Thursday, May 23, 2019

Old Photograph Pantoum

Good Poetry Friday, Friends!

It's Memorial Day weekend finally...and despite hot and humid weather, opening pools, grills and flip flops, I'll still take time to remember our fallen guardians of freedom.  
Recycled book art (c) Linda Mitchell

This week's poetry round-up is hosted by Dani at Doing the Work that Matters. Hop over to her blog and find all kinds of poetry for the holiday weekend.

I've had some fun with research recently that led to this blog post. 

When my grandparents home was cleared out, my aunt gathered photographs and slides to scan and save digitally for posterity.  I am most fortunate to have photographs of people in my family tree much farther back than I can remember because of her efforts.

Additionally, I'd inherited one of my grandmother's recipe boxes. The box was full of hand-written cards, newspaper and magazine clippings--even some ripped off back-of-package recipes. I love that little box of Grandma so much I made a cookbook of sorts illustrated with the photograph collection to share with my sisters a few years ago.

One photograph shows my grandmother as a young woman reading a magazine. I tried to find that specific magazine volume by hunting for the tiger on the cover. I looked in Library of Congress, online archives and Ebay. I couldn't find that Collier's Weekly cover anywhere...and eventually gave up.

Flash forward to a week ago when I was perusing Pinterest and saw some antique Vogue covers... when it dawned on me that I had never looked there for my grandmother's magazine. It took me less than a quarter hour to find it... Collier's Weekly Magazine from February 4, 1939.

Courtney, W.B., et al. “Collier's.” The Unz Review,

The photograph of my grandmother...who I imagine was smiling for her be husband, my grandfather, became the inspiration for a pantoum draft.

Old Photograph

Read a magazine on the davenport
a slice of her 1939 life
News, romance, and ads purport
home is safe and sound tonight.

A slice of her 1939 life
Startled tiger looks askance
home is safe and sound tonight
leave us in peace? monkeys ask.

Startled tiger looks askance
She looks up past the lens
leave us in peace? monkeys ask
The photographer, her boyfriend.

She looks up past the lens
Trouble stirs both west and east
The photographer, her boyfriend
smiles before a flash release.

Trouble stirs both west and east
Her boyfriend joins up as a sailor
smiles before a flash release
war taps on her young shoulder.

Her boyfriend joins up as a sailor
She reads alone now for comfort
war taps on her young shoulder
Read a magazine on the davenport.

(c) Linda Mitchell

The fun? 

I've been researching the 1930s. Some people I've focused on weren't famous. I've gotten to know them through records left behind. There's mention of one of my subjects in this 1939 issue of Collier's. So fun! It kinda feels like my grandmother wanted me to find them. 

If you want to peruse this issue of Collier's, you can here.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gwendolyn Brooks

Hello FRIDAY! 

It's lovely to see you and all your poems.

Thank you writing inspiration, Margaret Simon, for hosting this week's round-up at Reflections on the Teche

I've been on a Gwendolyn Brooks kick lately.

Join me...

My Brooks fascination began with Michelle Heidenrich Barns' #NationalPoetryMonth Classroom Connections with Alice Faye Duncan

Ms. Duncan is enjoying much deserved success with her exquisite picture books including A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks (Sterling 2019). AND she's a working school librarian--which makes this school librarian's heart skip with happiness.  

Duncan, Alice Faye, and Xia Gordon. A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks. Sterling Children's Books, 2019.

In Michelle's Spotlight interview, Ms. Duncan discussed Brooks' writing. I checked Song out from my local library immediately and met Gwendolyn. I loved seeing how her parents were her first patrons. I cheered as Gwendolyn succeeded and succeeded and succeeded. If you haven't read, A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks yet, please do. You will be much richer for having read it.

Then, what to my wondering eye appears? But, Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth checked, back IN to my school library. It was re-shelved...for the tiniest bit before I checked it out myself. 

Alexander's poem in the style of Gwendolyn Brooks on p. 28 caught my could it not? I still had Duncan's lovely Song in my head.
Alexander, Kwame, et al. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. Candlewick Press, 2017 (28).

Two weeks ago, Renee LaTulippe and Lee Bennett Hopkins published episode 4 of their History of American Children's Poets of the Twentieth Century: 1950s.  This is a spectacular free video-series of poetry history gems. Check it out!

Guess who was featured? Among others....your'e right...Gwendolyn Brooks. Honestly, it felt like a tap on my shoulder from Gwendolyn herself.  I googled Brooks and found the fabulous article below with more of her children's Brain Pickings

All these meetings with Brooks in her poems and in commentary on her life's work led me to a poetic response to the person and the children's poet.  

Found haiku from, Gwendolyn Brooks's Trailblazing Vintage Poems for Kids, Celebrating Diversity and the Universal Spirit of Childhood


for joy and sorrow
belong in literature

poetic portraits


the tremendous gift
poems for and about children

playful and poignant


many of the poems
connection, darkness and light
beyond childhood

(c) Linda Mitchell

And finally a response in the style of Gwendolyn Brooks' Bronzeville Boys and Girls (Harper Collins 2006):


Gemma’s in the backyard
toes all up in mud
earth worms surround her
on high ground from a flood.

Gemma loves the worms
she talks to them and plays
that they are little children
to mind her little mama-ways.

It’s getting on toward dinner
today's sun is sinking low
Gemma gently scoops up worms
and rocks them to and fro.

She sings a goodnight worm song
a sweepy tune for sleep
tucking worms in drier dirt
then runs inside on muddy feet.

(c) Linda Mitchell

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Poetry Friday 5/10

Is it a beautiful day for soccer where you are? I hope so. Many friends we know are celebrating the book birthday of Soccerverse (Wordsong 2019), by Elizabeth Steinglass...who is our host for this week's round up. 

Liz's book of poems about soccer make it perfect for just about all 32,000,987,000 students I know (OK, maybe that's hyperbole). Seriously, join in the celebration and visit her this week at her blog: Elizabeth Steinglass--Poetry for Children and Their Grownups.

Last week, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes interviewed Liz about lots of things including her new book at Today's Little Ditty. By the end of the interview, Liz had kicked up this month's Ditty Month Challenge (DMC) :

As High School graduation approaches, I've been absorbed in the fun and details of senior year with my daughter. Of course my ditty is related to graduation.

To My Daughter's Graduation Cap

Lie Flat—
Stay on her head.
A square of Eagles’ sky
you will not take flight
until it’s time.
Point four corners
to a wide, new world
Hold the waving tassel right
until after the procession
the speeches
the walk
and applause.
Be prepared
to signify achievement
when your tassel
is moved from right
to left. Here comes the toss
Get ready...
Get set...


(c) Linda Mitchell

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood

Good Poetry Friday, Friends

I'm overjoyed to welcome May and its tender flowering. Love it!

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted at Jama's Alphabet Soup. If you've not visited this blog before, you are in for a treat. Jama expertly combines literature and delicious foods in the most amazing ways. Spoil yourself--there's no calories in reading!

Like many Teacher-writers, I have this growing pile of writing that I think maybe I'm ready to start sending out to editors and agents. One part of that process is knowing what I've written and who I've written for. I reached out to other authors with questions about how to do this.

One suggestion I received was to read, Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women who Changed the World by Susan Hood (Harper Collins 2018). 

Hood, Susan, and Selina Alko. Shaking Things up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Harpercollins Children's Books, 2018.

This is a beautiful book for  many reasons. I'm going to try to be brief...and here's the spoiler. You need to read it.

My small confession is that...I grew up perfectly fine...conservative from a rural area. I never had to worry about not having what I needed. My parents loved me and provided a family for me, my sisters and then husbands and grandchildren. To cut a long explanation short...I have had the privilege of not understanding how beholden I actually am to so many strong women who have come before and surround me.

Now that I'm well a grown-up and am in charge of fulfilling my own information needs I am drawn to stories of women who changed the world...and there is a book just for that...Shaking Things Up.

The variety of change-makers demonstrated in this book is fantastic. We begin with Molly Williams from the 1780s and, who I had never heard of and move on to inventors, doctors, code breakers, astronauts, architects, activists...all beautifully detailed, in short biographical POEMS! 

Hood, Susan, and Selina Alko. Shaking Things up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Harpercollins Children's Books, 2018.

I would have loved this book as a child...and I do now as an adult. Each poem tells one woman's story in detail that satisfies me. But, there are short notes in prose to ground facts at the end of each poem.  

For Teacher-Librarians, this book provides significant facts within the poetry, endnotes, back matter and timeline. Furthermore, the crew of illustrators that bring these biographical poems to life is ah-MAZ-ing including the work of ...

The rich timeline places each woman in context of each other is well done. And, beautifully illustrated back matter makes you keep reading every single page. I could easily use Shaking Things Up with elementary students and middle/high school students who can handle complexities of biography but need an easier reading level. I love that the story....the STORY of these women is what shines first and foremost as I open this book.

Hood, Susan, and Selina Alko. Shaking Things up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Harpercollins Children's Books, 20

As I writer I find much mentoring in the poems, book organization and design. Ms. Hood includes the words of the women themselves in the poems, endnotes and even in her author notes. Each quotation is memorable and inspiring. The sources, Books, Websites and More pages are filled with great information and places one can go to on the internet in an instant to find out more.

Hood, Susan, and Selina Alko. Shaking Things up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. Harpercollins Children's Books, 2018.

My super-short summary?

Come for the story....enjoy and stay for the learning. And, be thankful for the shoulders of giants on which we stand.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

So long #NationalPoetryMonth

Last week, I visited Matt Forest Esenwine's, Radio, Rhyme and Rhythm and learned about Sedoka. The form appealed to me. Here's an early attempt:

waking birds compose
poetry with today's dawn
sunbeams falling as line breaks


trees on the hillside
applaud with shivers and snaps 
higher praise cannot be found

(c) Linda Mitchell

Utagawa, Tanaka Heijiro. “Japanse Struikzanger Op Pruimentak, Met Haiku - Hiroshige (I) , Utagawa, Tanaka Heijiro - Google Arts & Culture.” 

More metapoems from this month 

The skinny below is inspired by a Molly Hogan poem at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Line from Molly’s Poem
~reborn in full meander blue glory

This poem meanders
in full glory

(c) Linda Mitchell


Selfie Poem
A poem stands
before the light
of a mirror
first stanza
no, second--
              thrust forward
metaphors tucked in,
rhymes arranged
in rhythmic ringlets
A dazzling
of a smile grins
until a quiet
The End

(c) Linda Mitchell

Sherman, Cindy. “Madonna (Self-Portrait) - Cindy Sherman - Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google,

Many thanks to Irene Latham for sharing a favorite source of art at Google Arts & Culture. I've spent time enjoying it. Please visit this week's Poetry Friday Round-up at Beyond Literacy with Carol Varsalona.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spring Break Poems

Happy Poetry Friday!

I've had a full, rich spring break staycation with my family. I've enjoyed waking up early, reading poetry, writing and revising poems, cooking, walking the dog, catching up on adulting details (doctor visits and cleaning) while spring unfolds all around with Virginia Red Bud and Cherry blossoms. It's been so nice, I hate to see it come to an end. 

For those that celebrate, chag Pesach samech and Happy Easter this weekend.

This week I came across:

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Children About Kindness, Presence, and How Books Transform Us

on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

Woodson's letter hit me smack-dab in the middle of my reader and writer's heart. Her words stay with me. And, in my writing time I found myself returning to it, responding... 

Found haiku from Woodson's Letter

evenings of reading
this perfect moment, called now
my sister’s stories 

(c) Linda Mitchell

Skinny Found in Jacqueline’s Letter

“this perfect moment, called Now.”
Stories in this perfect moment

(c) Linda Mitchell

This week, The American of Academy of Poets shared Emily Dickinson's ...

...which reminded me of The Nerdy Book Club's Celebration of Poetry last Sunday with Laura Shovan. She gave a delightful presentation of teaching poetry to young people--loaded with resources. Make sure you check it out on facebook. 

Laura shared how a 'cross-out poem' can jumpstart kids into the reading and writing poetry. Isn't Dickinson's poem perfect for a cross-out poem?  Here's one I wrote using words from Woodson's letter:

To Make Now

To make now it takes a moment and one story,
One moment, and a story.
And inside the crook of my arm.
Inside the crook of my arm alone will do,
if stories are few.

(c) Linda Mitchell

I hope you are enjoying #NationalPoetryMonth as much as I am. Our Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is shaping up nicely with selected song lyric lines. My line was from Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't She Beautiful', less than one minute old added yesterday. What would you add next?

Finally, as I write this, we are celebrating National Poem in Your Pocket Day! It is a treat and a blessing to have received a postcard poem from Irene Latham to carry in my pocket...which was actually my book that I'm reading and sat down with in the late afternoon. Thank you, Irene! What poems do you carry?

How to Live Your Poem
by Irene Latham

Love without borders.

invite strangers to tea
Vow to be astonished
each moment you breathe.

Yank off the covers
open wide the door
Unbuckle your dreams;
release your inner troubadour.

Praise stones and blossoms equally.
Overflow your own banks.
Electrify your life with questions.
Most of all: give thanks.

Progressive Poem April 18

Got it, Amy!

I just caught a poem from one of my favorite poets, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. She had the 17th line in this year's Kidlitosphere's Progressive Poem and told me to "take it away," because I have line 18 today.

Our progressive poem, contains lines contributed by a different authors. This month, kidlit poets from around the blogosphere each contribute a line from a song to the poem as it grows and grows. Kidlitosphere bloggers have been doing this since Irene Latham started our annual #NationalPoetryMonth tradition in 2012.

This year, poet author Matt Forest Esenwine challenged us to use lines from song lyrics. I have a handful of songs that immediately put me into a good mood. Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder is one of line is from that song.

First, take a look at the poem so far:

DAY 18

Endless summer; I can see for miles...
Fun, fun, fun - and the whole world smiles.
No time for school - just time to play,
we swim the laughin' sea each and every day.

You had only to rise, lean from your window,
the curtain opens on a portrait of today.
Kodachrome greens, dazzling blue,
It's the chance of a lifetime,

make it last forever-ready? Set? Let's Go!
Come, we'll take a walk, the sun is shining down,
Not a cloud in the sky got the sun in my eyes.
Tomorrow's here. It's called today.

Gonna get me a piece o' the sky.
I wanna fly like an eagle, to the sea
and there's a tiger in my veins.
Oh, won't you come with me waltzing the waves,
                                                                                          diving the deep?

It's not easy to know
less than one minute old


Below you can read the list of where each poem line originated:

Found Lines:
L1   The Who, 'I Can See for Miles' / The Beach Boys, 'Endless Summer'
L2   The Beach Boys, 'Fun, Fun, Fun'/Dean Martin, "When You're Smiling"
L3   The Jamies, "Summertime, Summertime'
L4   The Doors, 'Summer's Almost Gone' / Led Zeppelin, 'Good Times, Bad Times'
L5    Ray Bradbury, 'Dandelion Wine
L6    Joni Mitchell, "Chelsea Morning"
L7    Paul Simon, "Kodachrome," "Dazzling  Blue"
L8    Dan Fogelberg, "Run for the Roses" 
L9    Spice Girls, "Wannabe"/Will Smith, "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
L10  The Beatles, "Good Day Sunshine"
L11   The Carpenters, "Top of the World"
L12   Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Underneath the Lovely London Sky" 
          from MARY POPPINS
L13   Carole King, "Hi-de-ho (That Sweet Roll)"
L14  Steve Miller, "Fly Like An Eagle"
L15   Don Felder, "Wild Life"
L16   Nowlenn Leroy, "Song of the Sea" (lullaby)
L17   Sara Bareilles, "She Used to Be Mine" from WAITRESS
L18  Stevie Wonder, "Isn't She Lovely" 

And here is a list of the line finders:
Poem Line Contributors:
2 Kat @ Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @ KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @ DeoWriter
Linda @ TeacherDance
6 Tara @ Going to Walden
Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @ Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @ Live Your Poem
12 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @ Dori Reads
14 Christie @ Wondering and Wandering
16 Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @ The Poem Farm
18 Linda @ A Word Edgewise
20 Buffy @ Buffy's Blog
21 Michelle @ Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @ Reading to the Core
23 Penny @ a penny and her jots
25 Jan @ Bookseestudio
26 Linda @ Write Time
27 Sheila @ Sheila Renfro
29 Irene @ Live Your Poem

Bounce to you, Heidi!