Monday, April 30, 2012

My Dictionary, A-Z

Welcome to the complete 
April 2012 Dictionary Hike!

During April 2012, I wrote a poem for each letter of the alphabet. How did I find the ideas for these poems? Why, in the dictionary, of course! Below you can see me as a paper doll, sticking out of my children's dictionary.

Photo by Amy LV

Each day, I closed my eyes and opened my dictionary to a new letter, checking beforehand where that day's letter began and ended in the book. I began with A and worked my way to Z. Once the dictionary was open to a page, I would swirl my finger around around, and then I'd let it land.

Photo by Amy LV

Finger on a word, I opened my eyes to see which word I had landed on. And then, each day, I wrote a poem using the word under my finger!

This project was inspired by "The Lanyard" by Billy Collins as well as the 2012 March Madness poetry tournament over at Ed DeCaria's Think Kid, Think!  It was also inspired by something we teachers often say in writing workshops, "Just pick a word and go!"

When you scroll through all 26 poems below, you will be reading a month's worth of work. If you are interested in knowing more about any one of them (how I got the idea, something about the form, an idea for you to try), just click on the magenta heading and you will be sent directly to that day's post.

Under each poem, you will also find a recording of me reading the poem to you. I am hoping that this will feel like one of those museums or zoos where people get to learn and listen with headphones!

At the end of March, I had no idea what I would do here for National Poetry Month. One day in March, I was blogging along and just typed in the idea that I'd do a Dictionary Hike. It was a very spontaneous thought, and I could not have guessed how much I would have learned or enjoyed this journey. It's been wonderful to read the poems and comments from haiku-friend Lisa Vihos and several others, and I tried some new forms and wrote about words I never would have chosen on my own.

The Dictionary Hike taught me that if we want to, we can write from anything. The whole world is inspiring.


Here's the Hike in its entirety, except for D & F, which are currently under consideration for a new collection.
Click the title above each poem to learn more about it.
Click the arrow below each poem to listen to the poem.
Click below for an audio introduction to the Hike.

 




















 











 




























 



























 








 








 































































 



























 






















And that, my friends, was the Dictionary Hike.  

26 poems on all kinds of topics. Now I will sit and drink a glass of water, thinking about all that I read and learned this month.  I will be back next Monday for regular postings.

In the meantime, today I am visiting two different places!

I am very happy to be spending the day at Author Amok with Laura Shovan as a part of her series of 30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets sharing a bit about my revision process.  Author Amok is one of my "poetry haunts," and you can visit Laura there regularly to find poetry, writing advice, teaching ideas, and more.  Thank you, Laura, for having me over to visit!

Today I will be happily visiting Wonderopolis as well!  Today's WONDER is What is a Poetry Slam? and I have written the Try it Out! section.  If you do not know Wonderopolis, this site asks and answers a different questions - from any area - every day, and then answers it in all kinds of ways.  It's perfect for home and classroom too, feeding the curious.

Over at The Poem Farm's sister blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, many poets have visited in April, generously sharing their writer's notebooks and process.  This is a fantastic resource for teachers and writing workshop classrooms, and I invite you to stop by.  You can head on over there and peek right inside the pages of others' notebooks, something that nosy people love to do.  These are the poets who have posted this month:

Janet Wong
Laura Shovan
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Suz Blackaby
Allan Wolf - The drawing for Allan's ZANE'S TRACE will take place on Monday evening.

Our final notebook-sharer of April 2012 at Sharing Our Notebooks is Heidi Mordhorst.  She takes us through her notebooks and tells us about double-drafting-by-hand.  She has also offered a very generous giveaway of a specially modified version of her beautiful book PUMPKIN BUTTERFLY to a reader.

Today is the first chalking celebration over at Teaching Young Writers, and Betsy welcomes us to come and see who is chalking which poems today.  If you have a moment, a road, and some chalk...consider chalking a poem yourself!   

Here is my offering, an old favorite.


Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Z is for ZAIRE

Z is for ZAIRE
Photo by Amy LV


 
Click the arrow to hear me read this poem to you.

ZAIRE is the first word in the Z section of my children's dictionary.

Students - Well, when I opened my dictionary to another geographical location...I was surprised.  This has happened two other times, with J is for JAMAICA and N is for NORTHERN IRELAND.  Each time I got a little worried.  "What would I write?"  But then I read...and then I learned...and then I wrote.

For today's poem, I began reading and learned that Zaire had been called the Congo and was only known as Zaire from 1971 - 1997 when it again became the Congo. Reading Wikipedia, I learned that the name Zaire comes from the Portuguese word Zaire which comes from the Kongo word nzere or nzadi, which means "the river that swallows all rivers."  Isn't that gorgeous?

When I told Mark this name story, he said, "You should write about the river!" And so I did.

Reading along, I was reminded that Langston Hughes mentions the Congo River in his most beautiful of river poems, The Negro Speaks of Rivers.  If you click on the title, you can read the poem and hear him read it over at Poets.org

I did a little bit of math with this poem too.  The Congo River is the world's deepest river at over 220 meters (220 feet), and I imagined four-foot-tall first graders standing on top of each other's shoulders.  With all of the calf/head overlap, it would take more than 200 to reach the bottom of the Congo River. Wow.

So, there you have it.  I pointed to a word, read some research, talked with my husband, listened to a classic poem, did some math, and wrote.

That last sentence sums up my past month.  For this Z poem is the final poem of my April 2012 Dictionary Hike.  This month I met and wrote with Lisa, Christophe, and Georgia, enjoyed a V is for VULTURE poem by Michele, and learned about children opening their own dictionaries and making word baskets.  It was a zesty month, and I feel grateful to everybody who stopped by. Tomorrow, April 30, I will list out all 26 alphabet poems.

Today I welcome actor and poet Charles Waters!


On April 12 (K is for KNICKKNACK), I wrote about wonderful words and shared Wilfred J. Funk's list of most beautiful words.


Charles left this post in the comments:


Well, last night he wrote to me with the poem!

Luminous Lullaby

Children listen, hush, hear that
Golden melody that chimes at dawn?
This luminous lullaby loves
murmuring through mist
Sending tranquil thoughts your way
Every day.

© Charles Waters

On the April 12, 2012 entry of The Poem Farm, Amy posted (among other neat things) the 10 most beautiful words according to Wilfred J. Funk, and it inspired me to attempt to write a children's poem using  those ten words: dawn, hush, lullaby, murmuring, tranquil, mist, luminous, chimes, golden, and melody.  My aim was to use them in a way where it flowed into the poem so well that you wouldn't have thought I wrote it as a challenge to myself but instead as a moment of thankfulness to the blessings of nature.

Thank you, Charles, for sharing this poem full of beautiful words here today.  

Tomorrow is the first chalking celebration over at Teaching Young Writers. Join organizer-Betsy, Linda from TeacherDance, many others, and me as we chalk, photograph, and share poems. 

Over at The Poem Farm's sister blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, there are two new peekable notebooks. So if you are a notebook-keeper, a notebook-keeper-hopeful, or a teacher who uses notebooks in your classroom, please don't miss Suz Blackaby's post about her process and word tickets or Allan Wolf's post about wall writing and butt books.  The drawing for Allan's ZANE'S TRACE will take place on Monday evening.

Tomorrow, April 30, you can find the whole April 2012 Dictionary Hike here.  And I will be somewhere else. Two other places actually.  I will be at Author Amok with Laura Shovan as a part of her series of 30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets sharing a bit about my revision process.  And I will be in a secret place. Really, they told me that I must not tell!  So please come back tomorrow, and I will tell you.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for YET

Y is for YET
Photo by Amy LV

Cali in 2009
Photo by ?


We're pet lovers here at Heart Rock Farm. With 2 dogs, 5 cats, a rabbit, 7 sheep, 14ish chickens, and a fish, (and two class pet guinea pigs spending the weekend), there is always a creature to love. I'm a great believer in pets making people kinder and more responsible too. So when I sat to write a poem using the word YET, I thought of NOT YET, and then I thought about things that parents might say NOT YET about.

Our family is trying to learn to say NO MORE when it comes to pets!

Students - This short and simple poem is written in rhyming couplets - each pair of two lines rhymes at the ends of the lines.  I do not write often in couplets, but this poem felt so simple and sad that I wanted the meter to match. What do you notice about the syllables?  Do you notice anything else about this poem?  (Hint - look at the ending.)

If you are new to The Poem Farm, welcome! This month I have been walking, letter-by-letter, through the dictionary (closed-eyed), pointing to a letter each day, and writing from it. You can read poems A-X by checking the sidebar, and you can visit Lisa Vihos and read her accompanying daily haiku at, Lisa's Poem of the Week. In today's comments, watch for Lisa's Haiku and also Christophe's haiku. It's a lot of fun to meet new friends in the poetry forest.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, there are two new peekable notebooks. So if you are a notebook-keeper, a notebook-keeper-hopeful, or a teacher who uses notebooks in your classroom, please don't miss Suz Blackaby's post about her process and word tickets or Allan Wolf's post about wall writing and butt books.

Monday is the first chalking celebration over at Teaching Young Writers. Join organizer-Betsy, Linda from TeacherDance, many others, and me as we chalk, photograph, and share poems. April 30!

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for XENOPHOBIA


X is for XENOPHOBIA
Photo by Amy LV


Click the arrow to hear me read this poem to you.

In my dictionary, there is only one page for the letter X.  When I pointed to today's word, XENOPHOBIA, I looked above and saw XENOPHILIA.  I wanted to write from both words, and so I did.

Students - Today's poem plays on the suffixes of these two words.  -Phobia means fear of.  -Philia means attraction to.  Xeno-  means having to do with foreigeners. As I began jotting notes, the first two lines just popped in my head. And honestly, the rest of  the poem mostly just came out as is. I would say that today's poem was rhythm-driven.  The meter felt like water bubbling over rocks, and the words just followed.

You might wish to play with suffixes and prefixes for a poem, or you might want to try to write a poem about opposites.  I found that these two very different feelings gave me a lot to push against in my writing.  You might also just want to listen to rhythms in music, in your mother's speech, in the hum of your home.  Let these seep into your poetry.  Rhythm can drive words.

If you are new to The Poem Farm, welcome!  This month I have been walking, letter-by-letter, through the dictionary (closed-eyed), pointing to a letter each day, and writing from it. You can read poems A-W by checking the sidebar, and you can visit Lisa Vihos and read her accompanying daily haiku at, Lisa's Poem of the Week. In today's comments, watch for Lisa's Haiku and also Christophe's haiku.  It is lovely to poetryhike with new friends.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, there are two new peekable notebooks.  So if you are a notebook-keeper, a notebook-keeper-hopeful, or a teacher who uses notebooks in your classroom, please don't miss Suz Blackaby's post about her process and word tickets or Allan Wolf's post about wall writing and butt books.

Monday is the first chalking celebration over at Teaching Young Writers.  Join organizer-Betsy, Linda from TeacherDance, many others, and me as we chalk, photograph, and share our poems.  April 30!

The winner of Suz's NEST, NOOK, AND CRANNY is Janet F.!  Please send an e-mail to amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address.  The winner of Allan's ZANE'S TRACE will be selected on Monday evening, April 30 and announced on Tuesday Morning, May 1.

Tabatha is hosting this week's Poetry Friday Roundup over at The Opposite of Indifference. Visit her warm and wonderful space, and let yourself sink deeply into the poetic offerings of this week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

V is for VULTURE & Very Special Guest

V is for VULTURE
Photo by Amy LV


Well, we're back on track now after our little W/V mix-up.  And what a great word for today!  Today's word, the very last in the V section of my dictionary, led me to the Turkey Vulture Society, some good learning, and a greater appreciation of scavengers.

Today's poem is a villanelle.  I once again turned to that great Paul Janeczko book, A KICK IN THE HEAD, to help me puzzle out form, and the villanelle is a tricky one. You'll see the 5 tercets followed by a quatrain as well as the rhyme scheme: aba, aba, aba, aba, aba, abaa.  You will notice that the first line of the poem repeats as the last line of stanzas 2 and 4 as well as the third line of stanza 6. You will also see that the third line repeats as the last line of stanzas 3 and 5 as well as the final line of the poem.  You may also notice that each line has 10 syllables.

If you are familiar with John Milton's poem On His Blindness, you will know the line - "They also serve who only stand and wait."  That line went through my head as I wrote about vultures.  There is something powerful in waiting, in patience.

When I told my daughter Hope that I was going to write a villanelle about vultures, she said, "Wouldn't it be neat to do a Dictionary Hike where each poem type had to begin with the letter of that day?"  Hmmm... Here we go: Acrostic, Ballad, Cinquain...

And now for our guest poster!

Georgia LV
Photo by Amy LV

Today I am most excited to welcome my eleven-year-old daughter, Georgia, to this space.  She is a frequent photographer of Poem Farm photos, and she has been taking her own Dictionary Hike this month, right through the letters of her name.  So far Georgia has written poems from:

G - GLIMPSE
E - ENTHRALL
O - ONCE

And today, she writes from REDWOOD.  Last night after I came home from a school meeting, Georgia met me at the door with her poem, and I asked right away if she would allow me to share the poem and her process.  I am so grateful that she agreed.  Below you can read Georgia's poem, see her draft, and read her thoughts.


Draft of R IS FOR REDWOOD
By Georgia LV

The first thing I did was to Google REDWOOD tree facts. I didn't know I would write about any particular tree. I found that the largest Redwood tree was 379 feet tall and that it had a name. I became enthralled (my second word) by this tree character and decided to find out all I could about him.

I jotted down any facts that I found interesting and then crossed them out if I changed my mind. I was also very intrigued by the name. What does it mean? Why was he called that?

I looked HYPERION up in the online dictionary and found it was a name for a titan (Greek giant). Then I looked at my facts and added a couple in.

I formed my poem around the facts and not the facts around the poem. This is the first factual poem I have ever done. It was a lot of fun. Try it sometime!


Thank you to Georgia for her openness in sharing her fourth poem of this month and her thinking process too.  Writing ABOUT our thinking helps us understand it even more.

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day to all!  Today I have a poem in my pocket. The poem is Candles by Carl Dennis.  And since I will not see many people today, I will send in copies to my children's teachers.  Here it is for you!  What poem do you have (or would you like to have) in your pocket today?  Please share in the comments as we're all always looking for more beautiful poemfriends.

In case you are new to The Poem Farm, this month I am walking, letter-by-letter, through the dictionary, (closed-eyed) pointing to a letter each day, and writing from it. You can read poems A-W by checking the sidebar, and you visit Lisa Vihos and read her accompanying daily haiku at, Lisa's Poem of the Week. In today's comments, watch for Lisa's Haiku and also Christophe's haiku.  It is has been grand to poetryhike with new friends.

Do not miss this week's funny and informative post at Sharing Our Notebooks. Author and poet Suz Blackaby is sharing her notebooks as well as a clever writing exercise. Stop by to read her words and to enter the giveaway for her book, NEST, NOOK, & CRANNY.  The winner's name will be drawn TONIGHT!

Remember, tomorrow is Poetry Friday, the last of this year's National Poetry Month.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

W is for WOKEN?

W is for WOKEN
Photo by Amy LV

Seal Dreams
by Amy LV


Students - Do you notice anything strange today?  Well, I made an embarrassing little error.  Opening my dictionary to a letter for today's poem...I opened to the wrong letter.  I forgot V, the letter of my OWN LAST NAME.  So, today's poem is a W poem, and tomorrow will be a V poem.  Then things will all be right again.  (I do know the alphabet. I do!)

Even with this silly mistake, I'm quite happy with today's word.  It's a funny and old-fashioned sounding word, a word we don't use often.  I had to look it up in a few different places to hear some varied sentence examples.

This short little verse has a wee bit of special sound work inside of two lines.  In line 5, QUILTS and SILVER have the IL sound, and in line 7, CRIED and FIND both have the long I sound.  Sometimes writers repeat vowel sounds, and this is called assonance.  Sometimes I revisit a poem after I have written it to work more purposefully on my vowel sounds.

Try it.  Look at a sentence or poem line that you recently wrote, maybe something in your notebook.  Now just study the vowel sounds.  Do any repeat? Can you find a way to include a bit of assonance in one of your lines or sentences?  It's a good brain exercise, one that becomes more natural with dedicated practice.

Do not miss this week's funny and informative post at Sharing Our Notebooks. Author and poet Suz Blackaby is sharing her notebooks as well as a neat writing exercise. Stop by to read her words and to enter the giveaway for her book, NEST, NOOK, & CRANNY.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for URGE

U is for URGE
Photo by Amy LV


Verbs are the most important of all your tools. 
They push the sentence forward and give it momentum...
flail, poke, dazzle, squash, beguile, pamper, swagger, wheedle, vex.
- William Zinsser, ON WRITING WELL

Students - Today's word, URGE, can be used as a verb, or it can be used as a noun.  You can URGE someone to make you a cake and you can have feel an URGE to make a cake yourself.  There have been a few words this month which can be used as either verbs or nouns, and today I chose the verb form.

As soon as I began thinking about the word URGE, I thought about what a mighty little word it is.  Just say the word aloud - URGE.  Doesn't it pack a lot of punch?  That strong feeling is what urged me to write today's poem about verbs.  I just began listing and thinking, playing with verbs I love.  You may notice something about the rhyme in this poem too.  (It's not just at the ends of the lines!)

You might wish to keep a page of mighty verbs in your own notebook, or maybe you will want to keep a verb list in class to share.  Either way or even if you don't do this, always reread your work asking, "Is there a mightier verb that would better push this sentence?"

Congratulations to the winners of the Rebecca Kai Dotlich books over at my other blog Sharing Our Notebooks! Lori Faas won BELLA and BEAN, and Renee LaTulippe won LEMONADE SUN! Please just send me an e-mail with your name and snail mail address to my e-mail at amy at amylv dot com.

Today at Sharing Our Notebooks, author and poet Suz Blackaby is sharing her notebooks as well as a neat writing exercise. Stop by to read her words and to enter the giveaway for her NEST, NOOK, & CRANNY.

Guess what! The Poem Farm almost has 200 followers in that little grid of photos over to the left! Thank you, everybody! It is helpful for me to show publishers that people read this blog, and I appreciate your public show of support.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
Like The Poem Farm on Facebook for more poems, articles, and poemquotes!