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Archive for January, 2021

I don’t live in a cold climate, and with our lows in the early 30’s last week, I was grateful for sweaters and scarves and hats. I don’t love cold, but I love photos of snow and ice. Amanda Potts lives in Ottawa, Canada. She walks every day (making me feel like a wimp when I don’t want to walk in the cold). She posts wonderful photos on Instagram. Most of her photos are close up. This one was so close that you can make out little ice sculptures in the branches. There’s a whole fairy tale world right there in the photo.

On the Merriam-Webster website, there is a quiz about words for snow and ice. I failed miserably. Perhaps if you want to challenge your knowledge, as well as gather words for your poem, take a chance: Words for Snow and Ice Quiz.

Join me in writing a small poem. Leave it in the comments. Be sure to support other writers with encouraging words.

Glimmer*

Ice birds
peck at thorns
finding the silver lining.

*ice newly formed in cracks, holes, or surface puddles of other ice

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

As a teacher-poet, I am most fulfilled when I have inspired a young person to write a poem. My colleague and friend Beth was recently entertaining her two granddaughters, Annie and Eliza. Their mother, Beth’s daughter, would be coming home soon with their new baby sister. Beth read to them a poem from Bayou Song, I am a Beckoning Brown Bayou. Beth is a wonderful teacher, and possibly she talked to them about poetic elements, but I also know these girls have been read to as long as they have been alive, six years for Annie, and four years for Eliza. Lyrical language is a part of who they are!

Beth sent me a text with each of the girls’ poems. She gave permission for me to publish them. I sent an email response to the girls naming the things I noticed in their poems. Beth said they read my email over and over. Every writer, even ones as young as four and six, love to get feedback.

I am a flower dress
I decorate a pretty pony tailed girl
I twirl and spin around
I move when she does
I wiggle like a snake


I am a flower dress
I am pretty pink and purple
I have sparkles shining like a colorful rainbow
I am beautiful like rose sapphire

by Eliza, age 4

I am a dinging doorbell
I am squeezed in my belly button
I am rung by a little girl with brown hair and a checkered dress
I giggle when people press me to be funny


I am a dinging doorbell
I am shy when visitors come
I am happy when I am answered
I ring when I am pressed.
I get excited whenever I am used
I am a dinging doorbell

Annie, age 6

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Poetry Friday round-up is here today! Put your links with InLinkz at the bottom of this post.

Last week the Sunday Night Swaggers posted Nestling poems, like Irene Latham in This Poem is a Nest. I couldn’t stop there. I had to share the concept with my student writers. I had planned to teach the inaugural poem by Richard Blanco, One Today. I have the picture book, and it’s just an amazing poem all the way around. It’s especially full of nestlings for writers to find.

I filled two notebook pages with them. I copied a few into a Canva design. (My student helped with titles.)

Kaia and I wrote this one together, each choosing lines back and forth.

millions of faces 

arrayed

all of us 

we keep dreaming

many prayers

buon giorno

every language spoken

into one sky

by Kaia and Mrs. Simon

trains whistle

like a silent

drum tapping

on every rooftop

a birthday tune

by Chloe (She asks you to guess the title)

For the Winter Poem Swap, I received a gift poem all the way from Australia, along with the cutest little carrying bags with an original print of an echidna. Kat Apel and I muse about how similar and how different our landscape is. We often post similar pictures on Instagram of canoeing and walking about. Her poem is a delightful back and forth about our similar, yet different homes.

Pop over to Kat’s post to see how Robyn wrote in a similar style in her poem for Kat. It’s a small world after all.

Please leave your Poetry Friday links below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

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So much can happen in a week. I took a photo last Wednesday, January 6th in the early morning before the sunrise. Capturing the moon peeking between the arms of an old oak tree, I was in a good mood. The week was going well, back to school after the holidays, and my spirits were lifted to the sky. Since that morning, my country that felt safe became unsettled and moving in a violent direction, attacked by American citizens, our own people, our neighbors. I’m struggling with how to feel, how to move forward, how to teach.

But today, I was looking for a photo to post, a photo that wants to be a poem. Maybe you are, too. Please join me by writing a small soul-searching poem, only 15 words, maybe fewer. Leave your poem in the comments and respond to others. Thanks for giving me hope, the thing with feathers…

Moon and Live Oak, photo by Margaret Simon

An acorn buried long ago
reaches out
toward the moon
hopeful
to shelter
another day.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.

Neil Gaiman
Art wall selfie

I believe that art is for everyone. Even a 2 year old. I heard that the Acadiana Center for the Arts had free exhibits, so I packed up Leo (after a stop at CVS to get him a mask), and we made our first visit ever to an art museum. The first of many to come.

Leo, like many 2-year-olds, is learning about his world and naming things. He recently started saying, “What’s that?” In art, “that” can be open for interpretation, so I’d say, “What do you see?” He saw birds, crabs, and even dinosaurs. One large abstract painting made him say, “Scary!” I asked him what he saw that was scary. He named things in the painting that I didn’t see. Imagination beginning!

In one gallery, there was a table with an outline of a diamond shape, colored pencils, and scissors. We colored together and added our masterpiece to the art wall.

In another display there was a painted piano. He loved sitting on the stool and playing the “key horse.” I learned later that he was trying to say keyboard. I told him it was a piano, so he repeated, “pinano!”

I have joined Michelle Haseltine’s #100DaysofNotebooking. On our art date, Leo and I made a notebook page using washi tape, flair pens, colored paper, and poem seeds. Our poem captured Leo’s curiosity and wonder.

One
Twinkling Star
Looking

Making art in my notebook, Leo style.

Inspiration: Not everyone has the advantage of spending time with such an enthusiastic observer, but consider taking some time to go to an art museum or play in your notebook. You’ll be happy you did!

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Sylvia at Poetry for Children.
She highlights poetry books coming in 2021.

The Sunday Night Swaggers have entered this new year with a challenge from Heidi Mordhorst. We’ve all read and admired the new poetry collection from Irene Latham, This Poem is a Nest. I reviewed her book on this post.

Irene created the term nestling, which is similar to a found poem. She started with her own poem and found new poems within it. I decided to start with a poem I wrote for Heidi for the Winter Poem Swap.

Essence of Heidi

There you are rolling Play-doh balls,
placing them onto a fake birthday cake, 
lighting each candle
deep breath in, then screen-blow–
a ritual of celebration, exclamation
of You Matter!

There you are creating a caterpillar’s undoing,
how it digests itself
to become something miraculous,
shouting the great wonder–
a ritual of changing, shedding the old,
in silence. 

There you are writing words,
passion-pulsed onto the page
to inspire a child or grown-up–
a ritual of reading aloud, praise
for turn-the-page, frosted ice
melting into a poem. 

–Margaret Simon, 2020 Winter poem swap

Here are my nestlings…

Happy Birthday!
Play-Doh cake
in celebration
of You!
Writing Teacher
Words
inspire-up
praise.
Picture Book
Lighting
a miraculous
child, then
turn-the-page
Autumn
Undoing–
become shedding
silence
Peek-a-Boo
There,
There,
there you are.
Irene’s Nest
Ritual of passion
pulsed the page
into poem
Nestling drafts, Margaret Simon

Read more nestlings from my friends.

Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

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Spiritual Thursday posts are being gathered today by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

It is my practice each year to select a word to guide my year. This week my students and I have been talking about and selecting a One Little Word. Last year I selected Embrace. The word Inspire has been tugging at me for a few years. I finally stopped resisting it.

If you follow my blog, you know that I am posting a photo each week as a writing prompt. Last week I posted a photo from Ann Sutton, a Methodist minister. Fran Haley took this prompt and wrote an amazing spiritual poem on her blog. I drew Ann’s attention to Fran’s poem on Facebook Messenger. Ann shared the post and asked Fran’s permission to read the poem in her sermon. Wow! Inspiring writing that inspires a beautiful connection beyond my reach.

I’ve started an accountability group for The Artist’s Way. Perhaps you remember the book. Julia Cameron leads you on a journey back to your essence of creativity through writing exercises and artist dates. Morning pages is a component that I am trying. Trying is the operative word here. My hope is that by releasing the tied up knots of stuff through regurgitation on the blank page, I will inspire more creativity in myself. I do believe that creativity is a spiritual practice. It’s not reserved for a select few; however, like the Holy Spirit, creativity is available to all of us, even me.

This first week of 2021 has been filled with shocking events. Along with everyone else, I am mournful. But I am also hopeful. Our country witnessed rock bottom yesterday. Let’s make today the beginning of our collective climb up and out. We can inspire hope and love. Join me in a resolution to Inspire, breathe new life into the world.

Image created in Canva

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Last weekend we toasted in the new year with some friends around our fire pit. I had taken down the tree ornaments earlier in the day, and my husband usually carries the dry fir tree out to the curb, but this year, it seemed appropriate somehow to burn it.

A new year also brings about changes in my teaching routine. For whatever reason, I hadn’t used photo prompts with my students yet this year. So this week I posted my photo on our Kidblog and directed them to respond. In Paula Bourque’s book Spark, she encourages teachers to use their own photos because it helps kids get to know you a little better. It was fun to hear my students’ questions and connections to this photo. I think I’ll do this with them every week. Click on the Kidblog link above to read their responses.

Fire sizzles flames
Christmas fir tree
forever skyfree

Margaret Simon

Please write your own small poem response in the comments. Leave encouraging comments to other writers.

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#MustReadin2021

Round up of Must Read posts are with Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life.

I’m a joiner and whether or not it’s good for me, I tend to join things at the beginning of the year. For example, this morning I will go out in the cold to an outdoor yoga class. I also like to support friends who are trying new (or old) initiatives. Leigh Anne Eck has taken on the round up originated by Carrie Gelson of Must Read posts. The idea is we make a list of books we didn’t get to in 2020, and commit to reading them in 2021. I recently took a quiz on The Four Tendencies and discovered (or rather, affirmed) I was an Obliger, so having a group to report back to may give me motivation to get it done.

I walked around my house collecting books I had placed here and there, the bedside table, my school backpack, the study, and placed them in a pile. I have a reason for each book in the stack, a reason to read and a reason I haven’t read them. I’ll keep them close. Wish me luck.

My Must Read 2021 stack

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Ruth in Haiti.

Happy New Year! If you are looking for a way to feed your writing life, subscribe to Poets & Writers’ The Time is Now. I do not do their prompt every week, but this week when I was feeling out of touch with writing, I opened it to find a prompt that worked well for me.

“Mars Being Red” by the late poet Marvin Bell lyrically explores the color red as a state of being, likening it to a list of images that both physically resemble the color and provide memories, such as that of youth. In this compact, twelve-line poem, Bell begins what seems to be a portrait of the planet Mars and then delves into a series of digressions that find resolve in a meditation on the possibility of change: “You will not be this quick-to-redden / forever. You will be green again, again and again.” Inspired by Bell, write a poem that serves as a portrait of a color. Use physical descriptions to begin and then personal memories to develop a transformation in this study of hue.
From The Time is Now

Bayou Being Green

Being green is the color of an amaryllis
bud before blooming. Color of time lost
in growth, of soul lost inside
meditation. Green of grassy meadows
we walked with the dog, while our steps
made time disappear for a moment.
Contemplation becomes green in your eyes,
emerald of stars, early light reflects
sage from the bayou surface where green
water darkens as we stroll west toward
sunset, away from dawn into an age
of white on white on white. 

Margaret Simon, draft after Marvin Bell “Mars Being Red”
Bayou Teche in November, Margaret Simon

If you are looking for a weekly photo writing prompt, subscribe to my blog, I am posting a photo each week on Thursdays and invite you to write a small poem response. This Photo Wants to be a Poem.

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