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 successful 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.

First, a small plea...

Roadsidepictures. “Life Savers, 1990's.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 27 Oct. 2007,
Now back to your regular Poetry Friday post...

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!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Postcards '18 Write the poem you wish to read

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by our friend Carol at Beyond Literacy. Pop over and say hello. If you're lucky, her vivacious creativity will rub off on you.

I love the 2018 Poetry Postcard Exchange!

Over the course of the past week, I've searched for poems about postcards to share in the celebration of this year's exchange. There are quite a few poems about postcards at The Poetry Foundation and at Poem Hunter and in various corners of Google. None really suited me. 

You know what that means, right?  It means I had to write the poem I was looking for. 

Lately, I've been playing around with 'definition' poems. This is just what I call them. I have no idea if there is a proper form to call what I've been writing. If there is---I'd love to know!

Thank you, poets! I so enjoy your creative postcards.

What things call out to you for re-definition through your eyes as a poet. I'd love for you to share in comments.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Playing 1/19/18

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by A Journey Through the Pages. Please stop by and say hello to our friend, Kay.

Stuart Brown of the National Institute of Play takes "play" seriously. He gave an enlightening flyby (26 minutes) on play as a Tedtalk in 2008. He mentions the vital role play has in our lives--as important as sleep and dreaming.

Another thing Brown suggests is that a person deprived of play can become vulnerable to the conditions that lead to negative behaviors. The absence of play is depression. (

One thing Brown and his researchers do is to take a play inventory of a person. They try to find out what a person's earliest remembered moments of pure joy from play are.

I tried making a list of early play memories. It was fun, put me in a great mood and....gave me lots of writing prompts. Ha!

From one special memory, I searched for a poem about a carousel. Then, I wrote a response --- but consider it a prequel to the action of the mentor poem I selected, Carousel by Rebecca Kay Dotlitch.

Carousel by Rebecca Kay Dotlitch.

On thin golden poles
gliding up, sliding down,
a kingdom of horses
goes spinning around...

Carousel at Watch Hill, RI  

Following star trails
every dip of the oars
pulling ocean toward us
reaching for shore.

At last, feet on land
navigating surf's edge
hopscotching crabs
lured by music ahead.

Racing our parents
into Bay Street’s bright glow
bee-lining for tickets
Mom and Dad tail--slow.

Hand in hand, we swing
to the white picket fence
flying horses make rings
we're so excited.
DarkThunder is mine!
Sir Snow
 for my sister.
come, come for a ride
they glitter-whisper.

Finally our chance
saddle up at the bell
for a flying horse trance
on Watch Hill’s Carousel.

(c) Linda Mitchell

The Flying Horse Carousel at Watch Hill RI is real and a place of very fond memories of my family playing there. We'd row from my grandparent's sailboat in a dinghy to the beach and walk into town. It seemed like such a big adventure at the time and good bits for this memoir poem exercise. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

It must have been precious...the look on my face when I realized publishers were giving away ARCs of books at a recent conference.

I quickly became a happy pack-horse.

On the last day of the conference, I told myself, not one more book, when I found myself browsing in the manner of a dieter that's going to start on Monday. The sweet sales rep asked what I was looking for.


     "Hold on a sec, I've got just the thing," popping around the corner returning with Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye.

You could have knocked me over with a feather--not kidding. I had tears in my eyes. I might have scared the poor woman.

I tried reading Voices in the Air several times. But, the hubbub of holidays and raising teens left me too keyed-up to settle into it.

And then, snow days.....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. God does love a Teacher Librarian, doesn't She?

Here's the thing. I don't feel at all qualified to actually review Nye's work. I mean, it's Naomi Shihab Nye (I'm screaming like a Beetles fan in 1967 here).

But I can give you some impressions that I hope will urge you to get a copy of these poems and make them part of your heart.

First, as I read the poems I was struck by the sense of place--in every poem, Nye grounds this work in place. From a seat at a poetry conference to an airplane to a beach to imagined places of the mind, a reader is taken to a place. I was so fascinated, I created a word cloud of all the locations I found as I read.

And there were moments when I knew this poet was speaking to me. I'm not sure by what magic....but she does. 

A Lonely Cup of Coffee
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Far preferable

to a sociable cup

which tastes more

of talk

the lonely cup






the quiet mouth


Nye pens journeys far, far from blessed moments alone with a cup of coffee. We join Syrian refugees and Palestinians and North American First Peoples. 

"Bombs have no mothers," in Invitation to the NSA (111)

She shares what poets know well, "saying your words, between daylight and the dark, swinging them like small lanterns..." Longfellow's Bed (85).

Nye knew, For Caroline M. (71)  would bring me the release of tears I needed as my friend, Amy, lay dying surrounded by her loved ones....literally while I read the poem enabling the goodbye that had felt wrong to say.

Nye's wisdom reminds, "Some people are born to be present, hold the note."  Showing Up (69).

As a poet, I am supremely unqualified to review the nuts and bolts Nye's work....but as a human and a reader...I'm telling you, this book is for me, for my students and for you. Even if you don't know that you need it, you do. 

Please go directly to our beautiful friend, Jan's blog at Bookseedstudio. She is hosting this week with treasured topics.