Friday, October 28, 2016

mother's day in october

This is the hour of Kenn Nesbitt!  Our former Children's Poet Laureate has worked for more than two years with over 130 poets to produce one of the loveliest anthologies of poetry I've ever held in my hands. (As a contributor, I have already had this pleasure though the book release is not until November 1.) I think one of the big appeals of One Minute Till Bedtime is that it feels distinctly old-fashioned.

The heft of the book, the feel of the dust jacket and the paper inside (smooth but not slick) contribute to this initial sensation.  The hand-chalked title and cover illustration glow forth from a deep purple background.  Christoph Niemann's robust drawings build the feeling--they appear simple and straightforward but they carry (like good writing for children) layers of imagination and emotion.  And the poems inside, not all of which are sleepy or soft by any means, are cozy nonetheless--they speak to the experiences that children have at home, in their early close relationships with people, objects and the creatures of the natural world.  There's no flash, no high-tech, no gloss--just outstanding design and sensitive curation.

In a time of--would you agree with me?--global unrest, when anyone who is paying attention to the Big Picture must carry a sense of unease, this book is somehow comforting and reassuring.  It confirms that the fundamental, ritual experience of going to bed with a story, poem or song shared in the voice of a beloved caregiver is alive and well.

So it's fitting that when Kenn was invited to an interview over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, he offered this challenge:
Write a poem for your mother. Write it for your mother and give it to her. It can be any kind of poem you like, as long as it’s especially for her. In my opinion, a poem is the best gift you can ever give someone. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little thought and time, and yet it will be treasured forever.

And fittingly enough, I have just such a gift poem in my archives!  I posted it to the Ditty of the Month Club Padlet and now I share it with you here--a poem about precisely that experience I described above, of being rhymed and rhythmed, thrilled and calmed each morning, noon and night by the voice of my mother, Lila (nee Zingerline) Mordhorst.

A History of Your Voice
Mothers’ Day 2011

and this little piggy stayed home
for so long we were
together all the time
together all alone
together all among
open the doors and see all the people

four gray geese in a flock
for so long you listened to every word I
began to say
forgot to say
dared to say
wire briar limber lock

we parted       disintegrated
remembered    recombined

apple seed and apple thorn
for so long now we are
winding threads
dropping threads
picking up threads
sit and sing by a spring

there were two old Indians crossing the Mississippi
ripping a seam here and there
putting right sides together
stitching further rivers

would you like to hear the rest? 

© Heidi Mordhorst

The round-up for this Poetry Friday is with Linda at TeacherDance.  May you hear today in your travels the voice of someone who spoke to you with love at bedtime--and may we seek that for every child.

Friday, October 21, 2016

big jumps

Last year at NCTE, the author-illustrator Jon Klassen spoke about a certain scene in a certain book which thrillingly broke open a memory pod in my brain.  It was the moment in "The Wish Sack," the third story of Benjamin Elkin's 1958 masterpiece The Big Jump, in which Ben (a young hero of approximately medieval times) finds that he has wished himself right onto the bed of the sleeping bad King in his black palace!

Oh, how I loved this book!  I searched for a copy of this out-of-print book and ordered it, and after reliving many deep experiences of learning (about reading and about how the world works) from it, I put it in my class library.  And then a few weeks ago I put it in the Book Box of my student Natan.

On Tuesday Natan was among the first to do Book Sharing at our class meeting time, and so we conferred about a good choice.  To my great satisfaction, he chose The Big Jump, but not the copy from the classroom library--he loved it so much he had found and bought and brought his own!  He chose to read aloud precisely the same passage from "The Wish Sack" that Jon Klassen had mentioned in his speech, and others in the class who have read The Big Jump jumped in to say how easy to read and how exciting this book is.

But that wasn't all.  On Tuesday night Natan made another big jump.  He arrived at school with a homemade stapled book that also included 3 stories--about Pokemon training.  His sense of humor and wide vocabulary made each little story very effective,  and of course I acknowledged that.   So (with writing time in school currently filled with a research project about nutrition), Natan went home and added a proper cover, a "tabel of contants" and three more stories! On Wednesday morning he tried to GIVE this book to me, so I taught him about dedications and he kept the book, now dedicated to me.

The next big jump came later that morning during our discussion of choosing books responsibly and wisely.  I departed a bit from The Big Orange Splot, which turns out to be the perfect book for learning the I PICK model for independent reading, and I extended the concept to self-selected writing projects.  I read Natan's Pokemon book to the class as an example--and during the discussion Natan let us know that the idea to make a book with more than one story had come from his repeated readings of The Big Jump.

Suddenly--right on time, really--in one of those aha! waves that happen in classrooms, the Diamond Miners realized that what you read is connected to what you write, and (with Ms. Mordhorst's help) that what you write is probably the most important work you do in school.  The houses of The Big Orange Splot are the metaphor and, as Mr. Plumbean says, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams."

And they're off, to make books that look like all their dreams!  That very day there was a flurry of independent paper folding and stacking and stapling and writing and drawing  when center work was completed, and next week I will start replacing some of my Word Work Centers with Self-Selected Writing, so that eventually every child will enjoy two writing sessions every day--one structured, coached Teacher-Selected Writing time and one independent, autonomous choice writing time.  And then I will have to establish more sharing opportunities!  (And then I will have to get to work on my own Big Jump book with Benjamin Elkin as my mentor.)

I really love Big Jumps.  : )  And here's an unexpected bonus video....

The round-up today is with Tricia--I think!--at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Jump on over for some big reading!

Friday, October 14, 2016

8th anniversary, 463 posts

C&T Custom Lures on ETSY

Yes, I have been blogging here for eight whole years!  My first post featured a poem I'd heard on the Writer's Almanac which I could post just as easily today, but for a historical marker, go to one of my first long posts, written in English and in French (such as my French was, after spending 2007-2008 in Paris)  about the day after the 2008 election and my feelings about seeing Barack Obama become President.

Very shortly after that I wrote about "the beauty of the blog," even though at that point I don't believe
ANYONE was reading it.  Perhaps that's why posting was a little haphazard until my momentous entry into this Poetry Friday community (momentous for me, not necessarily for the PF community!)
That came in March of 2009, which is another anniversary I look forward to celebrating.

For now, though, this:

Keeping It Together
All threads and trains,
No rules, restraints,
No due dates, deadlines, demands.
I get to choose.  It's in my hands:
Vocabulary, voice, venom or valentine--
Each and every muse is mine.
Reaching in deep or out wide, me to you,
Sampling the past or hewing the new,
A record here is made,
Revels, relations, revelations live here
Year after year after year.
draft (c) HM 2016

Today's round-up is with Irene and her scarecrow show (how wonderful!) at Live Your Poem.  Wishing you, her and her scarecrow the same satisfaction that I can't help but feel at sticking with this for eight years!

Friday, October 7, 2016

thursday night lights

foreign bodies

black and white against the
rubber-crumbling field of turf,
daughters meet the fight--
they gallop, leap and turn,
twinkle, clump and spread again,
amoeba-like around a white and black
nucleus of ball

black and white, pink and brown,
against the empty, clanging stands,
chill October night--
we gather, leap and clap,
shiver, stretch and cheer again,
eggbox lights under a white on black
slice of moon

singular smell here, green and dying
singular sound here, still and shouting
and all that speedenergysweatspirit
like black and white
like day and night
a foreign cult to me

draft (c) HM 2016

It's our last season of varsity girls' soccer.  I put on a good show (and I am truly amazed, truly supportive), but the whole enterprise remains fundamentally baffling to the inner me.

Enter the fray of Poetry Friday over at Violet Nesdoly's blog today--always a reason to cheer on Friday, and this week it's for Poetry Camp!

Friday, September 23, 2016

14th birthday, present

While you are sleeping
I find your sister's old phone--
the smart one--
and make the call.

Your dumb, old phone,
with its cracked screen--
"not your fault"--
lies in the hall,

full of stupid photos
and foolish texts sent
against the rules.
You never call.

I add another line and
increase the data plan--
that's my secret--
and pay for it all.

I activate your new phone,
congratulate myself--
birthday gift achieved--
and test a call.

There you are, goofing on last
year's voice message--"Like,
totally, like ciao!"
You sound small,

smart enough for a phone
but little, like a kid--
high, chirpy voice--
not cracked, not tall.

draft (c) HM 2016

Fourteen is different nowadays, huh?  I spent hours and hours on the kitchen wall phone with the long spiralled cord, sitting in the privatest place it could reach at the top of the back stairs, practicing my double entendre with a boy who was a friend, not a crush--safe space.

My son is moving from the "dumb" phone to the smart phone because he needs to start practicing how to use it wisely, but we have our qualms--unfairly, because we didn't have the same ones with his sister.  This rightly makes him indignant (but they have different strengths and weaknesses and are susceptible to different, shall I say, "cultural" dangers.)  However, he's getting his sooner than she got hers.

Hope it doesn't grow him up any faster than he's already going.

ADDENDUM:  No danger of that.  I showed him his birthday poem (so much for keeping secrets).  He stared for a while and then said, "Is that how you spell ciao?" 

But then, this is the same boy who looked out the car window recently and said, "Hey, look--is that guy RUNNING with a stroller!?"  They know so much, and then you find out what they absurdly haven't figured out yet...

The Poetry Friday roundup today is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.  Call in for plenty of poetry conversations!

Friday, September 16, 2016

OISG returns!

Strange how you can realize after the fact that something was missing, without realizing it at the time...last year in Second Grade, much was overheard, but not much of it made me laugh.  This year will be different, let me tell you!

"Overheard in Second Grade" (OISG) is supposed to be Tuesday feature, but here we are kicking off on a Friday this year.  The concept is that I share a quote from a 7-year-old and then use it as a writing prompt, which is how many of my poems come to be anyway.  All names are aliases to protect the privacy of my students (and you can forget right now what I said about all the angels two weeks ago), but the words are as verbatim as I can make them.

So....yesterday I'm doing a reading assessment with my student Latham using a book called "A Huge Mess"  (also an alias so that I don't violate any test security regulations geez).  I say the required intro--"This book is about a kid called Charlie who has a little trouble taking care of his things," and then I always add (probably in violation of testing protocol),

 "Is there anyone like that in your family?"

Latham pins me with his big brown eyes and says,

"Yes, and you probably know who it is, 'cause you're lookin' right at him!"


You Probably Know Who It Is

Is there anyone here who
can never find a pencil?
     Yep--and you're lookin' right at him...

Is there anyone here who
spills her juice every day?
     Uh-huh--and you're lookin' right at her...

Are there any kids here who
leave their jackets on the playground?
     Oh yeah--and you're lookin' right at 'em...

Here we all are
searching,  wiping,  fetching--
and lookin' right back
at you!

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2016

The Poetry Friday Round-Up today is with Michelle at Today's Little Ditty.  Go eavesdrop on all the interesting poetry chat!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

on retreat this weekend...

See you next week for the return of OIK Tuesday, now morphed into OISG Tuesday!

Friday, September 2, 2016

all the world...

...has entered my classroom in the form of 16 children who are, in three cases literally, angels. (I have an Angel, an Angela, and an Angelina!)  This year, in addition to my old favorite Roxaboxen, I began the year with the picture book poem All the World by our friend Liz Garton Scanlon.  This poem (even without the Caldecott Honor illustrations by Marla Frazee) touches the sacred for me, and the way I explained it to the shiny new second-graders sitting on my shaggy green carpet is that it gathers up many small, ordinary things to make us feel one big true thing.  Here's an excerpt.

All the World | Liz Garton Scanlon

Rock, stone, pebble, sand
Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig, a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep.

Hive, bee, wings, hum
Husk, cob, corn, yum!
Tomato blossom, fruit so red
All the world's a garden bed

Tree, branch, trunk, crown
Climbing up and sitting down
Morning sun becomes noon-blue
All the world is old and new
Everything you hear, smell, see
All the world is everything
Hope and peace and love and trust
All the world is all of us

After I read this, there was this long pause, and then Andy (yes, I have an Andy too), raised his hand to say, "That book almost made me cry."  There was reverence in the room.

And that, my friends, is what they are ALL like this year:  full of hope and peace and love and trust, open-hearted and ready.  It's another miracle.

Just in case someone had thought to set this beauty to music, I searched a little and found my way to this, which plays with the end of the book to fit the music but comes out pretty wonderful.

SchoolTube video

Thanks to Liz, and thanks to Penny at A Penny and Her Jots for hosting today, and thanks be to the ebb and flow of the world that every year is different!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

poetry friday round-up: open house

Yes, indeed, friends--my house is open!  Today at 1:30 pm children and their families will surge in around the lists posted in the foyer of the school to see who has which teacher, and then the new 2nd graders will surge up the stairs to the 2nd floor for the first time to find their new classrooms, and then 16 of them will surge through my door looking for a new home away from home.  I hope they find it, and I hope you will also find a home away from home here today in this community, in a poem someone has posted.  I almost always find something just right!

Three Little Birds
(a mindful breathing practice)

Criss cross. Sit straight.
Hands out. Reach and gather.
Gently scoop it to your belly.
Hold it there for 1, 2, 3
feathered seconds.
Its bones are hollow,
its eyes are bright.

Now lift. Lift it up
with gentle hands
and let it fly lightly away
taking your breath
along with it.

Reach again and scoop
a second one.  Don't worry
about a thing.
Hold it, counting 1, 2, 3,
and then let it fly.

Once more, a third little bird,
reach and gather, hold it
to your belly.
Hear a melody pure and true,
and let this one fly too.

draft (c) HM 2016
with thanks to Bob Marley

I won't be available to do any rounding-up until much later today, but the link-up will automate us and I look forward to reading your posts as I get a chance over the weekend!

Friday, August 19, 2016


kudzu canyon
 that which causes wonder and astonishment, 
being an extraordinary effect or event in the physical world 
that surpasses all known human or natural powers 

clay shaped and baked into flowerpots
flavors of basil, mint, oregano

symmetry of the cat's markings
silent din of dawn
but also
engineering of a glossy magazine
interlock of Lego bricks

and look--¡mira!
closure technologies: button, zipper, snap
scrubbable, self-healing, waterproof skin

kudzu canyons stretching for miles
traffic flowing easily, ever
and what about
babies, born to laugh
ready shower of hot water

clean sweetness of Cheerios, blueberries, milk
daily delivery of mail

"all known human and natural powers,"
every one, and
every one a miracle

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2016


Today's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Dori at Dori Reads.  Go catch some breathy bubbles of poetry!

Friday, August 12, 2016

late summer leaving

There's a gentle battle going on at our house...

I Defend a Habitually Rash Action to My Teenager

Yes, daughter, I let the cat out again.
      It’s late summer and the world is
      steaming with sunshine,
      streaming with cloud and blossom
      and voluptuous voles.

He is not wise but filled with the beastly miracle of himself,
filled with the urge to be out,
to make his foolish way.

(You know how he comes back after
two minutes or two days, stands at the threshold,
leans in, steps back, leans in,
then turns and bolts away?)

Yes, daughter, I know there are dangers
out there—sly foxes, cars that run so
      silently we don’t hear them coming,
      other cats who are not kind.

But I have no right to keep him in, happy
as he is in his carpeted climber, curled
in any of his many cozy corners, thrilled
as he is by his kibble.

He knows his instincts.

Disaster may await.  Yes, daughter,
there might be sadness.
I slide the door open, and trust.

©Heidi Mordhorst 2016

I can only imagine what it will be like next year, when daughter is 18...

Our Poetry Friday round-up is with Julieann at To Read To Write To Be, where her small commitment to GO AHEAD with poetry in the first days of school has inspired me!

Friday, July 29, 2016

3, a number poem

draft (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2016
3 is the magic number,
bulging with possibilities.
One thing leads to another
                and then another.
Beginning middle end.
3 has eyes to see and ears to hear.
3 purses its lips and
blows a kiss to the future.
         Promise of wishes fulfilled.


That's a less-than-one-minute poem that COULD have been (but isn't) in the forthcoming anthology ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Children's Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt.  Instead a different tiny poem by me is included, along with many more "60-second poems to send you off to sleep."

I just love the cover illustration by Christoph Niemann, and I can't wait to see what other poems by our Poetry Friday friends are included.  It comes out November 1 from Little Brown, just in time for winter gift-giving!

The Poetry Friday round-up is with Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.