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Archive for October, 2018

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

 

Six more weeks until I become a grandmother!  Last week I shared a Billy Collins poem with my students, On Turning 10.  After reading and discussing the poem, I invited my students to write.  What would I write about? “I don’t want to write about turning 57,” I said.

Chloe said, “Then write about being a grandmother.”

Aha!  Thanks!

On Becoming a Grandmother
          (after Billy Collins’ “On Turning 10”)

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like a little girl at Halloween
dressed up in a new costume
that itches at the seams
and yet sends her off in a thrill of confidence.

How a costume can transform you
into a different version of yourself– a witch,
Wonder Woman, or Cinderella–invincible
and transformative!

When I think of that little boy calling me
something grand or made-up– Mimi,
Gran Gran, Nanny–I feel wonder and joy.

I want to memorize the names of constellations
so I can tell him. I need to find that just right
picture book he’ll want to read again and again.
I will learn a lullaby he’ll sing in his mind
whenever he is lonely or sad.

Wasn’t it just yesterday
I was the new mom?
Worries over enough milk
and enough love. I know now
there’s always enough love.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Kay at A Journey through the Pages.

At Today’s Little Ditty, this month’s ditty challenge has sent me for a loop.  Michelle interviewed Calef Brown here, and he challenged us “Write a poem or a story about two anthropomorphized objects.” 

At first I tried to write about two birds on a wire, but they weren’t speaking to me.  Then I grabbed a bag of story starting cubes and rolled a mountain and a star.  As I revised this poem, I decided to try a reverso.  (See Marilyn Singer’s explanation and model poems here.) I have not been terribly successful with this form.  I can’t seem to make the two verses from different perspectives, but I want to be a player in the ditty game, so here it is…

Mountain Sparklers

To mountain high
old star appears
spiraling out of the sky,

“Shine like a sparkler.
Be who you are.”

In a spray
of light flakes,
Mountain glows
old with wisdom
from Star, his friend.

From Star, his friend,
old with wisdom,
Mountain glows
of light flakes
like a spray.

“Be who you are.
Shine like a sparkler
spiraling out of the sky.”

Old star appears
to mountain high.

Margaret Simon, 2018

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

This was my first time to attend the T.E.C.H.E. Project’s Shake Your Trail Feather Festival in Breaux Bridge, LA on the shores of Bayou Teche, the same bayou that runs behind my home in New Iberia.  When researching for Bayou Song, I found their website and began to take more interest in learning about their mission.  I even discovered that some of our friends are involved.  When I got an email from the tourist commission about this event, I wrote to the organizers and asked if I could sell books and give proceeds to the project.  I didn’t know how much fun I would have!

I set up my book table inside a gazebo with the children’s activities.  The women here welcomed me, and I enjoyed chatting with them all throughout the day.  One of the kids’ activities was a bird scavenger hunt. The children were given a booklet of common bayou birds.  The children decorated “binoculars” made with paper towel tubes and Mardi Gras beads.  Then they searched for pictures with facts placed around the event area.  The kids were charged with writing one fact about each bird and returning for a prize.  The prizes included a bookmark, a sticker, and a turtle puzzle.

Ava came back from her scavenger hunt excited to turn her facts into a poem.  But how?  I showed her the poem “Barred Owl” written with two to three word lines in rhyming couplets, such as “soulful eyes/From hollow spies.”  I talked with Ava about how her facts could become a poem.

“Which bird is your favorite?”

“The belted kingfisher.”

“What did you learn about the kingfisher?”

Ava reads, “He hovers…”

“What rhymes with hovers?”

Ava shouts, “covers!”

“What covers the kingfisher?”

“Feathers!”

I scribed each line as we discussed her ideas.

At one point, Ava turned and ran. I realized she was going back to the fact sheet to find more facts to use.  When we finished writing, she excitedly shared her poem with whomever would listen.  She felt like a poet!

Her grandfather bought her a book, so she copied her poem into her book.  Later when an art teacher happened by, I asked her to help Ava draw a picture of a kingfisher to go with her poem.  Then she not only felt like a poet, she was an artist too.

Ava, 3rd grade, copied her poem into her Bayou Song book.

Me with Ava and her little sister celebrating writing poetry and art at the Shake Your Trail Feather Festival.

Huge kingfisher sculptures adorn a party barge that led the canoe paddle on Bayou Teche.

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Brenda Davis Harsham is hosting Poetry Friday today.

We talked about descriptive poetry, writing so that your reader can visualize your topic.  I have the privilege of working with small groups of students, so I am able to collaborate with an individual student on a poem.  Chloe wanted to write about a swan.  I shared a poem from my book Bayou Song that was about the white ibis.  The poem was in a triptych form.  Chloe and I wrote a poem using the same form writing description from a photograph of a swan.  In the process, she learned the word cygnet, and we both learned that a swan tucks her cygnets under her wings.

Swan Triptych

1.
It’s the way
white wings swim
in the crawfish pond.

2.
It’s the way
mother swan protects
her cygnets
tucked into her wings
softly.

3.
It’s the way
the beautiful swan
is reflected on the water.

by Mrs. Simon and Chloe

With Landon, we used metaphor dice.  The dice turned up “My soul is a silent trophy.”  I suggested changing trophy to garden.  He loved the idea and guess what? The line was eight syllables long, perfect for the first line of a zeno. (See more about zenos here.) I asked him, “What did you see in the garden?” He remembered a praying mantis hiding in a bush.  As we continued to discuss the word choices for this poem, we decided to break the rule about the one syllable words rhyming.  Sometimes when you try to rhyme, you lose meaning.

Garden Zeno

My soul is a silent garden
Praying Mantis
Stealthy
Stands
camouflaging
into
leaves
The small garden
is their
home.

by Landon and Mrs. Simon

Collaborating with students on poems or even having students work together can result in rich conversations around word choice and produce a poem that all are pleased with.

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

Mug Shot

My sister is seven years younger than me.  Yes, she is a grown woman, and the mother of two children, but even so, she will always be my younger sister, and I will always advocate for her like a mother.

I wish we lived closer to each other, and never so much as I did last week when I got this text from her.

That was Wednesday.  On Thursday, I checked in and she had spent 4 hours in the ER on Wednesday night getting fluids and nausea medicine. Did they check for appendicitis?  I asked.  She wasn’t sure.  My gut was telling me something, but I live in South Louisiana, and she is in Austin, TX.  How could I tell her that the ER had been wrong?

What I did tell her was to get in touch with her regular doctor.  She did.  They gave her an appointment for Friday morning.  Are you kidding me?! The mother in me was yelling inside my head.  I asked, “Did you tell them your symptoms? Promise me if the pain gets more severe, you will insist on an appointment today!”

Friday came.  Her husband and son packed up to leave for Louisiana to go to the LSU football game.  Their daughter, my niece, attends LSU.  Beth told him to go ahead with his plans, and she would let him know what the doctor said.

Her appointment was mid-morning.  I got a text at 12:10 PM:

The CT scan took forever.  I didn’t hear from her again until after school around 4 PM.  The diagnosis was appendicitis.  I broke down.  I wanted to get on the next flight to Austin, but I knew that was unrealistic. Instead, I got in touch with her best friend. She assured me she was going to be able to help. I talked to my people (my husband, daughter, and mother).  They all advised that she was in good hands, and there was nothing more I could do.

My brother-in-law turned around and headed back home.  She was alone, but he would be there when she woke up.

My worry turned to anger. I’m still trying to deal with that side of it.  Beth is home and feeling sore, but she will recover.  She told me that I “advocate like a mother,” a slogan a friend of hers uses in her advocacy for her trisomy 18 child.

My sister will be fine, but I’ve realized with this incident how fiercely I care about her, as if she were my own daughter.  And I will always “Fight like a Mother!”

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura at Writing the World for Kids.

I love writing from photographs.  There are many different perspectives to take, as an observer, as someone in the photo, or as description. I shared the National Geographic photo archives with my students.  I asked them to select a photo to write about.  We gathered information first in a T-chart.  “What I see, What I think, What I wonder, What I know, What I feel.”  I found this idea in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s book, Poems are Teachers. 

I was attracted to a photo of a lioness in water carrying a cub in her mouth.  Your Shot photographer Connie Bowen said, “We were in awe of her mothering and tolerance.”  I used this as a repeated line in my poem.

Chloe also chose this photo to write about, without knowing I had selected it, too.  Madison is a budding young artist.  She is taking art classes.  She wanted to raise some money to get a laptop so she can do more with her art.  I commissioned her to draw the photograph.

 

Maternal Instincts

We were in awe of her mothering,
how she gently yet firmly
held the cub in her jaws
hanging loosely, trusting.

We were in awe of her grace,
as she swept through the water
knowing her cubs would follow
in her wake, head up, alert to mother’s gait.

We were in awe of her tolerance,
lioness in African grass, patience
in her eyes, confidence in stride.
Mother nature teaches us tolerant, mothering grace.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

A Likely Loving Lioness

by Chloe

A likely loving lioness
loves her cubs with a smile.
And when they’re sad
she makes them glad
by playing with them all day.

Here is a link to Chloe’s poem on Kidblog if you’d like to comment to her directly.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

 

What a thrill to be a part of this amazing collection of poems from all over our great country!  This honor was made possible by the connections I’ve made in Poetry Friday.  Because Amy Ludwig VanDerwater knows me, when J. Patrick Lewis was looking for a Louisiana children’s poet, she connected us.  The poem I wrote, “Louisiana Bayou Song” became the title poem of my first poetry book published by UL Press this summer.

I also know many of the poets included in the collection, and if you read more Poetry Friday posts, you will find them, too.  Today, Buffy Silverman’s post includes 4 poems from the book.  Last week, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater posted her poem “A Note from the Trail.”

Here’s Linda Kulp Trout’s poem about Helen Keller.  And Mary Lee has two poems included. Robyn Hood Black shared her poem, “Mural Compass.” If I find more, I will add the links into this post.

My poem sits on a two page spread that includes an amazing heron photograph and a heart-wrenching Katrina poem by the anthologist J. Patrick Lewis.  I feel I am sitting among my poet-heroes.

 

Louisiana Bayou Song

Sometimes on the bayou in Louisiana
a storm rolls in quickly–
Cypress trees
sway to the sound.

Sometimes on a quiet day
when the sun is high and hot
a heron happens by–
The bayou slows to the beat of his wading.

The song of the bayou
can be as fast and frenetic as a Zydeco two-step
or as soft and slow as a Cajun waltz–
The bayou sings a song to me.

Margaret Simon (c)

 

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