Friday, December 8, 2017

Whip Up a Recipe Poem!

by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem grew from our new snow outside and from a new habit I have of making lists of things that make me happy.  I keep these lists in my notebook. Here's a snip of one from earlier this week.  You can see it has a wintry theme because winter is now here in Western New York.

Happy List
by Amy LV

I have always found lists to be helpful jumping off points for writing poems.  And sometimes the lists turn INTO poems as in the one you read above.  You might wish to try to write a recipe poem sometime too.  It could be about anything: Recipe for Friendship, Recipe for Good Sleep, Recipe for Befriending Cats...who knows? Recipes are almost like magic spells, and poems are almost like magic spells too...

My wish for you this week is that you will find and make time for many small things that make you happy.  This is my own goal these days, to put down my electronics and to make applesauce, fold Froebel stars, and spend more time outside. The busier life gets, the more important I find these things to be.

Teachers - You can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @amylvpoemfarm.  In these places I share more bits and pieces of life, including interesting teaching links and photographs of The Poem Farm.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, you can find a very cool peek into Julie Patterson's notebooks. Leave a comment...and you just may win a book!

Lisa is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Steps and Staircases.  Please stop by if you'd like to visit many different blogs, all celebrating poetry.  We meet every week, and we welcome all!

Photo by Amy LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Let Words Inspire!

Can You Find the Drey?
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem started with the photo you see above.  I was walking to a local bakery to write, and I looked up to see squirrel nests in wintry trees.  I got to wondering, "Does a squirrel nest have a special name?" Lo and behold - it does.  A squirrel nest is indeed called a drey.  

Settled into the bakery, before I wrote, I read this book by Myra Cohn Livingston and many poets, I AM WRITING A POEM ABOUT...  This got me thinking even more about words.

Comfy at the Bakery
Photo by Amy LV

I have also been thinking about words because our daughter has been using her Word of the Day in a sentence each day. We have to guess when she uses it, and then she teaches us what it means!

One more reason my mind is full of words is that I adore this new book, THE LOST WORDS by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris.

Porcupette has one of my favorite words ever since I learned it from Joyce Sidman's beautiful book DARK EMPEROR AND OTHER POEMS OF THE NIGHT.

Image result for dark emperor indiebound

Orion is, at this moment, my favorite constellation.

As I was writing in a bakery, of course the word baguette popped into my mind.

The world changes, becomes a bit richer, each time I learn a new word.  New words offer new ways of thinking.  This is why those of you who know two or more languages are very fortunate.  You have more words with which to understand the world.

If you're not sure what to write about this week, think about words: new words, old words, favorite words, words you wonder about, words that open worlds to you.  A word, you see, is a window.

Over at my other online home, Sharing Our Notebooks, you can find a very cool peek into Julie Patterson's notebooks. Leave a comment...and you just may win a book!

Mary Lee Hahn is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Year of Reading.  This weekly gathering is a celebration of poems, and poem books and all things poetry, and everyone is always welcome...we welcome you to stop by on any Friday at all.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Write on the Day After a Big Day

This Morning
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I like holidays.  But I also like the days before and after holidays.  And I like thinking about and writing about the times before and after holidays too.  Sometimes I am reminded that any day can feel important.  For me, today is a quiet home day, a day to remember who I am and what matters most to me.  Today's poem celebrates being not-busy, and as I wrote it, I recommitted to gratitude and to trying to be a less busy person.  Today's poem is about the peace I feel inside when I just slow down.

Slowing down is good for writers.  It is good and healthy for all of us humans.  Cats too, I imagine.  

It is wonderful to host Julie Patterson and her notebooks over at Sharing Our Notebooks this month.  Please stop by my other online home and take a peek into her pages...leave a comment, and you may just win a book!

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Carol's Corner.  Please join us at her place for the weekly roundup and to celebrate a new book by Carole Boston Weatherford.  All are always welcome to join in Poetry Friday, a time for friends old and new to gather and share.

I am thankful for you.


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Be Ready for Characters to Appear

Ghost Gratitude
by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is in the spirit ('spirit!' - get it?) of the season...the whole season of autumn, rolling two holidays into one.  Earlier this month, sometime between the stretch of Halloween and Thanksgiving, this small sprite appeared in my mind, Sammy, the ghostie who loved Thanksgiving most of all.  I have more thoughts about Sammy, but today's poem was my first official meeting with him on paper.

Sometimes it's fun to turn something on its head a little bit.  You know, ghosts SHOULD favor Halloween ...but in a poem, a writer can flip such an idea around.  The ghost world of this poem is normal.  You know...sheets, ghost families, and all of that.  But this ONE thing is different - Sammy loves the wrong holiday best.

Such playfulness is not only plain fun for a writer, it's surprising for a reader too.  Sometimes writing can just allow a soul to take a little trip into a pretend land of the mind.  Everything doesn't have to be real in writing.  We can let our imaginations float a bit, even right through old stone walls if we wish.  I actually have a picture in my head of wee Sammy with a cranberry sauce stain on his sheet.  But that's for another day.

Did you notice the repetition in this poem, repetition of the words thank you and I love?  

Did you notice how I stretched out those last four lines of the poem? This is to slow readers' reading down toward the end, to emphasize the importance of death not being really final to this young ghost.

Pay attention.  Perhaps this week or sometime at the end of this calendar year, a curious character will walk right into your head.  If she or he does, jot down who it is.  Pay attention.  Your mind is creative; you just must pay attention to it.

Jane is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Raincity Librarian!  Jane is not only hosting for the first time today...but she is doing so from Osaka, Japan.  Please stop over, congratulate her on her new book WILD ONE....and take part in the poetry joy.  All are always welcome to join this gathering of poemlove and friendship.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Looking for Joy...Everywhere!

Students - It is good and wise to look for happiness.  To find small and big seek out stories of kindness and love and friendship and people and animals being their best selves.  Sometimes you find these by looking, and sometimes they come across your path.  This true storypoem you find here today came across my path in the form of news.  Good news does not always plop into your lap; sometimes you do have to look for it.  I got lucky here...the story of sweet Max and darling Quackers did plop right into lap!  And now, I plop it into yours!

When you read today's poem, you'll notice specifics, specifics such as the death of Quackers' friends, and even the name of the road that Max and Quackers walk along - Route 28.  These specifics all came straight from an article I read online; I did not invent them.  I could invent facts to make up my own story...but I did not do so in this case.  This is a straight storypoem retelling of a surprising friendship.

Writing it made me happy.

Find stories that make you happy. Find joy and goodness.  Look up from your screen.  That's where you'll find the best stuff.  Pass your good stories on.  Make up good stories.  We humans of all ages need and want to read them.

Teachers, through tonight, Heinemann is still holding a giveaway for 5 copies of my new POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads. If you're interested in the book, please try to win it.

It's a delight to welcome writer and professor Julie Patterson over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. I feel so lucky to get to peek into others' notebooks, and doing so has helped my own writer self find ideas and inspiration.  Please, teachers and students both, visit. You may also leave a comment to be entered into a book giveaway.

Jama is hosting week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Jama's Alphabet Soup with a delicious celebration of doughnuts. Yum indeed...all are welcome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Look Out Your Window & Snag a Line

Past, Present, Future
by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday, while I was driving home from teaching, I saw a beautiful red barn with a neat woodpile and also a yet-to-be stacked pile of wood.  I stopped to take a picture. See it below?

Scene from My Car Window
Photo by Amy LV

Well, I love red barns.  And I love woodpiles.  So this was a dreamy scene for me.  Later I got to thinking about the wood: how it used to be trees and how it will one day be just smoke and ash. Just like all of us - once not here, now here, one day gone. This line floated into my head: "When I see a pile of firewood..." I just followed that line and it led to a whole lot of other lines which ended up as this poem.

Pay attention when you go for drives.  Don't just hold a screen up to your face.  Really look out of the window and see what is there, the real objects and animals and buildings and humans and plants and skies and weather all around you. What do you love and wonder and think about?  Each one of these thoughts could be a wondrous starting-off point for a poem or a story or another piece of writing.

And listen.  Sometimes, if you're paying attention, a whole line will just pop into your head whole.  Snag and follow that line...see where it winds and leads.  Often, your words will surprise even yourself.

Last week here at The Poem Farm, we were lucky enough to hear from Kate Coombs, author of BREATHE AND BE. The publisher of this book, Sounds True, was generous enough to offer a giveaway to a commenter, and the winner is...Frank!  Congratulations!  Please send me a message with your snail mail address, and I will send it along to Kate so that the book can wing its way to you.

In other giveaway news, through next week, Heinemann is still holding a giveaway for 5 copies of my new POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads.

It's a delight to welcome a new poster over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Adjunct professor and writer-in-residence for the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers, Julie Patterson shares an inspiring peek into her pages, something to try, and a book giveaway too. Please visit that post, enjoy, and comment!

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Visit Linda for this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at her welcoming home, TeacherDance. Join us in feeling gratitude for the beauties of November.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Quiet Places, Breathing, Being, & Kate

Pin Oak at Heart Rock Farm
Photo by Amy LV

Handful of Generosity
Photo by Amy LV

Getting Flat in the Oxford English Dictionary
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today I am happy to welcome my friend Kate Coombs, author of BREATHE AND BE: A BOOK OF MINDFULNESS POEMS illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen.  As I read Kate's beautiful words, looked at Anna's gorgeous pictures, and thought about my mindfulness class, I realized that this book could not come at a more magical time in my life.  

Reading Kate's invitation, I was moved to write a tanka-like poem myself.  I will now hand the baton to her for the teaching about this ancient Japanese form.  It is Kate who brought me back to this pin oak in my mind, Kate who helped me quiet myself and remember this place and moment from earlier this week.  I am grateful.

Welcome, Kate!  Would you please tell us about the tanka form and about your new book?

Writing Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems

Poems by Kate Coombs
Illustrations by Anna Emilia Laitinen

Writing a book about mindfulness wasn’t really my idea! My editor friend worked for a small publisher that was starting to do children’s books about yoga. She asked me if I would like to write a picture book about feelings or mindfulness. I said I would try. I was curious about the idea of mindfulness and started googling it to see what it was. I found out I liked it, but I wasn’t sure how to describe it for kids. What should I do?

When in doubt, try writing a poem. Because mindfulness is an idea from Asia, I thought I would use an Asian poetry form. But haiku seemed too short to me. Maybe tanka would work, though I didn’t know much about it.

So I googled tanka, too. I learned that tankas came before haiku in Japanese history and eventually turned into haiku. A tanka was similar to a haiku, but with more room for saying what I had to say. I decided to write a collection of tankas about mindfulness for kids. Most of them would be about nature since I had experienced mindfulness myself in nature.

I studied mindfulness some more. I read articles and books. I watched videos on YouTube. Then I started writing poems. I knew I had to write extra poems so my editor would have choices. I am sorry to say that the poem about taking a big bite of an apple did not make it into the book. But a lot of other poems did. This is a poem from the first draft:

My thoughts jump around,
bouncing and jouncing like balls—
I call them all back,
shaping them into one ball
that rests quiet in my hand.

Of course, after I wrote drafts of the poems I revised each poem over and over until it was just right. And then my editor made suggestions, so I revised the poems again. And again! This is how the poem above turned out:

How I rush rush rush!
Thoughts flutter and dart like birds.
Slow down, thoughts.
Come quietly with me.
There is time to breathe and be.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Pretty different, huh? But I’ll bet you can see how the idea stayed the same even as the images changed.

Here, I’ll share two more poems from the book with you. They’re both about having a quiet place.

There’s a quiet place
in my head like an egg hidden
in a nest. A place
I go when the world is loud.
A moss-green forest with birds.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

I see myself
by the ocean, toes touching sand,
fingers finding a shell
at the edge of blue water.
Where is your quiet place?

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Now picture a quiet place that’s just for you. It can be one of your favorite places you’ve been to, like a beautiful place you went camping, a park you like, or even your own bedroom. It can be a place from your imagination. But it needs to have good details, and it should be peaceful.

Are you ready to write your own quiet place tanka? Start by making a list of words and phrases to describe your quiet place in a way that paints a picture. Then turn the best things from the list into lines for a tanka. The syllable pattern in a tanka goes like this: 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. Or just think “short, long, short, long, long.” Note that unlike me, you don’t need any lines saying “quiet place.” You can just describe it.

Once you’ve created a quiet place for yourself, you can picture it whenever you’re feeling upset or worried. Pretend you are there. Breathe slowly and deeply while you picture it, and see if you feel a little better. That’s what a quiet place is for, to help you feel the peace and awareness that is mindfulness.


Thank you so much, Kate, for joining us today!  And thank you, Sounds True, for offering a giveaway to a commenter on this post.  Please comment by next Thursday, November 2 at 11pm to be entered into a givaway to win a copy of BREATHE AND BE.

Congratulations to Cynthia J. Iannaccone for winning my book birthday giveaway for POEMS ARE TEACHERS.  Thank you, Heinemann, for offering the book, and Cynthia, please think about the cookies you would like.  There is also a new giveaway (5 copies!) for POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads and an interview and giveaway at Two Writing Teachers.

Too - don't miss the Halloween poems in the sidebar!  Please help yourself to those poem treats.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Visit Brenda for this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Friendly Fairy Tales, and you will meet a mysterious poetic creature.