Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sometimes When I Write - MyPoWriYe #91

Last evening, feeling quietly panic-stricken, I whispered to my daughter Hope, "I don't know what to write about."

She looked at me with a mischievous look in her eye and said, "Just start you always say to do."

Students - Writing can be scary territory for many of us.  Those blank notebook pages stare up from our desks, almost daring us to make a mark.  We stare back, sometimes unsure.  One way to get through that unsure feeling is simply to write right through it, to write anything.  The writing gods do come through...maybe not every single day.  But if we do our part, eventually they do theirs.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My hic! Ninetieth hic! Poem - Hic! Why?

Our poor daughter Georgia...she inherited my childhood hiccups.  As a little girl, I'd get hiccups that seemed to last forever.  Frequently.  Not only did it drive me crazy, it drove my family crazy too.

Now, you are surely wondering who had the longest case of hiccups ever.  You're in the right place - it was Charles Osborne of Iowa whose hiccups lasted for 68 years.  He still holds the world's record.

Unlike me as a child, Georgia has discovered the "sugar cure" for her hiccups.  When the hiccups come (and they do), she asks for a "spoonful of sugar".  Here's Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) with the classic song, "A Spoonful of Sugar" along with lyrics. This song is even available as a cell phone ring tone...what would Mary Poppins have thought about that?

Here are some other hiccup remedies, but our Gigi swears by sugar.  Or maybe she just likes sugar.

Students - we all have our quirks.  Everyone has strange little habits or birthmarks or noises or scars or bodily functions gone crazy.  There's a lot of writing material buried in these quirks.  What's one of yours?  (If you don't know, ask your family.  They'll tell you!)

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Monday, June 28, 2010

MyPoWriYe #89 - Lilac Fort

A Lilac Spot
Photo by Amy LV

When I was a little girl, we had a row of lilac bushes along the edge of our yard.  I used to crawl in between bushes into hollows between branches.  There I would sit, think, daydream, and fold and tear lilac leaves into snowflakes.  

Small secret places such as these are treasure boxes...for children and adults too.  Just yesterday we visited friends who are building a new house.  In this big new home, a small office tucked itself behind a door, just enough space to be alone to think and dream.

Students - do you have a secret place?  Or a cozy spot?  If so, it might be a fine writing place. It might also be a fine idea to write about!

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poem #88 Today! - Breakfast for Dinner

Good morning, Mag!  Where do you live?

This week, our family found a surprise on our front porch.  My mother sent us a Belgian waffle maker!  So now we will be able to make fat waffles and smother them in strawberries and whipped cream, all in the comfort of our own home.  Thank you, Mom!

Breakfast for dinner is a big hit at our house.  I could make six fancy dinners in a row (this would actually never happen), and if we had cereal on day seven...everyone would cheer.  There is something happy and cozy about breakfast foods.

I thought I'd poke around in Google-land to see if there was anything interesting to find about breakfast for dinner, and I found something amazing.  22, 166 people like "Breakfast for Dinner" on Facebook.  Isn't that funny?

Students - writing about favorite things is fun and easy too.  We can make lists of all kinds of favorites: foods, pieces of clothing, games, songs,  animals, books, ice cream flavors...  Then we can jump from any point on any list into a poem, essay, or story.

Back to food, this week I plan to make a chocolate chip coffee cake.  I'll also try to make the breakfast pizza at the top of this list of "Ten Ways to Eat Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)".

In our house, one favorite "brinner" is the puffy pancake from this cookbook by Ann Hodgman which is as funny as it is recipe-good.  If you like garlic pretzels, Ann's recipe is super.

What is YOUR family's favorite breakfast for dinner?  Write it in the comments below, and you'll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of this hilarious book that has nothing to do with poetry or writing...just food.  The drawing will be held on Thursday, July 1.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Problem Solved - Poem #87

On the ground this evening, mosquitoes were nibbling on us.  In the air, bats circled, eating on high.  I could I make those bats work for me?

Students - What little things make you crazy?  If you choose one imagine all of the ways you could make it funny, you just may have the start to a poem.  Or a story.  Or a comic.  Or even an invention!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Poetry Friday & MyPoWriYe #86 - Listening

This is number five in a Friday series of "Poems about Poems".

Teachers - if you are interested in exploring how poetry can help yu teach students about organization and structure in writing, I have an article up today at Two Writing Teachers about this very topic.  If you try anything from the article, please let me know as I am very interested in what you discover and think.

The June 2010 Carnival of Children's Literature is over at Lee Wind's  I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the H... do I read?  As Lee says, "A carnival is a collection of posts about children's books: book reviews, interviews, stories from parents and teachers about their adventures with books, peeks into the studios of children's books and illustrators and more."  Visiting the carnival will introduce to new blogs that interest you.

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Amy over at The Art of Irreverence.  Take a trip over there to see what is happening in the world of poetry blogs today.

Next week, Poetry Friday will be right here at The Poem Farm.  I'll get the iced tea ready.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

#85 - That Lady (She lives inside our GPS...)

This poem is weirder than yesterday's poem about the last day of school.  Just a warning.

Students -  Have you ever felt like something is true, but you know it really isn't?  Well, I feel like there really is a person inside every GPS.  We don't have a GPS, but every time I'm near one I want to open it and let the person out for a little walk.  Who IS that person?

Well, I am not the first one to wonder about this.  In fact, on GPS Blog, I found a link to an article in the Houston Chronicle pages about the real human voice behind Garmin's "Australian-English Karen".   She's really an Australian singer named Karen Jacobsen, and people tell her she's like "one of the family".  Strange, no?

It turns out that there all sorts of unusual voices you can purchase for a GPS system.  You can even program your own voice to direct you around town with Garmin Voice Studio.

Teachers - tomorrow The Poem Farm visits Two Writing Teachers with an article about how poetry can help us understand and learn about organization and structure.  Please stop by if you're interested in this topic.

Happy summer!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Last Day of School - MyPoWriYe #84

Here in New York State, many schools end their 2009-2010 year today.  This poem is for you - students, teachers, and parents too.

For me, a new school year always meant fresh new school supplies.  By June, those supplies were tattered and pretty-near used up.  But my mind was one year shinier and smarter, even though the paper was gone and my metal lunchbox was dented.

Students - this is a list poem.  It's almost a check-off list of what's happened to what during the year.  This is an interesting way to organize a poem, by a list.  Just choose a topic and think of lists you might make around that topic.!

Summer is here, but The Poem Farm will continue to grow.  Please know, students, that I welcome you to stop by during the summer.  And here's a fun reading project for you (and your teachers).  My daughter Georgia and I would like to recommend Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook, by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter.  Georgia's ten, and this is her favorite book about writing.  For two great reviews, read what Stacey has to say at Two Writing Teachers and Kate's words at Book Aunt.

You can visit the authors' blogs (chock full of ideas and tips) at Anne's Journal and Ellen's Journal.  These two authors even have a website for the book.  Check it out here.

Partway through reading Spilling Ink, Georgia stopped to write this poem.  She didn't revise a word, and I just typed it when she came to me with her spiral.  A poetry book review was born...

Who Would Write?

Who would write
Instead of read?
The writers have written for you.
They've got all the ideas.
They've got all the plots.
They have all the stuff
that I haven't got.

But why would I read?
Why couldn't I write
my own?
They don't have to write for me.
I've got ideas too.
I also have plots.
So why write?
Why not?

Georgia VanDerwater

Happy summer to you all!  If you're down under, a happy winter to you!  I hope that wherever you are, you keep visiting throughout the next few months.  I do so like having you here.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Once and Someday - Poem #83

Today's poem is in memory of Steve and in honor of his family. 

Writing poems can help us say goodbye.  Even when the people we lose can't read our words, writing can help us heal and make sense of life somehow.

Others' words can also provide us comfort. Eknath Easwaran's book, Words to Live By, has helped me for twenty years, and now offers the "thought for the day" online.  Today's thought goes along with this poem, and you can read it here.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

MyPoWriYe #82 - Summer Morning

First I would like to say hello to any classrooms of students who are following along here. Yesterday I received a lovely e-mail from fourth grade teacher Kristie Miner from the Whitney Point Central School District in Whitney Point, NY.  She said, "I start out every morning by projecting your daily poem on our Smart Board, and then when we gather, students volunteer to read it's inspiring us to embrace poetry, both as readers and writers."

Students in Miss Miner's class:  I will now think about you each midnight as I sit at our table with little pads of paper and a black pen!  Thank you for reading; you are why I'm here.

Now, about today's poem.  This past Friday, we went to a bonfire at our friends' home.  In the yard, attached ever-so-intricately to the chains of a swing, glistened a perfect spiderweb.  Once again, I fell in love.  (I always fall in love with spiderwebs, don't you?)  It had to be a poem. 

Students - you may have noticed that today is Monday, but I saw the web on Friday.  That's because sometimes it takes a few days for something to work its way into a poem or a piece of writing.  The idea and the words have to settle inside you a little bit.  

Yesterday these words settled in as our family watched a Buffalo Bisons game in downtown Buffalo, NY.  As is the case lately, I had a little pad of paper on my lap and just jotted words as they came into mind.  Mostly I watched the game, but the whole first stanza came while washing my hands in the bathroom.  

So much of writing is getting (and trusting) an idea, and this is something we can do all of the time.   Watching a game, playing piano, eating our least favorite meal, hugging our we do these things, we can think, "Hmmmm...what could I write/paint/draw/sing/make out of this?"  Creativity.  

Today put yourself on lookout.  Not for what you'll write today, but for what you'll write tomorrow or the next day or the next day.  And tomorrow, tell your friends in class what you have been noticing in the world, what just might be good ideas for writing or other arts.

If you, too, love wet spiderwebs and would like to learn to photograph them well, this Digital Photography School site will give you 11 tips for How to Photograph a Spider's Web.

Teachers - Professor Sylvia Vardell, over at Poetry for Children, has a wonderful post up this week titled "The Poetry of Science".  Here you will find book recommendations and fabulous ideas for marrying science with poetry, two disciplines that require both curiosity, close observation, and attention to detail.  

This summer I will continue to write poems and offer ideas and book recommendations to student (and adult) poets.  If any teacher-readers would like a poetry-bookmark with the  The Poem Farm's address for your students, please send me an e-mail to amy at amylv dot com.  I will send a printable page with three bookmarks to your inbox.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day - #81 - Homemade

Happy Father's Day to all fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, men-who-step-up-to-the-plate, mothers who serve as both mom and dad, and all men who love the children of this world.

My own father would like to make a poetic offering for today as well.  He says, "Dads aren't fads."

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

#80 - I Am the Batter & Ripple Sketches

Holland's "8 and Under" All Stars
Photo by Amy LV

Last night was one good game for the Holland "8 & Under All Stars".  Watching these young boys play baseball, I feel my own blood rush with excitement, and the drama of one-batter-at-a-time keeps families and friends happily hopping and cheering.  After yesterday's game ended, my friend Bonnie asked, "Why don't you write a poem about THIS?"  Thank you, Bonnie...I did!

Students - We all have things that work us up.  For good or bad, nervous or excited...big emotions stir the spirit.  And from this spirit-soup, poems rise as steam.  So watch and listen to yourself.  If you get all worked up about something, know that others probably do too.  Therein lies your poem-connection.  This is what both readers and writers hope for: a connection.

Now, for something completely different and important.  Yesterday, many thanks to Toby Speed's Twitter post, I learned about Ripple Sketches.  Artist Kelly Light has come up with one way to support helping the animals in the gulf.  She has invited artists to create and donate small works of art.  Her blog, Ripple Sketches, explains:

"Each sketchcard on this blog is $10.00. The $10.00 is a donation to help the animal victims of the Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil Spill. Every penny is donated. The two Non-Profits that are benefiting are The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You can purchase a card if you donate directly to one of the non-profits and email me the confirmation and your address to The artist will mail you the signed card."

Yesterday I "bought" two small and exquisite works of art, and you can see them at Cathy Delanssay's  Goutte de rosee and at Shirley Ng-Benitez's Shirley's Illustrations.  I encourage to you visit Ripple Sketches and join in this well-planned, good-hearted, and artistic effort.  It is sad and inspiring to look at these lovely sketchcards, all donated by generous artists.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Poetry Friday & Poem #79 - Stay Awhile

Today is a beautiful Poetry Friday, with so much to share.  First, I feel fortunate to give you this poem by Emily Hoock of Pinehurst Elementary in Lakeview, NY.  Emily is second grade, and she is lucky to have Becky Carlson as her teacher.  Becky says, "I put a community journal next to our nature area (tadpoles, nests, butterflies, etc.).  The kids love writing in it, and one student wrote a very touching poem about one of our butterflies that died."   Thank you to Emily for allowing us to feel what you felt when you wrote these words:


Nice warm creature
In the wind
On a flower
The butterfly is dead
All alone in heaven
In Mother Nature's heart

by Emily Hoock
Grade 2

Teacher Becky continues, "One of my favorite things we do in writing is poetry centers.  Georgia Heard's book, Awakening the Heart, has lots of great poetry center ideas.  We spend the first week of our poetry unit doing centers to explore different aspects of poetry.  The kids listen to poetry, search for beautiful language in books, play with words, paint their favorite poetry image, and make observations and comparisons with items from nature.  These centers really spark the students' enthusiasm for writing poetry."

Thank you, Becky and Emily, for your willingness to inspire us here today.  I invite you to leave Emily a comment on her poem.

For the past few weeks, my Poetry Friday poems have been all about poems.  Last week's poem was inspired by kitten Ashley (who gets a home today) with "Here, Poem!"  The week before, I posted a poem about poems talking together, "Poems Talk".  And the week before that brought "Science is Like Writing".  Today this month-long tradition continues.

Yesterday's mailbox held a treat...a galley copy of Lee Bennett Hopkins' Dizzy Dinosaurs which happily includes my poem, "Bathtime".  Below is a sneak peek into this funny book. Illustrator Barry Gott said it was "a hoot to paint", and it's a hoot to read too.  Thank you, Lee, for this opportunity.

Preview from Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems
a HarperCollins I Can Read! book coming in Spring 2011
Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins & illustrated by Barry Gott 
(Thank you, Barry, for permission to share this artwork.)

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth over at Two Writing Teachers.  Mosey on over there for a taste of all things poetic in the children's literature blogosphere.

If you read here regularly, I would be grateful if you would share The Poem Farm's address with any friends, teachers, college professors, or families who you think would be interested.  I am trying to spread the word and am appreciative of any help.

Happy Poetry Friday!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Econd-say Anguage-lay - MyPoWriYe #78

As a relatively new daily poem-writer, I appreciate little tips and ideas thrown my way.  Some of you may have noticed that I usually participate in Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch at her fabulous blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect.  I usually really enjoy that.  Well, wait until you see what she proposed this week.  You can check it out here and learn all about Macaronic verse for yourself.

Then, if you're still with me, feel free to read the poem below.  If you can.  Hint:  it's in two languages.

When I told my children that I'd write today's poem in Pig Latin, Hope said, "All of the words will rhyme!"  This is true...the challenge was the rhythm and having the second-to-last syllables rhyme too.  And of course, there are some English words in there, just to have two languages in the poem.

Believe it or not, there is an English to Pig Latin translator out here in this wild world of internet.  Check it out here and have fun with some friends.  (I found this AFTER writing the poem - sigh!)

Students - do you speak a second language?  Do you know any words in another language?  It's fun to blend languages together and write with both, however it feels right.  (I really do speak some Danish but could not pass up on the opportunity to write in Ig-pay Atin-lay!)

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dirty Secret - Poem #77

Henry's All Star Socks
Photo by Amy LV

Athletes often develop superstitions centered on rituals around clothing, talk, and game habits.  Our baseball-playing Henry has not developed any of these superstitions yet, but sometimes his games fall close enough together that he has to pull socks out of the hamper!

Janet S. Wong, author of acclaimed children's books, has written a beautiful poetry book about superstitions, about everything from ears to potatoes.  In her book, Knock on Wood, Janet says, "Who knows why we believe what we do?  Maybe, in times of uncertainty, we like to have rituals to follow, to make us feel secure.  Maybe, in times like these, we should make up some new superstitions of our own."

Students - Do you or your family members or friends follow any superstitions?  If you might wish to write about them.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Under Your Feet - MyPoWriYe Poem #76

Last evening, walking around the baseball field, I looked down and saw a whole new crop of weeds, Birdsfoot Trefoil, to be exact.  I got thinking about what was below those, and below those, and below those.

Flora von Deutschland, Osterreich und der Schweiz (1885)
by Otto Wilhelm Thome
 Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify
this image under the "GNU Free Documentation License"

This poem is similar to one I wrote a few years ago, a poem about all of the animals that live in a stump.  I like the idea of things-living-in-things, of what is hidden in almost-plain sight. 

Students -sometimes we can make ourselves wonder about something even when we are just walking along.  One of my writing teachers, Lucy Calkins, taught me this, and it's true.  She says that we can just look at something, think about what we see, and then make ourselves wonder about it and ask questions about it.

Yesterday, I looked at the Birdsfoot Trefoil flowers and wondered what was below those and below those and below those.  What will you look at today?

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Monday, June 14, 2010

My Poem Writing Year #75 - Next Year

Some students and teachers are out for the summer already, and some can now count the days left on two hands.  This time feels almost too busy to reflect, but in the hurry scurry of finishing up papers, clearing out desks, finding a summer home for the class pet, and gathering up the missing library books...there is a moment of pause.  This is the end of something, maybe something difficult, maybe something beautiful, maybe both.  In a few weeks time, these same bodies will never live together, breathe together, figure-it-out-together, laugh together again.  It's like the end of a book, when you say "farewell" to the characters, close the cover, and sigh.

Thank you to all teachers this month.  As a mother and still-in-my-heart-teacher, I know what you do and believe it to be the most valuable gift of all. 

Joan suggested the other week that we share book lists and favorite ways to end the year.  Do you have something that you like to do at the end of the school year, a way to say goodbye or to remember the year together?   A favorite read aloud?  To talk about community, Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran, is my book to hug.

The years went by, and the seasons changed, until at last the friends had all grown tall, and one by one, they moved away to other houses, to other towns.  So you might think that was the end of Roxaboxen - but oh, no.  Because none of them ever forgot Roxaboxen.  Not one of them ever forgot. 
from Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran

At Two Writing Teachers, principal and guest-blogger Mary Alice shares a simple and elegant design for summer journals.  Check it out here.

Over at Write Time,  Linda's students write poetry as a way to celebrate all they have learned throughout the year.  Here are some of their poems and Linda's explanation of this powerful writing exercise.

Some teachers say goodbye by writing a poem for their students.  Read Kyle's poem to his fifth graders over at Ukulelear and Mary Lee's poem to her fourth graders at A Year of Reading.

How do you end your year? Please share in the comments, and I will include your thoughts in a future post.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fireflies are Out! - MyPoWriYe #74

It's that season here in Western New York...firefly season! Last night we fully expected a thunderstorm, but instead it was clear.  Henry made a bonfire in the backyard, and we sat around singing from our songbook and wondering what the fireflies were saying to each other in Morse code.

Students - sometimes writing ideas come from events, from moments that only happen once in a while.  Around here, the first firefly-sighting is feels like a holiday to us, and it is fun to honor this special time with writing.  What little days or minutes in your life almost feel like holidays, holidays just for you?  Choose one, and let your pencil fly...

Teachers and Parents - Elaine at Wild Rose Reader posted a great list yesterday of links to books, book awards, and many helpful resources.  There are quite a few things here that you may wish to bookmark.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Animals' Song of the Gulf - MyPoWriYe #73

Sometimes there are poems you wish you didn't have to write.  Thoughts you wish you didn't have to think. News you wish you didn't have to watch.  Facts you wish you didn't have to know.

Yesterday at The Drift Record, Julie Larios shared "Seal Lullaby" by Rudyard Kipling along with photographs of the oil spill in the Gulf.

What can any of us say?

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Here, Poem! - Poetry Friday & Poem #72

Little Ashley Found a Home!
(see Wednesday's post for story)
Photo by Henry VanDerwater

Thank you to poet David Harrison who is sharing my poem, "Abalone", today at his blog. He has all kinds of features there, from articles to his own poetry to contests for students and adults.  It's a treat to be at his site today.

Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Kelly Polark.  Click here to visit her blog and find out about poetry happenings in the children's blogosphere for today.

The Poem Farm will host Poetry Friday on Friday, July 2.  Please update your Poetry Friday calendar as this is a relatively new addition.  I have also made a facebook page for The Poem Farm where we can post short links to interesting books and such.  This week I ask the question, "What is your favorite poem?" (Mine is listed and linked.)  It'd be lovely to build a little list for all of us to learn from!

Happy Poetry Friday!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Poems Come from Great Emotion - Song

I remember the first time I heard poet and teacher Georgia Heard speak about writing and teaching poetry at The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  She told us that one of her great poet teachers (I believe it was Stanley Kunitz) said this to the class, "If you want to write poetry, you must live in a way that lets you find poems."

Georgia went on to tell about stopping along the side of a road when she admired some laundry hanging on a line and asking the woman of the house if she might have permission to paint the laundry, "It's so beautiful."

That speech changed me.

I try to live in this poem-finding way now, to allow myself to be affected by moments and people, sights and sounds, animals and places.

This week, our eldest daughter played in her school's orchestra.  We are so lucky to have a professional musician leading these young string players, and when they played...I cried.  Indeed, it was a fullness of gratitude that just spilled over.

Teachers - A great part of teaching poetry is helping children understand what it means to be touched by something and for us to show children when we, too, find meaning, beauty, and even fear in the world.  In order to write well, we must first have something to say.  And in order to have something to say, we must think, feel, and believe.

Thank you to David L. Harrison, for the prompt of the word 'song' this month.  His blog offers adult and student monthly poem word prompts and sharing opportunities.  This month's word is 'song', so if you'd like to read more such poems or share this publication possibility with your students, visit David's blog.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Poem from Your Summer Garden - #70

This week's Monday Poetry Stretch over at The Miss Rumphius Effect is to write about something hot.  I thought of peppers, perhaps because my hubby likes them hot and I, for one, do not.  For a long time, our freezer was home to this little Ziploc sandwich baggie of peppers, just to use for a pinch of heat.  As I don't like too much heat, they eventually got freezer burned and thrown away.

It makes me laugh to see children and adults testing themselves with "how hot can I go?"

Students - poem ideas can come to us from things we do by mistake.  I have certainly made the mistake of biting a hot pepper, and I've seen other people make this mistake too.  What mistakes have you made?  What mistakes have you seen others make?  Just go from there, funny or serious!

Now, on different note.  We found another kitten, and she needs a home.  You may remember the 'Country Cats' post some time back about our one-eyed cat, Mini.  I'd linked to a WBFO essay about how cats often end up here.  Well, it happened again.  Today as Hope and Gigi biked down the road, they heard very loud meowing.  It was a kitten.  In a tree.  20 feet up.  Dangling from a sapling.

Mark talked her down, and she slowly slid down that skinny trunk like a firefighter sliding down a fire pole.  Our neighbor had heard her yesterday from that same location but could not find her, so all of us think Ashley (she was dangling from an ash tree) was up there for over 24 hours.

Would you like a very friendly black and white kitten (about three months old) with a scar on her nose and a very loud purr?  I will post photos by the weekend if she does not find a home sooner.

(Please click on COMMENTS to share or to adopt Ashley.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MyPoWriYe #69 - Home

This past month, I have had the opportunity to work alongside teachers and students at Caledonia-Mumford elementary and middle school. As a part of Buy Local Build a Future, we have been studying the local community, writing poetry and creating artwork to publish in a book and poetry/ukulele videos.

As a part of this project, I have come to value the beauty of deep roots in one town. For although I, too, live in a small town, we have lived here but five years. Some of my neighbors have lived here for generations and have stories, traditions, and rituals around places and people they have known "forever".

Students - sometimes we write from a sense of longing. What do you long for? I long for this sense of place-over-time, but I didn't want my poem to be sad this time. So instead, I just pretended that I have lived somewhere for generations...and wrote from that heart.

If you long for something, you might write about the longing feeling. Or you might pretend, and make your longing come true, even if it is just for a few lines.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

MyPoWriYe #68 - Brave

Injuries...we all get them, and they don't usually become the subject of poems.  Well, here's an exception.  This one is for Henry, who cut his head open while camping yesterday.  Nine stitches later, you'd never know it.  He is brave.

Students, there are a couple of funny writing ideas nestled in here.  One is that we can write about things that people do not usually write about, things most people might think are too unlovely to write about, too yucky.  For example, when our family had lice (for several disgusting weeks) last fall, I did not want to think about it anymore.  But then I thought, "Hey!  Let's make lemonade!" and wrote the essay "A Week of Lice" for WBFO.

Another writing idea here is that we can write about what others do that inspires us.  When Henry was injured this weekend, I wanted to cry.  But he was so tough, making jokes about his brain and whatnot, that we were all fine.  I admire that.  So he got a poem.

The Poem Farm is now on facebook and twitter.  If you are connected in either of these places, I would be grateful if you added The Poem Farm on and/or joined as a follower.  I'm trying to establish this little island in the great big sea of the internet.  Thank you!

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

MyPoWriYe #67 - Locket

Walking in our pasture yesterday, I saw an azure blur right near a bluebird house.  A bluebird!  We knew we'd had bluebirds living here, but we thought they had been chased away by other birds.  It made me happy to see that flash yesterday morning, to know these bluebirds are still our dear tenants.

Looking at that birdhouse nailed on a fencepost, I was immediately reminded of a locket.  A locket holds small secret things close to our hearts, and a birdhouse holds small secret things close to the hearts of trees.

Students - sometimes a few interesting words just cross your mind.  For me, those words were, "A birdhouse is like a locket!"  When this happens, we usually let our words slip away like morning dreams.  But if we are alert and ready to catch them, our words will wait that breath for us, long enough for us to mutter them quietly, long enough for us to write them down. 

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Poem Writing Year # 66 - Bookmarks

We're a house of readers, and over the past few years I've discovered some surprising bookmarks tucked in partially-read books around this house.  Even 3-D objects end up in books around here: pencils, rocks, Legos, teeny stuffed animals...nothing is safe.

Our children have received, beaded, purchased, origami-ed, and drawn all styles of gorgeous bookmarks, but we still end up with odd objects nestled between pages 51 and 52.  Perhaps there's just something organic about real things in our books that we like.

Students - Ideas for poems can come from unusual places, even from the strange habits of you, your family, and your friends.  This idea of stuff-stuck-in-books is simply something small that I noticed today, but the idea took off.

If you would like a paper bookmark of this bookmark poem, please leave a message in the comments or e-mail me at amy at amylv dot com, and I will be happy to send it to you as an attachment file.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Poetry Friday & Poem #65 - Poems Talk

Today I feature three poetry books that read well as narratives.  It's fascinating to see the different types of poetry collections out there:  anthologies grouped by theme, collections of a style of poetry such as mask or concrete, books which feature a variety of poems by one poet...

Most of us don't read poetry aloud often enough.  But these volumes of sparkling jewels deserve a place in our laps too, every day.  Here are three poetry books we can read front to back, just like stories. While each poem stands strongly on its own, if we read the poems in these books in order, we come to know characters more deeply with every page- turn.  Three such poem-story books I admire are:  Oh, Brother! by Nikki Grimes, Hummingbird Nest by Kristine O'Connell George, and River Friendly River Wild by Jane Kurtz.  All three of these offer us beauty and understanding through both word and image.  I recommend each very highly for every family or classroom collection.

Oh, Brother!, by turns poignant and joyful, takes us on the journey of two new stepbrothers negotiating this tricky territory, each trying to make his way in a blended family while holding onto his own sense of identity.  Nikki Grimes captures boy feelings and talk sensitively, and readers come to identify with and care for both.  Excellent for students in any kind of family, this book also demonstrates that poem ideas can sprout from difficult times.  Oh Brother! was vibrantly illustrated by Mike Benny.

In River Friendly River Wild, illustrated by Barry Moser, we follow the story of a hummingbird building her nest and raising her young.  We watch a girl, pets, and the especially this little bird very closely.  Written in journal style, day-by-day, Kristine O'Connell George paints tiny wonder-portraits of this "hummer" at work.  In her extensive author's note, Kristine explains that she really did keep a journal when hummingbirds built a nest in the ficus tree on her California porch.  Those journal entries led to this book, a great connection for young writers about how our notebooks feed our published work.

In this book, a young girl and her family experience the effects of flooding after the Red River flooded Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1997.  The image-full poems give readers a window into the emotions and realities a flood leaves behind.  Jane Kurtz experienced the Red River flood herself and also garnered a 2001 Golden Kite award for this collection.  This book was softly and evocatively illustrated by Neil Brennan.  For those who have experienced natural disaster and for those who have only heard about it on the news, this book opens all of our hearts and is very timely in the wake of recent events.

Reading poem-story books aloud allows us to tell a story and also to reap the gifts of many small packages of writing, each poem structured and layered with carefully-chosen words, each a published piece.  As we read many poems about one family or character or animal, we build a multi-faceted relationship with the characters, just as when we read a narrative book.

Do you have a favorite such book, a poem book which can be read front to back as a narrative?  If you do, please leave the title in the comments, and I will share the list in an upcoming post.

Head on over to The Cazzy Files for everything Poetry Friday!

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