Last week, I led my final ekphrastic poetry workshop for the Maryland Humanities Council program, "Totally Ekphrastic: Picturing America through Poetry." The poetry sessions were an off-shoot of the NEH's Picturing America art curriculum.
It's sad to say goodbye to my good friend, the American Flamingo. We laughed together. (One student said, "It reminds me of cotton candy." Another: "It looks like it's doing yoga.") We cried together. (Kids asked me, "Can flamingos fly?" Since they are no longer wild in the U.S., I'd never seen one in flight. We had to look up the answer -- they can.)
As I worked with the image, John James Audubon's biography, and kids, I found myself discussing American history with students -- Audubon recording birds when much of our country was wilderness, his role as a naturalist, the fact that flamingos now live only in captivity.
A discussion about art that leads naturally into learning about American history -- that's what this program was supposed to be all about. There's a great George F. Will article about "Picturing America." He praises the program as the type of low-cost, high benefit initiative our government should do more often.
In my workshops, I heard a lot of elementary schoolers' poems about flamingos, wolves, elephants -- whatever animals struck their imagination.
One thing that definitely caught their attention: I shared Laura Purdie Salas' book, "A Fuzzy Fast Blur: Poems about Pets" as a model of poems about animals.
The hands-down favorite poem was, "Come in, Come in!" which Laura gave me permission to share today. (The snake below isn't the snake from her book, BTW. You have to check that one out -- it's grinning as it eats its dinner.)
Come in, Come in!
I'll make it easy
I'll open wide
I'll hope that you
will slide inside
Snakes eat mice
Some find that sad
But here's the truth:
They don't taste bad!Had to include this photo. At least this mouse gets the last laugh!