Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NPM 2015: What Are You Wearing, Jane Elkin?


Find the official NPM 2015 poster
at the Academy of American Poets
At last! It's finally here -- that special season that we wait all year to celebrate.

It's National Poetry Month. 

If National Poetry Month were a party (it kind of is), what would you wear to the celebration? All this month, guest bloggers are putting on their finery here at Author Amok. We're doing a month-long feature on poetry about clothes. In addition to the guest posts, every Friday in April I'll post a round-up of original clothing poems. (Send those via email to laurashovan at gmail dot com or leave them in the comments). You'll find a writing prompt at the bottom of this post.

Why clothes?

Articles of clothing are symbolic. They represent choices people make about how they want to be viewed by others. But they can also represent a person's economic situation, relationship with gender, mood, and culture. A red tie or jacket can be a metaphor for strength.

From popular song, we have Prince's "Raspberry Beret," Elvis' "Blue Suede Shoes," and Nancy Sinatra's walking boots. But what about poetry?

Meet today's guest blogger, poet Jane Elkin. Jane has visited Author Amok several times, including when her book WORLD CLASS: POEMS INSPIRED BY THE ESL CLASSROOM was published in 2014. (Read the post here.)



The Parable of the Hangers
 by Jane Elkin

“If there were a fire and you had time to grab only one thing,” my roommate asks, “what would it be? Photos? Love letters? Your thesis?”
            A reasonable person might point out that if there were indeed a fire, they wouldn’t pause for any of those things, but not me.
            “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I say. And with that one question, I am transported back to childhood.

My closet was full of someone else’s clothes. When I’d gone down for my nap, it held my brothers’ cast-offs and three cotton dresses. Now it was packed with girly surprises: a pink rosebud here, a lemon sash there, poufy dotted Swiss sleeves, and silken strawberries on chiffon. Scotty dogs walked the plaid field of a jumper and I swore I heard bagpipes. It was a whole rack of whimsy in thread. It was more clothes than I knew existed. It was the most beautiful sight of all my four years. It was Christmas in August.
            I had been living some other girl’s life in my primary colored play clothes. I was born for Sunday best, and now it appeared I would wear it every day. 
            My mother stood in the door frame, smiling mischievously. “Did you have a good nap?”
            “Mmm hmm.” I pointed. “What are those dresses doing in my closet?”
            “You’re starting kindergarten next week, so you need school clothes, right?”
            Really? I was going to school like my brothers? I had only begged because I was bored. Had I known it involved a makeover, I’d have asked sooner.
             “I’m going to school – in those pretty dresses? Where did they come from?”        
            “From Patty. They’re like new.”
             Patty was an only child with a charmed life –pretty clothes, piano lessons, a puppy. It didn’t matter what things cost because she was a lonely child and her father was a mailman who made a lot of money for not much work. But she was as nice as could be, not at all spoiled. And now her clothes would charm my life, too.
            I sock-skated to the closet and stroked a satin bow.
            “They’re so pretty.” I fingered the hem with the embroidered Scotty dogs. “Thank you!”
            “Here,” my mother said, setting a footstool in front of the closet, “you can take them down by yourself.” I slipped the jumper off the hanger to try it on and went to admire myself in my parents’ full-length mirror, turning to see myself from every angle and bouncing on tip-toe with excitement. I looked older and fancier, like I belonged in the Sears catalog.
            “Of course, now that you’re old enough to dress yourself for school, you’re old enough to learn how to take care of nice clothes, and the best way to do that is to hang them back up right after school.”
            Of course. There had to be a catch. Still, half a day in dresses was better than none.          
            “I’ll take care of them,” I vowed.
            “You have two choices,” my mother said. Some people hang them with all the hooks open to the back, like this.” She motioned to the hangers she’d arranged, all aligned in the same direction. “And other people hang them open to the front, like this.” She turned several to illustrate. “Pick one way or the other, but not both.”
            “Why not?”
            “Well, for one thing, it looks better if they all face the same way,” she began, “but that’s not the most important reason. I’ll show you why.” She flipped every other hanger in alternating directions, talking as she worked.
            “You see, there was once a lady with a whole closet full of beautiful clothes. She had a different outfit for each day and enough dresses to last a month of Sundays: short ones and long ones, silky gowns and woolen suits, sun dresses, party dresses, and even a fur coat – all from the best stores.”
            “Was she a movie star?”
            “Something like that. She had all these beautiful clothes, but she was careless with them. She was always in a hurry, so she had hung them up all haphazard with some of the hangers facing to the front and others facing to the back. Then one day there was a fire.”
            “Ahhh!” I felt sick with dread.
            “She ran to her closet to save her beautiful wardrobe, but when she gathered an armful and tried to run, they held tight to the bar.” My mother locked her arms around the lot and tugged, but the hangers wouldn’t budge.
            “She didn’t have time to turn them around, so she had to run out of the building without any of her nice things, and they all burned up in the fire.”                                 
            “That’s awful,” I gasped. “She wasn’t very smart.” I climbed atop the stool and got to work. “I’m keeping my hangers open to the back, like you had them.”

I’m still an open-to-the-back girl, as are my grown daughters, but I never told them why. Some legacies are too weird to explain. You just do them.

Jane is pairing her remembrances with two poems. In both, clothing becomes a metaphor for the parent/child relationship. The first, by Mark Irwin, begins with a closet.

My Father's Hats

by Mark Irwin

     Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
     on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
     the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
     through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
     his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
     crowns


Read the rest at Poetry 180.

Jane's second featured poem is by YA author and poet Ron Koertge.

Negative Space
by Ron Koertge

My dad taught me to pack: lay out everything. Put back half. Roll things
that roll. Wrinkle-prone things on top of cotton things. Then pants, waist-
to-hem. Nooks and crannies for socks. Belts around the sides like snakes.
Plastic over that. Add shoes. Wear heavy stuff on the plane.
   We started when I was little. I'd roll up socks. Then he'd pretend to put me
in the suitcase, and we'd laugh. Some guys bond with their dads shooting
hoops or talking about Chevrolets. We did it over luggage.

Read the rest at The Writer's Almanac.

Jane Elkin is the founder and facilitator of The Broadneck Writers’ Workshop, as well as a theater critic and essayist for the Bay Weekly. Her prose and poetry have appeared in such journals as Kestrel, Kansas City Voices, Off the Coast andDucts, and she has won awards with the Maryland Writers’ Association, Poetry Matters, and the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. A self-proclaimed Renaissance Woman, she works as a language teacher, singer, and handwriting analyst.

Next up in this series:
Friday 4/3
Tabatha Yeatts is visiting with a clothing poem by Greg Pincus.

*Your suggested clothing poem prompt for Friday, April 3: Storage.
Where and how do you keep your clothes? Do they hang in your closet, organized by color? Are they crumpled on the bedroom floor? Are you an organized packer, or do you toss things into a suitcase and hope for the best. I still remember the name of the long-ago camp counselor (Janice) who taught us how to roll our clothes up tight to maximize space.

Send your poems any time. I'll post original work on Friday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Writing to Heal: Altar of Innocence Giveaway

This week's host is
Jone at Check It Out.

I had a phone call the other day from a teen writing workshop leader. Several of her students were writing about suicide. As a former suicide hotline volunteer, the workshop leader knew not to panic. She asked the teens what was up. They told her that a teenager in their neighborhood had committed suicide. They were processing their emotions through poetry.

One of the most challenging things we face, when working with teen writers, is helping our students navigate their emotions. I’ve had conversations with teens who are so frustrated with adults. Why do adults assume all teen poetry is autobiographical? Teens don’t want to land in the guidance office every time they write a dark poem.

But I’ve also reminded these same teens that if I see something concerning in their writing, I will check in with them to make sure they are okay. If I ask, “are you in trouble?” I need to trust that they will answer me honestly.

Today, I’ve invited a dear friend, poet Ann Bracken to guest blog. Ann’s new chapbook, THE ALTAR OF INNOCENCE, is a powerful look at depression, from its roots in family history to the fruit it bears in adulthood. For Ann, writing—writing poetry in particular—was a necessary part of healing.

We are giving away a copy of Ann's book today. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.

Order it from New Academia Publishing.
This post will touch many of you. Ann reminds me what a powerful force poetry can be during dark times, whether the writer is a teen or an adult.

Writing to Heal: A Poet Reflects
by
Ann Bracken

Poetry often serves as a form of therapeutic writing and provides an instinctive vehicle for people in pain.  Even people who would never dream of themselves as writers, much less poets, will often place their fears, hopes, and confusions into the safe container of a poem.  Maybe they will never share it with anyone else, and that is as it should be.  The purpose of therapeutic writing is to help each person make sense of the particular suffering they are experiencing in the moment.  Long before I had ever heard of therapeutic writing, I used poetry and journaling to explore the mysteries of my feelings as I struggled with depression and anxiety.

When I look back at how my own use of poetry helped me to deal with depression, I think about an experience with Thomas Moore, a psychotherapist and writer who wrote Care of the Soul.  When I heard that Moore was offering a weekend retreat near my home, I signed up immediately. His book spoke to me in ways that I did not understand and I wanted to know more about his ideas of the dark night of the soul. At the time, I did not know I was depressed, just that I felt very down and tired—feelings I could justify because I had suffered from a migraine for nearly two months. On a rainy December afternoon, Moore gave us an assignment—create a piece of art that represents what your soul might be saying to you. I had no energy for any of the art materials spread around the room, so I wrote the following poem: 

The Path
By Ann Bracken

Reluctantly I undertake the journey.
I resist going. I resist packing. I have no map.
I must go on the journey.
The path is shrouded in fog. My hands are cold.
They cannot grasp the suitcase straps.
The strap breaks. I stumble into a puddle.
I must go on.

At the time, all I knew was that the poem represented how I felt about my life.  It wasn’t until years later when I found it in my journal. Now I realize how my soul was speaking to me of depression through the use of images and the metaphor of the journey that I didn’t want to take.  

In addition to poetry, I also used journaling to help me through depression. At the time, I had just started working on polishing my skills as a writer, so I decided to keep my journal on the computer. Oftentimes my feelings were so overwhelming that the discipline of typing and looking at the words as they appeared on the screen offered me a safe distance from the turmoil and despair churning inside.  I also began to see writing my journal as an exercise in story-craft, especially when I recounted my vivid and highly symbolic dreams, like the dream where I can’t see myself in the mirror and a wizard appears telling me it’s because I’ve lost my soul.  That story offered an important metaphor for the pain I was facing and provided me with the courage to do what it took to get my soul back.

But what about writing by hand, I can hear people asking. Isn’t that a better way to process feelings?  To which I can offer a thunderous Yes!  I kept a spiral notebook handy in a private space so that I could rid myself of some of the messier aspects of my journey—a place to process the events that left me crying hopelessly or churning with anger. Sometimes I even spread newspapers on the floor and wrote using magic markers in big, bold letters, as if to match the out-of-control feelings.

My journaling practice in all its forms became a lifeline for me—a continuous map through the pain, hope, and discovery as I journeyed deeper into despair. I kept a journal long before I ever heard of therapeutic writing and the marvelous work of both James Pennebaker and Ira Progoff.

Ann's writing journal.
Eventually, my journal grew to over 400 pages recounting a dark pilgrimage that lasted nearly four years. The heavy binders holding my story sat on a closet shelf for 20 years before I turned to them as a resource for incidents I recount in my memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence.   In writing the story of my illness, both poetry and journaling provided me with fresh insights about my situation and all the things that caused me to descend into depression’s “well of grief.”     

My deepest desire is that my book serves as a vehicle of hope and inspiration. Writing my story helped me to reach new levels of understanding and forgiveness—for my parents, my ex-husband, and myself. I put the book out into the world as an offering that it may do the same for others. We are never as alone as we think.

Afternoon Resolve
by Ann Bracken


Following the stream
of memories  I return
to the girl I was
tossing  a ball and jacks
on rough brick steps
then ditching my toys
I tip-toe into my mother’s
cheerless bedroom, sitting beside her
I rub her back
tracing circles over and over
her groggy words tumbling out
Sorry for always sleeping when you get home.

What saddened me more
than her sleeping
was the empty space
where she should have stood—
in line waiting for the teachers’ conferences,
helping out during playground duty
shopping for Saturday bargains.

And now these dark afternoons
I lie in bed sick
with pounding migraine
my own child-self
pushes me out of bed
before my children come home
somehow prodding me to help at Girl Scout meetings
somehow cheering for my son’s marching band
somehow shopping for Christmas gifts.

My daughter slides a card under the door
with the sun peeking out
from behind dark storm clouds. Inside she writes—
I know you want to shine.
My son says, “Keep going, Mom. It’s just like a mountain bike ride.
When your legs are tired and you want to quit,
you’re almost home.”

Posted with permission of the author.


Ann Bracken’s memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was released in 2015 by New Academia Publishing. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Little Patuxent Review, New Verse News, Scribble, Reckless Writing Anthology: Emerging Poets of the 21st Century, and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Ann serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, lectures at the University of Maryland College Park, and leads workshops at creativity conferences. You can find her online at  www.annbrackenauthor.com and www.possibilityproject.com.

Thank you for guest blogging today, Ann.

If you would like a chance to win THE ALTAR OF INNOCENCE, leave a comment about this post or with feedback for Ann.

See you on Wednesday when we kick off National Poetry Month, 2015 with a new project. Read about it here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Vine: A Handful of Stars

I will never forget the year that Cynthia Lord came to our local SCBWI conference. She is lovely person (we had some great conversations about sensory processing issues), but what I remember most is this:

Cindy, author of RULES and TOUCH BLUE, reverently took out her Newbery Honor Medal ... and let us all rub it for good luck.

RULES had just come out back then. Cynthia Lord has gone on to write the HOT ROD HAMSTER and SHELTER PET SQUAD series.

Her latest novel is A HANDFUL OF STARS. This contemporary middle grade book launches on May 26.

I was lucky enough to be included in Cindy's book vine. A group of authors are reading the ARC, blogging about A HANDFUL OF STARS, and mailing the book on to the next fan/blogger.

Read about it at Cynthia Lord's website.
Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

A Handful of Stars is set during a harvesting season among the blueberry barrens of coastal Maine. Small-town veteran Lily, and Salma, a Hispanic migrant worker, forge an unexpected friendship.

For me, this was a six flag (I use small Post-It flags to mark my favorite parts) and multiple-tissue book.

The plot kicks off when Lily's blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar in the blueberry barrens. A girl Lily's age who is working alongside her family  helps the old dog to safety. Lily and Salma's budding friendship, and Lily's longing to help Lucky see again, form the focus of the story. A HANDFUL OF STARS is a gentle book, appropriate for younger middle grade readers. It is a great end-of-year or summer read for your third graders and up.

Who will like it?
  • Animal lovers
  • Artists (both Lily and her friend Salma paint bee houses in the book)
  • Children who are on the fence between caring and not caring about clothes, appearances, and crushes.

What will readers learn about?
  • Migrant workers.
  • Maine.
  • Blueberries.
  • Small town beauty pageants and small town prejudices.
  • Navigating new friendships and nurturing old ones.
Robert Frost's long poem "Blueberries" is mentioned in A HANDFUL OF STARS (the stars are a reference to the bluberries' star-shaped blossom-end). Here is the opening of that poem, which is filled with such wonderful dialogue:

Blueberries
by Robert Frost
“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way  
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:  
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,  
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum  
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!          
And all ripe together, not some of them green  
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”  
Read the rest at Poets.Org
And here is one of my favorite quotes from A HANDFUL OF STARS. Lily is describing Salma's artwork, but she could be describing one of the reasons that I love poetry.
"Maybe when we see things all the time, we stop really looking at them. And it takes an artist, someone who can look past the ordinariness, to remind us how special they really are."
(For an example of this idea at work in a poem, look at Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks.")
Last, I would like to thank to Cindy Lord for sharing a link to her favorite blueberry enchilada recipe! This is the kind of book research I aspire to do someday.
Another recipe:
Apple Blueberry Enchiladas
from Winter Wheat.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

But Is It Poetry?: Talking Rhyming Picture Books with Laura Gehl

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!


This week's host is Catherine
at Reading to the Core.
Today, I am guest-posting for Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today's Little Ditty. You'll find my new list poem lesson for elementary schoolers at Michelle's blog. It features a model poem by Heidi Stemple, who was kind enough to let me and Michelle share, "Under My Bed."

Here at Author Amok, I'm sitting down to chat with picture book author Laura Gehl. Laura is based right here in Maryland. I was intrigued when Laura G. proposed a discussion of this question: Are rhyming picture books poetry?

Before our interview, I did some field testing. I took Laura's just-out book, And Then Another Sheep Showed Up, to Durham, North Carolina, and read it to my three-year-old nephew. And read it. And read it. By his request. Needless to say, I did not come home with the book.


Laura's new release is about a family of sheep
whose small Passover Seder turns into a meal
crammed with family and tradition.
Find it at Kar-Ben.
Laura S: When we first got in touch, you said that rhyming picture books aren’t always considered to be poetry. Can you speak about that? Why do you think some people differentiate between a rhyming text and a poem?


Laura G: I talked about this question with Corey Rosen Schwartz, author of several great rhyming books including The Three Ninja Pigs.  I don’t consider my own rhyming picture books to be poetry, nor does Corey consider her own books to be poetry.  However, both of us agree that there are rhyming picture books that we consider poetry.  For me, two examples would be Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon.  It’s hard to put into words just what makes these books seem like poetry, but tone, mood, rhythm, and overall feel are definitely part of the package.  Also, different readers may experience books differently.  If a reader believes one of my books is poetry, that’s great!  I’m honored.  But for me, they don’t read as poetry.

Laura S: Does that mean, for you, the definition of poetry extends beyond rhyme and meter? Is it tone or subject matter that makes a text feel poetic?

Laura G: For me, tone yes and subject matter no.  Any subject can be turned into poetry by a skilled poet.  Take Shel Silverstein.  He could turn a peanut butter sandwich or a boa constrictor into a poem.  Or a pancake.  Or monsters.  Even Captain Hook. 

Laura S: In your latest picture book, And Then Another Sheep Turned Up, the illustrations and page turns emphasize rhythm and rhyme. How do you think these poetic techniques support emerging reading skills?

We all love taking breaks.  For beginning readers, who are working hard to decode each word, breaks are especially helpful.  In And Then Another Sheep Turned Up, having a refrain helps beginning readers.  So does the repeated tagline “And then another sheep turned up!”  When emerging readers come to those repeated lines, they can take a break and not work so hard, because they have already decoded all of those words.  Even outside of the repeated lines, rhythm and rhyme can help beginning readers.  Take this verse:

Sharon Sheep came in at nine,
halfway through the seder meal.
“I’m sure ready to recline.
Getting here was an ordeal.”

Readers might not recognize the words “recline” and “ordeal.”  But they do know the ending sounds these words need to have in order to complete the verse, which makes decoding those two words much easier.

Laura S: The illustrations also help readers figure out those unfamiliar words. And they give adults an opportunity to talk about new words with the children they are reading to.

I brought And Then Another Sheep Turned Up with me when I visited my three-year-old nephew. It was a big hit with him. Once my nephew had some of the repeated lines down, we could play a game where I said a line incorrectly (“And then another hippopotamus turned up!”) and he corrected me. I like the way that structured texts help build pre-reading skills and confidence. Why do you think poetic techniques such as rhyme and repetition are easy to memorize, even for young ones?

Laura G: Think about how kids learn to talk—just by listening, with no formal teaching.  Kids learn to talk by hearing jumbles of words and gradually making sense of the jumbles, and early on they grab on to the words they hear the most often.  That same skill, that they’ve honed since birth, comes into play when kids grab on to a repeated line and remember it. 

As far as rhyme goes, kids do gravitate toward rhyme really early on. You can ask a three-year-old to come up with rhymes for cat, and he or she will give you a whole list…but the child is just as likely to say “lat” as to say “bat.”  For young children, the sound is what matters, not whether the rhyming word is actually a real word.  And feeling that joy in how words sound, not just what they mean, is a huge part of poetry, right? 

Laura S: I loved the wordplay in One Big Pair of Underwear. Let’s talk about the joy of rhyming words, which are so much fun to hear and to say.  How does sharing wordplay with children lay a groundwork for them to enjoy poetry?

Children can send Laura G. their drawings of animals
wearing underwear. Laura posts the pictures
at her website
and they are hysterical.
Laura G: Rhyming picture books can be a bridge for kids between the familiar (books) and the unfamiliar (poems).

Kids enjoy rhyming, tongue twisters, alliteration, and consonance.  It’s all fun for them!  If wordplay is first introduced in the context of a picture book to children who already associate books with family, love, and fun…then poetry using those same devices may seem more accessible and less foreign to those kids.

Laura S: I agree. One of our favorite books when my children were little was Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks. They loved watching Mom mess up tongue twisters. The grander my mistakes, the more they laughed. We howled over the wordplay in Charlotte Pomerantz’ The Piggy in the Puddle. What are some of your other favorite rhyming picture books to share with family?


Laura G: Julia Donaldson’s books are wonderful.  Jane Yolen’s for sure.  Corey Rosen Schwartz’s fractured fairy tales.  Karma Wilson’s Bear books.  Also, some of Jan Thomas’s books play with rhyme in a really fun way: The Rhyming Dust Bunnies is a great one for younger kids.  

Thanks for a great conversation, Laura!




Laura Gehl is the author of ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice for 2014; HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL; AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP; and the PEEP AND EGG series (hatching spring 2016 from FSG/Macmillan).  A former science and reading teacher, she also writes about science for children and adults.  Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children.  Visit her online at www.lauragehl.com and www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraGehl.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Poetry Friday Round Up

Welcome, Poetry Friday Revelers. Poetry Friday is here this week!



I'm trying Linky Tools for the first time. Keep your fingers crossed and be sure to leave your link in the comments, just in case. I give up! Leave your link in the comments. I will start rounding up in the morning.

National Poetry Month is coming up soon. Many of the Poetry Friday bloggers are planning special treats and projects. Here at Author Amok, we're getting dressed up for the occasion. During the month of April, I'll be featuring poetry about clothes. Why clothes? Read more here.

Thanks to all of you who offered to guest post for this series.


Wednesday 4/1: Guest Post by J. C. Elkin
Friday 4/3: Guest Post by Tabatha Yeatts Lonske and poem round up
Monday 4/6: Guest Post by Margaret Simon
Wednesday 4/8: Guest Post by Robyn Hood Black
Friday 4/10: Guest Post TBA and poem round up
Monday 4/13: Guest Post Heidi Mordhorst
Wednesday 4/15: Guest Post by Linda Baie
Friday 4/17: Guest Post by Catherine Johnson and poem round up
Monday 4/20: Guest Post by Robyn Campbell
Wednesday 4/22; Guest Post by Donna Smith
Friday 4/24: Guest Post by  Jan Godown Annino and poem round up
Monday 4/27: Guest Post by Linda Kulp
Wednesday 4/29: Project wrap up

Clothes can be a powerful symbol for how we navigate culture and society. Here is a wonderful poem by my teacher, Maria Mazziotti Gillan

SHAME IS THE DRESS I WEAR
On the first day of school, my mother slips a dark blue
dress over my head, ties the starched sash. Zia Louisa and
Zio Guillermo have come down the back steps to our
apartment to see me setting off. They don’t have children
of their own and Zio Guillermo is my godfather, so they are
a big part of our lives. My mother has starched this cotton
dress handed down from Zia Christiana’s late in life
daughter, Zia Christiana who has enough money to buy
lots of pretty dresses for her red-headed daughter and also
throw chickens into the garbage that year when my father
was sick and couldn’t work so we lived on farina and
spaghetti. When my mother was dying, she talked about
seeing those discarded chickens and about being too
ashamed to ask for them. Anyway, I’m standing on that
wooden kitchen chair, my mother tugging at the dress,
my hair formed into sausage curls that my mother curled
by wrapping my thick dark hair in white rags, my eyes
enormous in my long, thin face. Zia Louisa stands back,
shakes her head and says, Why didn’t you get her a better
color? This dress that both my mother and I were proud of
until my aunt’s comment pointed out what should have
been obvious, that this dark blue color, perfect for a redhead
made my olive skin look jaundiced. I could almost
feel the starched skirt deflate. Sometimes I think that little
girl in her navy dress has followed me my whole life


From Old Navy
Thanks for joining the poetry party this week, everyone! 

Blogging in our jammies:

At Kurious Kitty, Diane Mayr reminds us that tomorrow is Pi Day (3/14/15), the only time this century that the date extends to four decimal points of this mathematical constant. She has a meditative math poemby Ira Sadoff for the occasion. At Random Noodling, Diane has some fun videos to accompany her responses to Heidi Mordhorst's CH words challenge.

Carmela Martino is in with a post from Teaching Authors. She says, "I want to share a link from my co-blogger April Halprin Wayland. Her post will be about how she uses the library--why she loves her library for writing in a quiet space and for audiobooks. She's included an original poem called IT'S NOT QUIET IN THE LIBRARY. (It's about listening...if you listen, there are many sounds in the library!)"

Linda Kulp at Write Time is sharing Lullaby & Kisses Sweet with her granddaughter, Evie, who was inspired to write her own poem. What a great post about how a young reader becomes immersed in a book.

Steven Withrow has a powerful original poem, "Refugee Camp," at Crackles of Speech.

The Friday Feast at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup, is Kathi Appelt's new rhyming picture book, Counting Crows. This week's recipe, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies.

Have you been following Penny Klosterman's collaborative series, "A Great  Nephew and a Great Aunt"? Episode 11 posts today with a clever teatime poem from Penny and Landon's accompanying illustration. 


Speaking of T, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes of Today's Little Ditty says, "Today I have a bit of a hodge podge post – Tanka, TOASTS, and Total Madness. But it does include a giveaway!"

Many of our Poetry Friday regulars are participating in Ed DeCaria's March Madness, which got underway this week. Buffy Silverman is featuring her first round poem today. Buffy's word was "megolomaniacal." Ack!

Gathering Books has a beautiful poem about grief by Iphigene. Stop by and send her a virtual hug.

There's lots of news to report at Charles Waters' Poetry Time. Charles also shares two recent poems, one from the Author Amok sound poetry project (cackling lava) and another from Heidi Mordhorst's CH word daily poem challenge (strrreeetch).

Getting dressed for the day...

At Teacher Dance,  Linda Baie has an original poem in memory of her grandfather. It's a little ode to Friday the 13th and other superstitions.

Catherine at Reading to the Core has a lovely found poem from Louise Erdrich's novel The Birchbark House



Donna Smith of  Mainely Write is playing along with Heidi Mordhorst's CH word challenge. She has a clever concrete poem for the word ARCH.

Did you know it was National Cereal Day this week? Matt Forrest Esenwine blogs about that (can we have a CRUNCH day, Heidi?) and the new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. Visit Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme

Julie Larios tells us, "It's Neil Sedaka's birthday today, so over at the Drift Record I've got the lyrics to one of stranger hits from the 1960's, and an embedded video of him singing "Calendar Girl" that is possibly one of the worst music videos ever made. Or maybe just one of the weirdest?" The fireworks headdress is a must-see. Yikes.

If you live in Arizona, Joy reports that the Tucson Book Festival is tomorrow and Sunday. "I'm excited to be going. Lots of great workshops, panels and presentations to attend." Joy has a Friday the 13th poem at Poetry for Kids Joy.

Tabatha's post this week features excerpts by Howard Nemerov (a beautiful ekphrastic poem) and Ralph Salisbury. You'll find that at The Opposite of Indifference.

Mary Lee at A Reading Year says "Shame Is the Dress I Wear" is "a perfect fit for my Poetry Month project -- PO-EMotions -- which I am announcing today! I'm going to be writing poems about emotions." Stop by Mary Lee's blog to check out the announcement and her original poem, using the word ARCH for Heidi's MarCH CHallenge.

And Miss Juicy Universe herself, Heidi Mordhorst, is of course hosting the poem-a-day project so many of us are participating in, the Forward MarCH CHallenge. Today's word is "arCH" and Heidi already has some fine contributions!


It's that dreaded time of year: standardized testing season. Carol of Carol's Corner is in with a poem, now that her school has finished PARCC testing -- a good reminder that life (and school) is about our connections with other people, not test scores.

I've heard of Dueling Banjos, but not dueling odes! Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche is in a battle of the verse with her student. Who will be the winner? The ode to the sun or the ode to the moon?

At A Teaching Life, Tara Smith is featuring Poetry Friday's own Laura Purdie Salas, with a poem about coming to the end of a great book.

Thift stores are great places for finding things. Irene Latham is sharing a poem found at a thrift store: "I Love Old Things" by Wilson MacDonald.

Let's all welcome Poetry Friday newbies Darla Salay and Jen Brittin! You'll find their very first PF post, with two original poems about writing, at Two Writers

I love it when poets try and experiment with traditional forms. Tricia has a new sestina at the Miss Rumphius Effect.  The six words she selected for the poem are: sense/cents, turn, up, wind, break/brake, rays/raise/raze.

Putting on our slippers (or dancing shoes ... it IS Friday night):

Ready for spring? Becky Shillington welcomes the season with an original haiku.

Alex Baugh at Randomly Reading is getting in on the spring thing with a Wordsworth poem, "Written in March." Wordsworth compares snow to a retreating army!

At Pleasures from the Page, Ramona has a poem about the joy of discovering a new book. In this case, Paul B. Janeczko's latest: The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. "The Death of the Hat" sounds like a clothing poem to me.

There's a Carl Sandburg quote at Bildungsroman today.

I hope Catherine Johnson is not welcoming more snow with her limerick about a snowman! Happy St. Patrick's Day, Catherine!

Lori Ann Grover has a beautiful evening haiku "Crimson Blush" at her blog, On Point. Interested in learning more about The Death of the Hat? Lori also has a post about Janeczko's new book at Readertotz.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says, "Over at The Poem Farm (finally!) I have a little poem about how to become friends with a dog." How-to poems are another great form to try. Sam the Schnauzer sends you a woof of appreciation, Amy.

But enough about dogs, at All About the Books with Janet Squires, Janet is sharing the book "If Not For The Cat: Haiku" by Jack Prelutsky with paintings by Ted Rand.

Get a pre-National Poetry Month sneak peek of student poems at Jone MacCulloch's Check It Out. Jone also invites us all to sign up for an NPM poetry postcard from her talented students.

HUGE CONGRATS to PF blogger Kelly Fineman, whose book of poetry for adults launches today!! Kelly is sharing a poem from THE UNIVERSE COMES KNOCKING, entitled "Scientifically Speaking." Woo hoo, Kelly! 

At Flukeprints you'll find a link to the post "How to Host an Author at your School." Mrs. Doele's third grade class was lucky enough to have a visit with our own Amy Ludwig VanDerWater's last month.

Good morning!

For early risers and dawn-catchers, Cathy at Merely Day by Day has an original poem to greet the day: A Million Sunrises.

Loria Carter is sharing a video clip of Maya Angelou's "Life Doesn't Frighten Me At All" -- her hope for all the children of the world. 

Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink tells us about Digital Learning Day 2015, which was March 13th. Carol also has an original, architectural poem for Heidi's word of the day "ARCH."

Friendly Fairy Tales has "Sound of Spring," an original poem by Brenda. Let's all recite Brenda's lines about the thawing snow to help bring on the warm weather.

Time to put on our jammies and dream of poetry, bloggers. Thank you for coming to the party and sharing your love of words and language with everyone.