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Poetry Friday round-up is here today! Put your links with InLinkz at the bottom of this post.

Last week the Sunday Night Swaggers posted Nestling poems, like Irene Latham in This Poem is a Nest. I couldn’t stop there. I had to share the concept with my student writers. I had planned to teach the inaugural poem by Richard Blanco, One Today. I have the picture book, and it’s just an amazing poem all the way around. It’s especially full of nestlings for writers to find.

I filled two notebook pages with them. I copied a few into a Canva design. (My student helped with titles.)

Kaia and I wrote this one together, each choosing lines back and forth.

millions of faces 

arrayed

all of us 

we keep dreaming

many prayers

buon giorno

every language spoken

into one sky

by Kaia and Mrs. Simon

trains whistle

like a silent

drum tapping

on every rooftop

a birthday tune

by Chloe (She asks you to guess the title)

For the Winter Poem Swap, I received a gift poem all the way from Australia, along with the cutest little carrying bags with an original print of an echidna. Kat Apel and I muse about how similar and how different our landscape is. We often post similar pictures on Instagram of canoeing and walking about. Her poem is a delightful back and forth about our similar, yet different homes.

Pop over to Kat’s post to see how Robyn wrote in a similar style in her poem for Kat. It’s a small world after all.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Sylvia at Poetry for Children.
She highlights poetry books coming in 2021.

The Sunday Night Swaggers have entered this new year with a challenge from Heidi Mordhorst. We’ve all read and admired the new poetry collection from Irene Latham, This Poem is a Nest. I reviewed her book on this post.

Irene created the term nestling, which is similar to a found poem. She started with her own poem and found new poems within it. I decided to start with a poem I wrote for Heidi for the Winter Poem Swap.

Essence of Heidi

There you are rolling Play-doh balls,
placing them onto a fake birthday cake, 
lighting each candle
deep breath in, then screen-blow–
a ritual of celebration, exclamation
of You Matter!

There you are creating a caterpillar’s undoing,
how it digests itself
to become something miraculous,
shouting the great wonder–
a ritual of changing, shedding the old,
in silence. 

There you are writing words,
passion-pulsed onto the page
to inspire a child or grown-up–
a ritual of reading aloud, praise
for turn-the-page, frosted ice
melting into a poem. 

–Margaret Simon, 2020 Winter poem swap

Here are my nestlings…

Happy Birthday!
Play-Doh cake
in celebration
of You!
Writing Teacher
Words
inspire-up
praise.
Picture Book
Lighting
a miraculous
child, then
turn-the-page
Autumn
Undoing–
become shedding
silence
Peek-a-Boo
There,
There,
there you are.
Irene’s Nest
Ritual of passion
pulsed the page
into poem
Nestling drafts, Margaret Simon

Read more nestlings from my friends.

Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

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Spiritual Thursday posts are being gathered today by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

It is my practice each year to select a word to guide my year. This week my students and I have been talking about and selecting a One Little Word. Last year I selected Embrace. The word Inspire has been tugging at me for a few years. I finally stopped resisting it.

If you follow my blog, you know that I am posting a photo each week as a writing prompt. Last week I posted a photo from Ann Sutton, a Methodist minister. Fran Haley took this prompt and wrote an amazing spiritual poem on her blog. I drew Ann’s attention to Fran’s poem on Facebook Messenger. Ann shared the post and asked Fran’s permission to read the poem in her sermon. Wow! Inspiring writing that inspires a beautiful connection beyond my reach.

I’ve started an accountability group for The Artist’s Way. Perhaps you remember the book. Julia Cameron leads you on a journey back to your essence of creativity through writing exercises and artist dates. Morning pages is a component that I am trying. Trying is the operative word here. My hope is that by releasing the tied up knots of stuff through regurgitation on the blank page, I will inspire more creativity in myself. I do believe that creativity is a spiritual practice. It’s not reserved for a select few; however, like the Holy Spirit, creativity is available to all of us, even me.

This first week of 2021 has been filled with shocking events. Along with everyone else, I am mournful. But I am also hopeful. Our country witnessed rock bottom yesterday. Let’s make today the beginning of our collective climb up and out. We can inspire hope and love. Join me in a resolution to Inspire, breathe new life into the world.

Image created in Canva

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Last weekend we toasted in the new year with some friends around our fire pit. I had taken down the tree ornaments earlier in the day, and my husband usually carries the dry fir tree out to the curb, but this year, it seemed appropriate somehow to burn it.

A new year also brings about changes in my teaching routine. For whatever reason, I hadn’t used photo prompts with my students yet this year. So this week I posted my photo on our Kidblog and directed them to respond. In Paula Bourque’s book Spark, she encourages teachers to use their own photos because it helps kids get to know you a little better. It was fun to hear my students’ questions and connections to this photo. I think I’ll do this with them every week. Click on the Kidblog link above to read their responses.

Fire sizzles flames
Christmas fir tree
forever skyfree

Margaret Simon

Please write your own small poem response in the comments. Leave encouraging comments to other writers.

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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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Poetry Friday round-up is with Ruth in Haiti.

Happy New Year! If you are looking for a way to feed your writing life, subscribe to Poets & Writers’ The Time is Now. I do not do their prompt every week, but this week when I was feeling out of touch with writing, I opened it to find a prompt that worked well for me.

“Mars Being Red” by the late poet Marvin Bell lyrically explores the color red as a state of being, likening it to a list of images that both physically resemble the color and provide memories, such as that of youth. In this compact, twelve-line poem, Bell begins what seems to be a portrait of the planet Mars and then delves into a series of digressions that find resolve in a meditation on the possibility of change: “You will not be this quick-to-redden / forever. You will be green again, again and again.” Inspired by Bell, write a poem that serves as a portrait of a color. Use physical descriptions to begin and then personal memories to develop a transformation in this study of hue.
From The Time is Now

Bayou Being Green

Being green is the color of an amaryllis
bud before blooming. Color of time lost
in growth, of soul lost inside
meditation. Green of grassy meadows
we walked with the dog, while our steps
made time disappear for a moment.
Contemplation becomes green in your eyes,
emerald of stars, early light reflects
sage from the bayou surface where green
water darkens as we stroll west toward
sunset, away from dawn into an age
of white on white on white. 

Margaret Simon, draft after Marvin Bell “Mars Being Red”
Bayou Teche in November, Margaret Simon

If you are looking for a weekly photo writing prompt, subscribe to my blog, I am posting a photo each week on Thursdays and invite you to write a small poem response. This Photo Wants to be a Poem.

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This week Ruth invites us to write about rituals. As I sit at my computer on Boxing Day, I realize that rituals change. And change they must. In fact, I’ve had to understand that a ritual for me may or may not be one for my family. Accepting the change is my mantra for this holiday season.

Speaking of the lack of church-going in my pandemic life, I said to my daughter, “I’ll be spiritual again in 2021.”

She responded, “Oh, you are still spiritual. It’s just the ritual that you’ve taken a break from.”

She’s right, of course. But I feel the ritual of church, especially singing carols with the choir on Christmas Eve, fed my spiritual life, and without that food, I’m going through the motions of Christmas. My advent candles sit on my kitchen table having never been lit. I wonder at the long term effects of this ritual loss.

I totally forgot about Christmas dinner. Who forgets Christmas dinner? I realized after a text from my sister-in-law that we would have a visit, masked and on the porch with open doors, but no meal. Yikes! We ran to a nearby place that has frozen foods and stocked up 10 minutes before they closed on Christmas Eve. Emergency averted. That meal was the easiest Christmas dinner ever. Maybe a new tradition was born?

As I reflect on Christmas, 2020, I have so many things to be grateful for, beginning with a negative Covid test, so I was comfortable being around my grandchildren. The joys of children at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas, cannot be overrated. Leo, 2 years, was amazed by every “pwesent”, and Thomas, 15 months, wanted to taste every goodie. “Pease!” with the sign for More caved me every time. And even though I cannot physically hold baby Stella, I can watch her from across the room melt onto my daughter’s shoulder. So many blessings. New rituals. Always hope!

Cousins Leo, 2 years, Stella, 3 weeks, and Thomas, 15 months

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#SOSmagic: Routines

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

When a toddler’s routine is interrupted,
he cries “for no reason” and says “don’t like it”
about the thing he adored the day before.
Routines keep me grounded,
like the right foot in my tree pose,
planted into the earth of solid ground.
Sometimes a breeze blows; the tree sways,
but it doesn’t break.

My routine is my checklist:
animals fed, check
smoothie, check
lunch, check
Yeti cup, check.
Mask, check.

A routine is the canvas for my day.
I can be fully present if my routine is in check.
One forgotten or lost step sends my sensitivity into a tailspin.
I need to be protective of my routines,
keep them close and safe,
until…
you call and need me there.

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I introduced the concept of a golden shovel poem to my students as we discussed On Friendship by Kahlil Gibran.

Because friendship is such a universal topic, most young students have experience with it, so the tough puzzle of a golden shovel was eased somewhat. I’m sharing a few results today.

To write a Golden Shovel, borrow a line or phrase by someone else, and use each of their words as the final word of each line in your new poem. You must keep the original order of the words intact, and you must credit the author of the original line or phrase. Peter Kahn

Friendship

When you need help, and when 

you are in trouble, he 

will be the one who is 

going to help you. And when you are silent,

he will know that your

mind and heart 

are in trouble. He ceases not 

to understand your emotions. He loves to listen

to what you have to 

say. His 

love for you is as big as your heart.

by Daniel, 6th grade

Friends are there for
you in
sprinkles and the
storm.  They are the dew
that softens hardness of
the darkness, like a little
sunshine when things
get tough. The
best friends know your heart.
The true friend finds
a way to reach you even when its
a dark time, offering morning
to your night, and 
assuring you all is
refreshed.

Margaret Simon, draft

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This week was a sad one for my friend, poet-author Laura Shovan. Her beagle Rudy had a condition known as bloat. Bloat is a serious condition that few dogs survive. To learn more, please click this link to AKC information on bloat. If you own a dog, you need to know the warning signs.

Rudy fought but lost the fight. Laura posted multiple pictures of her beloved pet on social media. I was especially taken with this photo. A dreamy quality that reminds me that our pets know more than we think they know.

Laura and Rudy view the sky.

Leave a poem in the comments. I hope our poems will comfort Laura in some small way. Leave encouraging comments for other writers.

If we could see through
the eyes of a dog,
we’d know the secret
to unconditional love.

Margaret Simon, 2020

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