Thursday, March 15, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Eavan Boland

Happy Saint Patrick's Day...A bit o' the green has peeked through the cold breeze in Virginia. Today, I am preparing to spend time with Librarians in my region learning about ways of teaching and learning through librarianship.

Poetry Friday is hosted by poet, reader, grandmother, leader.....Linda Baie at Teacher Dance. Enjoy pearls of poetry she so graciously shares there. She's kicking off spring with some words from Robert Loveland.

I'm discovering Irish Poet, Eavan Boland (click on her name for video). Spoiler alert...she's great!

The Lost Art of Letter Writing (video here)
By Eavan Boland

The ratio of daylight to handwritingWas the same as lacemaking to eyesight.The paper was so thin it skinned air.
The hand was fire and the page tinder.Everything burned away except the onePlace they singled out between fingers
Held over a letter pad they set asideFor the long evenings of their leave-takings,Always asking after what they kept losing,
Always performing—even when a shadowFell across the page and they knew the answerWas not forthcoming—the same action:
First the leaning down, the pen becomingA staff to walk fields with as they vanishedUnderfoot into memory. Then the letting up,
read the rest

I was fortunate enough to be able to read some letters of my Irish ancestors after they made their way to New York. My Uncle has a beautiful collection of them and last summer I spent a few days enjoying the voices of people I wish I could have known. Eavan Boland really gets the Irish-American connection.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Meet My Family!

Happy Poetry Friday!


Please enjoy lots more Poetry Friday with Michelle Heiderich Barnes at her blog, 
Today's Little Ditty. She has an amazing playground of poetry for all ages. I love every visit with her there.

I am pleased and honored to be part of a blog tour of Laura Purdie Salas' newest book, Meet My Family (Lerner 2018). This book is a whimsical, loving and current peek at all kinds of families in our world through the eyes of animal babies.

Meet My Family has a place in the heart of my immediate family. Each of the six of us, Me-mom, My husband-Dad and our four kids were born in a different place to different biological parents. 

How can that be you ask?

The miracle of adoption.  When my husband and I decided to grow our family by adoption we not only fell in love with our children as they came to us but also celebrations unique to our family.

One favorite is celebrating GOTCHA DAY--which is the anniversary of the day we adopted each of three of our children we were in various locations of China. To this day, we celebrate with a meal of Chinese food. Sometimes, it's at fancy Chalin's in downtown DC. Other times, when our schedules are full, it's take-out around our kitchen table. The important thing is being together.

Our kids love retellings of when we met and details about how we learned to be family. One child would not allow me, her mother, to hold her for three days....another giggled like a little old man and another came to us running and hasn't stopped.

Even though one of our children has ventured off to college, we still celebrate GOTCHA DAY. It's a special thread in our fact, you might even call it "the red thread" .

Laura Salas has a family tradition to share as well...take it away, Laura!

My Favorite Family Tradition - Advent Celebrations

When I was a kid, my parents put more stock in rules than in traditions. But we did have a couple. The one I remember most is our advent gatherings.

Each Sunday night for four weeks before Christmas, my parents and all four of us girls would gather in the living room. Mom or Dad light the advent wreath. My sisters had helped my dad make it, and it featured a gold spray painted plywood base, plastic holly and poinsettias, and plenty of glitter. We thought it was extremely fancy! Mom would light the proper number of candles, and one of us girls would pass out that week’s “program”—scrawled after forcing everyone to commit to a particular song or story. If it was cold enough (this was in Florida), Dad would light a fire, and we’d drink hot chocolate. 

Then came the music. Someone would play an instrument, and the rest of us would crowd around to read the lyrics (who knows more than the first verse of any carol by heart?). Mom played the piano…I can still hear “Friendly Beasts.” Dad usually played saxophone. We girls would bang out tunes on the organ, piano, clarinet, recorder, piccolo…. For an hour, our faces glowed in the candlelight and twinkling tree lights, and our voices warbled, shook, and soared. Giggles and shushes occasionally broke the mood. And at the end of the hour, we bickered over who got to snuff the candles. Then, before the smoke finished wisping away, we drifted off to do our own things and the slightly mysterious together time would be over.

I don’t have any pictures of our advent celebrations, but here are my sisters and I in the living room (I’m the smallest), with the piano right behind us. As I look at this photo, the notes of Friendly Beast are starting to chime in my head. 


Thank you for visiting A Word Edgewise today, Laura. It's been really nice letting our families get to know each other here.  We'd love to get to know your family too! Share a family tradition that makes your family unique.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Reflections: 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project

Poetry Friday is hosted by poet and poetry teacher, Renee La Tullipe.

If you want to grow as a poet, take The Lyrical Language Lab with her. Her website, No Water River, is a treasure trove of poetry for writers, readers, and poetry lovers.

This past month I've played with words during Laura Shovan's 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project. It has been challenging and fun. Each day a piece of art was featured as a prompt for an Ekphrasis poem.

Schreiber, Mark. “Can I Get an Amen?! ;) #Makered #Innovation”Twitter, Twitter, 28 Feb. 2018,

A few things learned in February...

Ekphrasis poetry seemed difficult...I wasn't sure that I could write a different piece every day. The art prompts offered were all over the map from modern to traditional to fine to inexpensive to sentimental to made by professionals to made by children. 

I learned to give myself permission to skip...go back to a prompt later or cheat

My cheat is haiku I can haiku anytime. And, I'm ridiculous about keeping to 5-7-5 even though there's no rule for that. 

Also, I emphasized quantity over quality of work. I just drafted, posted and ran. I tried my best to read others work....but it wasn't always possible. As the month progressed, drafting got easier. I learned that just writing all the time really does prime the pump of creativity.

For the first half of the month, I refused to read any other poems before sketching one...I worried that reading the work of others would dampen my own imagination. But, toward the end of the month, I didn't worry about that so much. I learned to have more confidence in my voice.

Finally, I learned to use powerpoint as a journal/sketchpad. I would paste a snip of the art onto a slide and work with text next to it. It seems easier to do that than work in word or with paper/pencil for me.

powerpoint is a great digital notebook

I'm happy with the results of the month. I'm sharing a draft that surprised me--I don't really know where the words came from. They just showed up. 

Painting by Patty Gulledge
One of the very best aspects of this monthly challenge was writing daily with poets I don't see face to face in life but see online. It was fun growing with them in community. I already look forward to next year's challenge.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Poetry Friday Meets a Con

Take time to enjoy more of Poetry Friday with host Elizabeth Steinglass at her blog

Remember my #OLW'18 ?

I haven't been very playful lately. Snow days and testing have wrecked HAVOC on my work schedule. Trying to fit everything back in has been slightly stressful.

Volunteer work with school librarians has been suspenseful as Virginia lawmakers proposed a bill that, in effect, will result in fewer school librarians for middle and high school students. I'm heartsick politicians champion the bill as one of "choice." I'm still working on defeating it...even as I type. 

Writing...I've so enjoyed Laura Shovan's 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project. I'm using this time as a quick write, draft-sketch of poems. I love the first rush of creativity and this has me happily producing quantity  I wish for more time to turn these drafts into quality work.

Oh, and then there's the manuscript that I've been working on... again. I would love time to devote to that. 

So, how am I to find time for play?

And then....and fifteen-year-old reminds me that I promised (back in July I made this promise) a trip to Katsucon as a birthday gift. 

Oh, yeah. I did, didn't I?

For those, like me, who have no earthly idea what Katsukon can find out ALL the details here:

Early last Saturday morning I found myself coffee in hand, driving a happy fifteen-year-old to what I thought was going to be a day of uuuuuuuuugggggggggggggggggggggghhh!

But guess what? It was a great day of... 

I was surrounded by hundreds of people, mostly young and a few old at play. I asked my happy fifteen-year-old, "How do you define the word, play?" The answer:

While said fifteen-year-old meandered through the con looking and gaming and chatting with friends, I played too. I found a poem about cosplay -- which appeared to be the biggest method of play I could see all around me.

anticipation bubbles 
as convention dates draw near
and all my feelings muddle
my excitement, joy and fear
we’ll get our costumes ready
all my geeky friends and I
with seams and brushes steady
wielding paint and glue and dye
we toil for love of fandom
and the characters we choose
pose solo or in tandem
in so many different shoes (read the rest here)

The devotion to cosplay was impressive. And, I could detect respect between players for attention to detail and ingenuity in costume creation. 

I strolled through the crowds too, collecting words and images of merchants cashing-in on others play to photographers reveling in a plethora of posing cosplayers in a fantasy world.

I got home from the con and played with my pictures and words and thought, this is just what I needed! 

Thanks, fifteen-year-old....thanks, Katsucon.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: The Cure for Cold Feet

Thank you Check-it-Out, for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

I've  read The Cure for Cold Feet (Random House May 8, 2018) by Beth Ain

At first blush, this MG novel-in-verse packs a punch of truth and insight into what it feels like to be a new sixth grader in middle school. I mean, who doesn't closely read the bathroom walls and go through friendship earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, and cyclones?

Izzy Kline has all of that plus extra family relationships to juggle in her soon as she organizes things with her mother, brother, and father.

Cure's subtitle, a novel in small moments, gives us a hint about the real vibe of the story. In so many small but essential moments, Izzy works out who she is as a daughter, sister, friend, step-daughter and sixth grader. She faces tough choices in allowing herself to be defined by the lives of her family and friends or by her own ideas of who she is.....all in between dashes of sixth-grade life.

Her story makes me realize just how much so many of my students are actually working through -- talk about homework!

The Cure for Cold Feet is a book I'm happy to have in my middle school library. This is a book that reaches out to kids that might think that they are alone in figuring things out...who need a laugh....who need to know that the small moments good and bad pass but are like pages of the chapters of our life stories.

The real power of Cure for Cold Feet is Izzy's ability to navigate her world and speak up for what she believes is right. I was cheering for her all along the way.

What I like about this book is that it is a novel-in-verse....however, as blank verse, I didn't even notice. I was drawn into Izzy's story. The format of text didn't matter to me at all. However, it might really help a student that gets tired or stressed out from traditionally dense paragraphs and pages.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Poetry Supports History Curriculum

Welcome Poetry Friday friends. This week's round-up of all Poetry Friday posts is hosted by Sally Murphy. Please take a short hop to Australia for a visit.

I am a most fortunate as a Teacher Librarian. Many of the classroom teachers and specialists I work with not only are willing to collaborate with me but also to collaborate on lessons that involve my favorite topics.

Recently, a seventh-grade class was studying World War I. This is a common time period of study at this grade level. A challenge for the teacher I collaborated with is that many students are English Language Learners at very early stages of learning English. There are some seriously complex ideas to work with in WWI. 

I am constantly amazed at how young people are able to learn a language while learning content in that language. I studied French in HS and college and lived in a non-English speaking country. It's not easy!

So, what did Ms. SS and I do? We enlisted poetry to meet a Virginia Standard of Learning.

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the changing role of the United States from the late nineteenth century through World War I by
c)   explaining the reasons for the United States’ involvement in World War I and its international leadership role at the conclusion of the war.

I took a poetry lesson from our US Library of Congress and adapted it to the needs of these middle school students.\: "In Flanders Fields" -- Using Multiple Approaches to Explore a Poem, written by Peter Armenti.

Ms. SS and I put our heads together about what her students needed.  We also brainstormed a way to share the origins of the poem very briefly so that students could maximize connections.

When we gathered in her classroom, students first listened to the poem and jotted down whatever came to mind--then chatted about those words with an elbow partner.

Next, students used our school's annotation symbols on a paper copy of the poem as they listened to a second reading. There was even more to talk about now that keywords and phrases were underlined....."we are the dead" being very popular.

Ms SS found a concise history of the poem on the internet that I was able to summarize, the inspiration of In Flanders Fields, in two powerpoint slides that allowed us to talk about how the author of the poem, John McCrae had lost a dear friend, Alexis Helmer. Now we had middle school connections all over.

Ms. SS and I then gave our students a way of showing learning and new understanding by illustrating the poem with a blank graphic novel page. Students were able to immediately show text to self and text to history content connections with their knowledge of how a graphic novel works. 

Our students are pretty graphic-novel savvy. The template we used for our graphic novel pages is free and found at picklebums....although there are many free templates on the internet to choose from. 

To foster creativity, Ms. SS provided sample mentor text/illustration pages. I provide a page of images to cut and glue
onto the GN template page. These WWI images were culled from sources on the internet. 

We could have accomplished this activity digitally. However, we thought about the value in limiting these students to the images we provided, which was matched to the poem or was a text box of information taken right out of our Virginia State teaching standards. Images included clipart of larks, cemeteries, WWI soldiers, WWI trenches, poppies.

We were pleased to see students doing history rather than trying to listen and understand history from teacher talk. They cut up copies of the poem we provided (in English and Spanish) and illustrated as many of the words they chose. It was fascinating to see their choices....and to know that In Flanders Fields is a poem they now associate with World War I and remembering those who served.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Getting to Know Poet Catherine Flynn

Happy Poetry Friday! seemed to take forever to get to. I'm so glad it's here. Please stop by and say Hey to Donna at Mainly Write. She's graciously hosting this week's round-up. 

One of my goals this year as a poet is to learn poetry from lots of angles. I thought I'd ask some of my favorite Teacher-Writer poets if I could interview them. Catherine Flynn of Reading to the Core is my brave test case! I'm starting out with just five questions I sent to her via e-mail that she answered.

I love learning with and from writer friends...don't you?  Join our conversation...

A WORD EDGEWISE (AWE): Why poetry? Do you write in other genres?

CatherineNaomi Shihab Nye has said, “For me, poetry has always been a way of paying attention to the world.”
lillaby . “Picture Frame, Retro, Background.” Pixabay - 3050245, Pixabay, 2018, 

This captures the essence of poetry for me. Much of my poetry is inspired by nature and I hope that my poems make others see and appreciate the beauty found everywhere in the world. Playing with language, finding just the right words, expressing an intangible feeling in a way that makes others say, “Of course!” all make the process of writing anything, not just poetry, deeply satisfying.

AWE: How do you balance reading and writing time?

Catherine: This is the trick, isn’t it?

We all know Jane Yolen’s classic advice: “keep [your] BIC (butt in chair),” but with a full-time job, it isn’t always that simple.

AWE: What can you say about Poetry Friday?

Catherine: Not enough! The poets and teachers who participate in Poetry Friday have to be the kindest, most supportive people on the planet! The encouragement I’ve received from many poets whose work I love and admire has driven me to stretch myself as a poet in ways I couldn’t have imagined five years ago. I can honestly say I would never have written half the poems I’ve written if not for Poetry Friday.

(These resources) have all inspired and encouraged me to try new forms and write about topics I wouldn’t have otherwise. Reading PF posts each week has filled in gaps in my knowledge of poems, poets, and poetic forms and techniques. And PF posts are full of inspiration! I always come away from my weekly reading with at least one idea for a new poem. I’m also thankful to Poetry Friday for bringing me together with my the newest members of my critique group.

AWETell me about revision...

Catherine: Sometimes a fix is simple, like a subject-verb agreement error. Other times it may be more complicated, such as the rhythm being off. Thanks to two Highlights Foundation Workshops with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, I’m very aware of using “and” and “the” very sparingly, so those are the next to go.

When I’m really stumped by an elusive word or rhythm, I run the troublesome line (or lines) through my head on my way to work or while I’m doing the dishes. More often than not, I’m able to figure out a solution. Of course, there are times when whole lines have to be cut, but I’ve always found it better to get all my ideas out, then cut and shape what I have. Sometimes when a poem isn’t working, finding a new form for the idea is the answer.

AWE: What’s next for you?

Catherine: I’ve been working on a project for a couple of years that I am determined to finish this year!

Thank you, Catherine Flynn, for being my first poet-to-poet interview. I so enjoy learning about how you approach poetry and where you go to for support.

If you have follow-up questions for Catherine, please add them to the comments section. I'll bet Catherine peeks in on A Word Edgewise at some point over the weekend. But, I'm also happy to send them on to her.

Happy Poetry Friday everyone!