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Jan has the round up today at Book Seed Studio

My friend, poet Buffy Silverman is releasing a new word-blooming picture book, On a Gold-Blooming Day coming September 6, 2022. This rhythmic, rhyming, all-about-fall book is enchanting from start to finish. You will be transported to the season through words and images.

From On a Gold-Blooming Day, photos by Buffy Silverman

I asked Buffy to tell us how she is inspired to write.

I have been fascinated with the natural world for as long as I can remember. When I was six I collected a jar full of grasshoppers from an empty lot to keep as pets in the garage. I learned the hard way that insects need oxygen! I spent hours perched in the branches of our maple tree as a kid, watching the world below.

I still search out the small animals that share our habitat. We are lucky to live at the swampy end of a small lake, with frogs, turtles, birds, and woods as neighbors. We stopped mowing most of our backyard about twenty years ago, and a meadow has grown in its place, attracting a variety of insects. Now I collect critters with my camera instead of in a jar, and try to share what I see through my writing.  My hound keeps me walking every day, no matter what the weather or season, so I get plenty of opportunity to make new discoveries!

I hope that my words might inspire a young person to look more closely at and fall in love with the world around them. The world desperately needs a generation of environmentalists, and I think that is most likely to happen if children spend time outdoors, make their own discoveries, and fall in love as I did with nature.

Buffy Silverman
From On A Gold-Blooming Day by Buffy Silverman

This golden glowing book is for preschool through 3rd graders. The back matter provides more information about the animals and plants mentioned in the text and images. A glossary of new words helps developing readers. Add this book to your fall reading list. Buffy’s website is here.

On Wednesday, Buffy responded with a very Buffy-styled poem to This Photo Wants to be a Poem.

Fishing Expedition

Long legs.
Long beak.
Step right.
Cool creek.
Step left.
Trout streak.
Stoop low.
Sneak peek.
Fast jab–
full cheek!
–Buffy Silverman

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Poetry Friday is with Janice Scully
at Salt City Verse

I met Allan Wolf years ago when he visited and presented in our area. He’s incredibly entertaining in real life. He is also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So when an opportunity appeared to get an ARC of his latest book of poems, along with an interview, I jumped at it.

Behold our Magical Garden is full of poems that take us into a school garden. You can jump in without getting dirty. The poems are lyrical, funny, and informative. They beg to be read aloud. Behold Our Magical Garden was released on March 8. Please enjoy this delightful interview with Allan.

Who is Allan Wolf?

Allan Wolf is a member of the species Poemo sapien. He often vocalizes in verse from atop chairs. He spends many hours alone sitting at his nest using his imagination to make things. Although he is 59 years old and 5’8” in height, he imagines himself much younger and much taller. He is a writer of poetry, novels, and picture books, and a serious believer in the healing powers of poetry. His latest collection of poems is Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh from a School Garden, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.

What inspires your writing?

Reading is a big inspiration. Listening to music. Watching performances of all kinds. Observing and experiencing any creative expression that resonates and moves me. While I certainly am a writer, I am more specifically a creator. I have an urge to create. We all have these urges to create life from the clay of our imaginations. And in that respect, we are all amateur gods. Writing and poetry is my default medium.

Why poetry?

Since I first discovered rhythm when I was four years old (I remember it as if it was yesterday!), my thought process has lent itself well to poetry, metaphorical thought, rhythms, rhymes, music, story. And most importantly, my brain is something of a non-linear array of constellations of thought bubbles, with observations flying in and out, unbidden as birds.

Words give a poem sense, while the space between the words give it resonance. Poets can arrange words based on craft, style, and clarity, just as prose writers do. But poets don’t have to stop there. Poets can arrange words based on prescribed patterns . . . or not. Poets can even arrange words wherever the words instruct them too. Space is key. Space between words. Space between lines. You can even remove a word, like you would remove a superfluous wisdom tooth. Line-breaks can be purposefully clunky or smooth. When a line breaks, the words turn. The poem’s rhythm may also turn. The poem’s pace may turn as well. The reader’s eyes, heartbeat, and attention all turn. (Bonus Fact: The word “verse” comes from the Latin, verso, to turn.)

The poet chooses

where

the lines        break.

Three things you love?

One) I love juggling (just juggling balls, not clubs, or rubber chickens, or chainsaws! Well, maybe I would love to juggle rubber chickens. That would be really funny!)

Two) I love making music, playing the guitar and the drums, singing, and making up songs.

Three) I love being an author of books! There is such a feeling of closure to have your thoughts and ideas and words and revelations enshrined within a book that is widely available to all. It is a sense of relief, that my words will continue to live and to speak, long after I’ve stopped doing either one.

Oh and, Four) Puppets! Let’s not forget puppets. I love puppets.

During the pandemic, how did you keep creating? 

Like many of my writing colleagues, I was surprised how hard it was to keep creating new work, even with two years of mandatory “free time.” I had already been reassessing my work, even before the pandemic. At that time the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements were already in full swing. As a white male writer, I felt like it was more a time to listen than to speak. Then the pandemic, with its forced stay-at-home quarantine, provided the necessary Petri dish to amplify the whole conversation. During that time, I temporarily set aside my most pressing novel, the one I’m back at work on now. It has taken me all this time away from it to reassess what I was trying to say. So much has changed. Meanwhile, throughout my writer’s block, I was actually writing poetry and picture books, which can be a little easier to carry around in your head without going nuts. I also made a lot of videos and I organized my private journals (which I’ve been keeping since I was 12 years old).  

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my wife and my children, Simon, Ethan, and James. As for writing, it’s hard to say. I’m proud of the Iceberg character/narrator in The Watch that Ends the Night. That character’s voice is written in iambic pentameter that gradually melts to tetrameter, trimeter, dimeter, and finally, monometer. The Iceberg’s last two spoken words, “I am,” are actually an iamb!  

Do you have a writing activity to pass along? (I’d like to challenge my readers and my students to respond.) 

What’s In a Name?

ONE) Begin by generating a list of all the “names” you are known by. General Names, like son, daughter, best friend, hero, helper, athlete, or alchemist. And Specific Names like Elizabeth, LaQuesha, Darius, or David. And Nicknames  like Doodle, Tutu, Junior, or Jack.

TWO) Choose one example from your list. Using informal prose write “the story of your name.”

THREE) After you’re done, circle (or highlight) five to ten words or phrases that seem integral to your story. Next, use those chosen words or phrases as the building blocks of a poem.

Note to readers: If you do Allan’s challenge, add your poem to this padlet.

Made with Padlet

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Poetry Friday is with Laura at Small Reads for Better Days

Laura Purdie Salas is our Poetry Friday hostess and a favorite author in my gifted classroom. Her lyrical, poetic language sings. We love to read her words again and again. Laura graciously sent me an F&G of her latest book, We Belong.

Check out this video where Laura talks about how it came to be.

There are so many things to love about this book. I love that it’s full of literary elements that make writing stronger. When we read good writing, we become better writers. The theme is set up by the title, but inside, the book is full of surprises. You can be quiet or loud, short or tall, and still you belong.

Maybe you’re happy.
A fun magic trick.

A sprinkler rainbow.
A kitten’s rough lick.

Maybe you’re sad.
A cloud.
A small cave.

Maybe you’re trying
your best to be brave.

Laura Purdie Salas, We Belong

The illustrations by Carlos Vélez Aguilera introduce us to a group of kids who are not alike, but they join together to play and welcome new friends in. We Belong reminds us that we’re alike and different and that’s not good or bad, it’s just what is true. And concludes with my One Little Word “You are Good. You’re enough.

Laura’s rhyming verse refreshes the age-old message of I’m Ok. You’re OK. Let’s join hands and hearts and make what is true Sing!

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A few months ago in the midst of holiday time, I was reading poetry books for the round one judging for CYBILS (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). Our committee selected 7 finalists. You can see them here.

This post is about the one that got away. One of my favorite poetry collections was left off the short list: The Dirt Book by David L. Harrison.

Underneath our feet is a whole world. Looking at interesting underground nature is the topic of David L. Harrison’s The Dirt Book. The format of the physical book is unique. Rather than landscape orientation, it is oriented as portrait. The illustrations by Kate Crosgrove dance along the pages. 

As a grandmother of toddler boys, the first page grabs their interest with the words “This Book is about Dirt.” Each poem features facts as well as lyrical language. “Scraggly twisted clusters/ creep/ thirstily,/ dig deep,/ branch out/ in crooked slants,/ mine water/ for their plants.” From At the Roots of Things.

As a teacher of elementary students, I will use this book to inspire students to explore the natural world, ask questions about the animals living there, and write their own language-rich poems. 

The Dirt Book is more than dirt; It offers a loving look at the world we live in and invites us to be present in it. The final poem, And Now We Know, begins with “Beneath our feet, beyond our sight,/ below the roots where green grass grows,/ there’s more to dirt than we’d suppose.” Take your students, your children, grandchildren, and yourself on a trip below the earth and find an intriguing world waiting. 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Linda Baie at Teacher Dance.
I am reading poetry for Round One of Cybils. To see the nominations for 2021, click here.

This week I read the verse novel Starfish by Lisa Fipps. I’m amazed that this is her debut novel. She uses verse effectively; It’s not a prose story told with line breaks. I was drawn in by the story and by the character of Ellie, but I also enjoyed each verse as its own poem.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

I sent this poem to my friend- Inkling writer Linda Mitchell. She is a librarian in a middle school in Virginia and I know she is the type of librarian who would create a safe place for kids like Ellie.

Below is my review on Goodreads:

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have never been a fat person until I read Starfish by Lisa Fipps. I became Ellie and felt every pain of the torture her family and classmates put her through. Reading this book, I was reminded of the bullying I endured as a skinny teenage girl with a flat chest. No bullying is pretty and it happens to lots of different people for lots of different reasons.

The way that Lisa Fipps can magically place you into the body and mind of Ellie through sparse, yet powerful verse is transformative. It made me as an adult examine the language that I use to talk to others. Like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I want to place this book into the hands of all my students in middle grades. There is an important message here: “I deserve to be seen./ To be noticed./ To be heard./ To be treated like a human./ I starfish./ There’s plenty of room/ for/ each/ and/ every/ one of us/ in the world.” You matter. Ellie matters. I matter.





View all my reviews

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Legacy by Nikki Grimes (on Amazon)

I was the lucky winner of a free copy of Legacy by Nikki Grimes. I would have, should have a copy of this book, but hadn’t bought it yet. I recently subscribed to Chris Barton’s newsletter, and low and behold, was the winner of this book on my first month. You can be lucky, too. Subscribe here. His newsletters are full of stuff, author interviews on “This Book is Dedicated to”, promotional materials, and links to more.

In Legacy, Nikki Grimes uses the golden shovel form to celebrate women poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Each Renaissance poem is accompanied by a golden shovel and an illustration by a Black woman artist. It’s beautifully pulled together into 3 sections: Heritage, Earth Mother, and Taking Notice.

The poems I am featuring today are about poetry, the writing of poems. The fancy term is ars poetica.

Notice the tactile in this poem, kneel, wriggling, and my favorite “water which satisfies, soothes, tickles–what wet word/ pours itself into the vessel that/you call thought?” Nikki Grimes calls us to notice it all and make poetry.

And this one I will print out for my brown girl writers this year.

I love the instruction to “Write chocolate poems!” Can’t you taste it? I’ll bring in Dove chocolates, the kind with a message on the wrapper and hand them this poem. Yes! I’m excited to start a new year of teaching with this book in my hands. Thanks, Chris Barton and Nikki Grimes!

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Let’s get real; I took on the Sealy Challenge to get smarter, to read more poetry, to fill the well. The reality is I am challenged. Challenged not because I don’t have enough poetry books. Not because I can’t read a poetry book each day. I am challenged because poetry is not like fiction that carries you through with a narrative. Poetry requires a different kind of reading. You can’t skim poetry. You have to sit with a poem, and read it again and again to let it sink in. This takes time.

The latest books I’ve read are Irene Latham’s The Sky Between Us and Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars. Irene gave me her little chapbook years ago. Since then I’ve followed her blog, bought most of her books, and become friends with her. The Sky Between Us is a love song.

In the “Author’s Note”, Irene wrote “One of the great joys of my life continues to be the discovery of all the beauty this life offers, both in the natural world and in relationships.” In this way, The Sky Between Us slides in beside and between the pages of Life on Mars.

“Marriage in a Bottle” by Irene Latham

In 2017, Tracy K. Smith served as Poet Laureate of the United States. I loved her poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Her book Life on Mars (2011) won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This book was written as an elegy to Smith’s father who was an astronomer who worked on the Hubble telescope. But, of course, it’s so much more. The poem I chose to share sits beside Marriage in a Bottle. I’ve tucked away the last line for stealing. Celebrating my 39th wedding anniversary this weekend has put me in the mood for marriage poems, poems that speak to the complexity and simplicity of loving another human for a lifetime.

Song by Tracy K. Smith
Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

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I first heard of Ilya Kaminsky in a Poetry Unbound podcast episode. Commentator Pádraig Ó Tuama said he read Deaf Republic three times on the airplane flying home to Dublin. Three times! I thought that would not be me. I don’t usually read books more than once, but when I bought it on Kindle, I had to read it at least twice to have any kind of understanding. In pulling together this post, I’ve read many of the poems a third time.

Deaf Republic is not a book of poems for kids or for the faint of heart, even. It was a difficult book. Violence and sex are not topics I choose to read, but I became intrigued by the characterization of deafness and sign language. The townspeople, after witnessing the shooting of a deaf boy, use an assumed deafness and create a sign language as opposition to the occupying forces.

I’ve learned that Ilya Kaminsky is deaf himself. It’s important to know this when listening to him read. I had a chance to see him present in the Poetry Teachers Institute from the Poetry Foundation last week.

The poem I’ve chosen to feature today is “Alfonso Stands Answerable”.

Alfonso Stands Answerable

My people, you were really something fucking fine
on the morning of first arrests:

our men, once frightened, bound to their beds, now stand up like human masts—
deafness passes through us like a police whistle.

Here then I
testify:

each of us
comes home, shouts at a wall, at a stove, at a refrigerator, at himself. Forgive me, I

was not honest with you,
life—

to you I stand answerable.
I run etcetera with my legs and my hands etcetera I run down Vasenka Street etcetera—

Whoever listens:
thank you for the feather on my tongue,

thank you for our argument that ends, thank you for deafness,
Lord, such fire

from a match you never lit.

Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic

There is so much to notice in this poem. I notice the varying line lengths, first person narrative, and a strong simile is “deafness passes through us like a police whistle.”

A craft move that I would not consider in my own poetry because of the possibility of confusion is the direct address to different characters outside of the poem. “I was not honest with you, life–” and then “Whoever listens” To whom is the narrator testifying to? me, the reader? or the enemy?

I also wonder about the word “etcetera” repeated. I like the way it sounds when read aloud. But why, when the line means the same without the word?

This poem lands with power. As a poet, I rarely hit that mark.

I wonder about using this poem to teach poetry. For my students, I would remove the curse word and draw attention to repetition as a craft move and wonder about the word “answerable”. What does it mean? Why is the narrator answerable?

Honestly, the more I wonder about, the less I know. I probably need to read the book again.

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When something comes across my radar multiple times, I pay attention. This is the first year I’ve heard of the Sealy Challenge. It is a challenge to read a poetry book each day in the month of August. I read poetry books for more than one purpose.

  1. To enjoy lyrical language
  2. To inform my own writing practice
  3. To get ideas for teaching

The first book I read was Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After which accomplishes all three goals.

I picked up the book at a new local independent bookstore, and it was signed! Ha! What a find!

Before the Ever After is a middle grade novel-in-verse. To read a review, click here.

For my take on the Sealy Challenge, I’d like feature one poem and respond to it.

This poem captures a few themes of the verse novel. ZJ’s father is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and his friends help him through the struggle. Football is a major topic, but ZJ is a musician and has troubled feelings about football due to his father’s illness. The repetition of “Used to” effectively communicates ZJ’s continued struggle about how things used to be before his father was ill.

Craft moves I love in this poem are the repetition (anaphora) of “Used to be” as well as that ending. “Just feels like that.” becomes “Just. Feels. Like. That.” This craft move is something I can try in my own writing and I can show kids how to use it with effectiveness.

Jacqueline Woodson, while being a master of craft, does not overuse any literary element. It just feels natural. It’s. Just. Natural.

Pin on winkies

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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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