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On Sunday, I had a book signing for my new children’s poetry book, Bayou Song. I invited photographer, Henry Cancienne. What a delight to finally meet him face to face! Henry and I have been communicating by email about the photographs he offered for inclusion in Bayou Song.

Meeting Henry, I was not surprised that he is as gentle in spirit in person as he seemed by email. His photographs are a reverence to Louisiana’s amazing natural environment. He told me that his photos are his legacy. We talked about some of his other books and he went out to his car and brought me two of them.

Photo by Henry Cancienne

Photo by Henry Cancienne

Photo by Henry Cancienne

Henry lives in Lockport, Louisiana, about 90 miles east of New Iberia. He goes out in the swamp and marshes nearly every day. Henry is a US Air Force veteran, retired science teacher, petroleum chemist, volunteer fire fighter, and police officer. His photographs have appeared in multiple books and magazines. He told me the story of this photograph of sun rays through live oaks. He saw the scene, pulled his car over, and took the photo. It’s included in Bayou Song as well as Louisiana Swamps and Marshes and currently is displayed in the governor’s office. He says you never know when you will get that perfect shot. Henry is always prepared with camera in hand.

Henry Cancienne

Today Laura Shovan has a stop on the blog tour with a zeno poem about cypress knees. Please stop by.

If you would like a signed copy of Bayou Song, you can order one from Books Along the Teche at 337-367-7621. If you would like it personalized, you can contact me by email. Thanks!

Silent Sunday

Poetry Friday round-up is with Sylvia today at Poetry for Children.

Rain is falling again.  That’s the way it is here in South Louisiana in the summer.

Rain and green.

Rain and steam.

Rain and gleam.

I could write a bayou poem about it always raining.  In my new book, Bayou Song, I have a few favorite poems.  Like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but today I am thinking about the poem There is always…

This poem uses anaphora, a repeated line. I think I stole it from Jane Yolen, but I can’t be sure.  One thing about writing poetry is poetry begets more poetry. For my next writing project, I hope to keep better tabs on where the inspiration comes from.

If you’d like a personalized copy of Bayou Song, I can mail it directly to you with payment using Paypal.  Email me at margaretsmn at gmail.

Bayou Song has had a beautiful blog tour so far.  Today the stop is with my friend and writing critique partner, Linda Mitchell.  Check it out. 

Friday, June 22:
Michelle Kogan

Tuesday, June 26:
Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core

Friday, June 29:
Ruth Hersey at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town

Friday, July 6:
Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes

Friday, July 13:
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise

Tuesday, July 17:
Laura Shovan 

Tuesday, July 24
Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy

Friday, July 27:
Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink

Monday, July 30
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance

Friday, Aug. 3
Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters


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St. Mary Falls, Glacier Park


Montana mountains
marvel me with rugged peaks
water blue as topaz.



Bear Grass wildflower
Glacier Park, Montana


Bear grass blossoms
a mountain spray of stars
invite travelers in.



Kayaker on St. Mary Lake, Glacier Park, Montana.

Lone kayak streams
rock mosaic reflection
private piece of heaven


I understand why Basho turned to haiku to capture moments in nature.  They are just too big to write big about.  Last week, my husband and I spent July 4th with my friend Dani and her husband, Randy, hiking in Glacier Park.  A note about Dani: We meet through a Voxer group and Twitter chats with #G2Great.  It means so much to me to have a close friend so far away.  What a joy to get our guys together and spend time in a magnificent wonderland! These pictures say it all, beauty and majesty, and all that is good.


I have signed up to participate in a few online communities this summer, two of which started last week while I was vacationing: #cyberpd and an online book club. This week Kate Messner’s Teachers Write virtual writing camp began. As I was thinking about Sara Ahmed’s book Being the Change (the book chosen for #cyberpd), I thought of a way I could connect ideas across all that I was studying. Let’s see if this works.

The first chapter of Ahmed’s book guides us to writing activities around identity as a way to begin to see our students and treat them with a kindness that comes from knowing them.

Identity has never been a problem for me, really. I grew up seeing a large portrait of my maternal grandmother holding her violin on her lap. She wore a flowing white gown and looked beyond the viewer in such a way that I felt her presence without judgment. I was named for her and have always thought she was my guardian angel. (She died 3 months before I was born.) This portrait still hangs in my parents’ dining room. Maybe it’s wrong to hang your identity on a portrait, but this heritage comes to mind when I think about who I am and who I came from.

In the Teachers Write prompt for Monday warm-up with Jo Knowles, we were asked to think about the identity of our character in our WIP (work in progress). Her exact instructions involved imagining a photograph of your character at the end of the story, but I made the leap myself to identity.

The character I am currently writing about is far from who I am. She was born on the heels of emancipation as a black woman. Her intelligence and education took her out of the South to San Francisco in 1901. My intuition tells me that she would have struggled with identity. She was a light-skinned black woman, and there is some supposition that she acted as white in San Francisco. If this is true, how did she feel about the denial she was living in? Was she proud of who she had become or ashamed at who she left behind? Identity can be complicated.


In the book I’ll Give you the Sun, one of the characters, Noah, is a boy of 14 coming of age and falling in love with another boy. His identity is rocked by this realization. His expression is his art. In what ways can creativity help us understand our identity? Can poetry, like art, help me write about my character’s identity as well as my own. How connected are we all when it comes to identity? How separate?

Sara Ahmed suggests an identity web for students to draw and come back to throughout the year. Can I use an identity web to better know my WIP character? An identity web is also a great tool for getting to know a fictional character like Noah.

Identity is important when it comes to valuing others for who they are.  We must value our own identities, accept them as OK; we certainly cannot change them.  And yet, when we are faced with new characters in our lives, either from fiction, from history, or our very own students, we should accept and honor their identities.  Our differences, our connections, our shared lives make this world an interesting and wonderful place.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol today. Click to see more poetic goodness.

When you are standing in line for a book signing at ALA, you could meet your new best friend. This happened to me on Sunday. I was alone, not really paying much attention, when the woman standing next to me commented on my dress. This, of course, started a conversation. We were looking eye to eye and she could have been my sister from another mother. Her wheat-colored hair was tied in a bun on the top of her head. Her fair face was freckled like mine. And even her dress matched the very one she complimented me on.

I looked at her name tag, “Gienah.” She immediately pronounced it for me, “Gina,” and told me her father named her for a star. I said that sounds like a poem. The star is in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Gienah and I spent the next few hours together. Our list of signings matched, surprise, surprise. She fan-girls the same authors I do. We became each other’s photographer. We exchanged phone numbers and are still texting each other today. Making a new friend is so much fun.
Here’s the poem I wrote for her.

Her name is a star –Gienah–
eyes that sparkle with familiarity,
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
We must have been sisters once,
like the wings of the swan,
balanced and flying the night sky.

Margaret Simon, (c) 2018


Bayou Song Blog Tour continues today at Ruth’s blog. She was inspired by my Ode to a Toad to write her own ode about the flamboyant tree. Check it out here.

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My summer has been full to the brim of this and that.

This: Hobnobbing with my fellow wizards at ALA conference over the weekend. I bought a floor pass only and quickly realized it was a bargain. I walked more than 3 miles each day back and forth through the exhibit hall meeting new people and visiting with my author heroes. Luckily I had driven and parked close to the Convention Center because I made a few trips to the car to drop off loads of books I had collected. I got to know the barista serving espressos at aisle 2400. His coffee sustained me.

Top left, meeting Eloise Greenfield. Top right, a hug from Jason Reynolds. Bottom left with Kwame, and bottom right with Marilyn Singer.

A highlight was giving Kwame Alexander a copy of my book, and he asked me to sign it. He saw me a few times after that and always called me by name. Kwame exemplifies who authors are. They care about their readers.

Signing Bayou Song for Kwame!

While passing by the National Geographic booth, I got a peek at my poem inside the Poetry of US forthcoming anthology with J. Patrick Lewis. The page is stunning!

Click to pre-order. Release date Sept. 25.

Another highlight was reading at the Poetry Blast. I was honored to be a part of this group of amazing poets: Marilyn Singer, Margarita Engle, K.A. Holt, and Lita Judge, and Joy McCullough. And afterwards some of us went to Mulate’s. After a delicious blackened red fish, I danced with Steve, Marilyn’s husband. I thought I’d teach him the two step, but he took to the music immediately and we swung all over the dance floor.

That: Research for my work in progress. I took the opportunity on Monday before leaving New Orleans to visit Dillard University. I was met there in the library archives by John Kennedy. He was intrigued by my project and was very helpful in bridging some gaps in my research. I’m surprising myself at how much I enjoy historical research.

Please visit Catherine Flynn’s post about Bayou Song, the blog tour continues. Catherine’s review is beautiful.