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Posts Tagged ‘Ethical ELA’

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

If you read my post last week, you know I have a thing for flowers. After visiting Petite Anse Farms and cutting my own flowers, the wildflowers that line the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans drew me in and begged to be clipped, collected, and given away.

This week is the Ehtical ELA Open Write and Monday’s prompt from Sarah Donovan encouraged us to write about “a shimmer of being alive.” My mind went back to the wildflowers I had cut on a walk with my daughter this weekend.

And So I Cut Wildflowers

I am taken by the little blooms
that peek from weeds
the ones on the side of the road

and want to carry them home
though I have nothing to cut them with
and frankly worry I will look like
a thief, a landscape destroyer, hoarder. 

The store is open, so I rush in,
buy kitchen shears, the kind for deboning
a chicken–I debone flowers

touch them with my soft hands
hold them in a nest
where scent to scent
pollen on pollen
the warmth of sunlight
still in their faces…

I cut wildflowers
place them in the Mason jar with residue
of coffee grounds, leave them
on your kitchen counter
without a note that says

I love you
You will know

Margaret Simon, draft
And So I Cut Wildflowers, Margaret Simon

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Every morning this week the full “blue” moon has accompanied me on my walk. I’ve taken cell phone photos that I posted on Instagram, but for this post, I reached out to my Inkling writing friend Molly Hogan. She came through with multiple moon photos for me to choose from.

On Ethical ELA’s Open Write this week, Tamara “Tammi” Belko led us in a one sentence poem prompt. You sure can pack a lot into one sentence if you try. I wrote mine by speaking into my phone notes app while walking. Siri often misunderstands me–must be the southern accent– and she thought I said “How are you” instead of “Owl echoes over the bayou.” I decided to leave it in the poem.

In the early morning light
of a new day when the moon still
hangs high while the owl echoes
“how are you”, I am tethered to this old
dog walking, wandering, praying.

Margaret Simon, draft
Moon through the trees by Molly Hogan

Please join us by writing a small poem (maybe just one sentence) in the comments. Leave encouraging comments for other writers. Thanks for stopping by.

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This month I am participating in The Sealy Challenge by reading a poetry book each day. Today’s book is An Oral History of Covid-19 in Poems gathered by Sarah Donovan of Ohio State University. Sarah curates Ethical ELA with an Open Write event each month. During the month of April, she posts a prompt each day. In the spring of 2020, the daily writing was a way for teachers isolated by the pandemic to connect through writing. We wrote poetry to process this unusual time. Sarah and her colleagues decided to preserve this work in an oral history project. Through that project, they conducted interviews by zoom and collected submitted poems into a collection. The book is free to read online or you can purchase a book copy for the cost of printing. (Link to Free Press Book.)

The thread that holds this collection together is the shared experience of teaching in 2020. Many of the poems are narrative while some follow forms.

I’ve chosen two poems to feature today.

Elms on Death Row

DENISE HILL

Three trees stand solemnly
in a row just as planted
nearly one hundred years ago

Each tendril root
tapped deeply into place
somnolently holding to earth

Craggy rough bark
like aged hands so many
life stories harbored there

Each now marked: a bright red dot
some roughshod city worker
sprayed just doing his job

Their days are numbered
soon hewn to stumps
then those ground flush

I place my hand on one
breathe in breath out
say “Thank you”

then the next: Thank you.
then the next: Thank you.

Lest they go from this world
unappreciated for all
they have provided.

Thank you.

I relate to this poem as I have experience the chopping down of trees for development. Haven’t we all? I feel sad for the marked trees. Denise captures that feeling well. I love how she decides to deal with this sadness, not by ranting, but by gratitude. This poem also holds together as a metaphor poem for Covid. The illness strikes some with little or no symptoms while others are very ill and die. Senseless deaths. Like the Elms, they leave behind their stories.

Washing Hands

SCOTT MCCLOSKEY

They say that all poems are
political; all poems are
an expression of freedom
against oppression are
innately radical.  Their
mere “existence is
resistance.”

But not this one.

This one is just about me
washing my hands
and how sometimes I lose
count, so I need to start
over to ensure that
I’ve done it for the proper
length of time.

Hands lathered up, I stare
out the kitchen window
at the neighbor’s house,
at my neighbor who, although
it’s the middle of December,
and sure, it is unseasonably
warm, looks to be planting fake
flowers in the sills outside
of her windows.

This is the same neighbor
who was surprised when her
racist lawn ornaments were
stolen this past summer
when yet more videos
of atrocities and injustices
were going viral,

which, of course, makes me
scrub more vigorously, thinking
of the UPS package that came,
the actual reason that I’m standing
here in the kitchen —
Was that one thousand seventeen
or eighteen? —

So, I apply more soap from the
hands free dispenser, and
watch, transfixed, as she carefully,
artistically even, places various
colors and kinds together, creating,
to her mind at least, a pleasing
arrangement, taking more care
and effort to arrange these fake
flowers than she has ever
afforded her neighbors.

And I just wanted to wash my
hands, wanted to not (potentially)
infect my wife or myself, wanted
to simply go about my business,
maybe read a little, grade an essay
or two,

but I keep thinking
about the sad fact that
cultivation does take
time and effort and
persistence, and,
for some, it really
is easier to arrange
plastic flowers

than to plant
and nurture
live ones.

In Scott’s poem about washing hands, I appreciate how he sets up the poem as an ordinary moment, not a political poem “not this one” and yet, it becomes more and more filled with emotion, and in the end, imparts wisdom with an extended metaphor in “plastic flowers.”

I hope I can continue this daily blogging practice around a different poetry book each day, but realistically, “cultivation takes time and effort”, as Scott McCloskey says. I’ll take it day by day. Thanks for reading.

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Poetry Friday round-up is here! Scroll down to add your link to Inlinkz.

Finding safe online spaces for writing is invaluable to me as a poet-teacher in a small Louisiana town. During the pandemic shut down of 2020, writing kept me sane and real and present. Sarah J. Donovan, Ph.D. directs the website for teacher-writers at Ethical ELA. She is assistant professor of secondary English education at Oklahoma State University where she turned the writing we did during April 2020 into an oral history project.

With the help of colleagues, each volunteer was interviewed through a Zoom meeting and our contributed poems have been curated into a collection entitled Bridge the Distance, Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance: An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems. You can click the link to read the manuscript or order a hard copy.

I ordered a copy. No one profits from the sale of this anthology; you are paying printing costs only. I wanted to have this collection in hand to read and use with my students as mentor texts.

order on Amazon

My contributed poems can be read here:

The Duplex of Virtual Teaching.

Magic Bean

Eight Reasons to Take a Walk on Sunday Morning

8. Bells chime a call to worship
to empty pews echoing the song of trees.

7. I’m sorry I keep taking the same path,
the same images do not grow weary of me noticing.

I pick gardenias from CeCe’s side yard.
If she came out, she wouldn’t mind.

6. I stop by Anne’s to view her century plant as it reaches
skyward. A century plant waits 25 years to blooming,
blooming only once in a lifetime. A lifetime
I took for granted only weeks ago.

5. I can take my time.
No one will call to check on me.

I’ll check the feeders:
the hummingbirds like sweet water.

I’ll get to it in time.

4. I walk and walk
wondering if it will always be this way.

Hollow bells pealing for no one.

No one venturing out to see anyone.

3. It may rain tomorrow. Today,
the sun shines, the birds sing,
and I don’t have to join the chorus.

I’ll keep singing to myself.

2. A link was sent by email
to a video church service, one priest, one reader.

The organist plays
as though the cathedral is full.

Full feels scary now.
Full carries weight.
Who wants to be full?

1. I close this book,
heat another cup of tea,
and find my shoes,
find my way,
fill my day,
and perhaps…

Bloom!

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved
Bridge the Distance, 2021

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

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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.

Last weekend with grandkids in tow, my daughters and I traveled to Mississippi to see my parents. Mom celebrated her 85th birthday on Friday. We had an amazing dinner together, all four generations.

Pop with great grandchild, Stella, 6 months.

Over at Ethical ELA, it’s Open Write time. Denise Krebs posted a prompt that pushed me to write a poem for my father. Her poem prompt was based on Langston Hughes’s poem I Dream a World.

He Dreams a World
(for my father, John Gibson)

He dreamed a world where hope
would be our North Star guide,
a world where we could care,
embrace each other’s side.

But dreams read daily news
on print as small as stars.
His weathered hands held fast
so futures could be ours.

Today he watches them
and wonders where they’ll go,
more treasures to be found
and promises of hope.

Margaret Simon, after Langston Hughes
John Gibson, Pop, watches toddler artists Leo and Thomas.

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

This week I was humbled and surprised to have one of Sylvia Vardell’s students create an amazing poem video of Zen Tree from Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving. Garrett’s soothing voice, the calm music, and the amazing images all came together to show something beautiful. I am honored by this creative expression of my words. Thanks to Sylvia for organizing the project with her students. See more at Poetry for Children.

Michelle Schaub has been posting poetry videos all month on her blog Poetry Boost. My video of “Peep Eye” was featured this week.

Michelle Kogan finished up the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem with a final line as well as a delightful illustration. The poem will be archived here.

I’ve been writing poems each day in response to prompts on Ethical ELA. I share these prompts with my students. On Wednesday, I struggled over the prompt. I shared the struggle with Chloe. She started writing me notes with topic suggestions. One of these notes said, “Me.” Then the pen flowed.

Fifth Grade

She comes in the room
with an attitude
that testy mood
of preteen silliness
and suggests I write a poem
about her. 

As if I know her well enough
to write her down in words.

What I know is she grins loudly in braces.
She writes notes on paper
and crumples them like the crunch
of a chip bag in the trash–
Schwoop! Perfect shot! 

But this poem will not be a perfect shot. 
There are no shots left on her page
of excuses–the “not my fault”
dissolves into “I just can’t.”

I wonder aloud “When will you believe in yourself?”
When did I believe in myself?
Have I ever?

This poem can’t end like this.
I must write something encouraging
to make all this white space worth it.

This I know…she’s worth it! 

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

On Ethical ELA this month, teachers and authors are offering intriguing poetry writing prompts. Padma Venkatraman wrote on April 14th that she has created a team of authors dedicated to diverse verse: “Diverse Verse is a website and a resource for educators and diverse poets and verse novelists.” This week they launched using the hashtags #DiverseVerse and #AuthorsTakeAction.

Padma invited teacher/writers to write a 4 lined rhymed stanza beginning with “Hope is.” I thought of how I made origami cranes last summer and organized a gathering of cranes to hang downtown. My first draft of this poem was this:

Hope is an origami crane
hanging in a tree
twisting with the wind
longing to be free.

Draft #1

In the comments, someone pointed out the words hanging, twisting, longing. “There is beauty but also struggle with “hanging”, “twisting”, “longing”. Much truth here.” A positive comment, I know, but I wanted to revisit the verse and see if I could make more of a connection from the hands creating the crane to the idea of peace. This is my next attempt with a line from Chloe, “Is perfection too much?” We’ve tried origami together. She pointed out how our attempts are imperfect at best, but we keep trying. Like hope. Like peace. It’s in the attempts, not the perfection.

Chloe wrote a verse, too. She received a comment from Padma herself and was thrilled.

Would you like to try to weave a metaphor about hope? Share one in the comments.

Photo by Prashant Gautam on Pexels.com

Hope is space between the clouds

the light shining through

the sun’s smiling face

who knew?

Chloe, 5th grade

Our Kidlit Progressive poem is rolling along nicely. Check out the next line choices today with Janice at Salt City Verse.

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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’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.

I discovered Ethical ELA a year ago. This community has been such a blessing to my writing life. Today begins another 5 day open write and the prompt is from Kim Johnson. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s another community, like TWT, that supports a writing life of teachers with encouragement.

A year ago today, life suddenly changed. At first none of us believed that the virus would shut us down for more than a year and take so many lives. But my memory doesn’t go there. My memory of last March was a quiet announcement, a budding new life, my granddaughter (who is now a smily, healthy 3 month old). My daughter had a miscarriage before having two beautiful healthy births. That loss clouded her joy over a positive pregnancy test. This is the memory that rises for me today. This is what I wrote for the Ethical ELA prompt, still very drafty.

Impending

On a March wind,
a virus swirls
much like an impending hurricane.
After my morning walk
and weeding, coffee in hand,
my phone vibrates.
Her voice, shaking, quiet,
“I’m pregnant.”
No ultrasound photo wrapped like a birthday present.
“I don’t know if it’ll take.”
New life is fragile
like the wildflowers, newly budding, blowing.
Gripping the phone, tears welling,
I am inwardly in prayer, fervent and furious.
Calmly, with a mother’s voice,
I say, “Congratulations.”

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

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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.

This month’s Ethical ELA Open Write began this weekend. Jennifer Guyor-Jowett led us in writing prompts. On Sunday, she asked us to consider a journey. See the full prompt here. I spent Saturday walking our neighborhood with my 2 year old grandson, Leo. It was a journey of discovery.

A walk with a two year old
is a journey of discovery.
Take the wagon with you.
Pose with your nose in the air
like the reindeer on the lawn next door.
Pick up sticks, a few gumballs, fall leaves.
Stir with a stick–“Cooking bumbo” like Da Da.
Smile when Mr. Jim waves through the window.
You will never get lost.
There’s always a hand to hold.

Margaret Simon, draft
Leo reached up and said, “Hand.” I turned around to see this. My husband, Jeff, known as “Papére” hand in hand with Leo. My heart melted.
At five in the morning, Leo asked to paint. With a set of dot paints and glue stick, he created this masterpiece.

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