Sunday, October 31, 2010

Triple Feature! - Moon & Moon & Moon

"Everynight Everywhere" was Poem #203 in my year-long series to write and post a poem each day.  It was an inspiration piece for SPARK 10, and artist Amy Souza had nine days to respond to it with a work of art.  Well, she did, and I could not be happier!  Here is her whimsical response:

SPARK 10 Painting 
by Amy Souza

Yesterday, wondering what to write for Halloween, I suddenly thought..."Hmmm...maybe I could do another SPARK from Amy's painting!"  After all, it had been flashing across my mind continuously since I'd first seen it...why not?  So with Amy's joyful colors, a moon, Sallye's students' mask poems, and Halloween on my mind, Poem #215 jumped forth.

There's still one more SPARK to share from my second pairing...look for it sometime this week.

Students - I can't say enough what a good time this was.  The anticipation of working with a partner, feeling so curious about what she would create, hoping dearly that she would like my felt very exciting.  Even if you don't do this as a school project, you might want to try it with a friend.  Wouldn't this be a fabulous pen pal project?  Let's think about that.

Teachers - if you are a WNY teacher who attended the NFRC conference and are visiting The Poem Farm for the first time, welcome!  Many teachers share these poems via their SMART Boards, hung as classroom posters, or in centers.  I do my best to include a little writing tip or story each day, and on frequent Poetry Fridays, teachers share their best poetry ideas.

Happy Halloween to all!  Don't forget to say "Hello" to the moon!

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

SPARK 10! Response - #214 - City Dahlias

Dahlia Soft Focus
Photo by Amy Souza

This dahlia photograph and poem were created through an online experience called SPARK.  On October 20, I received this beautiful inspiration photograph with the understanding that I would use it to spark a piece of writing and share my words today, October 29.  In return, I provided an inspiration piece too, my poem "Everynight Everywhere".  Tomorrow I will post Amy Souza's joyful response painting along with that poem. 

Students - this experience was very interesting, as a writer and as a responder.  I could not wait to see what my new-artist-friend would do with my poem or to see what words would meet this photograph.

Late last night, knowing SPARK's deadline loomed, our sweet Georgia (10) padded down the stairs.  "Mom, I have a poem for you," she said.  Then she spoke.  Then she hurriedly wrote.  Then she padded up the stairs.  How very lucky we are for the children in our lives.

In a city
on a street
there I grew a bud
round and sweet
the city's black
the city's cold
the city's dark
petals unfold
the light is weak
the city's gray
the flower blooms
here comes the day.

by Georgia VanDerwater

Your lovely photograph, Amy S., received two responses from the same home!

For me, the process of writing a poem is all about finding a way in.  It's as if the poems are already out there, and we just have to find the right key.  For this poem, the key was a few lines from someone else's poem, "Otho: The Miller's Son" by Laura Amy Schiltz in GOOD MASTERS!  SWEET LADIES!  I read this book for the first time last week, on the airplane on my way to Minneapolis.  This poem has not left, particularly the rhythms of these lines:

"Oh God makes the water, and the water makes the river,
And the river turns the mill wheel
and the wheel runs on forever."

If you look back to "City Dahlias", you will see which lines sound much the same.  I love the lulling sounds of repetition within these lines, and so began the poem with the words, "For the gate..." even though I knew they would not be the first lines.

If you have not read GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is gorgeous poetry, woven word upon word like a tapestry of history.  Schiltz won the Newbery Award for this book in 2007, and it is easy to see why.  A librarian, she wrote these monologue poems for her students to perform.  The combination of perfect language, history tidbits, and meticulous illustration make this one to read again and again.  It is even available in audio, something I'd love to hear.

This SPARK experience makes me think about two possible things students might wish to try.  The first one, of course, is to write from a photograph.  It's great fun to use a photograph as inspiration.  Many times I pull over to the side of the road to shoot a picture of a barn, a tombstone (wait for Monday), a sunset, a building.  Writing from my own photos helps me appreciate the small beauties in my life and it gives me a chance to reflect upon them later with words.  You might wish to try this.

Writing from someone else's art is whole new thing for me, and it's something I think could be a wonderful experiment with a pair of friends or classmates or even two classes working together.  Even classes living far away from each other...vive la Internet!  My friend Karen and I were talking about this, imagining what teachers could try with such an idea.  If you take this on, anyone, please let me know.  It would be a real treat to see how children like SPARKing off of each other.  If you do, I would love to share your work and/or stories with my inspiration-partner and founder of SPARK, Amy Souza. 

I do have another SPARK inspiration-partner out there too...a mystery one.  S/he is artistically responding to one of my poems but did not provide an inspiration piece.  Over the next week, I hope to share three pairings with you, this being the first!

Thank you to poet and friend, Heidi Mordhorst, for sharing her anticipation of SPARK two weeks ago.  You can see Heidi's poem and Delores Ekberg's painting at Heidi's blog, my juicy little universe.  And thank you to Amy Souza for the great fun she provided with her photo, painting, and coordination of all of SPARK.

If you are interested in participating in SPARK 11 in February 2011, keep an eye on the SPARK website for an announcement.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Reverso, Poetry Peek, Tarantula - Oh My!

This is a reverso, Poem #22 in my series of poems about poems.
It is also #213 in my year-long quest to write a poem each day!

Several months ago, I walked into our local bookstore, B is for Books, and owner Jane Bell handed me Marilyn Singer's book MIRROR MIRROR.  "Here," she said.  "I got a review copy of this, and I want to give it to you.  You'll love it."  She was right.  I loved it, and I was intrigued.

A reverso, a form invented by Marilyn Singer, may be read from the top down or the bottom up. It's a tricky form, playful and mysterious, and I never wanted to try it.  "Too hard."  

Not long after, however,  Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect offered the reverso form up as a Monday Poetry Stretch in April.  I didn't play.  Two weeks ago, my daughter Georgia came to me with MIRROR MIRROR, proclaiming, "I LOVE this book!  It's amazing!"  Then, this past Monday, an incredibly smart teacher came up to me holding the Marilyn's book.  "Have you seen this before?" she asked.  So here we are.  Finally I tried.  It was not easy, but it was fun.  I'll try it again.

Poem #22 in my series of poems about poems...upside down!

Greetings to all of you, teachers, students, homeschooling families, old friends, family, and new friends from Kidlit Con!  (I hope there are many of you here on this Poetry Friday!)

Today I am thrilled to offer you our seventh Classroom Poetry Peek into Mrs. Sallye Norris's first grade classroom at Puster Elementary School in Fairview, Texas.  Sallye is an old friend of mine.  We were best-friends-ever as American Rotary exchange students living in Denmark from 1987-1988, and today, we are still great pals.  I truly admire her intellectual curiosity and bright spirit.  Sallye's students celebrate Poetry Friday...listen in.

 Teacher Sallye Norris

There was a Sumo
He was so...fat I used Sumo
as a basketball.

by Drew Turner


I'm a cat
the best thing ever
made.  I'm better than
a dog.  You don't have
to give me a bath.
All I want is for you
to pat me on my back.

by Claire Easley


Please don't take me home with you.
I might die and I'll never see you.
Leave me outside for sunshine and
rain.  You might see me some
other day.

by Gina Peoples

When you stretch
me out I look
ridiculous!  And sometimes
I get loose!  You
also wear me
a lot!  I am stuck
in a box! full
of silly bands!

by Delaney McDuffie

Each Friday, the first graders at Puster Elementary visit each first grade teacher in a round-robin type of rotation.  Each teacher teaches a lesson in a subject that is of great interest to her.  I love poetry and language, so my lessons revolve around these things.  My goal for the learners is to help them view themselves as authors and poets and to foster a love of language.

Our first several weeks of poetry rotation were spent discovering poetry.  We spent time talking about words that sounded good to our ears: words that were interesting or funny or felt good on our tongues.  We read poems aloud, listening to see if the poem rhymed or not.  We read the poems Amy posted on her site.  We sang poems with gentle rhythms.  We drew pictures of what the poem meant to us in our hearts.  Together, we wrote poems about the huge tarantula I found in my house and kept as a pet!  Every week, each child was given a copy of the poem we read to put in a poetry notebook, take home, and cherish time and again.

After several weeks of exposure to the world of poetry, we began writing poetry of our own, using Amy's "Pumpkin" poem as a catalyst.  The learners picked objects and listed, in speech bubbles, what each object might think or say.  Then I encouraged them to turn those thoughts into poems.   You could have hard a pin drop (except for all of the verbal sounding out!) as they began imagining their objects talking.  They wrote and shared with each other, and their excitement grew.  One little boy turned to his table mates and exclaimed, "We're poets.  Did you know that?"  

That afternoon, a mom e-mailed me asking, "What did y'all do today?  My child has been writing poems and taping them all over the house."  We're nine weeks into school, but the kids are already viewing themselves as poets!  I can't wait to see what they're doing by the end of first grade!"

Thank you many times over to Sallye and her students for sharing a peek into their own Poetry Friday with us today.  Teachers and homeschooling parents:  I invite you to share on a future Poetry Friday.  Please just drop me a note if you are interested.

Tomorrow is October 30, the last day of SPARK 10.  I plan to post my response to Amy Souza's beautiful photograph, "Dahlia Soft Focus", in this space and look forward to seeing her response to my poem, "Everynight Everywhere".

In addition to being Poetry Friday, today is also National Cat Day.  You can see our family's four cats - Pickles, Firepaw, Sarah, and Mini - over at Jama Rattigan's wonderful cat celebration today.  Check out Jama's blog to see many beautiful cat pictures and stories of authors, illustrators, and their beloved kitties - just slink on over to Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup!  Jama always sets a delightful table, and today is purrfect.

Toby Speed, my wise and witty roommate from Kidlit Con, is hosting today's Poetry Friday at her blog, The Writer's Armchair.  As a person who spent last weekend with Toby, I can promise that her company is thoughtful and full of whimsy and charm.  Enjoy all of your poetry travels today...and Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow I'll be teaching a class at the NFRC Fall Conference all about finding writing ideas through poetry!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Set a Mousetrap? Don't Set a Moustrap?

Yes or No?
by Amy LV

Poem # 212

Students - there are some moments in life which strike us two ways, which give us an ambivalent feeling, a mixed-two-way-feeling.  I had one of these moments the other day.  We live way out in the country, and at this time of year, the mice begin to creep into every hole in our old house.  They appear in places you don't want mice: in the burners of the stove, on the counter top beside the coffee pot, running across the dining room floor.  They are so cute, but they do carry diseases.  And while one mouse is adorable, hundreds are a bit scary.

Two nights ago, my husband set some mousetraps.  I don't check traps.  Traps make me sad.  I don't want to hear the snaps, and I don't want to kill mice.  But I don't want to live with a mouse civilization either.  After Mark set the traps out, one of our children asked, "Dad, are those the traps that catch the mice live or the ones that kill them?"

It was quiet for a few moments, and the gentle question hung in the air for a bit before Mark and I both answered honestly, "These traps kill."  You know what?  That is still bothering me.

Have you ever had a confused feeling about something?  Is there something about which you can see both sides?  If so, this might be an interesting place to begin a writing piece.  Even writing about your confusion may help you clarify your own beliefs and help you understand who you are and what you think is true.

As for mice, I'm just not sure.  I still see both sides.  My side.  Their side.  Life can be tricky this way.  Adults wrestle with these things too.

Tomorrow I am tickled to welcome my old friend, teacher Sallye Norris, along with her first graders and class pet...Hairy the tarantula.  Please visit for our seventh Classroom Poetry Peek tomorrow - Poetry Friday!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eggs are Fragile-Magical! - Celebrate 211!

What About You?
by Amy LV

Yesterday morning, I let the chickens out and found three warm eggs left in a nest box.  Carrying my little fistful down to the house, I thought about their quiet beauty which will feed us sometime this week.  Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, Boy and Egg, speaks to my feeling, "riveted to the secret of birds".

Later, sitting down to write, those eggs would not leave my mind.  And I remembered last week when I forgot to boil our breakfast eggs.  Our morning sitter and friend, Amy, found the pot of eggs and water, assumed they were cooked, cracked one to peel, and....splat!  Oops!  Let's just say it wasn't the first time.  That gave me the idea for today's poem.

Egg leads to egg, and so I recalled Carl Sandburg's poem, "Arithmetic" in which he asks, "If you ask your mother for two fried eggs for breakfast and she/gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is/better in arithmetic, you or your mother?"  Here is a book I am ordering right away: an illustrated version of this playful poem!

Students - our minds are funny places, leading us down surprise pathways each day.  Often a particular image, a question, or a memory will follow us around.  If this happens to you, listen and write.  Today I listened to eggs.

If you would like to read about why hard boiled eggs spin, you can do so at npr.  And for more fun eggsperiments, visit here.

I would like to thank Melissa Wiley for her generous post about The Poem Farm at her beautiful family, book, and homeschooling blog, Here in the Bonny Glen.  Melissa is the author of The Martha Years books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother, Martha Morse Tucker, and The Charlotte Years books, about Laura's grandmother, Charlotte Tucker Quiner.  She is also my new friend from Kidlit Con!

Welcome homeschooling families!  On Fridays, I often feature student poetry in this space.  If you have a special poetry ritual or lesson along with children's poetry that you would like to share, please drop me a note.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Read Seasons in Sunflowers...Poem #210

Photo by Amy LV

Photo by Amy LV

Driving around a couple of days ago, I saw this drooping sunflower.  I felt sad when I remembered its glory just two months before.  Then I felt happy, thinking about ten months from now, when all of its sunflower babies will be standing tall, some nearby and some far away.

Students - This poem is simply a description, a word picture, of one sunflower at two times in its life.  You probably noticed that this poem is divided into two stanzas, and each one takes place during a different month. In this poem, I wished to snap a wordshot of how a sunflower's head position changes over time.

Something about words here too: while this poem does not rhyme at the ends of its lines, you will hear that the first stanza rhymes some internal vowels: gazes, straight, and face.  In the second stanza, you hear more repetition of sounds: seeds, deeply, and weep.

A writer thinks much like being a scientist.  Look closely.  Quiet down.  Observe.  Today on the playground or later at home, stare at things.  Let one image capture you like a prisoner, and do not look away.  If you are reading this in writing workshop now, walk over to the window or take a walk outside.  Be wowed by an image.  Then write your description, as finely and truly as you are able.

As always, I would love to read any student poems that grow from your visits here.  Teachers, please leave a note in the comments if you are willing to share student work on a Poetry Peek Friday!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Did YOU Ever Do This? - Read Poem #209

Doll Salon
by Amy LV

On Friday, my friend Christyn wrote this note, "I have to believe that only Sarah would take scissors to the hair of an American Girl doll..." 

Christyn's note got me thinking about the time that Georgia cut her own hair.  And it got me thinking about the time I washed the hair of my Ballerina Barbie.  It was wonderful to run my sudsy fingers through her long blond locks, but it was so frizzy and horrible an hour later.  Poor Ballerina Barbie always looked strange hanging out with Skipper and regular Barbie after that.  Oh well, such inspired moments of art and hair-creativity with dolls are not always easy to repair, but they certainly make good stories.

This poem is dedicated to Sarah...we have all been there!  May your doll like her new haircut (I didn't hear she was bald, just that your mom found the hair and no doll.)

Students - did you ever have a time when you got "caught up", maybe doing something you shouldn't have?  Usually, you're not the first one to have ever done such a thing, and for this reason, readers love reading such stories.  They remind us of ourselves.  Think way back and talk with someone about your own oops-memories.  Then, add a few ideas to your writing ideas list.  If you don't have any oops-memories, maybe you need to do more naughty things.  Hee hee!

Yesterday I returned from Kidlit Con in Minneapolis.  Not only did I have the privilege to take part in a panel about Poetry Friday, but a whole world of children's literature bloggers opened up before my eyes.  Reviewers, authors, librarians, teachers, publishers...the list goes on.  So many people live in this virtual world, writing daily about beautiful words for children.  Over the next weeks, I will be building the blogroll here, so please keep an eye over there for changes.  Also, The Poem Farm is going to get serious about twitter.  I'm not exactly sure how yet, but I'm serious.  So if you're on twitter, I welcome you to join me!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just Write - My Poem Writing Year #208

Students - writers often have many small writing preferences, things that don't matter in the end, but which may help us individually as we go.  Where we write.  What we write with.  What time we write.  These things may stay the same or change, and many writers find it helpful to keep some such rituals the same, keep a focus on the day's work.  What matters is not these things.  What matters is that we write, setting our words free into the wide world.

Teachers - as a writing teacher, I am always seeking out the wise words of other writing teachers.  Jane Yolen, in her book TAKE JOY, teaches us to keep our BIC (butt in chair).  She was the inspiration for "Plant your rear" in today's poem.  You can read more of Jane's sage writing advice at her website

This book, about finding one's own story, is a great read aloud.

So begin today.  Just get started.  You'll find an idea as you go.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Poem Writing Year #207 - The Line

I have had this magical experience a few times in my life.  It's raining.  Now it's not raining.  Walk backwards, and it's raining again.  Wow!

Students - did you ever have a magical nature moment?  When we are outdoors, we can experience the heights and depths of beauty and pain, birth and death, mystery and surprise.  Find a trilobite fossil, unseen for thousands of years.  Hold a bird nest from last spring, just blown down from a tree.  Watch a deer stand on his skinny new legs.  If we spend more time in woods, fields, and streams, magic unfolds itself into our arms and hearts and we can reread these memories for years to come.  This is why I left my laundry this week to play in the woods...

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Poetry Friday & #206 - Face Poem

Grandpa VanDerwater & Baby
Photo by ?

This is Poem #21 in a series of poems about poems.

Students -  I have always found great beauty in the faces of the old.  So many stories.  Every time I see an old person, particularly a happy old person, I smile inside, thinking how beautiful that person is.  Well, once in a while, something I have always believed just shows up in a bit of writing, and I find myself silently saying, "Hello, friend."  This happened yesterday, pencil in hand, as lined faces rose in my mind.

One interesting fact about the process of writing this poem:  it was initially in the past tense.  After reading it several times over and listening to each of my children read it aloud, I decided that present tense would make it more...present.

For a truly beautiful poem about old people, visit The Writer's Almanac to read Ted Kooser's "The Very Old".

Andromeda Jazmon is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at her blog, a wrung sponge.  Mosey on over there to join the fun!  This evening I cannot wait to meet Mary Ann in person, along with all of my new poetry blogging friends in Minneapolis at Kidlit Con.

Please visit next week for another Classroom Poetry Peek with Mrs. Sallye Norris and her first graders from Puster Elementary School in Fairview, Texas.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still - My Poem Writing Year #205

Missing Her
by Amy LV

Students - if you have writing friends, and if you listen to your writing friends carefully, you will often find writing ideas in their writing ideas.  Yesterday I had the good fortune to work alongside some kindergarten students in Mrs. Laura Murray's classroom at Marilla Primary School in Elma, NY.  One little girl, K., wrote and drew about her grandmother who had passed away not long ago.  In her picture, K. drew her grandma up in heaven (in her wheelchair) and herself visiting Grandma in heaven.  Both people held out their arms as if to hug.  

Later last night, sitting with my blank paper and black pen, listening to the strong chilly winds, I remembered my loved ones (human and animal) who have died.  I thought of them out there in the cold, and I wanted them back just for a bit.  But instead of making this poem about all of them, I focused on one favorite cat, now gone for years.  Thank you to K. for inspiring me hours earlier - she will never know how her words and artwork continued to sing quietly to me all day long.  And thank you to her teacher, Laura Murray, who has created such a nurturing writing world for these young students (and yesterday, for me).

So students, talk with your friends about their writing.  Allow yourself to ask yourself, "Hmmm...what does this piece make me think about?"  Allow yourself to be moved by others' words that these same words may give you words and stories of your own.

Tomorrow is the last day of this week's Free Verse Week, a week which has stretched and taught me once more.

Below you can see my SPARK "inspiration piece"!  This lovely image was taken by my SPARK partner, Amy Souza.  I have until October 29 to write a response to this photograph, and on the flip side, Amy S. has yesterday's poem "Everynight Everywhere" as her "inspiration piece".  On October 30, I will post each of our responses to the original works.  In addition, I have another SPARK partner whom I have not yet met.  And while I am not responding to work from her, she has a poem of mine.  If  she is willing to share that response, I will let you know.  What a fun game!

Dahlia Soft Focus
Photo by Amy Souza

On Friday, I'm off to Minneapolis for Kidlit Con 2010 with my fellow Poetry Friday panelists, Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading, Toby Speed of The Writer's Armchair, Laura Purdie Salas of Writing the World for Kids, and Mary Ann Scheuer of Great Kid Books.  I am thrilled to have the chance to meet these virtual friends in person and to learn more about this crossover of children's literature and blogging.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MyPoWriYe #204 - Gift from the Dark

This is poem #5 of Free Verse Week II, continuing through Friday.

I do love losing power.  That's the truth.  I love the mystery of not knowing when (if?) it's coming back and the way time stops in the wondering.  There is an excitement in unexpected days: snow days, big storms, no lights.  When my sister and I were children, I had this same thrill in preparedness too; I even wrote an essay about it - "Once a Squirrel, Always a Squirrel" - for our local NPR station.  Just Monday, our family received a wonderful package from our friend Rachel in Oregon, and of course I was enthralled by the teeny LED flashlights, immediately tucking them in a safe place, one per child, for the next power-out.  Oh, they're on the spice rack.  In case I forget.

Students - here's a secret about writing.  Sometimes you might want to write a poem or a story, and you might not exactly remember a particular detail.  This is ok.  You can make it work by asking, "What probably happened?"  or "What would I have liked to happen?" or "What should have happened?"  Not every poem is 100% true; not every poem is true at all!  And while the spirit of this poem is true, the facts are not all true.  When my daughter Georgia read these words, she said, "We never really lost power for a week," and she's right.  But our friends did, and they came to stay with us.  I wanted that week-loss to be in my poem, so I put it there.  You are the boss of your own poem.  Isn't that the best?

Today is The National Day on Writing.  Consider heading over to NCTE to add some of your writing or some children's writing to the galleries.

This is the first day of SPARK 10!  I cannot wait to see the "inspiration piece" my partner Amy (!) will send.  I have already sent her mine - it was yesterday's poem, "Everynight Everywhere".  When Amy and I have both responded to our "inspiration pieces", I hope to share our response pieces here.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Everynight Everywhere - MyPoWriYe #203

Thank you to Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect for another Monday Poetry Stretch, this week about the moon.  This is poem #4 of Free Verse Week II, continuing through Friday.

Where do poems come from?  I don't know.  Each one waits around, I think, like a bit of beach glass, hoping that someone will grab it.  Sometimes a poem is not ready yet, and we throw it back to the sea until it is smoother, ready to be written down.  

But if we throw a poem back, it is possible that someone else may find it and write it one day.  This is much like a purchase we do not make but someone else does.  When we return, we may be surprised - see my friend Emily's poem for one such book-story-poem at Tea and Krempets.

Students - today's poem idea is one that I've picked up on the beach over and over again.   For years, looking up at the moon's full face, I have thought, "Wow.  That looks like a pocket watch."  Finally, today, this image found its poem.   Keep this in mind as you live...any passing thought or line might be a part of your writing someday.

The rest of today's poem comes from several places.  Many children speak the word "moon" as a very first word.  I remember this from my own children, nieces and nephews, and our friends' children.  Children all over the world speak this first word as they point up at their skies.  "Moon."

I have been thinking about children from different places in the world because we have a beautiful niece from Thailand and an adorable nephew coming soon from Ethiopia.  These children are in our families and still somehow always linked to their birthlands.

Soon our family will be learning from a few other families in our area who have been working to support an orphanage in Kenya, the Crossroads Springs Institute.   Each of us is connected to so many across the world in ways we do not yet know.  Who might you meet one day?  Who have you already met who will touch your life a bit further down the path?

Several years ago, I read a poem by Margaret Tsuda in LASTING IMPRESSIONS, a classic and wonderful professional book by Shelley Harwayne.  This poem,  "Commitment in a City", speaks to our connectedness with others, whether we know them our not.


We will have a full moon here this Poetry Friday! 

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bin - My Poem Writing Year #202

This is Poem #3 in Free Verse Week II, continuing through Friday.

This poem is for every child...and every child inside. 

In our early suburban years, Mark and I did not have children, but we did have a bright blue hammock in our backyard.  One sunny summer day, two girl neighbors, ten years old, came down to swing in our hammock.  Each carried a plastic bag swinging from her hand.  As I opened up the gate to send them on their swinging-way, I asked, "What's in the bags?"  They opened their grocery sacks and pulled out two well-loved baby dolls.  "We want to swing them on your hammock...but we don't want anyone to know."

Childhood is a beautiful time.  A time that should stretch out lazily into as many years as it wishes. As parents and teachers, it is our job to protect this time, to allow Puff the Magic Dragon to live with us for as long as he wishes to stay.  Adults - read the poem "On Turning Ten" by Billy Collins when you have a chance.

Students - this poem is a true poem.  Sometimes I call up the stairs to my own children, asking them to put any toys into the "giveaway bin".  They rarely do, and while their rooms and our house continue to fill with small animals and LEGOs, I'm happy that they love to play.  Play!  Play!  Play!  Play is the work of childhood!  Go outside!  Make something crazy!  Pull out a game! 

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Free Verse Week - #201 - Preserving Fall

It is Day #2 of Free Verse Week II, continuing through this Friday!

Today my daughters and I stayed home.  Phew!  It has been a busy couple of weeks, and so today we sat in the living room together drinking tea, knitting, reading, and playing with the dollhouse.  We did not take the hike I had imagined when I awoke, the hike which was supposed to send us home laden with leaves for pressing.  And since I did not live the day I imagined, I wrote a poem about that imagined day instead.  Tomorrow we will hike into the poem that rests on my paper tonight.

Students - it's funny the way that writing and living connect.  Sometimes we write things we wish to remember.  Sometimes we write things we wish to do.  This poem is an example of the latter.  What do you wish you had done?  Wish you will do?  Start there.  Wishes are rich.

If you live in a place where fall is singing its own anthem these days, and if you are looking for leaf-ideas, visit Our Big Earth to learn about pressing leaves between wax paper and  Gingerbread Snowflakes to learn about preserving leaves with Mod Podge.  You can find even more information about leaf crafting at Frugal Fine Living.  And if you're still feeling autumnal and artistic, read at Ten Kids and a Dog about how to make a beautiful Indian corn necklace, definitely on my list for this month.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Poem Writing Year #200 & Wyoming

Wyoming Books
Photo by Amy LV

Students - sometimes a writing idea comes from watching someone you love, observing as that person experiences an new action or a feeling.  Over this past week, our ten-year-old daughter, Georgia, has been gathering information for her state report, and it has been such fun to about her new favorite state, Wyoming.  Various Wyoming facts pour forth as we drive to violin lessons, and they pop out at the dinner table too.  Georgia has determined, "One day I will live in Wyoming", and I can understand why.  Learning about something new lights a fire of love.

If you have been reading for many of the last 200 days of poems here, you know that I love writing in strict meter and rhyme - it's a game to me.  Free verse continues to be a challenge, something I wish to strengthen in my writing.  

With this in mind, I spent a week writing free verse poems in mid-July.  The poem "Knowing" kicked off Free Verse Week I back on July 10.  Today, to celebrate 200 days of poems, I announce Free Verse Week II which will run through next Poetry Friday, October 22.  Please share in the comments if you have favorite collections of free verse poetry or ideas for sharing free verse with children.

Thank you to you all for your kind notes and support over these past 200 days and nights.  I think about you all as the clock strikes midnight, 1:00am, and sometimes 2:00am.

Don't forget...The National Day on Writing is this Wednesday, October 20!  What will you do?

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Poetry Friday, Peek, & #199

My Favorite Restaurant
by Amy LV

This is poem #20 in my Friday series of poems about poems!

For our sixth Poetry Peek, we welcome two classes of Cloverbank Elementary's fourth grade students with their community poems.  As you read these two autumn poems and the third about a beloved teacher, notice the layering of words, the layering of sounds that comes from so many voices working together.   These student poets hail from Mrs. Lynda Sentz's and Kristen Snajczuk's fourth grade classrooms in Blasdell, New York.  

Here are the words from their writing teacher and author of the new professional book, WRITE WITH ME, Lynda Sentz...

We have been trying to make our writing more descriptive.  Autumn is a season that truly tickles and delights the senses.  We began our effort by brainstorming as many fall sensations as we could come up with.  What do we hear in fall?  See?  Smell?  Taste?  Touch?  Our lists were gigantic.  Every student then gathered bits and pieces from their notebooks and wrote at least one line for our class poem.  We didn't spend much time on this, but the resulting poems were something they were very proud to see hanging in the hall.  Each wrote out a line on a sentence strip, and I affixed the strips to a large, long sheet of paper.  Students illustrated and decorated the edge of the paper near their line of poetry.  The result is quite lovely.

Fun in the Fall
by Room 211

I close my eyes for a moment and slowly open to see
pumpkins, pies, apple cider, leaves slowly falling to the ground.
I see the leaves changing color.
The colorful leaves on the tree dance as I watch
slowly and carefully.
Red, brown, yellow, green - all the colors of some cool surprise -
crunchy or soft, also colorful or dull.

When I walk out the door, all I can smell 
is Mother Nature's leaves falling down from those wooden trees.
The maple tree in my backyard was my territory.
I would sit back there all day.
I would draw what I saw.

The maple tree in our backyard is so peaceful -
drawing the leaves changing color
hearing the birds chirping
watching the squirrels play tag
with the breeze tapping on your shoulder
asking you to play.
My feet, stepping one-by-one while running,
I can hear those leaves and my heart beating.
Running, jumping, crackling.

I love the thick pumpkins, mushy and soggy
and even the soft seeds.
I love feeling the mushy stuff inside of the pumpkins
The sweet smell of hot warm pumpkin seeds 
in the oven crackling - crack, crack, crack.
While I am smelling the dampness in the air 
on a wonderful sunny day in fall, my mom calls out, 
"Your pumpkin pie is ready!"

Kids jumping proudly into a screaming pile of flowing leaves -
my brother and I play in the leaves
and we play in the colorful leaves.
When I jump in the leaf piles
all of the leaves brush up against my clothes.
I feel the crunchy leaves 
when I jump into a huge pile of leaves.

The apples are so good in the fall
and weather sounds - I can hear the wind blow.
When I see all of the candy wrappers on the floor
my stomach starts to hurt.
I hear the sweet howl of wind blowing against my skin.
I see baby blue birds
a family of brown deer
and I see brown and orange leaves.

It is the most beautiful season.

Awe in Autumn
by Room 202

Wind blowing in my ear 
branches falling and the sky is calling me to play.
I can feel the cold mist almost touching my skin.

In fall, I feel the wind.
I feel a cold breeze of cold wind.

I can see the leaves in many beautiful colors.
I can feel leaves and I also feel heat.

I can hear the little kids screaming 
"Apple cider!  Apple cider!"
And when I scream I feel like there is apple cider.

I can see pumpkins putting on their orange jackets
as fall gets colder.
I can see the orange jack o'lanterns and their scary faces.

Spending money, some are funny, make-up runny - costumes!
I smell the fresh pumpkin pies
and hear the scary noises all night.

Apple pie, apple cider - tastes so good in the fall.
I can smell the hot pumpkin pie.

I see the squirrels getting food for the winter
Birds chirping and singing in a perfect harmony to me
Bugs, gourds, pumpkin seeds - 
Why are they all so nice to me?

The first time I did this communal sort of writing lesson, my students and I were saying goodbye to a dear teacher who passed away very suddenly.  The students did not have an opportunity to prepare for the loss or say "Goodbye".  Together, we came to grips with our grief and sadness by writing together.  Each student contributed a line.  Some were funny, while others were moving.  Ten-year-olds have emotions that run deep.

I put the lines together in stanzas and printed a copy for each student.  We stood in a circle on a sunny May afternoon and read our poem - each student reading his or her line.  It was a lovely, quiet goodbye for our cherished reading teacher, Mrs. Koss.  I only wish she could have heard her students reading their poetry lines with such confidence and pride.  Perhaps she did...

Ruminations about Mrs. Koss
by Room 211

Mrs. Koss started us learning.
Mrs. Koss is a busy bee!
Kind, compassionate and always giving a helping hand
Mrs. Koss makes people smile really, really, really big.
Mrs. Koss is fun and quirky like beef jerky!

Mrs. Koss is a great reading teacher!
Mrs Koss is pretty, Mrs. Koss is fun, and Mrs. Koss is smart.
She's respectful to us and everyone else around the world
Friendly when she teaches.

Always inspiring us to work harder, reach higher
She is a leader.
Generous, kind, helping, and giving
Nice and caring person, Mrs. Koss.
Mrs. Koss is as gentle as a fly.

Mrs. Koss is caring, nice, sweet, loving - 
Always helping people.
As pretty as a flower
Mrs. Koss is as bright as the sun.
Always on time and is genteel
Mrs. Koss is as bright as a star.

Lois was all that and much, much more....

Poetry can be deeply personal, deeply cathartic even when you are writing it with twenty of your closest friends.  Early in the year, we can build bridges between friendships.  Later in the year, we can enjoy the journey of the writing.  And yes, when we suffer a great loss, we can mend a piece of a broken heart.

A great thank you to teacher Lynda Sentz and her student writers for sharing their community poems with us.  If your class tries writing such a community poem, please write in a comment and share.  I'd love to spotlight any more community poems in a future post.  This post will be cataloged along the right hand sidebar with all other Poetry Peeks into classrooms.

Please check out Lynda Sentz's brand new book, WRITE WITH ME: PARTNERING WITH PARENTS IN WRITING INSTRUCTION, published by Eye on Education.  Please click on the title above to read about the book or here to read sample pages.

Next week is KitLitCon 2010 and our Poetry Friday Panel!  If you have anything to share regarding how Poetry Friday or The Poem Farm have influenced your teaching and students' writing, please leave a message in the comments, and I will be sure to share it with the group.

This week's Poetry Friday is over at Liz in Ink.  Please mosey on over and cozy up to a family of new poems and poetry posts.  

Tomorrow marks 200 days of nonstop poems at The Poem Farm!

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