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Archive for April, 2018

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

April is National Poetry Month, and even though I believe poetry has a place in the classroom every day, I love this month of focus and attention to the craft of writing. After writing every day for the March Slice of Life Challenge, my students breathe a sigh of relief when I say they only have to post three poems each week. Poetry doesn’t come with the 250 word count minimum. Poetry isn’t about word count. Poetry celebrates voice, choice, and word play.

In my class we’ve been following Amy VanDerwater’s adventures with Orion. She’s writing a poem every day using the topic of Orion. We all have such admiration for her. Sticking to one topic and one that is rather obscure, like a constellation, is pretty amazing. My students are noticing how Amy likes to rhyme, so they are trying it, too. They are noticing more than the structure-of-the-day. Amy is a co-teacher this month, and in a world in which we teachers feel isolated, that is a comfort.

I write alongside my students. Some prompts work for me and some don’t. They watch me and know that they will not catch a good poem every day, but the point is to keep throwing the line back in.

One of the prompts this week was a poem of address. I wrote a poem to my students.

Dear Students,

You’ve written poems every day.
You’ve tried out words in every way.

Metaphor
Simile
Onomatopoeia

Compound words
Imagination
I’m so proud to see ya’

Active as a writer
discovering your voice.

Filling pages begin to end
with topics of your choice.

Keep the faith
as you go forth
to be who you will be;

Writing is a place
that’s safe
to reach for your best me.

–Margaret Simon © 2018

In my ELA classes, my students have been reading books about the Holocaust and creating book talks around them. Jacob, as most of my students, has been affected by the emotion of the devastation and tragedy. He was stuck for a topic for his poem of address, so I suggested writing a letter to Hitler. That was all the nudge he needed.

Poem of Address to Hitler

Did anyone tell you
that you are horrible?
Have you any clue?
You used to be unstoppable.

We’ve all hated you
for many years to come.
You’ve killed us, gave us the flu.
What have you become?

What made you become evil?
Why did you blame the Jews?
Everything you did was illegal.
I’ll give you 1 star in my reviews.

by Jacob, 4th grade

Austin is a 6th grader who is reading Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander, and he loves basketball. I think in this poem, he has voice.  I also love that poetry gives him a way to express who he is.  His poem of address is to Stephen Curry.  I had to Google him.  He’s a basketball player, of course.

Dear Curry,

Your shot is flawless
your handles are tight
and your hops are all right.

You’re a 6’4 shooting machine.
I’m a 5’0 spectator.
I watch you cook
and the way you look.
You been hurt for a little minute
so you might have a limit.

You hardly ever pout
but Anthony Davis says he is going
to dunk on you
without a doubt.

Austin, 6th grade

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Irene at Live Your Poem.

 

The time has come to let you all in on a very exciting adventure, my first poetry book for children, Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape.

This unique book that combines poetry, nonfiction text, photographs, and illustrations with invitations to write and draw will be published by UL Press on June 18, 2018.

This week I wrote an anticipatory poem prompted by Amy VanDerwater’s exercise in writing striking words.

Publication Day

I’m flabbergasted
by anticipation,
dizzy with expectation,
nauseous
with nervousness.


I’m sidestepping
assumption,
antsy for predictions,
impatient
for beliefpower
to hurtle into
my psyche.

 

I’m dancing
with my destiny
with heebie-jeebies
and butterflies
splitting me into
a hive of many bees.

The day of publication is near.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

I am so pleased with my illustrator, Anna Cantrell.  She was a delight to work with.  She is young and enthusiastic.  Follow her on Instagram at jarofpencils.

I’ve received a few awesome blurbs.  Love this one from Ava Leavell Haymon, former Louisiana poet laureate.  It’s probably too long for the back cover, but I want to savor every word regardless.

A love-song to the Bayou Teche, this inviting book creates its own universe.  I suspect there are multiple paths for us to enter that universe, but I am drawn in immediately by Anna Cantrell’s luminous watercolor illustrations, a gift to us from her precise observation and quiet love for her subjects.  And then Henry Cancienne’s photographs add another layer of beauty and understanding.  Then I come to brief paragraphs of information, enough to arouse curiosity but press me with too many facts. Then — what a treasure box this little book is! — Margaret Simon’s poems, each one born of minute observation and winsome appreciation of this  Bayou universe.  And nestled into all of this are Simon’s suggestions for writing a poem of our own in the manner of the one we’ve just read, and a little space right there to do so.  Experienced teacher, she suggests with a light touch and offers inviting tricks to make our writing easy.

This is a generous, generative book that gives and gives and does not make demands.  My fingers were itching to hold a pencil, a canoe paddle, a watercolor set, a camera. I leave its universe a little sad to go, but refreshed in my love of the Louisiana bayous and with my own creativity restored.         Ava Leavell Haymon

If you would like to participate in a blog tour, please fill out the form below.  Select a date that works for you (between June 18-August 18) In the comments, let me know your ideas for your post as well as your snail mail address.  I will make a schedule and send you a pdf of the book.

 

 

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National Poetry Month 2018

Moon Song by Lisa Kattenbraker

Seven Ways to Touch the Moon

Reach.
Be still.
Ride the tide.
Climb on a branch.
Read a moon story.
Look beyond horizons.
Play your instrument for her.

–Margaret Simon

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Are you carrying a poem?  Today I will carry two poems, one in each pocket.  I hold Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Kindness.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things...


I will also hold a poem from one of Kim Douillard's students, Avi.  
She posted this poem on her blog, and it touched me.

Poetry Is

Poetry is like the last rays of sun on a sunset

it leaves with beauty and sadness at the same time

poetry is like a song that sings forever

and when you forget

it will always whisper back.

Avi

 

 

 


					

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This April, Renee LaTulippe of No Water River is hosting a wonderful month of poet visits and writing prompts. I saw a tweet about a prompt by the infamous Jane Yolen which drew me in.  She suggested that we all have topics that we go back to again and again.  (Mine is the bayou, of course.) She posted a poem in three acts and prompted us to write a poem about our favorite topic in three acts.

Since I am writing ekphrastic poetry, I searched for the just right image for a poem about the bayou.  My friend (and cousin, by marriage) Marjorie Pierson is a fine art photographer.  The wetlands is a common theme in her photos.  I think her photos are poems. Even though she lives in North Carolina, she visits South Louisiana often to be with her mother who happens to live across the street from us.  Today I am featuring her image titled “Cypress in Wind.”  To see more from Marjie, go over to her website.

 

 

Cypress in Wind by Marjorie Pierson.

Bayou Performance

Act I:

Dawning sun
plays peek-a-boo
with cypress trees.

Act II:

Breeze builds, waves
rippling, Baldcypress needles
helicopter down.

Act III:

Line of light
drawn from tree to tree
traffic light to the day.

–Margaret Simon (c) 2018

 

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

Social Studies is not my area of expertise, so last week I found a way to let poetry come in the door.  I pull a group of gifted students for their Social Studies class. I needed to teach these kids about the Civil Rights Movement.  Equipped with website links, videos, and articles, we explored three major events: Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, March on Washington, and the Montgomery bus boycott. As a way to synthesize the information, we wrote poems together.  Our discussion about these events included what important information to include and how to make it into a poem.

In the Woolworth’s store,
four brave students,
as brave as can be
sat at the lunch counter
and would not leave.

Several more the next day
sat with those brave boys
they took Mr. Woolworth’s
breath away.

News spread, far and wide.
Three hundred more stood by their side.

To get their minds straight
and stop segregation,
they worked hard, stood strong.
It’s not time to have fun.
There is still work to be done.

–Mrs. Simon’s class


Dear Rosa Parks,

You are a hero for all of America.
I really appreciate
that everyone can ride together.
You refused to give up your seat.
You inspire us to fight
for what we believe in.

Because of you,
segregation on buses ended.
You befriended yourself in my eyes
through your bravery in the Montgomery Bus Boycott
sewing together minds for integration.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Simon’s Sea 

Another group of my kiddos was featured on Today’s Little Ditty with their dinosaur poems.

If you would like to participate in a round up of poetry about photos, join the photo/poem exchange on my blog, More than Meets the Eye. 

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National Poetry Month 2018

Heron in Flight by John Gibson

After Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. 

 

I.

Taking flight,
one heron, great and blue,
lifts on kite-wings.

II.

At daybreak, he stalks
early risers
stealthily staring
at the water’s surface.

III.

The heron looks long
at his own reflection,
beauty knows beauty.

IV.

Straight as an arrow on a hunt
for its mark, heron’s beak
pierces the sky.

V.

Sun beams dance on waves
winking at heron’s stature,
inviting his participation
in the day.

VI.

My totem, Heron,
teach me
your lessons of grace.

VII.

As evening falls, heron
circles back
to tell me good night.

VIII.

Times with heron
I value silence
and know God.

IX.

Heron’s squawk
scrapes on Goose’s last nerve.
A cacophony on courthouse steps.

X.

At the sight of heron flying,
barely skimming water’s surface,
even playful children
stop and admire.

XI.

Heron lifts his wing
to preen like an awkward teen
crumples over his tall body
to tie his shoelace.

XII.

A storm raged during the night,
heron stood still
never losing his grip
on the fallen log.

XIII.

I haven’t seen Heron for days.
He will return. He may not return.
The light on the lake fades.

–Margaret Simon (c) 2018

If you are interested in joining a photo-poetry exchange I am hosting, click here.

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National Poetry Month 2018

 

I didn’t post yesterday.  I needed a day off.  The week was long, and my well was dry.  I took the day for myself.  I started with a much needed yoga class.  I’d been away from this practice for too long.  I had lunch with my daughter and son-in-law, then ventured over to an art show, The Big Easel.  There I saturated myself with art and art talk. After the art show, I had a luxurious massage.  I feel a twinge of guilt about this indulgence, but my monthly massages keep me healthy and pain free.

When I arrived back home, I watched hummingbirds at the feeder and other birds around the bayou and just chilled out.  My notebook was nearby, so I did write a poem.  I was comforted in knowing the muse hadn’t left.  I just needed to fill the well back up.

Quilt painting by T. Chase Nelson

One of the artists I talked with painted the painting I am featuring today for ekphrastic poetry, T. Chase Nelson. When I first saw the painting, I thought it was a quilt.  He explained to me that his inspiration was the quilts of Gee’s Bend.  I am familiar with these quilts through a fellow poet-blogger Irene Latham who wrote Leaving Gee’s Bend.  

For my poem, I took a line from Elisabeth Ellington’s Poem “Where do you Come From?” She wrote that each line of her poem was the translated name of a real place.  I responded that each line sounded like the title of a poem, so I took one to begin my poem and used it as a title first line.

 

Land Beside the Silvery River

where Nettie sews pieces
together like a life
of patchy soil, a garden with
a shady oak and a rope swing
for the grandchillen’ coming
for supper.

Across the river, life
rolls onto a highway.
But in Gee’s Bend,
an inlet of fertile soil,
life slows to the rhythm
of the silvery river.

–Margaret Simon (c) 2018

 

 

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