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Poetry Friday is with Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

If you need a boost of confidence for your writing life, tune in to Irene Latham. She has started a Tuesday series on YouTube called “2-Minute Writing Tip Tuesday”. On her website, she has a quiz “What Kind of Writer Are You?” Take a minute to take the test for yourself. I did it twice and both times…

You’re the leader of a wolf pack! You’ve got lots of great ideas and love sharing them with others. You’re a great starter AND a great teacher. It’s your readers who motivate you—and they love you for it!

If you’re a Wolf, then you can stop trying to write highly personal essays that don’t feel natural to you. That’s not your strong suit. Write the fun thing, the thing you know your audience will love!
You can stretch yourself by taking time away from your community for rest and reflection. Give yourself an opportunity to develop new ideas before jumping into the next new, exciting thing.
Go ahead, give the world something to howl about!

Who doesn’t love a wolf writer! My favorite part of this is “You’re a great starter AND a great teacher!” I know it’s silly to be so excited to find out I am who I want to be. In fact, my One Little Word this year is Enough. I somehow knew it was time to stop questioning myself, my authenticity, my ability to connect people through writing. But it’s kinda fun to take these silly quizzes and find affirmation.

What kind of writer are you? What kind of writer do you want to be?

I participated in a few of the prompts in Ethical ELA Open Write this week. I wrote this poem using paint chip colors. (guacamole, candlelit beige, vining ivy, ancient copper)

Some Days it’s Enough to Wake Up

Finding my fingers
dipped–
green like guacamole–
in the soil of my life.

You place a candle on the table,
a small flicker of light
blessing the moment,
like vining ivy on a brick wall
tangles in on itself but never falls.

We are becoming
ancient copper,
stained hands
that have worked too long
in this soil.

We woke up alive today.
That’s enough
for now.

Margaret Simon, draft

Winter is here and in many places around the US, mounds of snow. In the deep south, we are expecting an Arctic blast later this week that may (accent on the word may) bring a mix of winter precipitation. The last time I was able to build any semblance of a snowman was in March of 1988. This is not true for my friend Molly in Maine. She posted a most amazing snowgirl that her daughter, Lydia, had created using old garden leftovers to accessorize. Let’s entertain our child-muse today and write a small poem about her. Feel free to give her a name.

Snow Girl by Molly Hogan

Betty White

Blonde pom-pom poofs
fool you into thinking
this girl is ditsy.
Don’t
underestimate a girl
with sunlight
in her hair. She’s a star
in her own galaxy.

Margaret Simon, draft
Poetry Friday is with Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading

Last week my students and I unpacked Marge Piercy’s The Late Year. Once we have taken apart and discussed a poem, we write. Sometimes I get a poem out of it. Marge Piercy’s poem begins with “I like Rosh Hashanah late.” I began writing with “I like the New Year,” but quickly realized this is not true for me. I’ve never liked it. I struggle with the idea of forced celebration, especially one that occurs at midnight with lots of violent sound. So I revised. After seeing multiple photos from all around our country of red sunsets, I had to put that into my poem. I am currently raising about 8 monarch caterpillars. This is an uncommon January activity, for sure. It makes my poet-self happy that Marge Piercy’s poem led me to pack all of this into a poem.

The New Year

I’ve never liked the new year
when celebration is forced-fun,
sparklers burn out and become litter.
How browning leaves fall
and frown like an old Muppet-man.
Yet the cardinal still comes to the feeder–
a red flash 
on the morning.

I’ve never liked the new year
with sing-song rhyme, resolutions
point to some sustained semblance
of sanity. Rain comes again
flooding roads with impassable potholes,
tires always need adjusting. 
Yet clouds fire up a sunset
a red reminder to look up
at the end of the day. 

I reluctantly repent in the cold season,
rescue tropical plants and monarch caterpillars. 
I flip through soft notebook pages
of felt-tip words and find
a carousel spinning round again.
A red horse I can choose to ride 
or not. 

Margaret Simon, draft

January has so far given us temperatures as high as 80 degrees and as low as 29. I’ve brought plants in (and back out and back in). I’ve gathered milkweed with monarch caterpillars. I’ve worn a heavy coat and shorts. Winter in South Louisiana has gotten weird. The Japanese magnolias are in full bloom. The sunrise and sunset are bright red. Since the New Year, I’ve released three monarch butterflies. And everywhere, Omicron Covid is on the steep rise. Nature is speaking. Is anyone listening?

Last night I had chosen a sunset photo from my phone; however, a sweep through Facebook revealed an amazing natural phenomenon from my friend and naturalist Susan H. Edmunds. She granted creative permission, so today I give you a rabbit hole you could choose to go down: frost flowers.

Frost flowers! When the temperature quickly drops, as it did last night in rural St. Martin Parish, sap remaining in the plants’ stems begin to freeze and crack the stem. When this liquid exudes through the minute cracks, it freezes and forms beautifully delicate frost flowers that vanish when the sun’s golden rays touch them. Isn’t nature just grand?

Susan H. Edmunds, Facebook Jan. 11, 2022
Frost flowers by Susan H. Edmunds

Golden light on frost
illuminates, melts away
cold morning moment.

Margaret Simon, draft

Write your own small poem in the comments. Leave encouraging comments for other writers.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

When we returned from winter break, I started a new daily writing activity in my classroom: 100 Days of Notebooking. In truth we don’t have 100 days of school left, but no matter. The point is to write and draw and be creative every day in some way or another. My students have embraced this idea.

We start each entry with the date and a quote. I have a copy of 360 Days of Wonder which is full of quotes. I also allow students to look up quotes by famous people they admire. One student is choosing a sports quote each day.

Notebook page, January 6, 2022

The papers I used for the collage above were images in a National Geographic magazine of a polluted lake in Romania. I told Chloe about it and she wrote a poem about it. I asked her if I could have a copy for my notebook page.

For Christmas, one of my students gave me a gift card to Target, so I used it to get more notebooking supplies, washi tape, felt-tip pens, and decorative paper.

new notebook supplies

Michelle Haseltine started a Facebook group and an Instagram hashtag. It’s fun to be a part of a larger group. Everyone has their own unique style of notebooking. I enjoy drawing inspiration from others.

Notebook page, January 10, 2022

Avalyn picked out the quote above, and we discussed the figurative meaning of it. On her notebook page, she wrote a loving poem. You can see how she worked on the line breaks. She posted it on our Fanschool page. You can leave a comment for her here.

Avalyn, 2nd grade

Do you have a notebook? What creativity can you bring to the blank page?

Poetry Friday is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

This month’s Inkling challenge comes from Heidi. She invited us to “use the form” of the poem, The Lost Lagoon, by Emily Pauline Johnson (d. 1913) to build a “poem for children about a treasured place that you return to again and again.”

Most of our group had tackled this challenge early on. I thought I might not make it. After Christmas and a family trip, I had been away from writing for a few weeks. Often when I take a break like this, I feel I’ll never write another poem. I decided to take my head out of the sand and face it. On Sunday I opened The Lost Lagoon. I copied it into a document and went to work writing beside it. I didn’t follow the form exactly, but in many ways the exercise led me to say what I wanted to say.

One of my favorite photos from our family trip to North Carolina became my muse. The guys enjoyed making nightly fires in the fire pit outside our mountain house. The toddler boys enjoyed participating (at a safe distance) in blowing on the fire. My daughters captured the scene in two photographs.

Over Blue Mountain

See Sun set over blue mountain;
Dada builds fire to light the way
beneath a cloud-shining golden ray.
I twirl in steam of an ending day
and blow flames for a sparkling fountain.

In the dark, a song begins to bloom
and follows a cow’s mooing tune,
a howl of dogs under rising moon,
the logs of the fire crackle and croon
and gone is the nighttime gloom.

Oh, why can’t I stay out all night 
to watch Cow jump over the moon
and feel the dawning sky too soon?
I dream I’m lifted like a balloon–
in Dada’s arms I’m safe and right. 

Margaret Simon, 2022
Papère, Leo, and Dada

Other Inkling poems:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

A few months ago in the midst of holiday time, I was reading poetry books for the round one judging for CYBILS (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). Our committee selected 7 finalists. You can see them here.

This post is about the one that got away. One of my favorite poetry collections was left off the short list: The Dirt Book by David L. Harrison.

Underneath our feet is a whole world. Looking at interesting underground nature is the topic of David L. Harrison’s The Dirt Book. The format of the physical book is unique. Rather than landscape orientation, it is oriented as portrait. The illustrations by Kate Crosgrove dance along the pages. 

As a grandmother of toddler boys, the first page grabs their interest with the words “This Book is about Dirt.” Each poem features facts as well as lyrical language. “Scraggly twisted clusters/ creep/ thirstily,/ dig deep,/ branch out/ in crooked slants,/ mine water/ for their plants.” From At the Roots of Things.

As a teacher of elementary students, I will use this book to inspire students to explore the natural world, ask questions about the animals living there, and write their own language-rich poems. 

The Dirt Book is more than dirt; It offers a loving look at the world we live in and invites us to be present in it. The final poem, And Now We Know, begins with “Beneath our feet, beyond our sight,/ below the roots where green grass grows,/ there’s more to dirt than we’d suppose.” Take your students, your children, grandchildren, and yourself on a trip below the earth and find an intriguing world waiting. 

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Dear Spiritual Thursday Friends,

We are gathering again for the first Thursday of each month. This is an open invitation to any blogger who would like to join us. We post on the first Thursday of the month. Each month is hosted by a different blogger. We do not adhere to any specific religious affiliation. We are here to express our thoughts about how our spiritual lives are going. Let me know in the comments or by email if you’d like to be on the list of participants.

Blessings,
Margaret

I’ve been choosing a One Little Word to guide my year for many years now. I have a collection of MudLove bracelets that express my different words. I’ve even begun a practice of gifting little words to some of my friends. It’s probably against the OLW policy to assign someone a word, but the friends who receive one seem to like the idea. At an NCTE conference sometime around 2014, I was given a MudLove bracelet. I love wearing my word.

Enough, 2022

My word came to me while I was reading Jess Keating’s Epic Email.

Everything you need is inside you. The tough stuff alchemizes to create the good stuff. Your story is enough. What you value is enough. Your desire is enough.

Jess Keating, Epic Email
I am Enough!

Today I listened to Glennon Doyle’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things. She said that January branding has got it all wrong with New year, New you. “It suggests we hate ourselves. It’s insulting.”

At our core, in our soul, we are who we are. And to quote Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” Who I am is enough. I do not need to change myself. Of course, I could exercise more or cook more often or get more involved in social activism. But who I am at 60 is the same me as I was at 50, 40, 30, 20, 10… Embracing my inner self gives me safety to open up for new experiences that enrich me. And if a challenge comes along, I am ready. I am enough.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

This week it’s snowing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but last week the weather was mild. Cool enough to set a fire outside in the fire pit, yet warm enough to run and play without a jacket on. Our family vacation the week after Christmas was as good as it gets. I wrote about it here for Slice of Life.

Today’s photo was one I took in the late afternoon as the sun was setting over the hills beyond our mountain house. This photo captures the peaceful magic of time to do nothing much. As the weather has turned to winter storms and cold temperatures this week, I hope this photo brings a peaceful moment of warmth. Write with me. Leave your small poem in the comments and come back to respond to other writers. Happy new year of writing.

Pleasant perch on Blue Ridge Mountains

Muse in the magic
of a smoking fire
freeing your soul
to rest
on God’s roof.

Margaret Simon, draft
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Fire pit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Let the magic find you.

I picked up that line from fellow slicer Fran Haley’s post this morning. I want to adopt it as my 2022 mantra.

Instead of piles of presents, our family took a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. We rented a home near Burnsville outside of Asheville. The house was just right with three floors, five bedrooms, and a fire pit. The only treacherous part was the drive up. As luck would have it, we arrived before dark to drive the mile long switchback trail up, up, and up. Thank heavens for confident sons-in-law drivers and 4-wheel drive. The trail became part of the adventure to the mountain house. We did make sure we were home each day before dark. And one morning the guys walked down with a wheelbarrow and patched some squishy places with branches and rocks.

Magic found us in the mountain house.

Three toddlers making fun.
Men making meals.
Scary barns.
Fields of cows.
Nightly fires
under a blanket of stars.
Magical Christmas!

Toddler wrestling…Cousination!