Archives: Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Chocolate Haibun

Thanks to Liz Steinglass for hosting the Poetry Friday round up this week!

I’m posting my Poetry Friday offering early this week. I’ll be traveling on Friday, visiting the niece and nephews mentioned in the poem below.

This is my first attempt at a haibun. It has also been forever since I shared a “random conversations” post. I wanted to capture the way an everyday moment (shopping) transformed into a moment of unexpected connection with a stranger. Haibun — because of its leap from prose to haiku — seemed a good fit. Has anyone else tried the form? What do you think about its hybrid style?

Cheer Down
By Laura Shovan

A quick stop at the local chocolatier. It’s Hanukkah, and I’ve had my eye on their white chocolate unicorn lollipops for my niece and nephews. What would be a brief transaction – customer, clerk – shifts when a George Harrison song begins to play. He is our favorite Beatle. Under the banter, recognition that each of us is settled down, grounded and calmed, by the same music.

Dusk on Main Street
Gray light, brown bag
Saffron truffles

A herd of white chocolate unicorns.

If you are ever in Maryland, the chocolate shop is Sweet Cascades in Old Ellicott City. Their truffles are divine.

And if you’d like to listen to George perform the song referenced in my poems title, you’ll find him here.

See you next week when it’s my turn to host Poetry Friday. I’m attempting Mr. Linky for the first time. Fingers crossed!

Poetry Friday: To the Moon, In the Sky

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Carol at the blog Carol’s Corner. Stop by for poetry book reviews, news, and original verse!

I’ve got a great read-along this week: a work of historical verse to pair with a wonderful new middle grade novel, coming out in February.

First up: The verse.

A few months ago, Linda Mitchell of the blog A Word Edgewise recommended a fabulous book: Countdown, 2878 Days to the Moon, by Suzanne Slade.

I hesitate to call this a picture book. It is a rich poetic history of the American moon missions, from President John F. Kennedy’s announcement of a goal to land a man on the moon (1961) to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moonwalk in 1969.

Paired with the poems, which cover all 11 Apollo missions, are gorgeous full-color paintings of the astronauts and rockets by artist Thomas Gonzalez, as well as photographs of and info-boxes about the astronauts on each mission.

The astronaut who most caught my attention in this book was Michael Collins. He flew with Armstrong and Aldrin, but never set foot on the moon:

Collins remains in the command module–
alone,
hoping he won’t have to return to Earth alone.
Then he pushes a button
and releases Eagle.

“Okay, there you go. Beautiful!” Collins calls out
as the ships slowly drift apart.

Imagine being the one to stay behind at that moment. Imagine being solely responsible for getting Armstrong and Aldrin safely back on board the command module.

There’s another reason why Michael Collins stood out among all of the heroic characters in Countdown. I had recently read about him in another book.

Next up: The Novel.

Ruby in the Sky is a debut middle grade novel by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo.

Ruby’s Dad used to work for NASA. The moon was their touchstone. Whether they were together or apart, every night they would both look at the moon and know they were thinking about each other. But Ruby and her mother’s lives have been in a tailspin since her father passed away.

Mom has dragged Ruby from Florida to Vermont, her own childhood home, in the middle of winter. Ruby is reluctant to make friends — even reluctant to speak — at her new school. But when a class biography project comes up and she has to pick a topic, her first choice is Michael Collins.

There is so much more I could say about this beautiful story of friendship, forgiveness, and finding your voice. I hope you will read it and enjoy it for yourself! Full disclosure, MG author Tricia Clasen and I worked with Jeanne on this book when she was our Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (read about that here).

If Ruby Moon Hayes were a real person, she’d devour the poems and history in Countdown. She might even have some facts and important historical figures of her own to add to the “race to the moon” story. For your real life kids, these two books are perfects read-alongs. Enjoy!

Poetry Friday: Job Search

Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Live Your Poem.

When I heard poet and sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter perform this poetic monologue a few weeks ago, I knew it was the perfect thing to share on Black Friday.

I met Jay, a fellow Maryland poet, at the DiVerse Poetry readings series in Gaithersburg, MD this spring. (Those of you who go to that city’s book festival, be sure to say hi to Lucinda Marshall, host of the Diverse Poetry series and its lively community of readers.) After hearing him read, I had to invite Jay to perform at the local series I co-host, Wilde Readings.

I hope this hilarious portrait poem brings you a smile, whether or not you’re braving the malls today.

JOB SEARCH
By Jay Hall Carpenter

What if I had a diff’rent job,
An occupation more attuned
To skills that best befit a snob
And are, in practice, less jejune?

Perhaps I could, a critic be–
No Broadway show could match my taste.
I could appraise fine jewelry
And at a glance know gem from paste.

But English, that’s the highest calling,
To speak precisely, without doubt.
And what on Earth is  more appalling
Than when one calls a route a rout?

We lend to friends, we never loan,
And such transgressions bare my talons.
For we must all, our grammar hone.
It is less milk, but fewer gallons.

We champ the bit, we do not chomp,
A swind’ler is a sharp, not shark.
Abhor inconsequential pomp
And make each sentence hit its mark!

It’s Farther when we go the distance,
Further when we’ve things to add.
The full effect of my assistance
Is an affect far from bad.

We flounder, as we  gasp for breath,
But founder when we sink below.
Poor usage is akin to death
As even lesser men should know.

Yet here I’m stuck and must be stalwart,
Although I’m built for better thing.
So in my name-tagged vest at Walmart
I’ll greet them in the tongue of kings!

Shared with the author’s permission.

Jay Hall Carpenter has been a professional artist for over 40 years, beginning as a sculptor for the Washington National Cathedral, and winning numerous national awards for his work. His first poetry collection, Dark and Light (2012), was followed by 101 Limericks Inappropriate For All Occasions (2107), and will be followed next year by a third, as yet untitled, collection. He has written poetry, plays, and children’s books throughout his career and now sculpts and writes in Silver Spring, MD.

 

Check out Jay’s wonderful gallery of sculptures here.

I was lucky enough to see Jay’s statue of Frederick Douglass in person during the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival (Eaton, MD). This year marks Douglass’ 200th birthday.

Poetry Friday: The Poetry of US

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Kay McGriff at A Journey through the Pages.

Happy Friday, poets and poetry lovers!

Autumn has arrived in full force. We had our first frost in Maryland this week, but I’m still thinking of the sunny days of summer.

Last Friday, I brought you with me on a visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital on the Florida Keys. Today, let’s visit the beach.

 

I was thrilled when J. Patrick Lewis invited me to contribute a poem to his wonderful new anthology, The Poetry of US, which contains “More than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States.” The book is published by National Geographic, so it’s no surprise that the photographs on every page are gorgeous.

My assignment was to write a poem about New Jersey.

People laugh when they hear that Jersey’s nickname is “The Garden State.” All they’ve seen of my home state is highways — and the factories and airports that surround them.

In fact, for a small state, New Jersey is geographically diverse. Its long eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean. It contains the Pine Barrens, part of the Appalachian Trail, and many state forests.

You *may* also have some thoughts about New Jersey if you ever watched the infamous reality TV show, “The Jersey Shore.”

When I sat down to write my poem, I wanted to show people the other side of New Jersey. I thought about summertime trips to the beach when I was a child, and how some of the places we loved best had been devastated by Super Storm Sandy in 2012. There’s a video showing the damage to our favorite boardwalk in Seaside Heights here.

Most of the time, my family avoided the bustle and busy-ness of the boardwalk and amusement parks. Instead, we would leave early, early in the morning to find a spot at Island Beach State Park. This is a preserved, undeveloped barrier island with beautiful, spare beaches.

I always loved running along the path, over the dunes, and catching that first glimpse of the Atlantic.


Beach Day
Island Beach State Park, New Jersey
by Laura Shovan

 We leave home before dawn, our car packed
with towels, sunblock, coolers of food.

There are closer beaches,
but they’re for boardwalk people.

We smile when we reach the park gate.
No hotels here. No tourist shops.

Can you smell the salt air? Mom asks.
The beach stays hidden behind miles of dunes.

At last, Dad finds a spot. We tumble out of the car,
race down a path through the scrub.

There! I am first to glimpse the wide, white beach,
first to stick my toes in the icy Atlantic.

I stretch my arms and spin. All I see are the dunes
and the ocean.  All I hear is the music of the waves.

***

Search the subject index of The Poetry of US and you’ll be sure to find places and people that are dear to your heart.

I have good friends in Albuquerque, and loved discovering Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ concrete poem, “Mass Ascension: At the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.”

Mary Lee Hahn’s poem “Bessie and Amelia,” about female aviators Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart, reminded me of reading Pat Valdata’s book, Where No Man Can Touch. You can read my post about that book — all persona poems spoken in the voices of women pioneers of flight — right here.

Have fun exploring The Poetry of US!

Poetry Friday: A Visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital

Brenda Harsham is hosting Poetry Friday this week. You’ll find poetry links from around the kidlitosphere at her blog, Friendly Fairy Tales.

Happy Poetry Friday, readers! It’s good to be back after a long hiatus.

In September, I visited the Florida Keys on a book research trip with writing friends. One of them, author and science educator Timanda Wertz, suggested that we visit the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.

I learned so much about sea turtles. Funniest (and saddest) is that when sea turtles’ shells are damaged by a boat strike, air can become trapped in the healing carapace. That makes it difficult for the turtles to dive for food — a syndrome called Bubble Butt.

Yeah, I laughed too. The syndrome takes its name from a permanent resident of the hospital. (You can see photos of the original Bubble Butt here.) Turtles with Bubble Butt don’t do well in the wild, so they come to live at the hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

This was the highlight of the entire trip for me. (Author admission: It was even better than visiting Judy Blume’s bookstore in Key West.)

 

 

 

There were some brand new hatchlings among the turtles we visited…

 

 

 

 

 

… but my favorite was this guy. Look at that face!

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a sea turtle poem from the online journal Rattle.

Mary H. Palmer, RN, C, PhD

THE SEA TURTLE

Shoulder-deep in the sea turtle’s nest,
I search for remains, nothing alive.
The tiny turtles would have climbed
over each other, forming a living ladder
out of their sandy birth canal
leaving only the unhatched and dead behind.
Mongoose would have gotten any stragglers.
I am here only to count egg shells.
My hand reaches bottom and scoops up
sand and bits of leathery shells. In their midst,
I find a black soft lump, a hatchling left behind.
It remains listless until I gently stroke its belly
until its life flickers and catches hold
as a flame lays claim to a
candle wick.
It doesn’t have much of a chance.
Pelicans already circle. But waiting until night
so it can follow the moon to the
water is a death sentence too. I place it on
the sloping beach and whisper a prayer.

Poetry Friday: “Moving Day”

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. Stop by her blog for all of this week’s Poetry Friday links.

The day is finally here. We are dropping our youngest child off at university.

As often happens in times of transition, a favorite poem is making me smile and giving me comfort.

I first read “Moving Day,” by poet J. C. Elkin in 2010, when my little one actually was little — just ten years old. I selected this funny, emotionally true sonnet for an anthology I was editing.

Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems was published by MWA Books in 2011. It includes 100 poems by 50 Maryland poets. Some of them stay with me, some I’m reminded of when I open the book. And some of the poems, like Jane’s, grow with me as I meet the moment of the poem in my own life.

MOVING DAY
by J. C. Elkin

You moved into your dorm a sticky day.
We schlepped your stuff and sweat with no A. C.
I vowed I wouldn’t bawl. I’d be OK.
I, too, was moving on. Now I was free.
My mind a knot of hopes, unbidden fears.
A sign: Hydration — Health: Your Body’s Link.
A stupid thought to cap our eighteen years,
my last advice was, “Don’t forget to drink.”

A horde of tourists swarmed Colonial Town.
Your dad bought food. I found a bench outside.
I would have been just fine, but sitting down
I bumped my head, and cried, and cried, and cried.

My mother’s death. Your sister’s crash. Now this.
At least there’s always chocolate. Make it Swiss.

from Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems
Shared with permission of the author, J. C. Elkin

Poetry Friday: Heartseeker

Join this week’s poetry party at the blog Nix the Comfort Zone. There, you will find poetry reviews, original verses, and favorite poems shared by the Poetry Friday blogging community.

Have you ever picked up a prose novel and — surprise! — at the start of every chapter there’s a poem to greet you?

When prose novelists incorporate poetry in any form, I’m happy.

In Possession, A.S. Byatt’s wonderful novel, modern literati uncover a secret Victorian romance. The whole story hinges on verses written by a fictional 19th century poet.

Lewis Carroll and J. R. R. Tolkien include invented verse — often in the form of songs shared by their characters — in their fantasy novels. Other authors — such as Cornelia Funke in her Inkheart series — use poetic epigraphs from a variety of authors at the beginning of chapters.

More recent examples: Nikki Grimes’ recent Between the Lines is, in part, about teen slam poets writing their own verses. I used poetry in my prose novel Takedown to show another side of athletic Lev’s character.

What are some writing-craft reasons why an author might choose to incorporate poetry into a prose novel?

I asked this question of debut middle grade novelist Melinda Beatty. Her wonderful fantasy, Heartseeker, published in June.  Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You’re a Fallow of the Orchard. You’re as tough as a green apple in summer . . .

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret.

When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only’s greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

Each chapter of Heartseeker begins with a poem, song, or piece of religious verse. Not from our world, but from Orstral — Melinda’s invented universe — with its rural farmers, Romani-like barge community, and palace intrigues.

Here is the poem that starts the readers’ journey, right at the top of Chapter 1:

Call out, call out, you loud jays, you honey-throated sparrows!
Sing out the summer as it pours into the valleys,
Into the Hush, the Rill, the Lannock and the Blue.
Cry warmth for the Sandkin plains,
For the Mollier vines.
Life up your voices for gentle Dorvan tides
and cool Folque stone.
You sons and daughters of Orstral,
Join the chorus of the coming long light!

–Jylla Burris, poet, Songs of Orstral

When I finished Heartseeker (I sped through the last 100 pages — couldn’t put it down!), I stopped to think about this technique. Fascinating! Through brief poems and verse snippets, Melinda was able to communicate information about the world of the story, a world that was new to me, but clearly one with a unique history, various cultures and belief systems, ruling families, and social mores.

Here’s what Melinda had to say:

When I lived in Britain, it occurred to me that every culture’s got their touchstones—the things everyone knows, whether it’s old television shows, books, politics or scandal. Once I got a broader understanding, especially of the entertainment, I understood a little more about what shaped the people I interacted with every day. Writing songs, stories and poetry from the different peoples of Orstral helped me get to know them—to know what they all had in common, whether that was a rhyme that everyone knew from the cradle, or a bawdy pub tune.

What do you think of this technique? How does it help you, as a reader, connect to the story? I’d love to hear about some novels you’ve read that incorporate poetry, either as a plot element or to help with the world-building in some way. Please share your favorites in the comments.

Melinda Beatty has had years of practice trying to explain to others why she was just having an imaginary conversation between two people that don’t exist, so becoming a writer seemed like the best way to stop everyone looking at her funny. 

After years of narrowboat living on the English canals, she and her British husband are now back on dry land in Maryland where by day, she’s a mild-mannered Indie bookseller, and by night, she wrangles words, craft projects, a Labrador and two fierce mini-women. HEARTSEEKER is her debut novel.

You can connect with Melinda for news or banter at mmbeatty.com or on Twitter @poorrobin.

Read a Poem to a Child

This week’s PF host is Mary Lee Hahn. You’ll find links to all of this week’s poetry posts at A Year of Reading.

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone.

Today, I’m sharing an opportunity from my friends at 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

Dear Poets and Poetry Lovers,

Will you read a poem to a child on September 29 as part of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Global initiative “Read A Poem To A Child?”

This seems to be an important year to highlight the significance of children in the world. We are increasingly aware of their fragility. It is time to take a moment in this busy, crazy life we live, and share something we cherish. Poetry is our gift.

If you will read a poem or poems to a child or children on September 29, please visit the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Facebook page. Post “I’m In!” and your city name as a comment.

Interpret “Read A Poem To A Child” how you like. I hope to record and post a video — maybe reading a poem from The Last Fifth Grade, or a favorite poem from when I was a kid — something that my teacher friends can share with their students. If you have a child at home, grandchild or honorary niece or nephew in your life, perfect!

100 TPC’s organizers are also collecting suggestions of websites, books, and resources where people can find poems to share with kids, such as Poetry 180. Feel free to send along your favorites.

Thank you.

Laura

Poetry Friday: Adjusted Curriculum

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe. I hope she’s serving some rhymonade.

Business first, then a poem.

First, Tabatha Yeatts, you are the winner of the NITA’S FIRST SIGNS book giveaway! Congratulations!

Second, I am heading to the ILA conference this weekend. Look for a post later this afternoon with details about my panel session with MG authors Tricia Springstubb, Karina Yan Glaser, Janet Sumner Johnson, and Ruth Freeman. I’ll also be signing copies of my new middle grade novel, TAKEDOWN.

Third, I had a lovely time participating in Margaret Gibson Simon’s blog tour for BAYOU SONG earlier this week. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post yet, you’ll find it here.

Now, a poem.

It comes with a trigger warning.

My friend, the poet Tim Singleton, wrote this piece on February 15, 2018, in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

“Adjusted Curriculum” was recently published in Dragonfly Arts Magazine. This is a literary journal put out by HopeWorks,  our local rape crisis and domestic violence center. After the poem, you will find more information about HopeWorks.

Adjusted Curriculum, 15 February 2018
by Tim Singleton

Math Class: today we learn to count… bodies.

In Physics, we’ll discuss if heated metal sings
as it tears through air, or is the first sound it makes
that scream into flesh, the blood sizzle?

The skeleton in the back of Biology
is mute with horror:

…what those with meat on their bones do.

The Guidance Office wants the smoke to clear
before you start on college applications.

In Home Economics, we’ll find the best way
to get the stain of a friend’s laughter
out of the air.

All that is left to do in Gym
is pick up and re-rack the balls,
maybe close a few lockers,
swab the floor.

The ink of History is blood;
the next chapter of the textbook
is always empty, waiting to be written.
Everyone have a pen?

In Art class, be quick when you draw from memory,
get the idea on to paper before the person you knew
fades away, disappears.

How many eulogies must we turn in to receive full
credit for this English assignment?

Dragonfly Arts Magazine Cover Art “Portrait D” by Michelle Nguyen

HopeWorks is our local rape crisis and domestic violence center. Dragonfly is one of their many projects that recognize the arts’ role in healing.

Click on the image for more information about HopeWorks.

Poetry Friday Giveaway: Nita’s First Signs

It’s Poetry Friday! Hooray for Sylvia Vardell, who is hosting this week’s blog roll at Poetry for Children. Thanks, Sylvia!

Hi, friends and poets. Happy Poetry Friday!

A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s book launch. I’ve blogged about YA author Kathy MacMillan before, when her debut novel SWORD AND VERSE published. (Read my post about SWORD AND VERSE here.)

Kathy’s latest book is something completely different: A board book story that teaches children and families how to use basic American Sign Language (ASL) together. In addition to being a fun read with great illustrations, NITA’S FIRST SIGNS has the *coolest* design. Hidden sliding pages reveal illustrations of how to make signs like “ball,” “love,” “more,” and “milk.”

NITA’S FIRST SIGNS is published by Familius Press.

Be sure to leave a comment if you’d like to be entered into a giveaway: A signed copy of NITA’S FIRST SIGNS, plus some other fun ASL-related treats.

Kathy and I have talked a few times about posting an ASL poem for Poetry Friday. I’m so glad to welcome her to the blog today. We’ll be taking a look at the poem “Dandelion” by Clayton Valli. As Kathy, who is an ASL interpreter and trainer,  pointed out, “This will be a new way of experiencing poetry for most of your readers.” It certainly was for me.

Welcome, Kathy!

When Laura asked me to select a poem to go with her post about my book, Nita’s First Signs, I was so excited to share some American Sign Language (ASL) poetry with her readers.

ASL poetry does not have a written form; it is composed and performed entirely in American Sign Language.  While I could give you a rough transcript of what the poem means, that would not do justice to the cleverness and beauty or the interplay of form and meaning that an ASL poet shapes. ASL poetry simply must be experienced in a visual medium. For that reason, I will give you a description of the events and meanings in the poem, and then let you experience watching it for yourself.

Meter, alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme are used in an entirely different way in a visual language. For example, a rhyme in ASL may consist of using two signs with similar handshapes to create a pleasing association, or adjusting the movement of the signs to lend visual harmony to the poem.

The poem I have chosen is a classic of ASL literature: “Dandelion” by Dr. Clayton Valli. Dr. Valli was a pioneer in ASL poetry and linguistics, and was one of the first people to analyze the characteristics of ASL poetry.

The poem, which is a little over a minute long, addresses the centuries-long oppression of Deaf people by the hearing world, which has long tried to eradicate deafness. Valli uses the image of dandelions to represent Deaf people and sign language itself.  The man who pulls up and mows down the dandelions represents the hearing world trying to destroy Deaf culture. Valli uses various linguistic tools called classifiers to show the shape and movement of the dandelions as they grow and change. In the end, just like dandelions, the Deaf community has demonstrated a will to survive.

I chose this poem because it emphasizes the intrinsic value and beauty of ASL and the Deaf community. While Nita’s First Signs can be enjoyed by any families — hearing, Deaf, or hard-of-hearing — it is, at its heart, a story about the value of communication. Some readers have told me they think that Nita is Deaf, and some say hearing.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter — because the most important gift any parent can give their child is the gift of communication.  Giving a child the tools to communicate sends the message that we truly value what they have to say.

***

Thanks for visiting, Kathy, and for sharing Dr. Valli’s poem.

Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, signing storyteller, and avowed Hufflepuff.  Nita’s First Signs, the first book in the Little Hands Signing board book series from Familius Press, was praised as “a wonderful introduction to the world of American Sign Language…for ALL infants, toddlers children AND adults” by Marlee Matlin. She is also the author of eight resource books for educators, librarians, and parents, including Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press, 2013). Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse (2016) was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and its companion novel, Dagger and Coin (2018) has been called a “complex feminist fantasy” by author Heidi Heilig. Kathy serves as the co-Regional Advisor for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia Region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  She lives near Baltimore, MD. Find her online atwww.kathymacmillan.com or on social media @kathys_quill.

Check out some of my favorite photos from the NITA’S FIRST SIGNS book launch at Baltimore’s Ivy Bookshop. Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed book and goodies. I will draw a name on Thursday 7/19 and will announce the winner next Poetry Friday, 7/20.

Kathy signs alongside Renee Bertaux, an ASL interpreting intern.

Kathy signs “eat” with a young reader.

Find out more about Kathy’s Stories by Hand workshops here.