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!
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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’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!
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 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!