Friday, February 22, 2019

Family Photographs, Family Stories

Great Grandmother Anna Elsa Feder Conolly
Photo by ?

Students - Each one of us carries a history full of names and dates and songs and stories. We may not know much about these people or even know their names, but still they are here, floating over our shoulders, coursing through our veins.  And we can write about them.  I am on a family history quest these days, learning what I can about the family that came before me.

Above, you see a photograph of Anna Elsa. She was my mother's mother's mother, and we never met as she died seven years before I was born. But I love that strong look in her eye.  How I wish I could chat with her over a cup of mint tea.  

I have written about family objects and photographs before, most recently in November, about my Great Aunt Tom (Anna Elsa's daughter and my grandma's sister).  This is a recurring topic for me. 

If you have interest in your own family history, ask a family member older than you to tell you a story or two.  I just asked my parents to each keep a little notebook of stories as they remember them. Such stories are precious stones. 

Note that today's poem is written in quatrains.  Each stanza has four lines with lines 2 and 4 rhyming.  If you wish to rhyme a poem, always be sure to do the Does This Make Sense Test.  All you have to do is read your poem, line-by-line, asking yourself, "Does this make sense?"  If you force your rhyme, it may not.  You'll know.  And if you don't want to admit it, be brave and ask an honest friend to run your poem through the Does This Make Sense Test for you! 

Life is brief and beautiful. This week the poetry community sadly bids farewell to Paul Janeczko.  Recipient of the 2019 NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award, Paul was a brilliant poet, anthologist, and teacher of teachers. I am grateful for the body of work he has left behind as it will continue to teach me and so many others in the years to come.  His new book, THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG AND OTHER HOW-TO POEMS, illustrated by Richard Jones, will be released on March 12.  May he rest in peace, knowing he has left a bright legacy of words.

Robyn is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Life on the Deckle Edge with a wee trip to Scotland and bit of bird goodness. Please know that the Poetry Friday community shares poems and poemlove each week, and everyone is invited to visit, comment, and post.  And if you have a blog, we welcome you to link right in with us.

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Appreciations for the words about the wonderful Paul Janeczko & the tip off about his new book next month, Amy. So sad to lose this giant.

    Your great- (many grates-) ancestor's carte vista is a hoot. Not only her those direct eyes, but look at her back to camera, jaunty hands-on-hips pose. Appreciations for sharing your family tree quatrain - it's lovely. And this post makes me want to pull out a box of our dusty heirloom photographs to mine them for hidden poems.

  2. I do love those old pictures of family, Amy, looking into their eyes, wishing, as you wrote, "to kiss them back to life". I've ordered this latest book by Paul Janeczko, a sad order, but I did see there would be more! His life's work touched many, including me!

  3. Funny you should write about a great grandmother since I was just thinking about mine yesterday. I have memories of visiting her at my (great) Uncle Oliver and Aunt Lula's house. I was wondering if she died then or was just ill at that time. Time to check in with my cousin Billie who might know. Love the idea of you shimmying up those branches, Amy,to meet your dear ones.

  4. Anna Elsa has a spark, doesn't she? I'm sure your great grandchildren will think that about you.
    I especially like those last two lines.

  5. As mentioned in my host post, I see YOU in that fetching photo, for sure. You all favor each other, and - that sass! LOVE. Thank you for the gracious remembrances of Paul Janeczko, too - we can't take any days for granted, can we? XO

  6. I say that Aunt Elsa is quite the sassy young lady filled with self-confidence and charm. She is "still here with you, floating over your shoulder, coursing through your veins." (loved those lines) It is so exciting to trace your family and write about theancestors like you did.

  7. What a wonderful photo! Your great-grandmother's spunk comes through loud and clear! I love your poem. My mother is the last of her generation and sometimes when we reminisce we sadly realize there's no one left to ask about forgotten details. Thank you, too, for your lovely words about Paul Janeczko.

  8. Gosh, I love this....and it SO relates to what I"m working on for my March 8th International Women's Day poem(s). Incredible photo. Who wouldn't want to be related to someone with such a carefree smile. I feel like you've met her in this poem.

  9. I like that spark in her eyes and fun in her pose. A woman who's passed down a little something to you, no doubt.

  10. I share your longing to be able to climb up my family tree and meet the women and men who made me!

  11. Anna Elsa sure looks like a spunky person–she has a catch-me-if-you-can look in her eye. Beautiful imagery of remembering your family in your poem Amy. And yes, life is too brief–thanks also for remembering Paul B. Janeczko, I'm looking forward to spending more time in the books of his I haven't read yet.