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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

When we write poems to a photo, we enter a process of collaboration. A meeting between the photographer and the poet, the image and the words. In collaboration, one can have a conversation, an inquiry, or a conviction. Do your beliefs about the world come through in your poems? Are you communicating or responding? Are you participating or letting the muse take control?

I invite you to reflect on your process today as you write. Leave a small poem in the comments as well as a reflection of your thoughts. 

photograph by Molly Hogan

Perspective

The tracks rise to a point
on the horizon
disappearing into a mist.

We know
beyond the page,
the path goes on
and on.

Margaret Simon, draft

My reflection: Perspective is something an artist has to learn. If you draw two parallel lines, they must converge to give the impression of a continuing road. Our horizon line is not a finite place. The earth is round. When I think about this in a spiritual, metaphorical sense, I think of our own path through life. There is a mirage of an end, but there is always another turn to make.

Note to my readers: We are in the path of Hurricane Delta. School has been cancelled for today and tomorrow. We are preparing. We have a strong house (and a friendly generator named Sparky). I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

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Old barn between Kalispell and White Fish, Montana by Jan Risher

How many of us have wanderlust? After pandemic shut downs have kept us homebound with theaters, museums, and art galleries closed, many of us have suffered from the strong desire to go somewhere else. My friend, journalist Jan Risher, hit the road a few weeks ago with her husband. Finding travel somewhat doable again, she posted picture after picture of our amazing country.

I was drawn in by her pictures of Montana. We were there only a few summers ago and enjoyed a train ride from Seattle to White Fish. To see more of Jan’s pictures, follow her on Instagram. To read her article about her trip, click The Advocate.

If the spirit moves, write a small poem in the comments. Please encourage other writers with kind comments. I’m sorry this post is late today. I discovered that I can access my blog on my school computer, but I can’t edit or publish the post.

Here where land
reaches up to sky
with a hand on the heart
of America…
We see
sacred space.

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 know school looks different for most teachers this year. For me, I spend my whole day in one building. For the last 12 years, I’ve been an itinerate teacher, traveling to 3 schools each day. Now I travel through a screen to different students. I’m providing virtual gifted services for students who’ve chosen the virtual option. I’m learning very quickly what kinds of writing activities work well and which ones do not in this virtual setting.

Last week I presented a question for quick writing. Yesterday I used a different approach. I presented a poem and asked students to take a line and write from that line. It seemed to go well; however, the kids were not throwing their hands up (or turning their mikes on) to read what they wrote. This is the part I can’t quite figure out. Do they just need more time or is this how it’s going to be?

I still believe in writing alongside my students, so I wrote a poem with them. The poem we were reading together came from Teach this Poem from Poets.org, Cento Between the Ending and the End. The lines I took frame the poem. Before sharing my poem, I explained that when we write together in quick writes, we often write about whatever is on our mind at that moment. My youngest daughter is getting married in our backyard in 3 weeks. As plans begin to finalize, I am getting excited about the family (immediate family only) that with gather with us.

Unopened Gift

Everyone we love
is gathered
around the bride and groom.
Side by side,
their eyes glow.

We understand
this kind of love,
tender and new,
like a gift
waiting to be discovered.

We hold their hearts
in our hands,
bless them
with all that we have.
Send them to the blue sky
brimming
with golden light.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Secret Garden from Pexels

With my 6th grader, Daniel, we wrote back and forth (in a shared document), adding lines to create a Cento* poem. When the first stanza turned out to rhyme, it was a challenge to keep it going. We were both pleased with the results.

I soar to the sun
Look down at the sea
Bloom how you must, wild
Until we are free.

I wish I could share
All that’s in my heart.
It’s like the world
That keeps us apart.

Everyone we love
Gathered at the lakeside
Marble-glow the fire
A new one inside

I wish I could live
The body whole bright-
Of the day beautiful,
Honeyed light.

Cento from I Wish I Knew by Nina Simone and Cento Between the Ending and the End by Cameron Awkward-Rich

*From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

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I’m in my second week of teaching, and it’s going pretty well, despite the weather which has been churned up by Tropical Storm Beta. Dreaming of travel, I took notice of Paula Bourque’s pictures from Maine. She’s taking day-adventures with her husband. This was her message on Sunday:

Mornings are filled with meaningful lessons. They show me that everything changes and moves on. If I can embrace that, I can be open to new wonders and stop wishing for what was, to always be. Life is change.
Sunday sermon over.

Paula Bourque, Facebook post

Paula is the author of Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. We met at NCTE last year when I was the “chair” of her round table session. She presented ways to use images to prompt quick writes in the classroom. So here I am, full circle, using one of her photos as a prompt for a quick write.

Sunrise at Gardiner Landing by Paula Bourque

Leave a small poem in the comments or jot one in your journal. If you share, please respond to other writers with encouraging words.

I would like to be remembered*
as someone who softened things
like the still, blue surface
of a lake at dawn.

Margaret Simon, draft
  • words from a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Matt at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme.

Last week I posted a poem I wrote for my mother-in-law, a work commissioned by her for a local writing festival fundraiser. I commissioned a poem for myself and selected Bonny McDonald to write it for me.

Bonny and I have lost touch over the years, so I enjoyed our email exchanges that put us back into that comfortable place of friendship. You know the kind. When you feel like you were never really separated.

Bonny didn’t just take the questionnaire that was given by the Festival of Words organization. No, she emailed me more questions like
What makes you think of your ancestors, and what messages do you get or teachings do you carry in your heart from those who came before you in your family?

My answers to that question and to “Who is your favorite poet lately?” (Jericho Brown) led to this wonderful duplex poem just for me. I cried when she read it at the Zoom event.

Namesake  

A duplex for Margaret Simon, 
 inspired by the portrait of her grandmother, Margaret Shields Liles  

The mother of your mother is with you 
Margaret, still, a figure in a painting 

Margaret’s figure sits still in the painting 
Her violin poised to spring up for a tune 

A tune fit for a violin springs up 
For the child of your child in your lap 

Oh child of my child, a song for you 
I wrote a few verses to leave with you 

Now to leave them is what’s left to do 
A note resonates with the lift of the bow 

A note resonates a little while  
Harmonics hold to a foundation 

Your grandchildren hold you to the place where
The mother of your mother is with you 

Bonny McDonald, all rights reserved
This portrait of my grandmother Margaret hangs in my dining room.

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These first days of school have been exhausting. Yet I am happy to be doing what I am meant to do. When I get home, I mindlessly scroll through my Facebook feed. I love posts that relax my brain, beautiful landscapes, quotes, flowers…

This one caught my eye. I haven’t seen these colors yet. Dianne Dempsey-Legnon posted this wistful message, “It’s almost here. Looking forward to the crunch of leaves under my feet, the crackle of a fireplace, and cinnamon in my hot tea.” Ah, yes! With all the back to school prep, I forgot that the season is changing. Fall will come.

Photo taken on Pig Trail outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas by Dianne Dempsey-Legnon, 2019

In the comments, post a small poem inspired by the photo. Please comment on other writers with encouraging words.

Fall in the air
makes me sneeze.
Mumbled through a cloth mask,
you say, Bless you
and mean it.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Today’s posts will be gathered at Karen’s Blog.

I’ve been raising monarchs. See this post. I am also planning for hybrid teaching, some in person, some virtual. Finding my direction through these tasks has challenged me in new ways.

Male monarch by Judy Rizzo

The word alchemy came across my radar. I found this definition: “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.” The process of metamorphosis is alchemy and in many ways, so is the way we have to teach this year. I decided to mine alchemist for words using Wordmaker. Following a poetic process created by April Halprin Wayland, I wrote a poem that probably doesn’t make sense to anybody but me. Let’s just say, finding my direction through this unique school year has taken some proactive effort. (The words from Wordmaker are in bold.)

Finding Direction

Connect line by line, etch
a trail through calm
worry, eyes that smile
despite each
new hurdle to scale.
Raise the latch
and release butterfly-mail
to the gods of ethics
Teach.

Margaret Simon, draft
Monarch in olive tree by Judy Rizzo

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

The Sunday Night Swaggers are back to monthly challenges. This month Catherine Flynn has challenged us to write an In One Word poem created by April Halprin Wayland. See her introductory post here.

I know I am not alone in having a rough beginning to this school year. Foremost on my mind is what is best for kids. Unfortunately, there are many meetings and required gobbledygook to get to the fun part of teaching. Every year, my goal is to inspire explorers, writers, and scholars. Following April’s prompt, I went to Wordmaker to gather words that can be made with the letters in inspiration. Each line ends with a word I chose. Thinking about this exercise was just what I needed to block out the messiness.

Virtual Teacher

I didn’t warm-up for this sprint.
Breathless; my hand anoints
each name, a nonart
list that rips
into a class of sorts,
a prison
on screen, trap
of pixels, brain strain.
Who’s bringing the aspirin?

In the spirit
of language, I rant.
Yet, I don’t rant
about you. You are the rain
to my pain,
showing me we can soar.

Margaret Simon, draft
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Other Swagger Posts In One Word…
Catherine Flynn
Linda Mitchell
Heidi Mordhorst
Molly Hogan

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This week I feature another amazing photo by Molly Hogan. I know we’ve written about webs before, but this one caught my eye for its uniqueness. Find a detail to focus and meditate on, the punctum (See the quote below). Write a poem about this detail. Could our individual poems be put together to create the complete photograph?

In Roland Barthes’s 1981 book Camera Lucida, he introduces the concept of a photograph’s punctum, which can be defined as the sensory, intensely subjective effect of a photograph on the viewer, or as he puts it: “that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).” Barthes contrasts the punctum with the studium, which is the more general approach to a photograph informed by historical and cultural experiences. Choose a personal photograph and meditate on the specific conditions, feelings, and circumstances behind it. What do you feel and know from looking at it? Then, identify the precise detail in the photograph you are drawn to—what is it exactly? Using your senses, write a poem that centers and delves into the punctum, the precise detail. What does a detail reveal about the whole?

From The Time is Now Weekly Writing Prompt from Poets&Writers
Twin Webs by Molly Hogan

Molly posted the photo on Twitter, and Linda Mitchell responded with a small poem that can start us off.

I chose to focus on the fulcrum that binds the web to the marsh grass.

Silk arrow,
a fulcrum balance
for delicate lace.

Margaret Simon, draft

Due to the aftermath (no power or internet) of Hurricane Laura, I am posting this for Poetry Friday. We fared well through the storm and have recovered for the most part. Please keep our friends in Lake Charles, LA in your prayers.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Heidi at my juicy little universe.

Please leave a small poem in the comments and respond to other poets.

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Welcome to This Photo Wants to be a Poem, a weekly poetry prompt modeled after Laura Purdie Salas’s 15 Words or Less. We invite you to write a small poem in the comments and write encouraging comments to other writers. No judgements here. Just playing with words.

Today’s photo comes from poet Donna Smith. She lives in Maine and recently biked near the Kennebec River. Maine is a place I’ve never been, but I imagine summer is for outdoors. Not like in Louisiana where you can only tolerate short bursts outside. Donna has returned to Maine after spending some time in Pennsylvania. She is happy to be back. On Facebook she draws a squiggle and writes a poem each day. Here’s a recent one:

The Stairs

The stairs go up
The stairs go down
They also turn and
Turn around
They go from here
And end up there
Just when you think
You know just where
The stairs will lead
You to a place
You’ve never set
your foot or face
But don’t despair
Don’t cry or mope
The stairs mean that
There’s always hope
Hope for a place
Of peace and love
Of open doors
And blue above
I know it’s there
And you can, too
Step up, step down
Keep stepping true.
Then all at once
You will arrive
The steps lead you
To full alive.

By Donna JT Smith, 8/18/2020

“Me and my bike relaxing by the Kennebec on a beautiful summer evening.” by Donna Smith

By the river
a blue bike
waits
for a friend.

Margaret Simon, draft

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