April 12, 2016

Monday, April 15, 2013

National Poetry Month 2013: Tools for Listening and Keeping Track

When I visit elementary schools, I always begin the residency with two questions for my students: "What do you already know about poetry?" and "Have you ever heard a poet read her own work?"

In response to the first question, children love to show off what they know -- poems can, but don't have to rhyme; there are poetic techniques like alliteration and imagery; poems can be about anything the poet chooses; they are a good outlet for self-expression.

However, my question about seeing or hearing poetry in performance usually only earns a few raised hands. For most elementary schoolers, a poem is text on a page, not a living art.

Today in the TechnoVerse, Poetry Friday blogger Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares some multi-sensory tools that can enhance poetry on the page.
Amy book Forest Has a Song was just released!
SoundCloud and Pinterest: Listening & Keeping Track
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

I usually write by hand on creamy journal paper, and our family does not own a television. I call for my husband–“Honey!”–when faced with a computer glitch. My children change my laptop wallpaper to strange scenes of cartoon penguins, and I do not know how to get the cat photos back.  So I’m a bit slow to many new possibilities in the TechnoVerse. Still, here are a couple of tech-y sites that have helped me.


Poems weave sound with meaning, and most poets will tell you that they read their work aloud as a part of their revision process. I do this too, and for the first two years of my blog, The Poem Farm, I relied on my voice and also the voice of my children and husband to read back poems, so that I could hear “if they sounded right."

Last year, however, I thought that it would be interesting to add audio to my posts, so that children could hear the way I read my own poems. I like listening to the voices of poets, so why not add this feature to my own work? Video was not necessary; it’s the “book version” of a poem over the “movie version” here. My face need not distract. Not knowing what program or app to use, I played around a bit on my iPhone and found SoundCloud. It was free (I recorded 121 poems for free before needing to upgrade yesterday to a Pro Plan for $33.99.) And it was easy. Just a few button presses, and I can save and upload my readings of poems.

Many teachers have told me that they appreciate the addition of audio on my site; it helps children develop an ear for reading poems and for hearing line breaks read by someone else. I did not anticipate, however, that recording my poems would also help me revise. But it does. Many times, reading my “finished” poem aloud, I would record only to discover that something was off, even after many out-loud readings without SoundCloud.  Many times, I have gone back to the notebook to fix meters and rhythms, line breaks and rhyme. SoundCloud has become a final check for me. I recommend that teachers use this, or another similar site, to help children listen to their own voices and poems.

This is a simple site to use, and recording on my iPhone allows me to find a quiet place (usually on my bed) away from barking dogs and violas and giggling children. Uploading is quick, and it is easy to embed the HTML code into a blog. You can see and listen to my SoundCloud tracks here -


For anyone unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a series of online bulletin boards that you make yourself. Pinterest is one way to keep track of sites and posts, books and interviews that interest you, information that you want to keep somewhere safe. Online goodies that you wish to keep, but that you don’t want to print and keep. What you pin can be seen by the world, and what the world pins can be seen by you. It’s a big ol’ flea market of everyone sharing their favorite stuff–for free.

[Amy's "Poetry Crafts" board on Pinterest is here, and it includes this pinned poetry craft:]
To sign up for Pinterest, you simply enter through a Facebook account, and from there on out, things are quite easy. It’s overwhelming at first to see the whole world of people’s favorite dresses and recipes, crafts and home d├ęcor ideas, but just like with Facebook, you may choose who to follow. You may even choose which bulletin boards (“boards”) of which people you would like to follow. So in this way, you have control over what you see. You do not have to be real friends, or even real Facebook friends with people on Pinterest. You follow by interest, and you pin what you like. Following someone on Pinterest does not mean that you will be Facebook friends. These are separate.

So, how do I use Pinterest with poetry? To save things. It’s my online notebook. I’m quite disorganized, and so when I see a site with promise or a post with an idea I’d like to save, I simply “Pin It” to a board that matches it. I’ve made the boards myself (everyone makes their own custom boards), so this takes no time at all. The “Pin It” button on my task bar makes saving a new site a one click job. Most of the sites I visit regularly are not on my boards as I have them in my heart, but I have plans to link to more and more both for myself and to give exposure to my friends’ and colleagues’ sites. Many people have found my blog through what I have pinned, and in this way my online community has widened.

While I have aspirations to improve my organization and categorization of my pins, right now, for poetry, I keep the following boards:

(I plan to combine these first two boards)

There are limitless possibilities for pinboards around poetry. Off the top of my head, I am imagining boards around types or subjects of poetry (pin bibliographies), photos for writing-inspiration, writing contests/retreats, and on and on.

Neither of these sites–SoundCloud or Pinterest–take a lot of my time, but in small ways, each has helped me to learn more about poetry and to manage these new understandings too.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is an author and teacher living on Heart Rock Farm (The Poem Farm) in Holland, NY. Her first poetry book, FOREST HAS A SONG, was published by Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Spring 2013) and her second book, READING TIME, will be published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press (date TBA). Amy is also co-author with Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons of the grade 2 book POETRY: BIG THOUGHTS IN SMALL PACKAGES (Heinemann, 2013). In addition to poetry, Amy has written local NPR commentaries as well as a column for EDIBLE BUFFALO, and she works in many school districts teaching about writing. Amy blogs at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks, both sites for anyone who is interested in poetry and notebook-keeping.

Amy, I can't wait to try out SoundCloud. You  make it sound like a great and simple tool for revision. I have to admit, I've been avoiding Pinterest--worried that I will use it more for procrastination than productivity--but you've encouraged me to at least give it a try.

Tomorrow in the TechnoVerse, poet Ken Ronkowitz tells us about his longstanding poetry site, Poets Online.


skanny17 said...

You have convinced me to try Pinterest. I haven't done much with it. Actually it is a huge deal I am on FB since the fall and the idea of actually writing my own blog....will wonders never cease. I just need enough time to have a bit ready to roll for the blog, but it is getting closer to rolling on out. I love SoundCloud and thanks to you, actually, I started my own blog just for that to help my kids. It is easy, though I still fumble some, but now with a smart phone it should be much easier. LOVE your butterly symmetry. You are such a good poet! I really admire your work.
PS THanks, Laura for this WONDERFUL month of TechnoVerse!! I am putting you on the flyer I am passing out at the Poetry Olio at IRA on Saturday!!! Forest and The Poem Farm are on there, too. I am so happy to have found you all.

Tabatha said...

You make a good case for SoundCloud, Amy! (I already like Pinterest.) Thanks for taking time to explain how it works to us.

Diane Mayr said...

For those who are afraid that Pinterest is a major time sucker--you needn't get sucked in. I use Pinterest to keep organized in the way that Amy does. I don't spend hours at the main site looking at random boards. (If you have plenty of time to kill, that would be the way to go.) You can sign up for email notifications when people repin something you have pinned, or when someone follows your boards. On occasion I will check out the boards of those who have repinned/followed something of mine. It's an easy way to limit my time spent on Pinterest to only those who share interests in common.

Yvonne B. said...

I love what you are doing to celebrate NPM! Check out what I'm doing at I would love to know what you think!

Yvonne Brown

laurasalas said...

Thanks for sharing these, Amy (and Laura). I am on Pinterest already, though I need to pin more regularly. (Question--is the reason you make your poems images on your blog so that it pins right onto Pinterest?)

I haven't ever tried Soundcloud, though. I'm thinking of giving it a try. Maybe some of my Poem Starters could be just audio. Much simpler than video, I think. I wouldn't have to put on lip gloss:>)