Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Of Standardized Testing and Birding


 

We're doing standardized testing this week. It's been a long time since we've done any, because last year the pandemic began right before we would normally have done it. I'm sure many schools are in the same boat right now. The kids can't remember how it works to sit still and fill in bubbles with number 2 pencils, and maybe aren't too thrilled to learn about that now.


I recognize the benefits of having some data to track kids through their years in our school, and also to see how we're doing in our instruction, but I also remember very well that this time last year, many were saying that skipping testing was the best thing that could have happened to all of us. Do you remember that? Or was I just thinking those things in my head? 


The other thing I wanted to write about this week was birding, because Saturday was Global Big Day, which takes place every year in the second weekend in May. Birders around the world go out and see what they can see, keeping track of how many species they can find in 24 hours. It's a particularly good time to do this because it's at the peak of spring migration (in the northern hemisphere). And as I thought about these two topics, standardized testing and birding, I started to see some connections.


Our kids aren't standardized, not at all. Each one of them is unique and different. So comparing them to each other, or to kids across many schools, is of only limited value. What if, when I was looking at birds on Saturday, I had compared them to each other? What if I had decided that some were more valuable than others, or more skillful, or just plain better? What if I had placed each in a percentile, a chain of being in which, say, a Mourning Dove didn't get quite as many points because there are plenty of them around, or a White-necked Crow got marked down because of how very noisy it is? 


In the class for which I was proctoring on Monday morning, there were all kinds of kids. There was a cartoonist. There were several skilled soccer players. There were some excellent gamers. There were some great readers, and some other kids who have trouble sitting still long enough to read anything, but who have other strengths. Maybe they don't know about those strengths yet, or maybe they know perfectly well, but haven't revealed them to their teachers yet. Many of the students in that room were taking the test in their third language. All have been through a couple of extremely challenging years, living here in Haiti through a time of political, security, and medical crisis. Ranking them wouldn't make any more sense than ranking the beautiful birds I peered at through my binoculars on Saturday. 


There's nothing wrong with testing students, as long as we realize that evaluation is only one of our goals. Maybe we should also take some time to just appreciate them, in all their variety. Maybe that kid who couldn't seem to focus his attention on his test booklet won't do brilliantly on this particular test, but there is still something to appreciate about him. The testing may help me learn how to teach him better, but I also need to remember that the results are only one aspect of the humanity of this child. 


One of the things that's so great about birding is discovering the variety of birds that exist. The more differences we see, the happier we are. We stop, and stand still, and look, and say "Wow." We let the birds teach us about themselves as we stay quiet and observe. Let's do that with our students, too.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Reading Update

Book #34 of the year was The Overstory, by Richard Powers. This is a novel about trees and people who love them. There was a lot in this book that I loved, but there was also just a lot in this book. Ultimately I think some of the characters and some of the events could have been cut out without the book losing much. I don't mind books being enormously long, but I like everything there to feel as though it needs to be there. I did enjoy the writing about trees.

 

Book #35 was Just Like That, by Gary D. Schmidt. I have been waiting for this book for a long time. My family and I, and several years of seventh grade classes, really enjoyed Schmidt's book The Wednesday Wars, about a seventh grade class, and specifically a kid in the class called Holling Hoodhood, in the 1967-68 school year. The sequel to that book, Okay for Now, is about another kid in the class, Doug Swieteck, who moves to a new town at the end of seventh grade. Several years ago I read in an interview with Schmidt that he was going to write another novel about a girl in the class, Meryl Lee. This is that book. I loved many things about this book, but I didn't love it as much as I had hoped. Maybe I had built it up too much in my mind. For one thing, I could hardly get over the revelation in the first chapter, and I don't know if I've forgiven Schmidt for it yet. (Sorry, I'm not going to tell you what it is.) For another, it seemed as though this was two separate books. (That insight comes from my daughter, and she's absolutely right.) It's definitely not as perfectly crafted as Holling's and Doug's books, but I do love Meryl Lee. 


Book #36 was Lovely War, by Julie Berry. A friend recommended this in the context of Iliad/Odyssey retellings. This isn't exactly that, but it is a story of World War I told by a group of Greek gods, each admitting his or her part in the plot development. Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, and Hades talk about how love, war, music, and death work together in the lives of the characters. There are interesting themes like racism in the military at this period, USO performers, and PTSD. I did enjoy this one.

 

Book #37 was a reread, Fire, by Kristin Cashore. I think I enjoyed this book just as much as the first time I read it, described here.

 

Book #38 was The Wright Sister, by Patty Dann. It's the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright's sister, Katharine. While this is based on true events, it's not really an effort to be accurate to the historical truth. The author read about Katharine getting married in her fifties, and that after her marriage, her brother Orville never spoke to her again. While I really enjoyed the book and found it convincing, I was disappointed to learn at the end that the author hadn't done much research at all on the actual story. I really do want to know more about Katharine. 

 

Book #39 was a verse novel, Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo. It's set partly in the Dominican Republic (the neighboring country to Haiti, where I live) and partly in New York City. The title comes from the fact that Dominicans clap when a plane lands at the airport in their country. Haitians do, too, so this detail really grabbed my attention. There's also an important Haitian character in the story, and I enjoyed that, too. The book is about a plane crash. A Dominican man who dies in the crash has two daughters, one in DR and one in New York. The girls don't know about each other. This story completely drew me in and did a great job of exploring the differences in the lives of these two girls, based solely on where they were born and the circumstances of those different geographical places.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Poetry Friday: The Poet Laureate Writes

In April as Americans were celebrating National Poetry Month, the British had another poetic occasion: the death of their 99 year old Prince Consort. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was celebrated in many ways after his death on April 9th. One of the ways was by having a poem written by the official Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Simon Armitage. 


The role of Poet Laureate is a time-honored one in Great Britain. It has been held by many famous men (and one woman) since 1668: to name just some, Dryden, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Hughes, and Carol Ann Duffy. It used to be that the Poet Laureate was required to write about all the royal occasions, but now there is no official job description. (You can read about that, and various other FAQ, here.) So Armitage wasn't required to write about Philip's death, but he chose to, anyway.

 

Writing about royal events is a bit more of a tricky proposition than it used to be. There are mixed feelings about royalty in the United Kingdom these days. I read several articles during the funeral period about how the BBC had received many complaints about their coverage being too long and extensive. But of course, there are others who couldn't possibly get enough royal coverage.

 

I thought Simon Armitage hit a nice compromise with his poem, in which he eulogized (or eulogised, as they spell it in England) not just Philip, but his generation. The poem begins this way:

 

The Patriarchs - An Elegy

by Simon Armitage

 

The weather in the window this morning

is snow, unseasonal singular flakes,

a slow winter's final shiver. On such an occasion

to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up

for a whole generation - that crew whose survival 

was always the stuff of minor miracle,

who came ashore in orange-crate coracles,

fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea

with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.

 

You can read the rest here. And/or, you can listen to it as you watch this video released by the Royal Family, including photos of Philip from throughout his long life.




Of course, many towns and cities and countries and other bodies have Poet Laureates, too. Who's your favorite Poet Laureate of the past or present? And do you think you'd like a job where you're supposed to write poems for official events? Would you thrive with all those built-in poetry prompts, or would it give you writer's block?

 

You can see this week's roundup here.

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Blossoms of Joy

 


This month's host, Carol Varsalona, has asked that we reflect on Blossoms of Joy. (You can see everyone else's posts at that link.) I have already been reflecting on blossoms, because at this time of year, our flamboyant trees (poinciana) are starting to be in bloom here in Haiti. They aren't anywhere near as bright and beautiful as they will be in a month or so, but they are starting.  This past week I took a picture of the first flowers on our campus and wrote a haiku to go along with it.



You can see pictures of the flamboyant in more dramatic colors, as well as a poem I wrote about these gorgeous trees, here

 

I really do see these blossoms as a gift from God each year.  And the blue air mail paper, in my childhood, was a joyous thing, as I spent so much time in a different country from people I loved. Those blue air mail letters appearing in the mail were always welcome. It's something my own children haven't even experienced, not because they aren't in a different country from people they love (they are), but because air mail letters seem to be a thing of the past. They are much more likely to do an online chat instead.


Flowering trees are a wonderful thing no matter where you live; probably every location has some that are particularly treasured. In Tokyo, it's the sakura (cherry blossoms). I reveled in the beautiful photos again this year, some in the news, and some taken by people I know who live there. But I also got a little bit of a shiver when I read that they were early this year. Not just early - the earliest ever. And lest you think that means the earliest in some weatherperson's life, no. They have been keeping records for twelve hundred years. When they say it's the earliest ever, they mean it. (Here's an article about that.)


Sakura blooms pink

Festival dates changed this year

Spring warmth came early.


The blossoms still brought joy. We can feel more than one thing at a time.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: Graduation Speeches


Any teacher knows that there's a lot going on at this time of year, as we head into the last few weeks of school. This weird 2020-21 school year is no exception, and I've been thinking about and working on ways to end with just the right mix of normal and festive. 


The other day, our Head of School stepped into my classroom and added something else to my to-do list. Had I been thinking about the 8th grade promotion, he wondered? Usually, my 8th graders end the year with a speech unit, in which the culminating activity is to write and deliver a graduation speech. Then the kids vote on the best speeches, the ones they'd like to be part of their class promotion to high school. (None of this is my idea; I shamelessly stole it from the wonderful Nancie Atwell.) 


This year, everything is different. We have a whole different curriculum we're using, chosen by our administrators to accommodate the hybrid style in which we began the year. I have half as long each day with my 8th graders as I did last year. Almost all of the ways I usually do my teaching have been jettisoned (and while some great new ways have emerged from this, and I'm proud of how I've made the best of it, in general, I yearn for how it all used to work). 


So I was pretty happy when my administrator told me he'd like the 8th graders to write and deliver speeches for their promotion, as usual. He called the kids' work a highlight of past years and said that he can always tell I've worked hard with them. That made me feel great, and encouraged me to incorporate getting ready to start working on the speeches into this week's lesson plans. Already I've been enjoying what I always love about this assignment as the kids have been brainstorming things they remember from their years at our school. Their whole middle school time has been strange, since Haiti had lockdowns (for political reasons) before the rest of the world joined in when the pandemic started.


It's great to get to showcase the students' work and to celebrate what they've achieved so far in their academic careers as we get ready to say goodbye to them and send them upstairs to high school. And I'm excited that speeches from my class will be part of it.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: NPM Spring Cleaning Day 30, Happiness

 

It's the last day of National Poetry Month. I'm pretty proud of myself for posting every day this month. Most of my posts fit into my Spring Cleaning plans, writing about tabs I had open on my desktop so that I could then close them. I had sooooo many tabs open. I still have more than some people would be comfortable with, but I have way fewer than when the month began. 


One thing I noticed right away as I was categorizing my tabs was that I had a lot about happiness. I'm fascinated by happiness: what makes people happy, how much of happiness is a choice, how much it's related to physical well-being or living in privileged circumstances. I always read the studies that measure happiness from one country to another (like these on the World Happiness Report). I'm thrilled to know that birds make people happy. (Here's another good one on that.) And I had this article open too, on how becoming a beginner at something can make you happy (I picked birding). 

 

Something else that makes me happy is poetry. I've posted so many happiness poems in the past, like this onethis one, and this one.

 

Language makes me happy. This month, Tabatha asked for bilingual poems, and I wrote one that she has on her Poetry Friday post today. 

 

Another thing that makes me happy is celebrating. That's why I always try to stretch out my birthday as long as I can. And last week was my blog birthday. Fifteen years, and the traditional gift for fifteen years is crystal, so I asked people to leave poems about crystals. Here's what I got in the comments:

 

from Jama:

 


 

from Linda Baie:


for Ruth, for her 15th blogiversary

a crystal for healing
a crystal for stars
a crystal that sparkles
wherever you are
a crystal that pleases
a crystal for smiles
I wish you these crystals
to wish on a while

Linda B ©

 

and from Laura Salas:

 

Brinicle

Arctic Ocean,
dark, vast
water cave guarded by an
arc of sea ice above

Ceiling recedes,
feeds salt to the deep
Super-saltwater ribbon flows,
grows, and sinks

Stalactite
with a frigid core
wears a crystal
cloak of ice

Brinicle gushes,
rushing down to the
sea floor,
an icy finger of death

© Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved


And edited on Friday afternoon to add this golden shovel poem from Michelle Kogan, using a line from Jama's song as a strike line!


CRYSTALFILLED VIBRATION
For Ruth on her 15th Blogosphere Birthday

Illuminating from 1,000 points, crystal
sparkling blue
luminous light of pure persuasion.
It satisfies, mmhmm
basic human calls, desires, it’s
all we need—A
love for peace, and new
found, hope-filled, world-movement full of vibration!


© 2021 Michelle Kogan

 

Edited Sunday afternoon to add this anniversary gift from Heidi Mordhorst, a poem about spring cleaning and realizing how much is really necessary:

 

classroom, you are my second home
my queendom
my domain of wild imagination
and utter control
you are the box which I may think outside of
the envelope which I daily push
you are a magic hat of rabbits and bouquets
called caterpillars minnows
diamonds and pandas

you contain multitudes
all the small packages of life come to
burst my boundaries and
draw erase redraw the essential lines
of faces bodies lead and follow
you are my petri dish of blue-green molding
my clear plastic cup of kindergarten carrot seed
my test tube of dirty living creek water
my chrysalis of compare and contrast
my stone soup of democratic socialism

you swallow me.

I am drowned
simmered baked consumed
I am the Little Red Hen
married for better or worse to
doing it all by myself

and the truth is, it’s not me, it’s you.

I am leaving you and the breakup
is a long messy self-sliced surgery
of many stages and sloppy stitches
oozing wounds and second thoughts
but there is no other way

no graceful ending
no grateful celebration
only touching each paper book artful idea
only shouting at myself “throw it away”
only piles of planbooks
to mark the work we did

which I will
hold on
hold on
hold on to
while I let go and
finish growing out of

into

 

Thanks so much for these gifts, and for the other birthday wishes, too! They made me happy!

 

Here's what I posted this past week. On Saturday I shared an all-prompt post. On Sunday I shared a poem by Marie Howe, plus two others that went with it on the subject of despair. Monday was a miscellaneous day, with lots of links that didn't fit in anywhere else in my Spring Cleaning. On Tuesday I had an original poem, "Ordinary Birds." On Wednesday I posted a poem and link about friendship.  And yesterday I shared the Richard Wilbur poem "Year's End."

 

Today the Progressive Poem ends:

 

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All 

 


 
And here's a roundup of some of the amazing, creative projects going on during NPM this year. 

 

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup! 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

NPM Spring Cleaning Day 29, Year's End

 

I think this Richard Wilbur poem, "Year's End," has been open on my desktop since, well, the year's end. 2020, that is.  I decided to share it as this National Poetry Month ends. This is a poem about unexpected endings, when you thought you'd have more time, but suddenly you don't. It references Pompeii. "These sudden ends of time must give us pause," it says.


One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm very attuned to endings, often more than to beginnings. Although, as Karen Blixen says in the movie "Out of Africa," "I'm better at hello," I seem to have more experience of goodbye. Although that makes no sense, since in order to say goodbye you have to have said hello. Let's just say that the goodbyes pile up. Because of all the endings, I try to say what needs to be said, to avoid postponing joy, as my Aunt Margie used to say. Because you just never know when your time will be over.


So go read the poem, here at month's end.

 

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Do you have a poem in your pocket? For that purpose, I don't think I can improve on the Emily Dickinson one I used in 2018.
 
 
 
This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 

 

 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

NPM Spring Cleaning Day 28, Holding Hands

 

This poem called "Holding Hands" has been open on my desktop since November of 2020. We really do need each other. 

 

The poem goes well with this article about a wonderful friendship, also a long-term open tab. But not now that I've put it here in a Spring Cleaning post!

 

This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 

And here's a roundup of some of the amazing, creative projects going on during NPM this year.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Slice of Life Tuesday: NPM Day 27, Ordinary Birds

 

This year for National Poetry Month, I've been writing about tabs I have open on my desktop, and then - I know it's revolutionary - closing those tabs! I've done a remarkable job closing tabs, and I'm pretty pleased with myself. But there are some bird tabs still open. Some of them are going to stay open, like eBird (I use it constantly). And my Bird Academy tab (some courses I'm taking) will stay. But I could probably close this one: Cities: How Do Some Birds Thrive There? And maybe this one: BirdsCaribbean. And this one from March 2020 on how birds would make it easier to get through lockdown.

 

I decided that since my bird tabs aren't strictly speaking poetry tabs, I'd write a bird poem to represent them. And since this is a Slice of Life post, what better subject than Ordinary Birds?

 

Ordinary Birds


The ordinary birds matter most,
the ones you see every day,
the ones that come to mind when you think the word “bird,”
the bird sounds you knew before you paid attention to bird sounds,

just as the meals you eat every day
matter more than Thanksgiving Dinner
when it comes to keeping you alive.

For me, birding here in Port-au-Prince,
the city birds like the Rock Pigeons matter most,
the House Sparrows and Mourning Doves,
the noisy Palmchats.
The Bananaquits and the Black-crowned Palm Tanagers
matter most.

Someone who grew up here
tells me that when he was a child,
he used to see flamingos downtown,
and when I hear that I long for a flash of bright pink
as I’m commuting.
But how would I even know that was unusual
unless I knew my ordinary, everyday birds?

The White-necked Crows squawking in that tree
matter most,
the Hispaniolan Woodpecker, handsome in yellow and black,
matters most.

Look up now.
What do you see?
That’s what matters most.

 


This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 

Monday, April 26, 2021

NPM Spring Cleaning Day 26, Miscellaneous

 

I've been told it's never a good idea to have a file or a drawer or a box marked "Miscellaneous." It just becomes a place to dump things so you don't have to organize properly. You know, like when you're moving, and you've reached the point in the process where you hate all your possessions and want to just take them all to the dumpster. Instead of doing that (because you know you'll regret it), you put everything left into a box marked "Miscellaneous." I have done that many times, and I also have a folder in my email account called "Miscellaneous" and a desktop folder on my computer with the same non-helpful name. 


And now, a Miscellaneous blog post! That's because there are some tabs still open that don't fit readily into any of the other posts I've published or planned. But I don't want to close them without writing about them so that I can find them later. 


So here goes.


Jama's posts are always amazing, but this one, I just couldn't close. The tab's been open for ten months! I'm warning you; if you open it the same thing will happen to you. Here it is, if you dare: Strawberries: A Taste of Something Wild and Sweet.

 

Until I read this post from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater in May of 2019, I had never thought of this way of teaching about line breaks. Take a poem and reproduce it on a sheet or on the screen. Work with kids to break it up into lines. If it rhymes, it's easy. The rhyme generally is at the end of the line. But what if it doesn't? It's your choice where you break the line, but some choices are definitely more effective than others.

 

This post, a pdf by Tabatha Yeatts of poems about peace, has been open even longer, since April of 2019. It's so great, all ready to print out and make into a booklet. 

 

This is a presentation from Heidi Mordhorst on helping very young children write poetry. Do I even teach very young children? I do not. But this is so good, I just can't close it! 


Ross Gay wrote this poem, "A Small Needful Fact," about Eric Garner. You should definitely read it.

 

In September of 2020, Karen Edmisten posted this Emily Dickinson poem, and somehow it was so perfect for September of 2020 that I just kept it open on my desktop from then on, eternally. Amen. (But not any more. Closed, closed, closed!)

 

See that, six more tabs, getting closed! It's a National Poetry Month miracle! 

 

This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 
 
   

 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

NPM Spring Cleaning Day 25, What the Living Do

 

I don't remember why I opened this tab or when, but I've had Marie Howe's poem "What the Living Do" on my desktop for a while. Howe talks in the poem to someone named Johnny, detailing some of the mundane tasks of her everyday life. Johnny, I think, is no longer living. She says to him, about life, "What you finally gave up." 


What the Living Do

Marie Howe


Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up


waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.

...


I've been thinking: This is what the living do.

 

Here's the rest. 

 

 

I have two poems, not on my desktop but in my inbox, that seem to go well with this one. Both came in the Poem-a-Day email from Poets.org this month, and I forwarded both to people because they struck me so forcefully. One is "Bobolink," by Didi Jackson. The other is "The Little Book of Cheerful Thoughts," by Jeffrey Harrison. 

 

One thing the living do is to hold on to friends who are depressed, and to try to give them reasons why living is the best choice. 

 

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

NPM Spring Cleaning Day 24, Prompts

 

Nobody can predict what is going to start a creative spark. But as I've been Spring Cleaning the open tabs on my desktop during this National Poetry Month, one thing I've noticed is that lots, lots of the tabs that are open are prompts and articles that I want to write about. I've written about some of them during this month, but there are still lots more open, so I decided to do an all-prompt post. Who knows? Maybe I will come back and write about them, and maybe some one else will get inspired by one or two of them too.


In October 2019, Tabatha posted this poem called "If I Could Write Like Tolstoy." She wrote her own poem in this same vein, called "If I Could Write Like Edgar Allan Poe." Ever since then, I've had this tab open, and a plan to do my own "If I Could Write Like..." poem. I even tried one this past week. I called it "If I Could Write Like the U.S. Embassy," and it was about travel advisories. Haiti was already at Level 4, which is the worst of the worst, the "Do Not Travel" category. Nevertheless the Embassy managed to strengthen their cries of "Stay Away!" Now we have four official reasons Not To Come Here. Not only that, but the State Department is telling Americans not to travel to 80% of the world. For most of these places, the prohibition is COVID-related. Well, turns out it's easy to write like the U.S. Embassy - just go on and on about how bad everywhere is. But it didn't make much of a poem -- not yet, anyway. To be revisited.

 

Another open link from Tabatha is this list of mentor poems from December 2019. Lots of what seemed inspiring to her also seemed inspiring to me!

 

Margaret posts a new photo each Wednesday to inspire writing in her feature "This Photo Wants to Be a Poem." From that feature, I saved this photo from May last year. I really want to write about it!

 

In September 2019 Laura Shovan posted this great prompt. Lots of people wrote about it, but I didn't, just filed it away for later. 


The Time is Now at Poets & Writers magazine has weekly writing prompts. 


I've lost track of the origin of this one, but a few months ago, everyone was writing poems using new words from their year of birth, using this Time Traveler tool from Merriam-Webster.

 

Here's a Call for Poems posted by Jan. 


So there you go! And now I can close all these tabs!


This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 
 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Poetry Friday: NPM Spring Cleaning Day 23, Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

 

Today I've been blogging for fifteen years. Happy Blog Birthday to me!

 

I love having this little spot on the internet that's mine. I love writing down what I'm thinking about and reading. I love being part of a community of bloggers. I've made friends through blogging I never would have met any other way. Fifteen years of regular blogging, more regular at some times than others, but mostly regular: this is something that has given me so much joy through these years. I'm proud of sticking with it. 


I couldn't decide how to celebrate my blog birthday, but I knew that fifteen years deserved some kind of celebration. Then I read this post over at the TeachingAuthors blog, which is celebrating twelve years of blogging. Esther Hershenhorn wrote that the gift for twelve years is silk. That's it, I thought! I'll look up the gift for fifteen years!


The gift for fifteen years is crystal, and since it's National Poetry Month and Poetry Friday, I'm giving myself some crystal poems. You may read them too, Reader. And have some cake. 


Here's Lines to Some Crystallized Violets, by Marvin Solomon. Sounds sort of festive and delicious, don't you think? I've never had crystallized violets, but I do keep a container of crystallized ginger by my stove and I often add a couple of pieces to a plain cup of tea.

 

And here's And Later...  by Jen Bryant, who writes of a kaleidoscope:

 

letting the crystals shift into strange 

and beautiful patterns, letting the pieces fall

wherever they will.


And here's Releasing a Tree, by Thomas Reiter, in which the crystals are snow:

 

Those grace notes

of the snowfall, crystals giving off

copper, green, rose—watching them

I stumble over a branch, go down

and my gloves fill with snow.

 

But I think my favorite crystal poem I found was this one:

 

What to Count On

by Peggy Shumaker

 

Not one star, not even the half moon         
       on the night you were born
Not the flash of salmon
       nor ridges on blue snow
Not the flicker of raven’s
       never-still eye
Not breath frozen in fine hairs
       beading the bull moose’s nostril
Not one hand under flannel
       warming before reaching
Not burbot at home under Tanana ice
       not burbot pulled up into failing light
Not the knife blade honed, not the leather sheath
Not raw bawling in the dog yard
       when the musher barks gee
Not the gnawed ends of wrist-thick sticks
       mounded over beaver dens
Not solar flares scouring the earth over China
Not rime crystals bearding a sleek cheek of snow
Not six minutes more of darkness each day
Not air water food words touch
Not art
Not anything we expect
Not anything we expect to keep
Not anything we expect to keep us alive

Not the center of the sea
Not the birthplace of the waves
Not the compass too close to true north to guide us

Then with no warning
       flukes of three orcas
                 rise, arc clear of sea water



Do you notice that most of that poem is about what not to count on? I think that's kind of perfect for this fifteenth birthday, remembering what not to count on, and then reflecting on what to count on, all the time wondering how to fix the formatting of the post. That's blogging, right? Thank you, Readers! Thanks for reading, and commenting, and coming back again. If you wish, leave me a comment with a birthday greeting or a poem with crystals in it!
 
 
 
This is the ninth year of the Progressive Poem! See the schedule below to find where to go for today's line and to see who's participating this year.

April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All
 

 

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

NPM Day 22, Progressive Poem is Here!

Today it's my turn to host the Progressive Poem. This is a fun tradition that's in its ninth year, and I've participated each year! This year, like last, each poet is writing two lines, so that the next person can choose between them.



April 1 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All

 

Leigh Ann Eck gave me two lines to choose from:

 

We paddle and paddle to the island we see.


or


Ahh! Here comes a wave--let's hold on tight!

  

I chose the second line.

 

Every year, my kids give me helpful suggestions. One year, my daughter said my line should be "Suddenly, ninjas!" And this year my son offered: "But that was before the darkness came." I decided not to follow their advice (though I was tempted).

 

I wrote my two lines, one a little more abstract and one that went in a more concrete direction.  Leigh Ann had mentioned wanting to get back to kindness, where the poem began, and I shared that desire, so I tried to do that in my first line. Here they are:


To the boat, to kindness, to friendship's delight

 

or


Splashing and laughing, let's play until night!

 

If Janice chooses the first one, she can leave off the exclamation mark from Leigh Ann's line.


 

So here's the poem so far, without my line (waiting for Janice to add the one she picks):

 

I’m a case of kindness – come and catch me if you can!

Easily contagious – sharing smiles is my plan.

I'll spread my joy both far and wide

As a force of nature, I’ll be undenied. 


Words like, "how can I help?" will bloom in the street.

A new girl alone on the playground – let’s meet, let’s meet!

We can jump-skip together in a double-dutch round.

Over, under, jump and wonder, touch the ground.


Friends can be found when you open a door.

Side by side, let’s walk through, there’s a world to explore.

We’ll hike through a forest of towering trees.

Find a stream we can follow while we bask in the breeze.


Pull off our shoes and socks, dip our toes in the icy spring water

When you’re with friends, there’s no have to or oughter.

What could we make with leaves and litter?

Let's find pine needles, turn into vine knitters.


We'll lie on our backs and find shapes in the sky.

We giggle together: See the bird! Now we fly?

Inspired by nature, our imaginations soar.

Follow that humpback! Here, take an oar.

 

Ahh! Here comes a wave -- let's hold on tight!

 

 

It's your turn, Janice!