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Archive for March, 2021

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

I was first introduced to Poetic Justice by Sarah Donovan at her site Ethical ELA in July, 2020.

Poetic Justice offers restorative writing and creative arts programs to women who are incarcerated. Since 2014, they have been offering classes in jails and detention facilities that engage in self-reflective, therapeutic writing: “By using poetry, women who have never written in their lives find the confidence to write from their hearts.” (They were featured on CNN Heroes.)

Sarah Donovan, Ethical ELA

Because of the pandemic, Poetic Justice could no longer go into prisons and teach the writing workshops, but that didn’t stop them. Now they have more than 150 inmates and volunteers writing poetry and letters to each other. I volunteered to be a writing partner and am now in my third round of writing.

I believe in the power of poetry to heal. My writing partner, Kwain, has solidified that belief for me in the 8 months that we have been writing to each other. As with any deeply personal project, it has taken a while for her to trust me with her writing. I feel it is a privilege to receive it. This month we exchanged I am From poems.

I am From

I am from the homemade Jalapeño skillet cornbread
with pig intestines known as chitlins.
I am from the Dominoes playing as
the adults yell out foul words
as the odor of cigarettes corrupt the air of the room.
I am from Earth, Wind, and Fire, R Kelly and soul music.
I am from the state flower BlueBonnet,
Texas Longhorn. 
I am from the small church known as Immanuel Baptist Church
where I got saved when I was 9 years old. 
I am from a fatherless home.
I am from being Independent is a must
because all I had was my mom.
I am from “Everything is bigger”.
I am from Amarillo, Texas.

Kwain Monroe

The writing I receive from Kwain comes as scans of notebook pages. I write to her through a paid service (30 cents per letter).

If you are interested in this project, consider a donation. $25 can sponsor one inmate’s participation and supplies. Poetic Justice website.

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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.
Joining Sharing our Stories Magic

On Sharing our Stories Magic, Ruth posts a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt came as a challenge to write about a sunset without using color or seasonal language yet evoking a sense of both through the story. My mind naturally goes to poetry, so I wrote a poem. In June of 2019, my parents moved to a retirement home, and my siblings and I cleared out their home of 30 years. Even though, thankfully, Mom and Dad are both living healthy lives, the move was like a death. Their home on the lake had become a peaceful vacation spot for me and my family. I mourned this loss in this sunset poem.

The Last Time

You won’t know when the last day comes,
but it will come with a sunset
while you sit in the porch swing
dangling your feet like you did as a child
perhaps talking with your brother.

Hummingbirds will hum at the feeder,
a blown glass ornament your mother left behind
for you to fill
with sweet water just to see their wings
flutter hungrily, hearts beating faster than
the speed of sound.


The orb that makes each day new
ends this day
in silent symphony
hovering over the lake
bathing it in jewels
you can hold in your hand
lay down in the velvet-lined jewelry box
she left in her closet
for you to find.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Poetry Friday is with Linda at Teacher Dance
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I challenged myself to try Spark, a creative exchange between artists and poets. Artist Betty Nichols sent me an image of her art.

Painting by Betty Nichols

A process I’ve been playing with lately is paper collage. To get my head around this abstract painting, I decided to recreate it in collage. The paper I selected informed words I collected to write from. Here is my response collage.

Notebook collage in response to art by Betty Nichols

While searching for things to cut out, I found an article that included advice from Maria Shriver on how to make a difference. The first bullet point, “Sit with yourself” became the title. I cut out radicchio to get the red color. Doing research I found that radicchio is the “crunch VIP of salads.” The black flame came from a bee print paper. I let the list and collage sit for a few days. The process worked for me.

Sit with Yourself

The chicory radicchio is said
to be the ultimate crunch in your daily salad,
rich in vitamin K.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

The flame that is the yellow body of a bee
harmlessly flying from tree to tree
pollinates, perpetuating life.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

When you are faced with the sharp points
of a knife you use every day,
look closely. The stain of death
may be the blood of birth,
the path of its blade leading to light.

This red dagger isn’t dangerous.

A snow-filled valley will green in spring.

Sit with yourself.
Give it time.


Margaret Simon, all rights reserved.

Posted at Spark here.

I sent Betty a blues poem, and she responded with tissue paper art. See our collaboration here.

At first I was completely intimidated by the idea of writing a poem to someone else’s art. By making it my own through my own art, I was able to find a way in to the original painting. The idea of sitting with yourself to make space for creativity comes up for me a lot these days. Creativity requires space as well as time for incubation. I hope you can find time and space to incubate and create. The process is its own reward.

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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.
Notebook Page 3/16/21

Playing with lots of creative ideas on this notebook page. I started with a falling apart copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I wanted to try writing a blackout (erasure) poem that had nothing to do with the actual content on the page.

The second thing I made was the notecard design. This is a method of meditation I learned last year at an art museum workshop (the fall of 2019 when we could go to these things.) It’s a simple concept. Choose 3 colors that express your mood. Set the timer for 3 minutes and follow where the lines take you. I use a meditation timer on my phone with some ambient sound.

I had been struggling for days to learn how to make an origami butterfly. I finally got one and added it to the page.

The final touches were some magazine cut-outs I had set aside for when I may need them. There is a creative satisfaction that happens when all the elements come together in a pleasing way.

Text of the black-out poem:

back to
Sunday morning
grudgingly
skating on
Zoom
losing one face
in the window
just before lunch.

Margaret Simon, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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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.
Join our weekly writing prompt by leaving a poem in the comments or a link to your blog post.
You may use this image and the prompt image with a pingback to this site.

Usually on this weekly photo prompt I post a photo from nature. But this week I wanted to try something new. Abstract art by my grandson, Leo. He loves doing art, especially painting. His parents are proud of his work and place it in a gallery on the kitchen wall. Obviously Leo’s daycare teachers have an amazing amount of patience and skill to get this art piece. Is it possible to recognize someone by their handprint?

While I was visiting on Sunday, Leo had a tumble and scraped his finger. We continued our walk to the park, but I noticed he was shaking his hand. He said, “Burns.” I offered to take him back home and clean it up. On the way, he said, “Don’t cry Leo.” I told him crying was OK when he was hurt.

We washed the boo boo, but he did not want a band-aid. On FaceTime Monday, he said, “Mamere, finger better.”

This image may take you to a child you know, a memory of hand print art, or to the idea of spring and rainbows, health and healing. Follow the muse wherever it goes. Leave a small poem in the comments (or a link to your blog post). We appreciate encouraging responses to other writers.

Rainbow Hands by Leo LeBlanc, age 2.

Familiar fingers
reach for the sky
touch a cloud
release a rainbow.

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.

I have subscribed to the National Geographic newsletter. One of these days I will break down and pay the subscription fee for full access because the images and articles are so inspiring. This one included photographs taken all around the world during the pandemic selected to express “how we deal.” My prompt for my students: select a photograph and take words from the text descriptions to write a poem. And I wrote, too.

I chose a photograph of a pregnant woman. My daughter found out she was pregnant around this day a year ago. I was drawn to the woman. Having a child during a pandemic can bring about heightened anxiety. As the grandmother, I felt the joy.

A moment
is all it takes
to cancel
close
lockdown.

A test
of our humanity
our hunger
our resilience.

We cannot close our eyes, blind-out reality.

To grow a life
inside a womb,
nourish and protect,
celebrate its birth– there is somewhere

to go, to be
with a moment,
comforted and belonging
to the insanity
of things.

Margaret Simon, draft
Baby toes, photo by Margaret Simon

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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.

Saturday brought warmer winds and time. My husband suggested a paddle on the bayou. Living on the Bayou Teche, we try to take opportunities to go out in the canoe. We know that too often we are too busy, or it’s too hot, or too cold, or too ___ fill-in-the-blank.

Our paddle to the East–
soft breeze,
flock of yellow-crown night herons,
waves to friends on their back porch.
Stop for a beer break, turn back toward the sunset.
sun majestic on the water,
an Eagle sighting,
simple beauty.

Eagle over Bayou Teche at sunset, photo by Margaret Simon (iPhone)

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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.

Spring is emerging which brings on the desire for planting. Yesterday the temperatures rose into the 80’s, a little too warm for my taste, but it set off the urge to go to the local garden center.

I texted a friend about caladium bulbs. I am no expert gardener, so I depend on advice from those who are. Jenny came over Saturday morning with a yellow legal pad (she’s a lawyer) with a list of all the varieties that Hebert’s (pronounced A-bears) had gotten in just Friday. Apparently, you have to buy them early or they run out.

Caladium bulbs in bulk

I am an impulse buyer when it comes to plants. I usually just go to the garden center and see what looks good. But Jenny had her list, had scouted Hebert’s to see what varieties they had, and pulled up the images on her phone. Good thing, too, because there is no way to know what you’re getting by looking at them. The boxes were big and full of wood shavings with bulbs buried deep inside. Each box was marked with the name of the variety, but what’s in a name like Postman Joyner or Carolyn Whorton? It was necessary to have a reference librarian like Jenny and her phone to know what we were buying.

Digging for bulbs

Hebert’s was busy, busy. Everyone was drawn in by the warm weather and the urgency to clean out all the dead plants of winter. Ready to move on to spring. There was an atmosphere of joy. We ran into another friend who was chatting happily about her vaccine. We compared stories and for the most part, our little town has rolled out vaccinations pretty quickly and efficiently. For that we are all grateful.

On returning home, I was inspired to make a potting station near my back door. It’s been an area of dumping, where I’ve thrown dying plants, extra pots, bags of dirt, etc. So I found an old wrought iron shelf in the shed and organized it with garden tools, pots of seeds, herbs, gloves, fertilizer. I am very pleased with this project and feel I am ready to be a gardener, a wish I’ve had for a long time. Finally nearing the age of 60, I’ve figured I can make happen what I desire to happen. It’s never too late. Why wait?

Potting station at my backdoor

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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.

I discovered Ethical ELA a year ago. This community has been such a blessing to my writing life. Today begins another 5 day open write and the prompt is from Kim Johnson. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s another community, like TWT, that supports a writing life of teachers with encouragement.

A year ago today, life suddenly changed. At first none of us believed that the virus would shut us down for more than a year and take so many lives. But my memory doesn’t go there. My memory of last March was a quiet announcement, a budding new life, my granddaughter (who is now a smily, healthy 3 month old). My daughter had a miscarriage before having two beautiful healthy births. That loss clouded her joy over a positive pregnancy test. This is the memory that rises for me today. This is what I wrote for the Ethical ELA prompt, still very drafty.

Impending

On a March wind,
a virus swirls
much like an impending hurricane.
After my morning walk
and weeding, coffee in hand,
my phone vibrates.
Her voice, shaking, quiet,
“I’m pregnant.”
No ultrasound photo wrapped like a birthday present.
“I don’t know if it’ll take.”
New life is fragile
like the wildflowers, newly budding, blowing.
Gripping the phone, tears welling,
I am inwardly in prayer, fervent and furious.
Calmly, with a mother’s voice,
I say, “Congratulations.”

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

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Poetry Friday is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
Wikimedia Commons

In February I joined an amazing group of poets writing everyday to prompts about The Body on a Facebook group organized by Laura Shovan. Laura has posted all the marvelous prompts on her website.

Most days it was tough to get one poem written and some days I didn’t write, but one day I wrote two poems. The prompt was about the beautiful brain. On Facebook I posted a Golden Shovel from Emily Dickinson’s line “The brain is deeper than the sea.” But in searching my notebook for something to post today, I found a different poem. I didn’t like it when I wrote it, but now I kinda do.

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