Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tis a Gift

Happy Poetry Friday!

How are you navigating November?  As I was casting around for an idea for today's post, the Shaker song, Tis a Gift to be Simple caught me. 

On Monday, my family gave me a day to go history hunting. I drove into West Virginia coal country. In 1934, this area was hit hard during the Great Depression.

Demand for coal had dropped off after WWI, oil was on the scene diminishing demand even more, labor fought with business and then the stock market crash sent everything into a downfall for years. Miners laid off out in Scott's Run WV weren't used to making more than company script. There was no safety net save Mother Nature.

Arthurdale was a homestead project of FDR's New Deal. It was considered a hand-up rather than a hand-out by policy makers of the time trying to prime the pump of the economy while stemming the tide of widespread unemployment and specific homelessness and dire conditions in Scott's Run. There are millions of details and decades of detail to learn about Arthurdale.

Arthurdale was very much Eleanor Roosevelt's project. She poured her heart and soul into the 165 homesteads--of which 162 are still standing and inhabited today.

My time poking around one of her projects was a gift.

And bonus? One of the books I listened to on my ride was The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo......just before she won the National Book Award this week. Another gift.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

H is for Haiku...R is for Review

Hello Poetry Friday,

Isn't it nice to be able to say that Friday has arrived? I know it felt like a long, hard week by the time we all went to bed on Tuesday...wondering how we'd make it to here and now. But, we did it! It's Friday (the eve of as I type this).

These past couple of weeks, I've really needed some unwind time, you know? I have needed to come home from work and sit quietly for a few minutes. Any day now, I'm going to get that time. Ha!

For now, I enjoy Poetry Friday on my phone wherever I am in my day. Please stop over to Michelle H. Barnes' Today's Little Ditty for an amazing poetry, poem experience.

Another thing I'm really trying to do these days is to be present, in the not think about the future as often as I'm used to doing. You know what helps me do that? Haiku.

This past week, I spent time in, H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A - Z, by Sydell Rosenberg (Penny Candy Books 2018).

It's really tough to decide which is most important to lead a review with...the haiku itself, or, the story of how Amy Losak lovingly took her mother's haiku and crafted them into a picture book.

I literally flipped a coin to decide.

heads says, start with Syd
haiku reader and writer
city lovin' kid

~Linda Mitchell

That's the thing....each of the moments described by the beautiful, mindful haiku of Syd Rosenberg are from city life. Isn't this what we need today? 

Even if I live outside the city, the busy-ness of work and kids and house work, yard work, community's all so much. There's a city in my schedule! But, within the city, Syd finds those moments. Those beautiful stop here and rest moments captured in her haiku. Reading H is for Haiku is to enjoy twenty-six moments of rest....reading the words, feeling the experience of them and matching them to the beautiful illustrations.

Even if Syd aimed to write haiku for young people and this book is designed for young readers...I am a better person for reading it to at the ripe old age of #old-enough-to-not-want-to-tell.

Perhaps my favorite moment in H is for Haiku...illustrations by the incredibly talented Sawson Chalabi

It's impossible not to fall in love with how H is for Haiku came into being. Syd passed away. Amy, her daughter, spent time reading her mother's work, organizing it and arranging it into a lovely picture book. See more about that here. The A-Z format works well. But, alphabet letters don't over-power the poetry. 

H is for Haiku is a memorial and labor of love between mother and daughter. As I read and reflected on the picture book this week I thought a lot about my own mother and the art she left for me to remember her by. My mother's art was in clothing design and tailoring. I don't forsee myself creating a work in her memory in the same way that Ms. Losak has. But, I get it. And, I feel like both Syd and Amy are friends of a sort in that they get it too.

mom's birthday is soon
november fifteenth -- next week
candles in my heart

Mom and me....a long time ago

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Out of Pocket for VCSS Conference

I'm out of pocket for Poetry Friday this week as I'm presenting at the Virginia Council for the Social Studies Conference. The presentation grew out of a facebook post by Nikki Grimes over a year ago about book talks for teachers...wouldn't that be good? And.....many times I've talked to teachers about "sets" of books that would be good for specific topics.

My presentation partner and I are both librarians and have experience presenting with American Association of School Librarians. We thought a book talk of current books for Social Studies teachers would be a good idea.

On Friday, we are presenting Recommended Reads for Middle Grade Social Studies Teachers: World War II to present. These books match the current Virginia Standards of Learning for History & Social Science US History. Virginia is not a Common Core state.

Included in an abbreviated slide show of our talk on the VCSS Conference website one can find:
  • A link to a bibliography of books. (presentation titles are highlighted)
  • Criteria for title selection
  • Link to suggest titles--if there is a title you would like to see included (must meet criteria of the VA SOLs above)
  • A curation activity with lesson plan and materials
I hope that cross-conferencing between Librarians and Social Studies Teachers is productive. If you use any of the materials, I'd appreciate a nod. Let me know if they are helpful to you.

It IS Poetry Friday and hosted by the amazing, talented blogger, Jama who writes about food and literature! What could be better? I highly recommend a stop over at her blog to see what's cooking.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Secret Shape & Concrete Poems

Good Poetry Friday

Kay is hosting today's wonderful round-up at A Journey Through the Pages. Stop by for a visit with her poems. They're lovely and touching...just like Autumn.

Last week's Poetry Friday offered two prompts that caught my fancy. One was from The Opposite of Indifference:

"The secret shape of ________ is a ___________"

The second ... I can't recall the source of...(did I dream it?). was to take a walk, gather fall things and turn them into concrete poems.

This past week provided perfect combinations of those prompts -- I'm sharing some bits from responses from my journals.

my messy journal--I like it like that

the secret shape of
is college touring
   -- daughter leaves too soon

the secret shape of
an acorn is a jewel tree
adorning the sky

the secret shape of
october – is a frost sketch
made beneath the stars

the secret scent of
maple leaf is brown sugar
a low-boiled sun

(c) Linda Mitchell

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pounding Cobblestones by Barbara Krasner

Isn't it wonderful that Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales is hosting Poetry Friday this week? If you haven't caught her series of fall flower photographs paired with short verse, you're in for a treat when you visit. She's amazing with how close she can get to the heart of a flower or meaning.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Highlights Workshop. It was wonderful. The author-leaders, Alma Fullerton and Kathy Erskine, were (and still are) fun and encouraging and super good writers. I got a jolt of energy and encouragement that has sustained me since.

I also met Barbara Krasner, an author, poet, teacher, student and world traveler. I really learned a lot  about her writing process and what brings her to her writing projects.

Fast forward to today. I'm holding Barbara's chap book, Pounding Cobblestones, in my hands and really enjoying it.

I'm also reading her chap book with an ulterior motive. I think I just might have enough material to attempt a chap book and am seeking mentor texts. 

I had a chance to ask Barbara a little bit about Pounding Cobblestones. Here's what I learned:

Linda: Cobblestones show up in almost every poem. What do they represent for you now that Pounding Cobblestones is finished and out in the world?

Barbara: On my first day in Prague, I was struck by the beauty of the wet cobblestone (cover photo). I could hear rumblings along the cobblestone near Charles University and that immediately brought me back in time to an earlier age. At Terezin, a hole in the asphalt revealed cobblestone.

Linda: Tell us about revision...

Barbara: I wanted to create a poetic narrative of my month in the Czech Republic and how it affected me. There were certainly poems cut from the collection and new ones that had to be added to flesh out the narrative frame. I revise poems based on feedback from a mentor and my own judgment about words/lines not working.

Linda: Do you creatively cross-train? What other creative activities do you engage in to keep your poetry sharp and fresh?

Barbara: I write fiction, nonfiction and poetry for adults and young readers. I think writing poetry informs my work particularly in nonfiction, for instance, to find the right simile or metaphor, the right imagery for an emotional response.

Linda: What's next for you? Where else can I find your work?

Barbara: I have a number of projects in the queue with my agent. I hope to write a new children's picture book in sonnets over my winter break and to revise a middle-grade biography over the summer. You can find my work at Typehouse, a Jewish Literary Journal, Gravel and elsewhere. Many of my works are listed on my website at

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Poetry Friday --Falling in love with the Kyrielle

Poetry Friday....oh, it's so good to see you again.

Today's round up is hosted by Writing the World for Kids. Laura Purdie Salas is a pretty amazing poet-author AND cheerleader for other writers. I recommend visiting her and signing up for updates from her blog.

Have you fallen in love with the Kyrielle? If I'm correct, Robin Hood Black kicked off love of them with her blog post of September 27th in which she introduced us to poems of hers included in The Poetry of Us edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic. September 2018).

Robyn also shared a definition of the form:

I had never heard of a kyrielle before, but I loved the sound of the form, the history....what Amy Van Derwater did with the form in her poem Monarchs and Math: A Kyrielle last week. So, I decided to give it a go. 

One of Molly Hogan's photographs was inspiration for my exercise in Kyrielle writing. I had a hard time with an ABAB pattern. Writer buddy Margaret Simon helped me figure out that the poem was stronger as AABB and I'm pretty happy with my first crack at this form. It's so pretty. I know I'll write more. You?

First, the photograph prompt by Molly

By Molly Hogan

Next, a quote from Ann LaMott to get the juices flowing...

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.   Anne Lamott

Finally, a kyrielle...

Mystery of Grace

River and I are watching Sun both of us on a daily run
Enter morning without a fuss
A mystery of grace greets us

My sneakers pound and race ahead
River makes-up its unmade bed
We routinely do what we must
A mystery of grace greets us

Shadow and rapids round the bend
We brace ourselves for dark again
A mist-moored boat whispers, trust
A mystery of grace greets us

River and I, long running friends
know that in due course shadow ends
We re-enter sun’s light joyous
A mystery of grace greets us

(c) Linda Mitchell

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Riffing on American Children's Poets of 1920s

Happy Poetry Friday, friends.

This week's round-up is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference . I hope you get a chance to spend time at her blog. She brings a fresh look to poetry every single week. 

Last week, Renee La Tulippe and Lee Bennett Hopkins teamed up to present the first episode in their series: History of American Children's Poets. I loved the interview and chat between these two. The poems from the 1920s were new to me. I chose two as mentor texts to write to.

The first is,

Something Told the Wild Geese

by Rachel Field (1924)

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered "snow."

read the rest here

My attempt at a similar poem was OK. It was an attempt with few surprises--a greeting card.

Something in the Dreaming Teen

Something in the dreaming teen
no one knows quite how
Amid playthings and games of youth
Something whispered now.

High school’s final year
projects finished,  prom attended,
between homeroom and final bell
a fish hook descended

into the small pond of big fish
set to swim out to the sea
into new unchartered waters
vast with danger and discovery.

Something in the dreaming teen
said it was time to grow.
Caps and gowns wave goodbye
tomorrow's sunrise beams hello.

(c) Linda Mitchell

Then, I took a look at Hills by Hilda Conkling. 


The Hills are going somewhere;
They have been on the way a long time.
They are like camels in a line.
But they move more slowly.

read the rest here

This poem reminded me of Amy Ludwig Van Derwater's challenge last week to write a persona poem as a place. 

                  If you do not know what to write about today, 

                 try making a list of places.  

                  Then  choose one. Become it.  Write.  

Read Amy's Poem, A Note From the Trail  included in the beautiful anthology The Poetry of US, (Harper Collins 2018) edited by J. Patrick Lewis.

I imagined being the hills seeing the girl that wrote Conkling's poem. This writing was more fun and playful.

a response of the hills 

The girl is going somewhere;
she has been
for some time.
scatters autumn bits –
and plum, gold and frost
about the
trees, brush and wild grape.
The color burns off a heavy dew.
She pays
less mind to our sunny tops
than the opal harvest moon.
Sometimes she lifts her hands
beyond our grey shadows 
to the sky – an overflowing basket

of fresh washed clouds.

(c) Linda Mitchell