Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Poems

Today is Memorial Day, a day for us to remember those who gave their lives in war, a day to feel grateful, a day to honor, a day to cherish.  You can find three sad-beautiful poems for Memorial Day at Kate Coombs' blog, Book Aunt:  "Medals", "November 5, 1917", and "Before the War".  At Charles Ghinga's Father Goose blog, you can read a haunting poem titled "Baseball Dreams".  I read these four poems on Friday and found myself thinking about them on and off throughout our family's weekend camping trip.

I offer these two poems today, in honor and memory of those who lost their lives in service of our country.

Today at The Writer's Almanac, you can read a poem titled "Memorial Day" by Dennis Caraher.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

MyPoWriYe #60 - My Horse and I

 Hope and Thunder
Photo by Eileen Thompson

This will be the third summer that our children and I spend two weeks at  Sprucelands English Horseback Riding Camp in Java Center, NY.  I help with crafts, work in the kitchen, and enjoy campers both day and night as they experience all kinds of old-fashioned fun under our wise director, Eileen Thompson.  Sprucelands has taught me to appreciate the bond between horse and rider, and each year I am reminded how a good summer camp will create lasting friendships within days.

This poem was fun to write as I liked bringing in the four elements and playing with the water/flame/earth/sky imagery.  After writing the last stanza, I rearranged the first four so that they would line up properly for the ending.

Students - it is exciting to write about becoming something else.  New worlds appear when we allow ourselves to appear new too.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

MyPoWriYe #59 - The boy said,

We're new to the world of childhood athletics, so sometimes I ask questions of my friends with older children .  Last weekend, my friend Debbie told me that her son works as an umpire.  He loves the game, enjoys children, works outside, and makes good money in a short time.  The only problem?  Parents.  Some teen umpires end up calling games or even quitting their jobs because of angry and out-of-control parents.

Georgia Heard, in her inspiring book Awakening the Heart, teaches us to write about our concerns. 

If you are a coach, know a coach, or have children playing sports, you might find this article by Bruce Lambin about How to Handle Parents useful.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Poetry Friday & MyPoWriYe # 58

When I taught fifth grade, our class studied light each year.  Every group had a cardboard box with holes at the end, a light bulb inside, color filters, and prisms.  We'd follow a series of experiments, and then we just played around.  Much of our learning came from this playing around, and I still think about the beauty of invisible colors becoming visible through a prism.  This idea got me reflecting on how poetry makes the invisible visible too!

Today I feel fortunate to welcome teacher Faith Catarella and her fifth graders from Pinehurst Elementary in Lakeview, NY, with a few of their poems.  In these you will notice serious work toward imagery, careful meter, and a stretch-of-self-and-words, just what we hope for.

by Emily Scarsella

I feel the grass tickling my toes
I see the kids playing in the open field
I smell the smoke from the burning fire
I taste the gushy burnt s'more
I feel the fire's warmth tickle my toes
I see the stars sparkle in the night
I hear the parents talking by the fire
I hear the birds peep good night

No Matter
by Zachary Morrisey 

A dream is a dream, no matter how you dream.
An eye is an eye, no matter what is seen.

A dog is a dog, no matter how it barks.
A pen is a pen, no matter how it marks.

A fire is a fire, no matter how it burns.
A job is a job, no matter how it earns.

A plant is a plant, no matter how it grows.
A day is a day, no matter how it goes.

A dream is a dream, no matter how you dream.
An eye is an eye, no matter what is seen.

by Nicholas Damstetter

Feel the coldness of his breath,
And prepare yourself for your death.

He'll bite a strong bite on the neck,
Even while relaxing on your deck.

They come around every night,
So be prepared for all its might.

You're never safe, even at home,
Especially at night when you're alone.

For the Vampires will come at night,
So be prepared for all their might.

Here are a some poetry teaching tips from fifth grade teacher Faith Catarella:

1.  The room needs to be silent so that the students can go off into their own worlds and focus on their subjects.
2.  The students must feel comfortable with their abilities.  They must know that poetry doesn't have to rhyme to be good. (They get stuck on rhyming poetry.)
3.  It helps to use mentor poems as models for students' writing.

One strategy that I use to help students generate ideas is to have everyone sit in a circle and say one thing that they could write about.  While we do this, all students hold their writer's notebooks on their laps.  When they hear ideas they like or ideas that trigger other ideas, they write.  For example, I might start with something simple like "ice cream" to show the students we can think simply.  We go around the circle about three times, and then they go off to write.  The students will say anything and everything!  Their lists are huge!

Thank you so much, Faith and class, for sharing your work and ideas with us here today.  I continue to welcome teachers and students with poetry or thoughts to share.  Simply leave your information in the comments if you would like your classroom poets and poetry work to be featured here on a future Poetry Friday.

Since it's baseball season, here's a neat picture book version of Ernest L. Thayer's great poem Casey at the Bat.   This 2001 Caldecott Honor Book was illustrated by Christopher Bing.

If you have not visited Wild Rose Reader this week, do check out Elaine's fantastic list of Children's Books for Summer Reading

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Hop on over there for the full roundup of poetry in the blogosphere today.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

MyPoWriYe #57 - I Want to Ask My Teacher

My mother used to tell me the story of her own mother, also a teacher.  Back in the 1950s, students loved my Grandma Florence.  But they were curious about things.  One day, Grandma walked in the ladies room of her school.  As she opened the door, she heard a student exclaim, "You mean teachers go to the bathroom?!"  This little story is one that I've heard and thought about many times, especially as my mother was a teacher and I was a fifth grade teacher who now teaches writing.  Old family stories, the ones we hear and tell over and over again are deep wells for writing topics.

Students - what stories does your family tell?  Can you remember old stories about you or stories that took place before you were born?  Stories are the glue that holds a family together.  Stories help us know ourselves and our memories through the years.  A poem about an old family story may keep that story alive for another generation.

I always share poems with our children, and Georgia gave me a line for this poem, the line wondering if the teacher has a first name.  Thank you, Gigi!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to our Georgia! - Poem #56

Today is the tenth birthday of our little Georgia.

 Georgia - Baptism in 2000

Georgia - Wedding in 2003

 Georgia - Wagon Train in 2007

Georgia - Softball in 2010

Thinking about this special day in our family, I realize that it is also meaningful for many people we will never meet.  Children all over the world will be born today, animals will see  sunshine for the first time, and buds will burst open at last.  This is a day to celebrate, and I feel so lucky that Georgia is ours!  Happy birthday Sweetie!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MyPoWriYe #55 - Bonfire (two versions)

Yesterday, I again had the opportunity to work with fifth and sixth graders at Caledonia-Mumford Central Schools.  Together with teachers Katrina Hatch, Courtney Monahan, Kyle Leonard, and Deborah Bussewitz, we are studying and writing poetry about the local area as a part of a larger project, Buy Local Build a Future where each project hosts its own blog.  Soon, poems by these students will be bound into books and read along with music from Kyle's student ukulele players.  

As part of our book-making project, students will colorize photographs of the area and are also welcome to draw or paint scenes from their hometown to go along with the poems.  We will share copies of these anthologies with the school libraries, public library, local museums, and maybe even a town diner.  Spending this morning in the Big Springs Museum, I found part of myself wishing to be from Caledonia-Mumford too!

Somehow today, these students and I began talking about building bonfires.  At our home, Henry is in charge of this cookout-chore, and when I said so, one fifth grade boy said, "Sometimes I get to light the match."  I could not stop thinking about his words today, for with great responsibility comes new learning.  I believe that such rites of passage may be more valuable than we know.

Here is a second version of the same poem.  The first is the original, but this morning I got to playing with line breaks to see how it might work as a concrete poem.  I'd be interested in hearing which one you like better.  Sometimes concrete poems feel forced to me, and I'm not sure yet which of these I prefer.

This week, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect offers us the challenge of math poems.  My poem is in the comments...about four leaf clovers.  Feel free to post your own math poem over on this week's "Monday Poetry Stretch".

Thank you, Garrison Keillor at The Writer's Almanac, for informing us that today is the birthday of poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Roethke.  Let their spirits guide us all...

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Monday, May 24, 2010

MyPoWriYe #54 - Poem for Two Voices

I have always enjoyed reading poems for two voices, poems like the ones in Paul Fleischman's book Joyful Noise.  And while this poem began with a back-and-forth structure, it was only as I kept writing that I imagined it as being read by two people.  The ending was the trickiest part, trying to put those voices together.

If you have never read a poem for two voices, it is like a see saw.  Two people take turns with the different sides, alternating lines.  If the two parts are written directly across from each other, both people read them at the exact same time, expressing two different thoughts in the air at once.  It was fun to experiment with this kind of writing.

I am a mother now, but we moms don't always feel like adults.  Sometimes we remember exactly what it felt like to be children, and how some grown up answers did not make sense at all. 

This poem may have sprung from Georgia's question on Saturday.  As soon as we left the driveway for a 4-H event, she asked, "How much longer?"

Here are a few titles with poems for two voices.  Or four! 


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This book by Georgia Heard includes two poems for two voices.
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If anyone out there tries writing a poem for two voices and would like to share, please let me know.  It'd be fun to feature a few of these.  Of if you have favorite books to add to the list above, please do tell!

Last week, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect focused her "Monday Poetry Stretch" on colors.  She posted the submissions yesterday, and my brown poem is cuddled in with the other colorful poems.

'Waiting for more lambs...

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

MyPoWriYe # 53 - Birth Announcement

Yesterday we had two surprise babies here!  Mark went out to check on the sheep, and low and behold...NaRae was in labor.  No sooner had Mark set up a good nursery than NaRae's second lamb was already born.  Welcome to little Abbott (ram) and Costella (ewe), named in honor of a very busy baseball/softball season for Henry and Georgia.  Now we just need to wait to see if Nora and Rainbow are pregnant...

 New Icelandics Abbott & Costella
(Born May 22, 2010)
Photo by Georgia V.

If you are wondering why we don't know when our sheep are pregnant, it is because they are so very woolly that it is nearly impossible to tell. 

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Winner & #52 - Breeder's Promise

And now...the winner of the 50-Poem celebration drawing for Eileen Spinelli's book Feathers:  Poems about Birds is...Deb, from Rochester, NY!  Congratulations, Deb.  I will deliver the book to your school within the next couple of weeks.

Sleeping Cali Puppy
(Part Border Collie/Part Labrador Retriever?)
Photo by Amy LV 

Sometimes poems grow just from a pair of rhyming words, and this is what happened here.  Driving this evening, I got thinking about the words "retriever" and "believe her".  Then I just started playing around.  Our Cali is supposed to be part retriever, but none of us are quite sure about that.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Poetry Friday - Poem #51 & Drawing

Maple Helicopters
Photo by Amy LV

To celebrate 50 days of nonstop poems here at The Poem Farm, I am holding a drawing for Eileen Spinelli's lovely book Feathers:  Poems about Birds.   To enter,  please leave a comment on yesterday's or today's post indicating your city, state/province, and country. (I'm curious as to where you are all from!)  All commenting names from yesterday's and today's comments will go into a hat.  The winner will be drawn at midnight and announced tomorrow morning.  Teachers - you are welcome to enter on behalf of your classes.

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Laura at Writing the World for Kids.  Head on over there to see the whole poetry roundup for this week.  And while you're there, you might want to check out Laura's "15 Words or Less" challenge for this week.  It's a funny photograph!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two Poems & 50th Day Book Drawing

When I was in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade in the 1970s, I went to a Catholic school in Vestal, NY, named Our Lady of Sorrows School.  We learned to care about people there (you can read about teacher Mr. Fron over in the left column of WBFO commentaries), and we were taught to say a "Hail Mary" prayer whenever we saw or heard a racing ambulance.  Somehow, waiting in the hardware store parking lot for my husband to come out with new pipe fittings, this old wisdom from my childhood teachers came to mind.

Students - can you think of something you have been told to do by a parent, a teacher, a friend?  Maybe it's something you agree with, and you always do it.  Maybe it's something you disagree with, and you never do it.  No matter - advice from others is poetry food.

Here is another poem, written during my son's baseball game last night. Where did it come from?  I don't know.  Maybe it came from the starlings nesting in our roof.

Today is Day #50 of my poem-a-day-for-a-year project.  To celebrate, I am holding a drawing for Eileen Spinelli's lovely poetry book, Feathers: Poems about Birds

If you leave a comment today or tomorrow, with your city, state/province, and country, you will be in the running to win this book.  The winning name will be drawn Friday at midnight and announced on Saturday morning.  Teachers are welcome to enter on behalf of your classes.  I'm curious to know who and where you are...

Here on Day 50, I'd also like to thank all of you who have shared The Poem Farm with your colleagues or friends - I'm grateful!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

MyPoWriYe #49 - Rose Seller

During my year living in NYC (1994-1995), a few images stood out.  This is one.  I cannot count the times that I have re-seen the corner flower shops in my mind, puddles of petals on the ground, roses for sale.

Students - we all have images that pop into our minds here and again.  An image may be beautiful, frightening, quiet, haunting, humorous, sad...  Images are pictures, and in my own poetry, I have often felt that image-capturing is where I need the most work.  "Rose Seller" is me trying to take a quick and lovely photograph with words. 

One of my favorite poems about petals is X.J. Kennedy's poem "Blow-Up" which you can find in this lovely book about the Earth, The Earth is Painted Green.  Another is Ezra Pound's "In a Station at the Metro" which you can read at

Poetry is a dance.  As poets we work to broaden and deepen our ideas, strengthen our sense of structure, play with word sound and meaning, and sculpt scenes with images.  We mess around with line breaks, punctuation, and titles, pulling new words in and kicking old words out.  It's like rearranging the furniture over and over - joyfully!

What images come across the screen of your mind, like flashes, by surprise?  You may not be able to think of one now, but tune yourself to awareness to be ready when an image arises.  Capture it, and set it free in a poem.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MyPoWriYe #48 - Gum for Free

Yesterday I wrote about how ideas are inside all of us, how we just need to climb ladders to pick them.  'Strange thing is that you never know where those ladders will end up.  When my family read this verse, one child said, "That's gross!"  One said, "I love that poem!"  And one just rolled her eyes heavenward, shaking her head with pity. 

This week over at The Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch invites us to write poems about colors.  You can read the offerings (and add one of your own) in the comments.  I wrote and sent a poem about the color brown.  

Why brown?  Well, once while driving down a highway, looking out at the fields, my husband told me how much he loves the color brown.  At first I was surprised, but ever since that day I have come to see beautiful browns in all of nature.  Especially this time of year, Western New York is full of old cornstalks and freshly-plowed fields.  Thank you, Mark, for opening my eyes yet again.

Speaking of gorgeous colors, this classic 1973 book by Arnold Adoff, the first children's book to celebrate an interracial family, takes joy in all human colors through one family's deep  love.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

MyPoWriYe #47 - Ideas & Draft Sharing

Sometimes when we sit down to write, it feels as if there is nothing to write about.  All of the good ideas have been used up, life just isn't so interesting at the moment, or maybe we're plain tired.  After 47 days of a poem each day, I can honestly say that through trust and with risk, an idea will always come.

Students - if you find yourself staring at a blank piece of paper for more than five minutes, it may be too long.  Just start writing any old thing...let one thing lead to another...and off you go.  Don't plan to write perfect words.  Just write!

Messy Drafts for "Ideas"

Here you can see the pages that led to the poem "Ideas (like peaches)",  above.  I began by writing about goodbyes, moved to writing about names and maps, wrote almost a whole poem about teatime, and then finally stayed with this idea poem.  

When I write, I feel like a dog getting ready to sleep, circling around herself three times.  Settling, settling, settling, settled.  How is writing for you?  Take some time today to talk with your writing friends about how you get started and what keeps you going.  Half of writing is knowing ourselves and knowing how to keep ourselves working and getting wordswordswords on the page.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

MyPoWriYe # 46 - Private Concert

Living in New York City from 1994-1995, (Claremont, near 125th & Broadway), I loved the proximity of people, the sounds and smells of others' lives all around.  These days, the noises I hear at home all come from family or nature.  Sometimes I remember those surprise sounds of other souls living so near, and I miss the mystery and human closeness.
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

MyPoWriYe #45 - My Zike


Our eight-year-old son, Henry, has fantastic balance and quickly progressed to fewer and fewer bicycle wheels.  He's currently at the unicycle stage, and this brought up a question - what's next?
Through Years of Wheels
 Photos by Amy LV





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Friday, May 14, 2010

Poetry Friday & MyPoWriYe #44 - Bridge

                                  "Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
                                   There is no happiness like mine.
                                   I have been eating poetry."
                                   Mark Strand
                                  (Reasons for Moving)

Today I would like to recommend two poetry anthologies from Garrison Keillor.  In addition to sharing a daily poem and highlights at National Public Radio's The Writer's Almanac, in addition to his radio show Prairie Home Companion, in addition to novels and joke books...these two anthologies are solid, real, human.  I have consulted Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times over and over when seeking "just the right poem" for a person, happy occasion or difficult time.  Each time I open these pages to poems such as Mary Oliver's "When Death Comes", I am reminded that poetry is a life-teacher.


As Poem #44 of my quest to write and post a new children's poem each day for a year, this one comes from a simple and oh-so-satisfying activity of childhood:  building a rock bridge.

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup.  If you click your heels on over there, you will find many interesting links to poetry in the kidlitosphere today.

If you are a regular reader here and would be willing to pass The Poem Farm's address along to a friend, post it on your own website, or join on as a follower, I would be very grateful.  If you do, please let me know so that I can thank you properly.

Happy Poetry Friday!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two Friendship Poems for Day #43

No matter who we are, our friends and family will go through difficult times.  We may not know what to say or how to help, especially when the sadness is deep and wide.  I have come to believe that a kind, quiet, and steady presence is sometimes all we can offer.

It's chilly-rainy here now, but the weeks are creeping toward summer.  This has me thinking about summer friends, those people you know for a brief time but who stay in your heart and journal forever.

Students - fleeting feelings are often good writing topics.  Listen to your heart's rumblings for flashes of understanding and memory, take out a pen, and go.

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