Posts Tagged ‘Poetry Challenge’

Poetry Friday is with Janice Scully
at Salt City Verse

I met Allan Wolf years ago when he visited and presented in our area. He’s incredibly entertaining in real life. He is also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So when an opportunity appeared to get an ARC of his latest book of poems, along with an interview, I jumped at it.

Behold our Magical Garden is full of poems that take us into a school garden. You can jump in without getting dirty. The poems are lyrical, funny, and informative. They beg to be read aloud. Behold Our Magical Garden was released on March 8. Please enjoy this delightful interview with Allan.

Who is Allan Wolf?

Allan Wolf is a member of the species Poemo sapien. He often vocalizes in verse from atop chairs. He spends many hours alone sitting at his nest using his imagination to make things. Although he is 59 years old and 5’8” in height, he imagines himself much younger and much taller. He is a writer of poetry, novels, and picture books, and a serious believer in the healing powers of poetry. His latest collection of poems is Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh from a School Garden, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.

What inspires your writing?

Reading is a big inspiration. Listening to music. Watching performances of all kinds. Observing and experiencing any creative expression that resonates and moves me. While I certainly am a writer, I am more specifically a creator. I have an urge to create. We all have these urges to create life from the clay of our imaginations. And in that respect, we are all amateur gods. Writing and poetry is my default medium.

Why poetry?

Since I first discovered rhythm when I was four years old (I remember it as if it was yesterday!), my thought process has lent itself well to poetry, metaphorical thought, rhythms, rhymes, music, story. And most importantly, my brain is something of a non-linear array of constellations of thought bubbles, with observations flying in and out, unbidden as birds.

Words give a poem sense, while the space between the words give it resonance. Poets can arrange words based on craft, style, and clarity, just as prose writers do. But poets don’t have to stop there. Poets can arrange words based on prescribed patterns . . . or not. Poets can even arrange words wherever the words instruct them too. Space is key. Space between words. Space between lines. You can even remove a word, like you would remove a superfluous wisdom tooth. Line-breaks can be purposefully clunky or smooth. When a line breaks, the words turn. The poem’s rhythm may also turn. The poem’s pace may turn as well. The reader’s eyes, heartbeat, and attention all turn. (Bonus Fact: The word “verse” comes from the Latin, verso, to turn.)

The poet chooses


the lines        break.

Three things you love?

One) I love juggling (just juggling balls, not clubs, or rubber chickens, or chainsaws! Well, maybe I would love to juggle rubber chickens. That would be really funny!)

Two) I love making music, playing the guitar and the drums, singing, and making up songs.

Three) I love being an author of books! There is such a feeling of closure to have your thoughts and ideas and words and revelations enshrined within a book that is widely available to all. It is a sense of relief, that my words will continue to live and to speak, long after I’ve stopped doing either one.

Oh and, Four) Puppets! Let’s not forget puppets. I love puppets.

During the pandemic, how did you keep creating? 

Like many of my writing colleagues, I was surprised how hard it was to keep creating new work, even with two years of mandatory “free time.” I had already been reassessing my work, even before the pandemic. At that time the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements were already in full swing. As a white male writer, I felt like it was more a time to listen than to speak. Then the pandemic, with its forced stay-at-home quarantine, provided the necessary Petri dish to amplify the whole conversation. During that time, I temporarily set aside my most pressing novel, the one I’m back at work on now. It has taken me all this time away from it to reassess what I was trying to say. So much has changed. Meanwhile, throughout my writer’s block, I was actually writing poetry and picture books, which can be a little easier to carry around in your head without going nuts. I also made a lot of videos and I organized my private journals (which I’ve been keeping since I was 12 years old).  

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my wife and my children, Simon, Ethan, and James. As for writing, it’s hard to say. I’m proud of the Iceberg character/narrator in The Watch that Ends the Night. That character’s voice is written in iambic pentameter that gradually melts to tetrameter, trimeter, dimeter, and finally, monometer. The Iceberg’s last two spoken words, “I am,” are actually an iamb!  

Do you have a writing activity to pass along? (I’d like to challenge my readers and my students to respond.) 

What’s In a Name?

ONE) Begin by generating a list of all the “names” you are known by. General Names, like son, daughter, best friend, hero, helper, athlete, or alchemist. And Specific Names like Elizabeth, LaQuesha, Darius, or David. And Nicknames  like Doodle, Tutu, Junior, or Jack.

TWO) Choose one example from your list. Using informal prose write “the story of your name.”

THREE) After you’re done, circle (or highlight) five to ten words or phrases that seem integral to your story. Next, use those chosen words or phrases as the building blocks of a poem.

Note to readers: If you do Allan’s challenge, add your poem to this padlet.

Made with Padlet

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I kind of gave up on the 30 Day Poetry Challenge, not intentionally, but life got in the way.  I got stuck on one challenge, then just plain refused to write a poem about a car, so I quit.  I did not, however, give up on challenging my students to write a different poetic form each day.  And I write with them, so technically I am still taking the poetry challenge.

In our classroom ABC daily poem challenge, we were on G on Thursday.  The only poetic form I could find for G was a Grossblank.  Grossblank is a poem with 12 lines of 12 syllables (a gross) written in blank verse, no rhyme.  Because I thought this form was particularly challenging, I allowed them to write a quarter Grossblank, 6×6.  Also to help bait the poetry fishing hook, I gave them lists of wordgroups, a technique introduced to me by my poet-friend-mentor Sandford Lyne.  So with groups of words in hand and fingers for counting, we got to work on our poems.

Once again, my students amazed me.  My fifth grader and sixth grader took the full challenge.  Kaylie is obsessed (and that’s putting it mildly) with Hunger Games.  Her poem, while it draws on the theme of the series, can stand alone.  Colby is new to my class, but he is slowly discovering his inner poet.  His poem draws a deeper meaning while he contemplates mirage and reality, a quite sophisticated theme, I think, for a sixth grader.  If you enjoy their poetry, please leave a comment that I can share with them.  They would love to hear from you.

But What’s to Come
by Kaylie
(inspired by and dedicated to the Hunger Games)

At sunrise, she runs, barefoot, in leaves of green, words
do not come to mind. She dunks under the fence, into
the woods, where stores are not seen, and hunger isn’t
abroad. Where no trespassing takes place. Into dreams,
she runs past men and voices, beyond the breaking
dawn, into a swirl of familiar places.
She lifts her bow at a rustle, her arrow finds
a home in a rabbit’s eye. She gathers berries
of the sweetest aroma, breath in the air, hush.
Out of the woods, names are called, unpromising to
the tributes, for they must survive to be victors.
Through the darkest times, many deaths will come alive.

The Magic Touch
by Colby
Along the road in the hot summer sun, a dog,
a mirage in the dust wandering in his wake.
The heat is unbearable with the sun floating,
unforgiving in the open. No shade in the still.
Starting to feel abandoned. Far, far, away. Fear
in his soul like a pup separated, detached
from its kin. The miraged dog leading the lonely.
Walking barefoot in along the trails through thick dust.
He walks and roams in spite of hunger and fatigue.
Still he follows the dog, his wake, his destiny.
The dog is getting closer. It’s close enough to
touch.The man speeds up inching ever closer. Touch. Oasis.

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Ekphrasis: Poetry confronting a work of art.

I was first introduced to this poetry form by my mentor and Louisiana’s 2011 poet laureate Darrell Bourque.  In our workshops, Darrell would pass around a postcard collection of works of art and inspire us to write.  This was usually successful for me, so I have passed this process on to my students.  The book I use most is Heart to Heart, edited by Jan Greenberg. In her book, the poems are placed beside the work of art.  I use this book to model the different forms ekphrasis can take.  The ekphrastic poem can be a description loaded with imagery or a story poem in which the poet becomes a part of the painting.  Here is a link to my students’ poems on our classroom wikispace: http://gtallstars.wikispaces.com/Ekphrastic+Poetry

Today I wrote with my students as I usually do.  I have this beautiful book of the River of Words award winners. The painting I chose was titled Sunset in River.

by Khumar Gumbatova, age 13

The sunset becomes a rainbow
in fields where
silhouettes of trees
stand like soldiers
guarding this sacred land.

Sun reddens water
now a glowing sea where
hidden flowers grow.

at sunset I imagine
all life praises

The 30 Day Poetry Challenge Day 23: Write a seven line poem that begins with “it’s true that fresh air is good for the body” (from Frank O’Hara’s poem “Ave Maria”) and ends with “this is our body” (from Gary Snyder’s “The Bath”).

It’s true that fresh air is good for the body.
Breathe with your eyes closed like the sleeping Tom;
Taste the sweet honeysuckle nectar
while the wind tickles your cheek,
and you listen for the distant call of the cardinal
red in his cocky plumage.
This is our body.

Buzz naps while I write. He inspires a line.

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Catching up on the 30 Day Poetry Challenge:

Day 19: Imagine yourself performing any household task/chore, then write a poem using what you’ve imagined as an extended metaphor for writing: an Ars Poetica.

Ars Poetica on a Stained Shirt

Coffee spilled on my shirt,
early morning stain
I’d wear all day.
Cover it with a cardigan,
hidden and unnoticed.
launder clean
fresh and new.

Poem spills out on my notebook page,
early morning musings
I’d think about all day.
Scratch out words,
with revision.
Type onto a clean page
here for you.

Day 20: Write a narrative poem detailing a specific childhood memory.

Growing up Beside Purple Creek

A concrete slab becomes a waterfall.

A tree is a cabin in the woods.

Dirt-filled lots are caves for dolls.

A trampoline tarp makes an acrobat’s stage.

We put on another play for the neighbors in the garage.

Listen for the whippoorwill to call us home for supper.

Come home, come home, come home!

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30 Day poetry challenge: Day 17 Write a poem that employs a rhyme scheme.

Race me to the door in a speedy machine!

My sister has been posting for days about cardboard boxes that my niece and nephew have made into a variety of imaginary things.  Oh, the joys of childhood!  And hats off to my sister for allowing these huge things to remain in her living room for days.  I think we should collaborate on a children’s book or maybe I’ll just write a poem for the poetry challenge.  Wherever your imagination takes you.

What can we create with a cardboard box? I know.
A slippery sled to ride in the imaginary snow.
Maybe a spaceship the flies to the moon!
Or the basket part of a hot-air balloon.
I can imagine the most perfect thing.
Race me to the door in a speedy machine.
Before our momma throws it out
Let’s make a clubhouse and lounge about.
Be sure to bring your favorite book
To curl up with in my
cardboard box-spaceship-speedboat-reading nook.

Cardboard box-spaceship-speedboat-reading nook

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Lists of Spring

30 Day Poetry Challenge: Write a list poem.

A Perfect Spring Day

Mating call of a mockingbird
Rhythmic chimes faintly heard

A gentle breeze rustles the trees
Open blossoms fragrant sweet

Rippled stream, greenest green
Field of grass, fertile and clean

Far away song of a fisherman
Cumulus cloud hiding the sun

Days like these are far and few
Writing poems here with you

Darby’s Poem:

If I were a bird, I’d belong to the sky.
If I were a bird, I’d be fearless and brave.
If I were a bird, I’d do my own thing.
If I were a bird, I’d make my own song.
But most of all, if I were a bird,
I’d soar long, high,
and free.

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30 Day Poetry Challenge Day 9: Quickly jot down four verbs, four adjectives, and four nouns. Write a poem utilizing all 12 words.

The proof for Blessen, my first novel for young readers.

The proof of Blessen came on Easter Eve, like a long-awaited gift.  I read it aloud to my husband on our drive to and from New Orleans to be with daughters for Easter.  He enjoyed it.  We talked about word choices and together made some changes.  Now Blessen belongs to both of us.  So today, with this challenge, I opened my book to find the required words from the first page.  I hope the poem captures both my apprehension and excitement about this new literary adventure.

verbs: cackling, hear, flip-flop, birthing

adjectives: big, feathery, thick, proud

nouns: morning, voice, coop, egg

Blue Morning

Cackling of a big feathery hen
wakes up this morning.
Blessen flip-flops to the coop
proud of the newly laid egg.

The birthing of a literary adventure
traveling down the bayou
searching for a home.

Her voice rises in a joyful call,
“I am here, Lord,
ready for this new day!”

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Day 7- Take a walk until you find a tree you identify with, then write a poem using the tree as a metaphor for yourself or your life.

This quote comes to mind when I look at the great cypress in our backyard: “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots; the other, wings.
—William Hodding Carter, Jr.

Old cypress, tall and lean,
roots running deep, branches tall,
offer us protection.

Old cypress, your memory long
crawfish boils and Easter egg hunts,
you watched them all.

Open your branches wide for
nests of birds,
paws of cats,
squabbling squirrels.

Give us your roots,
send forth our wings.

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30 Day Poetry Challenge  Day 6: Write a poem of any length incorporating every word from your latest Facebook status update in any order.

It took a while to find my last real post.  My posts have been my blog, so I kept looking.  I passed over the post about Berry Queens, not really that poetic.  Then I came to this post: With this little extra day, I was able to finish The Hunger Games just in time for the movie. I resisted and resisted, being encouraged by my student to keep reading. I hated the violence, but now I am intrigued to see the movie.  Too many words to work with, but I took the liberty of picking out some that fit with my thoughts on this gorgeous Good Friday.

In the Springtime, our yard becomes a jungle
growing vines cling to brick
resisting my pull, my tug
my violent raging against invasion.

With time, I am able to clear a path
follow it to the water’s edge.
In this silent game, I keep
tending and trimming.

Today is the day of hunger;
In passion, he gave up his life.
I walk through the mud
plucking the weeds.

How can I know such hunger, such pain?
I didn’t see the movie avoiding the sight
of violence on my Savior.
Yet, the story intrigues:

A crown of thorns–
Here is the man you call
King of the Jews.
It is the law
He should die. Why?
For me? For my clutch of weeds?

I look up into the strong arms
of grandmother oak and notice
the resurrection fern
open, happy, and green.

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