wrinkled foreheads touch
two rocks kissing form a bridge
river doesn't care
wrinkled foreheads touch
April must not know
I put away my mittens
wind chill: 32
tiny diving grebe
disappears in quiet pond
ripples mark the spot
skunk cabbage unfurls
under last year's leaf litter--
stinky sign of spring
flock of umbrellas
May apples wait in April
ready to unfurl
Soon to be revealed--
mystery spring flower buds.
What did I plant here?
we prowl the marshy pathways
stalking whooping cranes
I've been posting a haiku each day this month on Facebook and Twitter. Now I'm catching up by gathering them all here in one spot. Enjoy!
Nighttime walk, strange town--
foundry rumble, fast food glare,
same familiar moon
I try to walk to Lake Michigan every day. Thinking about my haiku a day for National Poetry Month while I walk helps me pay attention.
today's gifts: pansies
mergansers diving through waves
children holding hands
Bea lies in sunshine
just when I need a poem
good old helpful pal
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at No Water River. Enjoy!
Yippee! We made it! I always think of March 4th as the true beginning of spring. March forth! It's time to take stock, plan ahead, begin anew. Happy Marching!
Last week on Today's Little Ditty, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes interviewed Joyce Sidman about her gorgeous new poetry collection, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Joyce issued a challenge: a "Deeper Wisdom” poem, modeled after her thoughtful “What Do the Trees Know?”
What do rivers know?
To carve our paths through rock, through snow
To carry everything in tow
When ice forms, how to slip below
What do rivers know?
Dams are temporary, so
Whatever happens, we still flow
We find—or make—a way to go
JoAnn Early Macken
Here in Wisconsin, we’ve got cold. It’s a good time to buckle down and write. I’m plowing ahead on the seventh book of eight in my Poet’s Workshop series, and somehow I lost a poem I wrote for a chapter on riddle poems. Here’s my thought for today.
The Perfect Poem
Once I wrote a perfect poem.
If only I could find it!
I searched inside my messy desk,
on top, beneath, behind it.
I poked through every pocket
and each notebook I could see.
I think it was a perfect poem.
This really bothers me.
Once I wrote a perfect poem.
I’m not sure what it said.
So now I have to wonder:
Was it only in my head?
JoAnn Early Macken
My son Jimmy sent me a link to an article about time management for creative people, "5 alternative ways to manage your time." Jimmy said he especially liked the second method, “How to Schedule Your Day for Peak Creative Performance,” and so do I. I’ve adapted it to use with the activities I want to include:
• Create: I’ve been starting my days with coffee and my own writing for a long time; this practice works well for me. My Inner Critic sleeps late, so I’m less likely to reject my own ideas first thing in the morning. The earlier I start, the more time I have in this block.
• Exercise: I want to make this more of a priority, so I’m scheduling it earlier in the day. Plus it’s a nice transition into the next time block.
• Sticking My Neck Out, or Push (as in “pushing myself outside my comfort zone,” as the author of the article labels it). I have a long list of Maybe/Someday ideas I hope to address in this time slot.
• Work for Hire (WfH): Right now, this includes two nonfiction series I’m writing for educational publishers. With deadlines approaching, this block might expand temporarily, but I don't mind being flexible. Teaching could also be an option later in the year. We'll see.
I've included a couple of breaks for showering, checking email, throwing in a load of laundry, eating lunch, etc., because I’m trying to be realistic. And the whole five-day plan is subject to change, of course. (I am not scheduling evenings or weekends!) I'll try to post updates as I figure out what works.
What do you think? Are you planning your work hours? Any recommendations? Let me know!
Yesterday, I spent a lovely, relaxing Labor Day afternoon at our neighborhood's fourth annual block party. The parents in the crowd excused themselves early to get their kids ready for the first day of school. The rest of us lingered to share fond memories.
The Back to You-Know-What Book Giveaway is all wrapped up, the winner is notified, and today is the first day of school. Like teachers, students, and writers everywhere, I'm heading back to my desk. I wish all of us a positive, prosperous, and productive school year! Read More
My husband and many other teachers return to their classrooms next week. Every year around this time, I can't help thinking about trying to cram in every last summer activity I can before it's too late. (We finally took our first tandem bike ride of the year!)
This morning's mysterious fog curtain inspired a haiku:
Last vacation day--
swim, bike, soccer, jump rope, skate?
Rain! Write a poem.
Book Giveaway: Write a Poem Step by Step!
Add a comment to this post by midnight on Labor Day (September 1) to enter to win an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you for mailing and personalizing info. (You can email it to me if you prefer--use the "Write to JoAnn" link on the left.) I'll choose a random winner on Tuesday, September 2, when the students go back to school. Good luck!
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Live Your Poem... with Irene Latham. Enjoy!
Mittens in May!
Our massive piles of snow have mostly melted away.
Although the weather’s chilly, it gets warmer every day.
Squirrels shiver, fluff their fur—I think they’ll be okay.
Daffodils are popping up with just a slight delay.
Summer birds are back. I saw three chimney swifts today!
We’re celebrating spring while wearing mittens in May!
Regardless of the temperature, we always see chimney swifts by May 1. This year was no exception in spite of the unseasonably cool temperatures. I hope they find enough insects to eat! Here's a video I made a few years ago of chimney swifts flying into a chimney downtown. You can hear them twittering over the traffic sounds.
Liz is the winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Tara (last week's winner), if you're reading this, please send me your mailing address so I can send you your book!
Katya hosts today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Enjoy!
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
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!
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.
Tabatha Yeatts has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Enjoy!
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.
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,
the gliding ducks,
Wake up and smell the dog tooth violets,
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.
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!
Look for me each Wednesday during National Poetry month at TeachingAuthors.com, where I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts.
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Life on the Deckle Edge. Enjoy!
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:
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.
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!
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!
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Today's Little Ditty. Enjoy!
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!
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.
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!
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm.
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!
I love the challenges of writing haiku: creating a scene in three brief lines, making every word count, adding that little twist. Here are some I've written this cold, snowy winter.
Windblown shopping bag
rolls down our snow-covered street--
Icy sidewalks thaw,
refreeze in brand-new patterns.
Surprise! Ice dancing!
How windy is it?
Constant droning creeps me out.
Tree trunk's swaying--yikes!
Poor dog, whisked outside,
rushed around the block. Long walks
have to wait till spring.
Today's view: fresh snow,
rabbit footprints, smudged window.
Spring cleaning starts now.
Under bird feeders,
melting snow reveals mountains--
sunflower seed shells!
Today's forecast calls for rising temperatures at last. Everyone in Wisconsin is celebrating. Sounds like an idea for a new poem, right? I'll get right on it.
P.S. I sometimes post poems on Facebook. Friend me if you want to see more. You can also follow me on Twitter.
P.P.S. It's Poetry Friday! Today's Roundup is at Reflections on the Teche. Enjoy!
“While waiting for conditions to improve," he says, "let’s plant milkweed – lots and lots of it.” Yes, of course.
Here’s one more thing we can all do right now to help.
In “Last Call For Monarchs,” Mexican poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis says, “Now, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, I (and all who cherish the monarch butterfly) am urging Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put monarch survival on the agenda of their February 19-20 summit meeting.”
“To make up for the vast loss of grasslands to crops and urban development,” he says, “we need a milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch -- with plantings on roadsides, in fields and ditches, along railroad tracks, in pastures and meadows and gardens, in parks and public spaces -- so that successive generations of monarchs can breed during their journey north.”
Many of us are doing what we can to spread milkweed in our small corners of the country. (Let me know if you want seeds!) The Wild for Monarchs Blog suggests contacting President Obama to ask him to make this issue part of the agenda when he meets with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts.
Contact the White House to show President Obama the broad support for saving monarchs. The meeting is only a week away, but it takes only a minute to fill in the required contact fields and include a short message. Feel free to copy and modify this letter.
Dear President Obama,
The population of monarch butterflies has dropped drastically in recent years. Development, increased cropland acreage because of the ethanol mandate, and the use of herbicides and herbicide-tolerant crops have nearly eliminated milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food, from much of the butterfly's former habitat.
I understand you will be meeting with Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper later this month. Please take this opportunity to discuss a plan to protect the monarch butterfly on its migration route through our three countries.
I urge you to take steps now to save monarch butterflies while they still have a chance to recover. Thank you!
JoAnn Early Macken
I’ve always found back-to-school ads annoying. I don’t need reminders of all the things I should have done more of over the summer—camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, and everything else outside. I’ll miss the long, leisurely—wait. Who am I kidding? For me, as for most writers I know, summer is as hectic as the school year. It’s just less structured.
This summer, like the past several summers, I’ve spent large chunks of time observing, photographing, and writing about monarch butterflies. I’ve gathered monarch eggs, protected them in a mosquito net tent in our backyard, and watched them hatch, grow through all their caterpillar stages, form chrysalises, pop out as butterflies, and fly away. I’ve propagated milkweed plants, given them away, and planted them in various sunny spots. It’s all research. And the monarchs need all the help they can get!
I’ve also crossed some significant tasks off my to-do list, volunteered for a couple of causes I believe in, and helped my handy husband with projects around the house. Now I face the regular schedule that teaching requires, along with the deadlines, planning, and focus on other people’s work.
And so I make the inevitable transition, slowly, plodding, dragging my feet until the moment when I can look ahead with enthusiasm. Classes begin next week. My syllabuses are ready and sent off to my students. It’s almost time!
Here’s a poem I wrote with that transition in mind. The Fib is a counted-syllable form in which the number of syllables in each line corresponds to the Fibonacci sequence: 1-1-2-3-5-8.
Forgive me. I’ll be
ready to fly any day now.
Instead of focusing on back-to-school reminders, I’m celebrating my birthday, starting now. (We do everything Early, as my family likes to say.) Write a Poem Step by Step is on sale (20% off! Only $6.39!) through October 9 if you order it from this site. Enjoy!
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at I Think in Poems.
I’m back—and happy to report that all is well. After an amazing six months, during which our son was diagnosed with leukemia, treated with three grueling rounds of chemotherapy, and (thank Goodness!) declared cancer free, I’m thrilled to be back at my desk.
Yesterday, I forced myself to keep my Butt in Chair until I finished yet another revision of a nonfiction poetry collection. Although it was crucial to the process, that step—compiling research and verifying facts—felt a bit like drudgery. I’m glad I made myself stay put. Part of what enabled me to keep moving forward was that I expect to have more fun playing with language during the next step.
This morning, I heard my first cicada of the summer, which inspired this poem:
Cicada buzz signals
the halfway point of summer.
Quick, I tell myself,
don’t miss this chance
Absorb the heat,
each sparrow chirp,
and every rosebud’s scent.
Stock up on sandy footprints,
sunlight on bare skin,
that fresh tomato flavor.
Set aside provisions,
enough to tide us over
till next spring.
I didn’t recognize the connections between these events until I entered the title of the poem (and now the post), which fits just about everything I’m going through right now.
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Check It Out.
On April 24, 2013, at 12:00 PM CT, I will talk about writing picture books and poetry at the Write Now! Mastermind class. The call is free, but you need to sign up in advance.
The Write Now! Mastermind Class provides free monthly one-hour educational calls with accomplished authors, agents, editors, and other publishing professionals. The calls are hosted by Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander, who is an author and professional certified coach specializing in helping people write books fast, publish their work, and market it online.
Last summer during a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, my husband and I made our way to the shore of Lake Superior to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Late at night, in the dark, we had the whole beach to ourselves. In about an hour, we counted 51 meteors!
Last night, when we heard about the Geminid meteor shower, we took a quick trip to a park north of Milwaukee to escape the city lights. We didn't stay nearly as long--it is December, after all--but we saw enough to make the effort worthwhile. Here is a draft 0f a poem I wrote this morning.
Stars lit our way
down the steep, winding path
through tall, naked trees
to the wide-open beach.
Wrapped up in blankets,
we waited, laughing.
Waves crashed on shore,
and bright streaks of light
flew between stars.
Oooh! Ah! We counted aloud.
Sand in our hair,
we climbed back up, quiet,
for one last look
through tall, naked trees
on the steep, winding path.
Stars lit our way.
Poetry Link: Your Daily Poem, where you'll find "poetry that is touching, funny, provocative, inspiring, and surprising." I'm enjoying finding a poem in my Inbox every day.
Book Giveaway: Don't forget to visit TeachingAuthors.com to enter the Book Giveaway!
Poetry Friday: Today's Roundup is at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Enjoy!
There, you can enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step!
The Book Giveaway goes on until 11 p.m. on December 18. I'll announce the winner on December 19.
When grass is all done growing,
and it’s not yet time for snowing,
there’s a neither/almost season in between
when leaves turn brown and wrinkly,
and they twirl to Earth all crinkly.
Every fall, I wonder what became of green.
I wrote this poem last year at the end of August. This year in Wisconsin, only one day away from December (and the start of winter parking regulations), fall is really hanging on. In about a week, Milwaukee could break its record for the longest stretch of days (279) without a measurable snowfall. And the forecast shows temperatures well above freezing for most of the week ahead. The last time it snowed here was March 4th.
I’m a hibernator by nature, so I wouldn’t mind a warmer winter—except that I suspect our local weird weather is part of a dangerous global pattern. Given a choice, I’d sleep away winter or spend it reading and writing. But the dog drags me out for a walk, and once I’m outside, wrapped in layers of SmartWool, Cuddl Duds, and fleece, I know I’ll be fine. I wish I could say the same for our planet.
I don’t remember who pointed me to this wonderful resource, but it’s definitely worth exploring. "The Poetry of Joyce Sidman: A Guide for Educators" includes tips for using her books as jumping-off points for discussions and student (or your own) writing, including poems in many exciting forms. Joyce recently won the 2013 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Visit her web site to find even more poem starters and a pep talk, which we all need once in a while. Thank you, Joyce!
This week, Laura Purdie Salas's 15 Words or Less Poems are inspired by a painting. I tried one. You should, too!
Jama Kim Rattigan has a final feast of peanut butter poems at Jama's Alphabet Soup. What a tasty treat!
Next Friday, December 7, I'll be back at TeachingAuthors.com for a Book Giveaway. (Yippee!) Visit me there for a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step.
Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm.
I’m nearing the end of a freelance project on top of my most demanding teaching semester ever: two classes at Mount Mary College and two classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Continuing Education. I love my students, who keep delighting me with their brilliant and creative approaches to poems and stories. Another thing that helps me keep going is to write a little bit every day—and every bit counts, including Morning Pages, Laura Purdie Salas’s 15 Words or Less Poems, and even blog posts.
On Friday, using a Random Number Generator, I picked the winner of the Book Giveaway. Congratulations to Deborah Holt Williams, who will receive an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. I started a blog post announcement, including a haiku about the status of my workspace as the end of the semester approaches. I hoped to take part in Poetry Friday, but I got stuck on the poem, so I went out and mailed the book (I hope you enjoy it, Deborah!) and attended to a list of errands.
On Saturday, after a walk along the river, I approached the poem again, along with the freelance project, the last of my student work for one class (hooray!), and just before bedtime, a picture book critique.
Now it’s Sunday, too late for Poetry Friday, and I’m reminded again of that lesson about letting a draft evolve on its own schedule. Today, finally, the poem says something more like what I meant to express.
To-do lists collect
like snowdrifts, teeter, topple,
fan across the floor.
I could use a snow shovel (or maybe a plow!) on my workspace, but I’ll get to that, too, one of these days. The semester ends in less than three weeks!
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a break for Thanksgiving. I’ll gather with most of my family. I’ll try my hand at a Thanku poem with my friends at TeachingAuthors.com. You should, too!