Poetry Friday: A Poem From a Former Student

There’s a lot of poetry goodness happening today. It can be found at Writing the World for Kids. Thank you, Laura.

Last week, I heard from a mom how her daughter missed Poetry Rocks and was still writing poems. I sent a post card to the daughter and asked about her poems. Last night this appeared on my Facebook page.

Puppies Are So Cute

They are cuddly, too.

They like to play a lot

They like to run a lot too.

They are also a good pet

and sometimes they get a little
sleepy and they go to bed

And then in the morning they play,

play all day long.

©Rylee, 2nd grade

I love how much she knows about puppies. I believe she has a puppy at home.

She has an idea about line breaks. And the word sleepy and the repetition of play, play so fun.

Thank you, Rylee!

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Hope to see you all next week. The post will be available early. I will be revealing the CYBILS Poetry Winner for 2018. I’ve been working with some fabulous judges to decide. The finalists are giving us a run for our money.

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Poetry Friday: An Interview with Ellen Hopkins

Thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting this amazing community of poetry lovers.

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I am a long time fan and reader of Ellen Hopkins. Her book, CRANK, introduced me to novels in verse. It made me revise my WIP from prose to verse.

My oldest grand girl has been reading her since sixth grade. This year I purchased her latest, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE, to give oldest. I had to read (it was a CYBILS nomination after all). It’s a must read.

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Ellen Hopkins graciously answered the followings interview questions for me:

JRM: When and how did you get starting writing?


EH: I’ve been writing ever since I learned how. Poetry was my first love, but also short stories, essays, nonfiction, journalism. It’s a talent. It’s a passion.

JRM: What process do you use when writing in more than one voice?  Do you write the different voices as the story unfolds or each separately or a combo?

EH: I have to write chronologically, so I write each voice in succession. Often those voices connect somewhere, somehow, so it keeps everything in order in my mind, if nothing else.

JRM: If we could hear the actual voice of Violence, how would it sound? Old? Young? Or would it change?  What kind of picture did you have in your head as how Violence would look as a character?

EH: The call to violence is an ancient one, so for me the voice of Violence is ancient. Sometimes soft, sometimes loud. I picture Violence as a crone, but maybe one who can make herself beautiful if the need arises.

JRM: What kind of research did you do for this book?  Did you talk with people who’ve had first hand experience with Violence? Were you able to ask people the question of why pull a trigger?

EH: I mostly interviewed victims of gun violence… that, of course, includes the families of victims. I can tell you once someone crosses that line it changes lives forever. I was also raised in a household that had guns. My father hunted and also collected/traded them, so there has never been an aura of curiosity or inexperience with weapons surrounding me. On two occasions, as a child I witnessed my “responsible” gun-owning father (alcohol involved) put a loaded gun to my mom’s chest. She talked him down, but the fear was incredible.

Blending immigration, racism, violence and gun control seemed like a such tremendous task to weave together into one story.  Were there points when you needed to step away from the manuscript to allow it to percolate?

Stepping away from the manuscript was mostly for research. The percolation is in the pre-write for me. I generally have a real relationship with my characters before I sit down to write, especially with multiple viewpoints in the story.

JRM: How did you counter balance these hard themes when you were in the middle of writing? I wonder if it energized you or drained to write this book and how you balanced that out.

EH: Honestly, it depended on the day and what was going on, both in my life and in the world. There were several mass shootings in the news, which made it more difficult to write but also much more important. Without understanding the WHYS of gun violence we can’t work to mitigate it. Rarely do I have the luxury of stepping away from a writing project too long, by the way.

JRM: Would you like to share what’s next for you in the writing world?

EH: The next YA, which releases in October, is SANCTUARY HIGHWAY, a politically charged near-future look at where this country could end up if it keeps moving in the direction it has been. After that, I’m hoping to finish a middle grade novel about how a troubled kid who changes the lives of his new family negatively—-but much more positively.

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Stay tuned! In fourteen days, the CYBILs Awards will be announced.

Poetry Friday: Sneak Peak at Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle

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Thank you Carol W. at Carol’s Corner for hosting today’s Poetry Friday. A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have Margarita Engle send me an ARC of SOARING EARTH. This is the companion memoir to ENCHANTED AIR.

Now if you haven’t read ENCHANTED AIR yet, stop by your local library and borrow it. It was nominated for a CYBILs Poetry Award in 2015.

SOARING EARTH continues as Engle begins high school just as the social issues: Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, environmental concerns are heating up. In Engle’s lyrical language, she paints a landscape of what it’s like for a teen during the late 60’s.

Despite not being allow to travel to Cuba (thanks to the revolution there), Margarita finds other way to spread her wings through friends, writing and education.

Readers of both books are in for a treat of rich and delicious language. It’s sure to make your spirit soar.

Available in the world in February. Give youself the Valentine of a book and purchase a copy or make sure your local library has it in their collection.

Title: SOARING EARTH
Author: Margarita Engle
Illustrator:
Published: Available, February 2019
Pages: 192
Reading Level: 7th gr and beyond
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781534429536
Source: ARC sent to me by the author

The ARC I have is available for the next reader. If you’d like to read it and share the love, leave a comment and I’ll draw a name next week.

Poetry Friday: Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_1077Thanks to Irene at Live Your Poem for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

This week, I want to show case the title I nominated for the CYBILS Poetry Awaed:  VOICES IN THE AIR, POEMS FOR LISTENERS by Naomi Shihab Nye.  If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I consider her a mentor.  Last April, I attended the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture given by Naomi Shihab Nye.   I, of course, bought her latest book.

What if we were the listeners of all the voices in the air? Those who came before us or those we have yet to meet? What if we took the time to listen? What would we notice?

VOICES is divided into three sections: Messages, Voices in the Air, and More Worlds.

Nye begins with an introduction, a pondering of making sense of the strange world we currently reside in with a quote by Galway Kinnell, “To me, poetry is someone standing up to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.”

She reflects on a conversation student at the Yokohama International School in Japan. She said listening and writing poetry give us more yutori– a place to stand back to contemplate what we are living and experiencing…more spaciousness in being and more room to listen. I love this!

This ninety-five poem collection is contemplative and we should listen to one another read these poems aloud. Many of the poems were written for specific people. At the end of the book, Nye includes Biographical Notes.

We should take the time to slow down and listen.

Some of my favorite poems in this collection include: “Twilight”, “Train Across Texas”, and “Where do Poets Find Images, and For the Birds”.

Here’s the first few lines of perhaps my favorite (I’m not sure I can really choose)

Reserved for Poets
(Signs on first rows of chairs at poetry festival. La Conner, Washington)

Sunsets.

Trouble.

Full moons.

No really–they’re everybody’s.

Nothing is reserved.

I highly encourage to find this book, read it, and listen.

Title: VOICES IN THE AIR, POEMS FOR LISTENERS
Author: Naomi Shihab Nye
Illustrator:
Published: 2018
Pages: 190
Reading Level: YA
Publisher: Greenwillow
ISBN: 978-0-06-269184-2
Source: Personal purchase

Poetry Friday: H IS FOR HAIKU Book Talk

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Thanks to Linda B. at TeacherDance who is hosting Poetry Friday today. It’s going to be great.

This week, I’m starting a new chapter on this blog. The last few years, the blog has focused more on student work and less on book reviews/talks/ recommendations. Over the last month, I’ve been mulling over what to do with this blog. Certainly, when the opportunity presents itself to showcase student work, I will.

So I’ve decided to feature poetry books on this blog for Poetry Friday.

I am please to share with you H IS FOR HAIKU A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z by Sydell Rosenberg today. Rosenberg was a chartered member of the Haiku Society of America (HSA). She was a public school teacher and used her experiences as a springboard for haiku.

In Amy Losak’s introduction of her mom’s book, she speaks of the small moments that haiku makes big. This is what I love. It’s the very reason I write haiku and teach students about the form. In a society where the small moments can be missed, slowing down for discovery is so necessary.

H IS FOR HAIKU begins with Rosenberg’s definition. My favorite part of her explanation? “Haiku can’t be gimmicked; it can’t be shammed. If it is slicked into cuteness, haiku losses what it has to give.”

Here are a few examples as page spreads.

adventures over
the cat sits in the fur ring
of his tail and dreams

first library card
and a promise to read all
authors A to Z

queuing for ice cream
sweat-sprinkled office workers
on Queens Boulevard

Whether you are a first grader practicing a recorder or Xavier at the beauty parlor or seeing children with umbrellas as mushrooms, each haiku is a fresh small moment that still resonates today. It’s difficult to believe that the original haiku were written long before the publishing of the book. Rosenberg’s word choice is impeccable and rich.

Sawsan Chalabi’s illustrations are a bright complement to the text. Did you know she was responsible for the lettering of the haiku? To me it adds to the structure of the book. I’m not sure the book would work as well had the lettering been a standard font and size.

I would recommend getting this book if you need a mentor text in haiku. Losak addresses the English interpretation of haiku as being the 5-7-5 structure while explaining that many writers (including her mom) aren’t so strict about the syllable count. I think this is important when teaching young writers. I’ve been told that rules were created to be broken and the hard fast syllable structure should be broken when appropriate.

H is FOR HAIKU is nominated for the CYBILS Award in Poetry.

Title: H IS FOR HAIKU
Author: Sydell Rosenburg
Illustrator: Sawsan Chalabi
Published: 2018
Pages: unpaged
Reading Level: 3rd grade and up
Publisher: Penny Candy Books
ISBN: 978-0-9987999-7-1
Source: Personal purchase

Poetry Friday: Interview with Laura Shovan

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Thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting today.

Laura Shovan was interviewed at the CYBILS website earlier this week.  Here are follow-up questions for her.  These questions were generated from the CYBILS Poetry panel and judges.,

School closings like this don’t happen very often. Did you know of a school that was closing or where this idea come from?

School closings are quite common in Maryland. Schools here are part of large, county-wide systems. Boards of education will sometimes shift entire neighborhoods from one school to another to relieve overcrowding, or even close a school that’s below capacity. For example, in 2016, the year THE LAST FIFTH GRADE came out, a high school was closed in Carroll County, Maryland. There was a lot of push-back from the community and from families who wanted the school to stay open. Despite all the research that shows how important community involvement is in making a school feel welcoming and successful, community members are rarely consulted about such closings. They tend to be a financial decision.

How did you choose the character names and did you map out the characters and classroom dynamic in a visual way?

Some of the characters’ name have clues about their situation or personalities. One is Brianna Holmes (homophone for “homes”), whose family is temporarily living in motel. Another is Newt Mathews (the word “math” is embedded in his name), who prefers form poems where he can count out syllables. And the twins, Sloane and Sydney Costley, have the small word “cost” in their last name – a nod to the fact that they are somewhat wealthy.

I’m a visual person. I had my daughter’s fifth grade school photo taped inside my revision binder. Since I come from an education background, I had to make a seating chart. That helped me to see which characters might develop friendships … or tension. I also had a list of who lived in which neighborhoods, who rode the bus together, who lived close enough to the school to walk.
What choices did she have to make to keep each voice unique?

Giving each of the eighteen characters a unique voice was something I focused on during revisions. Instead of working on the book from the beginning to the end, I pulled out each character – one at a time – and only worked on that person’s poems. In that way, I could look at things like vocabulary, cadence, and formal elements. A free verse poem in Sloane’s voice, for example, will incorporate slang and have a lot of rhythms, to capture her attitude. A free verse poem in Norah’s voice will have longer lines and more descriptive language because Norah is more observant than Sloane.

Have you as a child or your children involved in a grassroots campaign?  

No. My family wasn’t very political when I was growing up. I don’t remember my parents talking about the Viet Nam war at all. I didn’t become politically active until I was an adult. My friends at All the Wonders recently did a post on this topic, featuring picture books.

What other books for children would you suggest if students want to learn more about becoming activists in their community?

There are many types of activism that are appropriate for children. I tend to like books about the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century and picture book biographies of civil rights activists. Three of my favorites are:

Andrea David Pinkney’s picture book SIT IN: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

Debbie Levy’s WE SHALL OVERCOME: The Story of a Song.

Tony Medina’s LOVE TO LANGSTON, about Langston Hughes’ childhood.

Another great resource is this Nerdy Book Club list from 2014: Top 10 Picture Books for Activists 

What advice do you have for writers who are working on a novel in verse?

I hear from a lot of authors who love reading novels in verse. But because they don’t see themselves as poets, they’re afraid to give the form a try. My advice is to think about the poems as short monologues. In a novel in verse, the main character or characters take the stage and describe their thoughts, feelings, and a moment of change or realization. Poetic line breaks add rhythm to the character’s speaking voice. I think this is what makes the novel-in-verse form so well-suited for voice-driven books. The combination of monologue and rhythm helps the reader hear what the character sounds like.

Thank you, Laura, for your insight!

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Time for Student Poetry Postcards!  Sign-up HERE

 Happy Poetry.

Happy Friday.

Poetry Friday: The Poetry Love Edition

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Welcome to Poetry Friday.  I am so glad you’re here.  This week was Valentine’s Day and there was so much love, poetry love in the air.

First off, Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell sent copies of HERE WE GO, the latest  Poetry Friday Power Pack.

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Just this week, our Family Engagement Committee discussed how we can best help our students during the world today.  How can we raise the level of social justice and make them feel safe?  This is the perfect book to help students make some sense of the world.

There are many ways to approach this book; read the thirty-six poems like a story or use the poems as a springboard for writing.  The end of the book is chock full of resources for both students and adult. One the resources, Poetry Performance Tips, will be used with my Poetry Rocks group, grades 1 through 3.

Poetry Rocks worked on some “What If” poems after school today in groups.  We wrote as a quick write after reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Blue Bucket and Janet Wong’s response poems by Jenna and Ameera.

What if our teachers were gingerbread
instead of people
What if blueberries could talk
instead  of regular blueberries
What if our bodies could talk
instead  of our mouths talking
What if trees were sweet tarts
instead  of regular trees
What if our homes were gingerbread
instead  of normal homes
Then everything would be weird.

By Nevaeh, Amiah, Lauren
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What if we were ghosts
instead of people
What if we could join our friends on their journey
instead just reading them
What if we could go to a land of magic
instead of going to school
What if school was fun and exciting
instead of being boring
What if our homes were made of gingerbread
instead of wood
Then life would be cooler.

By Haylie, Macy, Ricky, Taylor
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What if I could change the laws
instead of going to school
What if I could eat cookies all day
instead of celery
What if chocolate
instead of tomatoes being food
What if everything was made of chocolate
instead of trees
What if there was no play
instead of school
Then I would be very sad.

By Bentley, Jazzlynn, Taryn, Charlie
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What if I could play on my PS 4
instead of dad saying no
What if school was one hundred miles away
instead of a shortcut to home
What if there dragons
instead of moose
What if you could just float in the world
instead of outer space
What if I lived in Texas without electricity
instead of Washington

By William
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What if I could teleport
instead of walk
What if there was no school
instead of school
What if school had only recess
instead of learning
What if the sea was filled with hot chocolate
instead  of salt water
What if there was no light
instead of light
That would be bad.

By Marcella, Ella, Gabe, Italy
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What if we had no homework
instead of homework
What if babies ruled the world
instead of crawling
What if humans were dogs
instead of humans
What if the world was made out of candy
instead of not being candy
Then that would be weird.

By Angel, Jazlyn, Eliza, Dakota

Next week due to the holiday and conference, we won’t have Poetry Rocks but I have challenged them to write their own “What If”poems. We’ll see what they write.  I wrote my own “What If” poem which is posted at Deowriter.

I am going purchase some copies for our library I have a fourth grade class fired up about social justice. Can’t wait to share. Do you want your own copy? I have five copies to give away.

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MORE POETRY LOVE!!

Congratulations to Laura Shovan for winning the CYBILS Poetry Award.

Happy Friday.

Happy Poetry.