Archive for October, 2022

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jone MacCulloch

The Poetry Sisters challenged us this month to create a dansa poem. I’d never heard of the form before, so I thought I would not participate. I got the tug when I read Mary Lee Hahn’s masterful response to the challenge. In our critique group meeting, she explained to us that once she got her repeated line, she built the poem around it. Sometimes writing a poem feels like solving a puzzle. Fitting words together to create a unified whole. The dansa has a definitive rhyme scheme, beginning with a quintrain of 5 lines and an AbbaA pattern. Quatrains of 4 lines with a bbaA rhyme scheme follow. The A signifies the repeated line. To me, the strength of the poem lies in that repeated line. I feel a sense of accomplishment having met this challenge.

photo by Margaret Simon
We released monarch butterflies this week.

Joyful Dansa

The world opens its heart in little joys:
Curl of new fingers wrap around old,
Butterfly wings born of gold,
Beads in a bag become her toys.
The world opens its heart in little joys.

A new interpretation of stories told,
Memory of small moments that you hold.
What you wrap in love is your choice.
The world opens its heart in little joys.

A letter becomes a word spoken bold.
Paper becomes a crane with each fold.
A cry becomes a song when you use your voice.
The world opens its heart in little joys. 

Margaret Simon, draft

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Morning walks are getting darker and darker as the time changes, as the days shorten. Recently I have been sharing the dark with a few ghouls and goblins. There seem to be more Halloween decorations this year, and the bigger the better. Usually I post a photo of nature, so today is a bit of a digression. See where this photo may take you: an imaginary Halloween tale or a memory of one Halloween night. Post your own musings in the comments and encourage other writers with your responses. And always, thanks for being here.

Spiders the size of a child,
Jack-o-lanterns glow like the moon,
Dress up like a bumblebee,
Come join in the glee.
It’ll be Halloween soon!

Margaret Simon, draft

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You park in the same spot.
You walk the same hall,
see the same faces, but one day,
a child opens her hands to show you
a butterfly, and suddenly,
you become a part of her wonder.

You invite her to go outside.
“Let’s find a flower to feed the butterfly.”
You open Google and take a photo.
Images pop up identifying the beautiful wings
as “Gulf fritillary or Passion butterfly.”

Other children gather round
and pass the gentle butterfly hand to hand.

In your mind, you know this is not a good sign.
The butterfly is not viable, yet one student squeals,
“I’ve never seen a butterfly so close up!”
Others whisper, “Wow!”
“It’s so soft!”

Wonder continues, grows, swells,
so the poor fritillary becomes a subject
to study, a specimen for children’s eyes.

You decide it’s an honor
to be known as the butterfly whisperer.

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Poetry Friday gathering is with Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Every year around the date of October 20th, the National Writing Project announces the Day on Writing along with the prompt, “Why I Write.” I avoid this question, mostly because it intimidates me. Who am I to say I am a writer? If I make that claim, will I be magically transported to the land of authors? Do I belong? Will I meet the standard? I’d rather stay in the closet. It’s easier to claim to be a teacher, a profession that has degrees behind it, credibility, and many years of service.

The problem is I want to write. I want to share my words with you. I want to connect with you through writing. The value in that connection is gold.

In my email inbox, I receive endless blogs and poems to read. I hesitate to delete them, so they build up, and the whole thing becomes unmanageable. However, I never know what may inspire me to write. One reliable set of prompts for me are Ethical ELA’s monthly Open Write. Each month we write together for 5 days. The prompts are written by people like me who juggle teaching and writing every day.

This last week Carolina Lopez drew inspiration from Richard Blanco’s poem “Since Unfinished,” asking us to steal his first line and write. “I’ve been writing this since…”

When we get right down to it, writing makes us ultimately vulnerable. If we are true to ourselves, we put our feelings all out there. This poem structure led me to more memories of my father.

Since You’ve Been Gone

I’ve been writing this since
I learned to walk
holding onto your pointer finger
since driving the circular block
hearing you warn “turn signal”
“stop sign”
“slow down.”

I’ve been writing this since “slow down”
meant thinking, means remembering,
meant crying when I reach for the phone
to call you with the news.

I’ve been writing this since
you pointed to the clock
(after your stroke) to remind us
to get Mom back for lunch.

I’ve been writing this since
I held your dying hand
your pointer finger blue and bruised
no longer pointing me
in the right direction.

Margaret Simon, draft

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As Autumn arrives, the arc of the sun shifts. The sky can show us the seasons if we learn to watch. One of my former students, a young mother, lives on a farm where they grow seasonal sunflowers. There’s a crop in the spring and this year, another in the fall. They open up on weekends for “you pick” days. I follow her on Instagram and have a totally romantic view of life on a farm. It must be hard work, especially with the hot, dry days we’ve had this fall. Nevertheless, this image popped up on my feed and I thought it wanted to be a poem.

Sunflower Sunrise, Jennifer Graycheck of Petite Anse Farm.

Blossoms face the rising sun
Kiss her yellow light
Open wings to heal your heart.

Margaret Simon, draft

Your turn. Leave a small poem in the comments and encourage others with your comments.

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme 

My students and I have been participating in the annual Write Out sponsored by the National Writing Project and the National Parks Service. Each day this week we’ve watched a video from a park ranger and followed a writing prompt. We made special #WriteOut notebooks following Sheri Edwards’ model found here.

We’ve gone outside to observe the trees and written a script of two trees talking to each other.

We’ve drawn from observing architecture and written about the significance of the building.

We’ve imagined the day in the life of a bird as it interacts with human environments.

Each day there is a new surprise. I hope I can find a way to continue this enthusiasm for writing after the two weeks of Write Out are over.

The Write Out prompt I chose on Thursday included a Rita Dove poem. We discussed the poem and collected words to use later in a poem of our own. Today I am sharing two student poems written after Rita Dove.

A stranger in a cool breeze,

the moonlight,

animals with odd habits

this is what nature is.

A singing wren 

while almost sun-rise,

become a statuary figure roaming

in the night. 


and you’ll see

how happy you can be. 

by Avalyn, 3rd grade
Adelyn’s Write Out notebook

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I love how both students and poet participants are on the look out for photos that want to be poems. Last week I featured a sunset photo taken by a third grader. This week Karen Eastlund sent me an interesting photo from her garden. She said they planted milkweed hoping for monarchs. I have recently found 3 monarch caterpillars on my own milkweed. Two of them were on volunteer milkweed that had planted itself in a crack of concrete near my air-conditioner units. I’m so glad I left it there growing wild and free like the weed it is meant to be. Thanks Karen for this amazing photo of a milkweed seed pod, open, soft, and free.

Milkweed seed pods, Karen Eastlund

Seed pod opens
to the morning sun
waiting for a wisp of wind
to carry feather-soft seedlings
to the sky.
Plant me upon your pinwheel
and carry me along.

Margaret Simon, draft

Please leave a small poem draft in the comments. Come back, if you can, to write encouraging comments for other writers. Happy Hump Day!

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Poetry Friday round up is with Sarah Grace Tuttle.

This first week of October, Mary Lee challenged our Inkling writing group to write Wordy 30 poems, based on the Wordle game in which you have 6 chances to guess a 5 letter word. The game is quite addictive, but stacking 5 letter words into a poetic verse is another level all together. Inklings were excited to give it a try, but we were unsure how strict the rule of “Only one word per line” is. I veered off on one of my drafts by writing a 3 x 10 poem using 10 letters.

For more Wordy 30 fun, check out how other Inklings met the challenge.

Linda Mitchell
Molly Hogan
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

I shared this activity with my students. Here is one Avalyn and I wrote together about our classroom monarch caterpillar who is getting fatter by the day.

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Spiritual Journey First Thursday is hosted today by Chris Margocs.

For Spiritual Thursday, Chris suggested we write about “those who have passed and left something behind in our hearts.” My father died 5 months ago. My grief returns when I’m struck by something I want to share with him. A few weeks ago, we were driving to my daughter’s house to watch the LSU game and without realizing it, I thought about calling my dad to see if he was watching the game. Bam! Before I knew it, tears were welling up and I couldn’t speak.

I’ve started listening to a new podcast with Anderson Cooper on grief, All There Is. The episodes I’ve listened to are powerful and poignant. While I was blessed to have my father for 61 years, loss is loss is loss.

Anderson Cooper interviewed Stephen Colbert, and I was touched by what Colbert said about grief.

It’s a gift to exist. And with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that. But if you are grateful for your life. Then you have to be grateful for all of it… I have some understanding that everybody is suffering and however imperfectly, acknowledge their suffering and connect with them and to love them in a deep way that makes you grateful for the fact that you have suffered so that you can know that about other people. I want to be the most human I can be, and that involves acknowledging and ultimately being grateful for the things that I wish didn’t happen because they gave me a gift.

Stephen Colbert, All There is

I’m not sure I am at the point at which I can be grateful for the pain of loss, but I can be grateful for the life my father had and the legacy he left behind.

Last weekend my sister and I visited my mother. We took her to church on Sunday. We have a family history at St. James. When my parents were married there, my mother’s father served the church as a priest. I was baptized, confirmed, and married there. When I walked down the aisle holding my mother’s hand, we both got teary-eyed. My father’s ashes reside in the church walls in the columbarium. His presence was with us in that moment.

St. James Episcopal Church, Jackson, MS (photo by Margaret Simon)

I subscribe to Suleika Jaouad’s The Isolation Journals newsletter. A recent writing prompt suggested composing a prayer beginning with the Sanskrit prayer, “May creatures everywhere be happy, healthy, and free.” Here is my prayer:

May creatures everywhere be happy, healthy, and free.
May you sleep as soundly as my old dog Charlie on his therapeutic bed.
May you laugh as loudly as my granddaughter Stella on Facetime, eating a cookie, crumbs all around her mouth, smacking between giggles.
May your muscles feel as stretched and tired as mine after yin yoga class,
still tingling from pigeon pose.
May our paths cross on a fall evening when the breeze is cool, and we see the bright light of Jupiter, shining with eternal hope.
May we share a moment of memory of a life we knew was good.
May we cry a little.
May you look forward to tomorrow feeling the peace of knowing you are prepared.
Yes, and be still
and know God
as the deepest, most truthful,
and holy part
of you.

Margaret Simon

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This week’s photo is from my student Brayden. Over the weekend I got a text from his mom. First came the photo. Then she wrote, “Brayden took this picture and wants to write a poem about it.”

I think my eyes welled up. I won’t go into the whole history of Brayden for privacy’s sake, but this felt like a turning point to me, not only in his writing life, but also in his relationship with me (and all things School). What teacher wouldn’t want a student to look at a beautiful sunset and think about poetry? It’s a first for me.

Sunset glow
Traffic flow
I hope you know
I’m coming home.

Margaret Simon, draft

Please leave a small poem in the comments. Try to respond with encouragement to other writers.

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