Poetry Friday: Takedown Launch

Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Michelle’s blog to join the poetry party.

Greetings and salutations, friends. Happy Poetry Friday!

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my second book for children, TAKEDOWN. (Read a review at the Nerdy Book Club.)

I think of this novel as a friendship story set in the world of youth wrestling.It’s told by two sixth graders: Mikayla, who wants to be a wrestler like her older brothers — until their coach says a girl won’t cut it on his team; and Lev, who is determined to beat his nemesis and make it to the state wrestling championship. Neither one of them is happy when they end up on the same team … as training partners.

The book covers the story of their season, how Mickey and Lev learn to work together.

Though this book is written in prose, its genesis began with poetic sketches.

Wrestling sketches from 2010!

I used to sit with my notebook at my son’s wrestling practices and tournaments, writing down what I observed. I couldn’t *not* include some poetry, so I gave my wrestling notebook to Lev. When he needs some downtime between matches, you’ll find him sitting at the top of the bleachers with a notebook in his lap and a pen in his hand, writing.

Lev has a handful of poems in the book. Here is one that came out of those early poetic sketches. Wrestling season is in the winter. Athletes often spend one or both days of their weekend at tournaments, arriving for weigh-ins before first light, and leaving (if they wrestle well) as the sun sets. This is Lev’s draft of a poem he’s working on for school.

Wrestlers Are Vampires
By Laura Shovan, from TAKEDOWN

Wrestlers are vampires.
Gyms are their caves.
They shut the doors,
stay locked inside,
and don’t come out
until day submits to night.
Wrestlers are vampires.
They never see the sun.
They push your face
into the mat until
your nose oozes blood.
They crush you flat,
break you down, bury you.
***

If you’re local to the Baltimore/DC area, I hope to see you at the book launch event this Sunday, 12 pm. The Ivy Bookshop is hosting.  Launch details and the address are here. We’ve got something really special planned.

10% off both books if you buy one, donate one.

Don’t know anything about wrestling? We’ve got you covered! Young athletes from Beat the Streets Baltimore will be on-hand to give a wrestling demonstration. We’re running a “Buy a Book/Donate a Book to Beat the Streets” program, so kids at Beat the Streets summer camps will receive a copy of the book.

Because food is very important to wrestlers, we’re going to have Lev and Mickey’s favorite tournament day treats: Twizzlers and donuts. ASL interpretation will be provided.

Thanks for all of your support during this book’s progress, Poetry Friday friends. It’s been two years since I first shared a poem from TAKEDOWN, which was not even a complete draft! You can read “Tournament Rap” here.

A Gallery of Poems

It’s time to say goodbye to Northfield Elementary, friends. Last week was our poetry celebration and tomorrow is the last day of school.

Our third grade poets wrote list poems based on a model from Naomi Shihab Nye, odes to their favorite places, and retold fairy tales. At the celebration, I get to see the polished, revised poems for the first time. Some of them have such wonderful accompanying artwork that I had to share. So the final post from this year’s residency will be a poetry art gallery!

Click each image to read the poem.

Words in My Room — List poem by Ashley

Ode to a Water Drop — by Michael

Words in My Violin Case — List poem by Yuval

Ode to Watercolor — by A. J.

I hope your summer is filled with poetry and fun! Look for a new post soon with details about the launch event for my new book, TAKEDOWN.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

 

Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time

Karen Edminsten is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week. Stop by her blog for poetry news, reviews, and original poems from around the kidlitosphere.

Hi, Poetry Friday friends. Welcome back to my series of posts from Northfield Elementary’s third grade poetry residency.

It’s day two of our fractured fairy tale poems. In the last post, I described the beginning of our workshop. Today’s I’m sharing the brainstorming worksheet I use for this lesson. The key to this poem is really digging into secondary character’s point of view. If the prince could tell his version of “Cinderella” — how might the story be different? How does he feel about the events of the fairy tale?

The third grade poets had a lot of fun thinking about which fairy tale characters were itching to tell their side of things. Much like a persona poem, this exercise taps into many children’s sense of empathy — understanding and resonating with someone else’s situation and emotions.

As you will see, the students really got into the voices of these characters!

Poet: Christopher

The Wrong Beans

One upon a time, in a far, far land
there was a wizard who was the fox
in most fairy tales.

He was a trickster.
He finds someone, someone special,
and pranks them with his plan.
“I’m the real villain everyone should fear.”

Then this, “Jack was in front of me
and I gave him the beans of death.

I walked home, proud
until I realized, I gave the boy
the wrong beans, the beans that the boy
would just plant.

Then, Jack got famous
for the mistake I made. I’m so mad!

I hate Jack! I hate him so much.
If I ever see him, I’ll curse him,
curse him better than I did before.”
***

Poet: Mouniksai 

Brick House

Ha! Those little pigs!
They thought they could stay safe just by building with twigs.

They built as fast as they do in Fortnite.
Then the straw house got destroyed during the night.

Then came the sticks.
Oh, those poor little pigs.

Then came me,
as strong as could be.

Because of my owner and I.

Those pigs came begging to let them in.
So, of course, we let them in.

The wolf came.
His breath also came.

It smelled
horrible and terrible.

I can see why those houses died, but I am stronger
because of my owner and I. And I’m boss.
***

Poet: Sophia 

I Never Liked Cinderella

I never liked Cinderella.
My dad wanted me to marry her, not me!
It was NOT my decision!
In my mind, I actually thought her stepsister
was quite pretty.
I didn’t get the glass slipper.
My dad pushed me to and down the stairs.
And I hurt myself even MORE
when I tripped over the glass shoe thingy.
I said I would arrest
whoever the shoe belonged to, but noooo!
The news got it all wrong!
I didn’t want to marry her!
But when my dad said he was proud
of what he thought was my decision
I didn’t want to let my father down.
***

Poet: Grayson 

One Fine Day 

One fine day
my first day on the job
I’m feeling stressed.

Someone was calling my name.
“Hunter! Hunter!

My grandma is
being eaten by a wolf.”

Okay. Um…
um… um.

I did not
bring my gun.

Ugh. This is
the worst day of my life!

Actually, do I ever bring
my fun? Never mind that!

I’d never had
someone eaten by

a wolf.

Let me run
back to the office!
***

Poet: William

Jack and the Beanstalk Poem
from Jack’s Mom’s Point of View

He gave someone our cow.
Planted beans in our yard.
I wonder how this day
could get any worse.
I wish I could ground him
and make him get rid
of that ugly beanstalk mess.
I won’t let him play
or have any fun.
I’ll make him do the dishes
and all of my chores.
***

Poet: Justin

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a mom
who sent her son out to sell a cow for money.
After a long time, she got mad.
“Fifty days later, Jack still isn’t back!” she screamed.
She was mad. She went out to find him.
Later, she found him in a fight with a giant.
“What the heck did he do?” she thought.
She screamed up the huge beanstalk,
“Jack, get down here!”
Then Jack came with a ton of gold.
“Okay, let’s go,” said Jack.
“We’re rich!” the mom screamed.
Jack was grounded for a month,
but they were rich.
***

Poet: Carter 

“The Story of Hansel and Gretel” by The Candy House

One day in the forest,
I was just sitting there
minding my own business.
And then out of nowhere,
two kids walked out of the forest
and their names were Hansel and Gretel.
They see me and I see them.
Then they ran up and started to eat me.
I was as in pain as a person dying
from getting his skin ripped off.
I was in pain so bad, I rang the doorbell.
And the witch that owned me
came out and told them to come in.
So they came in, but I did not know
what happened. But when Hansel
and Gretel came out, they were fat
and the which died in my cook burner.
***

Thanks to the Northfield teachers and families for permission to share the third graders’ poems online.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Fractured Fairy Tale Poems

Hello, poetry friends! Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School.

Today, the third graders are sharing some of their fractured fairy tale poems. This is an exercise in point of view.

We started the workshop by gathering in groups, each assigned to a classic fairy tale. The students brainstormed a list of characters in, for example, Jack and the Beanstalk — characters who never get to tell their side of the story.

Marilyn Singer’s MIRROR MIRROR is a must-have for your children’s poetry shelf. More info here.

Our model poem for this workshop was “Bears in the News,” from Marilyn Singer’s wonderful book of reverso poems, Mirror Mirror. The students were awed by this form! You can read Marilyn’s description of the form here.

From there, our imaginations were off and running. As you can see, the poets had a lot of fun getting into their retellings and the voices of their characters.

Poet: Ben

The Three Little Pigs

The wolf is looking for building supplies
to build his house. He is happy
that he will be able to build his house
and guilty that he destroyed the pigs houses.
He will help rebuild them a house.
The pigs become his friends and neighbors.

***

Poet: Nico

Beanstalk

A long, long climb
by a guy named Jack.
He weighs a ton
like an anvil in a pack.
If I could,
I would make him fall down.
He would go far
but hit the ground.
Unfortunately, I can’t.
I’m just a beanstalk.
I’m frozen still.
I can’t even talk.
So he got off me.
Wait. He’s got an ax.
He’s chopping me.
Get off. I’m not a tree.

***

Poet: Ethan

The Wizard

Once upon a time
I’m not a real wizard.
They think I am.
I don’t want to lie
about who I am.
I’m not scientific.
They think I am terrific.
Just why do I lie.
Yes, I will confess.
It makes so much sense.

***

Everyone in Ms. Zimmer’s class was *wowed* when Julia stood up and sang her retelling of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Poet: Julia

Revenge of the Little Lamb

Please get your hands off me
hands off me
hands off me.
Please get your hands off me
or else I will bite you.

I will follow you to school
you to school
you to school.
I will follow you to school
to trash your classroom.

I am trashing your classroom
your classroom
your classroom.
I am trashing your classroom
then going to the cafeteria.

I am in the cafeteria
the cafeteria
the cafeteria.
I am in the cafeteria
and eating all your food.

Revenge is sweet. It really is.

***

Poet: Ellis

A Tiny Human Boy

I was sleeping when my wife
let in a tiny human boy.
He was about three feet tall
and I out-matched him 50 to 1.
He found the family vault
and started looting it.
My wife was nowhere near
enough to stop them.
But when he was getting coins out,
he dropped one to the floor
and if anything can wake me up
it’s money. I chased him
across my yard and he climbed down
a small beanstalk.
But when I was halfway down
he cut it and I fell all the way down
and I died. But then in giant heaven
I launched missiles
and killed all the humans.

Thanks once again to the Northfield community for allowing me to publish the third graders’ poems.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.

Tomorrow is the poetry celebration at Northfield Elementary School. The student poets are welcoming family and friends for a reading and poetry tour of the five third grade classrooms.

I’ve been doing an elementary school workshop on odes for many years. This time around, I swapped out my usual model poem and got these poets writing odes to a favorite place. The mentor for this workshop is “Harlem Is the Capital of My World,” from Tony Medina’s wonderful picture book/verse biography of Langston Hughes, LOVE TO LANGSTON. You can find the poem and links related to this lesson at my last post.

The first two poems I’m sharing today use the mentor text as a scaffold, keeping some of the rhythm and structure, but focusing on a topic of the poets’ choosing.

Poet: Amelia 

My Room

My room is the center of my heart.
When I get home I hear
the hummingbirds outside my window
flying as fast as a cheetah runs.
And I touch my stuffed animals
then I remember how dreadful
I would be without them,
and I smell their lavender scent.
And smells like the forest,
right outside my house.
When I lay on my bed, I see my desk.
Without it, I would not get my homework done
and I would get suspended from school
and I would live alone on the street.
And when I get home from school,
I get out my hidden gummi bears.
Without them, I would starve to death.

The King of Beds.
The Duke of Stuffytown.
The Empress of Color.

My room is the center of my heart.

***

Poet: Joyce

My Favorite Place to Visit Is Italy

Wonderful scents wafting through the air.
Pizza and pasta smells delicious!

Busy city streets, cars’ horns honking.

Refreshing gelato on a warm sunny day,
chocolate, mint, and pistachio.
Gelato bursting with flavors.

Amazing ancient places, the Coliseum
and the statues of Michelangelo.

I feel the smooth marble
of the Bridge of Sighs. So shiny and nice.

***

In the next two poems, you’ll see some of the techniques we practiced with these odes: imagery of the five senses, using similes to create the feeling of celebration and praise typical of this poetic form, and some great hyperbole!

Poet: Advaith

Ode to a Tree

Oh, Tree, you give me shade,
you give me shelter, food,
a place to live.
You are a hero to fellow animals
and soon to become a book of fame
to us fellow humans.
Oh, Tree, you can truly
be anything, but in an origami form.
Whoosh! One of your leaves
flies away and becomes the first meal
of a newborn caterpillar.

***

Poet: Ryan

Ode to the Kitchen

The kitchen is my mouth’s heaven.
I taste an apple as sour and sweet
as a jumbo lollipop.
I hear chewing as loud as a lion’s roar.
I see a pan as big as an elephant.
I smell a lot of yummy things.
My kitchen smells
like a cotton candy dimension.
When I touch the glorious food in my kitchen,
my starving stomach feels relieved
that I’m about to take a bite
of my food (from the kitchen).
***

Poet: Dayna

The Creek Is the Vacation in My Dreams

The creek is the vacation in my dreams,
calm and fresh and sweet
like me.
The creek has soul.
It’s where friends explore
and everybody’s friendly to the community.
Where we be chillin’ and playin’
with algae gripping our legs
and rocks as big as boulders block our path.
The King of all Rivers.
The Duke of Fun.
The Empress of Adventures.
The creek is a batch of fun times
all packed together and protected
by friendship and pride.
The creek is where I relax,
where I splash and run.
My kind community
from the creek to Izzy’s house.
With swings and bridges,
spilling over with nature
and little fish.
Why, I fell in love with the creek
before I even got there.
Yeah, the creek is where I be–
where I could be me.
The creek is the vacation in my dreams.
***
Poet: Wendy

NYC Is the Vacation of My Life

NYC is the vacation of my life
cool and crowded and loud
like me

NYC has soul.
Where we be eating and meeting
with noisy streets stretched out
under our feet and streets braod
and spread like a red carpet for royalty.

NYC is a bowl of people
all packed together and protected
by New York citizens.

NYC is where I visit and stride
my best vacation
from the Statue of Liberty to
the Empire State Building with
cars and people
spilling over with pollution
and trash.

Why I fell in love with NYC
before I ever got here!

Yeah, NYC is where I be —
where I could be excited.

NYC is the vacation of my life.
***

Poet: Soham

Mt. Olympus Is the Capital of Greek Mythology

Mt. Olympus is the capital of Greek mythology
smell the smoke of fire, hotter than the sun.

In Mt. Olympus, the clanging of swords sound like
drums booming.

There it tastes like blood as tangy as lemons.

I can always feel Zeus’
everlasting thunderbolt.
***

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place

Buffy Silverman is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Buffy’s Blog for poetry links from around the kidlitosphere.

Happy Poetry Friday and welcome back to Northfield Elementary School. Today, the third grade poets are working on odes.

I’ve been doing an elementary school workshop on odes for many years. Usually, my model poem is “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes,” by Gary Soto. When it’s time to write, I have the kids take off a shoe, put it on their desks, and really examine it.

You’ll find my article about that lesson on my *Padlet page. Look for “Article: Kids Write Odes to Their Shoes.”

This year, I wanted to try something different and get kids writing odes to a favorite place. The model poem for this workshop is “Harlem Is the Capital of My World,” from Tony Medina’s wonderful picture book/verse biography of Langston Hughes, LOVE TO LANGSTON. It is spoken in the voice of Langston Hughes.

Harlem Is the Capital of My World
by Tony Medina

Harlem is the capital of my world
black and beautiful and bruised
like me

Harlem has soul — it’s where black people
care about black people and everybody’s
child belongs to the community

Where we be stylin’ and profilin’
with concrete streets stretched out
under our feet and boulevards broad
and spread like a red carpet for royalty

The King of Swing
The Duke of Ellington
The Empress of the Blues

Harlem is a bouquet of black roses
all packed together and protected
by blackness and pride

Harlem is where I reside
where I work and stride
my dark community
from the East River to
St. Nicholas Avenue with
nightclubs and cabarets
spilling over with jazz
and bluesy urban spirituals
(it’s not miracle we survive!)

Why I fell in love with Harlem
before I ever got here!

Yeah, Harlem is where I be —
where I could be

Me

Harlem is the capital of my world

From Love to Langston, by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books, 2002). Shared with permission of the author.

The third graders and I talked about three important elements in an ode:
*Imagery of the five senses.
*Similes (these can be developed from the sensory images).
*Hyperbole (similes can be used to create hyperbole).

The students are familiar with imagery and similes, but hyperbole was a new concept. They picked it up quickly. In each class, someone noticed the phrase “like a red carpet for royalty” in Tony’s poem. It’s a simile — there’s not literally a red carpet running down the street in New York City. But it’s also a hyperbole, an exaggeration to make the point that Langston Hughes believed the people of Harlem were as important as kings and queens.

I loved the way that the Northfield poets incorporated some of Tony’s poetic structure into their own odes.

Poet: Desmond

The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer

The pool is the capital of my summer,
blue and wet like water.

The pool smells like weird chlorine in the water.
The kids playing like crazy fish.

The pool has toys and water slides,
tasty sandwiches after and bumpy water.

The pool is splashing.
The kids are playing.
The whistle is blowing.

The pool is where I want to be
all summer long.
***

Poet: Delaney

Broadkill Beach Is the Capital of My Summer

Broadkill Beach is the capital
of my summer.

In Broadkill all I
can smell is the amazing
salty ocean water.
The smell is as nice
as the smell of chocolate.

In Broadkill all I feel
is the nice warm towel I
am laying on and when
I go swimming I feel
the nice cool water engulfing me.

In Broadkill all I can
see is the amazing ocean
view. The view is as beautiful
as a shiny diamond.

In Broadkill all I can taste
is the sweet juicy taste of
plums.

In Broadkill all I can hear
is the soft ocean breeze
of the beach.

Broadkill Beach is the capital
of my summer.
***

Poet: Elisa

Water Country Is the Capital of My Vacation

Water Country is the capital of my vacation,
fun and amazing like the  mystical world.

Water Country is like a rainstorm in a tunnel.

The splish and splash of water
dripping down the edge of the waterslide
and hitting the ground.
The sun is as hot as the oven.

Water Country was a forest of waterslides
and a field of yummy ice cream stands.

Water Country has trees that smell like honey.
Water Country is a relaxing, sunny fun
and yummy WONDERLAND.
***

Poet: Suswara

The Forest Is the Capital of My Life

The forest is life.
Many animals, bushes, bark, and trees
belong to the forest.

It is their home, where their vines
make a beautiful sight.
The dirt beneath the animals’ feet
like smooth dog fur.

The vine of greenness.
The specks of rain.
The flower of happiness.

The forest is like a bunch of natural life
tucked in together.

The forest is where I love to be.
It is beside me and behind me.

The forest became my favorite place
when I first took a look at it.

The forest isn’t where I get to go every day.
I only go sometimes.

But still,
the forest is where I love to be.
***

Poet: Tessa

Dance Is the Soul to My Life!

Dance is the soul to my life,
elaborate, bright, and inviting
like me.

Dance has a soul.
It’s where people feel the music
and create. Everyone
has a beat.

Where we are movin’ and groovin’
we skip and jump to the beat
with lava on our feet.

The Teacher of Jazz.
The Ruler of Chackety.
The Queen of the Studio.

Dance is a painting of colorful pictures
all put together and united
to make a gallery.

Dance is where I express,
where I show my expressions
with a world of colors
so bright it sticks with you
all day and all night.

From here to there to everywhere–
ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and modern—
everywhere over the world.

When dance came to me
I finally felt alive.

Dance came to me,
it’s where I get to be
me.

Dance is the soul of my life.
***

Thanks to the Northfield educators and families for allowing me to share the third graders’ wonderful poems.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems

The Northfield Elementary poets have been working hard on their list poems. Today, our lists of juicy words take us inside a desk and a pencil box, explore a beautiful garden, and dig down into the earth.

The mentor text for my list poem workshop is Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow” from the anthology Falling Down the Page. You can read my initial plan for this lesson at Today’s Little Ditty.

As I mentioned last week,  I encouraged the students to stick as close to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem as they wanted to. We did this by writing a “cross-out” poem. Using a print-out of “Words in My Pillow,” the poets strike-through any words they want to replace with their own ideas. You can see what this looks like in last week’s post.

Poet: Diego

Words in My Desk

I hide words
in my desk.
I hide words
that help me grow.

NOTEBOOK
FOLDER
PENCIL

I have feelings
in my desk.
I can feel—

SMART
SATISFIED
HAPPY

I hide words
that like learning.

USEFUL
HELPFUL
SMARTER

When summer comes
I leave my desk,
but my words
stay put.
***

Poet: Austin

Words in My Pencil Box

I hide words inside my pencil box.
Words that feel good.

GLUE.
HELPFUL.
CUTTING.

People can see them,
and I find them waiting for me
like the creativity hiding inside my brain.
But I know what’s in there—

SCISSORS.
FUN.
SPACE.
CONSUMING.
PASTING.
CALMING.
CRAYONS.

PENCIL SHAVINGS are in there.
BROKEN PENCILS are in there.

The words play together
when I think about them.

STORAGE.
DRAWING.
ENERGETIC.
COLORED PENCILS are in my pencil box.

My friends the words
go to school before I do,
but they never let me down.
***

Poet: Kaylee

Words in the Earth

Words hide inside the Earth.
Words that seem nice.

GRASS.
TREES.
DIRT.

No one can see them.
But I find them waiting for me.
Like the gemstones hiding inside the earth.
No one can see them,
but I know they are there.

EMERALDS.
DIAMONDS.
SAPPHIRES.
TOPAZ.
AQUAMARINE.
RUBY.

WORMS are in there.
SEEDS are in there.

The words are playing together
when I am thinking or saying them.

CLIMBING.
FLOWERS.
SUN.
WIND is in the Earth.

My friends the words
explore before I do.
But they never
go away.
***

Poet: Sloane

Words in My Garden

I hide words in my garden.

Words that taste good—

FRESH.
MINT.
TOMATOES.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the seeds inside the soil.
No one can see them
but I know what’s in there.

BASIL.
OREGANO.
THYME.
ROSEMARY.
STRAWBERRIES.
TULIPS.

COLORS are in there.
NATURE is in there.

The words are growing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

EDIBLES.
BEAUTIFUL.
FRUIT.
FLOWERS
are in my garden.

My friends the words
grow faster than I do,
but they never
go away.
***

Poet: George

Words in My Name

I hide words inside my name.
Words that fit my personality.

THRIFTY.
BRAVE.
FAIR.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the silent letters hiding inside my name.
No one can see them
but I k now what they are.

CURIOUS.
KIND.
SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIOALIDOCIOUS.
CUB SCOUT.
CLEAN.
REVERENT.

LETTERS are in there.
The flowing sound of water is in there.

The words are playing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

COOL.
RIPE.
HELPFUL.
NICE
is in my name.
***

Be sure to check out my previous post about this poetry residency. It includes links, lesson tips, and more poems by Northfield Elementary’s third graders.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Ellicott City Floods — Again

Our beloved historic downtown has been hit with its second catastrophic flash flood in less than two years. If you would like to help with recovery and restoration efforts, please consider donating to the Downtown Ellicott City Partnership.

In 2016, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater asked me to contribute a current events poem to her wonderful collection, POEMS ARE TEACHERS.

It was late summer, 2016. The first Ellicott City flood had just happened. Days after the area re-opened to the public, my daughter and I walked down Main Street. The damage was breathtaking. Sidewalk and pieces of the street torn open, so that you could see into the basements of the historic brownstones. Only a handful of businesses were open.

Water can be a terrifying force. Of course, I knew what I would write about for Amy’s assignment.

Here is that poem, “Flood: Ellicott City, Maryland.”

Flood
Ellicott City, Maryland

By Laura Shovan

The river left its bed tonight,
woken by heavy rain.
It stomped down Main Street,
passed shops, houses
in a swirling rage. It’s resting now.
We stare at empty spaces.

It whisked cars down the hill.
Their underwater headlights
gave the flood an eerie glow.
A chain of strangers clasped arms,
pulled a woman from her spinning car.
A hillside washed away,
its green grass torn by claws
we did not know the river had.

It’s resting now. We stare at empty spaces
where the river grabbed doors from hinges,
peeled away sidewalks, made off
with random things — bricks and jewels,
and two people for no reason
other than they were in its path.

The river is resting. Now we stare
at empty spaces.

The author’s note included with the poem reads: My town made national headlines when a flash flood tore apart our historic Main Street. Writing a poem helped me reflect on the frightening images of this event. I think this is one reason why people turn to poetry during difficult times. A poem is a safe place to write about emotions like shock and grief. It is also one way to share those feelings with others.

I am sickened that our beloved downtown Ellicott City is experiencing this catastrophe again. Thanks to Amy for giving me the space to write about this horrific flood, which tore apart our historic downtown. The area had made an amazing comeback in less than two years, once again thriving — with many businesses reopening and several new shops and restaurants. Again, if you’d like to make a flood relief donation, Ellicott City Partnership is the recommended non-profit.

My aunt (currently in Kosovo) heard news of the Ellicott City flood. She asked, “Why the extreme flooding?” Here is my answer, if you’re also curious. Keep in mind — I’m not an expert, just a long-time resident and keen observer.

We live about three miles from historic Ellicott City. The quaint old downtown is an important part of our lives here.

Ellicott City is a pre-revolutionary mill town. The area that was flooded was the first terminus of the B&O railroad out of Baltimore. The original station house still stands and is now a museum. The area is about five or six long blocks of brownstones and historic buildings, most with shops and restaurants on the ground floor. It runs down a steep hill to the railroad trestle, finally making a “T” with the Patapsco River — the low point of the hill.

The Patapsco has a history of floods, some catastrophic. But that’s not what happened in 2016 or yesterday. We have lived here for nearly 20 years. This flash flooding tearing down Main Street is new.

Main Street runs alongside several small tributaries to the Patapsco — especially its parallel river, the Tiber — which flow down the hill and into the larger river. These smaller rivers may have risen, but they did not break their banks until August 2016. There is no question in my mind that aggressive building in the hills above Main Street are at the root of the flooding. Trees were cleared and soil was stripped for dozens of new construction projects. The water has nowhere to go.

They say the damage is worse than 2016. It’s hard to imagine that. The water broke storefront windows and literally rushed through buildings front to back last time, destroying everything inside. It tore up sidewalks and pieces of the street. The rebuilding project has been massive and successful, but I can’t understand why they undertook rebuilding without doing serious flood abatement. This was bound to happen again.

We’re absolutely heart-broken. Our local government must take care of the environment in order to protect one of our best and most beloved resources.

Poetry Friday: List Poem Lesson

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. Margaret has a new book of poems coming out, BAYOU SONG. I can’t wait!

Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School, Poetry Friday friends.

This is my twelfth year as Northfield’s poet-in-residence, working with the third grade team. The annual poetry residency is sponsored by the school PTA’s cultural arts committee, and by an Artist-in-Residence grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. Thank you!

This has been a great teaching partnership for me. I learn new things from Northfield’s educators every year.

You will find “Words in My Pillow,” by Naomi Shihab Nye, in this anthology: FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A Book of List Poems, Edited by Georgia Heard.

Our first workshop was the list poem, which I haven’t done in a few years. Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow” from the anthology Falling Down the Page was our model. You can read my initial plan for this lesson at Today’s Little Ditty.

A few years ago, I wrote my own “Words in My ___ Poem” to close out our National Poetry Month series on poems about clothes. It was titled “Words in My Closet.” You can read it at this post.

Because “Words in my Pillow” is about words and language, the third graders and I spent a lot of time talking about juicy words. A poem called “Words in My Dog” might include specific nouns (TREATS, WATER, TONGUE), descriptive adjectives and verbs (BARK, FLUFFY, FAST, LICK), but it might also have “states of being” — things we can’t really see (LOVE, COMFORT, KINDNESS).

Because this was our first lesson, I encouraged the students to stick as close to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem as they wanted to. We did this by writing a “cross-out” poem. Using a print-out of “Words in My Pillow,” the poets strike-through any words they want to replace with their own ideas. It looks like this:

Words in My Piano
By Shanthi S.

I hide words inside my piano.
Words that sound good–

NOTES.
KEYBOARD.
NOISE.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the strings hiding inside the keyboard.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there —

MUSIC
ADVANCED
SONGS
PERCUSSION
PEDALS
SLIDE

RHYTHM is in there.
TUNING is in there.

The words are playing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

PIANO BOOKS.
HARMONY.
PITCH.
BEAT
is in my piano.

My friends the words
go to play music before I do.
But they never
go away.
***

 

Words in the Gym
By Bettina

I hide words inside the gym.
Words that worry me a lot—

BALLS.
FAVE.
BENCH.

No one can see them until it comes out of nowhere
and crashes right in you like a ball
but I find them waiting for me as I get my hopes up.
Like the unsure hiding inside my body.
No one can see it, they’re too tall to feel it
but I know what’s in there—and all the other shorties.

PUMPED.
NERVOUS.
TIRED.
EXHAUSTED.
DISAPPOINTED.
BORED.

CYCLES are in there.
HOPES are in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

YES!
UH OH!!
RUN.
WHOOSH!
is in the gym.

My friends the words
go to bed before I do.
But they never go away. And I’ll
just have to deal
with it.
***

Words in My Hideout
By Isabella

I hide words inside my hideout.
Words that feel cozy—

DARK.
COZY.
SECRETIVE.

No one can see my cave
but I find it waiting for me
like a fox hiding in the forest.
No one can see it
but I know it’s there—

QUIET.
FUN.
SOFT.
BLANKETS.
FILES.
COLORFUL.

STUFFIES are in there.
ART SUPPLIES are in there.

The words are sneaking around
when I am saying or thinking them.

RAINBOW.
PICTURE.
ANIMALS.
HAPPINESS is in my hideout.

My friends the words
go to play before I do.
But they never go away.
***

Words in My Pool
By Ashwin

I see words inside my pool.
Words that flow well—

WATER.
WARM.
CHLORINE.

Everyone can see them.
They are everywhere
like the person hiding behind the waterfall.
No one can see him
but I know who is in there.

PEOPLE.
GOGGLES.
LEAVES.
DIRT.
ALGAE.
GRASS.

BUGS are in there.
PLANTS are in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

SPLASH.
YEAH.
YUCK.
EW
is in my pool.

My friends the words
go to swim before I do.
But they never swim away.
***

Words in the River
Poet: Katherine

I hide words inside the water.
Words that flow good—

CLAM.
FISH.
WATER.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the voice telling me to jump.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there—

ROCKS.
SPLASHES.
HONK.
SAND.
FLOW.
ALGAE.
BORED.

The words are splashing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

FAST.
SLOW.
SHALLOW.
DEEP!
is in my river.

My friends the words
go to bed before I do.
But they never float away.

***

Words in My Video Games
By Ryan

There are words in my video games.
Here’s my words of VICTORY!–

YOU WIN!
NEW RECORD!
1ST PLACE!

But I have losing words too
like—

GAME OVER!
YOU DIED!
LAST PLACE!
YOU LOSE!

Video games have names (obviously).
Mine are–

MARIO KART!
MINECRAFT!
WII SPORTS U!
THE LEGO MOVE VIDEO GAME
are my video games.

My friends like video  games
and so do I.
But they never
Get old!
***

Words in My Name
By Ella

I have words inside my name.
You might not know it—

CRAZY.
LOVABLE
NECKLACE.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the girl inside my body.
No one can see it,
but I know what’s in there—

HEART.
SUGAR.
LOLLIPOP.
FUNNY.
SHY.
HAPPY.

SECRETS are in there.
CRAZINESS is in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

EXCELLENT – E.
LOVELY – L.
LIGHT – L
AWESOME – A
is in my name.

My friends the letters
get written down on my paper.
But they never go away.
***

All poems shared with permission.

When I first ran this workshop in 2015, I blogged about what went well. Here’s what I wrote at that time, plus a few adjustments I made to the lesson.

  • This was a good choice for the first lesson of a residency. The children liked being able to focus on the basic element of a poem: words. Of course, we always focus on words in poetry. But Naomi Shihab Nye’s model poem is about the words we carry around in our heads. Starting with something so basic and important on Day 1 provided a strong foundation for future writing.
  • This is the first time I’ve encouraged students to plug into a model poem. Some of the third graders took the model poem “Words in My Pillow,” crossed out the lines and words they wanted to change, and wrote their own words into those spaces. They responded well to having this structure for our first day of writing together. (Update: This turned out to be a great strategy! This year, some students used the cross-out poem for their odes too.)
  • “Words in My Pillow” can adapt to any topic. Because what we’re really talking about is language — words — the poem could be called “Words in My Dinosaur,” “Words in My Garbage Can,” or “Words in My Suitcase.” We have the structure of the poem, but also the freedom to come up with a topic the poet cares about.

UPDATE: When we think about “juicy words,” many third graders focus on nouns — the literal things they might find in a garden, their desk at school, the refrigerator. I added a brainstorming activity to this lesson. Together, the class creates a “Words in My School” or “Words in My Teacher” poem. We break into small groups. Each group is assigned to brainstorm words for our poem.

One group comes up with 3 or more objects/nouns that would be in a school (desk, white board, cafeteria, playground). The next group thinks of adjectives to describe the school: fun, busy, loud. Another group has action words/verbs: learn, study, play. “Feeling words” was another group’s job — states of being like nervous, happy, bored. Last and most challenging — “idea words” — these are larger concepts such as community, friendship, perseverance.

Although this pre-writing activity added 10-15 minutes to the lesson, it helped the third graders stretch when they thought about which juicy words to add to the poem.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Poetry Friday: Introducing Henry Crawford

To celebrate the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce you to Henry Crawford.

Henry Crawford was a featured poet at Wilde Readings in November.

This fall, Henry was a featured reader at Wilde Readings — the local literary series I co-host with poets Ann Bracken and Linda Joy Burke.

I was intrigued by the way Henry’s work as a lawyer and software developer impacts the form, content, and rhythm of his writing. More than anything else, though, what draws me into Henry’s poems is his attention to the vivid, precise details that tell a story, or bring a person to life in a few words.

Today, I’m sharing Henry’s poem “Off-hours” from his collection American Software. I’ll link to another poem at the end of this post.

Off-hours
By Henry Crawford

After the late shift
the cops will drop by.
Shots and a beer.
Nightsticks on the bar.

In a back booth
I dream my mother laughing
and there she is — laughing.
Her smudged mouth wide,
always longing.

“We gotta go now
little guy,” her breath
wet and pine tree
sweet, her boiled eyes
looking hard to see.

The jukebox is dark.
A tired jumble of moths
circle the bald bar light.
Even the cops are gone.

These streets belong to us now.
The radio knows this hour well.
My mother is singing to the wheel.
I’m in the backseat
pretending to sleep, tracing
the roads in my mind
just minutes before morning
on that slow roll home.

“Off-hours” and “Every Morning Maddie” appear in Crawford’s collection American Software. Available at Amazon.

“Off-hours” was first published in Scryptic magazine (December 2017 issue). It is shared here with the author’s permission.

If you enjoyed this poem, please check out Henry’s poem “Every Morning Maddie.” 

Henry says this poem, “Just came out as a new video by students on YouTube and its being republished in the Sligo Journal next week. I’m very grateful for all the help it gives to young people and their parents dealing with the issue of drug addiction.”

 

Thanks to Irene Latham for hosting this week’s Poetry Friday round-up at Live Your Poem! Hope you had a great Poetry Month, Irene.