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JoAnn's Blog

Upgrading the Garden & Poetry Friday!


Upgrading the Garden


I just dug up a clump of
overcrowded pulmonaria.
Too many plants were growing in
a tiny little area.
I'll split them up and trade some
with my neighbors. I have nary a
foxglove, hollyhock, ajuga,
phlox, or cineraria.
I can throw in milkweed
or monarda. Time to vary a
bit what grows here every year.

Got any Alstroemeria?


Karen Edmisten has today's Poetry Friday Roundup . Enjoy!

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Springing Eternal & Poetry Friday!


Springing Eternal

I potted impatiens to put on the porch.
They are doomed. I never take care of 'em.
Plus everything there's a temptation to squirrels,
and we've got a root-chewing pair of 'em,
along with the spider mites weaving their webs—
destructive and messy—beware of 'em.

This year's will be different, I swear of 'em.


The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Buffy's Blog. Enjoy!

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Morning Promise

I had to go buy a new computer yesterday (Coffee! Keyboard!), so I put blinders on and ignored my notebook all day even though I could hear it calling me. But before I went to sleep, I read some poems from Naomi Shihab Nye's Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners, and a quote in her poem "Tomorrow" stuck with me: "All that is truly ours now is the day that is beginning." This morning, I woke up and started writing before I got out of bed.

      The good thing about today is that
      it gives me another chance
          to laugh
          to leap
          to sing
          to play
          to work
          to pray
          to dance.
      I make this promise to myself
      each day that I’m lucky to live:
      I’ll take the opportunity
          to help
          to hope
          to fight
          for right
          to lift
          to love
          to give.

Happy Poetry Friday! Brenda has today's Roundup at Friendly Fairy Tales. Enjoy!
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Day 6: Helping the Planet, Poetry Friday, & a Book Giveaway!

          If you walk along the river,
          you’ll find trash among the bushes,
          snagged in branches,
          stuck in trees.
          You will find a plastic bag.
          Plastic bags are everywhere.

          Pick one up. This is important.
          Fill it with the trash you find.
          Yes, I know you didn’t drop it.
          Help the planet anyway.
          Someone has to be a steward.
          Someone has to care.

For the past year, a group I cofounded (Bring Your Bag Shorewood in Shorewood, Wisconsin) has been sewing reusable shopping bags from donated fabric and stocking them in a local grocery store. People who forget their bags can borrow one and bring it back for someone else to use. I wrote about it on the Authors for Earth Day blog. Tonight, we’ll be at the Shorewood Conservation Committee’s free screening of Bag It at 7 p.m. at the Shorewood Village Center. We'll talk about reusable shopping bags and our group’s efforts to reduce the use of unnecessary disposable plastic.

I'm giving away a copy of Write a Poem Step by Step every day in April. The book is based on my school visit presentations and includes a simple plan you can follow to create your own poems. I wrote it for students, teachers, and writers of all ages.

Post a comment here to enter. I'll choose one at random tomorrow and drop a copy of Write a Poem Step by Step in the mail—U.S. addresses only, please. I’ll email you for your mailing address if you win. And if you don't win right away, please try again. I'll have 31 copies to share!

If you get this error message

     V1 SHUTDOWN ON 2018-03-31
     Direct site owners to g.co/recaptcha/upgrade

type anything in the box! (I'm working on it.)

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm. Enjoy!

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The View from Our Kitchen

              Through the Window

              Woodpecker tilts his head
                       flash of red
                       banded cheek
                       pointed beak
              pecks at the suet
              peeks in the window
              watches me watching him
                       cautiously motionless
                       watching him watching me
                       taking in that feathered scene
              both of us filling up

              JoAnn Early Macken

Buffy Silverman has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Buffy's Blog. Enjoy!

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Recipe for Morning

              Recipe for Morning

              One dog
              One sunrise-red sky
              One wind-chilled field
              One ball—watch it fly!
              One scramble-sprint-leap
              One catch dropped at my feet


              JoAnn Early Macken

This poem was inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Recipe for Joy." Check it out and try your own recipe poem.

Amy's new book Read! Read! Read! brought back memories of reading comics, road signs, and cereal boxes. Enjoy!

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Random Noodling.

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Spring in Wisconsin

                                                            Cold, damp, dreary day.
                                                            Robin’s sunny reminder:
                                                            Cheeriup! Cheer up!

                                                            JoAnn Early Macken

Happy National Poetry Month! Happy Poetry Friday! Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the roundup at The Opposite of Indifference.

Next week, I'll host the Poetry Friday Roundup at the Teaching Authors blog. Enjoy!

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Owls, After the Storm

              Nightly Owl Check

              We heard their gentle hoots before we found
              the great horned silhouettes in their new tree,
              one doting parent tearing prey apart
              to feed their fluffy feather duster chick.

              Too young to fly, it must have fallen when
              the storm hit their dilapidated nest,
              now draped like curtains down the old tree’s trunk.

              The crows cried out their warnings all day long.
              They must have seen the flapping owlet climb.
              We missed it, but all’s well. We head back home.

              JoAnn Early Macken

Happy National Poetry Month! Happy Poetry Friday! The roundup is at Dori Reads. Enjoy!

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              Gravitational Pull

              A constellation of daffodils
              brightens our dining room table,
              stems aligned in a spiral ascending
              to petal stars.

              We cluster around,
              planets in orbit,
              drawn to the light.

              JoAnn Early Macken

Happy National Poetry Month! Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Live Your Poem. Enjoy!

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Orchid Spray

              Star-shaped, dawn-colored,
              freckle-faced flowers
              perch on their branch
              like a flock of finches
              peering over each other's shoulders.

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

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Open the Door!

In a few weeks, I'll be heading to a part of the country I've never visited before to take part in Western Washington University's Poetry Camp. I'm excited about the trip and the people I'll meet there--fellow poet/presenters whose poems are included in the Poetry Friday Anthology series compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong and the audience of teachers, librarians, and writers.

This summer has been loaded with distractions, so on a recent trip to the library, I grabbed an armload of poetry books to study so I could focus on poetry again. I started with Ted Kooser, whose work feels so comfortable, comforting, and at the same time eye-opening. I read his sweet Valentines and then his brilliant Delights and Shadows. That one made me want to write a bit, so I contributed a quick draft to Laura Purdie Salas's 15 Words or Less Poems yesterday. I felt a little bit like a poet again.

Today, I started my morning with Mary Oliver's Owls and Other Fantasies. Here's what jumped out at me:

         ...Listen, everyone has a chance.
         Is it spring, is it morning?

         Are there trees near you,
         and does your own soul need comforting?
         Quick, then--open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
         may already be drifting away.

         --from "Such Singing in the Wild Branches"


         ...Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

         even in the leafless winter,
         even in the ashy city.
         I am thinking now of grief, and getting past it;

         I feel my boots
         trying to leave the ground,
         I feel my heart
         pumping hard. I want

         to think again of dangerous and noble things.
         I want to be light and frolicsome.
         I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
         as though I had wings.

         --from "Starlings in Winter"

I'm always looking for something when I read; often, I don't know what. I found something today in the poems quoted here and also in "Yes! No!"

         "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work."

Always a good thing to remember, I think, both for writing and for life.

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

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Back to You-Know-What Book Giveaway!

Wisconsin River canoe trip, July 2014

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!


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Back to—Eeek!

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.

Birthday Sale!
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!

Poetry Friday
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at I Think in Poems.
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Turning Points

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:

              Turning Point

              Cicada buzz signals
              the halfway point of summer.
              Quick, I tell myself,
              don’t miss this chance
              to picnic
              and swim.

              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.

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Meteor Showers, Poetry Link, and Poetry Friday

Lake Superior in daylight

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.

Meteor Shower

              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,
              turning around
              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!

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Weird Weather Poem, Bookmarkable Links, and Poetry Friday

Missing Hue

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.

Bookmarkable Links
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!

Book Giveaway
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.

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

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A Winner, a Poem, and That Light at the End of the Tunnel

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!

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Write a Poem Step by Step Poetry Tip, Poem, and Book Giveaway!

Today's post (my first on this blog!) includes an excerpt from my new book Write a Poem Step by Step. Book Giveaway details are below.

Write About Something You Care About

My first tip about choosing an idea applies to almost any kind of writing: Write about something you care about. How can you put your heart into a subject that doesn’t move you? If you try to write about something you don’t care about, you might have to force yourself to find something to say. You might struggle to write anything interesting at all. Your poem could suffer. It might even be boring. So write about something you feel strongly about.

That doesn’t necessarily mean something you like! Something that makes you feel an emotion, whether happy or sad, curious or angry, silly or serious, can make a good topic for a poem. Anything can be a subject if you are open to it: your shoes, the chair you’re sitting on, what you ate for breakfast—as long as you care about it.

Chloe’s poem shows how much piano music means to her and why. 

The Piano

The piano reminds me of my grandma
When she played the beautiful sounds

The piano smells like an old library
When you step in and smell the old, dusty books

The piano makes me feel like I’m flying
Through white, fluffy clouds in the sky

The piano sounds like twinkling stars
The beautiful sounds are no louder than a soft MEOW from my cat

Chloe Strait, Grade 5

Put your whole heart into your poem. Go ahead and reveal your emotions. The effort will show in your writing.

Write a Poem Step by Step is available now from Lulu, amazon, Barnes&Noble, and local bookstores. See the links on the right to order.

Book Giveaway details: Post a comment here to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step and tell me how you would use the book. Be sure to include your email address so I can notify you if you win and ask for your mailing address. Comments do not appear immediately.

I'll choose a winner at random one week from today from all entries posted by midnight Thursday, November 15. Good luck!

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