Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I am Thinking about King Tut - Poem #245

Students - Yesterday I wanted to write a nonfiction poem.  So I went into our downstairs bathroom and lugged all of the old NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazines to the kitchen table.  What topic to choose?  King Tutankhamun stared out from the cover of September 2010, and I really had no choice but to write about him.  

I read this article about a recent DNA study of King Tut and his family, noting interesting facts in my notebook.  Doing so, I was struck by the contrast between Tut's glorious death trappings and his somewhat compromised health and early death.  This interested me and got today's poem rolling.  The photographs in this article are a bit creepy, but pretty fascinating too.  I do not want people to dig me up and study me after I'm gone...you hear that?

Two nights ago, our daughter Hope showed us some of her artwork, and her drawing of an Egyptian mummy stared out at me then too, almost begging to be written.  It was meant to be.

To revise this poem, I kept looking back at the articles for strong words.  For example, I changed "needed a walking stick" to "limped with a walking stick" because the word limped felt stronger than the word needed.

I need a little challenge.  So here it is - this will be my first week of nonfiction poems.  I will do a bit of research for each poem, and I'll share a nonfiction link with you if possible.

You can try this too...  Choose something you are studying in school or a nonfiction book you are reading on your own.  List interesting facts about this topic. Bend and twist them into a poem, remembering that you can take any form: mask, non-rhyming, list, story...  Play!

Teachers and Parents - last Poetry Friday was so close to Thanksgiving that I do not want you to miss teacher Amy Merrill's guest visit in which she shares her "Poetry Breaks" and also the importance of nursery rhymes.  Thank you again to Amy!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Come on Over for Leftovers & Poem #244

by Georgia LV

We bought a 30 pound Thanksgiving turkey this year.  You know what this means, don't you?  I don't have to cook for months!  Seriously, we have a lot of turkey in our refrigerator, and while we've eaten five meals of Thanksgiving dinner, this week the turkey will morph into different mystery dishes, starting with  turkey barbecue, a dish not mentioned in this poem.

Students - the idea for this poem came as I set out the platter of turkey for yet another meal.  The whole thing just made me laugh, and that laughter made me want to write a poem about turkey leftovers.  I am not the most creative cook, so I went hunting around the internet to find lists of real turkey recipes.  If you check out Mike's Leftover Turkey Recipes and Leftover Turkey Recipes from Razzle Dazzle Recipes, you will find some of the real recipe names I found!  I looked for recipes that rhymed and went from there.

Something interesting about this poem is that the shape of my first draft looked quite different.  You can see it here.

After looking at the poem this way, I began wondering how it would look with "Turkey" on a line by itself, over and over.  That seemed funnier somehow, so I printed it out both ways and took a poll of my family by asking, "Which version do you like better?"  The top version (my favorite too) won.  You may have a different opinion, and that's perfectly allowed.  Neither is right, but it sure is fun to go back and forth.  It sure is fun to revise.

What's important to note about this is that we can take our exact same words and lay them out on the page in different ways.  This is one way to revise a poem: switch up the line breaks!

For a rollicking read aloud poem, one which I am sure subliminally inspired me here, visit Poets.org to read Jack Prelutsky's "Bleezer's Ice Cream."

Today marks the 2/3 way point through my year to write and post a new poem each day...what a wonderful time it has been.  Many thanks to all of you for riding along with me!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Watching Out the Window - Poem #243

 Our Seed Buffet
by Amy LV

Well, it's that time of year again.  Time to watch the birds flying back and forth from our feeder and time to name the ones we see!  One of my favorite parts of watching birds is watching our cats watch birds.  Yesterday, one-eyed Mini sat atop the couch back, staring at the birds but one foot (and a pane of glass) away.  We call it "Cat TV".

Students - yesterday was one of those "watching-out-the-window-to-find-an-idea" days.  Try it!  Find a good window and stare for a while.  Let your mind roll around the buildings, the fields, the skyscrapers, the animals...whatever you see, inhabit it.

And here's a general tip: your writing will be more interesting if you get yourself out there doing things.  Take a nonfiction book out of the library and learn about a new place!  Plant pumpkin seeds in a cup!  Have a staring contest with your cat!  Build something neat from a shoebox and a bunch of junk!  Hang a bird feeder outside of your window...as my husband Mark did for us.

If someone you love doesn't have a good field guide...consider giving one as a gift.  This is the one for our area, the one we leave lying all around our home.

Or how about a beautiful book of bird poetry, on last year's 2009 NCTE Poetry Notable List?

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Come Wait for Snow in Buffalo - Poem #242

Our Weekend Weather

I love a storm.  Love anticipating a storm.  Love buying an extra box of butter for a storm.  Love watching the flakes fall.  In fact, I love that whole shopping-for-a-storm part so much that some time ago I wrote a listener commentary about it for our local NPR station.

This holiday weekend finds us south-of-Buffalo,NY-types waiting for our first storm of the year.  Such waiting made me imagine snowflakes waiting to fall, snowflakes wondering about their fates.  I imagined I could hear them, something I've done before.  The unheard sounds of snowflakes is a topic I love.

Students - do you have topics that you circle back to the way our dog Cali circles back to her buried bone out back?  It's interesting to read through your notebook, just looking for patterns, for words and ideas and themes that seem to find you over and over again.  Such reading helps writers understand what matters to us most.

If you seek a beautiful list book about different names for snow in all of its forms, I recommend this one.  My use of the word "lace" in today's snowy poem most likely came from reading this book to our children many many times.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Poetry Friday, Poetry Peek, & Poem #241

This is poem #26 in a Friday series of poems about poems.

Today I am tickled to welcome Reading Specialist Amy Merrill from Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, as she shares her enthusiasm for "Poetry Breaks," nursery rhymes, and...well...everything poetic!

"Poetry Break!!!"

...I announce as I pop into one of the classrooms in my elementary school.  With sign in hand, my bell (or whistle, depending on my mood) and whatever I may decide to bring with me that day, I quickly recite or read a poem.  I often have a prop or puppet to accompany my poem, but sometimes I simply use my voice, gestures, and body language to convey the meaning and mood of the poem that I share.  On special occasions, I may even share a treat or souvenir such as a shell or chocolate kiss.  After I share the poem, students echo me as we recite it together.

Not only do the classroom teachers enjoy this brief "Poetry Break" during their hectic school days, the children absolutely LOVE it and ask me when we pass in the hall (or even outside of school), "When are you bringing another poem?" or "Hey!  You're the Poetry Lady!"  or "I liked the poem about the chocolate kiss!" The point here is that no matter what you share with children, if you are passionate and enthusiastic about it, they will be too.  The love of poetry can be contagious!

What Exactly is a "Poetry Break?"

The concept of a "Poetry Break" was created by one of my most favorite authors and children's librarian, Caroline Feller Bauer.  I first had the great fortune to see her present a fabulous workshop on bringing kids and books together in 1995.  I fell in love with all of her ideas and enthusiasm for celebrating literacy.  One of those ideas was the "Poetry Break" during which everything stops for the sharing of a poem.  I began to bring "Poetry Breaks" into my prekindergarten classroom and continued with them ever since.  Initially, I only did "Poetry Breaks" with my students.  About three years ago, that I decided to take the "Poetry Break" into multiple classrooms.  I asked the teachers if I could pop in on a certain day with a certain time period - they loved the idea, and the rest is  history.

 First and Second Graders' Poetry Break
for the Binghamton School Board of Education
(They recited "Down Down" by Eleanor Farjeon
and "Skeleton Parade" by Jack Prelutsky)

My Personal Virtual Poetry Library

Since I love sharing poems, I decided to create a personal virtual library to share my collection of favorite poems, books, anthologies, websites, ideas, and other resources.  I will continue to add to this library, and it will grow as a continuous, fluid work.  This personal virtual library also allows me to continually share "Poetry Breaks" with students, their families, and colleagues.  Please visit these resources here!

Planting the Seeds of Poetry for Young Children:
Hangin' Loose with Mother Goose

"E.D. Hirsh Jr., in his book, CULTURAL LITERACY: WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW (Houghton Mifflin, 1987), suggested that there is a body of knowledge that all Americans need to know to function as literate citizens.  The rhymes of Mother Goose have traditionally been part of the heritage of children growing up in America no matter what their ethnic background" (Bauer, 12).

We know that this is not the truth of today's children's heritage.  Nursery rhymes seem to have become an "endangered species".  In her book, THE POETRY BREAK, Caroline Feller Bauer comments on how our society has made the effort to protect endangered animal species.  She points out, "We may have to take organized action to preserve the childhood tradition of nursery rhymes (12).  I believe that today's children (and even many adults) do not know the joys of the traditional Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.  "Children starting school today are more likely to be conversant with the exploits of the current cartoon characters on film and television than with the adventures of Humpty Dumpty" (Bauer, 12).

Let's get started with the effort to preserve the "endangered species" of nursery rhymes. Join with me in the force!  Read and recite those rhymes!

I am currently in my second year of conducting a nursery rhyme version of a "Poetry Break" with kindergartners at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School.  "Nursery Rhyme Time" is a 15-20 minute mini lesson which I teach 1-3 times per week to kindergarten students.  Mother Goose (a stuffed Mother Goose toy) and I bring artifacts, props, and puppets to introduce a new nursery rhyme to a class.  

Mother Goose and I begin by revisiting rhymes we have already learned by inviting a student to "roll a rhyme" on our "Nursery Rhyme Block", select a nursery rhyme puppet from our "Rhyme Box" or a choose a nursery rhyme in some other way.  We then make predictions about our new rhyme of the day by examining artifacts and objects which represent parts of the rhyme.  I then recite the day's rhyme with motions, dramatization and/or props, masks, or puppets.  The children echo me as we recite the rhyme, and finally we recite and dramatize our nursery rhyme together.

Work Cited


Currently a Reading Specialist at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, Amy Merrill has been teaching for seventeen years.  She has taught prekindergarten and is currently completing her second master's degree in School Library & Information Technology.  A Mother Goose mom, Amy has always integrated nursery rhymes into her the daily lives of her own children, Sienna (10) and Sarah (8).

I eat my peas with honey.
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife!

 Sienna Eats Her Peas With Honey
Photo by Amy Merrill

Sarah Eats Her Peas with Honey Too
Photo by Amy Merrill

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your enthusiasm, knowledge, and virtual poetry library with us today.  Students and Teachers - if you introduce "Poetry Breaks" in your classroom or school, please write to tell us all about it.  And do stop by Amy's wiki for more poetry resources.

Today is Poetry Friday.  For the complete roundup, please visit Jone at Check it Out where you will find links to all things poetry.  If you are new to Poetry Friday, please know that you are welcome to join us each Friday, posting about poetry and linking in with this community.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nestle into a Nest - MyPoWriYe Poem #240

Hidden Wonder
Photo by ? LV

Last week, hurrying out the door on his way to school, Henry cupped a chubby nest in his hands.  Henry's third grade class is studying home-building, and he wanted to share this nest from our yard to show how birds build their homes.  Crafted from sticks and stuffed with wool, Henry's nest is a perfect example of how animals work with their surroundings.  Our Icelandic sheep lose tufts of wool as they scratch on trees, and these fluff balls find their way into nests all around our house.

It is not spring now, not nest-building season at all. In fact, these days I watch flocks of birds rush away, sensing the snow predicted for this week's end.  Birds are on their way out of our parts, but souvenirs from last spring remain - nests blown from trees or silhouetted against dark November skies.  As writers, we can capture any season at any time, whenever we are touched by a dried seed pod or a memory of snow. Seasons blow and change within our hearts just as they chance outside of our windows.

Students - today's poem began as a long list poem, a straight row of one-word-per-line, one-word-after-another.  It was a skinny poem indeed, and after I looked at it, I asked myself, "Hmmm...could I make this poem in the shape of a nest?"  With my computer as a friend, I fiddled around with words until this shape emerged.  It's exciting to discover when a concrete poem hides inside a rectangular poem.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, my dear friends...the ones I know...and the ones I don't!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Poet Lee Bennett Hopkins on Poem #239

Late last evening, I wrote an extra post including yesterday's poem and some wise revision suggestions from master poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins who has been my generous teacher for several years.

Today I feel fortunate to welcome my teacher back as he shares his thoughts on today's poem.  Below you will see the original poem followed by Lee's suggestions followed by the revised poem based on Lee's revisions. 

Students and Teachers - I encourage you to look at these two drafts carefully together, noticing how the deletion of one word or one line can strengthen a whole poem.  One thing Lee has taught me is that "less is more", a lesson I need to learn and relearn.

Again and again, Lee teaches me the importance of spacing.  In this revised version, notice how how the repeated words door and rope are centered, thus highlighting the repeated movement. Notice, too, which lines are are lighter, leaner.

Thank you, Lee Bennett Hopkins, for your generosity in sharing your insights with me - and with students and teachers - today.

If you try this, revising your own poem by deleting unnecessary words, we would love to hear about it.  If you're a teacher-writer or if you have a student who has tried such revision, please share...about the experience or even the poems before-and-after!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Master Poet Visit from Lee Bennett Hopkins

How lucky we are!  Today I am grateful to welcome master poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins as he shares his thoughts on "Bird's Eye View".  For several years, Lee has been my generous and demanding poetry mentor.  So many of us are grateful to Lee for his willingness to teach us this craft.

It was a treat to open e-mail earlier today to find Lee's suggested revisions for my poem.  Below you can see the original, Lee's recommendations, the revised poem, and some closing thoughts from Lee.  

When a master teacher makes recommendations for one poem, we walk away with new understandings we can apply to future poems.

From this "Lee Lesson", we learn that it is important to reread every new poem asking ourselves, "Is this the necessary?  Should I remove this and?"  Reading poems aloud is vital.

Thank you so much, Lee Bennett Hopkins, for your help and willingness to share your thinking with all of us today.

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Fly with Sparrows & a Hawk - Poem #238

Sparrows & Hawk
by Amy LV

The other day I was sitting on a Florida sidewalk with my little notebook open on my lap, wondering what to write.  I looked up as one looks in the refrigerator to find better food than was in the refrigerator last time, and I saw a big bird coasting on the winds.  Seeing that big bird all alone made me wonder if s/he was lonely and it made me think about how sometimes crows and other small birds chase and harass hawks away.  My husband, a science teacher, has pointed this out to us several times.  

Students - we don't have to know what to write before we get started.  Half of writing is having an openness to what is before us, listening always, ready to accept a poem or a story when it sails by.  This is why it is important to have quiet spaces both in and around us.  

At NCTE on Saturday, artist David Diaz (illustrator of 2009 poetry book SHARING THE SEASONS edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins) spoke about this idea of "percolating".  In a session about creating art, he remarked, "Part of the process is not working...any given day, there may be 3-4 hours in the garden.  It (the work) is always there...Work in the garden is work because then you're thinking about it."

While at NCTE, I also had the opportunity to attend a wonderful session on Friday titled "Poets and Bloggers Unite" with poets Sylvia Vardell (Poetry for Children), Elaine Magliaro (Wild Rose Reader), and Tricia Stohr-Hunt (The Miss Rumphius Effect) along with poets Lee Bennett Hopkins, Pat Mora, Marilyn Singer, and Jame Richards.  

The bloggers, who have been featuring the poets for a few weeks and will continue to do so this week, explained the purposes of their blogs, and the poets talked about their writing.  Many ideas were tossed up such as: finding ways to make blogs more interactive, sharing more podcasts and videos of poets reading their work (Sylvia was taping all along, and I look forward to seeing the footage on her blog!), the importance of poetry across the content areas, how much it matters for teachers to write alongside our students, and the need to explore all types of poetry, not only funny poems.

Toward the end of the session, Pat Mora reminded us how lucky we all are, calling her work as a writer "privileged work" and acknowledging that as we had this opportunity to talk about words, others were making our hotel beds and taking care of our needs.

We were also treated to readings from each of the poets' books: Jame's THREE RIVERS RISING (a novel in verse about the Johnstown flood), Pat Mora's DIZZY IN YOUR EYES: POEMS ABOUT LOVE (love poems for teens, highlighting various forms), Marilyn Singer's MIRROR, MIRROR: A  (fairy tale reversos, a form Marilyn invented), and Lee Bennett Hopkins's BEEN TO YESTERDAYS (Lee's award-winning autobiographical poems).

Many congratulations to J. Patrick Lewis, winner of the 2011 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for his body of work!  You can read more about this at Poetry for Children or Wild Rose Reader.  And if you feel like a poetry stretch for yourself this week, head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect where Tricia has posted a new one!

I will list this year's NCTE Poetry Notable books sometime soon, and this Friday will bring us a Poetry Peek into Reading Specialist Amy Zimmer Merrill's Poetry Breaks at Calvin Coolidge Elementary in Binghamton, NY!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

With Thanksgiving & Gratitude...Poem #237

Students - last week I was in Florida and needed to take a taxi ride.  The taxi driver and I got talking, and I learned that he is from Haiti.  Most of his family still lives there, and as you know, Haiti continues to suffer from devastating earthquake-effects and disease.  He explained how his auntie saved to help him come to America and how he would like to help another family member come too, but it is more and more difficult to do so because of laws and money.  He explained how he would like to go to school, but how his expenses require that he work instead.  When I said that his mother must be proud that he was safe and doing well, he told me that his mother died when he was born.  I got out of that taxi knowing that I am not doing enough to help people in my community.

Our country has a history of welcoming new people, just as the Native Americans welcomed and helped the Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving.  And this is a good week to look within and ask ourselves if there is someone in our class or school, someone in our community we might welcome warmly.  No, you probably won't teach anyone how to plant corn.  But if you have a new student in your school, you might sit next to him at lunch or share a joke on the bus.  If I have a new neighbor, I might bring over a pie and a smile.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and in honor of this day, I will list ten things for which I am grateful.  Not big things like whole people, but little gratitudes:

 the sound and feel of a real wood fire
talking with a child about his or her writing
        knowing that my family is snug in their beds
        picking strawberries under summer sun
losing track of time while writing
knowing that someone loves me no matter what
our cat Mini's purr (he is the most grateful creature)
a poem that makes me feel not-alone
being inside when soft heavy snowflakes fall 

Listing before writing always gets me going.  In fact, this list of gratitudes might spark a set of poems.  For what are you thankful?  Would you please tell me in the comments?  If you are a student in school, perhaps your teacher might write in sharing some gratitudes of your class.  Let a spirit of Thanksgiving hold us all like a boat.

Oh!  As I write, a bit of news bursts through my computer.  Someone new to be thankful for...little baby Violet.  For the past several months, her father has documented his parenting-anticipation in short and beautiful posts.  To read this writer's notebook style journal of baby-waiting, visit Bill M's blog, Daddled.  He plans to continue posting, and I'd like to send my warm congratulations to the whole family.

Teachers - tomorrow I will share a few highlights from NCTE and will link to more extensive posts with all poetry-session highlights!

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Captive in a Book? Read Poem #236

A Reading Birthday
Photo by Amy LV

Students - this poem is written in rhyming couplets, meaning that each pair of lines rhymes.  Each line in this poem has eight beats, except for line three which has seven.  How do I know this?  I know this because I am constantly tapping out beats with my fingers, listening for the rhythms in my lines.  Sometimes I change a whole line or set of lines because the beats do not sound right.  The seven-beat line in this poem still sounded good to me, so I kept it even though it was the only one.

If you want to try writing a poem with a specific meter, go for it.  Count out the beats as you go, and after you are finished, count them out again.  See if any lines are way off.  Sometimes I notice that one line is super-long, and I break it into two.  It is a wonderful thing to be in charge of your own poem.  You can make and break the lines however you wish!

Teachers and parents - as we work to help children love reading and increase their agency over learning,  Alfie Kohn's article from ENGLISH JOURNAL provides us some thoughtful insights.  Read "How to Create Nonreaders" for inspiration and good thought.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Celebrating Children's Day with Poem #235

by Amy LV

My children have asked me many times, "When is Children's Day?"  Well, different countries celebrate Children's Day on different days.  The United Nations recommends today, November 20, as a "Universal Children's Day", a day to promote "worldwide fraternity and understanding between children" as well as  "the welfare of the children of the world".  You can read a bit more about Children's Day here.

Days like this make me ask myself, "What can I do?" as well as "What will I do?"

THE MILESTONES PROJECT, by Michele and Richard Steckel, is an exquisite book full of photographs of children and writing by adults and children from all over the world.  It beautifully and honestly highlights children's common experiences, from haircuts to birthdays to lost teeth.  

Shop Indie Bookstores

Students - Happy Children's Day to you all!  Enjoy your day and perhaps take a moment to think about a child you will never meet, living far away, dreaming some of the same dreams as you.
Teachers and Parents - Happy Children's Day to you...those who give to children each day.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Poetry Friday & Like a Butterfly - #234

Stillness & Symmetry
Photo by Bruce VanDerwater 

This is poem #25 in a Friday series of poems about poems.

Students - Today I feel grateful to be at NCTE, a conference for English teachers, learning about poetry from all kinds of experts, poets and professors, teachers and librarians.  We teachers and writers are always trying to learn more, just as you learn in school and home each day.  And we are very lucky to have this opportunity.  In some places of the world, children and adults do not have the chance to learn to read, write, draw, play an instrument, or delve into math.  Our chances to learn are gifts, just like little butterflies that quietly land on us.  We must take good care of such gifts.

One thing you may have noticed is that I have been comparing poems to all kinds of things over the past six months of poem-poems: hitchhikers, butterflies, scared animals, healers...  I adore metaphors.

Diane is hosting Poetry Friday today over at Random Noodling.  Head on over to learn about today's poetry offerings all throughout the KidLitosphere!  If you are a new Poetry Friday visitor, please know that you are always welcome to join in, posting and sharing about poetry on any Friday and linking right in.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Camping Poem - #233 is in a Sleeping Bag

by Amy LV

Here at home, we were just talking about how our vacations next year will be camping vacations.  There is nothing like sleeping in a tent, waking to the birds and the sound of a creek flowing nearby, nothing like leaving your watch in the car and eating food with a hint of woodsmoke, nothing like singing late into the night together and in the wild.  Next year: camping!

Students - this poem is full of one-line repetition.  I'm sure you noticed it.  Sometimes it is just fun to do that, repeat one line over and over again...and then at the end...change it up, and end your list with a bit of a twist!

For a fabulous poetry book about all things camping, read Kristine O'Connell George's TOASTING MARSHMALLOWS.  While you're at it, paddle on over to her extensive and beautiful website, full of book lists, stories about Kristine's books, poems, writing tips, video, and more.  Bring a mug of cocoa, and nestle right in.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If I Worked in a Grocery Store...Poem #232

Students - every time I go to the grocery store, I look at other people's groceries.  This is a nosy habit.  When I stand in line, placing my own items on the conveyor belt, I wonder about the people ahead of me and behind me in line:  Does he live alone?  Why is that lady buying ten bottles of ginger ale?  I wonder who has a cough?  How did they get so healthy?  What kind of party is that family having?  Who is the rose for?

When she was a high school student, my former student, friend, and wonderful writer, Heather, worked at a grocery store.  I remember asking her if she thought about the different people and what they bought.  She said she did.  The other day, I asked the lady who checked my groceries if she wonders about the shoppers and their different assortments of food.  She said she didn't.  

This is something I've thought about for years and think about weekly, each time I shop, just imagining about the people around me each day.  Such wonderings, got me started on this poem.  I took one wondering and then asked, What if?  (What if I worked in a grocery store?) What do you frequently wonder about? What might you turn into a What if?  Do you have any embarrassing nosy habits that you could write about?

On a similar note, one book I have loved for years (and just repurchased used since it is sadly out-of-print) is Dale Gottlieb's MY STORIES BY HILDY CALPURNIA ROSE.  Each page is a different story, written by Hildy, about her neighbors.  I have to wonder if this book didn't inspire my poem a wee bit.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fluffing Up for Winter & Poem #231

Puffy Mr. Fluffles 
(Angora Rabbit)
Photo by Georgia LV

Fluffy Rainbow 
(Icelandic Sheep)
Photo by Amy LV

The other day, my husband Mark was giving our dog Cali a good neck scratch, and he commented, "Wow, she's really getting in her winter coat!  She feels so different than she did a couple of months ago."  And it's true.  We've been noticing that all of our animals are getting just a wee bit puffier, fluffier, ready for snow.  It's too late to have the sheep shorn even if we wanted to, and it's getting late to pluck Mr. Fluffles too.  It's time to order coats for Hope, Georgia, and Henry, and it's time to fill our shelves with hot cocoa and marshmallows.  Winter is blowing into our keyhole from not-so-far away.

Students - once again, you might have noticed that this poem grew from something someone else said, something Mark said.  I encourage you to be a listener this week, to listen to those around you as a friend and family member but also as a writer, to ask your quiet self, "Hmmm...is there something writer-useful here?"  If a comment pops up in your mind a couple of times, go ahead and write it into your notebook.  The piece may grow today, and it might grow another day.  By saving such small observations of spoken language, you feather your own writing nest with ideas and gathered musings.

For more information about animals preparing for winter, here's a great old TIME FOR KIDS.  I didn't know that lobsters migrate!  And for a long list of books and resources about hibernation, check out Tricia's generous post at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

To hear Rachel Field's beautiful poem-turned-song, "Something Told the Wild Geese", listen to young Shannon sing both parts on this YouTube clip.  When I taught fifth grade, our students performed this song, and it has stayed with me for the past twelve years.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Soup's On! Come for a Slurp of Poem #230!

by Amy LV

Students - this poem came from nowhere.  I had no idea what to write, but I had to write.  So I lay on my bed, clipboard and pencil at the ready...and I waited.  The first line came.  Then I couldn't think of anything else to say, and so I took a nap.  Later, the rest followed.  Sometimes I think that the mind just needs to take a little trip into dreamland to find those right words.

Try this sometime.  Don't try it at school (too noisy and you might get in trouble), but try it at home.  Begin writing, nap, write some more.  And let me know!

After writing, revising, and editing this silly poem, I was pretty happy with it.  I typed it up neatly and made it yellow for the blog.  Then I came back to read it later.  And I made changes.  Originally the poem was one long stanza, but I dove back in and turned it into three stanzas to show the three different parts of the poem.  This is something useful to try: after writing a poem, ask yourself, Could I arrange these same lines into a different number of stanzas?

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