Friday, March 16, 2018

A Leaf Journey & Poet Guests

Pressed Sumac Leaves
Photo by Amy LV

Students - The poem above is simply a true story stretched out as a poem.  It is about last night in my living room. In beginning my writing last evening, I decided to read a bit about poetry first.  But when I opened my book, I found all of the sumac leaves you see above.  I held and touched and thought about the leaves, the tree, the meadow.  

I often save little mementos of seasons (leaves, pinecones) or outings (ticket stubs, programs) or holidays (cards, bits of wrapping paper).  Today I find myself thinking that these simple saved objects might be wonderful writing springboards for many of us.  What do you tuck away and save?  Did you ever find a wee something that brought back a memory of a specific place and time?  If so, you might consider writing about it.

You will notice that this poem rhymes every other line....until the last few lines.  What happens there?

Today we have special guests! I am thrilled to welcome Reading Specialist and Leader in Me Teacher, Alicia McKenrick and her students from Pembroke Primary School in Pembroke, NY. Join Alicia on a journey from eye to finger to brain to heart, from shape to memory to color.

In the slides below, teachers will learn how to explore metaphor and analogous thinking with The Private Eye, an incredible resource explained with great wisdom and humor by Alicia.

If you are a student and you do not need to learn about teaching writing, please skip ahead to slide 32 and then to 34 and then to 39 and onward.  On these particular slides, you will find poems and yarn art highlighting students' fingerprints.  You may wish to learn from these models, studying your own fingerprint design as writing inspiration!

Click Enlarge Box to Enlarge

I extend my gratitude to Alicia and these young poet-artists for generously sharing this beautiful process, for allowing us to enjoy these poems and yarn paintings.  It was an absolute delight!  Teachers, you may access Alicia's Lesson template referenced in her slides HERE.

Linda is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance with a celebration of almost-spring! Each week, we gather our posts together at one blog, so if you visit Linda this will be introduced to many new poets and blogs and books.
Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beauty in the Grocery Store

Little Hyacinth
by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday was my mom's birthday.  And the one thing she said she wanted as a gift was a white hyacinth.  I brought her two little ones and of course thought about this beautiful old favorite poem.

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
And from thy slender store
Two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

~ Saadi (1184-?1283), Persian Poet

We need bread, yes.  And we need beauty too.

As I paid for my mom's small flowers, still in bud, the cashier and I talked about the delightful fragrance of hyacinths, how one plant can fill a whole living room with its springy scent. She told me that she could not figure out why there does not exist a hyacinth perfume, "I have a rose perfume, and a lavender perfume...."  I agreed, but just now looked online and see that hyacinth perfumes do exist!  If I could find her again, I would tell her this. If you have never smelled a hyacinth, do make this your spring goal! They are magical.

So today is a celebration of a plant and it is a celebration of something humble.  What plant do you care for?  What small item makes your heart sing right now?

Too, you will notice that today's poem is titled after a place name...and the poem is about something that happened at this place.  If you do not know where to begin, perhaps try with "At the..." or "In the..." and see what journey your words take...

Some of you may know that my lullaby picture book with illustrator Aaron DeWitt - DREAMING OF YOU came out this week!  I posted about it and am hosting a giveaway on Twitter through March 13, and you can learn more (and see the trailer if you wish) at my release day post HERE.

Sweet Dreams!

And in last fall's book news, I am excited to share a new podcast that just went up at Heinemann!  It's between Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz, authors of one of my favorite new books, TALKING BOOKS, SHARING SCIENCE...and me!  We had a blast discussing the connections between poetry and science, and I learned so much from their book and from our conversation.

Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty with a fog poem and a whole collection of poetry teaching tips from a whole lot of folks. Each week, we gather our posts together at one blog, so if you visit Renée this will be introduced to many new poets and blogs and books.  

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Happy Book Birthday to Us!

March 6, 2018

I am so happy to share that today is the book birthday of DREAMING OF YOU, my new lullaby book illustrated by talented illustrator Aaron DeWitt.  We have each dedicated this book to people who dream.


This is a rhyming bedtime book all about what animals dream about.  And what do they dream about?  You!

Here is one of the interior spreads...about robins.  Did you ever wonder about robin dreams?

Click to Enlarge

Below is the book trailer, if you'd like to take a peek.  


Aaron was generous enough to write all about his process of illustrating this book.  If you'd like to read his words, you may do so at my website HERE.  There is more about the book including snips of reviews, HERE.

I feel very fortunate to have been paired with Aaron and to have worked with editors Rebecca Davis and Mary Colgan on the text of this book.  And I am so thankful to Kerry McManus at Boyds Mills Press for all of her marketing wisdom. A book takes a team.

We are grateful to people who have shared DREAMING OF YOU with corners of the world.  You can read a review at The Baby Bookworm if you wish.

You may also see my list of 10 Books about Falling Asleep with Animals at Pragmatic Mom.  There is a giveaway going on there for the next few weeks, so please enter if you wish!

And if you are a teacher or parent on Twitter, please know that we are holding a giveaway for this book, running through March 13.  This giveaway is only running on Twitter, and the information is below.  I can be found on Twitter @amylvpoemfarm.

I have been dreaming of this book for a few years, and now it is here!  Thank you for stopping by The Poem Farm and for being such good friends. I wish you all sweet dreams!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Artists Can Work Together

Music by Composer Garrett Hoffman

Students - Sometimes artists work together, even if they do not know each other.  One person can be inspired by another's work, even if the work is in a different genre, such as art to music or writing to art. Artists of all kinds like art of all kinds, and we learn from and kindle ideas for each other.

Today I would like to offer a joyful Congratulations! to my new friend-I-have-never-met-in-person, Garrett Hoffman.  In honor of him, I am not sharing anything new of my own today...but rather an old poem from the first year of The Poem Farm blog and Garrett's beautiful, haunting music.  And a brief story.

Last September, I received one of the most professional, polite notes I have ever received.  In this note, a young man from Pennsylvania - Garrett -  requested my permission to compose music to go with one of my poems.

Garrett Hoffman

It is a complete honor to be asked such a thing, so of course I said Yes! and Thank you!  to Garrett, a senior at Bethel Park High School. Garrett's composition has brought my poem to a different plane, and I am humbled and grateful to have my words associated with his work. 

And now, please enjoy learning about his process.  If you are a maker (of anything!), think about how his process may be like - or different from - your process.  Welcome, Garrett!

My name is Garrett Hoffman, and I’m an 18-year old composer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’ve always loved writing music, and I especially love music for choirs, because I love singing and the sound of the human voice. I recently took Mrs. Amy VanDerwater’s Poem “Leaving” and wrote music along to it for a composing contest. And, it WON! I was very very excited.

The Poem Turned into Lyrics and Music

Mrs. VanDerwater asked me to tell you all how to turn a poem into a music.

What I typically do is write out very rough sketches of ideas on paper, and once the idea takes more form, I then go ahead and do all my writing on a computer. So, in the case of "Where Will I Go", I only ended up writing the first 7 measures out on paper before finishing it on a computer. 

Beginning a Composition
Photo by Garrett Hoffman

Every poem you will ever read will have a certain mood that goes along with it. Some poems are happy, some are sad, and some are a bit of both. Your job as a composer is to make sure the music sounds like the poem does, and are many different ways to do this.

There are two basic types of songs: those that are in major, and those that are in minor. A song in major usually sounds happy, while songs in minor usually sounds sad. Some songs will use a mix of both, and that’s what I did in my most recent song. “Leaving” is a poem that is very very sad, but it also has some small bits of happiness in it. So I used minor for the sad parts and major for the happy parts.

Choir songs are really cool because they have words, and you can do a lot with a lot with them. What choir composers will try to do is write the music so that it sounds like each specific word. This is called “word painting”. For example, if the lyrics talk about going up, then the music should go up as well. If the choir is singing a word like “air”, then the music should sound like air. There is no right or wrong way to do this--what you think air sounds like might be very different from what other people think it sounds like! This is part of what makes music so much fun: everyone has their own ideas!

Now that I’ve said all that I should mention that it’s difficult to explain exactly how to write a song. There’s this thing called “Music Theory,” which is the study of how music works and how it makes us feel certain ways. This is something that most people don’t understand very well until high school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write something now. Most of Music Theory’s rules are things that you probably already know, even if you don’t know the name for it. So, go and write a song!

Writing music is an art, just like writing a poem or painting a picture. So, your first piece of music won’t be a masterpiece--and that’s okay! What’s important is that you keep trying, because if you never stop trying, you’ll never stop getting better.

You can read more about Garrett's work with this piece at the Bethel Park School District website HERE or in THE ALMANAC HERE.  And if all goes as planned, it looks as if Garrett has sold this piece to a music publisher.  Good, good, good luck, Garrett, on this and on your April performance of Where Will I Go? at the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Association all-state festival in April! I feel grateful to be connected to your gorgeous work and I know that you will be a magnificent teacher should you choose to follow that path.  Thank you for sharing your process and passion, for teaching us all here today.

Some of you may know that my lullaby picture book with illustrator Aaron DeWitt - DREAMING OF YOU - releases on Tuesday.  We are both very excited!  If you wish, you can learn more about that book HERE.

Renée is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at No Water River with a celebration of Poetry Friday Poet and Wholehearted Soul, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. Enjoy learning about her books and hearing a couple of her own wonderful poems too! Each week, we gather our posts together at one blog, so if you visit Renée this will be introduced to many new poets and blogs and books.  

Please share a comment below if you wish.