Archive for November, 2012


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm.

My father, John Gibson, created this drawing using pointillism. He creates a different image each Christmas for my parents’ Holiday greeting card.

The Pointillist

Patiently sitting at the drawing table,
he taps the paper as if strumming an instrument.
The music he creates comes forth
not in lines and shapes, but in shades
of dark and light.

This artist does not draw or paint.
He plays the dots, drumming them out
point by point.
What emerges is nothing short of miraculous,
like the first moving pixel on the television screen.

I marvel at the realism.
I could reach out and touch the cow.
The bed of straw even smells like a barn.
He places me there, at the birth scene,
waiting with Mary.

–Margaret Simon

The Pointillist is an ekphrastic poem, a poem about art. More about this style of poetry can be found at Poets.org.

Read Full Post »


Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Last week, Thanksgiving week, I was introduced to the “thanku,” a haiku thank you poem. Today, I introduced the idea to my students. Since I teach gifted kids, I had to give them a challenge. Since haiku originally was a style of poetry that not only used a set syllable pattern (5,7,5), but also used the theme of nature, I asked them to include a metaphorical use of nature. And, of course, I modeled with my own poem. This one I wrote for a friend.

Sunflowers open
to see the world around us
like your heart to mine.

Some of my students took on the challenge. Most of them chose to write to teachers. It was sweet watching them type up their poems, find just the right graphic, and print them out to give to their favorite teachers. At the very end of the day, Kylon slipped me this little gift of a thanku. My heart melted.

The seed of a rose
You sprout your knowledge like roots
We share our petals.

Link to Teaching Authors two weeks of thanks

Read Full Post »

More Thanks

Link to Teaching Authors two weeks of thanks

Yesterday my 14 year old niece interviewed me for her journalism class. While my family around me wondered why she would choose me to interview, I felt privileged that she asked me…as an author. Her questions were good. They made me really think, and I enjoyed telling her about this journey. She asked me when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I told her the story about finding my diary from 1975 when I was her age. (See this post.) When she asked what advice I would give to students who would like to be writer, I said surround yourself with people who affirm and support you.

Today, for the Two weeks of Thanksgiving, I am writing a thanku for all of my people who support this crazy writing life.

How the live oaks stand
On roots of strength and caring
I am blessed by you.

Read Full Post »

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

On the Two Writing Teachers blog this morning, I found these quotes:

“Walk through life like a writer.” –Lucy Calkins
“Tell the truth about your life and what’s really going on.” –Georgia Heard
“We know the truth of ordinary life events. Everything doesn’t end with ‘happily ever after’.” –Georgia Heard

I needed to hear all three. My ankle hurts. In our family when you complain like this, we call you (me) the “Bo-bo queen.” Something about annoying pain of an integral body part has made me thus. I am grateful for my new doctor-friend who fixed me up yesterday with an ankle brace and some powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. But I struggled with a blog post for this Tuesday slice because I didn’t want to whine, but I was unable to come up with something to write about. And then, this morning I read the wise words from Georgia Heard, “Tell the truth about your life and what’s really going on.” So I’m here letting you know that my ankle hurts.

But also, I am thankful.

Teens from St. Barnabas youth group gave out candy-filled mugs in holiday wrap.

Every Tuesday morning I serve at our church’s outreach mission, Solomon House. This morning was filled with joy. Teens from a youth group showed up with bins full of mugs wrapped in holiday wrapping to give out to the clients. The clients lined up all along the sidewalk. Each of them greeted me with kindness. What do I have to complain about? Nothing. The truth is there are many hurting people out there. They heart in mind, body, and spirit. I can look them in the eye with true love and gratefulness.

Another slicer, Linda B. at Teacher Dance, introduced me to the thanku movement led by Teaching Authors. A thanku is a haiku of thanks. Here is my attempt to capture the morning:

Many hands spread joy
Many hands give thanks for you
Walk your path in peace,
knowing this.

Link to Teaching Authors two weeks of thanks

Read Full Post »

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

This was my first year to participate in the Festival of Words in Grand Coteau. Grand Coteau is a small historical town about 35 miles north of New Iberia. This summer I met and chatted with Patrice Melnick, author of a new memoir Po-boy Contraband and owner of an artisan shop, Casa Azul. In late September, she hosted a reading and book signing for me. We made a connection, and she invited me to come back for the Festival of Words. I loved the feel of her place, artsy and comfortable, and the feel of the town with the main street lined with Cajun cottages.

The Festival of Words began with an awards ceremony on Thursday evening for the winners of the writing contest. I was privileged to have a student winner, so I picked her up after school, and we drove the hour to the Sunset library, just west of Grand Coteau. She commented that she loved the name of the town “Sunset.” At the awards ceremony, I introduced my student to two state poets laureate, Darrell Bourque and Julie Kane.

My student poetry winner meets the current state poet laureate, Julie Kane.

Following the open mic when students read, we enjoyed two performance poets, Bonny McDonald and Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore. Here is a video I took of Bonny’s performance of “To A natural in E flat.”

On Saturday, I ventured back to Grand Coteau and the Festival of Words. I attended a fiction writing workshop with Randall Kenan. The workshop was small and intimate and we wrote and talked and wrote and talked, the best kind of workshop to me. In the afternoon, I attended Julie Kane’s poetry workshop. Again it was a small group. She talked to us about forms and had us try out combining a praise poem with using the same first word in each line. We brainstormed ideas for mundane things to write about. We wrote about fingernail clippers, mosquitoes, and a volume knob. I wrote about grass. I was actually satisfied with the result.

For today I will step lightly
For your tenderness
For the light of sun upon your greenliness
For tickling my belly
For wriggling between my toes
For your fresh sweet scent
For the settled earth you draw strength from
For your canvas of wildflowers
For clover crowns
For hiding rolly-pollies, fleas, and snakes
For grass.

I wish I had stayed for more readings, but the day was growing long, and my mind weary, but I’ll be back next year.

Students from area high schools did drive-by poetry. Here a student reads aloud a poem by Julie Kane to Julie Kane. She delighted in hearing her own poems performed by these talented students.

Read Full Post »

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. She writes accessible, simple nature poetry. She recently published a new collection, A Thousand Mornings. When it came up on Amazon as a suggestion (how do they know me so well?), I had to buy it. This book was so special I had to go to the post office to pick it up. When I opened the package, I lifted the book to my cheek. It felt like silk. Seriously, soft and smooth like a silk blouse! Mary Oliver’s poetry is so clear that even elementary students can understand it. I wanted to share her with my students. Of course, first I let them feel the cover. They knew immediately that magical poetry lay within.

I read aloud Mary Oliver’s words, “This morning the beautiful white heron was floating along above the water.” My students know what this looks like, a common scene here in South Louisiana. I read a few more poems. But they were getting anxious.

“What are we going to do with the shells, Mrs. Simon?”

On the table, I had placed a plastic container of shells, real beach-collected shells from the storage closet. I dumped them out on the table with these instructions, “Find a shell that you like. Draw it slowly, paying attention to the details. Then write a poem.”

I played classical music and wrote along with my students. Some beautiful poetry emerged. Taking time to slow down, enjoy the beauty that nature creates, and to listen to simple true words, that is the joy of writing work.

My poem: Broken

My heart bubbles
like the shell in my hand
when air pours through
its tiny holes,

Shaped as a mountain
with jagged incuts
and paths of lined creation.

I am imperfect
battered by crashing waves like
this shell torn from the sea

collected by a child
who knows how to love

by Matthew (3rd grade)

I taste the sea in me,
the ocean of wonders I smell,
the bumpy texture sends chills down
my spine, the echo of the ocean awakens
me, I see the sea’s symbol,
it is in my possession,

by Kylon (4th grade)

A spirit, a dead, lost spirit
a lost stray child, who cannot find her mother
no hope, no life, just darkness,
dark like a night sky with no stars,
a smooth seashell,
it’s washed up- the ocean didn’t want it,
but I did, and it’s safe with me.

Read Full Post »

30 Days of Thanks: Day 4: I am thankful for friends who support my writing, even when they are not writers themselves.

My friend Cathy is not a writer. Cathy is not even much of a reader. But she loves me and supports my writing life in sweet ways. When I had my first book signing, she showed up with gifts from the Piggly Wiggly in St. Martinville, a t-shirt, spicy salt, and white bread. Recently, she gave me a bag of books. She said, “I found some books on writing you might like.”

I kept the bag in the trunk of my car for about a week. When I did take the books out, I had a negative reaction. They were old discarded books from the library. I brought one of the books inside with thoughts of turning it into an altered book. See this post.

I subscribe to a weekly e-newsletter from Poets and Writers, The Time is Now writing prompts. Last week, the poetry writing exercise was about erasure poetry, taking a piece of text and selecting words while blacking out the rest. This sounded like a good thing to try with my new old book about writing.

The first chapter, “Simplicity” garnered this poem:

Who can understand
your vicious language
Simplify, simplify.

I love to be alone,
a man thinking
clearly, clearly,
not lost
no fuzz

naturally takes self- discipline, self-
hard work.

So this book was speaking to me. Helping me think about writing. Maybe it was not such an outdated book. I tried this exercise again with Chapter 2: “Clutter.” This was becoming a fun obsession.

I decided to remove the paper cover. As I was hanging by the trashcan to throw it away, I read the bio of the author. Typically nerdy picture, old-fashioned dark-rimmed glasses. He stared at me from a time long ago saying he knew what he is doing. “Probably dead,” I thought. What did I do? Googled him. Then I got stuck, drawn in to this world of knowledge and an endless list of articles from The American Scholar.

I had discovered William Zinsser. He’s not dead, either. He’s 90 years old and apparently still writing. And who is he writing for? Why, me, of course!

Here is William Zinsser’s Wisdom for Women Writers: “Women Writers! You must give yourself permission, by a daily act of will, to believe in your remembered truth. Do not remain nameless to yourself. Only you can turn the switch; nobody is going to do it for you.”

Thanks, Wise William, and Thanks, Cathy. I am grateful for your support.

Read Full Post »