Poetry Friday: More on Kooser

Last week I was lazy.  I thought about posting for Poetry Friday but then I never got to it.

Chapters 5-7

“Poems do not have to rhyme but rhyming can add to the pleasure of reading.”Rhyming sometimes makes them easier to memorize.”

 Something I hadn’t really given much thought. I generally stay away from rhyming poems.  What I am learning is more about the internal rhyme of a poem.  It always surprises me when I do so one my own.

Kooser compares poetry forms with a package of ham cubes from the local butcher.  Love this paragraph:
“The form of a poem ought to be just that. What’s important, after all, is the ham cubes-that is, the words and images of the poem, not what contains them.  The form ought to fit the poem just like that shrink-wrap, and be just that transparent, so you can look right through the form to the ham.”

Write from the soul and heart, let poems find their shapes and then revise.

Isn’t that great?  It is generally the way I approach writing.  For me, the thoughts and ideas I have usually take shape on their own. And when I try to force the form, it usually hits a dead end.

Prose Poetry: forgoes the tool of line endings, and a line ending is a powerful tool. That open space out there at the end of a line of verse is a kind of punctuation.

This is where I think reading aloud really helps to shape the poem as one can hear where the break naturally lands.

Let the poems age for a few weeks before revising.

I do this constantly.  I am in the process of revising my little photo and haiku book to make those poems be a bit stronger.  I am really trying to let go of the 5-7-5 pattern drilled in my head as a student.

Take care not to get too sentimental, too gushy.

As I was reading this section I kept wondering if my poems were too sentimental, I think not.  I tend to write with spare words. 

 The most timely passages I read this week regarded the use of article in poetry:
“Another stylistic trend in contemporary poetry is to drop articles in an attempt to heighten the energy of the language.”  Kooser goes on to say that such a practice might work or it might make you sound like a robot.

The timeliness of this was amazing.  I received confirmation about a poem to be published in the Haiku Society of America’s member anthology on biodiversity.  Guess what the editor suggested?  That I add “a” to line 2 of my haiku.  Boy, did I have a good chuckle.

Chapter 7 is loaded with tips for revising and editing to guarantee the poem will stand out.

Poetyr Friday will be HERE. Thank you, Irene for hosting us this week.

Non-Fiction Monday: My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart and a Giveaway

There are a lot of  books about the topic of Martin Luther King, Jr for students.  From Doreen Rappaport’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s Big Words to the Rookie Reader biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.  No doubt come January, I never have enough titles to hand to teachers for the week prior to the Martin Luther King, Jr Holiday.

I have a new book to add to the collection, My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins, PHD.  It is illustrated by Eric Velasquez.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was the author’s uncle as indicated by the title.  She wanted to write about this extraordinary person in a different light; from the point of view of a child remembering her uncle. 

As I read the story, I could hear a young person retelling what she liked about her Uncle ML as he was called by his nieces and nephews.  Readers learn that hanging out with family and extended family was very important.  We are shown how big his heart was by reading how Uncle ML would step aside,  bend down and open his arms to a little girl with pigtails flying for a hug and a kiss after his Sunday sermons.

From reading about the night Uncle ML visited his sister’s house and he fell asleep on the couch with shoes on to how much he laughed with family, we come to know a personal side of Martin Luther King, Jr.  that we don’t often get to read about. 

To me, knowing the person behind the person is fascinating.  This book as well as My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris (the author’s mother) make for great reads along with all the great accomplishments during his brief life.

I really like the illustrations by Velasquez.  It is like stepping back in time, especially the illustration of the kitchen, it could have been my kitchen. In the Artist’s Note, he explains how he researched the information for accuracy along with using photos as a guide.

Watson’s goal of having readers of all ages understand the human, warm-hearted side of a larger than life public figure is accomplished in this book.

Title: My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart
Author: Angela Farris Watkins, PHD
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Date Published: 2010
Pages: unpaged
Reading Level: All Ages
Publisher: Abrams
ISBN: 978-0-8109-8975-7
Source of Book: Copy from the publisher.

BTW, I for some reason received two copies in the mail.  If you leave your name in the comments , you will have a chance to win the book. If you will tweet this review or mention the link on your blog, you have a second chance at winning.  Leave links in the comments until July 30.  I will draw a winner’s name next week.

Shelf-Employed is rounding up the non-fiction books today.

Happy Reading.


Who’s Reading What Wednesday, Part Two

Originally I was going to do one post and feature two books.  Then I sat down to do so.  Good idea, not so easy to implement.  One is a review of a book for the school library and this second is because I love to read the YA books (if I could, I would consider a middle school library).

So the second book which arrived in the mail recently was Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala, debut author.  Another book that I could not put down. 

What if your older sister died?
What if you lived with a religious, domineering mother and absentee father?
What if you had aspirations to attend a prestigious art school?
What if you dumped your childhood best friend to be friends with the popular -wild-new-girl in highschool?
What if you spent the summer teaching crafts at church camp?
What if you found out you were pregnant and didn’t want to believe it?
What are your family secrets?

Those are all questions facing Miranda AKA Mandy AKA Rand as she begins her senior year.  And the answers to those questions lead her on a quest of self-discovery and redemption.  From page one, readers will be taken on a wild ride of teen-age angst and hope.  After all, “faith manages.” One of my favorite quotes.

Cupala’s characters are memorable in this story.  From the wickedly wild Delaney who reminds Miranda of her dead sister, Xanda to Essence (love this character name), Miranda’s best friend who suffers betrayal from her.  Kamran, the boyfriend, who is serious and intellectual and gullible in the way he is played by Delaney.  High school is a long ways in the rear view mirror but you know what?  These people also attended my high school.

The book is an intense read with such valleys and peaks of secrets and expectations.  How did it end?  Cupala doesn’t disappoint.  Her words keep us at the edge of our seat.

Of course, you won’t find it in my library but I hope readers will find it in either their middles school or high school library.

Happy Reading.


Who’s Reading What Wednesday, Part One

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

 As a K5 library media specialist, I am always on the lookout for gripping books with substance to suggest to fifth graders.  I also want books that bring young readers into worlds where redemption and compassion are themes.  Bamboo People  by  Mitali Perkins is such a book which I had the pleasure to read in a day recently.

Bamboo People is the story of two boys, Chiko and Tu-Reh, in war torn Burma.  Each have experience the challenges of a country in turmoil: justice, mistreatment, rejection, revenge, and deception.

Chiko is the story of a young man whose desire is to teach.  His father, a doctor has been imprisoned by the military regime of Burma.  When he responds to an ad  for teachers, he is deceived and captured by the Burmese army.  Being forced into the army, Chiko befriends a streetwise boy, Tai.  Chiko learns how to fight and face the brutal treatment of training from Tai and in return, Tai learns to read and write.

Chiko’s  and Tai’s lives take an interesting turn when they switch places for two tasks in the Burmese army.

Tu-Reh lives a different life.  He is a Karenni refugee hiding in the jungle close to the Thailand-Burma border.  His village is attacked and burned along with the bamboo fields.  He wants revenge.  Tu-Reh is thrilled that his father, his “Peh” has finally asked him to go on a mission.

Tu-Reh and Chiko’s lives are about to intersect.  When they do, each learns lessons in redemption, forgiveness, and compassion. 

I could not put this book down.  I had heard many go things prior to reading and was at first, worried it might be too high for fourth and fifth grade.  Having read it, I think not, especially fifth grade.  I cannot wait to hand Bamboo People to a colleague who has engaged her students with books about social justice in the world.  We need more stories about how it is to be a child in other parts of the world.  These stories are critical to opening the hearts and geography of my students.   

Thank you, Mitali Perkins for bringing the world a tiny bit closer.

Title: Bamboo People
Author: Mitali Perkins
Date Published: 2010
Pages: 270
Reading Level: 5th grade and up
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2
Source of Book: Copy from the publisher.

Happy Reading.


Non-Fiction Monday: An Alphabetical Book about Walden Pond

I have always wanted to visit Walden Pond.   And through a new book by Michael McCurdy, I journeyed to this wondrous place.

Walden Then and Now, An Alphabetical Tour of Henry Thoreau’s Pond takes readers on a walk from  A to Z.

Julie Cummins describes Thoreau and McCurdy as one a “man of nature and one a man of art” in the her introduction.  Readers will understand these two men, born more than a century apart, shared a goal of preserving nature.

McCurdy takes a then and now approach in describing each letter.  For example:

  “A is for the angry ants Henry once saw battling. 

While Henry was living at Walden Pond he saw red and black ants fighting. The ants haven’t changed from Henry’s time-they will still fight one another. What’s different is that in our time they have a greater chance of being stepped upon by a human.  After all, the population of Concord in 1874 was about two thousand. Today there are more than sixteen thousand people in the town.”

The page is completed with a beautiful wood-en graving close-up of an ant.  The appendix includes source notes.  For ants, it is the following:

  • “ANTS “I observed two large ants, the one red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with one another.”(Chapter 12, paragraph 12).”

Readers are able to enjoy Walden Then and Now on many different levels.  From gazing over the woodcuts (can you imagine how long it took to create each one?) to glimpsing into how Walden Pond was over a century ago and how it is today.  I think it will be a great addition to a classroom or library about one of our earliest environmentalists.

Title: Walden Then and Now an Alphabetical Tour of Henry Thoreau’s Pond
Author: Michael McCurdy
Date Published: 2010
Pages: unpaged
Reading Level: K+
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-253-7
Source of Book: Copy from the publisher.

Non-Fiction Monday is held over at In Need of Chocolate.  Hop over and see what over nonfiction delights are being reviewed today.

Happy reading.


PS On Wednesday, I am reviewing Bamboo People and Tell Me a Secret. Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: Hangin’ With Kooser

I am working my way through Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual this summer. This week I read chapters 2-4.  When the purpose of reading is for how to improve something in your life (like writing poetry) it sure slows you down.  It seemd that each page containedthree to four gems.  Here are some of the favorites (Blue for Kooser’s thoughts and black for my response):

“Poem as a houseguest”  No one is going to try understand the hidden meanings.  This is so true.  I have a friend that because of the way poetry was taught to her, she hates poetry.  For her it means that you have to search for the hidden meaning.

“A poet needs to write with the essential details. No spare parts.”
Titles and first lines are what extend a hand in friendship to your readers
consider putting the information into the title. Use the title to carry information. Prune unnecessary words.
Opening lines are critical…sometimes writers use the first lines for the background story, writing toward the poem, including the nonessential
 Overloading the opening lines: caution here that they are not the best part and the rest of the poem falls flat

This makes me wonder what words in my poems have words to prune.  Do the titles of my poems provide information to the reader so I can get to the heart and not write toward the poem? Kooser talks about switching lines in  revision.  This works well for me in revisions of my haiku.

Kooser talked about trying forms as exercises, doing pull-ups with the pantuom.  He figures most readers will have to look up the term. He writes about the importance of self-educating with the form.


There is great benefit of  blogs on the Internet that provide prompts each week.  It gives the writer an opportunity to work on a variety of forms.  This is especially true of “Poetry Stretch” each Monday at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  I have learned so many forms of poetry through these weekly stretches.  It makes it fun to see if a poem I am working on will fit in a particular form.

I laughed when he talked about the pantuom, one of my favorite forms. No need for me to look it up.


Most importantly, poetry and the form most be fully integrated… and the poetry will develop toward the form best suited…I know this to be true of when I write a pantuom.

When I write a pantuom,  it usually pours onto the page, the poem that comes to mind is suited for the form.  If it doesn’t, I abandon the form but write down the words. Perhaps there’s a better form waiting.

Favorite quotes: “Writing is a way in which one person reaches out to another.”
“Every successful poem is unique and personal. It abides by its own rules of order.”

As I read this book, I am also very aware of how Kooser’s thoughts about poetry can be adapted to writing in general.  It’s great food for thought.

What are you reading?
Poetry Friday is hosted by My Juicy Little Universe.  Thanks, Heidi.  My original poem for the Poetry Stretch is HERE.

Non-Fiction Monday: Frankie the Walk n’ Roll Dog

This is a two-for-one post today, featuring both books by Barbara Gail Techel.  I received an email in June from Barbara asking if I would like review copies of these two books.  I haven’t responded to many requests such as this but because I own two dachshunds, I couldn’t say no.

The first, Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog introduces Frankie and her family to readers.  It is told from the point of view of Frankie (she even has her own blog).  Frankie was living a happy life with Barbara and husband, when at age 6, she developed a ruptured disc.  This left her paralyzed. Through research on the Internet, Barbara discovered a place: www.eddieswheels.com and was able to fit Frankie with a wheelchair cart.  Frankie was then able to continue on with her life after adapting to the cart.  As She goes with Barbara, others are able to see how she overcomes her obstacle.

This is an inspirational story that I believe will touch the hearts of many, especially animal lovers.  It provides a message of hope and not  giving up on challenges.  It won the 2008 Best Books Award from USA  Book News and was a finalist in the Indies Excellence Award.

In her second book, Frankie, The Walk n’ Roll Dog Visits Libby’s House,  is about how Frankie became a therapy dog at an assistive living place where many of the residents have memory problems.  After passing the tests to become a therapy dog, Frankie and Barbara visit Libby’s House. They discover the many activities planned for the seniors living there, discovered how short memories play out, particularly poignant is seeing that Eva, a resident, has made a Halloween costume for her adult son.  I commend Techel for not shying away from death in this book (which happens to one of the residents that Frankie likes).

The second book would be an excellent choice to read to students.  There is so much to discuss: the elderly, service to others,  overcoming shortcomings.  I am always in search of compassionate, inspirational stories to read.

Non-Fiction Monday is held at Abby the Librarian.

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: A Day Late

Yesterday, I got up early to babysit oldest grandgirl.  While she was sleeping I wrote most of my post for today but I didn’t have access to Internet.  After babysitting the heat got to me. That and the fact that sleeping without dreams about school, I have been sleep deprived.

Last week, I shared a Ted Kooser poem to start my summer long study of  The Poetry Home Repair Manual.  If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.  Very practical and readable. So these are this weeks notes(Kooser notes in blue, my responses, black):

“I favor poems that keep the obstacles between you and that person to a minimum.”  There are two kinds of poems:  difficult and clear and accessible. Kooser advocates for those poem that can be read and understood.  We should show appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them.

I am reminded of a friend of mine who hates poetry because she was forced to dissect each and every one for the deeper meaning.  What if she had been exposed to accessible poetry?  What if  she had poems without obstacles.

Kooser contends that the only rules worth thinking about are the standards of perfection you set for yourself.

Kooser was writing about how professionals  often are tied into rules.  So maybe it’s better that poets  not worry about making a living from poetry. And of course, William Stafford often said you have to set a low standard to get words on a page at times.

Most poets can tell you which poet triggered that interest  in writing.  Study the greats.  We teach ourselves poems we like to read. 

When I was in high school I discovered Yeats, Burns, and Browning.  I read and read them.  Over time my favorite poem forms have become free verse, pantoum, and haiku. I remember reading that first pantoum that was in one of Joyce Sidman’s books and wondering how cool is that?I had to teach myself to write them. 

I really enjoy the prompts are The Miss Rumphius Effect each week because writers are invited to try new forms.  We are invited to expand our repertoire.

How do we refresh the world with poems? Develop a daily practice of reading AND writing poetry. “Catchy phrases and little glimpses of life.” Play with you observe. Need alone time to read and write.

I love this!  This summer I have committed myself to write at least one haiku per day. (Thanks to Amy at The Poem Farm who is writing a poem a day, I was inspired). It also reminds me of Naomi Shihab Nye who talks about writing at three sentences a day from your daily observations of the world.  I remember last winter on my way to work, a very young girl was on the corner waiting for the light to change, with a bundled baby.  The image was so strong  that I wrote about it HERE.

Revision, extensive revision transforms a mediocre poem into a work that will touch the reader.

I love revision! The majority of poems on my Deowriter blog I consider drafts.  Some contests do not want poems that have been “published” on the  Internet.  And some I have revised for submissions for publication. This summer, I decided not to post everything I write.

Other quotes from the reading:

“We serve each poem we write.” Any well written poem  is worth more to the world than the person who wrote it.

Poetry is like a kaleidoscope

Favorite quote:

“And don’t think you must have an IQ of 160 to write good poems.  Most of the poets I know are of average intelligence. What makes them different is that they love playing with language.”

Poetry Friday was held at Carol’s Corner yesterday.  There are other great poems and poetry related posts.  Have fun.

Happy Reading.


Who’s Reading What Wednesday

I was on the road on Monday so I could not blog about a nonfiction book.  But I have been reading.  On the way home I finished Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson( started the Sunday night of June 6 and then set aside with the end of school craziness).  It was refreshing to read a book which I believe will have big appeal for the boys reading the reader choice books(the WA Sasquatch Award).  As I mentioned in this post, the list appears to be girl MC heavy this year.

Imagine that your dad has died, your mother is being pursued by a suitor which you don’t care for at all. Imagine that you live in the woods on the edge of a ridge and river.  Thus begins the story of Leepike Ridge.  When 11-year-old Thomas Hammond falls into the river and is swept underground, he discovers a big mystery that will change his life.

Another reader choice book (YRCA) is Swindle by Gordon Korman.  I always love the Korman books.  This is no exception.  Anytime a rare missing baseball card and a group of kids are involved, there is adventure.  This book will speak to the boys.  I am thinking of a couple I had in fifth grade book club.  When two boys find a Babe Ruth card in an old building that is being wrecked, they soon learn how easily you can be swindled.  From there plans and plots ensue to get the card back. Exciting and unpredictable the book kept me from thinking about the long day in the car on Monday. 

What are you reading?

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: Ted Kooser

I am reading The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kosser for my in depth summer poetry study.  I found this great website and this poem.  It reminded me the night before we left California; there were birds chirping all night long except they weren’t owls.  It was amazing.

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness,
it calls out again and again.

~~Delights & Shadows

I am playing with the abecederian poem, or poem constrained by alphabetical order at Deowriter.  Poetry Friday is hosted by Amy at Poetry Farm. Thanks, Amy.

Happy Reading.