Saturday, April 20, 2019

Poem #20 - Definition

Welcome to my 2019 National Poetry Month Project

Each day of April, I will write and share a new (first person, free verse, fewer than 15 lines not including spacing) poem. Taken together, these will tell a story about John and Betsy, two characters I posted about on March 22.  This will be new for me, and I invite anyone who wishes to join me in writing a collection of 30 poems that tell a story.

Here is a list of this month's poems so far:

And's poem.

by Amy LV

Students - This month's poems will tell a story about John and Betsy, and all of the poems will have three things in common: each will be written in John's voice, each will be 15 lines or shorter (not including spacing), and each will be written in free verse. I find it helpful to set writing boundaries for myself, so I chose three to work with over the next 30 days.

Back on April 11, I shared this in my post:

Yesterday I was lucky to visit some thoughtful students at East View Elementary in Olean, NY.  In a second grade class, we talked about how while there is a little bit of truth in John and Betsy's poems, they are mostly fiction.  Writers often choose to mix the true world and the imagined world when telling a story.  

We also spoke about the word 'bittersweet' and how sometimes life can feel happy and sad at the very same time. Memories of Betsy are happy, but Betsy being gone is sad.  You might be able to think of a time when you had two opposite feelings at the very same time.  It is a normal thing to happen and interesting to think about.

Clearly, I cannot get this conversation or this idea out of my mind.  I once read (my apologies for not remembering where) that a powerful story is one that can hold two feelings at once.  John is holding two feelings at once here.

Today's poem is, obviously, a definition.  This is a type of poem you can see here and there, and it's one you might wish to try out yourself.  You can play with a definition however you wish, but the definition structure may give you somewhere neat to begin.

Note today's repetition.  Repeated words are like the repeated color beads in a bracelet; they hold a pattern together.

And oh.  Yes.  This poem is 20 lines, 5 over limit. But you see, these are my rules.  So I may break them when it seems necessary.  Today it seemed necessary.   (Actually, as a friend pointed out to me, it seems to have seemed necessary many times.  I think I have gone over the limit 4 times!  Ah, well.)

Each Friday of National Poetry Month, Heinemann has generously offered to gift a copy of my book POEMS ARE TEACHERS to someone who has commented during the week.  This book includes over 150 poems by contemporary poets and students alike as well as over 50 poem explorations written by me. I will keep track of weekly comments and will draw one more winning name next Thursday, to be announced next Friday. To be entered into this final drawing, please leave a way to contact you along with your comment.  And...Heinemann is offering 40% of all poetry professional books throughout April...thank you Heinemann!

If you would like to learn more about other National Poetry Month projects happening throughout the Kidlitosphere, Jama has rounded up many NPM happenings over at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  Happy National Poetry Month 2019!

See you tomorrow!


Please share a comment below if you 


  1. Bitter and sweet, science and religion, hope and many times we have to hold conflicting ideas in our brain at the same time.

    (Also making our own rules and breaking our own rules! :-) I wasn't going to say anything, but I kind of noticed that the 15 lines bit went out the window awhile ago...wink wink)

    1. Now I need to go check. (I thought there were only two days I went over with admission....I am not counting the line break spaces....but I could have totally lost it!) xx

    2. Yeah! I think there have been 4! Back to the 15 tomorrow! xx

  2. Bittersweet. Bitter and sweet. Definitely a perfect word for John's situation. So hard to say goodbye to his beloved friend. And yet so sweet that he will get to see her again. I love the idea of a definition poem. And if you are making the rules for yourself, you definitely get to break them too. It might be true that the poems with the mom and dad's memory are rule breakers too- they are in the mom and dad's voice, not John's?

    1. Maybe so....but I considered them John listening, so really his voice hearing their voices. But I am a rule breaker in general, so we could look at this either way! xx

  3. As the story continues, you're also teaching, how people react to disappointment, to change, new words all along with poetry writing. I imagine many children & teachers are talking about these, learning about stories, too, Amy. Your work this month is a blessing to many. Happy Easter tomorrow!

  4. What a blessing to explore bittersweet through John's experiences. It's a truth that life is filled with both the bitter and the sweet. Love that you can break your own rules. Somehow, I knew that you were a rule breaker! Looking forward to Monday's visit. Hoping I get to listen in as you speak with my niece's classroom. So exciting! Happy Easter weekend!

  5. These poems are tugging at my heart, Amy. As I read them, I'm remembering my sweet Lucy, who passed away in September at the age of 14. She was a good dog. I'm glad John will get to see Betsy again.

  6. I find that the draw of your poemstory is very strong. I need to know, I need to find out, I want to figure out what is going to happen to John and Betsy. Your use of bittersweet brought instantly to mind a writer I so admire, who included Litmus Lozenges in her wonderful book, Because of Winn Dixie. A taste sweet and sad at the same time. Kate DiCamillo is a genius of a writer and you, dear Amy, are so in her league. Never doubt it. I never have. I wish I could be a "fly on the wall" of your brain watching how the ideas come to you. So wonderful.

  7. Amy, memories allow old thoughts to surface. John's memory fills my heart with words my own Grandma said. John is a sensitive little boy.