Monday, October 26, 2015

First Catch - A Poem for Two Voices

Sarah the Manx
Photo by ?? LV

(Click to Enlarge)

Students - This is a poem for two voices.  You can see it is written in two columns, and one side is for one reader (the human) and one is for another reader (the kitten).  To read the poem, readers take turns reading their lines in order of how they fall down the page.  When two lines sit side-by-side, both readers read at the same time.  You can hear my son Henry and I read it together above.

We have five cats here at The Poem Farm now, and lately Sarah has been bringing back little dead voles to the back door.  When she catches one, she meows loudly so that we will come to the glass door to praise her.  Early last week, she brought a vole back, and I took it away from her.  The next time she came with one, she ran away with it as soon as I opened the door.  It is confusing to be a cat parent sometimes.

I had the good fortune to visit two schools last week as a visiting author: H.B. Milnes school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and Vernfield Elementary in Telford, Pennsylvania.  They were wonderful visits for me, and at Vernfield, I wrote a bit with the third graders.  One thing we talked about was two possible ways to write a poem:

to something (poem of address)
as something (mask poem).

I wrote on a chart in front of them, pretending to be my kitty, proud to have caught a bird.  Then, in my notebook, I wrote from my own perspective, how I feel when Sarah catches a small animal.  I want to be proud...but...I am sad for the wee bird or vole or mouse too.

Below, you can see the chart paper on which I started the mask side of the poem.

Here is my notebook-play of speaking to the kitten.

And then above you can see the mash up.  It was interesting to write a two voice poem in this way.

After visiting H.B. Milnes school, and later, Vernfield Elementary in Telford, PA, I had the good fortune to attend part of the 2015 KSRA Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  As part of the Thursday Poetry Evening, poet Sara Holbrook invited me to co-read a poem for two voices from her book  WHAM! IT'S A POETRY JAM.  This, I believe, is what made me choose to write today's poem as a poem for two voices, what helped me decide to mix together the two short demonstration drafts from Vernfield - the good feeling of reading with a friend.

WHAM! IT'S A POETRY JAM is a wonderful book, and if you like performing poetry - or if you've never tried to perform poetry - you will want to check it out. Sara is a fantastic writer, and I loved reading from this great book right with the author herself!

In notebook-news, if you have not yet commented on author Jeff Anderson's post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, please do.  You may win a copy of his first middle grade novel, ZACK DELACRUZ: ME AND MY BIG MOUTH.  Jeff is author of many of my favorite professional books for teaching writing, and I highly recommend you check out his project journal post.

Last week' Poetry Friday roundup, in case you missed it (as I did) was is at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  There you will find Penny Klostermann's beautiful poetic buttons wrapped up in teddy bears, in chocolates, and in all manner of happiness.

Please leave a comment below if you wish.


  1. Amy,
    Bravo to you and Henry. Loved it! Well done!

    I love the idea of a poetry jam. I hope schools buy copies of this book and put on productions of their own. I have an idea how I can help at one school. I'd love to make a small splash in a big pond.

    I'm so glad your visits and presentations went well. Thanks for helping young poets bloom.

  2. Sarah is a beautiful cat. I have outside cats and get an occasional gift at the backdoor. Cats will be cats. I love your two voice poem. My students enjoy them, too. We've never tried to write them, but your process has me thinking.