, the remainder going to materials.  Each stitched piece will be tagged with the artisan's name and home country.  

If you are interested in ordering two of any Stitch Buffalo pieces, either birds or notebooks, The Poem Farm will pay shipping to send your order to your home (or a friend's home) in the continental US.  Please just drop me an e-mail to me, and I personally will mail your birds or notebooks!  All orders (and checks) must be received by December 15.  I am also happy to hand carry birds and notebooks to NCTE in Atlanta later this month.

To order birds and notebooks, please:
  • Send an e-mail by December 15 to me at amy@amylv.com with STITCH in the subject line.
  • Include what you wish to order.  (Colors will be a surprise!)
  • Include your address.
  • Wait for an e-mail with information about mailing your check.

If you wish to make a donation of stitchery materials, gorgeous buttons, glass beads, or money to Stitch Buffalo, please let me know, and I will connect you with them.

You can learn more about Stitch Buffalo HERE.

You can learn more about our refugee population in Buffalo, NY HERE.  The family story of one Stitch Buffalo artisan is highlighted in this BUFFALO NEWS series from Fall 2016.

Thank you for being here for each other, for me, and for our good, beautiful world.

Love,
Amy
xo


This month I am grateful to have artist Tim Needles visiting my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  I've admired his work on Twitter for a while, and it's a treat to peek into his fabulous notebooks and to learn about his faith in process.  Don't miss.  (And there's a book giveaway for a commenter too!)

It is now Friday, and I would like to invite everyone over to this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  All are always welcome in this warm community of folks who love poems and people.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Find Ideas In Your Reading, Your Friends' Writing, Everywhere!






Students - I have been reading the book atop this post, THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.  It is a very beautiful book, all about a snail that keeps a Elisabeth company when she is very ill. Of course, the snail does not realize that it is good company...but it is.

This is an amazingly humble book, very gorgeous in its writing...yet about the smallest of creatures.  One we do not often think about.  The book is in my bloodstream now; I keep thinking about it.

So when it was time to write this week, I knew I would write about a snail.  But how?

Then, last night, I visited Laura Purdie Salas's Poetry Friday roundup, up early, to see what was going on.  I saw that she had written a terza rima, a form of poetry I have never attempted, one invented by Dante Alighieri, which he wrote in the 1300s.

All night long, I dreamt of rhymes, mostly "gastropod" and "odd."

All day long, I was busy doing not-writing things.  But the back of my mind kept thinking:  SNAIL...TERZA RIMA...

So, tonight, Poetry Friday Evening, I tried a terza rima myself.  And you just read it - "Snail."

You can read more about this form at The Poetry Foundation, but in short, notice these things:

1.  The poem is written in tercets (three line stanzas).
2.  Each line is in iambic pentameter (da DA da DA da DA da DA da DA).
3.  The first and third lines of each stanza rhyme..and they also rhyme with the second line in the next stanza.
4.  The final stanza is a couplet, with these last two lines rhyming with the second line from the second to last stanza.


This was a fun exercise, and I am so happy that I peeked ahead at Poetry Friday on Thursday evening as doing so gave me this idea from Laura.  I love trying new forms.  It feels like a brain stretch.

Do visit Elisabeth Tova Bailey's website to learn more about her experience.  You can even hear recordings of a snail eating!  And here is the book trailer for her magnificent book.


Remember, ideas for writing are all around us. This week I am especially grateful to Elisabeth for offering a content idea (snail) and to my friend Laura for offering a structure idea (terza rima).

This month I am glad to introduce you to artist and art teacher Tim Needles over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  I've admired his work on Twitter for a while, and it's a delight to peek into his fabulous notebooks and to learn about his faith in process.  Don't miss - and please leave a comment to be entered into a book giveaway.

Laura is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Writing the World for Kids. Enjoy all of the poetry fun over there. All are always welcome to all Poetry Friday parties!

Please share a comment below if you wish.