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A teacher educator discusses children's literature and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers.
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1. Monday Poetry Stretch - Septolet

A septolet is a 14-word poem written in two stanzas and connected by the same idea.

I've not seen any consistency regarding number of lines (I've seen 5, 6, and 7) or where the break between stanzas should be (some recommend between lines 4 and 5 if the poem is 7 lines long).

You can read more about the septolet at The Poets Collective and Super Forty.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a septolet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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2. Thank You, Veterans

I've been privileged to know many veterans over the years, and I am eternally grateful to them for their service to our country.

Today I'm honoring a veteran close to my heart, my dad. Here are some pictures from when he was stationed at Kaneohe in Hawaii.




      

 

 

Here's a little something I found packed away with a letter to my grandparents saying that my dad was being discharged and would be coming home soon.

And here's a form letter from Truman.
Thanks to my dad and all the other veterans who have served. We owe you more than we can ever repay.

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3. Monday Poetry Stretch - Epiphora

Early this year we wrote poems that used the device anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. Epiphora (or epistrophe) is the exact opposite, where this repetition occurs at the end of successive sentences or clauses.

Here are a few examples.

The Gettysburg Address
“… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.“


From "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in
     their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)


From THE MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare
Bassanio: Sweet Portia,
If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
If you did know for whom I gave the ring
And would conceive for what I gave the ring
And how unwillingly I left the ring,
When nought would be accepted but the ring,
You would abate the strength of your displeasure.

Portia: If you had known the virtue of the ring,
Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
Or your own honor to contain the ring,
You would not then have parted with the ring.


So, your challenge for the week is to write a poem that uses epiphora. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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4. Poetry Friday - Acquainted with the Night

Last week for Halloween I was persuaded to post the rap from the song Thriller. What I really wanted to post was this.

Acquainted with the Night
by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Diane at Random Noodling. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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5. Monday Poetry Stretch - Rondelet

I've been inconsistent in posting stretches this semester, so I'm trying to get back on track with a new form.

The rondelet is a 7-line French poetic form that contains a refrain, strict rhyme scheme, and distinct syllable pattern. The structure is:

Line 1 : A— 4 syllables (refrain)
Line 2 : b—8 syllables
Line 3 : A—repeat of Line 1 (refrain)
Line 4 : a—8 syllables
Line 5 : b—8 syllables
Line 6 : b—8 syllables
Line 7 : A—repeat of Line 1 (refrain)
You can read more about this form at Shadow Poetry and LOTR Rondelets.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a rondelet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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6. Poetry Friday - Thriller Rap

As if I could post anything else today ...

Rap from Thriller
by Rod Temperton

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'all's neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller


If you have some time, here's the video of the song.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Linda Baie at Teacher Dance. Happy poetry Friday friends! And Happy Halloween!

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7. Monday Poetry Stretch - Kodachrome

Over the last few weeks I have been scanning slides and revisiting old family photos. My uber-cute brother and sister are in the picture below! Don't you just love those Easter basket sunglasses?
While immersed in this project I've been reminded me of a story NPR ran a few years ago about a photo historian who found an archive of more than 14,000 photos taken by Charles W. Cushman. Cushman began using Kodachrome soon after it came out and used it to capture the world in ways it had never been seen before. 

You can hear the story at The Found Archive of Charles W. Cushman. Better yet, you can see some of the photos at Lost and Found: Discover a Black-and-White Era in Full Color.

Our family slides are not great works of art, but they contain an awful lot of history. I'm amazed that this array of images has captured the evolution of the television, clothing, hairstyles, and cars. So, today I'm thinking about old kodachrome and photographs. I hope you'll join me this week in writing about them. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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8. Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Lipogram

I looked back over the last month and realized I have failed to post a stretch for several weeks now. Mea culpa, mea culpa. If you only knew about all the crazy things happening in my life! Please forgive my absence here. I've missed writing with you! I have been working on a project with the Poetry Princesses that I hope will be unveiled in a few short weeks.

That said, today I'm thinking about the lipogram. A lipogram is a piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet. You can read more about lipograms at A.Word.A.Day.


Here is an example of a lipogram. It comes from Gadsby, the 1939 story (more than 50,000 words!) by Ernest Vincent Wright that does not contain the letter E.
"Now, any author, from history's dawn, always had that most important aid to writing: an ability to call upon any word in his dictionary in building up his story. That is, our strict laws as to word construction did not block his path. But in my story that mighty obstruction will constantly stand in my path; for many an important, common word I cannot adopt, owing to its orthography."
Here's another form of lipogram favored by JonArno Lawson in A VOWELLER'S BESTIARY. This alphabet book is based on vowel combinations rather than initial letters. The lipograms in this book exclude certain vowels from each set and include each of the vowels in the word. Here's an example.
Excerpt from  "Moose"
(p. 30) 
Yellow-toothed wolves
lope somewhere close, rove homeless over broken slopes,
overwhelm moose's forest home.
Moose seldom welcome wolves.

So, which letter or letters will you slight? Write a poem this week omitting one or more letters. I Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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9. Poetry Friday Is On!

Welcome friends to Poetry Friday! I'm thrilled to be your host this week. Today I'm sharing a bit of Robert Frost. He's the one poet I revisit every fall. Whether it's Gathering Leaves, Nothing Gold Can Stay, or Apple Picking, Frost puts me in the mood for my favorite season.

October
by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I'm rounding this one up old-school style, so please leave a note with a link to your offering in the comments. Happy poetry Friday all!

*************************

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10. Poetry Friday - Zombie Poetry

Yesterday at lunch my son and were having a major discussion (that included math) over the check and tip. As I was explaining my thinking, the conversation took an unexpected turn.

Son: Mom, did you just do all that math in your head?
Me: Yes, I did.
Son: Wow. If I were a zombie I'd totally eat your brain first.


A strange compliment if I ever heard one, but I know exactly what his 13 year old mind was thinking!

That conversation got me thinking about zombies and poetry. (Yes, I know my mind works in strange ways!) Did you know there was a book of zombie poetry?
You can download a free sample. You can also listen to Rebirth is Always Painful.

In 2012 The New York Times ran an article on zombie poetry.

Finally, while doing a bit of searching, I came across this little gem.

Midnight Snack
by David Piper

The sound of plate and glasses clinking
Woke me up quite late last night.
And from the kitchen something stinking
Gave me, well, as nasty fright.

Read the poem in its entirety. (It also contains a lovely bit of artwork.)


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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11. Poetry Friday - Saved From the Discard Pile

I've frequented some library sales and second hand bookstores recently and have added some lovely titles to my poetry collection. Today I'm sharing two poems from the book Sweet Corn: Poems by James Stevenson.

Screen Door

When fog blurs the morning,
Porches glisten, shingles drip.
Droplets gather on the green screen door.
"Look," they say to one another.
"Look how dry it is inside."


Ladder

The ladder leaning against the barn
Is like the man who used to use it:
Strong at the beginning,
Okay in the middle,
A few rungs missing at the end.


Poem ©James Stevenson. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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12. Poetry Friday - The Gray of Day

I've been reading some terrific new poetry books this week, so today I'm sharing a lovely poem from the book EVERYTHING IS A POEM: THE BEST OF J. PATRICK LEWIS.

The Gray of Day

Shy Evening paints all heaven gray,
Erasing blue from balmy Day,

Uncolors brute box elders, oaks,
And elms with even, gentle strokes,

Then finds the houses, whereupon
She dabs her brush ... their lights come on

As if two dozen stars fell down
To twinkle life into the town.

But Evening's easel leaves undone
One mischief streak of western Sun

To grace the masterpiece she drew—
Still Live: An Evening's Point of View

Till he robs her of fading light,
That thief of art, black-hearted Night.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Renée LaTulippe at No Water River. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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13. Monday Poetry Stretch - Polysemantic words

I'm always inspired and a bit in awe when I read a poem that uses the same word in multiple ways. I often wish I were this clever. However, I've begun to think that like many things, getting better is a matter of practice.

Polysemantic words are words that have multiple, diverse meanings. I often share these words in math and science to highlight just how confusing content vocabulary can be for students. Think about the word scale. Scale can be:
  • an instrument used to measure weight or mass
  • the outer covering on a reptile or fish
  • a proportion between two sets of dimensions
  • a series of musical tones in ascending or descending order
  • the act of climbing 
I'm sure you can think of many words that have multiple meanings. Your challenge this week is to pick a polysemantic word and use it in multiple ways in a poem of any form. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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14. Elementary School Homework and Reading in Math and Science

Yesterday I read a post by Donalyn Miller entitled No More Language Arts and Crafts. It struck a chord with me as I thought about how we try to motivate kids to read, and all the ways we get it wrong.

First, let me respond to this by telling you about a little rant I usually end up making during the first weeks of the semester. It generally occurs when I teach students how to write lesson plans and we get to the section labeled homework. I've seen a lot of bad homework over the years, as a parent and a teacher educator reading lesson plans. It seems that no one really thinks about why we give homework. What purpose does it serve? How does it advance what you're doing in the classroom? Is it absolutely necessary? Homework should be given because it is beneficial to student learning, and not because it's "school policy."

There has been a lot of research done on the effects of homework. One of the best introductions to this is the Educational Leadership piece The Case For and Against Homework.

I do tell my students (future teachers) that I think a worksheet with 25 problems is a terrible idea for math homework. I would rather see students solve one good problem and explain how they did it than use rote skills to complete a series of problems that doesn't do much to engage their brains. Also, too many teachers assign homework as practice long before students are ready to tackle the problems on their own.

Ultimately, my suggestion for elementary school homework is "Read, play, and puzzle."
Read - Reading for homework is a no-brainer, and EVERYTHING and ANYTHING should count. How can we ever hope to build stamina if kids don't sit and read? Kids should be read to and read on their own. Please don't tell me that wordless picture books and graphic novels don't count. You won't convince me that reading David Wiesner's wordless book Flotsam is any less challenging or engaging than a "traditional" picture book with words. Or that the graphic novel The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown isn't a masterpiece of history and science, weaving together sourced facts in an accurate historical narrative. 
Play - Kids weren't meant to sit in a chair all day long. They need time to run, play, imagine, create, and do all kinds of things the curriculum doesn't allow them to do. When kids get home from school the first order of business shouldn't be homework. They should be allowed to run and play outside, ride a bike, walk the dog, catch frogs (if they do that sort of thing), climb trees, and more. They should build with LEGO and GoldiBlox, draw pictures, build train track, topple dominoes, play board games, and more. Play is just as important as structured learning, and kids don't get enough of it today.  
Puzzle - When was the last time you sat down to solve a puzzle and did it for fun? I do this all the time. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, logic problems, tangrams ... I could go on. Puzzles are good for the brain. They develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. They teach kids to persevere, guess and check, collaborate with others, and try a whole host of new strategies. Can you think of a better training ground for mathematical thinking than puzzling? Now imagine if your teacher encouraged you to do this for homework. 

Let me bring this back to reading and how we document what kids do. When I taught middle school science I had a large classroom library. Most of the books were nonfiction of the Eyewitness variety, though I had a lot of books by Patricia Lauber and Seymour Simon. Every Friday one class of kids went home with a book from my library. EVERY KID. There were not reading logs, no book report forms, no AR tests. The books came back on Thursday and each child gave a quick book talk. These were informal. We sat in a circle, they held up their books, gave the title and author, and then gave a general overview and one cool thing they learned. Each student was given one minute. The hardest part of the assignment? Cutting kids off at the one-minute mark so everyone had a chance to speak. I only lost two books in the three years I did this. Kids didn't forget to bring them back. They often wanted to keep books longer than the week. And you know what? THEY WANTED TO READ. The bonus for me was that they were learning a lot of science on their own and from their peers. During the week they had their books there were lots of side conversations about what they were reading.

Isn't this what we want? Kids excited about reading and what they are learning? Yes, I think so.

I've been working on a series of "homework" bags to share with my classes. The math bags contain a book and a game (with all the materials and directions to play). Homework is reading and play. The beauty is that the play is mathematically oriented, so kids are practicing and reinforcing basic skills. The science bags contain a pair of linked books, usually a nonfiction or poetry title with a picture book. For example, one bag pairs a copy of the book An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer with the book Volcano Rising by Elizabeth Rusch. Where I can include cheap materials and activity ideas, I may just do that. 

Ultimately, I don't want reading or homework to be a chore. I want kids to be engaged and thinking. I don't believe homework should be given out per some classroom policy, but should be thoughtfully devised and intentionally planned. If we do this, it will make a difference.

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15. Monday Poetry Stretch - Labor

Sorry I missed you last week, but with the start of the semester here, things got a bit crazy.

Yesterday during morning mass and the Prayers of the Faithful we prayed for those who labor and wish to do so. I thought a lot about that over the course of the day and realized how very lucky I am to not only be employed, but to be engaged in work that (for the most part!) love to do.

So, this is not very inspired on this day, but I want to write about work and labors of love. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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16. Monday Poetry Stretch - Joy

This weekend I watched my niece get married. I'm a bit shocked that time has passed so quickly and that we've all aged (some more gracefully than others). There were lots of smiles this weekend, a great deal of happiness, and a whole lot of joy.

What makes you happy or joyful? Let's write about that this week. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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17. Monday Poetry Stretch - The Kitchen

I had planned to write to form again this week, but I found myself thinking quite a lot of my mother this weekend, and nearly every memory was of her in the kitchen.

As a child I hated chores in the kitchen, particularly drying the dishes, but these are some of the times with my mom I remember most fondly. She always washed. I dried and put dishes away. I can still see her the ceramic elephant on the windowsill, trunk raised and holding her rings while she plunged her hands into very hot soapy water to scrub the pots and pans. That elephant sits on my kitchen windowsill now.

Perhaps my fondest memory of my mom standing with her back against the oven, waiting for it to warm her in the cold of winter. I wasn't tall enough to reap such benefits, but can remember putting my hand on her back and feeling just how toasty she'd gotten.

So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem set in the kitchen. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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18. Poetry Friday - Of Modern Books

I'm especially fond of the pantoum as a poetic form. Here is a lovely example.

Of Modern Books
by Carolyn Wells

               (A Pantoum)

Of making many books there is no end,
   Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone;
Each day new manuscripts are being penned,
   And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on.

Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone,
   New volumes daily issue from the press;
And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on—
   The prospect is disheartening, I confess.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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19. Poetry Friday - Wildflowers

At the end of each week I head to church to practice the music I'll be singing on Sunday morning. I could probably lead most of these songs in my sleep, but I feel better about croaking out songs at 8:30 on Sunday morning when I've had a bit of rehearsal.

This time of year my favorite thing about visiting the church is Father George's garden. Right now it is filled with gorgeous wildflowers. Seeing them today reminded me of this poem.

Wildflowers
by Reginald Gibbons

Coleridge carefully wrote down a whole page  
of them, all beginning with the letter b.  
Guidebooks preserve our knowledge
of their hues and shapes, their breeding.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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20. Monday Poetry Stretch - America Is ...

Last week my Thursday class focused on using primary sources, interpreting documents and analyzing art and photographs. We also looked at the book THE ART OF FREEDOM: HOW ARTISTS SEE AMERICA, by Bob Raczka. Using very simple text and art from the likes of Georgia O'Keefe, Thomas Hart Benton, John Trumbull, Stuart Davis, and more, Raczka provides an introduction to the things that make us American. In pictures and words America is depicted as hard work, jazz, baseball, freedom, and more.

This book got me thinking about the stretch this week. Since the 4th of July is Friday, this seems like a perfect time to write about what America is.  I hope you will join me in writing about America this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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21. Monday Poetry Stretch - Faith and Hope

I love the poems that were shared as part of last week's stretch to write about America. I understand the sentiments of both pride and disappointment. What came out in some of the comments and conversations I had afterwards is that even though we are discouraged, we have not lost hope.

A few years back when I traveled to China, I decided to get a tattoo to commemorate my trip. I knew exactly what I wanted. This is my tattoo.


Traditionally, Chinese characters were read from top to bottom and right to left. However, in modern times the western approach to reading from left to right and top to bottom is often used. Read in this fashion, the characters represent faith, hope, and love. Some days it's particularly hard to keep the faith and have hope. Whenever I forget this I need only look in the mirror, my tattoo a gentle reminder to press on. 

This seems like the moment to write about faith, hope, or both.  I do hope you will join me this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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22. Poetry Friday - Sitting in the Sand

Last week I left Virginia and made the long road trip to NY. Ten+ hours in a car is not my idea of fun. However, getting home is always lovely. I had a nice visit with my mother, who happens to be celebrating her 85th birthday today, and my brother and his family. I drove home earlier this week in what at times were torrential downpours.

My trips to western NY always include a trip to Lake Ontario to walk on the pier. I take my mother with me and push her in her wheelchair. These walks are quite nostalgic, as she tells me all about growing up in the town of Summerville on the lake.

I'll be heading back in a month for my niece's wedding, which means I probably won't see the ocean this summer unless I take time off to make a day trip. Just like my visits to the lake, I find so much peace and comfort in the water.

Today I'm sharing a poem from a book I found last week in a library discard pile. That book is DOGS AND DRAGONS, TREES AND DREAMS by Karla Kuskin.


Sitting in the Sand
by Karla Kuskin

Sitting in the sand and the sea comes up
So you put your hands together
And you use them like a cup
And you dip them in the water
With a scooping kind of motion
And before the sea goes out again
You have a sip of ocean.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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23. Monday Poetry Stretch - Mask/Persona Poem

In my Poetry Friday post I shared a poem from the book DOGS AND DRAGONS, TREES AND DREAMS by Karla Kuskin.

Published in 1980, Kuskin wrote:
An Introduction Children May Feel Free To IgnoreThe double purpose of this introduction is to bring together poems I wrote for children between 1958 and 1975 and to discuss the process of introducing poetry to children.
Throughout the book the poems are prefaced with insights into the nature of reading, writing, and appreciating poetry. Here's an example.
As you read a poem aloud listen to the sounds of the words. They have infinite variety. There are short, brittle sounds, soft rolling sounds, stuttering sounds and the sibilance of many s's, long liquid sounds flowing with o's. In some poems there is not so much sense as sound.
Near the end of the book Kuskin shares a number of mask or persona poems. The preface to this collection reads:
The following five poems do not have titles. As you read each poem you will figure out what it is describing. Each one tells how it would feel to be something other than yourself.
I've read a lot of descriptions of mask poems. I think I like this one best. Here's one of the poems she shared.

If you,
Like me,
Were made of fur
And sun warmed you,
Like me,
You'd purr.

You can read more about persona poems (and teaching them) at the Poetry Foundation.

I hope you will join me this week in writing a mask/persona poem. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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24. Poetry Friday - The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

It's been one week since posting a poem about the sand, and I'm still dreaming of the sea.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.



I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong at Poetry for Children. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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25. Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

Back in 2011 we wrote poems in the form of macaronic verse. It's been a long time, so this seems like a good time to revisit the form. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
Poetry Base describes macaronic verse this way.
The definition is a poem in a mixture of two languages, one of them preferably Latin. Usually the mixture of languages is a bit absurd. The word of one language may be terminated with common endings in the other.
So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem that uses more than one language. I hope you will join me this week in writing macaronic verse. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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