by Laura Shovan

A Poetry Friday Celebration

Welcome, Poetry Friday bloggers and fans.

Poetry Friday is here this week. Thanks for joining the celebration!

I’m excited to host Poetry Friday this week because it’s a special day. The third graders at Northfield Elementary, where I am poet-in-residence each spring, have their poetry celebration this afternoon!

Thanks to everyone who has been following this residency and reading the kids’ poems. I have a few more to share today.

This year we wrote list poems, food poems, and played with our imaginations in a pocket poem workshop. Links to the posts in this series, which include workshop descriptions and student responses, are at the end of this post.

Please add the link to your post below. If you have a moment, leave a comment for the Northfield poets. They’ve been working hard on their revisions and I can’t wait to see the final poems today. The poems you read in this post are first drafts.

Pocket Poem
By Isaac A.

I have a jacket
a jacket made of pockets.
In pocket 9, I have a leopard
gecko. I take him outside
and feed him insects. I will
let him loose to hunt,
but I follow so he does
not get lost or hurt.
I think he likes me
when he squeaks and peeps
happily! I love him and I will
always let him eat and
drink when he wants to.

In my next pocket, pocket
66, I have a snake. He
slithers in my pocket.
He loves playing hide-and-
go-seek. But when I can’t
find him, I call his name.
“Snakey!” and he slithers
out from a rock, log, or a
fence!

***

My Jacket, Pocket #9
By Harry P.

I have a jacket
a jacket made of pockets.
The pockets all have numbers,
numbers on the jacket.
Number nine has special skis.
The skis would have
boosters and two powerful springs.
The boosters would help
because it would get
me up the mountain
faster than the list.
The springs would help
because it would spring
me back up when
I fell down. I would
smell metal and
motor oil. It feels bumpy,
rough, and hot.
So, yeah!
That’s what’s in pocket
number nine.

***

Pocket #2
By Brady S.

In pocket #2, I kept a magic shoe.
I could jump so high, I could touch the
sky. And ran so I went into the past.
The shoe turned red when I
went to bed. When I want to be
sneaky and grab the last piece
of cake, the only sound I make
is like a piece of grass getting
draped on the floor. What’s in the other
38 pockets? I don’t know, you’ll have
to guess. It’s not for me to tell you.

***

Saturday’s Doughnuts
By Cameron D.

I wake up in the morning
running as fast as Sonic.
I tell my dad,
“Let’s go!”
My brother and me fly into the car.
We drive and drive and drive.
With Krispy Kreme in our sight,
all brand new.
“Finally!” we both yell
as my dad orders.
We watch in amazement.
Doughnut after doughnut after doughnut.
Seconds seem like minutes.
My dad yells, “Come on!”
We jump in the car,
our mouths watering.
We fly inside our house.
We grab milk and eat, eat, eat.
After, we lay full with those doughnuts,
fresh and good.
The best treat of Saturday.
Saturday’s doughnuts.

***

Chips
By Cole S.

I like the pop of the bag,
the snap when I bite down,
the salty, crunchy taste.
I like every kind!
I like it — like potato chips,
Old Bay chips, and Doritos.

***

Four s’mores recipes from Dinner Then Dessert.

Marshmallow Mayhem
By Erin S.

Wait, campfire crackles.
Tents surround me.
It’s camping time!
We run in the fields and chase each other
instead of diving in the tent.
Far away, we see smoke
and that smell we’d know anywhere.
S’mores! We help make them because
there’s a huge amount of people.
Our reward is the gooey,
slimy marshmallows. We went
to cook, but mine fell down.
SPLAT!
I got another and this
time it didn’t fall.
Everything that made
a s’more was on it, but
the hardness of the chocolate.
We put them on the arm of our chairs.
Then we bite into the
creamy, gloopy, crunchiness
of the marshmallow or
s’more, as you could call it.
Then we doze away.

***

Words in My House
By Caroline J.

I hide words inside my house.
Words that make me happy.

Bed.
Comfortable.
Loud.

You can see them.
I find them waiting for me.
Like the hamster hiding inside my house.
You can see it.
I know what’s in there.

Sofa.
Safe.
Table.
Exciting.
TV.
Happy.

Happiness is in there.
My family is in there.

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

Warmth.
Conversation.
Laughter.
Breeze
is in my house.

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

***

Thanks again to the Northfield community for allowing me to share these poems. All are posted here with permission.

I’ll be back next spring with a new group of third grade poets!

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 4 — Food Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 5 — Pocket Poems (ll Third Grade Classes)


Poems from Third Grade, Part 5

It’s the Northfield Elementary Poetry Celebration this week!

I’m looking forward to seeing the third grade poets. This is their chance to show off all of their hard work during the residency. The poems I share with you here are first drafts. Tomorrow is my first opportunity to see the revised poems.

The students will presenting and performing their finished poems for friends, family, and peers on Friday.

The third workshop of our residency was Pocket Poems. With the work we have done thinking about form (List Poems — our first workshop) and imagery (Food Poems — second workshop), the students have a foundation in some basic poetry skills.

Our third workshop is all about stretching the imagination and seeing where it takes us.

Find it on Indiebound.

The full description of this lesson is available here. The mentor poem is Calef Brown’s “Eliza’s Jacket,” from one of my family’s favorite books, Polkabats and Octopus Slacks.

The concept of this writing prompt is that we each have a jacket with magic pockets. Put your hand inside and what will you find? A super power? An enchanted coat? Your best friend? A dinosaur egg? That’s up to you, Poet!

Many years ago, the Northfield team and I developed a craft to go with this workshop. Each poet is given a blue card stock “pocket” — they look like the back pocket from a pair of jeans. The students personalize and decorate these pockets, then staple them to a display where they are stuffed with (you guessed it) the poems.

Students and visitors love taking the poems out of their pockets to read. The extra interaction adds fun to the process of reading. You’ll see examples of the pocket poem display at this post.

And now for some third grade pocket poems:

My Hippogriff
By Sarah L.

I have a jacket.
A jacket made of pockets.
In pocket number highest number ever
I have…
a baby hippogriff.
When it is young, I will find
raw meet and ferrets to feed it with.
When it is old enough, I can train
the hippogriff so its wings will be
strong enough to fly, so I can ride
it to get to places, with his soft white-tipped
wing by my side, his shiny beak clicking and
brown hooves running as we are ready for
take off. Soon enough, we start gliding
in the air. When we get back, he flies
into my pocket, and we have a
good night sleep, dreaming about the next day.

***

A Turtle in My Pocket
By Lysanne G.

I have a jacket, a jacket made
of pockets. In pocket #5, a turtle hides
inside. It comes outside every night and tells
me magical stories through the light. It eats
baloney, usually in a sandwich. He tells
cheesy jokes, as cheesy as they are. We play
outside at night, when my parents are
deep in sleep. Sometimes, instead of baloney,
I feel him macaroni. Sometimes even
chocolate. He smells like pie, because
of shampoo, with a bottom that smells
like soup. he looks like a rock, but green.

***

My Wings in Pocket #2
By Nora C.

I have a jacket, a jacket made
of pockets. In pocket number 2
I have a pair of wings. I take
them out to fly away when
I feel like flying to a place
where I can be alone to do
whatever I want. I take them
out when I want to avoid
doing something or to reach high
places. I want to sit where
I can’t reach. They are black,
black with white tips. I’d fly
with the birds and move through
the clouds.

***

D’s SP: Darcy’s Super Power
By Darcy B.

I have a jacket, a jacket
made of pockets. In pocket
103 I have a key that
unlocks my brain
and takes me to Maine.
The key tells
my brain to transform my
super powers so I can
fly, way above those
puffy white cotton balls so …
I can see the whole world
and if anybody needs
help, ’cause I will save
their day!

***

Untitled
By Arianna J.

I have a jacket. A jacket made
of pockets. In pocket number 8
I have a magic ball.
If I ask the ball a question.
I can see what I asked.
“Magic Ball, can I see
the answers for the math test?
Oh. Ah. 68. 36.
Mom’s coming, get in pocket number
8.” Hmm. Now what shall I ask.
Oh, I know. Mom’s watching TV.
“Magic Ball, show me the latest
kids’ movie. Let me see my
brother’s future. Ahh! Eww! Change it.
My eyes are burning! Let me
see my future. I bet I’m going
to be a … OMG. I’m a baker. That’s my dream.”
I don’t even have a word
for how  happy I am. Anyway that’s my magic
ball!

***

Isabella’s Pocket
By Isabella T.

I have a jacket,
a jacket made of pockets.
In pocket number 9, I have the
Bahamas inside.
The warm, tropical Bahamas with water
that’s clear and calm. You see a barracuda,
marlin, or a swordfish pop out of the water
every few minutes for a
breath of air every once in a while.
Palm trees are springs up every
few minutes.
Snakes, monkeys, lizards, iguanas, squirrels, crabs,
red ants, bull ants, ants: Life is in the
Bahamas. It’s blazing hear round, pretty
hotels, house, apartments, and cabins.
Oh, but what’s this?
An anaconda bit me.
Oouu. I go back to school.
I’m lonely and all alone.
I invite my friends.
My friends and me pull out
our surf board.
WAVE!

***

Untitled
By Anna O.

I have a jacket made up of
many pockets. In pocket 8,888
I have my magical abilities.
They make me half butterfly
dragon, half human. When I am ten
I will go through my metamorphosis
and get wings and silk. Oh, no.
That’s today! I take my power
out and glare at it. “Can’t you
wait?” I say. I have to hang on
to it our else it will dart
away. It wriggles onto my wrist
and I stagger sideways
as silk spills from my
wrists. Then my eyes close.
When I wake up, I have
wings. Now I can fly to
school, not take the dirty
bus. Hooray!

***

Untitled
By Yash D.

I have a jacket,
a jacket made of pockets.
In pocket #99
I have a magic crystal ball that changes into anything I
want. It glows in the dark and is blue.
I can turn it into a house, so I can have a
private place and  no one can come in.
If I don’t have a friend, I can turn it into one.
It can make me teleport to the place where it was
made, and I will get another one.
It can even turn into a different font when I am writing.
It can turn into a tree that more crystal balls will fall off of.
If I make it into a smoothie and drink it, I
will have all the powers inside my body. I can
even make an endless supply of dragon eggs.
I can’t tell you what is in the other pockets,
because you will steal them.

***

Thanks for sharing your great imaginations, third grade poets! All poems are posted today with permission.

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 4 — Food Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)

Poetry Friday: Poems from Third Grade, Part 4

Welcome to Poetry Friday! Mary Lee Hahn is hosting this week’s link-up at her blog, A Reading Year. Hope to see you over there!

Happy Poetry Friday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you brought your appetite. The Northfield E. S. third graders have more food poems to share with you today.

But before we feast on lemonade, bubble gum, ice cream, pizza, and chocolate chip pancakes, I’d like to share a favorite poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. This week, the Poetry Friday community is celebrating Nye, our new Young People’s Poet Laureate.

Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Lost Parrot” is a poem that I think about and reread every time I do a school poetry residency. “The Lost Parrot” recounts a visiting poet running a series of workshops for young students. One boy, Carlos, writes about the same subject, no matter the prompt: his lost parrot.

I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to the poem. For me, Nye’s “The Lost Parrot” captures the way a visiting poet interacts with young writers — encouraging their stories and creativity without pushing an agenda, rarely getting to know the children beyond the poems they write. Sometimes we get bursts of insight into their lives, sense of humor, and interests. Other times, visiting poets are left with a question or mystery, as Nye experiences in “The Lost Parrot.”

Now on to today’s delicious poems (and one salty cake).

Awesome Awesome Tacos!
By Aaron L.

I smell the spices,
the melted cheese,
then I immediately
know what’s for dinner.
Awesome
Awesome

TACOS!

I feel the warm
taco
shell in my
mouth
Awesome
Awesome

TACOS!

I hear my family
crunch the tacos.
Crunchy
Crunchy
tacos.

Yummy, the best
kind of tacos.

***

Sweet Chocolaty Chocolate Chip Pancakes!
By Coco W.

I jump out of the car.
My mom says slow down.
I hug Papa and my
Grandma. When we get
Inside, Papa knows the people.
We get some good seats. I sit next
to my cousin. My other cousin screams!
“The food is arriving.” I smell the sweet
dough. I see the melty chocolate laying on
my plate. My cheeks get very gooey with
chocolate on my face. I get to take a bite.
It is the biggest of them all! Delicious
dough mixed with chocolate melting in my mouth.

***

My Pecan Pie
By Misha W.

My family comes to the party-like feast.
Then the pecan pie comes in on a white dish.
My grandma made the best pecan pie around.
I smelled the sweet pecans and the pie crust.
I see the pecans popping out of the pie.
When everyone grabs a piece, the yelling dies down
and replacing it is a crunch and a munch.
It’s finally my turn to feel the pecan pie.
I feel the rough and moist crunch touching my hands.
When it touches my mouth, I feel the warmth.
I taste my sweet pecan pie.
With the bready crust.
“Burrrrp! Excuse me,” I say.
“Can I have some more?”
And my mom says no.
I got the biggest piece of them all.

***

Salty Cake
By Reed S.

Ew! Blah! My cake tastes like salt.
It looks good, but is disgusting. It
Smells chocolaty, but tastes like
salt. Everybody is making faces!
I can’t believe salt and sugar
got mixed up.

***

Yummy Meatloaf
For Anna
By Ella O.

2 hours in the oven
To cook the meatloaf
We’d run
Straight from the park
I run to my house
1 block
Then the house I reach
That smells like meat
You ran
Because you had the energy
1 loaf of yummyness
Everything on the meatloaf
Except mustard
Dash that meatloaf
Onto plates and splash on
All the sauce to splash on
Red tomatoes on the side
Avocados piled up on the side
Shoveled up onto a plate
Meatloaf for us to hold hot
On our forks
Plates on the table
Sit down
Good meatloaf
We’d eat
Fast till there was nothing left
But little tiny pieces of meat
And even a tiny bit of tomato sauce
I would eat it all
We’d touch
The little food we would have left
You humming
Me whistling

***

Good Cotton Candy
For My Dad
By Hiba S.

1 dollar a piece
to eat our dessert.
We’d run to the cashier
instead of the car.
Two blocks from our next
destination (that smelled
very sweet). You paid because
you had the money.
3 cotton candies and
2 strips of ribbon. Even
jelly inside. Eat those cotton
candies. Lil’ sister picking
her food. All that good stuff
on top. White sprinkles and
blue sprinkles. Stuck inside
the cotton candy. Rolled up
in a plastic cone. Dollars on
the counter, sit down, good
cotton candies. We’d eat
fast till there was nothing
left. But blue and white
sprinkles. Even cotton on
my face! We’d finish. You driving
and me saying, “Thank you.”

***

Good Ice Cream
For Sara
By Alisha K.

1 dollar apiece
To eat our dessert
We’d run, me and you
Straight from home
Instead of the park
Two blocks
Then the store
That smelled like ice
I ordered
Because I had the money
Two ice creams with two scoops for here
Nothing on the ice cream
Except M and Ms
Dash those ice creams
Into cones and dump on the flavors
All that good stuff
Chocolate ice cream and M and Ms
And Skittles piled on top all
Rolled up in a napkin
For us to hold cold
In our hands
A dollar on the counter
Sit down
Good ice creams
We’d eat
Fast till there was nothing left
But leftover Skittles and M and Mss
The little colors of Skittles and M and Ms
We’d eat
You humming
And me with a smile

***

Lemonade
By Brian W.

1 dollar a cup to drink our lemonade.
I rush straight from school. Instead
of home, I got the other way. Then
to the stand that smelled like snow.
I ordered because I am thirsty.
two lemonades and two ice for here.
Everything on the lemonade
except straws. Stir those lemonade
into drinks and splash on
all the good stuff, lemons and mini
umbrellas and ice on top all
in a cup, paper for us to hold cold
drinks in our hands.
Dollars on the counter.
Sit down. Good lemonade.
I drink fast till there was nothing
left but mini umbrella and lemons
even the little cold ice of cubes
we’d slurp up the lemonade, you
drinking and me buying more.

***

Pizza
By Henry R.

1 dollar apiece to eat my lunch.
I would jog straight from school
instead of home. 5 blocks
then the store that smelled
like pizza. You ordered because
you had enough money for
2 pizzas. Everything on the
pizzas. Dash those pizzas
with all that good stuff
and throw on some
pepperoni and some pineapple.
covered up with wax paper nice
and warm. Quarters on the
counter. Sit down on the concrete.
I would eat the greasy and yellow pizza
fast till there wasn’t even
a bite left. When I was finished
I trembled back home with a full
fat stomach.

***

Bubble Gum
By Evan R.

The sweetness of the taste
so chewy in my mouth.
The pink bubble splats in my face
With my baseball teammates around laugh.
I stiff have parts of the bubble on my face.
I watch the game still blowing bubbles.
Me and my teammates smell the fresh air
blow by our faces.
I try to blow another bubble
but the air is too strong.

***

Thanks to the Northfield community for allowing me to share the third graders’ poems!

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)

Poems from Third Grade, Part 3

Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School!

The third grade poems started our residency with list poems. (You’ll find a link to those poems at the bottom of this page.)

Now that we’ve spent some time thinking about word choice and playing with rhythm, we are moving on to one of my favorite poetry workshops: food poems.

Donut stand at the Shuk, the Mehane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.

In this lesson, the poets focus on incorporating imagery of the five senses into a food-related memory. You can find the full lesson here. I use Sandra Cisneros’ poem “Good Hotdogs” as a mentor text.

Howard County is home to Northfield ES and it’s where I make my home, too. This is a diverse community, with first, second, and third generation American children. I love seeing that experience reflected in their poems.

In Nahyun’s poem, the first taste of a new food is a funny memory.

Ice Cream
By Nahyun K.

So many flavors
I don’t know what to choose.
I finally decided.
Cherry ice cream
From the ice cream truck.
My first ice cream from America.
One minute later,
Ice cream melting.
Dropping to my hand
Ice cream scoop getting smaller.
Smaller and smaller.
Me and my mom getting confused.
My hand is sticky like a
Double sided tape.
Ice cream turned to flavored water
And me trashing the flavored water
into the trash can
Bye bye my first ice cream.

***

Often, I share with the poets that a poem’s final few lines are the last impression that the reader will take away. The finale of T. J.’s poem about a food tradition takes that to heart.

The Snack Stand
By T. J. C.

After every baseball game,
I enjoy the delicious taste of a hot dog and fries.
I taste the spice from Old Bay on my fries.
I hear the cashier say, “One hot dog, one fry!”
When I touch the hot dog, it’s as smooth as can be.
I get super happy!
When I see the hot dog, it looks so yummy!
I can’t forget the smell, so sweet and hot!
My dad then orders, and we enjoy our food.
We eat ‘til the sun is setting.
Then we leave, with a memory.

***

On the day we did food poems, Eleanor’s father joined us and wrote his own food memory poem. It was really fun to hear father and daughter read their work together. If you’d like to learn more about this food, here is a recipe for Palačinky.

Palačinky Day
By Eleanor C.

Hooray, hooray,
It’s Palačinky day.
Soft tender bread
Thick creamy chocolate spread
Smiling ear to ear
Sizzling sound all I hear
Mom is proud
I express my love of this food loud
Mom and Dad
Rowan and Alasdair
And me
As happy as can be
Smell the batter
See the food
When it’s a day like this
Everyone’s in the mood.
Whip cream’s fallin’ off
No one cares.
Feel the whipped cream
Smeared on my cheeks
It’s my wish
That every dinner would be like this
But no
This night is rare.
Now I gotta get whipped cream out of my hair.

***

We go through a lot of cereal at my house (Honey Nut Cheerios is our favorite).  What wonderful observations in Tommy’s poem. Who doesn’t feel good when the theme song of our favorite TV show comes on?

That Tasty Cereal
by Tommy S.

Running through the door.
Kicking my shoes off.
My feet stink,
But I don’t care.
I get a running start,
Heading for the couch.
My mom knew what to do.
She got the bowl and the milk.
As she’s making my favorite,
I take a big jump onto the couch.
I grab the remote.
I put on my favorite show.
BEEP BOOP BOOP.
I rub the smooth buttons on the remote.
I listen to the theme song.
It makes my day every time.
I check to see if it’s there.
Guess what? It’s there.
I crash onto the chair.
BAM
I scoot in and take a bite.
CRUNCH CRUNCH
Mmm mmm mmm
That tasty cereal.

***

The energy of Isaac’s poem caught my attention. Repetition is a tool we talked about for our list poems and he makes great use of incorporating it into his food poem.

Donuts
By Isaac L.

Dunkin Donuts here we go!
Grama, Dad, Mom, sister, and of course me,
Waiting to get a taste!
Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and more!
One bite. Crunch.
Two bites. Yum.
Three bites. And full!
Our bellies full, and we got some taste.
Now we should get a rest.

***

Alara and one of her classmates were kind enough to speak with their class about Ramadan. I am learning from my friend and co-author Saadia Faruqi that children with this tradition are excited to fast during Ramadan, along with their parents, families, and community. Younger children like Alara enjoy participating by fasting on the weekends, when they’re not in school.

Ramadan
By Alara K.

When it’s time to fast,
I get so excited.
On the weekends I fast,
Even though I want to fast every day
Getting up for sahir
And eating my breakfast.
Finally,the sun rises
At 4:00 am.
We can no longer eat
until Iftar.
When Iftar comes,
We realize we had no problems during the day
Fasting.
We eat some dates,
Then eat our dinner
Finally,the day is done.
We do this for 30 more days.
We had a great time,
And now Ramadan is over.

***

Thanks to the Northfield community for allowing me to share the third graders’ poems!

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)

5 Questions for the Author: Naomi Milliner

You know how there are friends in your life who you’re fond of, but who drift away for one reason or another? And then, years later, serendipity intervenes. You reconnect and that friend becomes an important person in your life.

For me, that person is debut author Naomi Milliner.

We’ve known each other for more than a decade but, due to circumstances, our friendship really cemented about seven years ago. There was a very memorable road trip to the Eastern PA regional SCBWI conference and critique fest, when vast quantities of Indian food were consumed. (No regrets! We happened upon an amazing buffet.) There was commiseration and feedback as we both continued working on, and querying, books we’d already committed years to writing and revising.

Highly recommended! Find Super Jake on IndieBound.

This month, Naomi’s debut novel, SUPER JAKE AND THE KING OF CHAOS, became a real thing that people can buy, and hold in their hands, and read! I could not be more excited for my friend.

If you are interested in pairing this book with a poem for kids, you’ll find two suggestions at the bottom of this post.

Here is the description of SUPER JAKE from Goodreads:

A debut contemporary novel about 11-year-old aspiring magician Ethan, who discovers that heroes come in all sizes, and real magic can be found in the most unexpected places.

When life revolves around stressed-out parents and ER visits for his special needs little brother Jake, eleven-year-old Ethan escapes to a world of top hats, trick decks, and magic wands. When he hears of a junior magic competition where the top prize is to meet and perform with his hero, Magnus the Magnificent, Ethan is determined to do whatever he needs to get there–and to win.

His dedication and hard work pay off, and he makes it to the top five finalists: his dream really could come true! Then Jake falls dangerously ill and Ethan’s hopes and plans are in jeopardy. As he searches for any sort of magic that might save Jake, Ethan learns what is truly important . . . and what real magic is.

Another magical thing about Naomi is that Ethan, Jake, and their middle brother Freddy are based on Naomi’s own family. You can read about the real Jake here.

Naomi’s launch featured a real magician! Vick Dias Gisin wowed the kids in the audience (and the adults too).

Naomi, thank you so much for stopping by my blog today. Here are your five questions!

1. I loved the way that you incorporated your sense of humor into Ethan’s voice. What role does humor play in the story?

Thank you! Unlike other parts of Super Jake, the humor came easily – and I knew it was crucial to balance the sadder, heavier parts of the story. Luckily for me, just as Jake’s limitations and fragile health were very real, so were his big brothers’ antics. My oldest son Jeremy (who Ethan is loosely based on), had – and has – a very quick wit and terrific imagination. He really did turn a benign teddy bear into “Ninja Bear” to help Jake move his arms! And my younger son, Jesse (who inspired alter ego Freddy) truly was a sweet, joyful kid, who lightened the mood every day.

2. Let’s talk about the title. Super Jake gets top billing, even though Ethan is the narrator. What was the process of making that decision?

That’s a very perceptive point, Laura, and goes a long way in explaining why it took SIXTEEN YEARS from first draft to publication! I wrote the first draft two months after Jake died, because I wanted his brothers (7 and 11 at the time) to remember him. So, in my mind, it was always first and foremost about Jake; it still is. But many years, drafts and critiques later, I finally understood that, despite Jake’s importance both in the book and in real life, it had to be Ethan’s story. He is the first-person narrator, and his 11-year-old voice is the one readers will (hopefully) identify with and care about. I think Jake and Ethan share “top billing,” and that’s as it should be. I just feel bad for Freddy. But I guess that’s the classic middle child syndrome, right?

3. Many authors turn to memoir when they are writing about a personal or family experience. What made children’s fiction the right genre for this story? How did you decide which elements of your own experience to incorporate and what to fictionalize?

I had already written several middle grade novels, so I was comfortable writing for that age group,  plus it was my sons’ story, so it came naturally to write their voices. I had, and have, no desire whatsoever to write a memoir! As for which real-life elements to include and which to create… that was definitely challenging (did I mention it took SIXTEEN YEARS?) Pretty much all of the Jake parts happened: the therapists; the ER visits; the hospitalization; the limitations – and, most of all, his sweetness and the love we felt for him.

The magic element began because Jeremy did perform at parties, but it took on a life of its own the more Ethan needed a story line that belonged exclusively to him. Also, there was no bully, and Dad was never an assistant principal. Many of the other characters (The Todds, Tina, and the grandparents) are based on real people. Any similarities to the mom are purely coincidental – unless she’s your favorite character, in which case it’s strictly autobiographical.

4. Ms. Carlin is a teacher who Ethan has a special relationship with. Let’s talk about the importance of adults who are not a child’s own parents at this middle grade age — whether those adults are mentors or simply offer a broader view of how to be a grown up in the world.

Ms. Carlin is an homage to all the wonderful, compassionate teachers out there. She is kind and patient and funny and wise and always has time (and chocolate bars!) for Ethan, unlike his overextended parents. Ethan is fortunate (as we were) to have a “village” to support him and his family: neighbors across the street; grandparents; an older “brother” and an older “sister”… I think all kids can use someone to confide in, look up to and count on in addition to their parents.

5. Sibling dynamics are an important part of your book. It’s unusual to see a boy or brother portrayed as nurturing, especially to a male sibling, in fiction. Can you talk about the deep love that Ethan has for Jake, especially in contrast to the annoyed fondness he expresses toward Freddy.

It’s funny. Jeremy was so amazing with Jake, that when I portrayed Ethan the same way, my critique group insisted no one could be that much of a saint. (For some reason, I never heard that complaint when it came to the mom, who was not even close to perfect.) So I added a bit of jealousy here and a bit of resentment there to make Ethan more believable. I think it’s important to show kids with, and without, siblings who have special needs how much love they (the special needs kids) can give and receive. They are not a burden; they are a gift. I hope that comes across in Super Jake.

Thanks, Naomi! It does come across. What a beautiful book. Ethan shares so many insights — sweet and difficult — about the life he shares with Jake and their family.

Naomi Milliner’s love of literature led her to an English degree at the University of Maryland; her love of cinema led her to the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in Screenwriting. After ten years in Hollywood, her fear of earthquakes (especially hiding under a kitchen table with her baby) led her back to Maryland, where she happily resides with her husband and sons Jeremy and Jesse. Her debut middle grade novel, SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS, was inspired by the chaotic – and magical – goings-on when her youngest son, Jake, was alive.

***
I went in search of a poem to pair with this book, if you’re reading it with a child or classroom. Surprise! There aren’t a lot of poems about stage magic written for kids, let alone poems about kid magicians. Luckily, Kenn Nesbitt came to my rescue with a funny poem. I also found a great, heart-felt poem, “Real Magic,” by David Alexander on the Poetry Soup site.

My Hat Is Full of Rabbits

My hat is full of rabbits.
My cape is full of doves.
A playing card is up my sleeve,
and some are in my gloves.

A wand is in my pocket
with handkerchiefs and flowers.
My coat has things like ropes and rings
with mystifying powers.

I have my staff and juggling clubs,
my mirrors, cups, and dice,
my crystal ball, my smoke machine,
and fancy dancing mice.

I’m ready for my magic show.
There’s just one problem here…
My elephant is on my lap
and will not disappear.

–Kenn Nesbitt

Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Be sure to read Kenn’s “About This Poem,” which talks about his days as a kid magician, just like Ethan!

Real Magic

Unlike a magician
          real magic I weave
It's not a trick	
     nothing up my sleeve

No abracadabra
           no sleight of hand
No vaudeville act
       or stunt preplanned

No mumbo jumbo
                  no hocus pocus
No smoke and mirrors
            to make eyes lose focus	

No prestidigitation
            no attempt to deceive
No optical illusion
           or make believe

Real magic exists
            it's not hard to find
Just close your eyes
          and open your mind

Copyright © David Alexander | Posted 2018

Both poems shared with permission of the authors.

David and I are having a side chat about poetry. Be sure to check out his work at Poetry Soup and at the Illinois State Poetry Society (click on “ISPS Member Poems” to find David’s work).

Poetry Friday: Poems from Third Grade, Part 2

This week's Poetry Friday host is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. Visit Margaret for all of the week's poetry links.

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. Visit Margaret for all of the week’s poetry links.

Welcome back to Northfied Elementary, Poetry Friday readers.

This is my thirteenth year working with third graders at this local school. It’s a special occasion that I look forward to all year. The 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!

Our first poetry workshop was a favorite form, list poems. You can read my lesson, which describes the workshop, here.

The mentor text I use is “Words in My Pillow” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Georgia Heard’s anthology of list poems, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE.

When we’re working on list poems, the students are focusing on two important skills: choosing a topic for the poem that influences every single line; and paying attention to word choice — this poem calls for juicy, interesting words that stand out!

While you’re enjoying these list poems, I will be on my way to my native New Jersey for NerdCamp! This annual literacy conference is held each year at Chatham HS. I’m looking forward to leading a session on introversion in the classroom with educator Heather Rocco. For a full list of authors and session, visit the NerdCampNJ home page.

Here is the next batch of third grade poems, with thanks to the students’ families for permission to share.

Words on the Beach
By Max A.

I know words are hiding here.
Words that are good–

Waves
Sharp
Soft

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the tummy hiding inside me.
No one can see it
but I know what I see–

Sand
Shells
Crabs
Seaweed
Water and
Waves

Things that are fun are in there
Beach balls are in there.

The words are playing together
when I want to meet them.

Fun
Water
Sun
Seaweed
is in the beach.

My friends the words
go to the beach before I do.
But they never
leave me.

***

Words in the Ocean
By Jesse Z.

I see words floating on the ocean.
Words that are soaked–

Sunken ship
Boats
Coral
Seashell

Some people can see them
but I find them swimming
like a shark swimming at me.
Some people can see it
but I really know it’s there.

Rough
Calm
Wavy
Blue
Crazy

Animals are in there.
Fish are in there.

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

Splashing
Snorkeling
and sometimes getting seasick.

My friends the words
go float and play before I do.
But they never
go away.

***

Words in a Basketball Court
By Chaitanya M.

I hide words inside my basketball.
Words that are loud.

Dribble
Dunk
Buzzers

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

3 pointer
Lay-up
Crossover
Half court
Full court
Balls

Teams are in there.
Players are in there.

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

Leather
Rubber
Glass
Metal
is in my basketball court.

My friends, the words
never go away.

***

Words in My Gymnastics Bag
By Milan M.

I hide words inside my gymnastics bag.
Words that feel good and bad–

Leotard
Scrunchie
Socks

No one can see them
but I find them inside my brain.
Like the pain hiding inside my ankle.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there–

Competing
Winning
Tired
Flexibility
Tricks
Flipping
Split

Entertaining is in there.
Sweaty is in there.

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

Boom!
Thump!
Land!
Ouch!
is in my gymnastics bag.

My friends the words
go to gymnastics class before I do.
But they never, never, ever
do flips and splits!!!!

***

Words in My Basketball
By Trevor L.

I hide words inside my basketball.
Words that inspire me.

Orange
Stripes
Light

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

Shot
Team
Players
Hoop
Fun
Back board

Smarts are in me.

Me and the ball are playing together
when I am saying or thinking of it.

Friends
Crazy
Rough
Tough
is in my ball.

My ball, my friend
goes to the court.
But it doesn’t
go away.

***

Words in My Dog
By Emma B.

I hide words inside my dog.
Words that are good–

Dog toys
Panting
Warm

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
I know what’s in there.

Trotting
Fun
Combs
Energetic
Excited
Running

Fleas are in there.
Ticks are in there.

Jumping
Dog food
Treats
Fluffy
is in my dog.

My dog
goes to bed before I do.
But the words inside her
go away.

***

All poems shared with permission.

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 4 — Food Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)

Poetry Friday: Poems from Third Grade, Part 1

Elizabeth Steinglass, our host for Poetry Friday, is celebrating her new book! Stop by Liz’s blog to find this week’s poetry links and to hear all about SOCCERVERSE.

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends.

This month, I am back at Northfield Elementary for my annual poetry residency. Each year, I spend about a month working with the entire third grade.

The 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!

Our first poetry workshop was a favorite form, list poems. You can read my lesson, which describes the workshop, here.

The model poem I use is by our new Young People’s Poet Laureate, Naomi Shihab Nye. The students were so excited when I told them the big news of her appointment. Yes! The poem we worked with is by *the* top children’s poet in the country.

“Words in My Pillow” by Naomi Shihab Nye comes from Georgia Heard’s anthology of list poems, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE.

This is what the cross-out method of poem writing looks like.

Because this is our first workshop, we do this poem as a cross-out. The children write their original poems over the top of Nye’s words. This provides structure and coaches these young poets in rhythm and word choice.

Here is the first batch of this year’s third grade poems. I’m so happy to be able to send some of the students’ first drafts.

 

 

 

Words in My Dreams
By Aiden M.

I have words inside my dreams,
words from my head–

Crazy
Wild
Sour

No one can see them
but I find them hunting for me.
Like the money hiding inside my piggy.
No one can see it
but I know it’s in there–

Scary
Happy
Sticky
Bright
Sweet
Sad

Flowers are in there
Clouds are in there.

The words are playing together
when I am thinking and thinking about them.

Colorful
Gloomy
Cute
Weird
is in my dreams.

My friends the words
go to my mind before I notice.
But they never go away.

***

Words in My Desk
By Zoey C.

I hide words inside my desk.
Words that make me happy.

Neat
Clean
Organized

No one can find them
but I find them making me proud.
Like the school box hiding inside my desk.
No one can find them
but I know what’s in there.

Glue
Markers
Scissors
Pencil
Eraser
Crayons

Notebooks are in there.
Folders are in there.

The words are talking together
when I am grabbing or thinking them.

Slide
Push
Take
Tip
I find in my desk.

My helpers the words
go to school before I do.
But they never
go away.

***

Words in My Stinky Shoes
By Novali V.

I hide words inside my shoes.
Words that taste bad.

Soccer
Stench
Kick

No one can see them.
They still use them,
like the brain hiding inside my head.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there–

A foot
Sweat
A sock (smelly)
Dirt
Rocks, stones
Toena — oof! *Slips*

Kicks are in there.
Accidental sliding is in there.

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

Excited for a game
Tired
Thoughts
Sprint
is in my shoe.

My friends, the words
go to rest before I do.
But they never
come out of my shoes.

***

Words in My Ocean
By Elyse G.

I discover words inside my ocean.
Words that feel good–

Cool water
Moist sand
Slimy seaweed squelching
between my toes

People think they can see them
but I know that what they see is just
half the picture,
like the beach.
People can see the sand
but they can’t see the miles
of the ocean’s words.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there–

Seahorse
Fishes of the oceans
Oil
Mollusks
Sea cucumbers
Caverns

Jellies are in there.
Underwater is in there.

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

Slimy
Soft
Hard
Cool
Wondrous

My friends the words
wiggle away before people can find them.
But I always know where to find them.

***

Words in the Solar System
By Matthew B.

I hide words inside the solar system.
Words that are breathtaking.

Planets
Sun
Stars

Everyone can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Everyone can see it
but I know what’s in there–

Light
Dark
White
Burning
Sparkling
Cold

Planets are in there.
The moon is in there.

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

Cold
Yellow
Traveling
Woosh!
is in the solar system.

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

***

Words in My Pocket
By Jackson S.

I hide words inside my pocket.
Words that are fun–

Lollipop
Coins
Stickers

No one can see them
But I find them waiting for me.
Like my room waiting for me after school.
No one can feel it
but I know what’s in there.

Bouncy ball
Drawings
Playing cards
Wrappers
Band-aid colors

Darkness is in there
My stuff is in there.

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

Paper
Smarties
Purple
Bang!
is in my pocket.

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

***

Words in My Cat Fela
By River M.

She has words inside her body.
Words that are cuddly–

Sleep
Eat
Grumble

No one can see them
but I find them in her fur.
Like the tiredness and calmness in her head.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there.

Food
Treats
Blankets
Outside
“Leave me alone”
Comfortable

Memories are in there too.
Kitten is in there.

The words are sleeping together
when she is meowing or thinking them.

Yes
Stop
Bed
Chhh!
is in my cat Fela.

My cat Fela and the words
go to bed before I do.
But they never
go away from my cat Fela’s mind.

***

Words in My Pool
By Olivia L.

I hide words inside my pool.
Words that splash you–

Leaves
Waves
Water

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the bubbles hiding beside my body.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there.

Bugs
Toy ships that float
Feet slicing through the water
Money people have lost
Birds swimming
Floats floating

The word “Overwhelming” hides in the pool as well.
People feeling refreshed by the cool water.

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

Whip
Splash!
Blue
Woosh!
is in my pool.

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

All poems shared with permission.

For more of this year’s student poems, please check out:
Poems from Third Grade, Part 1 — List Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 2 — List Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 3 — Food Poems (Ms. Hilliard and Ms. Trodden’s classes)
Poems from Third Grade, Part 4 — Food Poems (Ms. Spencer, Ms. Sochol-Solomon, and Ms. Scavo’s classes)

National Poetry Month 2019

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater this week! Stop by the Poem Farm for some farm-fresh poems.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

From “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot
(Read the poem at the Poetry Foundation)

Ever wondered why we celebrate National Poetry Month in April? It is the cruellest month, according to T. S. Eliot.  Despite the dead land and dull roots, there is hope in the lilacs and the spring rain.

I’ve been away from blogging while Saadia Faruqi and I revise our upcoming middle grade novel, A Place at the Table. But I can’t let National Poetry Month pass without joining in on the fun.

More importantly, it is my mission to encourage educators to share poetry with students. That’s why I took a break from the revision tunnel to talk poetry with:

Jed Doherty at Reading with Your Kids

Are you a fan of podcasts? At his podcast, “Reading with Your Kids,” children’s author Jedlie and I talked about the power of sharing poetry with children. You can listen to the episode here.

Resources I mentioned during the podcast include:

Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry” at the Poetry Foundation

Poetry 180 — a poem for every day of the high school year.

The Poetry Foundation

Poetry Friday blogging community overview from Renee LaTulippe: https://www.nowaterriver.com/what-is-poetry-friday/

Sarah Tregay’s list of verse novels 

Poetry Out Loud national recitation competition

United States’ Young People’s Poet Laureate

Educators at Nerdy Book Club

This was my second time doing a special Facebook Live/National Poetry Month video for Nerdy Book Club, a grass roots organization founded by educators to support teachers and promote reading and literacy. This 40 minute video focuses on poetic forms and why it’s important to include them in your students’ poetry toolbox. I model a lesson on Fibonacci poems and share a writing technique called “cross-out” poetry. Watch here.

Resources mentioned in this video include:

*Traditional poetic forms:

Haiku Hike. Scholastic, Inc. 2005.

Hirsch, Robin. FEG: Ridiculous Poems for Intelligent Children. Illustrated by Ha. Little, Brown and Company, 2002.

Janeczko, Paul B. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick Press, 2005.

Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till. Illustrated by Philippe Lardy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005. (Form – a crown of sonnets. Viewer Nicole Mancini suggests pairing this book with Jewell Parker Rhodes Ghost Boys.)

Padgett, Ron, editor. The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1987.

Reibstein, Mark. Wabi Sabi. Illustrated by Ed Young. Little, Brown and Company, 2008. (Form – haiku.)

Soto, Gary. Neighborhood Odes. Illustrated by David Diaz. Harcourt, Inc. 1992. (Form – odes.)

*Recently invented forms:

Golden Shovel poems, invented by Terrance Hayes – in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool.”

Gwendolyn Brooks reading “We Real Cool”

Article on Golden Shovels

Mentor text: Grimes, Nikki. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomsbury, 2017.

Reverso poems, invented by Marilyn Singer. 

Article on Reverso poems

Mentor text: Singer, Marilyn. Mirror, Mirror. Illustrated by Josée Masse. Dutton Children’s Books, 2010.

*Fibonacci sequence:

Campbell, Sarah C. Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. Boyds Mill Press, 2010.

Lichtman, Wendy. “Nature’s Spirals.” National Geographic Explorer, March, 2009.

Also check out poet Joyce Sidman’s book Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. (Suggested by viewer Jessica Bigi.)

*Fibonacci poems:

You will find my classroom handouts and Fibonacci poem writing frame at the bottom of this post.

Lesson description and student responses: http://authoramok.blogspot.com/2012/05/we-got-beat-fibonacci-poems-part-1.html

http://authoramok.blogspot.com/2012/05/we-got-beat-fibonacci-poems-part-2.html

*Cross-out poems:

Shihab Nye, Naomi. “Words in My Pillow.” Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems. Ed. Georgia Heard. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2009. 26.

Medina, Tony. “Harlem Is the Capital of My World.” Love to Langston. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books Inc. 2010.

Lesson description and student responses: https://laurashovan.com/2018/05/poetry-friday-list-poem-lesson/

FIBONACCI POEM HANDOUTS

Fibonacci poem writing frame

Fibonacci poem hand-out

Model Fibonacci poems (thanks to Karren Alenier for sharing)

Poetry Friday: The Man in the Green Suit

Heidi Mordhorst is hosting Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe. The optional theme this week is climate change.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I think everyone knows by now, one of my favorite poetic forms is the portrait poem. Maybe it’s because I studied dramatic writing as an undergrad, but I think there’s something magical about bringing a character to life  in the space of a small poem.

My poem for this week was inspired by my recent trip to Israel with PJ Library and the Harold J. Grinspoon Foundation.

We spent the first few days traveling in the desert, including a strenuous hike, a visit to a Bedouin encampment, stargazing from the bottom of a crater, a visit to solemn Masada, and kayaking on the still blue water of the Dead Sea — over 1,300 feet below sea level.

Under the Old City — we walked on an ancient paved road that once led to the Jewish Temple.

From that vast landscape and all of its profound experiences, we moved on to Jerusalem.

Although I had visited Israel once before, I didn’t spend much time in Jerusalem on my last trip. I fell in love with this city. Modern, yes, but also ancient and undeniably spiritual.

One of the sites we visited was a dig below the city where an ancient road, dating to at least 2,000 year ago, is being excavated.

I think that’s why — when we finally arrived for our final two days of the trip in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv — the man in the green suit made such an impression on me and my traveling companions (all fellow children’s authors).

Photo by Mark Shulman. Beachside promenade, Tel Aviv.

There was nothing of the desert and its silence or ability to make one feel small about this guy. None of Jerusalem’s inward focus. His polished look was the opposite of effortless. I think that’s what made him so noticeable — at least to us.

I jotted down a poetic sketch later that same night. Luckily, my friend Mark Shulman snapped a photo, which I’m posting here with Mark’s permission.

The Man in the Green Suit
By Laura Shovan

Smooth as sunset,
out for an easy
stroll. Who can take
their eyes off that
fresh haircut, sleek
Gucci bag, Blue
Tooth in his ear?
He’s the master
of the “I look
good” saunter. Sharp
shoes. Thin gold tie.
The sun hits his shades
and he turns
to see who’s watching.
Duh. Everyone.

Poetry Friday: Van Gogh Dreams

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Catherine at Reading to the Core. Stop by for a round-up of this week’s poetic posts.

Hello, Poetry Friday friends. I haven’t seen you in a few weeks. Before I get to this week’s poem — a quick update!

I took a blogging break while I was traveling with 17 other children’s authors on PJ Library’s Author Israel Adventure. It was a life-changing trip, full of new friends, amazing experiences, and lots of learning. I’ll tell you more about it in future posts. If you can’t wait, there is a great photo essay about our trip in Publisher’s Weekly — written and photographed by children’s author Mark Shulman.

Enjoying felafel sandwiches in Jerusalem with children’s authors Emma Carlson Berne (L) and Madelyn Rosenberg (R).

Because of the trip, I moved this year’s February Poetry Project to March. We are a small group this year, with some regulars and some new poets responding to a common poetry prompt every day. If you’d like to join, let me know. This year’s theme — definitely inspired by the incredible Mediterranean cuisine  — is FOOD. If you’d like to learn more about my annual poetry project, please read this 2016 post.

The only other time I have traveled abroad with a group of authors was four years ago. In 2015, about 60 poets/community activists gathered in Salerno, Italy for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference. That’s where I met Lisa Vihos, the poet I’m going to introduce you to today.

Lisa Vihos reading at 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy, 2015.

Lisa Vihos is a Wisconsin poet and editor. Some of her books are the chapbooks This Particular Heaven (Kelsay Press, Kelsay Books, 2017) and Fan Mail from Some Flounder (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018). Two of the anthologies Lisa compiled and edited are From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology (Water’s Edge Press, 2019, co-edited with Dawn Hogue), and the book I’m featuring today: Van Gogh Dreams (HenschelHAUS Publishing, 2018).

Van Gogh Dreams is an apt title for this collection. The book weaves together ekphrastic responses to specific Van Gogh paintings (The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Starry Night, for example), poems in Van Gogh’s voice, and modern reflections on the artist and what 21st century creatives can learn from him.

If you’re in the Maryland/DC area, Lisa is coming to visit! She will be the featured author, along with Andria Nacina Cole, at Wilde Readings (the local literary reading series that I co-host). The event is March 12 at the Columbia Art Center, Columbia, MD. We start the open mic at 7 pm. (More info is here.)

I’m so excited to see Lisa again. Literary friendships run deep.

Here is Lisa Vihos’s poem from Van Gogh Dreams.

Love Letter for Vincent
By Lisa Vihos

I would have sat quietly
while you painted the stars
and I would not have tossed
the sunflowers
before you were done with them

I would have tended
the irises, dusted your chair,
and made your bed, in love
with the vibration inside all things —
just like you. I would not have judged

the cut ear or the old sermons.
I would have cooked your potatoes,
wiped clean your shoes,
and bought you another absinthe
at midnight in the pool hall.

I would have brought a picnic lunch
and a cool drink to the wheat field.
I would have marveled with you at the sun
and the patterns the blackbirds made
as they flew low along the horizon.

Posted with permission of the author.

Van Gogh Dreams is available here and on Amazon.

I love that the cover of Van Gogh Dreams is a work of  art in itself. As Lisa explains in the book’s introduction, it is taken from a collage created by her father, artist Georg Vihos.

While she’s here, Lisa will be recording an episode of the long-running Library of Congress podcast “The Poet and the Poem.” The host is Grace Cavalieri, our new state poet laureate of Maryland! I’ll share a link when the podcast is available.

Do you love Van Gogh’s paintings? You might want to check out Vans new Van Gogh fashion line. Yes, Vans the sneaker company. What would Vincent think, I wonder?