Thursday, 10 October 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Catherine Flynn. Be sure to visit Catherine’s blog, Reading to the Core, for all of this week’s poetry posts!

Hi, Poetry Friday friends!

I’ve been out of blogging commission for some weeks. Most of you know the reason why.

But first, a reminder: If you’re coming to the NCTE Conference in Baltimore next month, you are invited to a Poets of KidLit dinner. It will be on Wednesday, November 20, 7 pm. Location TBA (probably Nick’s Fish House). Our special guest will be Kat Apel!

So … why haven’t I been blogging lately? On September 30, my husband and I moved out of our home of 20 years. We downsized a bit and moved from the suburbs to the country.

Best of all: At the new house there is space for writing workshops! I hope to get the workshops up and running by summer or autumn of 2020.

When you come to take or lead a writing workshop at our new house, this will be your view.

This is the wooded path and door to the workshop space.

Meanwhile, Rob (husband), Sam (Schnauzer), Rudy (beagle), and I are getting used to living in the woods.

That means critters. Lots of critters. Enough to post a #critteroftheday on my Instagram account.

Today’s beastie was the spider who made itself GUARDIAN OF THE MAILBOX.

But most interesting so far was the skeleton by the shed. It took a group effort on Facebook to identify this animal. Once I got a good shot of the jawbone, there was no question.

Sam led me to this skeleton.

It’s an opossum.

I haven’t had time to write during the unpacking phase of moving, but I did find a wonderful poem to share with you today.





By Sheila Black

A kind of thrill—to lie on a road
and flatten yourself,

white fur like a ball of winter,

like the March blossoms on the fruit trees,
each one folded in like

the fledgling that never made it
from the nest.

They do this when they feel threatened,
remain motionless

even when curious people come prod
them with sticks,

stiffening their pearly claws as a tree stiffens
its twigs for winter.

Read the rest of the poem at Poets.Org.

My favorite resource for understanding animal encounters is Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. Does anyone else have and love this book as much as I do? I wonder if it’s unpacked. Time to search through the book boxes.

22 responses to “Poetry Friday: Critter of the Day”

  1. Congrats on the new digs, Laura – I hope you all will love it! We lived “in the country” for several years and I never tired of the wildlife, great and small. Intriguing poem – thank you for sharing! A possum is such a curiosity. (Exciting about the writing workshop space – woo hoooo!)

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Robyn! Two weeks in, we love being in the woods. A friend suggested that we get “Certified Wildlife Habitat” status from the National Wildlife Federation. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

  2. That view is amazing, Laura! My boys found many animal skeletons in our woods when they were younger. I don’t get back there often enough. I wonder what’s hiding back there? Possums are quite convincing when they “remain motionless” and stiffen “their pearly claws.” Thank you for sharing Black’s thought-provoking poem.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      We think there may be more possums living in a HUGE yard waste pile left by the previous owners. I’ll leave it to the dogs to find out.

  3. Linda Baie says:

    I’m glad to know what those bones were, Laura. I did do some searching after seeing your picture, but couldn’t confirm. What a wonderful place you have moved to. I have a neighborhood of many trees, but it isn’t woods, will be wonderful tromping through I’m sure. There is much to love in the poem, the poet’s lovely observations (as a tree stiffens/its twigs for winter) and that question.

  4. Congratulations on your new home, Laura! Love your ode to the possum 🙂

  5. Irene Latham says:

    Sounds like you and your fellas are getting a big welcome to the country from the locals! Looking forward to our NCTE adventures. And KAT! xo

  6. As exciting as moving may be, that transition period is always difficult. I wish you smooth settling, Laura. The writing workshops sound amazing! Unfortunately most of the possums I see on the road here aren’t pretending. 🙁

  7. Carol Varsalona says:

    Your new home looks out into beautiful woods so I am assuming that you will have many hours of silent wonderings and writing. Where are you located now? I am not sure what I would think if I found a skeleton in my yard. Thanks for the poem. It gave me background knowledge of the “Playing Possum” idiom. I am arriving on Thursday for NCTE so I hope to see you in the Convention Center.

  8. Linda says:

    Congratulations on your new home. It looks like a lovely and inspiring place to write. I’m not sure when/if I’ll make it to NCTE, but if I do, I’ll certainly look for you!

  9. jama says:

    Your home in the woods looks so lovely — the setting is indeed perfect for writing retreats. I’m sure you’ll derive much inspiration from such peaceful surroundings. We see possums here every once in awhile, but I’ve never seen one pretending to be dead — could be because they’re busy trying to eat the over ripe fruit we’ve thrown outside. They have cute faces but I don’t like their tails!

  10. Molly Hogan says:

    Your new home is in such a lovely setting! I so hope that somehow, someday I can spend some time writing there! Poor wee possum. I’ve created a wonderful backstory for him and you’ll be happy to know that he died of old age, surrounded by his loved ones. Enjoy the critters!

  11. KAY MCGRIFF says:

    Congrats on the move. I’ve loved seeing the pictures you’ve shared. Welcome to the country! It’s always an adventure sharing space with the critters whose habitat we share.

  12. New house! New blog! New dream realizing fast! I just love what you’re doing with the empty nest. : )
    Also, that poem is ossum.

  13. Michelle says:

    We’ve had possums around our house, not recently–that skeleton reminds me of a possum. Lovely, inspiring views you have, I look forward to seeing them closer sometime… And the Spirit “Animal Speak” book looks very familiar to me, thanks for sharing it Laura!

  14. Congratulations on your move! It looks so beautiful there. I love Ted Andrews’ book, too, and refer to it often. And thanks for sharing the Possums poem–they are strange creatures!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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