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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

Bayou Song is on the wall of books!

The rains had ended, the cool front came through, adding an element of celebration (like Christmas) to the Louisiana Book Festival.  This year was the 15th annual book festival and the 15th awards ceremony for LA Writes, our state youth writing contest.  I have been involved since the first contest and the first book festival.  I always marvel at the young authors as they arrive dressed up with their whole extended families with them. It is an event for celebrating good writing and for families celebrating their authors.

My student Chloe reads her winning poem, Cool Words.

Following the wonderful awards ceremony, I offered a student writing workshop.  You never really know what kind of audience to expect.  I was delighted to have 3 writers join me.  One was a 6-year-old who wrote and drew, then buzzed around. Her mother said, “She’s doing a lap.”  Then she was back to writing and drawing.  The other two girls were a sister pair.  The older sister is a student at LSU.  I am not accustomed to teaching college kids, but I was pleasantly surprised at how she responded to my prompts.  She wrote an I am poem about the river. (Baton Rouge is located on the Mississippi River.) When I taught them about the zeno poem, she transformed her I am poem into a zeno.  This was an unexpected transfer that worked well for her poem.  She gave me permission to publish it here.

I am a rusted red river.
My mouth echoes
rising
flood.
I touch cities
with their
blood.
Reminder they
come from
mud.

–Jami Kleinpeter

Thanks, Jami, for enriching our lives with your poem and for showing me how a simple (meant for elementary kids) prompt can be transformed into a sophisticated and profound poem.

 

 

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Phebe Hayes with Emma Wakefield marker.

This weekend I had the opportunity to be a part of a historical event: the commemoration of Dr. Emma Wakefield Paillet. In early April, I met with Phebe Hayes, the founder of Iberia African American Historical Society. She shared with me her passion about a project to correct the history of our town, New Iberia, as well as our state’s history.  Through her research, she found that the first black woman to become a doctor in the state of Louisiana was Emma Wakefield Paillet. Emma graduated with honors from New Orleans University and was the only woman to take the medical exam in 1897.  She not only passed but “with honors, and submitted one of the best papers passed upon by the board.” (April 20, 1897 The Times-Democrat)

The unveiling of a historical marker in downtown New Iberia occurred almost 150 years after Emma Wakefield’s  birth on Nov. 21, 1868.  This momentous occasion was met with enthusiastic cheers.

Back in April, Phebe asked me to write a biography in poems about Emma.  I didn’t know if I was up to the task, but as I researched and studied literary voices of the time, I was inspired and wrote 21 poems about her life.  This book of poems is currently out on submission.  At the ceremony on Saturday, I read four of them.  I was moved by the emotion of the event and choked up on my own words.  I was embarrassed, but I just kept going.  Emma’s voice spoke through me.  I hope these poems will inspire others to learn about forgotten women who, like Emma, rose above poverty, oppression, and grief to become a hero.

Program and button with artwork by Dennis Paul Williams.

The opening poem is based on the African American spiritual Were You There first printed in 1899.

Were You There?

Were you there
when Momma held my hand?
when she walked with me to school?
when she knelt down in the sand?
when white men were so cruel?

Were you there
when babies cried at birth?
when Negroes cut the cane?
when shadows veiled the earth?
when teardrops fell like rain?

Were you there
when we finally broke the chains?
when hollow cries were heard?
when mothers’ sons were slain?
when I could read your word?

Oh, Lord, were you there?

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

 

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

 

Autumn takes its time coming to South Louisiana.  It comes in small, unnoticeable ways like the browning of cypress trees, or in larger, violent ways as in a storm leading a cold front. So here we are on the second day of November and temperatures have dropped to the 50’s, a pleasant change from the 80’s to 90’s of the previous six months.  I so envy the images of orange and red fall leaves filling the trees.

Since we have not changed our clocks quite yet, the sun is coming up later each morning, and I’ve noticed a heron on the bayou sitting right in the direct ray of the rising sun.  I tried to capture him with my telephoto lens, but he heard me and flew off.  No matter.  I can still write him into a poem.

Carol Varsalona curates a gallery at her blog site for every season.  Currently she is collecting images and poems for Abundant Autumn. I borrowed a photograph of a heron at the beach from fellow poet (and better photographer than me) Wendi Romero to use as a backdrop to my poem. I love how the challenges of Poetry Friday peeps push me to spread my writing wings.

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Six more weeks until I become a grandmother!  Last week I shared a Billy Collins poem with my students, On Turning 10.  After reading and discussing the poem, I invited my students to write.  What would I write about? “I don’t want to write about turning 57,” I said.

Chloe said, “Then write about being a grandmother.”

Aha!  Thanks!

On Becoming a Grandmother
          (after Billy Collins’ “On Turning 10”)

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like a little girl at Halloween
dressed up in a new costume
that itches at the seams
and yet sends her off in a thrill of confidence.

How a costume can transform you
into a different version of yourself– a witch,
Wonder Woman, or Cinderella–invincible
and transformative!

When I think of that little boy calling me
something grand or made-up– Mimi,
Gran Gran, Nanny–I feel wonder and joy.

I want to memorize the names of constellations
so I can tell him. I need to find that just right
picture book he’ll want to read again and again.
I will learn a lullaby he’ll sing in his mind
whenever he is lonely or sad.

Wasn’t it just yesterday
I was the new mom?
Worries over enough milk
and enough love. I know now
there’s always enough love.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

 

 

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Brenda Davis Harsham is hosting Poetry Friday today.

We talked about descriptive poetry, writing so that your reader can visualize your topic.  I have the privilege of working with small groups of students, so I am able to collaborate with an individual student on a poem.  Chloe wanted to write about a swan.  I shared a poem from my book Bayou Song that was about the white ibis.  The poem was in a triptych form.  Chloe and I wrote a poem using the same form writing description from a photograph of a swan.  In the process, she learned the word cygnet, and we both learned that a swan tucks her cygnets under her wings.

Swan Triptych

1.
It’s the way
white wings swim
in the crawfish pond.

2.
It’s the way
mother swan protects
her cygnets
tucked into her wings
softly.

3.
It’s the way
the beautiful swan
is reflected on the water.

by Mrs. Simon and Chloe

With Landon, we used metaphor dice.  The dice turned up “My soul is a silent trophy.”  I suggested changing trophy to garden.  He loved the idea and guess what? The line was eight syllables long, perfect for the first line of a zeno. (See more about zenos here.) I asked him, “What did you see in the garden?” He remembered a praying mantis hiding in a bush.  As we continued to discuss the word choices for this poem, we decided to break the rule about the one syllable words rhyming.  Sometimes when you try to rhyme, you lose meaning.

Garden Zeno

My soul is a silent garden
Praying Mantis
Stealthy
Stands
camouflaging
into
leaves
The small garden
is their
home.

by Landon and Mrs. Simon

Collaborating with students on poems or even having students work together can result in rich conversations around word choice and produce a poem that all are pleased with.

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura at Writing the World for Kids.

I love writing from photographs.  There are many different perspectives to take, as an observer, as someone in the photo, or as description. I shared the National Geographic photo archives with my students.  I asked them to select a photo to write about.  We gathered information first in a T-chart.  “What I see, What I think, What I wonder, What I know, What I feel.”  I found this idea in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s book, Poems are Teachers. 

I was attracted to a photo of a lioness in water carrying a cub in her mouth.  Your Shot photographer Connie Bowen said, “We were in awe of her mothering and tolerance.”  I used this as a repeated line in my poem.

Chloe also chose this photo to write about, without knowing I had selected it, too.  Madison is a budding young artist.  She is taking art classes.  She wanted to raise some money to get a laptop so she can do more with her art.  I commissioned her to draw the photograph.

 

Maternal Instincts

We were in awe of her mothering,
how she gently yet firmly
held the cub in her jaws
hanging loosely, trusting.

We were in awe of her grace,
as she swept through the water
knowing her cubs would follow
in her wake, head up, alert to mother’s gait.

We were in awe of her tolerance,
lioness in African grass, patience
in her eyes, confidence in stride.
Mother nature teaches us tolerant, mothering grace.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

A Likely Loving Lioness

by Chloe

A likely loving lioness
loves her cubs with a smile.
And when they’re sad
she makes them glad
by playing with them all day.

Here is a link to Chloe’s poem on Kidblog if you’d like to comment to her directly.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone at Deo Writer.

 

Click to Pre-order

Octopus Zeno

Octopuses are amazing
cephalopods
mollusks
beak

8 tentacles
wave on
fleek

looking anywhere
for food
sneak

Breighlynn, 3rd grade

Irene Latham is an accomplished author/poet, and she is a generous friend.  She sent me an advanced copy of Love, Agnes which will be released on October 1st.  Agnes has declared October as Octopus Month. See Irene’s post here. 

With my students, I read Love, Agnes.  We enjoyed logging into this video.

We gathered some amazing octopus facts and words.  And, of course, we wrote octopus poems.

Over the weeks we’ve been together, we’ve explored some different poetry forms.  For this activity, my students chose their own forms to use and two of them even invented new forms.  Madison created the octaiku.

“An Octopus form, or, as I like to call it, a Octaiku ( A combination of Octopus and Haiku. ) The form is 2, 4, 8, 2 ,4 because 2 and 4 can go evenly into 8.”

Eight Arms
Suction Cupped
Cephalopod, Mollusk, Family
Giant
And Beautiful.

Madison, 5th grade

Madison met Irene Latham at the 2016 Louisiana Book Festival.

 

Things to do as  an Octopus

Wear a color changing coat,
call it camouflage.
when you get hurt,
heal up soon.
Something’s going to scare you,
blast streams of black goo.
Time to lay eggs,
protect them till you’re dead.

Landon, 5th grade

 

My life as Agnes

My friend who lives on shore.
I think he thinks I’m a bore.

He sends me a postcard everyday.
He makes me wanna shout “HOORAY!!!”

I protect my babies ’til they go away
And then I pass away.

Kaia, 3rd grade

 

 

 

 

 

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