Archive for February, 2020

Poetry Friday round-up is with Karen Edmisten.

Linda Baie shared a video on Facebook that I immediately took up as a writing prompt. It’s a beautiful short film by Louie Schwartzberg. (See link below to watch the video)

I took a quote from the young girl at the beginning and made a golden shovel. “The path could lead to a beach or something.”

Cultivate a response to the
day; open your eyes and a path
could be there, weather could
change, and lead
to water, to
a new way to see, a
gift as joyful as a beach,
waves blessing you or
moving you to touch something.

Margaret Simon, draft response
Photo by Margaret Simon, Santa Rosa Beach Florida

Kathy Mazurowski is the winner of the book giveaway for After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals by David L. Harrison, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. Click the link to read how I used the book with my students and wrote nonfiction poems.

Take a minute to write a quick 15 word poem to this week’s This Photo Wants to be a Poem. This week is a beautiful photo by Molly Hogan.

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Welcome to This Photo Wants to be a Poem, a low stress weekly poetic writing prompt. This week’s photo is courtesy of Molly Hogan, who is an amazing photographer/ poet/ teacher in Maine. She has sent me a few photos for this weekly prompt. (If you would like to offer any photos, please send me an email. You will get credit, but the photos will be free for reuse.)

In keeping with Laura Purdie Salas’s 15 Words or Less prompts, I encourage you to write a quick short poem. To help build a supportive community, please comment on three poems with an encouraging response.

photo by Molly Hogan

A soul in solitary
silence seeks
a soft whisper
of solace.

Margaret Simon, draft

Your turn. Leave your poem draft in the comments. Thanks!

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

On Saturday morning I was doing Saturday chores, i.e. cleaning the cat litter box. Spraying the hose into the box outside the back door, I heard a loud buzzing sound and looked up. The nearest tree is a sweet olive and when blooming, it often attracts bees. But the tree was not in bloom, and the bees were flying beyond it.

My husband, back from his morning run, thought perhaps they were in the shrubs. He walked around the carport to investigate.

“The bees are on the move!” he exclaimed.

It was an amazing sight. Bees flying everywhere and a huge cluster buzzing up high in the tree.

I took a video, of course. (I couldn’t get it to play in the blog.) I texted a few friends who keep bees, but the swarm was too high to be reached.

“They are God’s bees,” Jeff said.

God’s bees are God knows where now, but I was curious about what a swarm means.

From this source, thanks to a Google search, I learned that bee swarms occur when a colony has outgrown its space. It is a normal, natural occurrence that should not be disturbed. The bees in a swarm are not as defensive and will not sting as readily. My friend, Jim, said they are docile and fairly easy to catch and move to a container hive.

We have been experiencing an early spring this year. The temperatures are not significantly higher, but my azaleas are already blooming and the wood ducks are laying eggs in the wood duck house. We set up the Ring camera again this year and have been watching.

Nature seems to know something I don’t know.

Azaleas in my front yard blooming early in February.

Please visit my blog post from yesterday about David Harrison’s book After Dark that releases today. The publisher is offering a book giveaway.

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What a pleasure to take part in the After Dark blog tour. After Dark is a picture book of amazing illustrations by Stephanie Laberis and intriguing poems by David Harrison. Publication date is tomorrow, Feb. 25th. Read more about David and his many books here.

David L. Harrison

David’s poems explore the lives of nocturnal animals. In the end pages you can find more information about each animal. With my students, I started with the end pages. I asked them to select two animals they were interested in. We read the facts and then the poem. “Look for ways the poet wove the facts in with poetic language.” We noticed elements like rhyming, slant rhyme, alliteration, repetition, and others.

This reading and talking piqued our interest in finding out more. I gave students the option to select the same animal or another one to research using Wonderopolis.

Breighlynn wanted to learn more about songbirds. Earlier in the week we had discussed allusion and at the beginning of the month, we read about Maya Angelou. I love seeing all of these lessons come together in Breighlynn’s poem.

The song of a songbird
the morning alarm.
Their vibrant colors
just like a rainbow.
The smallest of birds
 make the loudest of songs.
I know why the caged bird sings.

Breighlynn, 4th grade

After reading this David Harrison poem about the gray wolf, A.J. wrote a poem contrasting wolves to dogs.

never tamed,
they can’t be blamed.

youngly trained,
though restrained.

running free,
free as can be.

fun won’t end,
with man’s best friend.

A. J. , 6th grade

One of my students asked what was the word for animals who are awake during the day. On a Wonderopolis page, we discovered the word diurnal. In the poem, No Fooling (about the raccoon), David uses assonance, creating slant rhyme. I decided to try out this element in my own poem: Where do Birds Go at Night?

Where Do Birds Go at Night?

At first light, I hear their chatter
flitting about our courtyard feeder.

But once the air of dawn is gone,
I wonder where the birds have flown.

Most birds are diurnal
living their life all day,
but where do they go
once the sun goes down?
Only nocturnal birds hang around.

Some birds find a hole big enough to squeeze in.
Others, like the heron, want some mud to wade in.
Flocks of blackbirds roost in bunches
finding their nighttime safety in numbers.

Every time you go to sleep,
wonder where the birds may be.

Margaret Simon, draft 2020

This post is part of a blog tour. The publisher has offered a free book for comments on this post. I will draw at random from commenters and post the winner’s name on Friday, Feb. 28th on my Poetry Friday post. Please leave a comment by Thursday, Feb. 27th. Winner must live in the continental U.S.

Check out other posts to hear more about this book.

Writing and Illustrating
Beyond Literacy Link
Read, Learn, and be Happy
Poetry for Children
Teacher Dance
Michelle Kogan
Salt City Verse

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Cheriee at Library Matters.

An Invitation: With Laura Purdie Salas’s blessing, I’ve started a weekly writing prompt for Thursdays in the spirit of 15 words or less. Pop over to read the poems this week about a pretty pink thistle: This Photo Wants to be a Poem.

This week my students and I read Joyce Sidman’s poem in the December issue of Scope magazine: Song of Bravery. There were a few things to notice in her poem, allusion and irony. When one normally thinks of a song, it’s something positive and praising. Joyce Sidman’s poem stated the opposite.

This one’s not a sure thing.
I’m not bound to win.
I don’t think I’ll ace it this time.
I won’t break a leg,
make my own luck,
or reach the stars.

Joyce Sidman, Song of Bravery from What the Heart Knows
read the whole poem here.

After Joyce, I wrote Song of the Sacred.

I am not a barefoot Buddha.
I cannot think and become.
I’m not singing rhyming psalms
in the present moment.

When I fall on my knees, they hurt.
I have no burnt offerings
or holy incense to light.

Maybe I pray with open hands
or maybe someone prays for me.
I’ll never know.

But here I am
stretched in savasana
humming an Om
with my eyes closed tight

Breathing to clear my mind
from the shadows of a cloudy day
to see the holy sun.

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

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Welcome to a new weekly poetry prompt. Inspired by Laura Purdie Salas who for years posted a weekly photo for participants to write a poem of 15 Word or Less. Because Laura is busy with her day job, writing wonderful children’s books, she has taken a hiatus from this weekly prompt. Here is a link to the archives of those posts.

I contacted Laura, and she was happy to pass the baton. With this new title This Photo Wants to be a Poem, I will post a photo once a week on Wednesday night for you to respond to on Thursday. You can type your poem into the comments. Please be kind and comment on at least 3 other writers’ poems. That’s how we build a supportive community.

Laura limited the poems to 15 words. I see purpose in this practice because (1) it’s quick, (2) word choice matters, and (3) you’ll likely get it done. In all honesty, I will not be counting words. The idea is to simply practice your writing brain.

The photos will credit the photographer but will also be free for you to use if you wish to post on a blog or other social media. If you would like to contribute a photo, send it to me by email.

Let’s get started! This photo was taken by my friend and choir colleague Brenda Lowry on a walk along the Atchafalaya Basin.

Thistle by Brenda Lowry

My first draft:

My spiky stem says Stay Away!
But bees are welcome any day.
Come. Buzz. Play.

Margaret Simon

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

A painted sign in my daughter’s neighborhood. We had to take a picture, but Leo, having been released from the stroller, wanted to get down and walk.

I’ve been participating in Ethical ELA’s monthly 5 day writing challenge. I love this community of friends. On Sunday, the mentor text was a poem “What I Want Is” by C. G. Hanzlicek. The prompt is here.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, we had Leo who is now 14 months and loves to walk. I took him outside in our backyard and next door to swing. My neighbor has 2 grandsons, too, so she has set up baby swings hanging from a tree. I really could not imagine anywhere else I’d rather be. So the prompt led me to this poem.

What I want is
what I have

when I’m with him
walking hand around finger

down the hill
to the bayou

to wave at the canoers
even though they don’t

see us swinging
from a rope

in the oak tree
laughing just because

there are wildflowers
too many to count

and a cool breeze
to catch our smiles on

a day of only us
pointing at birds

flying overhead
Bird 1 Bird 2

Margaret Simon after C.G. Hanzlicek

On Monday I combined the Ethical ELA prompt to write a This is Just to Say apology poem with the image posted in Laura Shovan’s February poetry project.

photo by Jone MacCulloch.

This is Just to Say

I missed the turn
to school today.
My eyes were on
the clouds

So soft and floating
like giant snowdrifts
above me in bouquets
of white roses.

Forgive me,
I’m late
my head in the clouds
dancing around in their fluff.

Margaret Simon, draft, after William Carlos Williams

Finding daily prompts in my email inbox help me to pick up the pen and notebook and make something. Creativity feeds my soul. The positive loving feedback is fun, too.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Linda at Teacher Dance.

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, I won’t write about the week I’ve had or lost love or about the cold I’ve been fighting. Instead I’ll share a ditty I wrote this week for Laura Shovan’s challenge. Susan Brisson prompted us with frog pictures and a delightful video of her husband and son catching frogs from their pond to take them into the woods, so the little creatures would survive the winter.

Photo by Susan Brisson.

When my youngest daughter was two (she’s now 29), we had a small flower bed that always seemed to be its own pond. She could hear a frog croaking in the flower bed and decided to name it Hans. To this day, we don’t know why, but Hans the frog has become our family’s totem. One Christmas my husband made a huge plywood frog wearing a Santa hat, and we put it up every Christmas.

When watching Susan’s son hopping around gathering frogs into a bucket jogged this memory for me.

Dedicated to my daughter Martha

And here’s a lagniappe poem. Lagniappe is a common term used in Louisiana to mean a little something extra.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life
Photo by Kay McGriff: “This photo is from one of our favorite activities twice each year–the Friends of the Muscatatuck River Society River Clean up.”

I have been writing a lot of poems lately with my students as we respond daily in our notebooks and with a Facebook group for Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Project.

The picture above was shared by Kay McGriff. She and her family participate in a twice-a-year river clean-up. I haven’t done this yet, but living near the bayou, we see all sorts of things drift by. This picture inspired me to look into this project.

Armed with an article, I decided to create a Bop poem. I was introduced to this form by my friend and critique partner, Linda Mitchell. Here’s a link to the form: https://poets.org/glossary/bop

The quote comes directly from an article about the cleanup. http://www.therepublic.com/…/river_society_hosting…/

People are messy.
Rivers are easy to access.
Everything can be found–
shoes, tires, buckets, balls–
whatever falls in
sinks to a watery grave.

“You wouldn’t believe the stuff we find.”

Someone found a car,
an old boat motor, ten feet of rope.
It’s all trash pollution
and doesn’t belong here
buried in our drinking water.
Imagine what the fish are thinking.
People are crazy!
Let’s get out there and clean it up!

“You wouldn’t believe the stuff we find.”

So share in the fun
of the Annual Spring River Cleanup.
There’s something for everyone to do.
Volunteers will collect whatever they find
walking the bank or paddling a canoe.
Together we can save the river.

“You wouldn’t believe the stuff we find.”

Margaret Simon, draft 2020

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

Take a walk with me on this chilly day. The temperature dropped during the day yesterday from a rainy 55 degrees to a frigid 35 degrees with winds close to 20 mph. Bundle up in your winter coat and gloves. Did you bring your wool socks? As we walk past the bayou and along the road, we come to an open field. Watch your step because the ground is uneven here, and you may step in a puddle.

There near the neighboring house is a tree that looks like it may have been struck by lightning. It’s leaning slightly, but oh! It’s bright with pink blossoms. Flowers in winter? I think Japanese magnolia likes to be the first to show off her new spring dress.

My poetry swaggers group had a difficult challenge this month, given by Catherine Flynn. Terza Rima, she suggested, a form none of us had ever tried. But it’s from Dante, she delighted, not knowing yet that we are no Dantes.

Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. The first results lacked greatly. After a few rounds with my writing buddies, they helped me patch it up to present today. A terza rima is not going into my book of forms. This was a tough code to crack. Here’s a link to some confusing helpful guidelines.

A Japanese magnolia takes a chance
on blooming ‘fore the risk of frost is gone
with warming trends alive inside its branch.

Perhaps a passing storm had left it torn
in this winter field alone and gray,
when leaves of life from limbs are yet unborn.

Bold flowers burst bright pink and lift away
a fog; flamboyant beauty flirts for view
when wind blows chill across my path today. 

A Japanese magnolia takes a chance.

Margaret Simon, draft #5

Visit the Poetry Swaggers Sites for more (and better, if you ask me) Terza Rima poems.

Catherine Flynn
Molly Hogan
Linda Mitchell
Heidi Mordhorst

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