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Archive for January, 2019

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

I enjoy learning from other teacher-writers who post on Slice of Life as well as on Poetry Friday.  That’s how I met Molly Hogan.  She blogs at Nix the Comfort Zone.   A few Fridays ago she posted a beautiful original I Am poem.  Her ideas for this poem came from poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, which is a book I have and value “freeing your life with words.” (Only $3.99 at Abe Books)

When I read Molly’s poem, I decided immediately to use it as a mentor text for my students.  We read the poem and noticed so many metaphors.  Using colored pens to underline the poetic devices, one of my students said, “This is a very colorful poem,” and she meant that literally.

I am granite grey
plain Jane, sturdy and dependable
but sometimes sunlight shoots across my surface
igniting flecks of mica and quartz
into quick showers of sparkles
here, then gone (Read the rest of the poem here.)

Following our reading and noticing and discussing, I asked my students to turn to a clean page and draw circles.  Oh, about 5-7 circles will do.  Then we read the poem again.  In the first part, she says “I am granite grey.”  What is granite grey? A color. Label one circle with color.

As we traveled through the mentor text, we filled in more circles: shape, tree, word, animal, nature, etc. We even made a split circle of inside and out.

During sacred writing time (10 minutes on the Zen Timer app), we filled in the circles with our own ideas and wrote a draft of our own poems.

I know that metaphor is a high-level concept that can take years for younger students to fully grasp, but I dare say that my students got it.  Their poems were long and beautiful.  Having this amazing mentor text helped greatly.  Thanks, Molly, for your inspiration.

Here’s a link to our kidblog site.  Please read and leave comments.  My students feel such pride when you do.  Thanks!

I Am…

I am pink,
chapped and worn,
supple and soft.

I stand on the base of a triangle,
stable, reasonable,
striving for perfection.

In my mind, I criticize–
a checklist of do’s and don’ts
a chapter of why I can’t be.

I am not like the oak
confident in its old age;
I am more of a willow,
seeking, bending in the breeze,
greening in spring.

I search for kind
in your eyes,
your song,
your words.

I do not hunt like the hawk;
I wait and watch like the heron
stepping carefully through the muck.

I am a magnolia blossom
open, fragrant but
easily bruised and brown.

Be soft with me.

(draft) Margaret Simon

 

From Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Tara at Going to Walden.

 

Taylor Mali developed an innovative set of dice called Metaphor Dice.  I have a set that one of my student groups plays with daily.  They’ve made it into a sort of game to end each class session.  Each of us grabs a set of three dice, white, red, and blue.  Roll. Read the resulting metaphor and talk about how it could work.  Some of them are challenging to find a real connection.  But sometimes you get something intriguing, like “Time is an impossible super hero.”

We also start each notebook writing session with a quote.  This week one of our quotes was “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”  Then I rolled an odd combination: My heart is a well-worn wonder.

These types of activities work well to turn off your critical mind and turn on that right-brain creative soul inside.  This is the poem that came out on the page:

A well-worn wonder like a beaten path
as in
we’ve been this way before
My heart keeps time
with the meditation tone
like a natural wonder,
a miracle of breath
& air
& blood
pumping
beating
living
waking up!

The poem was shaping up to look like a skinny.  I double-checked the rules for a skinny poem.  “A Skinny is a short poem form that consists of eleven lines. The first and eleventh lines can be any length (although shorter lines are favored). The eleventh and last line must be repeated using the same words from the first and opening line (however, they can be rearranged). The second, sixth, and tenth lines must be identical. All the lines in this form, except for the first and last lines, must be comprised of ONLY one word. The Skinny was created by Truth Thomas in the Tony Medina Poetry Workshop at Howard University in 2005.” The Skinny Poetry Journal

My heart is a well-worn wonder like a beaten path
as in
we’ve  been
here
before
as in
natural
miracle
of breath
as in
a well-worn path of my beating heart is a wonder.

–Margaret Simon

What do you think?  Version one or two?

Try a skinny with the phrase “Time is an impossible super hero.”

Matt Renwick is the winner of my extra A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver.

Leigh Anne Eck tried the prompt and posted here. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Read more slices at the Two Writing Teachers.

 

The advantage of having a big kitchen with lots of cabinets is that you have more places to clutter.  In my kitchen, not only do I have a junk drawer, I also have a junk cabinet.  It’s right at the end of the counter where I place my purse, so it often catches things I take out when I clean out my purse.  It catches mail I want to keep and old cell phones, a gift card or two, and so on.

On Monday, I had the day off.  I didn’t have much planned, but I definitely wasn’t planning to clean out the cabinet.  I’ve been hearing about the art of tidying up as professed by Marie Kondo.  I watched a few episodes at my daughter’s house.  I haven’t bought the book or embarked on any life changing goals of being more organized.

However, I was looking for something.  Tickets to an event this week.  I was sure they were in there, but when I started looking, stuff started to tumble.  And before I knew it, I was looking at a pile of “junk” on my kitchen counter.  I couldn’t leave it there, and I couldn’t put it all back, so I had to sort it all out.

Before…

I found some trash: receipts from two Christmases ago, expired credit card, punch cards from out of business yogurt shops, etc.

I found some treasures: a can of cash that we were collecting for our food pantry, the tickets I was looking for, a gift card to a nice restaurant, and a pair of earrings I had bought for a gift.

Sorting, tossing, finding, remembering…

This was cleansing and satisfying.  A really productive winter afternoon.  This weekend, the bathroom cabinet.

Do you enjoy cleaning out or do you put it off, like me, until the task forces itself upon you?

 

After.

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Mary Oliver has died and the whole world is mourning.  I checked my Facebook page at the end of the day and found that most of my “friends” were posting Mary Oliver’s words.  Every one of them connected me to her, to the natural world, and to these people.  It was like our own wake, of sorts.

I was introduced to the poetry of Mary Oliver by my good friend Nettie who died this past fall.  I imagine they are both writing poems on the clouds.  When I was at a crossroad in my teaching career, Nettie sent me the poem Wild Geese.  I listened to it over and over and have most of the lines memorized.  This poem saved me at a time when I needed to be saved.

 

 

I looked on the poetry shelf in my study and pulled out my collection of Mary Oliver books.  I found that I have two copies of A Thousand Mornings.  If you would like a copy and live in the continental US, leave a comment.  I’ll let you know by email if you are the winner.

Mary Oliver had a way of placing you in the moment with her and in a sense, saying a prayer.  This poem from A Thousand Mornings places me with her, thinking through things, and noticing with pen in air.

I Happened to be Standing

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

–Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings. The Penguin Press, New York, 2012.

 

I do not presume that my poetry is in any realm of comparison to Mary Oliver’s, but I was moved to write this morning, a way of expressing how her words are written on my heart.

 

A Misty Mary Morning

I’m walking through a misty world
thinking of Mary.  Her words turn
night to day, day to night,
an answer to prayer, a comfort to loss.

She taught me to notice things
like the bird breaking dawn with song.
She would notice the sound
and sing along.  I hold hands

with every poet and poetry lover
across the world. We are united
in our collective breath
wishing with Mary for a resurrection

of amazement.

(c) Margaret Simon, 2019

 

Nikki Grimes wrote this post on Facebook (and gave me permission to repost.)

Mary Oliver, Sister of my heart, how I will miss you! Your absence feels impossible.

IN PASSING

A poet passes
soul rising heavy as ode,
or light as haiku.
Who knows? But You, the Author
whose words are for her, alone.

(c) 2019 Nikki Grimes

 

 

 

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

What is your vision for 2019?  We really can’t know what the future holds, but we can think about what we want to do and be in the coming year.  I’ve never done a vision board before, and I can’t say that I am any kind of expert. I started when my students were working on One Little Word magazine collages.

Yesterday I made the necessary step to add more yoga into my life.  I signed up and paid for a class beginning in February.  And I put it in as a regular alert on my phone.

I’ve been making smoothies for breakfast ever since the winter break when my middle daughter visited.  She made a smoothie every morning and got me hooked.  My youngest daughter gave me a Magic Bullet blender in which the container converts to a cup with a top, so I can blend and go.  My typical recipe is quarter cup Greek yogurt, quarter cup oatmeal, half cup milk, teaspoon of flaxseed, half a banana, half an avocado (or Kale, if the avocado isn’t riper yet), and quarter cup blueberries (or strawberries). I am amazed at how full I feel after drinking it, and I’m not hungry until lunch.

My students worked this week on their one little word projects. I gave them options for creatively representing their words.  I also invited them to blog about their words.  I was moved by Madison’s post.  This 5th grader has the wisdom that I have longed for all my life.  She is comfortable in her skin.  I hope she will hold onto her values of Possibility.

This year, my word is possibility. I like this word because there is no such thing as completely impossible, they say, but I’ve added on it: but there is such thing as possible. Always try because if you don’t, if you lay down and let others control and use and block you from your goal, leave them. Always try. Never set a true goal that limits yourself- whenever you achieve one, go higher and higher, always trying. Have confidence. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The way it’s hard is what makes it a good challenge. Nothing ever comes easy, and it never should, or we’ll all be lazy and fat. Be aware of yourself, and don’t let yourself fall out of shape or routine or such just because you don’t feel like it even though it benefits you.

Because, as hard as it’ll seem…

It’s always

Possible.

(Blog post by Madison: to leave comments, click here.)

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is Down Under with Kat.

I didn’t have any ideas about what I would write today.  As I read other Poetry Friday posts, I became more inspired.  Matt Forrest Esenwine celebrates the acceptance of a poem for an anthology honoring poet Donald Hall.  Matt’s post included an image of a snowy road.  The image led me down a path to a new poem.

 

Too many things concern me today.
My attention is crowded
with walls blocking out human sighs.

On my screen I click on an image
of a path
along a snowy road
a mountain in the distance
and find a poem.

I kick those hard stones.
Look up to the blue mountain.

My thoughts are
insignificant,
unspoken as a meadow.

–Margaret Simon, 2019

Someone on Poetry Friday suggested the book Getting the Knack by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford. I’m trying some of the poetry exercises with my students.  This week we tried out the recipe poem.

Recipe for a Poem

One blank page–open, lined, waiting…

A colorful pen. Try a different color each day.

Tip-tap your fingers over the lines making multiple dots.
Dots become letters become words.
Top off with a tasty metaphor–
Marshmallow clouds on a snowy day.
Read out loud.

–Margaret Simon, 2019

 

One Little Word 2019

 

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

When we returned from our holiday break, I found a poem from Poets.org in my inbox.  I subscribe to Teach this Poem, a weekly lesson plan around a selected poem.  The poem Dead Stars by Ada Limón drew me in, and I felt compelled to teach the lesson. To begin, we looked at pictures of the Orion constellation and made attempts to draw it in our notebooks.

Before we read the poem, I talked about how I love poems that take notice of something in nature then go deeper to something more profound.

We find it hard to settle our brains down, and poetry offers us that silence, that quiet space, and allows us to reconnect with ourselves, or with an idea, or with an emotion. (Ada Limón)

When reading a poem with my students, I let them take the lead.  “What do you notice?” “Are there any words you don’t know?” “What do you think the poem is about?”

Each group of students takes the discussion in a different direction.  With my first group, we discussed an interesting metaphor in this line, “I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.”  Daniel rephrased the line, “Laying eggs of attempt.” Then we noticed that both hearth and nest are places of caring.

With my second group, theme became the focus.  What is the poet trying to teach us? She wants us to rise above the tide (the hard times) and be alive.  Landon wrote a thematic sentence, “Be alive, reach for the stars, and shine!”

In my third group, stars, constellations, and the fact that we are made of stardust became the topic of discussion.  “But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising–” (Ada Limón)

I pulled up an article to read from National Geographic.

Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes. (Iris Schrijver)

In response I wrote a septercet, a form created by Jane Yolen with 3 lines of seven syllables each.  The last line is from Ada Limón’s poem “Look, we are not unspectacular things.”

When I work on poetry with my students, I try not to push them to complicated analysis.  There is time for that when they are older.  I hope to expose them to amazing language, to the art and craft of metaphor, and to understand that poetry is always available to them.  Even when they are “rolling their trash bins out.”

A cherita about the stars:

You say look up

Take notice of the stars
Name the one you are

We are the star
dust of many ages
collected as unique thoughts.

(c) Margaret Simon

 

 

 

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