Friday, July 31, 2015

at the very top

We've reached it, almost:  that time of year so precisely and richly
described by Natalie Babbitt that it changed me as a reader and a writer. 

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
-- Prologue from Tuck Everlasting, 1975

This beginning to a book caught me like hands holding my 10-year-old head on both sides, looking me urgently in the eyes and saying, "Of words we can make art, art as true as a photograph layered with brushes of color, with sound and rhythm of blues symphony, full of the woven textures of weariness, curiousness, motion and suspense.  Writing can do it all."

What about you, poetry friends?  What piece of literature brought you to see writing as art, made you want to live in and even make this kind of art?

Keri has the round-up today at Keri Recommends.  Happy Almost August.

Friday, July 24, 2015

taking a walk

Greetings from Seaford, England!  Since I last posted from Brussels Airport, I've spent 10 days in Greece--on the island of Alonissos and in Athens.  You'd think I'd have much to write about from that experience (and I do!), but between relentless relaxing, heavy tourist activity and iffy internet connections, that real-time opportunity has passed.  So this morning I'll share a Summer Poem Swap gift that I received in June from Margaret Simon.  It came in a tiny notebook that has accompanied me on my travels, and as I have reread it in several new and unfamiliar locations, it has taken on new and interesting meanings.

Take a Walk

One leg a pillar
between earth and sky
the other, a pendulum,
swinging a single step
into a tap-a-tap-tap
percussion procession.

Disguise doing nothing as a walk.
Make harmony of mind, body, and world.
Your movements matter.  Be present.

Notice a leaf hanging loosely
wiggling like a worm
when the wind blows.

Notice your breath
in rhythm to your steps.
You are feeding the tree.

Walk through town.
Whom will you meet?
Greet them.
Invite them.
Start your own parade.

--Margaret Simon
   Summer Poem Swap 2015

Isn't that wonderful?!  At home as my summer vacation began, it fit so well with the walks I was taking in familiar surrounding, reminding me to be both present to wonder and outward-facing.  As I snorkeled the coast of Alonissos, I was the leaf hanging loosely at the surface, watching the seagrass "blowing" in the underwater wind.  In Athens, the first stanza described architecture of both stone and bone, building and body, columns of marble and columns of people stepping and swinging in and out of sun and shadow.  There were a LOT of steps!

Thank you, Margaret, and thank you, Tabatha, for organizing all this swapping!  I'm afraid I can't seem to upload any photos--this ChromeBook is not playing nicely with Blogger--but I think Margaret's images are strong enough to carry the post.  See more at the round-up today, hosted by--HA!  I'm just seeing this--Margaret herself at Reflections on the Teche.

Friday, July 10, 2015

in flanders field, just for a minute

This is my first ever mobile post, coming to you at 1:30am EST from the Brussels airport.   We're here just for a couple of hours on our way to Greece, and it being 8:30 am here and therefore definitely Poetry Friday, imagine my pleasure at being greeted by a ceiling hung with poppies and this installation which includes the famous poem "In Flanders Fields."  We put Duncan in the photo because his assigned summer reading is All Quiet on the Western Front. (Nice and light for on the beach or by the pool.)

Here's the poem, and welcome to the 100th anniversary of WWI. 

In Flanders Fields / John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The round-up today is with I can't tell who!  Conserving data and seeing you on Saturday, maybe!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Image result for every brilliant thing 
Browsing around today I came across Irene's list of little things to be grateful for.  June has been a hard month, in a #firstworldproblems kind of way, but as Irene says, "Nothing like a little gratitude to pull one from a funk, right?"  So I'm taking antifunk action with this list of 30 brilliant things that have visited me in June:

1 rabbit rabbit
2 lentil soup by the case
3 my son cooking pasta
4 taking political action
5  Squeals on Wheels
tomato blossoms
7  a compliment from my daughter
8  flip-flops
9  digital everything
10 Kindergarten End of Year Program
11 blowing bubbles
12 poppin tags at the Goodwill
13 Pride
14 floaty summer dresses
15 kind colleagues
16 my parents
17 the beach
18 knowing the answer
19 laughing till you wet your pants
20 Chesapeake Bay Bridge
21 The 14th Annual Summer Solstice Picnic
22 cardboard boxes
23 nectarines
24 k.d. lang
25 when good sense prevails
26 when love wins
27 donation pick-up trucks
28 my minister
29 bumblebees on the "weed" flowers
30 US Women's Soccer team  

It was harder to choose than to think of things.  That's my first brilliant thing for July.

Friday, June 26, 2015

clutterlove: striped socks

Once again it is my last day of school, only this time it's the last day of packing all my STUFF into boxes for a move upstairs to 2nd grade.  It was not my choice, and although I have nothing against 2nd grade, I didn't realize until this week that much of my horror at the suggestion was directly related to the amount of STUFF I would "need" to move.  I  have counted neither the boxes I packed nor the hours spent packing them--the totals would be burdensome even to you, dear readers.  Further contemplation of my difficulty in lightening the load of STUFF in my life will come later.  For now, let us consider the socks.


Deliciously striped,
you came to me--free, a
donation!--punched from stalwart
cardboard, with your glossy orange
miniature clothespins and your
fetching green striped sock monster.

For five years you were
scattered and matched and
scattered and stacked and
trodden and scratched and
lost and found and
as I hold you in my hands (all

but two of your little clothespins
popped and gone; your less-stalwart
storage box long since crushed by
a size 12 Velcro sneaker and replaced
by Dollar Tree plastic), I can not
let you go.

I wrap you tenderly in a ziplock bag
and place you in a hastily taped
carton, for who knows what purpose
may yet be found for your delicious
stripes? Tomorrow morning at 4 am
I will awake knowing that

it is your time, socks:  your blessings
have been bestowed, your cunningly
combined colors have challenged
plenty of 5-year-old eyes, and it is
my time--to steel my heart and
let you go. 

© Heidi Mordhorst 2015

Now, multiply that story times literally hundreds of who-knows-when-I'll-need-it objects, and then pass me a beer to wash down my B-complex stress supplement. 

There is much trouble with poetry over at Carol's sodden little Corner.  I'm late to the party today but it usually lasts all weekend...see you there!

Friday, June 19, 2015

the last half day

Due to a curious solution to the problem of too many snow days, our school year ended at 12:30 on Monday.  We finished everything important on Friday, and I had hoped just a little that maybe no one would come on Monday--but they did, and we found lots of nice ways to fill that last few hours (including giving everyone one last chance to count to 100, an assessment I had forgotten to squeeze in--just as well they all came!).

And then they were gone.

Sometimes a meager harvest

The last half day--
walls stripped, treasure bags packed,
Jim Joe jumped one last time;
gifts given and received,
farewell hugs ceremoniously
hugged, fast and earnest,
because we'd run out of time again
one last time.

Now the room  is hollow, dead--
nothing living but the teacher and
a single valiant sugar snap vine,
three feet high and climbing
a string up the Weather Window.
On the one vine, at the top, hangs
a single beautifully formed,
pleasingly plump green pod.

Teacher steps out of her sandals
onto a low chair and up onto
the radiator, plucks the fat pod
full of peas she forgot to share
and eats it, all by herself--
one last sweet crunchy mouthful
swallowed alone in the classroom
on the last half day.

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Mary Lee herself is rounding up remotely at A Year of Reading today.  Go get yourself some farmyard fun and lots of poetry goodness from around the Kidlitosphere!

Friday, June 5, 2015

things to do if you are the roundup host

Hee.  I don't really have a  post today, but I wanted to point anyone passing through that Buffy Silverman's host-post today features her own "Things To Do If You Are" poems.  She was inspired by Elaine Magliaro's Things to Do poem in Falling Down the Page, and Elaine was originally inspired by the great Bobbi Katz, who as far as I know originated the "Things to Do" form.

Oh wait--I do have a post!  Here's one of Bobbi's early Things to Do poems, from her book Upside Down and Inside Out: Poems for All Your Pockets (1973).

Things to Do If You Are a Subway || Bobbi Katz

Pretend you are a dragon.
Live in underground caves.
Roar about underneath the city.
Swallow piles of people.
Spit them out at the next station.
Zoom through the darkness.
Be an express.
Go fast.
Make as much noise as you please.

 You can see how  great a mentor text this is for younger children in particular--it's pretend play in writing, with no plot or rhyme or syllable count--just pure metaphor. 

Thanks for stopping by to read this post-that-created-itself!

Friday, May 29, 2015

buckle up

simulated daughter on closed course
If the Motor Vehicle Administration had been open on January 1, my little April Fool would have been there at 8am sharp to get her learner's permit.  As it was, she had to wait until she was 15 years 9 months and 1 day old.  Driving practice has been going well since January 2nd--short jaunts on neighborhood roads two or three times a week with one or the other parent.

But Memorial Day Weekend is traditionally one for family outings.  Ours took us around the DC metro area beltway--famous for requiring nerves of steel when it's flowing smoothly and the patience of Job the other 495% of the time.


While 16 drives
12 tells me he has
he can see the holes
in the hub caps spnning
at 60 MPH
and what does SPF stand for?
16 holds steady,
only a few wobbles within her lane.
Nearly 50 is coaching her
and I--51--I'm wobbling
a little too in the backseat,
letting go, holding nothing
but a slippery pink glitter gel pen
she doesn't use anymore.

HM 2015
all rights reserved

The Poetry Friday round-up today is at Reflections on the Teche with Margaret, who must be celebrating the end of another satisfying year of teaching.  Cruise on over and enjoy the poetry scenery!

Friday, May 22, 2015

me and my shadow I mean notebook

sticker courtesy of Pomelo Books
Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, Amy LV is collecting summer notebook and journal ideas for writers of all ages.  I contributed this little snip from my current notebook and  can't wait to see all the cool suggestions she's collecting.  I always look forward to summer break and having more time to spend with my notebook, and now I'll have lots of new adventures to take it on.

Try This!  Doodle Your Listening

Heidi Mordhorst

I debated for a long time about  how many notebooks to keep:  one for school, one for poetry, one for my calendar/agenda, one for everyday household business, one for—yep, that was too many notebooks to juggle.

In the end, I do keep a separate binder for my teacher stuff, but for all other purposes I have Just One Notebook.  I use it for intentional sitting-down-to-write, but it’s also the one that I take to writing conferences, to services at my congregation, to a political meeting, to a wellness workshop.  The pages below are from a workshop called “Redefining Health,” and they definitely do not capture the organized thread of the presentation!  Instead you see my doodled, fonted, decorated, designed version of  it.  I have recorded certain turns of phrase, questions for myself, pairings of words, tangents, direct quotes, and there are lots of possibilities for mining poems from the graphic details.

I’m calling this thing you might also like to try “DOODLE YOUR LISTENING.” Carry your notebook anywhere you’ll be sitting and listening--in the car with the radio on, in church, at a meeting, at the pool where people don’t know you’re listening!  Design and decorate your notes to see what happens!

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) had it right:

“A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that ‘great wits have short memories:' and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there.”
—from “A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet”

Matt Forrest Esenwine continues his Big Year of Breakout by hosting Poetry Friday today at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.  Go congratulate him on his first book contract!

Friday, May 15, 2015


Daisy is working on a big poetry project for English 10.  She and a partner had to choose a poet from a list, select 10-15 poems  for anthology, write commen-
taries on each poem, write their own poem "similar in content and style" to the poet's work, and analyze their own poem.

Daisy's first choice was Naomi Shihab Nye (I may have influenced that), but they ended up with Natasha Trethewey (also no slouch).  Here's my favorite of the poems that they selected, an exquisitely constructed pantoum which manages to be both simple and as grand as the planets.

Rotation || Natasha Trethewey

Like the moon that night, my father —
         a distant body, white and luminous.
How small I was back then,
         looking up as if from dark earth.

Distant, his body white and luminous, 
         my father stood in the doorway.
Looking up as if from dark earth,
         I saw him outlined in a scrim of light.

My father stood in the doorway
         as if to watch over me as I dreamed....

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation website, and then send Daisy some good vibes for her original poem.  She's more comfortable with math and visual art, so is feeling rather challenged.  (Personally, selfishly, I'm thinking of a nice villanelle in which I am the warm yellow sun burning queenly and she orbits teenly, keenly around me, a lush little bluegreen planet of statistical formulas.)

Also check out Natasha's Poet Laureate project, a whole PBS NewsHour special series called "Where Poetry Lives," which I managed to miss entirely. It looks like--and this fits her historical, social-personal themes very well--the program is focused on the ways that poetry can contribute to social justice.  Watching it goes on my list of summer treats.

You'll find the round-up this Poetry Friday at Random Noodling with the intriguingly in-sane Diane Mayr.

Friday, May 8, 2015

ditty challenges

The delightfully ambitious Michelle at Today's Little Ditty is our Poetry Friday host today, and she has offered two challenges that I'm about to tackle.  First is Nikki Grimes's wordplay challenge which concludes the fascinating interview she gave Michelle last week:

"When I talk about wordplay, I'm talking about studying a word from top to bottom, and inside out, considering every aspect of the word:  What it looks like, sounds like, feels like.  What it does, how it's used, etc.  The idea is to bring all of your senses into the act.  The poem you create may end up being complex and sophisticated, or very simple."

Second is the Five for Friday challenge periodically set by Michelle, which is an exercise in minimalism, a ditty of five words only (although I note that many poets endow theirs with expository titles, a practice which I wholly condone).

So--for Nikki's challenge I do not choose the word "bell" or "lemon" (done that one!), "blanket,"  "leaf" or "sun," as I might usually.  Instead the news lately takes me to "bullet" and I'm a little afraid of it, but here's my Draftless Luck* effort.  The title is both expository and five words long, if you allow me a hyphenated word, so that's my Five for Friday, too.

Thank you, Michelle; thank you, Nikki; and thank you, Poetry Friday people, for reading the raw and unpolished with interest and respect.  We do each other a great favor in that.

May I also point you to this quote from George Eliot and this recording by Elvis Costello?

*With apologies to Erica Jong, this refers to my time-challenged technique of writing a poem right now, once, with the revision allowed by one hour, publishing it on the blog as though it were finished--and hoping for the best.

Friday, May 1, 2015

what do kindergarten poets do?

As promised last week, I'm celebrating the (endless end) of National Poetry Month today with poems by 17 kindergarten poets from North Kensington, MD!  After our (year-long) week-long poetry study, the most fun this year was noticing who learned what about poets' techniques--some clearly took in the lesson about creating strong feelings; some chose carefully where their words would go on the page; some used repetition (occasionally by accident!) and some went for juicy words or juicy rhythm.  Once again, I consider it my greatest success as a poetry teacher that all but a couple had good ideas and felt capable of writing a poem.

As the teacher I often get both the first and the last word, but today I'll go first and let Anthony have the last word.  You'll see why. 

Frog Song

tadpole  polliwog
tadpole  polliwog
   (gills   gills)

  back legs   shrinky tail
  front legs   shorty tail
    (change  change)
      frogpole   frolliwog
      frogpole   frolliwog
          (lungs   lungs)


by Ms. Mordhorst

Ameera’s  Mirror

my mirror
was gone at
it was alone
and shiny

by Ameera

Planes and Trains

the airplanes
are flying
the trains
are rolling

by Cristian

A Ballerina Dancing

a girl put on her shoes
blue dress
blue shoes
then the girl performed
then she took a bow

by Charm

Star Wars Legos

circles and squares
I made the
Death Star

by Thomas

Ice Cream

I love to eat
ice cream and
eat other colors
of ice cream!

by Catherine


Space oh space
how I love you
you are 1,001,000
miles away   oh
how you make
my brain tickle

by Jack


The maniac
gets you and
he steals  money  
he sneaks in your
house      he steals
treasure  he steals
food        he steals all

by Jacob

    The Butterfly

the butterfly
is in the
in the flowers

by Ari


swiveling snake
shedding its skin
slithering away from
a roadrunner

by Aidan


fish live in
streams and oceans
too    fish eat
plants and insects

by Michelle


I have a
birthday party
I make a cake
and to have
my cake
come here
I like
my cake and
I like my cake

by Jocelyn


tiger eating

by Edwin

My House

my toys are
behind my chimney
my kitchen
is in order
my room is
my house looks

by Victor

My Egg Hatched

Look at my
egg    it hatched
there is a chick
this chick is
so cute that
I keep it     oh

by Hannah


lions are the
of the
lions are

by Nadia

Ice Cream

I eat ice cream
at my home and
my brother eats ice cream
in a cone
We like

by Victoria

The Clouds Are Nickels

the first part of  it
nickels are the right size
for a cloud 
the next part of it
clouds are soft 
clouds are like
rice and mashed potatoes.
I will drink lemonade wow!
I am holding a cloud bank
of nickels  wow!
a lot of nickels outside

by Anthony


When illustrating, Anthony took a nickel out of his pocket and used it for tracing the round fluffy shapes of clouds.  And truly, he knew--or created--the cloud bank image.  So much goodness wow!  Which kindergarten poems are your favorite?

The May Day round-up is with Ellen at Elementary Dear Reader--see you there!