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Poetry Friday posts are with Katie today at The Logonauts.

 

My Southern comrade, Keri Collins Lewis, sent me a gem of a poem this week.  She knows where I live and how much I enjoy dancing with my husband.  She captured this in a wonderful poem celebrating me.   Keri, I cherish your words.  Thank you, darlin’. (Say it with a Mississippi drawl.)

 

Last week I led a teachers writing institute.  I invited our PF friend, Catherine Flynn, to present via Skype about visual literacy.  She left us with a Marc Chagall painting to ponder.  Since Keri wrote about “my love” and we are nearing our 35th wedding anniversary, I am inclined to share my response with you.

The Promenade

In a geometric village,
sculpted lawns, a steepled church,
houses on the hillside,
a man holds his bride’s hand.
His touch sends her floating
on the wind like a pink kite
dancing with the clouds.

Your touch does this to me
even now, far from this village.
Over the landscape of life,
your soft gentle love
is enough to send
me flying, reaching
for the joy-sky.

–Margaret Simon

 

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do the thing that scares you.”  Armed with years of experience and a strong conviction that writing teachers should write, I did the thing that most scares me…teaching teachers.

I led a weeklong teachers writing institute.  In March I set up a meeting with the curriculum coordinator for elementary schools in our district.  I pitched my idea.  While she was enthusiastic, I never heard back from her.  So I got the guts to send an email inquiry.  Yes, she was still interested, but I needed to meet with the middle school coordinator.  Nearing the end of the school year, I had approval and sent out the flyer.  Surprising to me, the workshop filled quickly.

Since today is about celebrating, I will not go into my disappointments.  I just want to capture the shining stars and bask a bit in their glow.

  • A new teacher, second career, only man in the class said his 17 year old daughter waited each day to read what he wrote.  His father told him to submit his essay to Reader’s Digest.  He is entering his first year of teaching confident that he is a writer.
  • A colleague from the gifted program told me I was a natural.  She said, “You seem so relaxed.  You make us feel comfortable.”  She could not see or feel the nerves churning inside.
  • Following Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything, became a guidebook to writing a final essay.  Most teachers wrote an essay they were proud of.  We read and celebrated the writers we had found together.
  • Catherine Flynn joined us by Skype to teach us about visual literacy. (The idea to connect with her came from this post.)  Teachers took notes and talked about ways they could use art with their students.  Thanks, Catherine.
  • On the last day, tears were shed as we got into the deep trenches that writing can take us.  Sharing your own words is an act of faith.  We had become a community of writers.

Writing and sharing on our writing marathon in downtown New Iberia.

I gathered words and phrases from our writing marathon into a collaborative poem.

 

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Poetry Friday is Carol at Beyond Literacy Link

 

While I was vacationing for the 4th of July in Santa Fe, NM, my Voxer Good2Great friend, Jen Hayhurst tagged me in a post about her #ProjectPoetry.  I wrote about the project on my Slice of Life post on Tuesday. 

I have this self-assigned goal of writing a poem a day.  That gets tough when you have a husband who wants to walk all over New Mexico.  My writing muscles had to give way to my walking muscles.  Nevertheless, I took some pictures that planted some ideas in my brain.  Once home I had time to sit.  Sit with the images and process a poem.  Jen’s goals for writing poems are to synthesize experience and ignite curiosity.  This is what poetry should be, in our lives as well as in our classrooms.

Last night I watched Kylene Beers and Bob Probst do a Facebook live video about their book, Disrupting Thinking. When someone asked if poetry should be the first unit taught in the school year, Kylene answered, “Poetry is not a unit. Poetry is something we breath in.  We should breathe in poetry every day.”

Take a deep breath and look at the amazing sky.  I was astounded and mesmerized by the huge sky of New Mexico.  It seemed somehow bigger and brighter and mightier there.  Maybe because I was paying attention.  Maybe because there was something to be learned.  Maybe just to be captured in a poem.

The Magic Sky
Sculpts grey clouds
into bursts
of sparkling rain.

Then a rainbow,
a puffy horse
riding beside.

I stand above
this Rio Grande Gorge,
feel like a speck
of dust in the wind
to the magician
of the sky.

–Margaret Simon

Next Friday is National Mac and Cheese Day.  Who knew there was such a thing?  So Poetry Friday folks are planning to write about Mac-n-Cheese.  Join in the yummy fun.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

An invitation to #ProjectPoem

Jenn Hayhurst tagged me in a post on Facebook asking me to join in a project she is playing with this summer: #ProjectPoem. The premise is that teachers of writing should write, a mantra of mine adapted from the work of Donald Graves. She is asking teachers to synthesize experience into poetic form in 140 characters.

I joined in with the image below. I am on vacation in Santa Fe, NM and staying at a lovely casita. The patio is private, quiet, and inviting. The picture is a side garden of Aspen trees.

My writing friend, Linda Mitchell, recently visited Seattle. There she collected words and made collage poems from them. I took inspiration from her to capture the feeling in Santa Fe. There was a procession to return an old statue of Mary to the Cathedral of Saint Frances. The people here are serious about their worship of Mary.

Consider joining in the summer writing fun by tweeting your poem to #ProjectPoem and tagging me @MargaretGSimon and Jenn @hayhurst3.  I made the first image using the app WordSwag, the second in Canva.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

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As a writer, I never know where inspiration will come from or where it will lead.  I feel I must be open to it and respond.  Sometimes those responses go in a strange, unknown direction.

The poem I am sharing today originated from two different prompts.  The first was from Poets and Writers weekly email writing prompt, The Time is Now.  The poetry prompt led me to this article about a fashion exhibit on Mars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the article, I collected unusual phrases like “the shape of a doll’s dress” and “nonverbal, abstract images inside of me.” The article was written about unusual fashion design; however, the words became organic and drew me in. My collection grew.

I didn’t know what I was going to do with this collection of lines. The Poets and Writers prompt instructed me to start with one of Leanne Shapton’s lines and let my imagination take over.

A few days later I read a prompt in The Practice of Poetry. This prompt asked me to use someone else’s words interspersed with my own in a “collaborate cut-up” poem. I didn’t literally cut-up the article, but now I had a way to use my collection of lines. The combination of writing exercises took me into a direction I didn’t manipulate or expect. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Blissful Containment

Pull a sweater over your head
in the dark and the dark gets darker.
Towel over your shoulders
adds warmth and a sense of caring.
This feels prenatal–like a cocoon.
Certainly, you will survive the tornado.

Croquembouche of exposure and erasure
embraces your delicate sweetness.
With a pillowcase
to hold all your precious jewels,
You will be saved
in an A-line skirt with a Peter Pan collar.

We are all organic and alive,
reactive like the center of the earth.
The beginning of softness
enters with our belly breaths.
Palettes of mud
feed our drying souls.

Our earth mother knows us well
nurturing our natural and childlike shapes.
Her transmission of spirit
sneezes us into existence.
We won’t remember.
We don’t have to.

–Margaret Simon (with lines from Leanne Shapton’s “Rei Kawakubo, Interpreter of Dreams”)

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

For the last several years, I have participated in Tabatha Yeatts’ Summer Poetry Swap.  I sent my gift and poem off last week to a poet-friend and promptly forgot that I would receive one, too.

Surprise in the mail is so exciting!  I recognized the signature as the famous Tricia Stohr-Hunt of Miss Rumphius Effect, a fabulous site of poetry love.  What I love about this poem is the extent Tricia had to research.  She learned so much about bayouland.

I’ve been stupid for a long time not knowing the Miss Rumphius Effect reference.  Until today and Ruth’s Celebrate post: “One of my favorite picture books (as if I could select a favorite) is Miss Rumphius. In it, Miss Rumphius is challenged by her grandfather–
You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Now I know that Tricia’s call is to make the world more beautiful with poetry.  That is what she does.  Thanks, Miss Rumphius (Tricia) for your gift to the world of poetry.

 

What does a Yankee know of the bayou?

The science teacher knows
coastal wetlands,
the evolution of the Mississippi delta,
the brackish, slow moving water.
The naturalist knows
the Bald cypress and tupelo,
the pelican and egret,
the alligators.
The historian knows
the Chitimacha and Acadians,
West African slaves,
pirates and riverboats,
the reach of the Civil War.
The Yankee poet knows
the bayou only in her dreams,
so when putting pen to paper
meanders like the Teche,
through moss-draped live oaks,
and sun-kissed swamps.

–Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2017 all rights reserved

Bookmark “In my book, you’re pure poetry.”

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Poetry Friday is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

Photo from Flickr: Kelly Colgan Azar

When I was home last weekend with my parents and my sister’s family, we watched a Carolina wren feed a nest of babies inside a flower pot.  I posted about this miracle of nature here.  ( I even made a short video of the nesting chicks.)

My summer discipline includes writing a poem every day. In the Practice of Poetry, Deborah Digges offers an exercise titled “Evolutions” that can be traced back to Philip Levine.  “When you can’t write, try writing about an animal.” This exercise takes some research.  Having the internet at my fingertips helped me find information about Carolina wrens.

This exercise came with warnings: “be careful not to sentimentalize, to usurp the animal you have chosen by turning it into a flaccid symbol for human emotions…The animal is itself.”  I tend to over-sentimentalize, so I tried to focus on the behaviors of the birds.  After some work and a few writing partner critiques, I feel good about this one.

 

 

 

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