Posts Tagged ‘Inklings’

The Poetry Friday Roundup is with Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core.

It’s a new year for Poetry Friday, so I created a logo using a photo from Henry Cancienne. Henry was the photographer for my book of poems, Bayou Song, and he recently emailed me a slew of photographs with permission to use them on Reflections on the Teche. Thanks, Henry.

Today is the first Friday, so the Inklings have a challenge. Heidi Mordhorst challenged us this month to write about #change. When we met on Sunday, everyone had had a full holiday with little time to write, so rather than critique, we created an exquisite corpse poem together. Each person wrote a line and sent it to the next person on a private chat message. After we had each had a chance to respond with a line, we shared the whole thread. Mary Lee was the experienced one at this process, so she placed the results in a Google doc with the instructions that we could manipulate the lines to create our own poem.

I drew bubbles in my notebook and placed each line inside a bubble to give myself the freedom to move around and play with the words and phrases. I like what I have for now. It was a fun exercise. I can’t wait to see what my other Inklings did with the original poem. Here is mine:

#Change (like the wind)

The wind unwinds us day by day
shifting clouds,
shining light,
casting shadows.

When we choose to wander,
submit like leaves on the forest floor
and understand
without challenging the direction
of the wind, we can walk
where steps and stones
still lie. 

Margaret Simon (with Mary Lee Hahn, Molly Hogan, Heidi Mordhorst, Catherine Flynn, and Linda Mitchell)
Photo by zhang kaiyv on Pexels.com

Follow these links to read how my writing friends #changed the poem.

Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading

Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone

Heidi at my juicy little universe

Linda at A Word Edgewise

Catherine at Reading to the Core

Book Announcement: Along with many of my Poetry Friday friends, I have poems in the just released “Two Truths and a Fib” anthology from Bridget Magee. I wrote about bubbles. I’m excited to be a part of such a fun collection. Check it out!

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Happy September! Maureen has the Spiritual Thursday round up today. Her topic suggestion was “community.” As a new school year gets underway, my thoughts of community turn to my classroom. To build community, we write together. I’ve always felt that writing helps build connections and brings us closer to each other.

When my father died in April, I received so many cards that I couldn’t fit them all on my counter, so I filled a basket. Like Christmas, every day for a few weeks I received handwritten, comforting cards and letters. Without even noticing, I had become a part of a community of people who support each other in good times and in bad times.

This weekend there was an article in the local paper that caught my eye. It was an interview with a teacher I knew. This teacher came to a writing workshop I held one summer. Because we wrote together, I feel close to her. I cut out the article and laminated it to send to her. She probably has multiple copies, but I decided that the gesture was about more than just giving her another copy of the article. It was a gesture of community, recognizing and seeing her.

My writing group is a special community to me. The Inklings got together and created a “junk journal” with each poet writing a special sympathy poem for me. I made a video of this gift that can be viewed here. Linda Mitchell of our group recently shared a new poem with us. She wrote it about the sycamore tree that we planted in memory of my dad on the grounds of their retirement home. “A sycamore tree symbolizes strength, protection, eternity, and divinity.” She gave me permission to share her sweet skinny poem.

Whether writing with each other or writing for each other, writing creates community. If you are interested in joining a small community of writers, tune in on Wednesdays when I post “This Photo Wants to be a Poem.” We write together in separate places about a shared image. There is always room for more.

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Janice Scully at Salt City Verse

This month’s Inkling challenge comes from Heidi Mordhorst: I’m looking out at my yard, my garden, and no matter what’s happening outside or in, THE PLANTS KEEP GROWING. They rarely give up. There are so many ways in which we’ve all (but especially as women, as educators) had to be persistent, despite our weariness. Write a poem (for kids or adults) about PERSISTENCE.

Heidi suggested a model poem by Tony Hoagland, Please Don’t. I borrowed a few lines and the word swobtoggle.

Dandelion Garden 

Hello, dandelions
in the ditch,

You pop forth
taller than I’ve ever seen,
reaching higher
for a taste of the sun

before the storm comes
to swobtoggle*
your seeds away.

You look at me
with a wispy wink
waiting for a child to hold
& blow.

Persistent in your volunteer work
someday soon,
you will fly. 

*from Tony Hoagland, “Please Don’t” 

Margaret Simon, draft
Dandelions in a ditch, photo by Margaret Simon

See what other Inklings did with this prompt.

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine@Reading to the Core
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading

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Design by Linda Mitchell

One of the wisdoms I have gained as a writer is that writing with others creates strong friendships because writing is such an act of vulnerability. It is true for the classroom, for writing workshops, and for critique groups. My group, the Inklings, are true friends. They listen, respond with integrity, and encourage me as a person as well as a writer. We live far away from each other, but we used Zoom long before the pandemic, and see each other twice monthly. This is all to say that when my father died, they did what they do best, and sent me a book of poems. I sat alone with these poems and let the comfort and wisdom of words wash over me. I offer a video today of me reading each poem sitting out by my beloved bayou. It’s 8 minutes long.

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Inklings Challenge from Catherine this month: “Write a mathematical poem, such as a fib, pi poem, nonet, etc.” I forgot all about it, so this poem is a bit of a LaMiPoFri* poem. I wanted to try a nonet. I remembered Janet and Sylvia’s advice to write about what you know. I’ve been tending monarch caterpillars in my kitchen for weeks. There have been some losses, but today I am happy to report 9 healthy looking chrysalises and another caterpillar in J formation. I still have 4 free roaming caterpillars on very little milkweed and butternut squash.

Our country once again is in the midst of severe cold storms that bring ice and snow. Here in South Louisiana we are expecting freezing temperatures in the wee hours of the morning. We will not get snow or ice, the meteorologist predicts. All of that came together in this draft of a nonet. I used Canva to make it look all pretty. Thanks for reading.

For other Inkling responses to the challenge:

Linda Mitchell
Molly Hogan
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

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Poetry Friday is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

This month’s Inkling challenge comes from Heidi. She invited us to “use the form” of the poem, The Lost Lagoon, by Emily Pauline Johnson (d. 1913) to build a “poem for children about a treasured place that you return to again and again.”

Most of our group had tackled this challenge early on. I thought I might not make it. After Christmas and a family trip, I had been away from writing for a few weeks. Often when I take a break like this, I feel I’ll never write another poem. I decided to take my head out of the sand and face it. On Sunday I opened The Lost Lagoon. I copied it into a document and went to work writing beside it. I didn’t follow the form exactly, but in many ways the exercise led me to say what I wanted to say.

One of my favorite photos from our family trip to North Carolina became my muse. The guys enjoyed making nightly fires in the fire pit outside our mountain house. The toddler boys enjoyed participating (at a safe distance) in blowing on the fire. My daughters captured the scene in two photographs.

Over Blue Mountain

See Sun set over blue mountain;
Dada builds fire to light the way
beneath a cloud-shining golden ray.
I twirl in steam of an ending day
and blow flames for a sparkling fountain.

In the dark, a song begins to bloom
and follows a cow’s mooing tune,
a howl of dogs under rising moon,
the logs of the fire crackle and croon
and gone is the nighttime gloom.

Oh, why can’t I stay out all night 
to watch Cow jump over the moon
and feel the dawning sky too soon?
I dream I’m lifted like a balloon–
in Dada’s arms I’m safe and right. 

Margaret Simon, 2022
Papère, Leo, and Dada

Other Inkling poems:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Michelle Kogan.

This month’s Inkling challenge is from Molly Hogan. She asked us to try a form we’ve been wanting to try. One of her form suggestions was a tricube. Matt Forrest Esenwine wrote about the form here. Matt said the form seems simple, yet it is challenging to say what you want to say in so few syllables. The form uses a mathematical sequence of three, cubed. 3 syllables, 3 lines, 3 stanzas. I wrote one here for my daughters after they treated me to a wonderful birthday weekend.

In my classroom, the gratitude poet-tree has been such a success that we decided to keep it going in December with a Christmas poet-tree. One of my students lost her beloved dog over the break, so I was thinking about how grateful I am for my walking companion Charlie. Charlie is 14 and has a heart murmur, but he still loves to go out for walks with me in the morning.

Charlie+Me=Perfect Cadence

On Monday, my two students came in chatting about their break. They were talking about how their friend had left the school. Katie said she cried, but she would not admit that to anyone but me. She said, “You’re my closest teacher.” This made my heart swell. Trying to capture this emotion in a tricube.

You’re my Closest Teacher

Open door
to comfort,

Freely said,
“I’ll tell you”
words of truth.

Close teacher
listens well.
You matter.

Margaret Simon, draft for Katie

Linda: A Word Edgewise
Heidi: my juicy little universe
Catherine: Reading to the Core
Mary Lee: A(nother) Year of Reading

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A(n)other Year of Reading

The Inklings challenge this month comes from Linda Mitchell. She charged us with writing “a poem that includes the idea of percentage or percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way.”

I put off this challenge for a while until a muse slapped me in the face from Brain Pickings (which is now called The Marginalian). This article is beautifully written: Every Loss Reveals What We Are Made Of by Maria Popova. Incorporating inspiration from Maria Popova and a quote from Maria Mitchell, I crafted a poem container of loss, aging, and rebirth.

Photo by Eriks Abzinovs on Pexels.com

We Reach Forth

The way we stand at the mirror
and see strands of hair 
overnight lose their color,
devoid of fresh light
gone gray in the way
a leaf loses the green of chlorophyll.

We lose our vigor.

The way I collapse on the sofa
after the grandchildren leave–
how it sags from years
of holding us.

The way, like branches, we reach forth
and strain every nerve, 
but we seize only a bit of the curtain 
that hides the infinite from us.*

How 96 percent of the universe
is dark matter 
invisible to us, how can we know
what tomorrow will bring?

The way we shed more color,
fall to the ground,
crush into mulch,
then hatch from darkness
and find light
find light
find light.

*Maria Mitchell

Margaret Simon, draft

Below are links to my fellow Inklings and their responses to the % challenge:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine@Reading to the Core
Mary Lee @ A(n)other Year of Reading

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at my juicy little universe.

What was I thinking when I challenged my Inklings writing group to write a ghazal for this month’s challenge? Woah, who knew there were so many rules/ guidelines? I had attended the Poetry Foundation’s Summer Teachers Institute and watched a presentation about using repetition in poetry. The presenter talked about two poetry forms, the villanelle and the ghazal. So I said to myself that in order to teach these forms, I needed to write in these forms.

The ghazal is an ancient Arabic and Persian language poetic form. It has couplets (two-line stanzas) that end with repeated end words or phrases. You can also add that traditionally the author’s name appears in the last couplet.

Looks easy, right? Well, this definition was somewhat incomplete. At Poets.org, there is this more complete definition. And Molly directed us to this guidance on Tweetspeak. The most help, as always, came from the Inkling group’s dedication to the craft of poetry and to each other. Their critique was invaluable.

I wanted my poem to say something, to express my longing as a grandmother for the grandmother I never knew. This portrait of her was painted in the 1940’s when my mother was a young girl. It now hangs in my dining room, life-size.

Grandmother’s Song

She never held me in her arms long to sing.
Death took her breath–she was not wrong to sing.

Within her eyes a lullaby still stares
from a frame to invite me along to sing.

Her portrait-hands caress violin strings;
Like the songbird’s voice, they echo strong to sing.

Now I wonder if an angel sings to me.
I want to know whose song to sing.

I have her name–Margaret–a spelling tune,
like a young child, I know I belong to sing. 

Margaret Simon, ghazal, all rights reserved.

Click on the links to read more ghazals by our amazing poetry group.

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading.

My writing group is here this week with a new name and a new challenge. Formerly, the Sunday Swaggers, we are now the Inklings. Catherine Flynn challenged us this month to write an Ekphrastic Poem.

From the Poetry Foundation:


“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

A few weeks ago I was participating in #WriteOut, a virtual writing marathon from the National Writing Project. On this visit, we were in San Antonio, Tx. One of the prompts was a work of art by Georgia O’Keefe that is housed at the McNay Art Museum.

Evening Star V by Georgia O’Keefe, from the McNay Art Museum

Evening Star

Texas sky
into star-gaze
red glare haze
across blue waves–

And there–
a point of light
opens a minor C–
insignificant note
like a dust-speck
glistening then gone. 

Margaret Simon, draft

To see more Inkling ekphrasis:


For #TheSealyChallenge, I have read 5 poetry books. This week I wrote blog posts about Before the Ever After, a verse novel by Jacqueline Woodson, and Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic, a totally different novel in verse. I also blogged about The Bridge Between Us, a collection of poems about teaching through the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve read Robert Bly’s Morning Poems and Naomi Shihab Nye’s Cast Away, but haven’t blogged about them yet. I am enjoying this challenge. It’s making me pick up poetry books that I have had on my shelves and never read through. I only heard about this challenge this year, but it’s been around for a few years. Is anyone else doing it? How are you handling and processing?

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