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JoAnn's Blog

Shape Poems & Final Book Giveaway of Poetry Month!

This rose is a rose in both subject and form: it's a shape poem. I created it in Microsoft® Office Word using WordArt, which can be both fun and challenging.

Shape poems, also called concrete poems or spatial poems, create shapes out of words, either by outlining (like "Rose" above) or by filling in a picture like John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow."

A good topic for a shape poem lends itself to an appropriate shape: concrete objects work better than abstract ideas. If you want to try a shape poem, I strongly suggest that you write the poem first. Then fit it into the shape. That way, you focus on the logic and say what you mean to say rather than being distracted by trying to form a shape while you write.

Look for the WordArt icon (a blue A) on the Insert tab in the Text section. Click one of the styles that appears, enter or paste your text, select the font, size, and features you want, and click Okay. Once your text is in the document, you can add special effects and change the size and position with the tools on the Format tab. In "Rose," each petal, bud, and thorn is a separate piece of WordArt.

You can read more shape poems in these collections:
A Poke in the I, edited by Paul B. Janeczko
Splish Splash and Flicker Flash: Poems by Joan Bransfield Graham
Doodle Dandies: Poems that Take Shape by J. Patrick Lewis
Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems by Heidi Bee Roemer
Technically, It’s Not My Fault: Concrete Poems and Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits

Book Giveaway!
Tara is the winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Post a comment on today's post to enter for another chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by 10 p.m. (CST) Thursday, notify the winner by email, and ask for a mailing address and personalization request. Good luck!

Teaching Authors
Look for me each Wednesday during National Poetry Month at TeachingAuthors.com, where I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts. Last Wednesday's challenge was a Fib.

Guest Blog Post
At at Rochelle Melander's Write Now! Coach blog, you can read about five of my favorite poetry collections and enter to win a copy of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Poetry Friday
Tabatha Yeatts has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Enjoy!

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Earth Day List Poem and Book Giveaway!

A few years ago, my husband and I walked along the Milwaukee River on a warm April morning. We picked up litter as we walked, appalled at the mountains of trash in the water and on the banks. I listed each object I collected. Later, I turned my list into a list poem. I'm posting it for Earth Day, coming up next week.

Spring Awakening

Dainty speckled dog’s tooth violet
leaves poke up from warming soil
through a six-foot strip of muddy
shredded plastic bag,
     plastic straws, a root beer can,
     caution tape, a bottle top,
     a lip gloss tube, old newspapers,
     a spray paint can, and one flip-flop.

Two red-bellied woodpeckers
shriek and tap above our heads
as we survey the rushing river
and the garbage on its banks:
     plastic lighter, cigarette butts,
     chunks of broken Styrofoam,
     coffee cups with plastic lids,
     a bandage strip, a plastic comb.

Mama goose sits on her nest
amid the evidence of thoughtless
picnickers and fishermen,
hikers, joggers, families:
     McDonald’s ketchup packet, wrappers
     (Kit-Kat, Slim Jim, Power Shot,
     Cheetos), plastic bait container,
     broken plastic flower pot.

Multicolored shopping bags
flutter from just-budding trees.
Ducks glide past a bobbing bottle,
half a pound of plain cream cheese.
     Fish swim under plastic buckets.
     Water bottles tip on top
     of water bottles ten feet from
     a trash container—
          this must stop!

On, and on, the river
     carries everything we toss it,
          and we toss too much to bear.

Wake up, people!
Don’t you care
     what happens to this rushing river,
          Mama goose,
          the gliding ducks,
          the fish,
          red-bellied woodpeckers?

Wake up and smell the dog tooth violets,
     poking through
          the shredded
               plastic bags.



The picture is also from a few years ago. Unfortunately, the river and its banks are still littered with trash.

Begin a list poem of your own for Earth Day or any other day by thinking of a subject or a place you are passionate about. Observe it carefully or remember it and list its important details. Include more than just the list—tell the reader why the details are important.

I used rhyme because I liked the singsong, careless feel it implied and I wanted to lighten the heavy message, but your poem doesn't have to rhyme. Speak your mind and make your message clear.

For more list poems, see Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard.

Book Giveaway!
The winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step is B.J. Lee.

Post a comment on today's post to enter for another chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by midnight (CST) Thursday, notify the winner by email, and ask for a mailing address and personalization request. Good luck!

Teaching Authors
Look for me each Wednesday during National Poetry month at TeachingAuthors.com, where I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts.

Poetry Friday
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Life on the Deckle Edge. Enjoy!

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Apostrophe Poem and Book Giveaway!

Happy Poetry Month!

Today's poem is an apostrophe poem, also known as a poem of direct address. It's not so much a form as a point of view--second person, to be precise. An apostrophe poem speaks directly to a person or thing. Here's a definition from the Poetry Foundation. And here's an example from me:

              Transformation

              Oh, brown paper bag stuffed with scribbled-up pages,
              you wait on the curb on Recycling Day
              holding old drafts of my stories and poems.
              Soon you’ll be picked up and hauled away.
              You'll be soaked and pressed into brand-new paper
              where some other writer can dream and play.


I found a series of good examples by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader. You can read more apostrophe poems in Hey You!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things, selected by Paul B. Janeczko.

Teaching Authors!
Today on the Teaching Authors blog, I've posted a video of Jill Esbaum, April Halprin Wayland, and me reading Mary Ann Hoberman's "Counting-Out Rhyme" in rounds. Check there again on Wednesday for another poetry-themed Writing Workout. You can also enter to win one of five Teaching Authors Blogiversary Book Bundles!

Book Giveaway!
The winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step is Linda Baie.

Post a comment here (on today's post) to enter for another chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by midnight (CST) Thursday, notify the winner by email, and ask for a mailing address and personalization request. Good luck!

Poetry Friday
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Today's Little Ditty. Enjoy!

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Three Poetry Thoughts, a Spring Tercet, and a Book Giveaway!


When our kids were little and needed a bit more attention than they do these days, I used to wait till they were safely occupied or sleeping, make a conscious effort to let go of everyday concerns, sink down into a creative frame of mind, and open up to gifts from the blue. I’d tell myself to slow down and pay attention. I called that wonderful state Poetry Mode.

Later, I read For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard. Heard describes a visit to her teacher Stanley Kunitz. Before she left, she asked him for any last advice. He said, “You must first create the kind of person who will write the kind of poems you want to write.”

The thought gives me goosebumps.

Then yesterday, though a Facebook post, I found this gorgeous poem, “Valentine for Ernest Mann” by Naomi Shihab Nye. The lines that struck me:

              “. . . poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
              they are sleeping. They are the shadows
              drifting across our ceilings the moment
              before we wake up. What we have to do
              is live in a way that lets us find them. . . .”



Slow down and pay attention, right?

I’m thinking in threes today. I planned to write a triolet, but my Book of Forms opened to the tercet page instead. Any poem of three lines, rhymed or unrhymed in any meter, is a tercet. Here’s mine:

              First Signs of Hope

              Among the dry, brown leaves that shield the hill,
              surprises bloom in spite of winter’s chill.
              Crocuses—an unexpected thrill!



Book news!
Write a Poem Step by Step is now available as an eBook from Lulu. Soon it will also be in the iBookstore and the NOOK Book Store. Paperback copies are available from Lulu, IndieBound, amazon, Barnes&Noble, and local bookstores.

Book Giveaway!
Post a comment to enter for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Be sure to include your email address so I can notify you if you win and ask for your mailing address and personalization request.

I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by midnight (CST) Thursday. Watch for another chance to win next week. Good luck!

Poetry Friday
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm.

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Celebrating National Poetry Month!

Hooray! It's National Poetry Month!


Lucky for us all, Jama Kim Rattigan has compiled a list of National Poetry Month events we can peruse.

Throughout the month, I'll be posting Wednesday Writing Workouts at the Teaching Authors blog, where we'll all be celebrating by sharing some of our favorite poems.

On Fridays, I'll post here and also give away copies of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Watch both sites for writing tips, poetry assignments, and links to more poetry!

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