Friday, June 3, 2011

Poetry Friday, Peek, & Notebook Keeping

Sleep Pile
Photo by Amy LV

Students - this poem came from my files.  It's a little one that I began writing long ago and came back to this week.  Something wonderful about keeping a writer's notebook is that you can visit and revisit it over and over again looking for good things to revise and play with some more.  Keeping a notebook reminds me that the small snips of my life matter greatly if I hold onto and spin silken words around them.

I love writing lists, remembering crystals of my childhood, gluing letters, and making plans in my notebook.  Right now I am working on a picture book because the idea has popped up in my notebooks again and again over the past few years.  Keeping a notebook helps us know what we circle back to and helps us recognize which topics keep calling out to us.

If you do not keep a notebook now, you  might want to make this a summer project.  Just get a book you like, and decorate the cover if you wish.  Don't be afraid of how pretty it is or think that you need perfect ideas.  Just dive in and follow the words.

A Few of My Notebooks
Photo by Amy LV

A few weeks ago, I was tickled to open up my e-mail to find this letter from Terry Semlitsch, a mom and special education teacher at Wales Primary in the Iroquois Central School District here in Western New  York.  Terry's son, Braden, is a first grader in Peggy Long's classroom in this same school.

Hi Amy!  I just wanted to share what my son is doing with poetry.  Braden is in Mrs. Long's first grade class at Wales.  He has been very inspired to write poems on his own!  When he gets home from school, he almost always goes to his room to write some poems.  I have attached some pics of his display of poems in his room.  So cute!  And I love that he loves writing poems!

When I asked Terry to tell more about her thoughts as teacher and mother, she wrote,

From a parent perspective, we were absolutely thrilled with Braden's interest in writing poetry.  For a week straight (when he was being immersed in poetry in the classroom and just starting to write his own at school), he grabbed a notepad and started writing as soon as he got home from school.  He never got discouraged with spelling, he wrote freely, and always had ideas for topics.

When we went anywhere in the car, Braden would grab a notepad for the drive.  Sometimes he would write poems, and other times he would brainstorm ideas for poems.  Although he doesn't always write every day at home, he often looks at everyday events and thinks aloud about how that could be a poem.  For example, with all of this crazy rain, we get literally hundreds of worms in our driveway.  Braden commented that it was like a "worm party" and went on to say what he would say in a poem.  He also made an Easter card for his grandma with a little poem for her.

He is so much more comfortable with writing now.  This poetry unit gave him the spark of confidence he needed to know that his thoughts are not wrong and he can say things in whatever way he chooses.

Braden's Home Poetry Display
Photo by Terry Semlitsch

Braden's Poem Close-Ups
Photo by Terry Semlitsch

Two of Braden's Poems
Photo by Terry Semlitsch

Braden's love of poetry grew in his classroom, and his teacher, Peggy Long, shares her own experience of teaching poetry this year below.

As the start of my poetry unit approached, I began to feel the anxiety associated with  never having taught poetry before.  Certainly we had read a lot of poetry, but to have first graders write it themselves seemed a bit intimidating.

I stayed focused on my initial objective of immersion.  We began reading lots of poetry all the time.  I read to them, they read to me, we read chorally, and they would take their poetry binders home each night and read to their parents.  We began to chart all of the things we noticed and appreciated about poetry.  I wasn't sure of the effect of all this sharing, but I knew they were enjoying it as much as I was.

After about a week and a half, the seeds began to sprout.  The children began to reveal poems they had been writing at home.  The subjects of their writing were as wonderful and unique as the children themselves!  At this point, I knew, they're ready.  And even more, so was I ready.

Here is a class poem written by Mrs. Long's class and a concrete bee poem by Nicole K.

Lunch Room Noises
Loud chewing,
Quiet talking,
Banging trays,
Slurping milk,
Laughing friends,
Clapping hands,
Yelling people,

And that's all I

by Mrs. Long's Class

"Bees" by Nicole
Photo by Peggy Long

Notes like the one I received from Terry, the opportunity to work with teachers like Peggy and Terry, and a chance to read these beautiful works by young people...these are some of the great joys of my life.  Thank you to these teachers and children for brightening our Poetry Friday.

For today's Poetry Friday roundup,visit the delightful and tea-loving Toby over at A Writer's Armchair, a very cozy and nourishing nest where you can snuggle with words.


  1. something i'm reminded of when seeing the photos of braden's poetry is that i remember being afraid of white space on a page when i was young. though i can't say for certain who, i can still hear the echoes on one elementary school teacher imploring us to write across the page, margin to margin. i even remember going off to college and feeling like the early (extremely bad) poetry i wrote would sit like an island surrounded by all the white on the page.

    which might explain my fondness to this day for small, pocket-sized notebooks. easily filled, they never feel abandoned or wasteful. this is a pretty deep river i'm realizing right now...

    lovely poem, amy. cuddly breath indeed.

  2. I love the sleeping cars. And the bee poem -- ow! -- enough said.

    Amy, I mentioned an old post (and poem) of yours at Author Amok today. Stop by when you have a chance.

  3. I love your whole post, Amy! It's amazing what a beautiful mood you can create with just a few words, as in your kitten poem. The story about Braden is inspiring, and I can relate very much to this line about notebooks:

    "Don't be afraid of how pretty it is."

  4. I need to dive back into my writer's notebook! (or maybe just go back and read bits from my stack of notebooks!)

  5. Surprising and exciting poetry!