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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I’m inviting you to find inspiration today at Ethical ELA. I wrote the guest prompt of the day for National Poetry Month. My inspiration came from a National Geographic email that I subscribe to. In the newsletter, there were selected photographs chronicling the pandemic across the world. I chose to write about a photograph of undocumented workers making masks.

Writing to photographs is inspirational as there are so many ways to approach the task. With students you can ask questions that lead them to wonder and response. Who do you see? What do you think you know? What can you discover?

Building a sense of empathy is vital in our world today. Finding a world view can open up empathy. Consider joining the community at Ethical ELA and writing a poem in response to a photograph.

Undocumented

“How can you say we don’t belong here
when we are working so hard
to heal this country’s communities right now?” Veronica Velasquez

I think of the mask makers,
side-by-side on an assembly line
cutting, threading, sewing
white cloth
To keep us safe
while they live
in the shadow
in plain sight,
essential now.

Belong
or don’t belong?
Our survival
depends on
their survival.
Undocumented
saviors.

Margaret Simon
Photo by SKYTONER on Pexels.com

The Progressive Poem is moving along. Check on it today with Jan at Book Seed Studio.

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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.

On the last day of the March Slice of Life Challenge, walk with me. Listen to the birds. Take a minute to just be here.

This month of Slicing has been a way for me to be present. Present to my thoughts. Present to the words of others.

One of my favorite photographers is my writing critique group partner, fellow SOL blogger, Molly Hogan in Maine. I cannot imagine how she gets such amazing photos of birds. She must be so still and patient. Her latest batch on Facebook are shots of bluebirds. This one she posted looks like a cartoon character.

Consider writing a small poem in response to this photo in the comments or on your blog (link in the comments). Leave encouraging comments to other writers.

Bluebird by Molly Hogan
Morning birds serenade my walk,
an aubade to the trees and sky,
gentle as your hand
on my sleeping shoulder.
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 have been tutoring 3rd grade virtual students after school once a week. There are rarely more than 3 students who tune in. It’s on Monday; what can I expect? I actually prefer the small group. The planning for these meetings has been a challenge because I am not completely familiar with 3rd grade standards. I usually focus on a writing skill. This week when I checked on what third graders are learning, I found similes. That was a topic I could get my head around.

I created a slide show with some simile examples and a writing activity. Only one student came. D does not show his face or turn on his mike because there is a lot going on in his house. I often wonder if he is paying attention at all. When I asked him what a simile was, silence.

“Are you with me?”

In the chat box, “yes”.

“Do you know what it is?”

“no”

“Let me show you.”

I showed examples and then asked him to find the simile in a passage. He got it. We then moved on to the poem. Have you ever written a poem with a student you cannot see or hear? With discussion (me talking, him typing), we got through it. For taste and sound, I gave him some ideas to choose from.

“Do you have any clothing that is lime green?”

“A shirt”

“Where did you get that shirt?”

“school”

“Oh, it’s the Spirit Shirt you can wear on Friday?”

“yes”

So I typed “feels like Friday” as well as the line “Lime green reminds me of the shirt I wear to school on Spirit Days.”

We had “It smells like…” to fill in.

By then he had gotten the idea. He typed, “outside.” Perfect!

D unmuted long enough to read his poem out loud. I heard the pride in his voice. And then he said, “Thanks. I learned something today.” There it was, all I needed to smile.

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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’ve been writing morning pages for a few months now, and every once in a while something appears that is worthy of sharing. And then I saw this quote on the last task in the last week (Week 12).

So today I am sharing some morning pages writing.

3/23/21 Touchstones, things you love

  • Flowers in a vase on my kitchen table
  • Pearl ring from my Godmother’s estate (Margaret means “Pearl”)
  • Wisteria blossoms, azaleas, sunflowers, magnolias, roses…flowers!
  • Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds
  • Pecans, roasted, sugared, and in pie
  • Paul Simon Graceland
  • The name Simon
  • Grandbabies
  • Papa’s shirt

3/26/21
Reading Aimee Nezhukumatahil this morning. Just writing
her name makes me feel smart. She names things
like fruit bats and whale sharks, becomes animal in her poem,
leads me to wonder what animal I am, barely alive, awake
enough to feel the familiar ache of waking.
I am worried about the final shot, how my body
will react or not, and what immunity really means.
Yesterday my dog jumped on the AT&T saleswoman
at the door. I told her he was friendly while I kept
my distance. We all keep distances between us.
I wonder what immunity really means.

Margaret Simon, draft

3/29/21

Resistance in “not good enough” mantra

Fear is an infection poisoning my body so I cannot perform

Anger is I can’t do this; why do you make me?

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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.

Saturday was my lucky day. In the morning I received my second Moderna shot, so in 10 days I will be fully vaccinated. Today I’ve been in bed with chills, fever, headache, and nausea. I still feel lucky. This response means my body is building immunities.

On Saturday afternoon, the local historical home had a fundraiser, a Wine Walk. The event took place on the grounds and 8 different groups decorated a booth and served wine paired with an appetizer. It was fun to socialize again. The atmosphere was one of pure enjoyment. And I pulled the cork for the prize wine, a 115 dollar bottle of Silver Oak. A few people came over and asked to take a picture of the wine. Event coordinator Liz Terrell said she bought it from the locked cage at Bi Lo. Yes, in Louisiana, you can buy fine wine at the neighborhood grocery store.

Mary enjoys a glass of wine in the gardens at The Shadows.
My lucky day, prize wine.

I don’t know what occasion will be blessed by this fine wine, but if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s not to wait for the right time. Make today the right time.

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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.
Open Invitation to Write on Sharing Our Stories

 One of the most satisfying things about teaching for me is learning. I learn something new every day, and it still surprises me. On Teach this Poem by Poets.org, I learned about a poetic device: caesura, referring to a pause for a beat in the rhythm of a verse, often indicated by a line break or by punctuation. This literary device was used with effectiveness in a poem by Yesenia Montilla, a brief meditation on breath.

A brief meditation on breath

–they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                        down your neck—

Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A long held belief of mine is that our bodies will tell us when to pause. I’ve believed this since 1995 when a herniated disc in my spine caused severe pain and subsequent surgery. There was nothing to do but pause and heal. Whenever I moved, pain would send me back. Luckily, I’ve not had any serious trouble since then, but I have learned to listen and pause when my body tells me to. I haven’t quite conquered yet the annoyance and guilt that sets in. We always want answers, so when the answer is “wait”, we twiddle thumbs and pace and complain.

Pause to enjoy the azaleas–
Walking to the parking lot from school, I stopped to notice how two azalea bushes were intertwined.

Following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I’ve been writing morning pages for a few months. They are scribbled scratches before my coffee, before my mind wakes up. I really wasn’t sure this exercise was working for me. I’ve been resistant and irritated about it. Like when my body hurts, morning pages were a kind of pain in my side. I did them out of obligation, a commitment to a weekly group. But yesterday morning, a poem came out. And today, I wrote about a picture book idea.

So, wait a minute…you’re telling me that writing morning pages every day since January 3rd is finally opening up your creativity? Could it really take that long? Perhaps it won’t for you, but it has for me. And I’m still unsure if I’ll keep up the practice after our last meeting this week. Yet, there is something to be said for taking a pause, taking your pulse before the day begins.

Like caesura Pause. Begin. Be.

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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.
Poetry Friday is with Susan at Soul Blossom Living

With my student Chloe, I read the poem Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris. I learned about Danusha from a podcast from Poetry Magazine featuring her in conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye (who is also well-known for a poem about Kindness.) Ramona recommended it last week.

Chloe and I talked about all the small kindnesses in the poem. About this line, “…for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass,” she said, “You know, she’s right. Red trucks are the friendliest!”

In every school, the custodian is the person you want to know. The poem about small kindnesses reminded me of a custodian at one of my schools. She is always dressed in bright colors with a wonderful head wrap and mask to match. She calls everyone “Love.” When I told this to Chloe, she gave me a word list around the topic of sun from her poetry writing journal Write the Poem. The list included effulgence which we both needed to Google. (Effulgence is brightness taken to the extreme.) My poem uses lines from Danusha, the word from Chloe, and the kindness that I almost forgot to notice had I not needed something to write about.

I’ve been thinking about the way when I walk
the school hallways, it’s always the custodian
who speaks. Excuse me, I say as I weave around
her heavy trash bin
that squeaks, rumbles and roars.

She calls after me, Have a nice day, Love!
Radiant as the sun itself, her yellow t-shirt
and rainbow leggings light my path.
Even her scent is effulgent, shouting warmth
of kindness, a hug for my hurried day.

Mostly, we want to greet each other
with glowing smiles. To slip a scented flower
beneath the doorway,
like a spritz of perfume, leave kindness
on someone else’s path.

Margaret Simon, after Danusha Laméris
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

What small kindnesses are you noticing?

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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 have been playing with collage in my notebook. One day Chloe saw one of my pages and said, “I want to try that.” So I loaded her up with some magazines to take home. She came back the next day not only with a beautiful collage but a poem inspired by it. I interviewed her about the process and recorded it. The Soundcloud recording below is our conversation.

I love what Chloe said about how an image that she put in her collage became surprising images in her poem. The process of cutting is meditative. It can work both ways, too. Creating a collage after a poem can help you process and make connections in a visual way.

I’ve been working through the book The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron encourages self-discovery and self-nurturing through creativity. She offers affirmations to write and rewrite and say to yourself, questions that move you to letting go and letting spiritual blessings of creativity in. In the margin of a page, I wrote “How is my creativity a blessing to others?” I think I found my answer.

Masterpiece 

The silhouette of spinning
monkeys swinging on 
peacock feathers,

Turtles following dogs on
beaches waving at the waves

As the pig and bird guard their 
treasure found at sea,

and the mother and
daughter watch the
world they live on
on the beach shore.

Chloe, 5th grade
Magazine collage by Chloe

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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.
You may use this image on your blog if you share a poem from this prompt.

The clocks have been set forward, the days are getting longer, and there is a rumor that spring is here. I forget how turbulent March can be. It’s like the weather can’t decide. There is a war between hot and cold, humid and dry, that causes wind and storms and then bright sunny days and flowers.

I love spring flowers. My photo app is full of them. One of my favorites is the wisteria vine. Wisteria is an invasive species in South Louisiana. My husband hates the insidious vines that rot wooden railings. I’ve lost the battle over trying to keep it in our yard. But this week they were blooming beautifully in our neighborhood. On my walk, I smelled their fragrance before seeing the vine.

wisteria vine, photo by Margaret Simon

Lavender leaves weep
wander in March windy ways
fragrant springtime tears

Margaret Simon, March haiku

Join me today and write a small poem in the comments or on your blog (leave a link in the comments). Be sure to support others with encouraging comments.

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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.
“Writing for me is no different than playing basketball, it’s my body moving among and pushing up against and being moved by other bodies of language and the energy of language,” says Natalie Diaz in an interview with Brandon Stosuy in the Creative Independent, in which she talks about the physicality of writing and how her experience as a professional athlete and her Mojave culture affect how she writes. “I don’t only feel with my body, I think with it. Even text is a physical space for me.” This week, write a short essay describing what your writing process feels like. How does articulating the way you write help focus your process?
From Poets & Writers, The Time is Now

My writing follows a white-crested bird

diving into the bayou

then flying off into a tree and shaking its feathers out–

jumpjabfly

I write with tabs across my computer screen,

a cup of coffee growing cold,

and fingers jumping on a trampoline

of similes, images that come to my mind

and fly away as fast as the bayou bird.

Maybe I should open a tab and find out its name;

specificity is good to use in writing,

but then I’d have to stop, take a sip of water,

wash down the inspiration and start again.

Writing is no different from bird watching,

trying to name the thing that captures you

and takes you into a new space

of discovery. I didn’t even know I knew how to say that.

Margaret Simon, draft
Image by JudaM from Pixabay

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