Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent: God Comes Toward Us

May you be blessed with joy and peace, with sweet moments to remember, with the whisper of healing words as God comes near to you. 

Stained glass from St. James Episcopal Church, Perry, Florida
From The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp:

"This day, this night, the Light comes, and whose heart isn't kindled by ths Love that's a wildfire? The shepherds got angels, were lit by the angels. Everyone else that night got shepherds, heard the news from kindled, heart-burning shepherds who went and 'told everyone.' When your heart burns, you are a flaming match for other hearts. When you're a manger tramp who comes with nothing but your ragged heart and leaned close over that creche, when you've beheld his glory, the white heat of a Love like this--who doesn't tramp out of the manger and into the world with a heart glowing like hot embers in your chest?"

Wishing you Love.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 13, 2013

Voices of Christmas

I love this beautiful book by Nikki Grimes. The Christmas story unfolds in the voices of all those who were a part of the miracle of Jesus birth. Eric Velasquez' illustrations capture the mystery and wonder in the faces of each character. A lovely addition to any Christmas collection.

The Innkeeper
by Nikki Grimes

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in band of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

See here!
My inn is splitting its sides
with travelers,
the spare rooms swallowed up
by Roman soldiers, merchants,
and who knows who!
Don't blame me.
The young girl with belly
round as a drum
was not the only one
forced to come to Bethlehem.
But, since her husband
rapped upon my door,
I led them to a dry spot
in my stable,
and a bed of hay
on which to lay themselves.
It was the most I could offer,
other than to share \my own, warm room.
And who would care
to do that for strangers?
It's's not as if they were royalty, right?
A stable would do for the night.

Tabatha hosts the roundup  at The Opposite of Indifference.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pleasure Reading

I have quite a lot of projects going on at the same time, which is a bit unusual for December. I'm putting together a couple of proposals for an educational publisher. When I sent the query, suggesting three topics they might be interested in, I was surprised to hear back so quickly and to find that they wanted to see proposals for all three topics. So I've been pleasure reading children's books on my topics, formulating my ideas, and jotting lots of notes. Got one one them done and off today. Maybe we'll come back to this topic after the first of the year and talk about the process.

I'm also pleasure reading children's books for my nonfiction picture book that I wrote about in the last entry on this blogging/writing journey with Nancy I. Sanford. I've chosen Sequoyah as my topic for multiple reasons. I've already done a low level biography for State Standards Publishing, a small educational house, so I have already done some research and he's a pretty interesting guy to me, so why not use some of that research in another format? Nancy's latest post is about choosing titles from the pile of children's books I've collected to purchase, used of course, for referring back to when the need arises as I write.

I also have a pile of pleasure reading on the African country of Mali, on which I have a contract to write a third grade level book for State Standards after the first of the year.

My piles of books are taking over the house. And yes, I'm over my limit at the library, but shhhh! Don't tell anyone. I'm taking a stack back tomorrow. And yes, the weights are there for a reason. I need arm strength to carry all my piles from one place to another!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writing a Nonfiction Picture Book

If you've never followed along on a writing adventure with Nancy I. Sanders at her Blogzone, I highly recommend it.

Last week Nancy began her newest adventure--write an 800-word nonfiction picture book. Am I excited? Well, yeah. I had just made up my list of projects I want to consider for the next few month of writing, and a new nonfiction picture book manuscript was at the top of the list. I love the camaraderie, encouragement, and accountability that comes with working with other writers to accomplish a goal.

Nancy's suggestion here at the beginning of this project is to find ways to stay motivated for the next three months until the project is complete. Since I haven't been blogging very regularly lately, I see it as a good way to get both projects on track. AND I'm going to hide a little money for a shopping spree when I get to the end of this adventure!

If you're interested in joining the journey, check the links to Nancy's blog above and climb aboard. (If you haven't noticed, I like journey metaphors.) Hey, maybe we'll plan a shopping trip for the end of February, too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Idea of Order in Key West

It's Poetry Friday and I'm rambling on about my recent trip to Key West. Be sure to stop by Jama's Alphabet Soup for her latest concoction of poetry!

 Last week the hubs and I took a much needed November vacation. We flew to Miami and rented a car, drove down into the Keys, through the mangrove swamps lining either side of the road, across the seven-mile bridge, all the way to Key West. We stopped in Key Largo for Cuban coffee (oh, so good!) and a glimpse of the African Queen, the old steam boat famous for the scenes between Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The Queen currently takes sightseeing tours out into the Atlantic on motor power, but the steam engine is currently being recreated, and she will once again sail on her own steam. 

They say Truman's Little White House is one of the best kept secrets in Key West. What great history this place holds. It was originally the Navy Commandant's House until Truman began using it for his presidential trips to the Keys. He originally went on doctor's orders for rest and loved the place so much he once wrote in a letter to Bess, "I've a notion to move the capital to Key West and just stay." Some pretty historic documents were discussed and signed here--The Marshall Plan, the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and the executive order integrating the armed forces. 

Chickens roamed the grounds! Many other presidents have visited and stayed here. And when they go, they actually have to pay to stay. 

Truman's catch of the day--a six-pound grouper and a three-pound yellowtail. 
U.S. Navy photo, Harry S Truman Library
I am making my way to the literary world of the island. Hemingway's gorgeous house is a full of light and air. He was prolific while here, and I can see why. Such a beautiful place to write.
Hemingway's House in Key West is still home to 50-75 poly dactyl cats--all descendants of Hemingway's original brood of felines. 
A well-fed, fat cat on Hemingway's bed.
Hemingway's writing studio.

And finally to poetry! 

Wallace Stevens loved the island, too. He once wrote, "It was very much like a cloud full of Cuban senoritas, coconut palms, and waiters carrying ice water."

Stevens and Hemingway reportedly had a fist fight in Key West. Both were inebriated. Stevens insulted Hemingway to his sister. She went home crying and Hemingway went looking for Stevens. They met in the street where Hemingway knocked Stevens down, but Hem was still wearing his glasses. Bystanders called for Hemingway to take them off. When he did, Stevens punched him the jaw, but only succeeded in breaking his own hand in two places. After that, Hemingway thrashed him and left him in a puddle. Later Hemingway wrote in a letter, "But on mature reflection I don't know anybody needed to be hit worse than Mr. S."

Don't you just love hearing the stories, the stuff life is made of?  Hemingway fightng his demons, most likely he was bipolar with a history of suicide running through the pages of the family album. Stevens wrestling with his own disassociated worlds of poetry and  business. 

Oh, but the art. The words. 

From Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea:

“He always thought of the sea as 'la mar' which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as 'el mar' which is masculine.They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”

Sunset cruise on the Schooner America 2.0. (I even got to steer!)

The Idea of Order at Key West
by Wallace StevensShe sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.
If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.

It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Time to Stand and Stare

There has been very little time to "stand and stare" the last few weeks. I knew October would be a challenge when I realized I had scheduled four out of town trips in three weeks with my job. Add a writing conference and remember to breathe. 

I have officially resigned as editor of the Bugler. At a farewell dinner, my bosses presented me with the Order of Saint Maurice for contributions to the Infantry. I was so delighted, as very few women receive the award, and honored to have served our Infantrymen for these last eleven years.  

MG (Ret) William B. Steele, me, and COL (Ret) Richard Nurnberg
I worked the COMO (Council of Media Organizations) conference a few weeks back. The Delaney booth was next to a booth with three magicians who drew quite a crowd. Tell me just how you compete with the big bad wolf and a live bunny rabbit!

Photo: Getting ready to pack up the COMO conference exhibit. Tell me exactly how you compete with the big bad wolf right next door!

By the time I made it to the writing conference, Southern Breeze WIK in Birmingham, I was too tired to take photos. Matt de la Pena was an excellent keynote speaker. I taught a class on the Nuts and Bolts of writing for children, roomed with the effervescent nonfiction wonder, Heather Montgomery, and can't say enough thank you's to Joan Broerman for being the wonderful hostess she is. 

Last week I drove down to Albany and presented Stride Academy, a pretty cool adaptive learning product, to a curriculum director one day and a room full of librarians the next. And this week I held a teacher preview day at Coweta Charter School where I packed up half my office and carted it to Senoia, Georgia (location for the Walking Dead--the town, not the school!)

Only a few more days to manage and then it's vacation! I love vacations in November. I am planning to do an awful lot of standing and staring.

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Irene Latham is our host today for Poetry Friday, so travel over to Live Your Poem and celebrate her 1,000th blog post with lots of poetry. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Poetry Friday is Here!

On this Poetry Friday, the temps are finally dropping a bit here in the deep South, at least at night. The squirrels are bounding over my yard like acorns will never fall from the sky again. And it's time for the county fair.

Last weekend hubs and I flew to visit our grands in San Antonio where we took in the Comal County Fair. The biggest hit was the incubator with chicks pecking their way into the world as we watched mesmerized. The next attention grabber was the three-gallons of milk squirting into the collection jar attached to the milking machine attached to the cow. Three gallons in about four minutes!

My nine-year-old granddaughter had to squench up her toes to keep her slightly too large cowboy boots on her feet as she flew around in the sky on something called OMG! My sweet oldest didn't really want a ride and gave his coupons away to a little girl whose father couldn't afford tickets. Gotta love those kids. For the little boys, it was the roller coaster!

So my offering for today is from the American Sign Language Slam, a delightful interpretation of
"The Great American Roller Coaster Poem" from Season 5, ASL Slam Poetry Spots. The poem is read by Stella Bugbee, Lucianna Burse, Laura Ciporen, Cristina Collier, and Raul Draganac and directed by Andy Biskin.

Think cotton candy, snow cones, and the clatter of wheels on a wooden track. Hot dogs, merry-go-rounds and livestock!

Add your link below!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Poetry Friday: I Love Gardens

I live near one of the most beautiful gardens in the Southeast, Callaway Gardens. When I was a kid, we called it Ida Cason's, i.e. Ida Cason Callaway for whom it's named. We went to the lake with the largest man made beach to picnic and swim. When my children were small, we went for beach days, bike rides and hiking through the acres and acres of woods. Two of my children got themselves engaged there. I was nearby the gardens recently for an appointment and decided it was time I had a season pass again. I had forgotten just how much I love this place. There is such peace to be found in a garden.

The swing in one of my favorite spots.

Inside the Sibley Horticultural Center

One of the stained glass season windows. This one is summer. 

This is the garden: colors come and go
e.e. cummings

This is the garden: colors come and go,
Frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing,
Strong silent greens serenely lingering,
Absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
Upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
Of harps celestial to the quivering string,
Invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap

Read the rest here.

Tabatha Yeats hosts the roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Poetry Friday Poems for Social Justice

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice is a fine collection of poems for high school students, edited by Gail Bush and Randy Meyer and published by Norwood House, a small independent educational publisher.  A poetic journey through 20th century poems moves the reader down a road "leading toward action for social change."

Our library specialist at Delaney, the company I work for as a sales rep to schools, chose this book as one of the best of the fall collection for the library market.

Poets represent the diversity of American culture and include Tupac Shakur, Wendell Berry, Kenneth Rexroth, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes, Ishmael Reed, Assotto Saint, Fawaz Turki, Natasha Trethaway, Gary Soto, Mary Oliver, and many more.

While reading through the poems, I discovered a poem by Lee Herrick that drew me in. I had not read Lee's work before. At his website you can find other poems from this wonderful poet.


by Lee Herrick

windshield to windshield
we are parked
like matadors,
pumping gas at the am pm.
It is a normal afternoon in the valley
like all afternoons in the valley,
split between modern duty
and the desire for something better.

We are in the same world.
I pull in and
face you, but
my sunglasses shield my almond
eyes, and what you don't realize
is that I see you
in your red anger,
your believed anonymity
your life boiling you to this ugly place,
where, in the pain of inarticulacy,
your vomit words,
like swords,
hurled at me:

god    damn     jap

I look down at my chest
my almond eyes open wide
breath sputtering
blood dripping.
I pull it from just beside my heart
and I still stand.

This is where racism begins
in the throat
at the station
in the heart of valley afternoons.

I hold your bloody words,
walking to you slowly
with sword in hand.

Read the rest here.

Stop and visit with Laura at Author Amok for roundup.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Photo: I wasn't eating curds and whey and I know it's not a spider, but I did do a double take and make this critter go away.

After this guy sat down beside me yesterday, bug poems were on my mind today! I'm still not sure what he is, but his camouflage makes him look like a pine cone bract.

File:Pine cone.jpg
Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

The Insects' World
by Ethel Jacobson

Insects are creatures with three pairs of legs,
Some swim, some fly; they lay millions of eggs.
They don't wear their skeletons in, but out.
They come in three parts. Some are bare; some have hair.
Their hearts are in back; they circulate air.
They smell with their feelers and taste with their feet,
And there's scarcely a thing that some insect won't eat:
Flowers and woodwork and books and rugs,
Overcoats, people, and other bugs.
When five billion trillion keep munching each day,
It's a wonder the world isn't nibbled away!

by Ogden Nash

Some insects feed on rosebuds
And others feed on carrion.
Between them they devour the earth.
Bugs are totalitarian.

What Do You Suppose?

What do you suppose?
A bee sat on my nose.
Then what do you think?
He gave me a wink,
And said, ‘I beg your pardon,
I thought you were a garden.’

Tara has the roundup at A Teaching Life.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Talking about WIK

I will be teaching the Nuts and Bolts workshop for beginning writers at the upcoming WIK conference in Birmingham, hosted by Southern Breeze, SCBWI. I'm delighted to be over at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen's blog today for an interview.

Find out more about WIK and the editors, agents, and other wonderful writers who will be there.
To find out more or to register, visit
You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:
Aug. 28   Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29   Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30    MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31   Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3    Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4    Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5    Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6    Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents

Friday, August 23, 2013

Little Dog, Lost

It's the first Poetry Friday since my blogging hiatus, and I am so excited to tell you about this lovely novel in verse, Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer. Her book, On My Honor won the Newberry Honor Award. If you haven't read that one, you really should. Marion's new book is illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Jennifer's soft charcoal/pencil drawings (at least I think that's what they are, not being an artist) throughout the book capture the heart of the story. You can see by the cover that this dog has character.

Click this link, right here, and buy yourself a copy. You really must read it. You won't be sorry.

It's the story of a lost dog...

Little black dog with brown paws
and a brown mask
and a sweet ruffle of brown fur on her bum
just beneath her black whip of a tail.
Satiny coat.
Ears like airplane wings
that drop
just at the tips.

a boy whose mother refuses to let him have a dog...

Mark had wanted a dog
for as long as he could remember.
He had asked for a dog.
He had begged for a dog.
He had pleaded and prayed and whined for a dog.
Once he'd even tried barking for a dog.
All to no avail.

and a scary old caretaker who lives alone in the town mansion...

Charles Larue was a small man,
no one to be afraid of,
Unless you were afraid
of the great bush of his white eyebrows
or the great beak of his nose.
But to be afraid of those,
you had to ignore
the sweet, sad eyes
between eyebrows and nose,
eyes as blue as a Caribbean sea.
And you had to forget
the way Charles Larue walked
when he emerged from the house,
hands thrust deep into his pockets,
head bowed
as though against a bitter wind
even on the sunniest summer day.
An you had to pretend you didn't ntice
the shy way he glance up
and then away again
when anyone came near.

Just tell me you're not dying to know what happens!

A beautiful book, full of surprises right up to the very end.

Betsy hosts the round up today at I Think in Poems.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Recap

I hope you had a wonderful summer. I'm glad to be back to my quiet little blog. The last two months were full of travels. Florida rain over the Fourth of July with seven grands.

Photo: All the Bennett grands

Then some sun in San Diego (thank goodness!), publishers galore, great friends, and my first adventure with missing an airplane. Fortunately it turned out okay and I managed some sightseeing.

Photo: San Diego Sunset.

 Nearly a full month with my precious son, daughter-in-law, and two grands who live in Nigeria. And oh, let me tell you, they are grand! We fed ducks, ate ice cream, read books, watched movies, and built Lego cars for nearly a month. And then Dori was exhausted! 


August was a month for catching up, resting up, and finding a new rhythm for the coming days. I finished editing my final edition of the Bugler for the National Infantry Association. After eleven years, I'm hanging up my editor's hat.

I cleaned out my home office in preparation for the new school year, new publisher catalogs and new samples. I love giving away old samples, especially in so many school settings where nothing is free.

Photo: You know that expression, it gets worse before it gets better? I'm hoping for better soon as I can barely get in the door.

I'm waiting on one more box of books that should arrive tonight (I think I'm the UPS man's last stop) so I'll be ready to head out on an appointment tomorrow.

I'm hoping that I can manage my schedule a little better this fall than I have in the past, trying to be more realistic about the expectations I place on myself, and hoping to be a little more consistent in my writing time. We'll see how it all pans out as we go along.

Wishing you a wonderful week, too.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Taking a Break

Today, I'm getting ready for grandchildren, packing for the beach and then a business trip, and trying to get ahead on the massive amount of reading and email my online class has added to my routine.

I'll be taking a break from blogging for the month of July. See you back here again in August.

Enjoy your summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Student Poems and an Aesthetic

Stop by Carol's Corner today for the Poetry Friday Roundup. 

I wanted to share a couple more poems from my week with students at Brewer Elementary. I loved this photo and Metellus was so proud of the way his poem looked on the page, a little like that spraying water. 

This poet did not sign his work. We live in a military community where many fathers and mothers have been deployed multiple times. I hear his heart in this one.

I'm taking an online poetry class this month with Bob Haynes at Writers on the Net. Our first assignment was to write out our poetry aesthetic. I know the definition of the word, but I'd never thought about it in relationship to writing poetry. Trying to put into words the way I approach poetry took a little thought. Here's what I came up with. It feels very tentative.

I often find myself writing about the complexities and challenges of relationships. I like persona poems, like to try and understand what might make another person respond to life the way they do. I am not drawn to poems that are not accessible, but I long to understand the way those same poems make the leaps they do, the hidden connections. I like for a poem to make me stop and work to understand my own reaction to it, but not work to understand the poem. I am often frustrated by my inability to find the words and images that convey what I feel. I love the feeling that comes when I manage to get close. Writing in general, and poetry specifically, has given me a voice, but I am still often tentative to speak too loudly, if that makes any sense at all. I value honesty in a poem and vulnerability. I like to write joy, but it's much easier to write grief and struggle and sorrow. I don't think I have the freedom of play that I profess to love with words, even though I do love it. I call myself a writer, one who writes poems. I haven't made the leap to calling myself a poet.

At the end of the class, we will revise our aesthetic. I'll let you know if mine changes. Have you ever tried to define your approach to poetry? I'd love to hear if you have. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When You Hit Bottom

Some days you just hit bottom. You look at the rambling, unfocused thoughts in your journal, the half-finished or just-begun-but-abandoned manuscripts filling the folders on your computer, the unrevised poems for that collection you thought was such a good idea and wonder what you have to offer that hasn't already been said, done, written, or sung. And you come up with an answer that looks like the bottom of a peanut butter jar scraped with a spatula.

So what do you do? Read a book, watch a movie, eat a box of vanilla wafers (without the peanut butter, of course), the whole box. Anything but stare into that empty jar. 

But eventually you have to confront the lie. You have to look at yourself and say, "That's not true." You have to begin again to speak the truth to yourself. You are a writer because you love to write, you love the words, you love the stories, the sounds, the syntax.

And you open a new file or turn the page in your journal and begin again, because if you don't, you'll be miserable, because you're a writer. Like it or not. That's the truth. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Winslow Homer: Pictures and Poems

Our Poetry Friday host today is Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.

First, I want to thank Laura Shovan for generously sharing her wonderful poetry lessons. I had fun with summer poetry workshops this week. Read some of the student work here.

I visited the Winslow Homer exhibit at our local museum last week and was again caught up in thoughts about crossing genres.

Homer began his career producing lithographic covers for sheet music.

In 1857, his first wood engravings appeared in a Boston periodical.

 In his early work, the children looked like miniature adults.

Then he moved to New York and designed wood engravings regularly for Harper's Weekly. During the Civil War years, Harper's sent him to the field as a war correspondent.

 By the mid-1870s, Homer had mastered the art of carving children. In fact, this engraving, called "The See Saw" (1874) is one of his most famous works.

But look what came first. 

And this.
 Have you ever done this sort of thing? You've written a poem or a scene and put it away. Then you begin working on something completely different, only to discover that the piece you buried in a hypothetical drawer somewhere is the very thing you need to finish the current composition. This happened to me when I wrote my poem, "Allison." I don't normally write lengthy poems, but this one called for a number of sections, and was emotionally draining in the writing process. I got to the end, almost, and knew I needed something more, a conclusion that brought me back to joy. One day I was browsing through some old files and found that I had written that triumphant closing years earlier in a slightly different format. That old piece of a poem became the last two stanzas of "Allison."

And that brings us full circle back to poetry. Homer provided illustrations to many children's poems. Here is one for John Greenleaf Whittier's, "My Playmate," published in Ballads of New England in 1870.

by: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
    HE pines were dark on Ramoth hill,
    Their song was soft and low;
    The blossoms in the sweet May wind
    Were falling like the snow.
    The blossoms drifted at our feet,
    The orchard birds sang clear;
    The sweetest and the saddest day
    It seemed of all the year.
    For, more to me than birds or flowers,
    My playmate left her home,
    And took with her the laughing spring,
    The music and the bloom.

    Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Poetry Workshops at Brewer Elementary

I spent this week with students in the summer program at Brewer Elementary in poetry workshops. I think these have been some of my favorite classes this year. The fact that they were small classes gave both me and the students more opportunity to interact and work on their poems. There are still a few spelling and grammar errors, but our focus was getting a poem on paper. I used a couple of Laura Shovan's marvelous poetry lessons from AuthorAmok. Thanks, Laura. 

These are some of my favorites from a class of rising third and fourth graders:

And these from some rising fifth graders.

 This one is a Fibonacci poem.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crossing Genres - Fairy Tales, French Horns, and Fierce Poetry

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”

Tabatha Yeatts hosts Poetry Friday today, so when you finish here, travel over to her place for lots more poetry.

On each Friday in May, our Friends of the Library group sponsored "Tea and Tales," a bring your own teacup musical event featuring the local university's delightful French horn professor and accompanying Russian graduate student pianist. The focus each week was musical compositions that told stories.

Yes, I took my own teacup and filled it with peach tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the continental U.S. I settled in with my tea and cookies, prepared to relinquish every item on my to do list and simply enjoy the music. But alas, the writer in me forced me to set my teacup on the floor beside my seat in the auditorium and dig out my notebook and pen. Ah, yes, this got me started thinking about crossing genres. Not taking up the piano again, my track record for getting the rhythm out of my fingers onto the keys was never very good, but the way ideas and themes and stories cross genres.

The piece Dr. Hansen brought to us was the second movement of a chamber piece for piano and horn composed by Dennis LeClaire, called "Three Fairy Tales, for horn and piano." The second movement? Thumbelina!

Thumbeline. Illustrated by Lissbeth Zwerger. Newly Translated from the Danish by Richard and Clare Winston.
New York: William Morrow and Company, 1980.

Click this link to hear an excerpt from the piece. You'll need to scroll down the page a bit to click the play button. Listen and imagine the tiny little girl trapped on a lily pad. You can hear the horn calling out to her.

Did you know Hans Christian Andersen was a poet? I don't think I did. His fairy tale fame diminishes any remembering of a poem he might have written. But he wrote hundreds. Not many are available in English, but here is one with poetry as his subject.

The Native Land of Light

There is a lovely Land
We call it Poetry
It reaches to the Sky
You’ll find it in a Rosebud

Its a Melody of Love
Lives on its greenest, heav’nly Shore

And there the Song of Bliss
Is like each Day you know

God is near
you can feel
That God is near
And old times live there

The Wise and Noble tremble
So grand it is, so rich

A Golden Hindustan
The Home of Melody

The Holy Land, by God,
It stands when Worlds will fade away
We call it Poetry
That Native Land of Light

                     —Hans Christian Andersen
                        Translation—Per Nørgård as lyrics for a choral piece

The native land of light. I love that description of poetry. And did you notice that this translation was lyrics for a choral piece? Crossing genres again. But then, Andersen understood music, too.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” 

And Thumbelina's story is the basis of this poem by Bernadette Geyer that I leave you with.

Thumbelina’s Mother Speaks: To the Toad’s Mother

With each year’s passing, grief dilutes itself
within my body, portioned out the way
a flash flood ultimately finds a meek
abode to welcome every soiled drop.
In letting go, I learned to be a “good”
mother, the kind who disciplines herself
to think only of what’s best for her child.
Of course, that’s why you seized her for your son—
deluded as you were to think she’d stay.
The sky is never bluer than we dare
imagine it to be.

Read the rest here, then try your own poetic response to a fairy tale.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Words with Madeleine

Poetry Friday today is with Jama over at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

“I'm apt to get drunk on words...Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.”
                                              ― Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

by Madeleine L'Engle

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart
To silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.

"when you put something into words, it leads to so many other thoughts"
                             - Madeleine L'Engle, The Small Rain

Put something into words today!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nursery Rhymes for Dinner

Last night we had jicama with our dinner. It was my first time to eat this root vegetable native to Mexico and South America. The word is pronounced hick-uh-muh. So my brain has been turning this old nursery rhyme round and round all day long. 

More and More Impertinent
Nutkin became more and more impertinent—
"Old Mr. B! Old Mr. B!
Hickamore, Hackamore, on the King's kitchen door;
All the King's horses, and all the King's men,
Couldn't drive Hickamore, Hackamore,
Off the King's kitchen door."
Nutkin danced up and down like a sunbeam; but still Old Brown said nothing at all.

I didn't read it in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin until I had children of my own, but I can remember countless hours spent over volume ten, the poetry volume, of Junior Classics.

Tonight in the kitchen I had another nursery rhyme escapade. I felt like the farmer's wife with my carving knife.

Little tails complete with red juice! Oh dear, I may have a hard time eating my little mice tonight.