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1. Monday Poetry Stretch - Ovillejo

The ovillejo is a Spanish poetic form made popular by Miguel de Cervantes. It is a 10-line poem composed of 3 rhyming couplets and a final quatrain written in the form of a redondilla. In addition to rhyming, this form is also syllabic.

The first line of each couplet is 8 syllables long, while the second line is 3-4 syllables. The lines of the redondilla are 8 syllables each, with the final line composed of a repetition of lines 2, 4, and 6.

Here's what the poem looks like.

1 - x x x x x x x a
2 - x x x a

3 - x x x x x x x b
4 - x x x b

5 - x x x x x x x c
6 - x x x c

7 - x x x x x x x c
8 - x x x x x x x d
9 - x x x x x x x d
10 - line 2, line 4, line 6

You can read more about the ovillejo at Poetry Forms. You can read about the redondilla at Poetry Magnum Opus.

So, there's your challenge. I hope you'll join me this week in writing an ovillejo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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2. Monday Poetry Stretch - Golden Shovel

I know, it's Tuesday again. I'll just chalk my lateness up to my summer schedule.

I've been thinking a bit about this excerpt I read in this interview with Max Ritvo.

"I’ve never really understood the point of poetry, if not to expose you to different forms of mentation. You can write about whatever you want to write about, it’s your prerogative as a poet, but at the end of the day, what a poet does is let you inhabit a different way of thinking for a brief moment of time. For a very very brief bit of time, logic tacks together in ways it never has, and you’re able to have a series of free associations that’ve never been in your brain, or hopefully in any brain, before. I think that this endures so much more than the message of any poem."
I like thinking about poetry as a different way of thinking, though I've always thought of it as a different way of seeing. I write (usually) with a scientist's eyes, practicing the art of looking closely. I also write with the heart of a mathematician, because I love to puzzle through form and structure.

This week let's puzzle through the form Golden Shovel. This form was invented by Terrance Hayes. In writing a golden shovel, you must first borrow a favorite line or lines from a poem to create your own. The words in this line become the end words of your poem. If you choose a six word line, your poem with have 6 lines. If you choose a 12 word line, your poem will have 12 lines. You get the idea. Remember to credit the original poem/poet in the title or an epigram.

Here's an excerpt from Hayes' poem.

The Golden Shovel
by Terrance Hayes

     after Gwendolyn Brooks

I. 1981

When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real

men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we

drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left
in them but approachlessness. This is a school

     Read the poem in its entirety.


Hopefully you can see Brooks' poem (We Real Cool) in the end words of each line.

So, there's your challenge. I hope you'll join me this week in writing a golden shovel. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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3. Monday Poetry Stretch - Englyn cyrch

If orange is the new black, then Tuesday is the new Monday! My apologies for failing to post yesterday. I got caught up in the end of summer school and grading.

The Englyn cyrch is a Welsh poetic form consisting of any number of quatrains. In each stanza, the lines are composed of seven syllables, with lines 1, 2, and 4 sharing an end rhyme. The end rhyme of line 3 rhymes with a middle syllable (3rd, 4th, or 5th) or line 4. Here's what the pattern looks like.

x x x x x x a
x x x x x x a
x x x x x x b
x x x b x x a

You can read more about Englyn at Wikipedia.

That's it. Easy-peasy, right? I hope you'll join me this week in writing an Englyn cyrch. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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4. Monday Poetry Stretch - Englyn cyrch

If orange is the new black, then Tuesday is the new Monday! My apologies for failing to post yesterday. I got caught up in the end of summer school and grading.

The Englyn cyrch is a Welsh poetic form consisting of any number of quatrains. In each stanza, the lines are composed of seven syllables, with lines 1, 2, and 4 sharing an end rhyme. The end rhyme of line 3 rhymes with a middle syllable (3rd, 4th, or 5th) or line 4. Here's what the pattern looks like.

x x x x x x a
x x x x x x a
x x x x x x b
x x x b x x a

You can read more about Englyn at Wikipedia.

That's it. Easy-peasy, right? I hope you'll join me this week in writing an Englyn cyrch. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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5. Monday Poetry Stretch - Diatelle

I've been searching a bit online for some "new" and different poetry forms. I discovered a site, The Writer's & Poetry Alliance Club, that not only explains traditional poetic forms, but includes numerous invented forms as well.

The diatelle is syllabic form with a rhyme scheme. It looks a bit like a double etheree, but it is different. Here are the guidelines.
syllable pattern: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 10 / 12 / 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 3 / 2 / 1
rhyme scheme: a b b c b c c a c c b c b b a

That's it. Easy-peasy, right? I hope you'll join me this week in writing a diatelle. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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6. Poetry Seven Write "In the Style Of" ... Kay Ryan

Sigh ... I really procrastinated this month and now I'm not so happy with my poem. I guess that's alright. My energy has been focused on summer school, so writing has been coming in fits and starts.

The poem I chose to write in the style of, as did a few of my poetry sisters, is entitled Turtle.

Turtle
by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.

Read and listen to the poem in its entirety.


I had a hard time settling on a subject. I started a poem on the heron, inspired by a morning walk and watching our local heron wade through the mud near some sunning turtles. It didn't go very far. I also tried mongoose, cockroach, and bat. I suppose this was hard for me because I'm fascinated by these animals and don't see too many drawbacks to their design. I finally settled on the naked mole rat. The poem is entirely too didactic, but I enjoyed working on the internal rhyme in the piece. In fact, I ran it through The Wall Street Journal analyzer. (Props to Laura Purdie Salas for sharing this!) Their algorithm breaks words into component sounds and then groups similar-sounding syllables into rhyme families, which are color-coded. You can learn how they did it at How WSJ Used an Algorithm to Analyze ‘Hamilton’ the Musical. Here's what a portion of my poem looks like.

So, without further ado, here's my first draft, along with a picture of the animal that inspired it. I'm not sure I'll be revisiting this exact one, but I like Ryan's poem as a mentor text and will definitely try to tackle another subject.
Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Naked Mole Rat

Who would be a naked mole rat who could help it?
A wrinkled mess with random whiskers
and excess hair between her toes, she does not know
that beauty escapes her. She’s a prime
example that form follows function. Living
a lifetime underground, it’s no wonder
she is built for digging, skilled in
wielding her prominent teeth and snout
to excavate her route. Fate determined
by birth, she labors for her queen.
Keeping chambers clean, finding food,
minding pups, life is busy enough.
Neither mole nor rat, she’s tough
to define, closer relation to the porcupine.
Despite the strangeness she’s
undeterred, unaware of how absurd
her subterranean life is.

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2016. All rights reserved.


You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. Andi's not sharing a poem today, but she's always with us in spirit.
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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7. Monday Poetry Stretch - Climbing Rhyme

Climbing Rhyme is a form of Burmese poetry containing a repeated sequence of 3 internally-rhymed lines consisting of 4 syllables each. Since Burmese is monosyllabic, this works well, but in English this might be difficult. Instead of 4 syllable lines, let's try writing in lines of 4 words. (If you're feeling brave, go ahead and try four syllables!)

The rhyme scheme for climbing rhyme is internal. That means the position of the rhyming word changes. The rhyme appears in the 4th word of line one, 3rd word of line 2, and 2nd word of line 3. The pattern continues as a new rhyme appears in the 4th word of line 3, the 3rd word of line 4, and the 2nd word of line 5. This continues on, giving a stair-step feel to the poem, hence the name climbing rhyme.

For those of you who need to see this visually, here it is. Each x stands for a word. The letters stand for rhyming words. Just remember the 4-3-2 pattern.

x x x a
x x a x
a x b
x x b x
b x c
x x c x
c x x

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

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8. Monday Poetry Stretch - Septercet

Today's form comes from the mind of Jane Yolen. A septercet is her newly invented form, a modified tercet. An actual tercet is composed of three lines of poetry, forming a stanza or a complete poem, though this one also has a line syllabic count of seven.

Here's an example.

Human Work

“The wild can be human work.”—Helen Macdonald

The wild can be human work
If we reset the balance,
Keeping our thumbs off the scales.

If we bring back, return things,
Not just take it all away,
The wild can be human work.

Restoration is hard graft,
Almost more than creation,
Which is why God needed rest.

But we humans dare not rest
Till we’re done with restoring:
Eagles in their high aeries,

Whales singing in their sea lanes.
Wolves commandeering forests.
All the wild come home again.

©2016 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.


Cool, isn't it? I love syllable counting, so this should be fun. I hope you'll join me in writing a septercet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

And thanks to Jane for sending this and allowing me to share it with you!

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9. Monday Poetry Stretch - Sonnet (Italian Form)

In my estimation, there is never a bad time for a sonnet. Here's a great example.

Since I normally write Shakespearian sonnets, I thought I'd offer up the Italian form this week. Here are the basic guidelines to follow.
  • sonnet is composed of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter.
  • The Italian sonnet is divided into an octave (8 lines), followed by a sestet (6 lines).
  • The rhyme pattern for the octave is a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a. For the sestet the pattern can be c-d-e-c-d-e or c-d-c-c-d-c.
You can read more on sonnets in this great post by Kelly Fineman.

So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing a sonnet. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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10. Poetry Friday - Summer

Today I'm sharing a poem by Amy Lowell.

Summer
by Amy Lowell

Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat’s wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature’s changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world’s heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Carol of Beyond Literacy Link. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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11. Monday Poetry Stretch - Luc Bat

The Luc Bat is a Vietnamese form with a repeating rhyme scheme and lines of six and eight syllables. The rhyme scheme looks like this.

xxxxxA
xxxxxAxB
xxxxxB
xxxxxBxC
xxxxxC
xxxxxCxD

This form uses a climbing rhyme of sorts. There is no length requirement, only a need for the final syllable of the last line to link back to the initial rhyme (A).

You can read more about this form at The Poets Garret.

So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing a luc bat. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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12. Poetry Seven and Mary Pownall's Harpy

This month the poetry gang wrote poems to photos taken by Tanita of Mary Pownall's sculpture The Harpy Calaeno.

The Harpy Calaeno, 1902, by Mary Pownall, Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Artwork: The Harpy Calaeno, 1902, by Mary Pownall, Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Photograph by Stephencdickson, Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this first poem after learning that a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. The news was not good, and after multiple opinions, the consensus is that are no treatment options. So, the poem doesn't say much about cancer that hasn't already been said, but writing it made me feel a bit better.

The word drops …
cancer
there is no steeling yourself
against it
the tumor
an oozing black tar
staining your insides
a writhing knot of snakes
expanding ever outward

Cancer, you bitch
you harpy
clawing your way
through a mortal temple
slowly stealing life
but not soul

In this case
inoperable
untreatable

Despite the news
spirit indomitable


For my second poem I wanted to actually write about the sculpture. Inspired by the poems written by my sisters in the form of pantoum and villanelle, I chose a form as well. In gearing up for next week's poetry stretch I decided to experiment with the Luc Bat, a Vietnamese form with a repeating rhyme scheme and lines of six and eight syllables.

No prize this beast with wings,
the roar of her voice sings, not sweet
but raw, a clawing beat.
Cover your ears, retreat … no run
before your end’s begun
before you are undone by scales,
beating wings, mournful wails,
those claws as sharp as nails. Beware!
Once fixed in her cold stare,
you will not have a prayer save one.
Recall she's marble spun,
this myth that made men run, now stone
and beauty, fearsome thing.


Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2016. All rights reserved.


You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Jone of Check It Out. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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13. Monday Poetry Stretch - Triversen

The triversen ("triple verse sentence") is a verse form invented by William Carlos Williams. Each stanza is composed of a single sentence, broken into three parts, which together form a stanza. The poems are generally unrhymed and often contain alliteration. They can be composed of any number of tercets.

You can learn more about the triversen and read some examples at Poetics and Ruminations.

So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing a triversen. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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14. Monday Poetry Stretch - Wayra

The Wayra is a Latin American verse from popular in Peru and Bolivia. It is a short syllabic verse that follows these guidelines:

  • a pentastich (5 line poem)
  • unrhymed
  • syllable count = 5/7/7/6/8
So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing a wayra. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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15. Monday Poetry Stretch - Akshar-Mala

Akshar-Mala is an Indian poetic form in which the initial letters of each line are in alphabetical order. There are no other requirements for the form.

I found this form in The Dictionary of Indian Literature, One, Beginnnings-1850. I haven't been able to find any other descriptions of it, or any another Indian form that resembles it closely.

A while back we wrote in the form of iroha mojigusari, where the first letter of the alphabet starts off the first line and the second letter of the alphabet concludes it. The third letter starts the second line and the fourth letter finishes it. This continues until all the letters of the alphabet have been used in order.

Since there are no other guidelines here than order, I don't see why you can't begin with any letter of your choosing and make the poem as long as you like.

So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing an akshar-mala. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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16. Book Review - California, the Magic Island

California, the Magic Island, written and illustrated by Doug Hansen, is a book that every California teacher should have on his/her bookshelf. But what is it? Is it mythology? State history? Alphabet book? Actually, it's all of the above.

Here's the overview from the back cover.
Queen Calafia, the legendary heroine of a sixteenth-century Spanish romance about an island overflowing with gold, is incensed with she hears that a state has been named after her. Being the good queen that she is, she's willing to hear from twenty-six animals about why California is worthy of her regal name. Each animal describes an iconic cultural object or historical event, enchanting readers—and maybe even Calafia herself—with their tales of the magical place called California.
Hailing from western New York, I have visited the state on a number of occasions, but know very little about California history, so this was a very nice introduction.

The book opens with an introduction to Queen Calafia and Her Magic Island. As all good stories begin, this one starts with "Once upon a time (or maybe only yesterday) ..." Readers learn about the Queen and her island, her fury at the use of their island name, and her command to her warriors to let the animals speak for California as she decides the fate of the people. What follows are 26 stories, each told by a different animal, each about a different event, location, industry, animal, or some other important piece related to California history or present. After their stories, readers learn about the judgment that Queen Calafia has made.

Back matter in the text contains information about the origin of the Queen Califia legend, additional information about each of the animals and the stories they narrate, and a note about the artist and the content of the borders at the beginning of the book. The illustrations are brightly colored, gloriously vibrant images that are nothing short of magical. I spent almost as much time pouring over the illustrations as I did reading the text.

I loved the story of the monarch butterflies, and will use excerpts from this in my science teaching. Other connections to science include stories about the La Brea Tar Pits, Mount Palomar Observatory, and Yosemite.

Hansen looks broadly and inclusively at California history. The stories are short, providing just information to pique the interest of readers. I know that I closed the book wanting to know so much more. This is a beautiful book with a story inventively told.

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17. Poetry Seven Write Tritinas

This month the Poetry Seven crew wrote in the form of the tritina. The tritina is composed of 3 tercets and a final line (envoi) that stands alone. Similar to a sestina, though shorter, it uses a set of 3 alternating end words instead of six. The form is: ABC / CAB / BCA / A, B, and C (final line/envoi).

The words we chose from were selected by Tanita. They were:
sweet, cold, stone, hope, mouth, thread

I think repeating words are hard, so this took some thought. However, it was the final line using all three words at once that proved to be the real challenge. I wrote two poems for this form. The first is a bit melancholy, but that always happens to me at this time of the year. My father’s birthday was yesterday (the 5th). He would have been 90 this year. And tomorrow (the 7th) is the 7th anniversary of his death, so he’s been much on my mind as of late. Therefore, the first poem is for/about him. The second is much lighter.

Without further ado, my tritinas.

Tritina #1 

My father pulled the hook from the mouth
of the bass. I touched its cold
scales, the thrill of catching it sweet.

Memories of my father are sweet,
though sometimes I imagine him, mouth
agape, my mother at his side touching his cold

hands. At the end, the world went cold.
There was nothing sweet
in death. My heart and mouth

slammed shut. Now I fish alone--no dad, no largemouth--just cold, sweet stillness.


Tritina #2

Speed Dating Introduction ... A 30-Second Tritina

I relish the smoothness of a stone
worn by water, the sweet
smell of freshly mown grass, the cold

slide of ice cream down my throat. I long for winter cold,
summer sun, the skipping of a stone
across the lake, that first buttery taste of sweet

corn. I believe in the sweet
hereafter, going cold
turkey, that some things are set in stone.

I’m stone cold sober, so lay some sweet lines on me.

Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2016. All rights reserved.

You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below.

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

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18. You Can Fly with the Weatherfords

When I was young and learned my father served in the Naval Air Corps during WWII, I became a voracious reader of anything and everything about the war, including the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, Jackie Robinson, Rosie the Riveter, the WACs, and more. What I didn't find were stories about the Tuskegee Airmen. My young self would have been as thrilled as I am today with the release of an amazing poetry collection entitled You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen is a collaboration between award-winning children’s book author Carole Boston Weatherford and her son, debut illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford. They have woven poems and scratchboard illustrations into a history in verse inspired as much by World War II newsreels as by modern day graphic novels. The project was nearly ten years in the making. With starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, the book for middle grades is off to a flying start.

Here the mother-son/author-illustrator team interview each other.

Carole: When did you first hear about the Tuskegee Airmen?
Jeffery: I first heard about them when I was a young boy. We took family trips to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington and to Tuskegee Institute, Alabama where we toured exhibits about the Tuskegee University’s founder Booker T. Washington, botanist George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Airmen. I always had dreams of flight.

Jeffery: Why did you want to write this book?
Carole: I first learned of the Tuskegee Airmen in a magazine article in the 1980s. I was so moved by their story that I saved the magazine. My literary mission is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. The Airmen’s saga is historically and politically significant. As a children’s literature professor, I knew of at least one historical fiction picture book and of several informational books about the Tuskegee Airmen. I felt that the story would lend itself well to a poetic treatment.

Carole: Tell us about your family’s military ties?
Jeffery: My great great great grandfather Isaac Copper fought in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. He was one of 17 veterans who founded the town of Unionville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My mother’s father Joseph Boston Jr. served in World War II. He was a technical sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers in New Guinea and the Philippines. My grandmother still has his uniform and medals.

Jeffery: Which poem was most challenging to write?
Carole: “Operation Prove Them Wrong” was by far the toughest to write. It was like plotting scenes for a war movie. I had to boil down Operation Corkscrew and Operation Diadem to a few lines that captured the battles. It might have been easier if I were gamer like you or at least a World War II buff.

Carole: You were a serious gamer growing up. Did your background as a gamer influence how you illustrated the battle scenes?  
Jeffery: Yes, absolutely. I had lots of residual visual references from battles across galaxies.

Jeffery: What is your favorite illustration from the book?
Carole: I like the one opposite the poem “Routines.” It shows a dogfight in which one plane gets bombed and explodes. The explosion is quite animated, like something out of a comic book. I almost want to add an action bubble: Boom!

Carole: Describe your creative process.
Jeffery: For inspiration, I viewed documentary photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives collections. While researching picture references, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen. I also watched the movie Red Tails. For each illustration, I drew a graphite study to layout the composition. Once that was completed and approved by the publisher, I refined the image and transferred it to scratchboard. I used various nibs for different effects.
Jeffery with Airman portrait

Jeffery: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Carole: I want them to be inspired by the courage and determination of the Tuskegee Airmen. I want them to understand that the sky is no limit if they are willing to prepare themselves, practice and persevere. The book aims to lift the ceiling off of young people’s dreams. 
P-51 Mustangs flying in formation over Ramitelli, Italy.

Did you know? The Tuskegee Airmen got the name Red Tails when their ground crew painted the tail of the P-47 red.

WWII by the numbers: Before the Tuskegee Experiment began, there were only 130 licensed African American pilots in the U.S.

Here's one of my favorite poems from the book.

Train Ride to the Clouds

All aboard for Tuskegee Institute,
where Booker T. Washington uplifted ex-slaves
and George Washington Carver 
is working wonders with sweet potatoes!

If Carver can make paint
from clay and plastics from soy,
then the school Booker T. founded
can surely make you a pilot.

If you did not believe that were true
you would not have packed your bag 
and boarded the train for Alabama
with a Bible and a box lunch from your mama.

If your faith were not vast as the sky,
you would never have taken this leap.

Poem © Carole Boston Weatherford, 2016. All rights reserved.

The poems in this volume are moving, vivid, and packed with information.  The poem in the Epilogue describes the race barrier breaking moments that came after the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for integration of the U.S. military. The backmatter includes an author's note, timeline, and extensive list of additional resources and primary sources. 

You can find helpful teacher resources for this work at: https://cbweatherford.com/books/youcanfly/teacher-resources/

*****
My thanks to Carole and Jeffery for sharing their conversation and their work. You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen was released on May 3rd and is available now. Don't miss it!

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19. NPM Celebrations - Richter Scale Day

April 26th is Richter Scale Day. The Richter Scale is a numerical scale developed for measuring earthquakes by Charles Richter, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology.  The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale that measures "magnitude" and reflects the amount by which the earth's crust shifts during an earthquake. Because the scale is logarithmic, each 1-point increase on the scale represents an increase of 10x in the magnitude of the earthquake. Here's a simple chart to help understand the scale.
Image from CBC NewsWorld
Here's a bit more about the scale.
You can learn more about the science earthquakes at the USGS.

Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up (2003), written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, is a collection of 22 poems that introduces geologic concepts through metaphor and word play in a variety of poetic forms.

River Meets Crack in the Earth

A river crosses the San Andreas fault.
It turns right, then continues on,
a little shaken up.


Instructions for the Earth's Dishwasher

Please set the
continental plates
gently on the
continental shelves.
No jostling or scraping.

Please stack the
basin right side up.
No tilting or turning
upside-down.

Please scrape the mud
out of the mud pots.
But watch out!
They're still hot.

As for the forks
in the river,
just let them soak.

Remember,
if anything breaks,
it's your fault.

Poems © Lisa Westberg Peters, 2003. All rights reserved.

GOT Geography! (2006), selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Philip Stanton, is a collection of 16 poems about the geography of the earth, as well as ecosystems and features found on its surface. There are poems for islands, forests, mountains, the sea, and more.

Awesome Forces

The earth is
          unsettled,
it would seem,
for here and about
it lets off
          steam,
lava flows,
geysers gush,
canyons are carved
          by a river's
          push.
The earth's old crust
cracks and creaks,
shakes and
          shoves up
          mountain
          peaks.
Ice caps recede,
glaciers advance,
ever in motion—
          a global dance.
          Will it ever
stand still?

          no chance

Poem © Joan Bransfield Graham, 2006. All rights reserved.

I'll wrap up today with this piece from PBS NewsHour. Kwame Dawes is a writer whose work include poems, plays, essays, criticism, and novels. He spent time in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, reporting on events and writing poetry in response. (This story was produced through a partnership with USA Today, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the NewsHour.)

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

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20. NPM Celebrations - Babe Ruth Day

April 27th is Babe Ruth Day. On April 27, 1947, the Yankees hosted Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium. The event was held to honor the ailing baseball star, who was in failing health due to throat cancer. You can read the New York Times article from the following day at On This Day.

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895-1948), best known as "Babe" Ruth, was an American baseball player who spent 22 seasons in Major League Baseball playing for three different teams, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Braves.

One of my favorite baseball movies is The Sandlot (1993). Here's a favorite science side-by-side with the NY Yankees, in a commercial they did for the opening of the 2015 season. In it, the boys school their friend on just who Babe Ruth was.
You can learn more about this commercial in this Inside Edition video.

Let's start today with a poem sent to me by J. Patrick Lewis for this month's project.

The Battle Hymn of the Babe
by J. Patrick Lewis

George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr.
1895 – 1948

[Note:  To be sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”]

He’s American as Jell-o, apple pie, and ice cream cones.
He’s synonymous with magic, miracles, and milestones.
He’s the nemesis of Beantown where they hate him in their bones.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Watch him nonchalantly waving, as he steps up to the plate,
To the spectators applauding for the Yankee head of state.
Will the Sultan swat one out today? They won’t have long to wait.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

The pitcher eyes him cruelly, the Bambino eyes him back,
Like a bike with training wheels up against a Cadillac.
When he points a warning finger at the useless warning track,
Babe Ruth is marching on.

He swings so hard you almost feel sorry for the air.
The second strike is in the dirt. The Babe? He doesn’t care.
But the umpire shrinks a little from the heat wave of his glare.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Now here it comes, the best forkball the pitcher’s thrown all year . . .
Rainbowing to the right-field bleachers as a souvenir.
That pill could make it hail throughout the Western hemisphere.
Babe Ruth is marching on.

Poem © J. Patrick Lewis, 2016. All rights reserved.

Pat may not remember this, but he also sent me a baseball poem back in 2008. It's one of my favorite baseball poems.

A Baseball Poem
by J. Patrick Lewis

A baseball poem
should swerve
like a sidearm curve

or tease a designated reader
with sublime
off-rhyme.

A baseball poem
should be as unexpected, say,
as an undetected
squeeze play

or explode like a six-run
bonanza and a grand slam
into the leftfield stanza.

Poem © J. Patrick Lewis, 2008. All rights reserved.


When I think of baseball poems in general, three come to mind.

1. Every year when spring training begins and on opening day, I read the poem Analysis of Baseball by May Swenson. Here's how it begins.
It’s about                
the ball,                  
the bat,                                    
and the mitt.
Ball hits                    
bat, or it                  
hits mitt. 
Read the poem in its entirety
2. This poem that I memorized in middle school. It ends this way.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
If you don't recognize it, the poem is Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

3. I'm also quite fond of this poem by Ogden Nash. Line-Up for Yesterday: An ABC of Baseball Immortals was written for the January 1949 issue of SPORT Magazine. The poem pays tribute to 24 of the games greatest players. Here's how it begins.
A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander. 
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate. 
C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born. 
Read the poem in its entirety.
Creative Editions published this poem, illustrated by C.F. Payne in 2001.

I'll wrap up with this poem by Franklin Pierce Adams.

A Ballad of Baseball Burdens
by Franklin Pierce Adams

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away
      Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.
Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?
      Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”
      Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
      Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob—
This is the end of every fan’s desire.  

Read the poem in its entirety.

I've written numerous times about my love for baseball and about baseball poetry. Check out the post Poetry in the Classroom: Take Me Out To the Ballgame from 2011 and Poetry A-Z: Day 27 ... Baseball from 2013.

You'll also find a wealth of baseball poems at the Baseball Almanac. Be sure to check out the poem Frosty and the Babe by John Robert McFarland.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

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21. NPM Celebrations - National Blueberry Pie Day

April 28th is National Blueberry Pie Day. I am not a fruit pie lover (sorry!), but I do adore the blueberry. Last summer I heard a terrific story on NPR about blueberry history in New Jersey and how the blueberry was bred and "tamed" into the version we all know so well today. You can hear that story at How New Jersey Tamed The Wild Blueberry For Global Production.

I buy my blueberries when they are available at my local farmer's market. I'm lucky if I can get them home before popping one after another into my mouth. And really, isn't that what you want to do with sweet, fresh, juicy fruit?

Fresh Delicious (2016), written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, is a collection of 20 poems (21 if you count the back cover) about the farmer's market and the amazing array of produce you can find there.

Blueberries

Blueberries
are sweet
but not
too
sweet.

One fits
perfectly
between
finger
and thumb.

They burst
like flavor-filled
fireworks
in waffles
and muffins.

Poem © Irene Latham, 2016. All rights reserved.

Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico!: America's Sproutings (2009), written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, is a book that combines factual information about edible plants native to the Americas with crisp, sense-filled poems, all in the form of haiku. The foods are listed alphabetically, beginning with blueberry and ending with vanilla.

Blueberry

Fill your mouth with blue.
Share a bowl heaped with summer.
Chew indigo O.

*****
Blueberries are delicious, healthy treats. Originating in North America, they were eaten fresh and dried by Native Americans. They also ground blueberries into spice rubs and used the berries in medicines. European settlers in North America made gray paint by boiling blueberries in milk, and today the United States is the largest producer of blueberries in the world. Wild blueberries, the official state berry of Maine, are sometimes harvested using traditional handheld rakes. Plan a blueberry party in July, National Blueberry Month.

Poem and Text © Pat Mora, 2009. All rights reserved.

Here's a long and lovely poem by Robert Frost.

Blueberries
by Robert Frost

 “You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!        
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”

Read the poem in its entirety.

Lettuce Introduce You: Poems about Food (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of  food-themed poems that are written in a variety of poetic forms. Each poem is accompanied by a vibrant photograph. Next to blueberries in my hand, this poem describes my favorite way to eat them.

Too Early!

Mom says to wake up
     I don't want to
It's the middle of the night
Right?

     Wrong

Dad makes me a
"Cheer up!" waffle-boy
with blueberry eyes and
a fresh citrus smile

     What's he so happy about?

Poem © Laura Purdie Salas, 2008. All rights reserved.

In addition to blueberries on and in my pancakes, I do love a good blueberry muffin. My favorite recipe is this one for Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

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22. NPM Celebrations - Arbor Day

April 29th is Arbor Day, a day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the US, Australia, and other countries. In the United States it is celebrated on the last Friday in April. Trees are so important. They provide us with two things we cannot live without: food and oxygen. They also offer the added benefit of serving as a source for shelter, beauty, and a wealth of wood products.

Just how many trees are there in the world?
In thinking about trees today, I'm sharing snippets of poems in a form borrowed from Wallace Stevens. You'll recognize it as Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Trees

I.
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

From Trees by Joyce Kilmer


II.
Trees know the soft secrets of clouds
       the dark siftings of soil
The hear the high keening of squalls
           the deep rumbling of rocks
Trees whisper for the sky's damp blessings
       and the earth's misty kisses

From Go-Betweens by Marilyn Singer
in Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So 


III.
Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them
In the rainbow—
The sunlight—
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them

From Trees Need Not Walk the Earth by David Rosenthal


IV.
Major tree traffic today—
commuters in both directions,

rippling up and down,
tails unfurled.

The treeway is
heavily squirreled.

Tree Traffic by Kristine O'Connell George
in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, written by Kristine O'Connell George and illustrated by Kate Kiesler


V.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
he recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

From The Trees by Philip Larkin
in The Collected Poems, written by Philip Larkin and edited by Anthony Thwaite 


VI.
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

From The Cherry Trees by Edward Thomas


VII.
Buds, which the breath of summer days
Shall lengthen into leafy sprays;
Boughs where the thrush, with crimson breast,
Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest;

From The Planting of the Apple-Tree by William Cullen Bryant


VIII.
O white pear,
your flower-tufts,
thick on the branch,
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.

From Pear Tree by H.D.


IX.
This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

From When Autumn Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
in The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard


X.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

From Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams


XI.
Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant

of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries.

From Remaking a Neglected Orchard by Nathaniel Perry


XII.
Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

From Learning the Trees by Howard Nemerov
in The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov, written by Howard Nemerov


XIII.
With strong and graceful outline,
With branches green and bare,
We fill the land through all the year,
With beauty everywhere.

From The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner


Here's a handout of poems about trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.
I've written about trees and poetry before. Check out my Thematic Book List on Trees. (You'll find poetry books at the very top.)

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our last celebration of the month. I can't believe it's almost done.

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23. Poetry Friday - Cartoon Physics, part 1

Last week I shared the poem After Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics by W.H. Auden. I'm still thinking about physics and poetry this week.

Cartoon Physics, part 1
by Nick Flynn

Children under, say, ten, shouldn't know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,


Read the poem in its entirety.


If you haven't been here before, or haven't been following my National Poetry Month project, here are the posts from this week. Feel free to poke around.

24 - Sky Awareness Week
25 - World Penguin Day
26 - Richter Scale Day
27 - Babe Ruth Day
28 - National Blueberry Pie Day
29 - Arbor Day

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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24. NPM Celebrations - National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day

April 30th is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. This day was created to raise awareness of the thousands of pets living in shelters that are waiting for adoption and permanent homes.

As I write this post my buddy Cooper, our latest rescue dog, is on the couch beside me snoring away. His predecessor was also rescued from a shelter. We were fortunate to call Sydney ours for nearly 16 years. When she was put to sleep, I swore it would be a long time before another one graced our doorstep. I lasted all of one month before needing to fill the space she left in our lives. All of you pet lovers out there know what I'm talking about.

Today I'm sharing poems about some pets lucky enough to find their forever homes.

Stella, Unleashed: Notes From the Doghouse (2008), written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Paul Meisel, is a collection of poems told from the point of view of Stella, a dog rescued from the pound and brought to live with a family. The poems cover topics as varied as her rescue from the pound, selecting a name, the family members, other pets, eating, sleeping, the dog park, and more.

Lost & Found

Metal bars.
A cold, hard floor.
No window seat.
No doggy door.

Countless strangers come to call—
I listened,
watched,
and sniffed them all . . .

then turned away
and curled up tight
Nice enough but not quite right.

Then, one day, I sniffed a sniff
and got the most delightful whiff:
dirt and candy, grass and cake.
I stuck my paw out for a shake.

A boy knelt down.
I licked his face.
He rubbed my head.
I'd found my place.

That's how I chose this family.
Not perfect, no.

Except for me.

**
Water!

I swim in the ocean,
no matter how rough.
In rivers and lakes
I can't get enough!

When I see a pool,
I dive like a sub.
I LOVE the water
but not in the tub.

Poems ©Linda Ashman, 2008. All rights reserved.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, is the story of a shelter cat and how she acclimates to her new home, told entirely in senryu. Won Ton's story is divided into sections, including The Shelter, The Choosing, The Car Ride, The Naming, The New Place, The Feeding, The Adjustment, The Yard, and Home.

No rush. I've got plans.
Gnaw this paw. Nip that flea. And
wish: Please, Boy, pick me.

Dogs have hair. Cats, fur.
Dogs whine, yip, howl, bark. Cats purr.
I say: No contest.

Scrat-ching-post? Haven't
heard of it. Besides, the couch
is so much closer.

Poems ©Lee Wardlaw, 2011. All rights reserved.

Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku (2015), written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, is the sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. In it, Won Ton again narrated and shares with readers what life is like with a new and annoying puppy in the house.

Ears perk. Fur prickles.
Belly low, I creep . . . peek . . . FREEZE!
My eyes full of Doom.

Don't bother barking
your real name. I've already
guessed. It must be . . . Pest!

Breaking news: YOU SNORE.
Twitch and whimper too. Yet you
make a soft pillow.

Poems ©Lee Wardlaw, 2015. All rights reserved.

Dogku (2007), written by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Tim Bowers, is the story of a stray dog told through a series of 17 haiku. While not about a shelter dog, it is about a pet in need of a home. The story begins with this poem.

There on the back steps,
the eyes of a hungry dog.
Will she shut the door?

The door is opened and the dog welcomed in. Eventually he earns the name Mooch and becomes a part of the family. Here are two additional poems.

Scratch, sniff, eat, yawn, nap.
Dreams of rabbits and running.
Could life be sweeter?

Family meeting.
There are words and words and words.
Did someone say "pound"?

Poems ©Andrew Clements, 2007. All rights reserved.

The PBS series Martha Speaks produced a nice list of books about dogs, including shelter dogs.
Well, that's a wrap for this year's National Poetry Month project. I hope you've enjoyed exploring celebrations with me. Check out the NPM 2016 Celebrations page for a complete listing of this month's posts. 

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25. Monday Poetry Stretch - Ae freslige

Today I'm sharing a form known as ae freslige. Some say it's Irish, others Celtic. Some spell it ae freslige, other ae freslighe. There are even different descriptions of the form. Here are two I've seen.

From The Shapes of Our Singing, by Robin Skelton:
The Ae Freslige may be summarised as follows: the numbers in the brackets indicating th enumber of syllables in the last word of the line:
     Syllables:     7(3)     7(2)     7(3)     7(2)
     End rhymes:  A         B          A         B

From The Poets Garret:
Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines one and three rhyme with a triple (three syllable) rhyme and two and four use a double (two syllable) rhyme. As was stated earlier. the poem should end with the first syllable word or the complete line that it began with.
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)
x x x x (x x a)
x x x x x (x b)

I hope you'll join me today in writing some version of an ae freslige. I love the added challenge provided in the form as escribed by The Poets Garret. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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