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

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!


  1. The suspense is killing me! When I saw Author Amok, I thought, aha, that's wonderful! But then...that's not the secret either...:)

    I'm sad to see the Dictionary Hike come to an end. Over the next few days I will be visiting your final roundup and reading those I missed and re-reading those I already know and love. What a collection you've put together!

    And hello to Charles, too, and thanks for a lovely lullaby.

  2. Amy, you never cease to amaze me...first with your poetry, then with the people you inspire to be poetic. NOW, you've hooked actors?! Good for you and good for all of us who get to read your work! Your hike has been a breath taking voyage....thank you for your stamina and skilled guiding! Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings

  3. "I pointed to a word, read some research, talked with my husband, listened to a classic poem, did some math, and wrote." Perfect summation.

    And Charles, that poem calms me as much as "Flaming Poo Poo Platter" amuses me.

    Thanks for the best Poetry Month ever, Amy. You rock.

  4. I'm getting ready for some talk with my teachers about non-fiction poetry & your poem is an example of the beauty that can come from research, instead of that simple encyclopedic report. I loved hearing about the Zaire, Amy, plus what it means-beautiful. And Charles, how easy you make it look to use those words to make us the reader want to read & re-read. A lovely poem to greet the day. Thanks for a terrific ride through the month Amy!

  5. Well, Amy. It has been quite a month, quite a hike. I have learned so much from you these past 30 days. I love the way your "challenge" to join you caught my attention, that caught Christophe, something else caught Charles, Georgia joined us (she is one lucky young lady to have a mother like you!)...and along the way, everyone made these beautiful poems. This gives me hope that poetry and the sharing of poetry realy can change the world. Here is my haiku for today:

    Let's Go

    Let's go far and near,
    Alaska, Belgium, Zaire.
    Let's go. Everywhere!

    Thanks so much Amy.
    Your friend in poetry,

  6. Thank you for coming by today, everybody. It's been a funny month, and it was fun to hike because I have such good friends. Lisa - your haiku are so inspiring. I love today's...A...B...Z! And yes, let's go and spread the love of poetry. Everywhere! a.

  7. Bunches of beauty in this post! I really love how you have been adding your voice as well. Your dictionary journey has taken many to so many places.

  8. Thanks for taking us through the dictionary with you, Amy. It was a great, month-long hike. And thanks, too, for giving us the Charles Waters bonus! Always a pleasure.

    Looking forward to seeing you somewhere secret tomorrow....

  9. It was true pleasure to be a part of this Amy. Thank you for setting challenges to children's poets to broaden our canvas and shoot it through with new ideas!

  10. Amy--I have enjoyed your dictionary hike so much. I love the way you have now compiled them into one post and added the audio file. Now I will have to go back and listen to those that didn't have audio in their original post.

    Just glancing back over them, there were so many great ones that it would be hard to choose a favorite, each a little "poem jewel" (or poemjewel as you might say) in its own right. :)

    Thank you for a fantastic month!