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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: National Poetry Month, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Jumping Into Form - Interview with Bob Raczka

National Poetry Month is long over, but I believe in poetry EVERY day and still have forms and interviews to share. So without further ado, another wonderful poet weighs in on form.

* * * * *


Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Bob Raczka, author of numerous books about art and art history, the seasons, as well as poetry. Recent poetry titles include Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge (2015), Santa Clauses: Short Poems From the North Pole (2014), Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word (2011), and Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys (2010). I'm looking forward to a new book coming out in 2016 entitled Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems.
 
How do you begin a poem? Or, how does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
Bob: I usually (but not always) start with the form. And it helps to have a theme in mind. For example, my book Santa Clauses consists of 25 haiku “written” by Santa. Haiku are about nature, so when I started writing, I thought about things in nature that are unique to the North Pole, and that might make an impression on Santa. Pretty soon, I was writing poems about the northern lights, reindeer and snow hares.


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Bob: Most of the time I’m inspired by other poems. For example, I just finished a manuscript of 20 poems that I’m calling “skinny sonnets”. The form is based on a 14-word sonnet written by a poet named Frank Sidgwick in 1921. His abbreviated sonnet is called The Aeronaut to His Lady, and once I read it, I knew I had to try one for myself. The same thing happened with my book Lemonade, which was inspired by an anagram-like poem called rain by a poet named Andrew Russ.


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Bob: There are many forms I haven’t tried. I tend to gravitate toward shorter forms like haiku, cinquains, clerihews and limericks. I find them easier to wrap my head around. Call me a minimalist. I also don’t have a lot of time to write poetry with my day job in advertising, so the shorter forms work well with my schedule. That’s not to say that short forms are easy, or that I don’t rewrite my short poems many, many times. I do love the fact that you can say so much, and be so clever, with so few words.


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?  
Bob: I love my rhyming dictionary. It’s paperback and the edges are well-worn from all of my quick-flipping back and forth. I also have quite a collection of poetry books for inspiration, mostly adult poets. Some are anthologies, others are by individual poets. One book that I return to again and again is Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry by Myra Cohn Livingston.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Bob: First, poetry is about playing with words. So if you like playing with words, or seeing how other people play with words, chances are you’ll like reading and writing poetry. Second, don’t expect to like—or even understand—every poem you read. Poems are like books, and poets are like authors: you’ll like some more than you like others. Third, reading poems is a great way to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. I like to read a handful of nature poems before I go to bed. It makes me feel good and helps relieve any stress I may be feeling.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Bob: 

I reach for firefly’s
flicker, but all I catch is
a handful of dark.

Poem ©Bob Raczka, 2015. All rights reserved.


A million thanks to Bob for participating in my Jumping Into Form interview and for waiting ever so patiently for it to post.

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2. Poems, Animals, and Animal Poems

I’m sorry to see National Poetry Month end. Mine went out with a bang, though, in a wonderful Family Literacy Night celebration at an elementary school in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Happily, the date coincided with Poem in Your Pocket Day.

What fun to see students so excited about poetry! To watch them proudly pull out and unfold their handwritten index cards. To hear them bravely recite their favorite poems.

I was able to narrow my own favorite poems down to eleven—quite an achievement, I think! I brought five copies of each to hand out in case anyone forgot theirs. I’m glad to say that I came home with only three poems and that many of the ones I handed out went to parents. I hope they’ll keep sharing.

On to May! For this Teaching Authors series, we’re writing about animals. Bobbi began with some favorite animal books.

For all of April (National Poetry Month), I wrote a haiku a day. (You can see the April archive on my blog.) I looked back through the poems and found that 13 of the 30 addressed animals, mostly birds. Here in Wisconsin, we see a lot of birds migrating through to summer homes at this time of year, so that seems logical. One thing I loved about the daily haiku practice is that this year, I noticed.

Here’s one more haiku from this morning. I can’t seem to stop!


Squirrel winds her way
from limb to limb, encumbered
mouth full of dry leaves

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Year of Reading, at least for now. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

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3. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Kristine O'Connell George

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Kristine O'Connell George, author of numerous books of poetry for children including Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (2011), Fold Me a Poem (2005), Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems (2004), Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (2002), Little Dog and Duncan (2002), Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (2001), Little Dog Poems (1999), and Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (1998). Her first book of poetry, The Great Frog Race and Other Poems (1997), was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award from the International Reading Association.
 
How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Kristine: All of the above. Poems—and fledgling ideas—flit into my mental inbox in many different ways. Although it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint why or how a particular idea will snag my attention, it’s most often because I have a personal connection with the topic. Perhaps it’s something I’ve seen, heard, experienced, or even dreamed.

Many of my poems (and rhymed picture books) were sparked by observation: The crows hassling a young hawk in our cedrus deodora tree; wind rustling aspen leaves; a puppy curling up in a splash of sunlight. Book! (Clarion Books) was the result of spending time with a toddler who was beyond delighted when she suddenly realized she could ‘operate’ the pages of a board book all by herself. The poems in Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books) were based on my observations of two rascally dogs while serving as hostess of doggie sleepovers.

While working on this interview, I decided to see to take a walk to see how many ‘poem ideas’ I could discover. Here’s a photo of one of them:
What’s interesting to me are not only the paw prints of a long-gone dog in old, cracked concrete, but also the position of the prints. I imagine a child—seeing that tempting swatch of wet cement—held the dog’s two front feet in one hand and pressed down firmly.

Sound also inspires poems: “Owl” in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (Clarion Books) was the result of hearing an owl calling late at night from our native oak tree. At 2 a.m.—with the lines of the poem were still circling in my head—I got up and wrote a draft. Sound also inspired “River Messages” and “Chipmunk” from Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. In both cases I tried to choose language that echoed the sound of a mountain river and a chipmunk’s chatter.

The poems in both Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) and Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) were inspired by personal experiences. [Listen to poems from Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems and other titles at Kristine O'Connell George: Poetry Aloud.]  Camping and fishing trips in Colorado and family expeditions exploring ghost towns served as rich resource material for Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.

Dreams, and those muzzly moments of half-consciousness when one is drifting off to sleep or just waking up, are another wellspring of ideas and images for poems. A dream about flying in a windstorm—using a jacket as a sail—resulted in my first published poem, ‘Skating in the Wind.’ [Here is a young boy reading the poem at Homemade Mama.] (While I often hope to discover good ideas in the notebook I keep by my bedside along with my handy-dandy flashlight pen, I rarely can decipher my scrawl.)


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Kristine: If I’m lucky, the poem will give me hints. Perhaps it’s tidy and polite and best tucked into cozy couplets. Maybe it’s a ‘free-range’ poem that longs to stretch its free verse legs into boundless white space. (Most of the poems in Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) and Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) are primarily free verse. In both cases, I ‘heard’ my narrator’s voices in my head as conversational.)

Sometimes I deliberately choose a ‘non-form’ that hints at a more formal structure. An example of this would be Little Dog Poems and Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books). Because the ideas for the poems captured discrete moments in the lives of two dogs, they could easily have been haikus. However, after much deliberation, I chose to create ‘looser’ poems (someone described them as haiku-ish) in the hopes that they might serve as easily-mastered templates for very young writers. (Based on the bushels of ‘Little Pet’ poems I have had the pleasure of reading, I think it worked out.)

Last, when I encounter a stubborn poem, I will rewrite (endlessly) in as many forms as possible until a form shouts:  Me! Pick me! During school visits, I often share all (All!) of the revisions I wrote for ‘Polliwogs’ from The Great Frog Race (Clarion Books). Students are astonished (and horrified) as I have them count the number of revisions. Forty seven!


What surprising things have you learned by accepting the challenge of fitting meaning into a structured form? What are the benefits of accepting these disciplined restrictions?
Kristine: In our poetry writing classes, Myra Cohn Livingston often had us rewrite poems in a variety of forms (and voices). This invaluable training forced me to think deeply about my topic and not merely skim the surface. As a result, I often write poems in strict metered and rhymed forms and then ‘deconstruct’ as I play with ideas, layout, and readability. What often remains is the sense of a form and, rather than rigid rhymed lines, there are internal/slant rhymes.

Sometimes, while writing in a structured, rhymed form, I discover that while it’s fun to read aloud, I’ve added so much padding that it distracts from and dilutes the main idea. Increasingly, I lean toward ‘less is more’ and often distill or condense longer poems into short, tight poems such as haikus. The four haiku about a flashlight in Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (Clarion Books) are an example of my ‘get on and off the page quickly’ approach


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Kristine: All! I have yards of how-to poetry books of all flavors. While I do read and study these books, I don’t often refer to them when I am working on a poem. I may, however, dip into a rhyming dictionary if I am really, really stuck.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Kristine: I keep thinking about Kate DiCamillo’s reply to a young reading asking why there are words in a book: "Words are a special way for me to tell you a story and I don’t have to be there. It’s like magic.” [A Conversation with Kate DiCamillo facilitated by Lisa Von Drasek of the Kerlan Collection can be viewed on YouTube.]

I think poetry is magic as well. It is nearly unimaginable to me how words—mere marks on paper—have this surprising power to make an intimate connection with a reader across centuries, continents, or cultures. I hope—at least once in a lifetime—that every student might experience that elusive, breath-catching moment when they realize that another human feels as they do. One of my favorite memories is of a 4th grader curled up in the corner of the library reading one of Myra Cohn Livingston’s collections. I’ve forgotten which collection it was, but not what the student told me as she hugged the book: “This lady is just like me.” I have also not forgotten what a very shy 3rd grader whispered to me after an assembly: “I feel like you wrote your poems just for me.” These experiences that connect us are what I’d like students to know about poetry. I’d also like students to know that—through poetry—they can send their own unique voices out in to the world.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Happily! Will you be naming said esteemed colleague? ;)
When asked to contribute a poem for Jan Greenberg’s Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century American Art, I chose a pantoum to try to capture the repetition and sense of an echo in Kiki Smith’s ‘These Eyes.’ Here is the poem along with some interesting responses from students at PoetryRed5-7.
Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

A million thanks to Kristine for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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4. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Michael Rosen on Form

While Michael Rosen and I connected over a possible interview, we had a series of interesting conversations about this project and my interest in form. I was thrilled when he offered to write a piece on form, so I gladly accepted. That is what I am sharing today.

I had to resist the temptation to highlight the points that struck a chord as I read, but I realized they may not be the same points that stand out for you. This is an important piece and part of a larger conversation. I hope teachers, writers, and poetry lovers alike will take these wise words to heart.

The Problem with Poetic Forms? Not Thinking of Them as Solutions
—Michael J. Rosen
(You can learn more about Michael at his web site.)

After 35 years of teaching kids poetry (this would be some series classes and many visiting author workshops), I can report that writing poetry is way too easy for kids. And way too hard. Rhyme is too easy; and too hard. So are syllabics such as haiku. Dare I say that poetic form—any one—is both too easy and too hard. And these troubles (and there are many) stem from a fundamental absence of the very opportunities that poetry is supposed to provide for a writer: the rewards of challenging work, the gratification of a new perspective or appreciation, the stumbling upon breakthroughs and surprises. 

Consider these fragments that follow “corrective measures.” Consider them notes—to myself, to my colleagues, to young writers—that aim to reframe the way we offer forms of poetry to children. 

*    *    *

Form is structure. It’s support. It’s solidity. It’s what words and lines and sentences and narrative and images and ideas are build upon or within. Form keeps writers (kids and adults) from just saying the first words that come to mind, from being okay with (done!) whatever sentiment, observation, word choice, etc., hits the page first. We all need a challenge to our thoughts. Indeed, the poet W. B. Yeats said that poetry was a writer arguing with himself. 

We need to let poetic form be the ring in which young writers can wrestle with their thoughts. 

*    *    *

Think of the role that gravity plays in dance. It’s what makes lightness remarkable. Just how thrilling would a lift be in ballet, say, if gravity weren’t an issue? If a dancer could float across the stage in a leap. Dance would be an entirely different art if weightlessness were a factor.

Poetic form is gravity. It’s what adds weight to our words. It’s what adds bravura, boldness, and originality to our ordinary expressions.

*    *    *

Even if a poetic form—sonnet, tanka, ballad, limerick—possesses, by some definitions, a standard pattern or a required structure, it can’t be an ice-cube tray into which words are merely poured, frozen, and dumped out. That form has to be an ice sculpture in which the writing reveals something remarkable. 

If we simply describe the structure of a form and agree that anything that “fits” it, is, indeed, a successful use of the form, that’s like saying that reading the progression of letters in a series of words is the same as comprehending what that sentence means. 

*    *    *

Instead, poetic forms uncover possibilities. They don’t take “what we know” and simply add rhymes or break up lines. They take “what we don’t know,” and inch us, revision by revision, toward knowing. They take impressions and memories and general topics and things we’re curious about, and put them under pressure so that all the words begin interacting—banging into one another, ricocheting off the “walls” of the form—and, thereby, create heat and light. Yes, too often, we never give kids a chance to feel that illumination, that charge of power! 

*    *    *

Another trouble: Ideas. In my book, we shouldn’t expect that what a kid writes about is going to be…wow! brilliant! truly inspired! utterly remarkable! And we shouldn’t set them up with that expectation. (That’s why the library isn’t filled with the work of kids, right?) So what’s our job as teachers? To help them master the forms? Oh, sure, to some degree. But more importantly, it’s to create exhilarating experiences, to afford enormous and unexpected pleasures, to make the writing of poetry a practice that nourishes and enlivens. A kid who loves the act…will continue it. Will get better at it. Will eventually master forms. And, eventually, will write poems of substance and significance. The great 20th century poet W. H. Auden believed that “hanging around with words,” was more crucial for a young person’s development as a writer than having something to say.

Give kids a chance to feel the rewards that come from concentration and struggle, the fulfillment that comes from puzzling, repeated attempts, and invention. See if you can’t remove the pleasure (that’s mostly just “relief”) from that initial coming up with something. And remove it from the “relief” of quickly turning in something, with its coincident pleasure of getting to go on to whatever’s next. 

Sustain the pleasure of right now…for as long as possible. 

*    *    *

For a reader or listener, rhyme can lift a poem into music, insinuate lines into memory, and afford the intrinsic pleasure of repetition. But for the writer, the role of rhyme is to challenge and, therein, elevate the language of the poem. Rhyme’s role is to be unrelenting, so that the writer must search for that just right word, adjust the line breaks or description or content or phrasing, in order satisfy the rhyme scheme…in a pleasing way. 

Rhymes confer an aural emphasis on certain words—typically, end words, which are already cued up in that important terminal position. Ideally, rhyming words are important ones…that produce more than just a repetition of a syllable or vowel sound. And to that end: It’s key to remember that the first word in a rhymed pair doesn’t rhyme. It sets up the second word, so that  I T   R I N G S  O U T…and, most often, we let kids work in a way that allows them to force a match to the first word in a rhyming pair with an unimportant second word. So the second word merely sounds—and sounds lame or illogical—rather than reveals something as it echoes. 

So changing the whole way of composing rhymes is vital. Pry loose words that offer hackneyed or obtuse rhymes. Use a rhyming dictionary. Generate a pool of possible rhymes. Use a thesaurus to try a different word that might generate a whole new set of options. 

*    *    *

Likewise, counting syllables, as in haiku or tanka or other forms, creates a similar trouble: That process should involve uncertainty, not certainty. It’s so easy to let kids feel the contentment of being quick and being done…rather than the genuine contentment with the work itself. Counting syllables should happen LAST. It, too should be part of the argument with the content itself. It should create tension. (Ah! Think of a line of poetry as a string on a violin or guitar. In order to resonate, that line has to be taut, not simply stretched out.) Syllabics causes compression and expansion that should initiate a new flow of words, options, and subject matter. The way kids are typically given the form, they stuff words into a syllabic form like tepid leftovers into a Styrofoam clamshell (that is typically left at the restaurant or in the car or in the back of the fridge…forgotten because, well, it really wasn’t that good in the first place!). [You must block that metaphor, and yet that goofy overextension does hint at why students  lack motivation to revise or illustrate or read aloud something they drum up so easily and execute so hastily.] 

*    *    *

One other trouble. When it comes to poetry, we don’t give kids enough time to dive in, come up for air, dive in again. And then we typically give them one chance. Try this form. Great! Now, let’s move onto some other form. And even writing poetry of any sort is typically confined to one unit or just a once-in-a-while treat (or torture). And this survey approach—one form after another—doesn’t let any familiarity or efficiency or experimentation kick in. So it’s like doing a preliminary sketch, and then adding the finishing touches and the frame…even before the perspective, the composition, the details, or the colors have been thought through. 

Think of anything you’ve learned to do well—casting a fly-fishing rod, crimping the edges of a perfect pie crust, floating up into a yoga head stand. If you only had one chance to try these “forms,” your success is going to be limited. As will be the pleasure in the…frustrating? slapdash? improving?...accomplishment. How do we improve except by repetition? 

Let me leave you with this: Practice doesn’t only make perfect. Along the way, practice makes for possibilities, including the possibility of enjoying the craft enough to…one day…master it. 

*    *    *

Thank you, thank you, a million thank you's to Michael J. Rosen for providing us with such rich food for thought on form.

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5. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Michael J. Rosen on Form

While Michael Rosen and I connected over a possible interview, we had a series of interesting conversations about this project and my interest in form. I was thrilled when he offered to write a piece on form, so I gladly accepted. That is what I am sharing today.

I had to resist the temptation to highlight the points that struck a chord as I read, but I realized they may not be the same points that stand out for you. This is an important piece and part of a larger conversation. I hope teachers, writers, and poetry lovers alike will take these wise words to heart.
 
The Problem with Poetic Forms? Not Thinking of Them as Solutions
—Michael J. Rosen
(You can learn more about Michael at his web site.)

After 35 years of teaching kids poetry (this would be some series classes and many visiting author workshops), I can report that writing poetry is way too easy for kids. And way too hard. Rhyme is too easy; and too hard. So are syllabics such as haiku. Dare I say that poetic form—any one—is both too easy and too hard. And these troubles (and there are many) stem from a fundamental absence of the very opportunities that poetry is supposed to provide for a writer: the rewards of challenging work, the gratification of a new perspective or appreciation, the stumbling upon breakthroughs and surprises. 

Consider these fragments that follow “corrective measures.” Consider them notes—to myself, to my colleagues, to young writers—that aim to reframe the way we offer forms of poetry to children. 

*    *    *

Form is structure. It’s support. It’s solidity. It’s what words and lines and sentences and narrative and images and ideas are build upon or within. Form keeps writers (kids and adults) from just saying the first words that come to mind, from being okay with (done!) whatever sentiment, observation, word choice, etc., hits the page first. We all need a challenge to our thoughts. Indeed, the poet W. B. Yeats said that poetry was a writer arguing with himself. 

We need to let poetic form be the ring in which young writers can wrestle with their thoughts. 

*    *    *

Think of the role that gravity plays in dance. It’s what makes lightness remarkable. Just how thrilling would a lift be in ballet, say, if gravity weren’t an issue? If a dancer could float across the stage in a leap. Dance would be an entirely different art if weightlessness were a factor.

Poetic form is gravity. It’s what adds weight to our words. It’s what adds bravura, boldness, and originality to our ordinary expressions.

*    *    *

Even if a poetic form—sonnet, tanka, ballad, limerick—possesses, by some definitions, a standard pattern or a required structure, it can’t be an ice-cube tray into which words are merely poured, frozen, and dumped out. That form has to be an ice sculpture in which the writing reveals something remarkable. 

If we simply describe the structure of a form and agree that anything that “fits” it, is, indeed, a successful use of the form, that’s like saying that reading the progression of letters in a series of words is the same as comprehending what that sentence means. 

*    *    *

Instead, poetic forms uncover possibilities. They don’t take “what we know” and simply add rhymes or break up lines. They take “what we don’t know,” and inch us, revision by revision, toward knowing. They take impressions and memories and general topics and things we’re curious about, and put them under pressure so that all the words begin interacting—banging into one another, ricocheting off the “walls” of the form—and, thereby, create heat and light. Yes, too often, we never give kids a chance to feel that illumination, that charge of power! 

*    *    *

Another trouble: Ideas. In my book, we shouldn’t expect that what a kid writes about is going to be…wow! brilliant! truly inspired! utterly remarkable! And we shouldn’t set them up with that expectation. (That’s why the library isn’t filled with the work of kids, right?) So what’s our job as teachers? To help them master the forms? Oh, sure, to some degree. But more importantly, it’s to create exhilarating experiences, to afford enormous and unexpected pleasures, to make the writing of poetry a practice that nourishes and enlivens. A kid who loves the act…will continue it. Will get better at it. Will eventually master forms. And, eventually, will write poems of substance and significance. The great 20th century poet W. H. Auden believed that “hanging around with words,” was more crucial for a young person’s development as a writer than having something to say.

Give kids a chance to feel the rewards that come from concentration and struggle, the fulfillment that comes from puzzling, repeated attempts, and invention. See if you can’t remove the pleasure (that’s mostly just “relief”) from that initial coming up with something. And remove it from the “relief” of quickly turning in something, with its coincident pleasure of getting to go on to whatever’s next. 

Sustain the pleasure of right now…for as long as possible. 

*    *    *

For a reader or listener, rhyme can lift a poem into music, insinuate lines into memory, and afford the intrinsic pleasure of repetition. But for the writer, the role of rhyme is to challenge and, therein, elevate the language of the poem. Rhyme’s role is to be unrelenting, so that the writer must search for that just right word, adjust the line breaks or description or content or phrasing, in order satisfy the rhyme scheme…in a pleasing way. 

Rhymes confer an aural emphasis on certain words—typically, end words, which are already cued up in that important terminal position. Ideally, rhyming words are important ones…that produce more than just a repetition of a syllable or vowel sound. And to that end: It’s key to remember that the first word in a rhymed pair doesn’t rhyme. It sets up the second word, so that  I T   R I N G S  O U T…and, most often, we let kids work in a way that allows them to force a match to the first word in a rhyming pair with an unimportant second word. So the second word merely sounds—and sounds lame or illogical—rather than reveals something as it echoes. 

So changing the whole way of composing rhymes is vital. Pry loose words that offer hackneyed or obtuse rhymes. Use a rhyming dictionary. Generate a pool of possible rhymes. Use a thesaurus to try a different word that might generate a whole new set of options. 

*    *    *

Likewise, counting syllables, as in haiku or tanka or other forms, creates a similar trouble: That process should involve uncertainty, not certainty. It’s so easy to let kids feel the contentment of being quick and being done…rather than the genuine contentment with the work itself. Counting syllables should happen LAST. It, too should be part of the argument with the content itself. It should create tension. (Ah! Think of a line of poetry as a string on a violin or guitar. In order to resonate, that line has to be taut, not simply stretched out.) Syllabics causes compression and expansion that should initiate a new flow of words, options, and subject matter. The way kids are typically given the form, they stuff words into a syllabic form like tepid leftovers into a Styrofoam clamshell (that is typically left at the restaurant or in the car or in the back of the fridge…forgotten because, well, it really wasn’t that good in the first place!). [You must block that metaphor, and yet that goofy overextension does hint at why students  lack motivation to revise or illustrate or read aloud something they drum up so easily and execute so hastily.] 

*    *    *

One other trouble. When it comes to poetry, we don’t give kids enough time to dive in, come up for air, dive in again. And then we typically give them one chance. Try this form. Great! Now, let’s move onto some other form. And even writing poetry of any sort is typically confined to one unit or just a once-in-a-while treat (or torture). And this survey approach—one form after another—doesn’t let any familiarity or efficiency or experimentation kick in. So it’s like doing a preliminary sketch, and then adding the finishing touches and the frame…even before the perspective, the composition, the details, or the colors have been thought through. 

Think of anything you’ve learned to do well—casting a fly-fishing rod, crimping the edges of a perfect pie crust, floating up into a yoga head stand. If you only had one chance to try these “forms,” your success is going to be limited. As will be the pleasure in the…frustrating? slapdash? improving?...accomplishment. How do we improve except by repetition? 

Let me leave you with this: Practice doesn’t only make perfect. Along the way, practice makes for possibilities, including the possibility of enjoying the craft enough to…one day…master it. 

*    *    *

Thank you, thank you, a million thank you's to Michael J. Rosen for providing us with such rich food for thought on form.

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6. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Writing Poetry

On this last day of the month I thought I would wrap up this year's National Poetry Month project by highlighting books that focus on form and the writing of poetry.

When I was in high school I wrote free verse, largely that's all I really knew. While I recall writing the occasional haiku as a English assignment, I was never instructed on how to write poetry. Oh, how I wish I had been! Poetry can be so much fun to play and puzzle with. Trying to make your ideas and favorite words fit into a structured form can be a daunting task, but one that gives much satisfaction upon its completion.

Today I rely on a varied collection of books while writing poetry. In addition to the "adult" books on poetry reading and writing, I often turn to books for children and young adults to help me think about form and process. Here are some of the books I use with regularity.
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (2005), compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, begins with an introduction about poetic forms. It reads:
Why, you may ask, do poems have rules? Why 17 syllables in a haiku? Why 14 lines in a sonnet? The answer is: rules make the writing of a poem more challenging, more exciting. Think of a game you enjoy, like baseball. Imagine how much less intriguing the game would be if there were no foul line or limit to the number of outs in an inning. The rules often ask, "Can you do a good job within these limits?" Knowing the rules makes poetry—like sports—more fun, for players and spectators alike.
What follows are 29 poetics forms. Each form is accompanied by some kind of visual clue in the top corner of the page. For example, the page for couplet shows two birds on a wire, epitaph shows a headstone, and ode shows a Grecian urn. Once the form has been identified, readers find a short informational description and poetic example. Here's what you'll find on the page for Riddle Poem.
The beginning of eternity
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
The end of every place. 
Anonymous 
A riddle poem indirectly describes a person, place, thing, or idea. The reader must try to figure out the subject of the riddle. A riddle poem can be any length and usually has a rhyme scheme of abcb or aabb.
This volume not only contains many familiar forms, such as haiku, cinquain, acrostic and limerick, but also forms such as aubade, pantoum, villanelle, and double dactyl. At the end of the book readers will find a bit more background information on each of the 29 forms.
Getting From Here To There: Writing and Reading Poetry (1982, OP), written by Florence Grossman, is a book I pulled out of a discard pile years ago, but one that I still crack open. If you can find a copy, it would be worth your while to look it over. Here is how it begins.
Most people have never written poetry, yet most people, at one time or another. have had the vague sense of a poem lurking somewhere, something they had experienced that had to be told in a special way. This book is addressed to you if you have ever wanted to write a poem and did not know the place to begin, or if you have not trusted yourself because you thought you did not know the language of poetry. 
... And rhyme? Most beginning writers are boxed in by rhyme because they're busy thinking about the word that will rhyme instead of allowing words and ideas to bounce off each other. For now, forget about rhyme. Focus on rhythm. When you begin to listen to yourself, the poem will find its own rhythm. It will find its own length. Once you get rolling, the poem will assume a life of its own. It will tell you what it has to say.
This is book is organized into the following chapters: (1) Lists; (2) Then; (3) Things; (4) Signs; (5) Image; (6) People; (7) Clothes, etc.; (8) Sound/Silence; (9) Persona; and (10) Dreams and Fantasies. What I love is that in the introduction to each chapter, Grossman gives readers a perspective and an insight into writing poetry that is often profound. Here is an example from the chapter "Things."
Paper clips, rubber bands, a book of matches, these small things that go about daily business of their lives—most people would never think of them as subjects of poetry. But as walls have ears and pillows have secrets, each of these things has its own story. It has been places and done things. For the poets it's a matter of tuning in, of holding the spool of thread until we have heard what it has to say. Look long enough at a pencil and the poem will begin.
In addition to these insights, each chapter contains numerous example poems, thought prompts, and writing suggestions. The text ends with a section entitled Some Notes on Self Editing. There are 10 bulleted items here that are pithy and helpful. Here are a few.
  • What we are after here is honesty.
  • We all have our own words, words that we've carried around with us for years, words that we've tried on and we're comfortable with. These are the words of "our voice" that tell the reader someone has written this poem. Be true to those words.
  • Honest also means the exact word rather than the well-that-will-do word. Poetry is concise—no time to fool around with approximations. "The best words," says Wallace Stevens, "in their best order."
A Crow Doesn't Need A Shadow: A Guide to Writing Poetry From Nature (1994), written by Lorraine Ferra with illustrations by Diane Boardman, focuses on the "integration of our inner and outer landscapes. Through nature field trips, children and adults are invited to reflect on their personal place in the world." Sections of the book include: (1) Poetry Field Trips; (2) Building a Nature Wordscape; (3) Keeping a Nature Journal; (4) Other Explorations such as, finding a companion in nature, creating a landscape, colors in the natural world, dreaming up a place, nature in your hand, and more; (5) Anthology--a sampling of original poems by young authors; and (6) A Note To Educators (written by Mona Hirschi Daniels). The book begins this way.
Open the Door
An Invitation to Readers 
Over three hundred years ago, the poet Matsuo Basho said, "To learn about a tree, go to a tree. Basho was considering more than the scientific facts you learn about trees. He was suggesting that the creatures of the natural world speak a language, one perhaps different from yours, but one you can understand if you listen with your imagination. 
...Every chapter of this book, every poem, is a different door you can open to the natural world. Choose any of these doors, open it, and step quietly outside with your pencil, paper, and imagination.
In the section Creating a Landscape, Ferra shares a recipe poem by a twelve year old boy and guides readers through the process of writing their own. Here's an excerpt.
Look through a cookbook. As you read the directions for several different recipes, write down the verbs which tell you what to do with the ingredients. Make a list of about ten or twelve different verbs. Keep in mind that you probably won't use all the verbs you find. Be selective for your poem.

Some possible subjects might be a recipe for a cave, foggy morning, a bird refuge, a season or particular month, a moonlit field, a river, or a sunset. Once you decide on your subject, start listing some ingredients.
While there is no emphasis here on form, this is wonderful book for encouraging close observation, a skill so vital to the poet's craft.
 
Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry (2000), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, uses the alphabet to organize 26 different poetic forms (two for the letter A and none for Y). Each page includes a poem written in the named form with information at the bottom of the page describing the form. Additional poetic forms are included in the end notes.

Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry (2001), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a companion to FLY WITH POETRY that uses the alphabetic format to introduce a variety of poetic forms and techniques. Each letter introduces an arthropod in a poem that uses the stated form or technique. Facts about each animal are included in the end notes.
Write Your Own Poetry (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a book that provides a thorough introduction to the process and tools of writing poetry. There are chapters on poetic forms, language of poetry, imagery, point of view, meter and rhyme, and more. Jam-packed with sample poems, helpful tips and advice from poets, this is a comprehensive introduction to writing poetry.
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life (2006), written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Tuesday Morning, is a how-to guide on becoming a poet for middle grades and young adults. The book begins this way.
Have you noticed how rhythm makes you move? How heave bass vibrates the door panels of passing cars? Have you noticed the colors of a rainbow? How the stench of fireworks burns your eyes? How you cold winter hands sting under warm water? To be a poet is to notice.
...
Poems are all around us, waiting to be written. The world teems with words, images, ideas, sights, sounds, colors, anecdotes, notions, and emotions. Just as water is the stuff of life to a fish, the world is the stuff of life to be a poet. all you need to do is dive in.
The book is divided into several sections, each color-coded for ease of use. Poetry & You offers readers a quick guided tour of poetry, nine habits of successful poets (such as get gonzo over words, write every day and play), a writing pledge and more you. Your Poetry Toolbox explains the tools of the trade, such as poetic devices and the anatomy of a poem. The Poet's Decisions delves deep into the process of writing, providing lessons on point of view, tense, form, playing with structure, revising and much more. Always Something to Write About provides ideas for journaling and writing prompts. The last major section, Ta Da!: Presenting Your Work is about reading, performing and publishing poetry. Liberally sprinkled throughout the text are examples and lots of poems from a range of poets.

One of my favorite sections is entitled Your Best Revising Tools. Having just spent a significant amount of time revising a poem, I can tell you how much these ring true. Here they are in abbreviated form.
  1. Time - It's very difficult to read a poem objectively on the day you wrote it. It's best to let it age—a day, a week, a month.
  2. An Audition - With poetry, there's no room for words that aren't pulling their weight. Make those words work for you. Make them prove they belong where they are.
  3. A Sense of Fearless Tinkering - Don't be afraid to take apart what you've done. . . . Take your poem apart and put it back together. Don't worry about the extra parts still on the floor.
  4. Highlighting the Poem's Golden Moments - Use a yellow highlighter to designate your poem's top three golden moments (be they a single work, a partial phrase, or an entire line) that are vital to the poem's life. . . . Once you've highlighted the poem's golden moments, examine the remaining words with a critical eye.
  5. Vivacious Vocal Cords - Poetry is ultimately a spoken art. . . . but it's also a great revision tool. It helps flag a poem's awkward phrases, blips, bleeps, and blemishes.
The book ends with appendices of selected poems and poets, as well as publishing resources for young writers.
 
How to Write Poetry, written by Paul Janeczko, is a Scholastic Guide that organizes the poetry writing process in easy-to-follow steps. The chapters on starting to write, writing poems that rhyme, and writing free verse poems all offer a wealth of information, sample poems, and "try this" suggestions. Different poetic forms are introduced along with checklists to keep writer's focused on important features. Includes an extensive glossary.

Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, written by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of 72 poems arranged alphabetically by subject. Also included are 14 poetry-writing exercises that show how to write specific types of poems and advice from more than twenty poets on becoming a better writer.
Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out, written by Ralph Fletcher, is a good guide to writing poetry from the heart. Chapters deal with imagery, rhythm, crafting poems, wordplay, and more. Major poetic forms are defined and there is a section on ways to share your work. Interviews with Kristine O'Connell George, Janet Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis are included. A number of poems written by Fletcher are included as examples in these chapters.
 
Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets, compiled by Paul Janeczko, contains a collection of letters and poems by children's poets. Written to and for aspiring writers, this volume provides advice and inspiration.

The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work, selected by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of poems, advice, anecdotes, and recollections of 39 poets. Following their poems, poets describe their inspirations, memories, where they get their ideas, their writing processes, and how they go about translating their ideas in to poetic form.

If you are looking for additional resources on poetry writing, try these sites.
April may be ending, but that doesn't mean the poetry goodness must stop. I hope you'll revisit some of the posts from this month as you incorporate more poetry reading and writing in your classroom.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by this month. It has been a joy sharing poetry with you.

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7. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Poems of Apology

Poems of apology ... well, we must begin with the poem that started it all.

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Poem ©William Carlos Williams. All rights reserved.

There are some who call this "the dreaded plum poem." I happen to like "This is Just to Say". Was the speaker truly remorseful? It's hard to say. Would I have forgiven the writer? Eventually, but I would have been really aggravated to find and read that note. I can just imagine it today, scribbled on a Post-It note stuck to the refrigerator.

The books that follow contain poems in the style of Williams, and are written as apologies.
This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness (2007), written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by is written in the voices of school children and is organized in this fashion.
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction written by Anthony K., a "student" in Mrs. Merz's class
  • This Is Just to Say, by William Carlos Williams
  • Part 1: Apologies
  • Part 2: Responses
This book is a direct result of Sidman's work as a writer-in-residence at schools, where she uses the poem as a model. There is a wealth of material here, with seventeen apology and seventeen response poems. Here's a sample pair of poems. 

The Black Spot
(written by Alyssa for her sister Carrie)

That black spot on your palm.
It never goes away. 
So long ago
I can hardly remember,
I stabbed you with a pencil.
Part of the lead, there,
still inside you.
And inside me, too,
something small and black.
Hidden away.
I don't know what to call it,
the nugget of darkness,
that made me stab you.
It never goes away.

Both marks, still there.
Small black
reminders.

Roses Are Red
(written by Carrie in response to Alyssa)

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I’m still really
pissed off at you.

Poems ©Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.

The topics and emotions related in these poems are those that any child today might deal with. There are apologies for making fun of the dress a teacher is wearing, breaking a mother's precious glass deer, not winning a spelling bee, hitting a friend too hard with a dodge ball, and more. Some of the poems reveal the writer to be truly remorseful, while others are only slightly apologetic. 

To learn more you should check out the particularly useful reader's guide at Sidman's web site. You may also want to take a moment to watch and listen to her read from the book.

Forgive me.
This next book
is anything 
but remorseful.

Since it borrows
Williams' form,
I had to include it.

Please read on
and chastise me
later.

Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It: False Apology Poems, written by Gail Carson Levine and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is a collection of poems connected with nursery rhyme or fairy tale themes and characters that borrow Williams' form but include apologies that are conditional or utterly insincere. Some of these poems are dark, but they're all entertaining and some are downright funny. Here's one of my favorites.

This Is Just to Say

I have shortened
my nose
with your saw

because 
honestly
telling lies
is so much fun

Forgive me
I don't care
about becoming 
a real boy

(Pinocchio)

Poem ©Gail Carson Levine. All rights reserved.

You can download an excerpt from the Harper Collins site. Better yet, head over to Matthew Cordell's blog for a view of the art and some of the poems.

If you are interested in writing poems of apology with your students, check out some of these resources.
That's it for poems of apology. Join me this weekend for interviews with Joyce Sidman and Joan Bransfield Graham.

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8. Poetry Friday - 2015 Progressive Poem: Day/Line 24

Today is Day 24 of the 2015 Progressive Poem created and nurtured by the lovely Irene Latham. This project is a community writing experience where a poem travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line. It began on April 1st and is nearing its end. I am happy to be participating for the very first time this year, though am  bit intimidated by the form and subject. I'm really not a narrative poem kind of girl, or a free verse girl (not often anyway), so adding a line was a daunting task for me.

As the poem has moved from one poet to another, it has occasionally been reformatted. To date, no one has done the kind of work that my predecessor did, however! Tamera Wissinger's transformation of the line breaks is a thing of beauty. I've kept Tamera's version for those who want to see it carried on in this fashion. For those who need to see it in its "original" couplet form, I've got that too.

So, without further ado, here are both forms of the poem (same words, different breaks), with my line added to the end of each.

Version 1 

She lives without a net,
walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick
jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing
at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows,
snows
in wild wind
as she digs
in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval
cuffed bracelet,
 strokes the turquoise stones, and steps
through the curved doorway.
Tripping
on
her
tail
she
slips
hair first
down
the
slide…
splash!
She                  glides               past                 glossy              water
hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises
roosting in the trees
of the cypress swamp
an echo
of Grandmother’s words, still fresh
in her windswept memory;
“Born from the oyster,
expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow
reflection on the smallest dewdrop.

The surface glistens, a shadow
slips
above her head, a paddle
dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy
and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares
clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled
fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins
of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin,
slipping away,
leaving him only
a handful
of memories
of his own
grandmother’s counsel:
“Watch for her.
You’ll have but one chance
to 
determine—
to decide. Garner wisdom from the water
and from the pearl
of the past.”

In a quicksilver flash,
an arc of resolution, he
leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain
any pursuit and the bitter taste
of impulse rushes
into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes
–      Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling.
The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of ...
water!
Released, he swims


Version 2
(Couplet Version)

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder, on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.

Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms. Her hair flows,
snows in wild wind as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,

pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones, and steps through the curved doorway.

Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide… splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,

listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory.

Born from the oyster, expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.

The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.

Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled fisherman

with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away, leaving him only a handful of

memories of his own grandmother’s counsel: Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to
determine—to decide. Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.

In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps into the shimmering water
Where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs

Her flipper flutters his weathered toes –Pearl’s signal–Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes, takes an uncharacteristic breath of ... water! Released, he swims 


Tabatha Yeatts is up next. I can't wait to see where she'll take us (and them!)

If you want to see how this poem has come together, you may want to begin at Day 1 and follow its evolution. Here is list of this year's participants with links to their posts. 

2015 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem
1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Thanks to Irene for organizing this event and for including me.

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

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9. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Joyce Sidman

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

How does a poem begin for you--with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
Joyce: For me, a poem begins with a need to express something I have noticed or felt about the world. But often I cannot start writing until I hear a line, or capture a voice, or experiment with a format. Once I have some structural direction, the need and the emotion and the language begin to come together in a kind of dance.


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Joyce: Hmmm . . . depends on subject matter, maybe? More playful poems might demand rhyme (although not always). I think it is a mysterious process. Sometimes I choose the wrong form, and have to start over again when nothing is working. I'll try another structure, which will give me a different tone.


What surprising things have you learned by accepting the challenge of fitting meaning into a structured form? What are the benefits of accepting these disciplined restrictions?
Joyce: Structure can lead you in unexpected ways. The poem sometimes becomes something it did not start out to be—which can be thrilling but also confusing. You have to constantly monitor meaning vs. impact. I weigh each word, asking myself: Does this add to the meaning, or is it merely a concession to the form? A formal structure can fail miserably, but if it works, it can be a knockout! Helen Frost is a master at this: her poems convey emotion and meaning, but often have some sort of fascinating structure to them as well, that adds a double punch.


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?  
Joyce: I always have my thesaurus and rhyming dictionary at hand, plus several literary manuals I picked up in college and still use. Also, my bookshelves are full of lots and lots of excellent poetry books, which I use for reference and inspiration.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Joyce: That it is as much fun to write as it is to read. That everyone has poems inside them: interesting thoughts, secret observations, unexpected emotions. And there are many, many ways to write poems. Here are some ideas--try them out!  


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joyce: Tricia, here is a pantoum that has not yet been published, though I use it as a model poem on my website. A pantoum is one of my favorite poem forms, because it repeats lines, shedding new light on them.

Poets.org has a great explanation of the pantoum form. My favorite quote from this explanation is: "An incantation is created by a pantoum’s interlocking pattern of rhyme and repetition; as lines reverberate between stanzas, they fill the poem with echoes."

Spring is the Time

Spring is the time for eggs:
soft air and sprigs of green.
Bright lemon sun,
wet nights singing.

Soft air and sprigs of green,
snug nests and puddles.
Wet nights singing,
feathery days.

Snug nests and puddles—
new life, new hope.
Feathery days,
yellow as yolk.

New life, new hope!
Bright lemon sun,
yellow as yolk.
Spring is the time for eggs.

Poem ©Joyce Sidman, 2009. All rights reserved.


A million thanks to Joyce for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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10. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Joan Bransfield Graham

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Joan Bransfield Graham, author of the books Splish Splash (2001), Flicker Flash (2003), and The Poem That Will Not End (2014). In addition to these books, Joan's poetry for children has been published in numerous anthologies, textbooks, and children's magazines.
 
How do you begin a poem? OR How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Joan: There are so many ways that poems tempt me to write them. Sometimes it starts with "a rhythm, a rhythm and a rhyme" and, then just like Ryan O'Brian, I'm off and writing. After we went on a family camping trip to Yosemite and hiked up Vernal Falls on the Cold Shower Trail, I wrote a "Waterfall" poem. When I thought about how it might look on the page, I decided to experiment with shaping it like a waterfall. Whole stanzas solidified into "Ice Cubes," I froze words into a "Popsicle," and took a "Shower" in words . . . Splish Splash evolved. Having an ongoing interest in photography, I often think of poems as wide-angle (the big picture) or telephoto (zoom in for the details) poems.  With poetry, as with my camera, I can capture a moment in time, an emotion, a new perspective. I like to play with the shape of language and the language of shape. Also, if you rub words together, how can you not ignite a spark?


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Joan: Perhaps the poems choose their own forms, the one that fits best. It helps to try out various forms for the same idea to see which is the most effective. Musicians jazz our world with soul, rock, classical. Artists amaze with oil paints, watercolor, collage. Poets surprise our senses and shake us awake with delicious forms and voices to best express what they want to say. It is exciting to have so many options. It's fun to experiment until it clicks, and you know you've found the perfect fit. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz said, "A common fallacy is to think that a poem begins with a meaning which then gets dressed up in words. On the contrary, a poem is language surprised in the act of changing into meaning."  


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Joan: I'm always eager to try something new. I have information in my files about the Arabic ghazal and might have to give that a try. An example is Patricia Smith's "Hip-Hop Ghazal." I just got home from the gym where I stretched my way through yoga with peaceful music in the background and then danced through a loud Zumba class with hip-hop, Middle Eastern, and salsa rhythms. A woman said to me, "My brain is ready, but my body's not." I don't think she actually spoke in iambic pentameter, but that's how I remembered it. Music and dance can have repetitive movements and moves, and I am thinking maybe I need to write a Zumba/exercise/dance villanelle.

I'm quite fond of the villanelle. Here's "Fever," compliments of Ryan O'Brain, from THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END. When I wrote this, I had visions of Amadeus at his creative crescendo and could hear Peggy Lee singing and snapping her fingers. I've color-coded the repeating lines. When I'm working on a villanelle, I fill in the repeating lines I've chosen and then work backwards, forward, around—it's an intriguing challenge. I'm planning to use this for a choral reading sometime with one side of the room reading the red lines and the other side reading the blue lines. I have written those lines on large strips of oaktag. Then students can see and feel this form before they encounter Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." I dedicate this to all poets, artists, actors, and musicians who have a fever to create. 

FEVER

I cannot stop this fever in my brain,
I feel compelled to write, and write, and write.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Is there some way that I can plug the drain—
To rescue me, to save me from this plight?
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

I’ve stepped on board a rhythm kind of train,
That’s traveling, zooming at the speed of light.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

What made this happen no one can explain,
I toss and turn and twist each sleepless night.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.

What’s that? You say that I should not complain?
I’m tired and hungry, but you might be right.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Now, I just wrote this villanelle refrain.
Hey . . . maybe I should NOT put up a fight.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.

Poem ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.

What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Joan: My senses are the most important tools. (A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman is a terrific book.) I don't own a rhyming dictionary. If I'm looking for a rhyme, I go through the alphabet in my head for possibilities. Myra Cohn Livingston's Poem Making, Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook, and Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry are all resources I enjoy using. And, of course, reading lots of stimulating poetry. What would you like students or children to know about poetry?


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Joan: My I'd like them to know that poetry is fun, useful, and a great adventure. Each poem is an act of discovery; you can learn more about yourself and more about the world around you; it helps us widen our vision and our hearts. Poetry is a bridge that connects us and allows us to step into another's experiences, ideas, life. We are all connected, and nowhere is that connection stronger than in poetry. C. S. Lewis said "We read to know we are not alone." When someone responds to what we have written, then we are singing a duet.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Edward Hirsch reports that "pattern poems have been found in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, ancient Persian, and in most modern European languages." Today we often use the term "concrete" (the opposite of "abstract")—having a definite form. The Pattern Poem shows a visual relationship between form and meaning. And so I offer two versions of my poem "Birthday Candles" from Flicker Flash—one in English and then the same poem in a foreign language—Japanese. What an amazing job they did! The Japanese version of Flicker Flash came out in 2013 from Fukuinkan Shoten, Japanese text ©Chie Fujita. I am astonished they were able to translate the poems and maintain the shapes so successfully.
To refer back to question #1, when I was attempting to write this poem,  I put candles on a cake, lit them, and sat alone at the dining room table in the dark.  I thought about all the celebrations we had experienced around that table . . . and the glowing faces, which made all those occasions so special.


A million thanks to Joan for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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11. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Concrete Poems

What is a concrete poem? On his web site John Grandits says that "Concrete poems are poems that use fonts, and shape, and texture, and color, and sometimes motion."

Shadow Poetry distinguishes among concrete, shape and visual poetry in this way.
Shape and Concrete Poetry go hand-in-hand; however, Concrete or Visual Poetry don’t have to take on the particular shape of the poem’s subject, but rather the wording in the poem can enhance the effect of the words.
There are many terrific examples of concrete poetry in books for kids. I would like to share a few here. Keep in mind that concrete poetry is about the marriage of words and form. Therefore, you need to SEE them to truly appreciate them. That means this post will have lots of links to sites where you can see the art in these poems.
Poetry Basics: Concrete Poetry (2009), written by Valerie Bodden, is an analysis of the concrete poetry form, beginning with its origins and history while providing a range of examples through the present day. Here are some of the things Bodden says about this form.
The goal of the type of poetry known as concrete is to have the shape or appearance of a poem reflect what the words express (p.3).

While most traditional poems are meant to be read, concrete poems are meant to be seen. Looking at a concrete poem can be almost like looking at a painting. In fact, if you try to read a concrete poem out loud, much of its meaning may be lost (p.12).
The book ends with a section entitled "Think Like a Poet," which provides steps and encouragement for readers to write their own concrete poems. Also included are a list of books for further reading, a glossary, and bibliography.
A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems (2005), selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, includes a wide range of poems that are cleverly shaped and written. Eskimo Pie and Popsicle are both poems in the shape of ice cream. Swan and Shadow looks exactly like its title and is a lovely piece of work. You can view an inside spread from the book and download an activity page from the Candlewick web site. You can also get a brief preview from Google Books. Notice that the table of contents is in the form of a table!
 
A Curious Collection of Cats (2009) and its follow-up, A Dazzling Display of Dogs (2011), both written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Michael Wertz, are collections that explore the peculiarities and absurdities of cats and dogs in wildly energetic ways. First, just look at those covers! If the use of animals in forming the letters of the titles doesn't immediately suck you in, then hopefully a few of these interior shots will. Michael Wertz has generously posted images from the books on his web site. Take a look at Kids page to view them.
Two books written by Joan Bransfield Graham, Splish Splash (2001) illustrated by Steve Scott, and Flicker Flash (2003) illustrated by Nancy Davis, are collections of concrete poems about the physical world. SPLISH SPLASH is a collection of 21 poems about water in a myriad of forms, including crocodile tears, ice cube, popsicle, snow, hail, dew and more. FLICKER FLASH is a collection of 23 poems that explores natural and man-made light sources, including the sun, birthday candles, an incubator bulb, lightning, a firefly, and more. At Google Books you can see examples from both Splish Splash and Flicker Flash.

Here are two examples from Flicker Flash. Keep in mind that these are shape poems, so they may not reproduce particularly well here.
Flashlight

F
L
A
S
H
LIGHT
click
one flick
I am the SUN,
I chase the shadows
one by one, growing scary,
jagged, tall - with brilliant beams
I ' L L    M E L T    t h e m    A L L ! 


 Sun
"From
93,000,000
miles away I bring
you this dynamite, ring-
a-ding day. I'll shout in
your window and bounce
near your head to solar
power you out of
your bed."
Poems ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.
Doodle Dandies, (2007) written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Lisa Desimini, uses wordplay and surprising "movement" to make the topics come alive. The 19 poems in this book cover a variety of subjects, including giraffe, weeping willow, skyscraper, baseball, basketball, the oyster family, and more. Synchronized Swim Team uses the legs of upside-down swimmers to make its point, while Creep and Slither appears in the shape of a snake, until midpoint when the bulging word bull frog announces what's been eaten. You can view some poems/images from the book at Lisa Desimini's web site.
Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Michelle Berg, is the story of a dog and cat trapped under a picnic table in a rainstorm. Since much of the verse forms the images on the page, readers will enjoy searching for the buried verses while reading the story. You can find a reader's guide at Joyce Sidman's site for Meow Ruff.
Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word (2011), by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Nancy Doniger, might not be considered concrete poetry by some, but to really see the genius of what he's done you must LOOK closely! As the jacket flap says, "Play with your words! Part anagram, part rebus, part riddle—this brand new poetic form turns word puzzles into poetry. Using only the letters from a single word, each of the poems in this collection capture a scence from daily life and present a puzzle to solve." Check out the Macmillan Books' photostream to view a number of images from the book.
 
Technically, It's Not My Fault (2004) and Blue Lipstick (2007), both written and designed by John Grandits, are two collections designed for older readers. The first book is written from the point of view of a young boy named Robert. The poems reveal Robert's concerns with all things adolescent. He is at turns smart then immature. Poems topics include his older sister, the school bus (dubbed TyrannosaurBus Rex), ordering pizza for dinner, mowing the lawn and more. The second book is written from the point of view of Robert's older sister, Jessie. Her concerns are those of a typical teen, but Jessie is anything but typical. She is funny, sarcastic, and totally her own person. Poem topics include a bad hair day, a pep rally, volleyball practice, Advanced English, her mother's birthday and more. Both books use graphic design in unusual and surprising ways. You can see a few of the poems from Technically and Lipstick on Grandits' web site. You can see a few more images using Google Book Preview for both Technically AND Lipstick

Concrete poems are fun to write and challenge children to think in different ways about the objects and events they see in their world. For additional ideas on writing concrete poetry, here are some resources you may find useful.
Before you go, here's one more piece that may interest you. Take a look at this Getty Museum video on How to Make a Visual Poem.
That's it for today. Join me back here tomorrow for an interview with Kristine O'Connell George.

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12. Over the Hills and Far Away: a treasurey of nursery rhymes, collected by Elizabeth Hammill

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13. Ready to Celebrate Poetry Month with The Dreamer?

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to share The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan with you for National Poetry Month. The Dreamer is an invitation into the imaginative world of Pablo Neruda. Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets !! The Dreamer has allowed me to share my love of this poet with my children as we wander through his world and life in Chile.

the-dreamer

It is a tale of day-dreaming, gathering those little items which catch our eye, while guarding and savoring them into a collection of our childhood. Pam Munoz Ryan does an incredible job of weaving facts into an incredible story of magic, nostalgia, and intrigue. Pablo Neruda’s real name was Neftali Reyes. He had a very stern and unbearable father. Protecting him were his step-mother, uncle, and sister. Along with everyday situations in his household and school, we are invited on wandering journeys to the rainforest where Neftali’s imagination is taken away by all of the fauna, insects, and animals which live in the forest.

THE_DREAMER_PG78.3

 

Another trip takes us to the ocean where Neftali meets a librarian who gives him his hide-out for the summer. This turns into a spectacular adventure with his sister of trying to save a swan. Later Neftali learns of the movement to kick indigenous people out of their homeland from his uncle. As he grows, he takes up the cause to protect them. Making sure that he doesn’t seek the wrath of his father, he uses a pseudonym. His new last name Neruda was derived from a poet from Czechoslovakia.

One of the elements that makes this book such a treasure to read and hold are the simple but powerful illustrations of Peter Sis. His contributions to this magical story gives us a look into the world of a poet through the heart and eyes.

The Dreamer 1

Equally as interesting is Pam Munoz Ryan’s telling of what inspired her to write this story. Also in the back are several beautifully selected poems of Pablo Neruda’s. This book is a poetic magical tale that is sure to inspire all of us to look at those simple things around us with the eye of a poet. Life is for living and experiencing and this book is an invitation to do just this.

Something To Do

A Word Box

In the story The Dreamer, Neftali Reyes loves to collect things. One of his most beloved collections are his words. Writing them on a piece of paper, folding it gently , and then placing it in his drawer; Neftali can return anytime he wants to and remember the words that caught his imagination. Let’s remember our friend Neftali by making a word box.

word box

Supplies:

  • One unfinished wood or paper mache box found in a craft store.
  • Scrapbooking word stickers
  • Mod Podge matt finish
  • Brush
  • Paper

Instructions:

  1. Taking your wooden box and the word stickers, put words all over your box in a design of your choosing.
  2. Once you’ve finished sticking your words on the box, brush Mod Podge all over the words and let it dry.
  3. You can use any kind of paper. We like to use paper with pretty colors on one side but white paper works just fine. Cut little pieces of paper that fit into your box. Start writing your favorite words down and saving them in your word box.

Beautiful Spanish Words

The Dreamer uses a beautiful mix of English and Spanish. I liked the way the Spanish was woven throughout the story without it being distracting. Each Spanish word followed with it’s English meaning. By using the Spanish language in this way, it brought the essence of Chile into the story.

Here’s a Spanish lexicon from The Dreamer. Be sure to write these words on colorful cards and put them into your word box.

  • Adios:: Good-bye
  • el viento:: the wind
  • Porfa :: Please
  • buena suerte:: good luck
  • mapuche:: indigenous people in Aranucania
  • Bravo:: Good Job
  • la empanadas y el bistec:: Potato turnovers and steak
  • Aqui Estoy:: I am here.
  • El pan amasado:: Home made bread
  • futbol:: soccer
  • Amigo:: friend
  • un escondite:: a hideout
  • una chismosa:: a tattletale
  • Amor:: Love

Poetry Explorations

In The Dreamer author Pam Munoz Ryan poses many questions to get us thinking in words. Let’s look at those questions and write a short poem about the Wind. Remember when Neftali’s hat and gloves gotten blown away by the wind. What do these questions inspire in you ?

  1. What does the wind give ?
  2. What does the wind take away?
  3. Where is the storehouse of lost and found ?

Let’s experience Time through words. By answering the following questions you can experience time in a new way. Write a little poem about time.

  1. What is the color of a minute? A month ? A Year ?

Reader’s Theater

A great way to instill active reading in our young readers is to practice in a Reader’s Theater setting. Set for four voices, author Pam Munoz Ryan has created this Reader’s Theater edition to her book The Dreamer.

I’d like to know…..

Have you read this book? If so, share your thoughts and comments below!

 

Homeschooling can be complicated and frustrating, especially if you are overloaded with information. The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out alone. Donna Ashton’s The Waldorf Home School Handbook is a simple and step-by-step guide to creating and understanding a Waldorf-inspired homeschool plan. Within the pages of this all-in-one homeschooling guide parents will find information, samples of lesson plans and curriculum, helpful hints and the secrets behind the three Areas for Optimum Learning. Join Donna as she guides you through the Waldorf method and reveals how to educate your children in a nurturing and creative environment. Visit the Waldorf Homeschool Handbook info page HERE.

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook

The post Ready to Celebrate Poetry Month with The Dreamer? appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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14. Amber Tamblyn Performs Her Own Original Poem

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve dug up a video of actress Amber Tamblyn reading her original poem “Dear Demographic.” Throughout the performance, Tamblyn’s mother Bonnie plays the guitar.

The “Dear Demographic” piece can be found in Tamblyn’s 2009 collection, Bang Ditto. Harper Perennial released Tamblyn’s third poetry book, entitled Dark Sparkler, on April 7th.

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15. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Acrostic

An acrostic poem is one in which the first, last or some other letters, when read in a line moving downward, spell out a word or phrase. Acrostic poems date back to ancient times. They are found in the Bible and Roman ruins. Chaucer wrote them in the Middle Ages. Christopher Marlowe, William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll and others have written in this form.

Here's a bit of background on the form from Avis Harley's book, African Acrostics.
The acrostic is a playful poetic form that people have enjoyed writing and reading since ancient times. The name comes from akros, the Greek word meaning outermost, or end, and stichos, meaning row, or a line of verse. Although the form has many variations, the most popular is the traditional acrostic, in which the first letters of the lines, when read downward, spell a word or words.
... Acrostics offer the writer an intriguing framework for a poem, and single acrostics are not difficult to create. Think of a word, phrase, or even a whole sentence that catches your imagination. Then write it vertically. You can use one words per line, or many words—rhymed or unrhymed. A predetermined letter can sometimes spark an unexpected idea, and it's great fun to hide a word or message for your readers
Astonish yourself— s
Create a poem that
Reads
On its
Side.
Think of the fun when
It lets the letters help you
Choose.
Text and Poem ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.  
On my regular travels through classrooms I have noticed that students are often asked to write acrostic poems. Sometimes I see their names or the topic they are studying as the spine of their poems. Too often these acrostic studies are merely lists of descriptive words or phrases. Poetry they are not. I think good acrostic poems are hard to write. To inspire students in their acrostic writing you need strong mentor texts they can use as models. The books that follow provide outstanding examples of acrostics that work.
African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways (2012), written by Avis Harley with photographs by Deborah Noyes, is a collection of 18 acrostic poems, each accompanied by a gorgeous photograph of the animal described. Poems cover the crocodile, rhino, kudu, lion, hornbill, elephant, stork, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, ostrich, African wildcat, lioness, bonobo, impala, hippo, bat-eared fox, and leopard. The book opens with a poem about the form.

ACROSTIC (uh-Kros-tik)

Welcome, all poets--both new
Or well versed. Non-rhymers or
Rhymers! Come,
Dive in headfirst!

Inviting all writers--
Now you're just the right age.

Explore the acrostic that rides
Down the page.
Get a word you
Enjoy and would like to define.
Write it down vertically
And fill in each line.
Your name is a very good way to begin.
Surprise yourself. Find that poem within!

Now that you've been introduced to the notion of a "word in edgeways," I doubt you'll ever look at an acrostic in the same way. In fact, Harley pushes the boundaries of the form and does more than write simple acrostics. Let's skip to the endnotes for a moment where readers will find descriptions and examples of the many forms found in this collection, such as the double acrostic, multiple acrostic, cross acrostic, and more. Here's an example of a double acrostic.

Eye to Eye

Ear-sails flap in a breeze.
Leather limbs in rhythm
Evenly swaying in step
Plod slowly over Africa.
Huge as a dinosaur, yet
tender soul from such
Noble mammoth alumni.
There is wonder abuzz,
Staring into eyes so wise.

Poems ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.

The poems in this book are deftly created. The words spelled out vertically range from single words (herald, lying, poppet, outstanding) to phrases (wild stripes, cloud friends, fatherly advice, beauty in the beast). The double acrostics, quintuple acrostic (yes, that's FIVE words), and concrete acrostic deserve some special attention. The patterns that exist within them never get in the way of the poem itself, and finding them is a bit of a surprise. 
Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic (1999), written by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Leslie Evans, is a collection of 26 acrostics from April to zenith. The poems each serve as a complete thought about the subject and are crafted exquisitely with what seem to be just the right words. Here are a few examples.

After days of
Pouring
Rain, the last
Ice and snow finally
Leave the earth.


Egrets, ducks and
Geese nest in the marsh
Grass, waiting for their
Shells to hatch.


Nestled under the
Eaves, a
Song-filled ark of
Twigs and grass.

Poems ©Steven Schnur. All rights reserved.

You will also find poems for the words buds, calf, dawn, frog, grass, hopscotch, infant, jungle, kites, ladder, May, outside, parade, quintuplets, raft, seeds, twilight, umpire, Venus, wheat, Xing, and young.

There are four books in this series, each one with carefully crafted acrostics. You can view some of the illustrations in the series and read a few more poems on Leslie Evans' web site.
Silver Seeds, written by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, is a collection of 15 nature poems using the acrostic form. The verses are ordered to follow a young boy and girl through the day, beginning with dawn and ending with night. In between they encounter sun, shadow, hills, trees, leaves (though the word is leaf), a bee, butterfly, hummingbird, clouds, fog, rain, the moon, and stars. Here is the poem that gives the book its title and one on clouds.

Silver seeds
Tossed in the air
And planted in the sky,
Reaching out of the darkness
Sprouting wonder. 


Creamy scoops of ice cream
Lying
Out
Under a
Dreamy blue
Sky.

Poems ©Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer. All rights reserved.

The poems in each of these collections are economical and evocative. The metaphors are carefully selected and spot-on.

You will notice that each of the poems shared are fine examples of the form, far removed from the school-assigned poems to write an acrostic using your first name, or some vocabulary word being studied. Now that you've had a chance to think a bit about this form, here are some resources you may find helpful.
That's it for acrostic poems. Come back this weekend for two new interviews with children's poets.

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16. 5 ways to use poetry in class RIGHT NOW

.
Howdy, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday! (the PF link is at the end)

Authors-anthologists-publishers Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell have written an article well-worth reading (it's brief!) for National Poetry Month in the online magazine Bookology which begins:


"We are pressed for time, so we multitask. You might be eating breakfast while you’re reading Bookology, or doing laundry, or both. “Killing two birds with one stone” or “hatching two birds from the same egg”—integrated teaching—is the best way to fit everything in, especially in the K-5 classroom." (read the whole article here)

Janet and Sylvia's Poetry Friday Anthology series does a LOT of heavy lifting including:

1) helping pressed-for-time teachers and librarians teach poetry while meeting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the Texas TEKS for English Language Arts (ELA)/Poetry and Science & Technology,

and

2) including a “Take 5!” mini-lesson with every poem in their collection for librarians, teachers, and parents with instructions for sharing, picture book pairings, and curriculum connections.

And in their NEW collection Janet and Sylvia have added another bonus: each of the 156 poems in this newest book appears in both English and Spanish--WOWEE!


JoAnne's recent post sang out about this book (which includes JoAnne's terrific Graduation Day poem), and Esther's post continued, including an interview of these two visionaries and Esther's very green Saint Pat's Day poem.

As JoAnne writes:
I’m thrilled to be one of 115 poets (and 3 Teaching Authors!) whose poems are featured in the brand-new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations

I'm thrilled that they've included two of my poems. This one's for National Thrift Shop Day (who knew?)
(Click to enlarge )

Have a fabulous Poetry Friday...and consider donating to a thrift shop today and then shopping in one, too ~

Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win an autographed copy of Paul Janeczko’s 50th book, DEATH OF A HAT, illustrated by Chris Raschka.  You can enter between now and April 22 (which just happens to be our SIXTH TeachingAuthors Blogiversary!).

And...please stop by my poetry blog where all Poetry Month long I'm posting PPPs--Previously Published Poems--from anthologies, Cricket Magazine and my novel in poems.

Thank you, dear Robyn Hood Black for hosting PF today!
And thanks, too, to Jama Kim Rattigan for posting the 2015 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup

posted with love by April Halprin Wayland with help from Monkey and Eli ~

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17. Poetry Friday: Song in My Heart

April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our third Poetry Friday post, we chose Song in my Heart by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Jackson from I and I Bob Marley.

i and i

Song in My Heart

I am the boy

From Nine Miles

The one sing

Like three little birds

In a reggae style

The one blessed

By Jah

To travel miles

Across the world

With my island girl

Guitar in hand

And my dreads

A twirl

With music

In my belly

And songs

In my heart

Healing the world

With my reggae art

Keeping you always

Like a song

In my heart

 Let us know what poems you’re reading in the comments section!

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18. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Avis Harley

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Avis Harley, a former teacher and author of 5 books of poetry for children, including African Acrostics: A Word in Edgewise (2009), The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings (2008), Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems (2006), Leap into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry (2001), and Fly with Poetry: An ABC of Poetry (2000).

How do you begin a poem? 
Avis: It varies.  It can be a visual image, a musical thought, a physical sensation, or perhaps just a single word.  But before I start writing, I like to immerse myself in someone else’s poetry. Sometimes an idea might come from this reading, but mostly I return to my earlier inspiration.  A word grows into a phrase that grows into a line, and slowly, over time and many, many rewrites, a poem might emerge.


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Avis: 
It’s crafty business, poetry writing,
But poetic forms are so inviting!

Should it be free verse?  Rap?  Haiku?
Intravista?  Sonnet?  Clerihew?
Limerick?  Villanelle?  Elegy?
A Couplet?  Acrostic?  A parody?

A myriad of forms from which to choose,
but the content decides which one to use.


What tools do you use in writing poetry?
Avis: I enjoy playing with rhyme, and have three different rhyming dictionaries. My Penguin Rhyming Dictionary is a well-thumbed paperback.  Another book is A Rhyming Dictionary and Poets’ Handbook by Burges Johnson, where the words are grouped into one-syllable rhymes, two-syllable rhymes, three-syllable rhymes, and so on – a double-dactyl-delight.  I also like Walker’s Rhyming Dictionary.  It is a reverse-order dictionary and a handy source for eye-rhymes, where endings are the same in spelling but not in sound.  I love eye-rhymes, and wrote a whole book of them, but recognize this obscurity is hard to sell.  But they were fun to write, and here’s one of them:

TOUGH

Dandelions plough
straight through
cement.   Although
just a golden hiccough
shining in its tiny trough,
for Dandelion, that is enough.

I also use the thesaurus, plus a Webster’s and an Oxford dictionary.  Canadians sometimes have different pronunciations and spellings to the Americans for certain words.  The ‘u’ in words such as honour, savour, humour, etc., disappears when my poems go over the border, bringing back childhood memories of a big red X on a spelling test if the ‘u’ were ever omitted.

But most of the time we both agree,
except when saying ‘zed’ or ‘zee.’

For forms, I often refer to The Harper Handbook to Literature, edited by Northrop Frye, et al.  Lewis Turco’s The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics is a wonderful resource.  A book I encouraged my teacher/librarian students to read when I was teaching a poetry course at the University of B.C. is called The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett.  It’s full of useful information and reader-friendly definitions.   I am somewhat addicted to collecting books of form, if only to discover new and obscure kinds of poems I’d like to try.


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Avis: It doesn’t always have to rhyme or be funny. Poetry is the most inspiring and beautiful arrangement of words language can offer. Poetry is a producer of the ‘ah-ha’ moment. Robert Frost said “Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” I would like children and students to discover this delight and wisdom by reading lots and lots of good poems – all kinds. Poetry is meant to be enjoyed; too many ‘simile-safaris’ can kill poetry. I would like them to know the wonder of language, and to try writing their own poems, and learn through this experience that poetry writing is not easy, but so rewarding.  It is a lifelong friend.


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Avis: Yes, there are a lot of forms I have not yet tried!  I have experimented with many different ones in two ABC poetry books I’ve written, and do have my favourites – especially haiku, triolet, sonnet, limerick, and acrostic.  I’ve always been intrigued with puzzles and word games: crosswords, scrabble, anagrams, acrostics, words-within-words, rebuses, and any type of word fun that could be a springboard for a poetic form.  I like to create poems with messages inside, and enjoy inventing my own forms.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Avis: "Foreign" can mean unfamiliar, and my choice of verse form will be unfamiliar, as it is an original poetic form I have created.  I’ve called it the intravista, where words within words, arranged downward, make a poem within a poem.  Here is an intravista about our old cat, Sockeye:

                        THE CONTENTED CAT

                        A thermal cushion arrives on my lap,
                           spurred on by the thought
                   of a blissful nap.  She neatly
                          washes paws and chin – then lets
              her heartwarming purr begin.
                   So pleasant that murmur of purr and meow,
                            there’s enough contentment
                     to unfurrow my brow.

Her
purr
is
as
warm
as
her
fur. 

By hiding a word within another word, the intravista continually surprises me.  Coming up with an unusual word to envelop another one always seems to spark an unexpected idea, and it’s fun to have an inner voice give you two poems for the price of one.  As April is the month of blossoms, and also Poetry Month, I’d like to close with this poem:

                      IN THE KEY OF BEE

                      Blossom weather!
                           The sun-dappled
                                         street is alive
               with humming.  Listen
              to these trees blissfully thrumming
                                in the soft key
                              of honeybees!

The
apple
tree
is
full
of
                                                       bee!

Poems ©Avis Harley. All rights reserved.

A million thanks to Avis for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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19. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Marilyn Singer

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Marilyn Singer, author of more than 80 books in a range of genres, including non-fiction, fairy tales, picture books, mysteries, poetry, and more. Recent poetry titles include Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents (2013), Follow Follow: A Book of Reversos (2013), A Strange Place to Call Home (2012), The Superheroes Employment Agency (2012),  A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (2012),  A Full Moon Is Rising (2011), Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Poems (2010), and First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems (2008).

How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
Marilyn: For me, a poem can begin with any of those things.  Sometimes, it’s an image.  I saw the full moon between skyscrapers near Times Square, NYC, where the Broadway theatres are, and it led to the image of the moon as an actor waiting in the wings to make an entrance.  That in turn led to the poem “Broadway Moon” in A Full Moon Is Rising (Lee & Low).  Other times, it’s an idea that sparks a poem.   I was thinking about the nature of fire and these lines came into my head:  “Fire has contradiction/at its heart/from that wintry blue part/to its jagged golden crown.”   They became the opening of the poem “Contradiction” from Central Heating (Knopf).  For my reverso poems, the process of writing obviously begins with form. A reverso is a poem in two parts.  The second part reverses the lines from the first part, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it has to say something different from the first part. Mirrror Mirror and Follow Follow, both published by Dial, are my books of reversos based on fairy tales, and I have a third book of reversos, Echo Echo, based on Greek myths, coming out next spring. When I decide to create a reverso, I have to find a narrative that will fit that form. I look for two sides to a story, and then I find lines that can be flipped, which requires a lot of participles, questions/declarations, etc.  I usually write poems by hand on paper, but I have to write the reversos on a computer in order to shift around lines more easily and see what makes sense.


How do you choose the form of your poems?
Marilyn: Other than the reversos, which are a deliberate choice, I’m not really sure how I choose the form of my poems.  I don’t think that there’s one thing at work which determines my choice. Sometimes a line begs to be repeated, for example, “A stick is an excellent thing,” from the title poem from A Stick Is an Excellent Thing (Clarion).  That call for repetition suggested that I use the line in a triolet, one of my favorite forms.  But often, my choice is more like: I’m going to write about spadefoot toads for my book about animals in dangerous habitats, A Strange Place to Call Home (Chronicle), and I’ve researched them, and, they’re in the desert, which is dry and sparse, and the poem’s about nature, and  how about a haiku: “They can deal solo/with dryness, but give them rain,/and then: toads explode.”


Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Marilyn: There are lots of forms I’ve seen on lists and don’t know anything about. Tetractys? Tyburn? Dorsimbra? Maybe I’ll get to some of them—and maybe I won’t. I tried my hand at some villanelles and enjoyed them, though they were quite difficult. I’ve never written a sestina, and I don’t know if I ever will.  It seems a bit daunting. In general, I’m drawn to forms that are more concise—triolets, cinquains, haikus, as well as free verse—forms that say a lot in a little.  But, who knows, maybe I’ll wake up some morning with the burning need to write epic verse (though probably not!).


What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Marilyn: I use all of the above—a rhyming dictionary (mostly online), a thesaurus, and reference sites to forms—as well as spell check.  ;-)


What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Marilyn: When I was very young, my parents read poetry to me.  It made me fall in love with words and what they can convey.  It also made me believe that there is not just one view of the world. Poetry is about surprise—seeing a cat, a stone, a trip to the ocean, an annoying neighbor, racial politics, climate change, bird migration, something conceptual or concrete in a unique way.  And the poet’s efforts to do that allow the reader or listener to share that view, and perhaps use his or her own mind and senses to look at things differently.

Also, poetry can be a fun game. Writing my reversos, in particular, has been the ultimate word game. And I think, for readers, figuring out what the poems say and how they say it (and then maybe trying to write reversos themselves) is also a good game.


Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Marilyn: Here’s the title poem from Follow Follow.  It’s based on the Pied Piper tale.  Who is speaking in each part of the poem?

FOLLOW, FOLLOW

Hundreds of rats,
my dear citizens of Hamelin,
shall never return!
All the children
once again play merrily in the streets.
On this festive day
I will
tell the council to relay what I say:
“Many thanks
for your
trouble.
There will be
no pay.
It is time, Piper, to go away.”


It is time, Piper, to go away?
No pay?
There will be
trouble
for your
"many thanks."
Tell the council to relay what I say:
I will,
on this festive day,
once again play merrily in the streets.
All the children
shall never return.
My dear citizens of Hamelin—
hundreds of rats.

Poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.


A million thanks to Marilyn for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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20. Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets: 100 Poems to Rip Out and Read, Published in conjunction with The Academy of American Poets, Selected by Bruno Navasky

POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY is APRIL 30, 2015! Visit poets.org for printable, pocket sized poems and other fantastic poetry related items or click here! I fell in love with Poem in you Pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry, published in conjunction with The Academy of American Poets and selected by Elaine Bleakney, last April. Maybe this year I will be able to bring myself to

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21. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Reverso

The reverso is actually two poems in one. Read it down (in the normal fashion) and it has one meaning. Read it again from the bottom up, this time with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and you have a different poem. Generally these poems are written as a pair so that the inversion (reversal, hence revserso) is easy to see and appreciate.

Invented by Marilyn Singer, her author's note gives readers some insight into the form and her process. Here's what she says.
We read most poems down the page. But what if we read them up? That's the question I asked myself when I created the reverso. When you read a reverso down, it is one poem. When you read it up, with changes allowed only in punctuation and capitalization it is a different poem.

The first reverso I wrote was inspired by my cat, August:
A cat
without
a chair:
incomplete

Incomplete:
a chair
without
a cat.
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems (2010), written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse, is a collection of fairy tale inspired poems written in the reverso form. This means that each poem is presented twice, once read in the traditional manner (down), and once read from the bottom up (though presented in a traditional top to bottom form). Confused? Don't be. Presented together, readers get two perspectives on a story, told with the same words but meaning different things. Here is an example.

In the Hood

In my hood,
skipping through the wood,
carrying a basket,
picking berries to eat—
juicy and sweet
what a treat!
But a girl
mustn’t dawdle.
After all, Grandma’s waiting.

After all, Grandma’s waiting
mustn’t dawdle...
But a girl!
What a treat—
juicy and sweet
picking berries to eat,
carrying a basket,
skipping through the wood
in my ’hood.

I can't imagine how difficult it is to write a poem in this fashion. The fact that it makes perfect sense in both directions and tells two sides of the same story is quite remarkable. Here's one more, the poem that gives the book its title.

Mirror Mirror

Let me help you get some rest.
Mother knows best.
Listen to me,
Snow White.
Sleepy, Dopey, Happy,
you've been working day and night.
You look worn out.
A long nap?
A blanket?
An apple to eat?
What would you like?
Time to get off your feet.

Time to get off your feet.
What would you like?
An apple to eat?
A blanket?
A long nap?
You look worn out.
You've been working day and night
Sleepy, dopey, happy
Snow White,
listen to me.
Mother knows best.
Let me help you get some rest.

You can read and listen to some examples at Marilyn Singer's site. You may also want to check out the educator's guide for the book.
Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (2013), written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse, is the sequel (dare I say follow up?!) to Singer's first book of reverso poems. Fairy tale poems in this new collection tell opposite sides of the stories from Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, The Golden Goose, Puss in Boots, and others.

Ready, Steady, Go!

That ridiculous loser!
I am not
a slowpoke.
Though I may be
the smallest bit distracted,
I can’t be
beat.
I’ve got rabbit feet to
take me to the finish line.

Take me to the finish line!
I’ve got rabbit feet to
beat.
I can’t be
the smallest bit distracted.
Though I may be
a slowpoke,
I am not
that ridiculous loser.

You can read and listen to some examples at Marilyn Singer's site.

All poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

I'm not only enamored with this form, but also the subject matter. After all, one of my favorite books of poetry is The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm's Fairy Tales, edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont & Claudia Carlson.

Incorporating fairy tale poetry in the classroom is a great way to spark interest in poetry itself. The topic is familiar and lends itself to examination from multiple perspectives. That's one of the reasons that these books work so darned well. The unexpected second perspective is often surprising and funny.

Whether your state uses Common Core or some other set of standards, the study of fairy tales and fables is an important part of English/Language Arts curriculum. Teachers have become pros at integrating fairy tales from other cultures and "fractured" fairy tales. It is high time for poetry to take its rightful place as part of this study. 

For some ideas on integrating fairy tale poetry into the curriculum, check out these resources.
If you're feeling brave, perhaps you'll even try writing some simple reverso poems with your students! 

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22. Reading for the Earth: Ultimate Earth Day Resource Roundup

Earth Day, April 22nd is right around the corner, and we at Lee & Low are some pretty big fans of this blue planet we live on. So, whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to better uphold the 3 R’s -reduce, reuse, recycle- we are celebrating and promoting awareness the best way we know how- with books!

Here are 5 environmentally friendly collections to bring nature READING FOR 1 yellowindoors & encourage “thinking green”:

Save the Planet: Environmental Action Earth Day Collection: Be inspired to be an advocate for planet Earth through the true stories of threatened ecosystems, environmental recovery efforts and restorations plans, and heroic actions. Like the individuals and communities explored in these stories, children everywhere will realize the difference they can make in protecting our planet and preserving its natural resources.

Earth Day Poetry Collection: Through rhythm and verse, float down the cool river, reach as high as the tallest tree, and search for all of the vibrant colors of the rainbow in the natural world. This collection of poetry books are inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors and brings the sight and sounds of nature and all of its wildlife to life.

Seasonal Poems Earth Day Collection: Travel through winter, spring, summer, & fall through a series of bilingual seasonal poems by renowned poet and educator, Francisco Alarcón.  Learn about family, community, and caring for each other and the natural environment we live in.

Adventures Around the World Collection: Explore Africa while traversing Botswana’s lush grasslands and Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest, celebrate the deep-seeded respect for wildlife in India, Mongolia and on an island off the coast of Iceland, and journey to Australia to explore animals found nowhere else on Earth.

Vanishing Cultures Collection: The 7-book series introduces readers to the Yanomama of the Amazon Basin, Aborigines of Australia, Sami of the European Arctic, Inuit of the North American Arctic, Tibetans and Sherpas from the Himalaya, Mongolians of Asia, and Tuareg of the Sahara.

Lesson Plans & Ideas:

What fun is Earth Day if you don’t get your hands a little dirty? Bring some of the outdoors into your classroom-or vice versa- by engaging students in various hands-on and project-based Earth Day lessons and activities:

Earth Day Curriculum Resources, Grades K-5 from The National Earth Day BooksEducation Council. Features lesson plans, units, useful websites, games & activities, printables, and video.

Environmental Education Activities & Resources from The National Education Council. Features lesson plans, activities, projects, games, and professional development ideas.

Celebrate Earth Day! from ReadWriteThink. Features a classroom activity, 6 lesson plans for grades K-2, 6-8, and 7-9 & other Earth Day resources for kids.

Nature Works Everywhere from the Nature Conservancy. Features lessons, video, and tools to help students learn about and understand nature in various environments and ecosystems across the globe.

Check out the research-based read aloud and paired text lessons for The Mangrove Tree created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org

Explore the educator activities for The Mangrove Tree and Buffalo Song, titles featured in RIF’s Multicultural Book Collections. To find other free activities that inspire young readers as well as learn more about Reading Is Fundamental, visit RIF.org

Activities, Projects, & Video:

Greening STEM Educator Toolkits from National Environmental Education Week. Features toolkits for activities based on water, climate, energy, and engineering a sustainable world through project-based service learning.

NOVA Earth System Science Collection from PBS LearningMedia. Standards-based video collection that explores important Earth processes and “ the intricate web of forces that sustain life on Earth.”

22 Interactive Lessons to Bring Earth Day to Life from Mind/Shift. Features informational videos, images, and other forms of multi-media highlighting research on biodegradation, climate change, waste, energy sources, and sustainable practices.

I Want to Be Recycled from Keep America Beautiful. Find out how different kinds of materials are recycled, transforming trash into new things. Students can play a super sorter game and start a recycling movement in their community.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration & Seasonal Change from Learner.org. Track various migratory species with classrooms across the world.

The Global Water Sampling Project from the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE). Students from all over the world collaborate to compare the water quality of various fresh water sources.

Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Learn how to begin a waste reduction program in your school or community with helpful guides and resource tool kits.

Wildlife Watch from the National Wildlife Federation. Learn about and monitor the wildlife where you live, helping track the health and behavior of wildlife and plant species across the nation.

What’s Your DOT (Do One Thing)? from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Pledge your DOT (Do One Thing) to take action and inspire others to make a difference.

Plant a Poem, Plant a Flower from the blog Sturdy for Common Things. Since April celebrates both National Poetry Month & Earth Day, why not plant a little poetry in nature?

And finally… some Earth Day treats!

Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips
Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips at tammileetips.com

 

Earth Day Cookies

Earth Day Dirt Cup

Earth Day Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

veronicabio

Veronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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23. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Mask/Persona Poems

Mask or persona poems are poems in which the subject of the poem is the speaker.  In creating the poem the writer takes on a "mask" or personality and speaks in the voice of an animal, element of nature, or inanimate object.

In her book Dogs & Dragons, Trees & Dreams: A Collection of Poems (1980), Karla Kuskin shares a number of mask poems. The preface to this section of the 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 definitions and descriptions of mask poems. I think I like this one best for kids. 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.

Poem ©Karla Kuskin. All rights reserved.

In the book Conversations With a Poet: Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms (2005), written by Betsy Franco, the chapter devoted to the persona poem includes this background.
In a form or mode of poetry called the persona poem or "mask poem," the poet takes on the voice of someone else--puts on a mask. In these poems, the poet takes over the persona of someone other than himself or herself and speaks in the first person. In the 1800s Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote persona poems, among other forms. These poets and their contemporaries usually took on the voice of a historical or mythological character. This is also done in modern persona poems, but nowadays, poets also speak as if they were such things as an object, a place, an animal, an abstract idea, or a fantasy character.
There are many, many good books of poetry written entirely as mask poems. Mask poems can also be found in numerous children's poetry collections. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices (2001), selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a collection of poems in the voices of a broom, kites, gloves, crayons, and more. In the introduction Paul writes:
I collected the poems in this book because I love reading poems written in the voice of an object or an animal, as if that thing or creature were speaking to me. In these persona or mask poems, as they are called, the poets let their imaginations fly and feel what it might be like to be a mosquito, a crayon, a kite, a turtle. It's something like wearing a Halloween costume or playing a part in a school play. Great fun, don't you think? As you read these poems, if you find yourself wondering what it would feel like to be a caterpillar, a soccer ball, or a honeybee, grab a pencil and let your imagination fly in a poem. Let that new voice sing!
In this book you'll find poems like "The Vacuum Cleaner's Revenge," "Scarecrow's Dream," and "Prayer of a Snowflake." This book is a terrific mentor text for using with kids learning to write mask poems. Here is an example.

Shell
by Deborah Chandra

Come, press my mouth against your ear,
I hold a message just for you.
Deep inside my throat is where
It curls, waiting for you to hear.

Put there by the sea itself,
Who whispered something you should know
In shadowy sounds wound round my shell,
And with my hidden tongue, I'll tell.

Poem ©Deborah Chandra. All rights reserved.
in the swim (2001), poems and paintings by Douglas Florian, is a collection of humorous poems about underwater creatures. Many of the poems in this volume are written in the voice of the animal. Here's one of my favorites.

The Starfish
by Douglas Florian

Although it seems
That I'm all arms,
Some other organs
Give me charm.
I have a mouth
With which to feed.
A tiny stomach
Is all I need.
And though it's true
I have no brain,
I'm still a star--
I can't complain.

Poem ©Douglas Florian. All rights reserved.

This title is but one in a long line of books on animals, all of which contain mask poems. Additional titles to look for include beast feast (1998), on the wing (2000), insectlopedia (2002), mammalabilia (2004), lizards, frogs, and polliwogs (2005), and more.
Two titles by Marilyn Singer, Turtle in July (1989, OP), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, and Fireflies at Midnight (2003), illustrated by Ken Robbins, are both collections of mask poems. Turtle in July is a collection of poems that pairs animals with the months of the year. It also includes four seasonal poems focused on the bullhead (a type of catfish). Fireflies at Midnight is a collection of poems about animals at different hours of the day on a summer day.

Here's a favorite poem from each book.

Canada Goose
(from Turtle in July)

Did I tell you?
I should tell you
Going home
We're going home
Are you coming?
Yes, you're coming
Going home
We're going home
How the sun will warm each feather
How the wind will make us fly
Follow me -- I'll be your leader
As we flap across the sky
Are you ready?
I am ready
Going home
We're going home
Is it time now?
It is time now
October's happened
And we're going home


Crayfish
(from Fireflies at Midnight)

I, crayfish,
no day fish
no way fish
at all
Nosy otter, watch its jaws
Careless wader, watch my claws
Spend each morning
lying soundless
under stones
Spend each evening
shredding stems
picking bones

Poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.
Volcano! Wakes Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a collection of mask poems that describe a day in the life of an imaginary Hawaiian volcano. Ferns, lava flow crickets, a small black road, and the volcano itself all speak in these poems. Here's how it opens.

Volcano

I'm the baby.
I'm much smaller than my
big sister volcanoes. I'm a little sleepy
now, but when I wake up, watch out! I throw
nasty tantrums. It always works--I get the most attention!

Here's what the ferns have to say when they realize the volcano is awake.

Ferns

Fire-maker's awake!
She's about to 
make
this caldera
a lake of fire and
lava. Ah, the
party
must be over.
Put away all the
streamers.
Say 
good-bye,
honeycreepers.
But wait . . . it's
not
hot yet. It's 
not even warm
yet. What a 
lucky
delay on this
beautiful day. Hey,
everybody, let's 
party!

Poems ©Lisa Westberg Peters. All rights reserved. 
Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes, written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Petra Mathers, is a collection of 15 mask poems in which the author speaks in the voices of shoes, galoshes, undies, a bicycle helmet, and more. Here's an excerpt.

Bertie's Shoelaces
by Alice Schertle 

Good old Bertie,
he lets us hang around.
It doesn't bother Bertie
when we drag along the ground.
We're not up tight
as our Bertie Buddy knows.
We're hang loose laces and
we don't do bows!

Poem ©Alice Schertle. All rights reserved.

Now that you've seen some great examples, here are some helpful resources for reading and writing mask poems with your students.
That's it for the mask/persona poem. I hope you'll join me back here tomorrow for another form.

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24. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Apostrophe/Poems of Address

An apostrophe is a poem which directly addresses a person or thing that is generally absent, hence the more common name of poem of address. There are many days when I want to talk to someone who isn't here, to ask questions, to wonder. Poems of address require poets not to write about something, but to imagine what they would say if they could speak to the person, place, or thing being addresses.

The word apostrophe comes from the Greek for "turning back." Apostrophe has been a part of storytelling since Greek drama. Because there is a clear speaker and change of addressee, apostrophe is often found in plays. However, it also occurs in prose and poetry. Here are some beginning lines from classic poems that use this form.

Edgar Allen Poe - To Science
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?

Percy Bysshe Shelley - 
Ode to the West Wind
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

John Pierpont - The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star
Star of the North! though night winds drift
The fleecy drapery of the sky
Between thy lamp and me, I lift,
Yea, lift with hope, my sleepless eye
To the blue heights wherein thou dwellest,
And of a land of freedom tellest.

William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.

You can learn more about apostrophe at literary devices. This apostrophe is not the same as the punctuation mark. For more on that, read this poem.

Apostrophe to the Apostrophe
by Eric Nelson

Small floater, you stay above the fray,
a wink at nothing's nod, a raised brow
watching p's and q's, a selfless mote
between I and m, a little horn of plenty
spilling plurals, disdaining the bottom line.

Read the poem in its entirety.
Hey You!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things (2007), selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Robert Rayesky, is an anthology entirely filled with poems of address. Here is how it begins in the section entitled Imagination on the Loose.
Have you ever spoken to your sneakers? Or talked to your mailbox? Sounds wacky, doesn't it? Well, this book is filled with poems that were written to things. What kinds of things? How about poems to a fork or an octopus? They're in here. So are poems to mosquitoes and a skyscraper. There's even a poem in this book to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 
Why would anyone write a poem to a thing? Because it's fun! And it can also be a challenge. You need to really observe the thing and discover what  you might say to it. Then, of course, you'll need to find the right words to make it come alive.
Here are two examples.

To An Astronaut
by Beverly McLoughland

When you're in space
So far away
With darkness all around,

And you see the little Earth
Beyone,
Do you miss its windy sound?

Do you feel alone
With endless space
The neighbor at your door?

Do you miss the Earth
So far away?
Do you love it even more?

Poem ©Beverly McLoughland. All rights reserved.


Straight Talk
by Nikki Grimes

Look, Bee
Fair is fair.
I don't burst into
Your honeycomb
Willy-nilly
Or interrupt you
While you feed on
Rose and Lily
So leave me alone, drone
Show yourself the door
And don't come
Buzzing round here
Anymore

Poem ©Nikki Grimes. All rights reserved.

You'll find poems of address sprinkled throughout many a poetry collection. Here are a few I particularly like.
Dear Hot Dog (2011), written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, is a collection of poems that show the joy of childhood over the course of a day. The poems follow three friends from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Many of the poems are written as poems of address. Here is an example.

Light

Where do you go
when it's dark?
Back into lightbulbs
when I turn them off?
Do you hide in closets,
under the covers,
or in refrigerators?
Why can't I
fill a bag with you?
Where do you
go at night?
You have to be
somewhere!
Maybe tonight
I won't sleep.
I'll just stay up,
searching
the darkness,
till I find
you.

Poem ©Moridcai Gerstein. All rights reserved.
Eric Carle's Animals Animals (1989), is a collection of poems by various authors, illustrated by Eric Carle. From classics to modern poems, there are a number of poems of address here. Here are two classics.

The Octopus
by Ogden Nash

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those things arms or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus:
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.


Bee! I'm Expecting You
by Emily Dickinson

Bee! I'm expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—

The Frogs got Home last Week—
And settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—

You'll get my Letter by
The seventeenth: Reply,
Or better, be with me—
Yours, Fly.

Now that you've read a few examples for inspiration, here are some useful resources for reading and writing poems of address.
That's it for poems of address. I hope you'll join me here tomorrow for another form.

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25. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Parody

Parody is the imitation of a particular writer, artist or a genre, that is exaggerated deliberately to produce a comic effect. 

The Poetry Archive defines parody in this way.
Parody is the imitation of the style of another work, writer or genre, which relies on deliberate exaggeration to achieve comic or satirical effect. It is usually necessary to be familiar with the original in order to appreciate the parody, though some parodies have become better known than the poems they imitate.
I've heard folks complain about parody, suggesting that this form is responsible for "dumbing-down" poems. I find this argument irritating. To write a successful parody, the author must have extensive knowledge of the original work. I believe that kids can find their way into poetry when they are hooked by a parody. Parody poems can help students make connections so that when they encounter a poet or classic poem later on, they will have some knowledge and background information to enhance their reading of it.
Science Verse (2004), written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, is a collection of science poems that parody poems by Joyce Kilmer, Lewis Carroll, Ann Taylor, Robert Frost and others, as well as nursery rhymes and childhood songs. It begins:
On Wednesday in science class, Mr. Newton says, "You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything." 
I listen closely. On Thursday, I start hearing the poetry. In fact, I start hearing everything as a science poem. 
Mr. Newton has zapped me with a curse of SCIENCE VERSE.
Poems parodied include "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, "The Star" by Ann and Jane Taylor, "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll, "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, "The Song of Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Paul Revere’s Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "A Visit From St. Nicholars" by Clement C. Moore, and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Here's an excerpt.

Lovely
by Jon Scieszka

I think that I ain't never seen
A poem ugly as a spleen.

A poem that could mke you shiver,
Like 3.5 . . . pounds of liver.

A poem to make you lose your lunch,
Tie your intestines in a bunch.

A poem all gray, wet, and swollen,
Like a stomach or a colon.

Something like your kidney, lung,
Pancreas, bladder, even tongue.

Why you turning green, good buddy?
It's just human body study.

Poem ©Jon Scieszka. All rights reserved.

The book ends with our young hero waking from a dream, cured of his Science Verse. 
Classic Poetry for Dogs: Why Do I Chase Thee (2014), written by Jessica Swaim and illustrated by Chet Phillips, is a collection of parodies of classic poems told by a group of cultured hounds like William Shakespaw, Elizabeth Basset Browning, Edgar Allan Pug, and many others. You'll find poems like "Shall I Compare Thee to a Steak Fillet?," "Why Do I Chase Thee?," "The Maven," "Song of Me," "Sizing Up Shoes on a Soulful Evening," and many others. Each new section begins with an introduction to the hound-author.

Here is what Swaim writes about Emily Doginson.
Emily Doginson, a skittish saluki mix, loved to spy on passersby from the front window of her family's luxurious digs in Scramherst, Massachusetts. When visitors rang the doorbell, shy Emily retreated to her crate, refusing to emerge except for choice bits of chopped liver. Paper-trained from an early age, she wrote copious letters to the world, most of which were returned for insufficient postage. Ultimately, she selected her own society, then shut the doggy door. 
And here is one of Emily's poems.

Skunk is the Thing With Stink Bombs

Skunk is the thing with stink bombs
That leads a merry chase,
Then turns around and flicks its tail
And squirts me in the face.

Bath is the thing with soapsuds
And water cold as ice.
I wonder as I'm shivering,
Why was I hoodwinked twice?

Text and poem ©Jessica Swaim. All rights reserved.
 
Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers In Classic Poems (2012), written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Michael Slack is a collection of cleverly disguised math problems in the form of parodies of classic poems. Can you guess the classic that inspired this poem?

Once upon a midnight rotten,
Cold, and rainy, I'd forgotten
All about the apple pie
Still cooling from the hour before.
I ignored the frightful stranger
Knocking, knocking . . . I, sleepwalking,
Pitter-pattered toward the pantry,
Took a knife from the kitchen drawer,
And screamed aloud, "How many cuts
Give me ten pieces?" through the door,
          The stranger bellowed, "Never four!"

Go ahead, draw a circle and give it a try! The answer can be found upside-down on the opposing page. (Look it up or figure it out because I'm not telling!) Mathematically you could use four cuts, however, the pieces would not be equal in size.

Here's one more to whet your appetite. Yes, it contains fractions, but be brave!

Edward Lear's Elephant with Hot Dog
Inspired by "There Was An Old Man With a Beard" by Edward Lear 


When an elephant sat down to order
A half of a third of a quarter
     Of an eighty-foot bun
     And a frankfurter, son
Was it longer than three feet, or shorter?

Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

Since I'm highlighting J. Patrick Lewis at the end here, let me follow up with a few more poems. Pat was kind enough to share some parody poems he is working on for a new collection. The original is presented first, then Pat's parody.

Happy Thought  

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson
___________

Sleepy Thought

The world is so full of a number of dreams,
I’m sure all our pillows should burst at the seams.

J. Patrick Lewis


“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson
____________

Grief is the thing with tissues
For mopping up the tears,
So that when you’re in bed at night,
They won’t fill up your ears.

J. Patrick Lewis

Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis, 2015. All rights reserved.


If you are interested in learning more about parody poems, here are a few resources.
That's it for parody. I'll see you back here tomorrow for poems of apology.

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