Saturday, March 31, 2018

2018 National Poetry Month Project!

UPDATE: MAY 3, 2018
If you are here to visit the Orion poems, they are no longer here.
I hope that they will grow up into a book someday.  
Thank you for reading them and for joining me for 1 Subject 30 Ways...
xo, Amy

Get Ready!
Photo by Amy LV

From The Poem Farm Archives 2017

Happy National Poetry Month Eve!  National Poetry Month, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, is a month-long celebration of all things poem.  You can learn more about this four weeks of literary joy, download or order a free (beautiful!) Poetry Month Poster, find 30 ways to celebrate, and get ready for Poem in Your Pocket Day at

Jama has rounded up all of the Kidlitosphere Poetry Month festivities at her blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup, a beautiful blog where you can find so much poetry goodness...and meet Mr. Cornelius the friendly, food-loving bear too.

Each year, along with many other writers, I choose to write and share a poem each day. It has been fun to organize these poems around themes, and during the weeks before April, I find myself trying to choose something that piques my interest.  Before we talk about this year's Poetry Month project at The Poem Farm, here's a timeline of my past Poetry Month projects.

2010 - The Poem Farm Begins!  I wrote a poem each day for a month, beginning actually, on March 29, 2010. This blog just to be a one month project, just for me, to get me writing again as I awaited the publication of FOREST HAS A SONG.  At the end of April 2010, I was having too much fun to stop, decided to go for one whole year, publishing a poem at The Poem Farm each day.  After that, I still hung around!

2011 - For each day of April 2011, I continued to write and share daily poems.  However, I had no theme as the blog was just entering its second year.

2012 - A-Z Dictionary Hike - Here's where the themes began.  Each day of April 2012, I opened my children's dictionary to a different letter, starting with A, ending with Z.  Eyes closed, I pointed to a word and this word became the title of that day's poem.

2013 - Drawing into Poems - For each day of April 2013, I slowed myself down and looked closely at an object, drawing it with black pen into my notebook. On some days, I wrote poems from these drawings, but on many days, I simply allowed the looking-drawing practice to practice becoming a closer observer.

2014 - Thrift Store - For each day of April 2014, I wrote a poem from a photograph of an item I found in a thrift store.  These poems are no longer at The Poem Farm as I am trying to sell them as a collection.

2015 - Sing That Poem - For each day of April 2015, I wrote a poem to the meter of a well-known tune and challenged readers to match the poem to the tune by seeing if it was singable to the same meter.

2016 - Wallow in Wonder - For my 2016 National Poetry Month project, I celebrated learning and writing from learning, writing poems from each daily Wonder at Wonderopolis.  I have not yet collected these posts into one post, but I will do so.

2017 - Writing the Rainbow - Each day of April 2017, I randomly selected a different Crayola crayon from a new box of 64.  Each day, I wrote a poem inspired by the color I chose.  These poems all ended up telling the story of a young city girl and the moments of her daily life.

And now....this year!

Students - This year I will write and share a new poem every day.  Every poem will be somehow connected to the subject of the constellation Orion (see the three stars of his belt in my logo?)  However, each poem will highlight a different poetic technique any poet - or any writer of another genre - can try.  The technique might be an idea about point-of-view or about structure or about choosing striking words or about selecting titles.

Teachers - I am basing this project on the poems and lessons in my own Fall 2017 professional book with Heinemann, POEMS ARE TEACHERS: HOW STUDYING POETRY STRENGTHENS WRITING IN ALL GENRES.  

My mentor and friend, Katie Wood Ray, edited this book, and it is full of over 50 poems by contemporary poets, including Lee Bennett Hopkins, Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle, J. Patrick Lewis, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jack Prelutsky, and Irene Latham.  It is doubly full of poems by children, with over 100 mentor poems by children from 1st through 8th grade, demonstrating writing techniques from finding ideas to structure, from word choice to writing beginnings, endings, and titles.

I thought it would be fun to take my own book for a spin...and as I love the constellation Orion, I decided to focus there.  I did consider writing about different constellations each day, but in the end (just yesterday), I finally decided to go narrow and deep.  This will be a good and honest challenge for me, one you will see me earnestly wrestle with each day.

I welcome any classrooms of poets who wish to share poems highlighting each day's technique in the Padlet for that day's post. If teachers or classes have favorite poems or books or resources to share which highlight the day's poem technique, please share those on the Padlet as well!  I will make a Padlet for each day, and we will see how this goes.... Teachers - class poems are easy to share, but please be let me know students have permission for individual poems. 

Each Friday of April 2018 - April 6, April 13, April 13, and April 27 - Heinemann will kindly give away a copy of POEMS ARE TEACHERS to a commenter on that Friday's post. Winners will always be announced on the following Friday.  Please be sure to leave a way to contact you should you win...

Happy almost National Poetry Month!  What subject might you write about 30 different ways?

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Write About Before or After a Holiday

Salt or Sugar?
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Happy almost April Fools' Day!  It's not for a couple of more days, but Sunday is our day to be prankters.  I like writing holiday poems, but I also like writing poems about the days before or after holidays.  I did this with Groundhog Day too, with the poem February 3.

You might try this - just think about a holiday, any holiday.  Then list the feelings and preparations one might do BEFORE this holiday.  After this, list the feelings and activities one might do AFTER this holiday.  Pick one idea and go with it.  You may just find a good writing idea in those lists.

If you missed my Tuesday post, you might be interested in taking a peek at my new book with Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson.  It is titled WITH MY HANDS: POEMS ABOUT MAKING THINGS, and you can see the trailer and learn more HERE.  The giveaway winner is Nerdy if that's you, please drop me an e-mail to amy at amylv dot com.  If you're interested in another giveaway, Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is giving away 10 copies on Twitter. Just follow the directions on my pinned Twitter post HERE to enter by April 3.

If you missed last Friday's post by Second Grade Teacher Darlene Daley and her poets, I recommend going back to read it. These writers teach us, through narrative and poetry, all about showing and not telling with our words.  I am thankful to share the work of teachers and young writers and welcome classes who wish to share interesting poetry work Poem Farm readers to reach out to me.

National Poetry Month begins on Sunday, and I will be doing a special daily poem project here which I have juuuuust decided upon!  You can see it in my sidebar here.  (This is an update from this morning when I still did not know what the project will be!) 

Find out about all kinds of other cool poem projects at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where Jama shares the 2018 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup!  Hooray for National Poetry Month!

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe with a history of the Poetry Friday Progressive Poem.  Visit Heidi's place to learn about this and to find out about all of this week's Poetry Friday Posts...

ps - It's salt!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Birthday for a Maker Book!

Happy Book Birthday to Us!

March 27, 2018

Today is the book birthday of WITH MY HANDS: POEMS ABOUT MAKING THINGS, with poems by me and illustrations by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson.  You can watch the trailer, made with the hands of the talented Travis Carlson, below.

WITH MY HANDS Book Trailer

I could not be happier to share this book as I have loved making things with my own hands ever since I was a little girl.  Truth be told, I am never happier than when I am knitting, baking, carving a rubber stamp, drawing, or otherwise creating.  If you visit The Poem Farm regularly, you know this.

Just yesterday, I collected two big bags full of pinecones from my father's front yard.  What to make with these?  I do not know yet, but something.

Photo by Amy LV

I dedicated this book to our daughter Georgia, a person who makes so many good things, and illustrators Lou and Steve dedicated it to Nick.

With My Hands Dedications

This collection of poems is all about all kinds of making....everything from soap carvings to cookies!  It is a celebration of the joy that comes from creating.  School Library Journal says, "This is art about art."  Below you can see one of the interior spreads; the poem grew from my real memory of carving a soap whale in second of my favorite projects ever!

Click to Enlarge

You can read more about WITH MY HANDS at my website HERE or at the following blogs: 

Take a peek at how Lou and Steve illustrated this book HERE, where they explain the process of creating illustration you see above.

Much gratitude to Dinah Stevenson of Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  She is the wonderful editor of this book as well as my first book, FOREST HAS A SONG. I am so grateful to her as well as to Emma Gordon who is handling publicity for this book.  And hugs and kisses to my amazing agent, Elizabeth Harding, once again.

Speaking of working with one's hands, hats off to Adriana, owner and cookie artist at Mama Seuffert Sweets. Ordering from Adriana is my small way of enjoying a book birthday at home.  We have two cookies here, and I have sent some to others with my gratitude.

Cookie by the Amazing Adriana
Photo by Amy LV

You may win a copy of this book (to a resident of the United States) by commenting here by 11:59pm on Thursday, March 29.  I am also holding a giveaway on Instagram through tonight and one on Twitter for the next week!

Happy making...and thank you for celebrating this joyful year of books with me.  During the 2017-2018 school year, all four or these books were published: READ! READ! READ!, POEMS ARE TEACHERS, DREAMING OF YOU, and WITH MY HANDS.  I could not be more grateful.


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What is it to SHOW not TELL?

Missing You
by Amy LV

Students - This past Tuesday, I had the good fortune to write together with third graders in Holland, NY.  We read the following poems, each of which included comparisons - similes (comparisons which use the word like or as) and metaphors (comparisons which in a way turn one thing into another, with no use of like or as).

The Toaster by William Jay Smith
Untitled (first line - "Freewheeling on a bike") by Robert Gray
Sun by Valerie Worth
Untitled (first line - "The dark gray clouds,") by Natalia M. Belting
Surprise by Harry Behn
The Garden Hose by Beatrice Janosco
Sunflowers by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Some People by Rachel Field

We talked about which comparisons we most admired. For example, Smith's toaster is compared to a dragon throughout his poem and Dotlich compares sunflowers to plates and giants and guards and kings.  After this, we thought about animals and objects we might compare to other things....and we played with our own comparisons in our notebooks.  I ended up writing first draft of the poem above.

Comparing things to other things - using metaphors and similes in our writing - is one way to show and not tell, one way to give readers another picture in their minds...a picture they can see or smell or feel or hear.

You might wish to try this.  Look something and imagine how it is like another something.  Make a list of what it reminds you of.  One such comparison may make its way into your own poem or story or informational writing. Writers of all different genres use this technique and readers very much enjoy reading fresh metaphors and similes.

I am very lucky this week to welcome Second Grade teacher Darlene Daley and her young poets from Canandaigua Primary - Elementary School in Canandaigua, NY.  Last October, I had the opportunity to visit this school (so much fun!) and to meet Darlene's students. We chatted for a little bit, all surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of the most beautiful books.  Their classroom feels like a well-loved library.

Darlene and her writers generously offered to share one way they have explored showing rather than telling in their writing - with both narrative and poetry.

Enjoy this celebration of words...and I encourage you to try this work yourself. If you do....and if you wish to be connected with these students, please just let me know.  Perhaps you can celebrate and share between schools.

Click Enlarge Box to Enlarge

Reading these stories and poems, I am reminded of another teacher I once knew who did something similar, only asking students to guess the feelings from the writing.  I know that with these poems above, it would be very easy to guess the feelings...even without the words tired, nervous, sick, proud, shy, or hungry.  This is because the poets show the feelings by writing with their senses, strong verbs, dialogue, and descriptive language.  

One thousand hugs to Darlene and to these poets for offering us this look into their process and for allowing me to celebrate their narrative and their poems here!

If you missed last week's post by Reading Specialist and Leader in Me Teacher Alicia McKenrick, showcasing young poet artists using jewelers loupes to study their fingerprints (The Private Eye), please do check it out.  Beautiful! I am grateful to have a space to shine a light on the work of teachers and young writers and welcome classes who wish to share interesting poetry work Poem Farm readers to do so.

Laura is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup at Writing the World for Kids with a sneak peek into the words of her wonderful new picture book, MEET MY FAMILY.  Each week, we gather our posts together at one blog, so if you visit Laura this will be introduced to many new poets and blogs and books.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

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.