Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tra la, it's May

Hello Friday,

I hope you are we are at Poetry again. Thank goodness. How do days of staying at home fly by so quickly?

This first Friday of the month means that the SWAGGERS are meeting a challenge. Whoo Hoo!

Our challenge for today comes from Molly who asked us to write an epistolary poem. She pointed us in the direction of Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA post from February 19th in which guest blogger Allison Berryhill shared two master epistolary poems. Each beautiful mentor texts:

Dear Basketball by Kobe Bryant


Alive by Naomi Shihab Nye

My poem is much less weighty than the two above. It stems from a prompt in Laura Shovan's #WaterPoemProject this March-April.

Dear Karen,

I heard your
mutters over skis
collecting dust this winter
ice skate blades gone dull
your complaints
of not a single snow day
making this school year long.
You fuss about ticks
breeding like crazy this year
for lack of a good deep freeze.
Meanwhile, I’ve been
budding to leafing out
trying to please.
I guess the only thing
I can do to get your attention
is make it look
like snow has fallen
just for you.

XO, your flowering pear tree.

© Linda Mitchell
#waterpoemproject Day 25

Thank you to Elizabeth Steinglass for hosting this week's round-up. I'll be stopping by to check on all my poetry buddies.

More SWAGGER responses to the epistolary poem challenge can be found at:
Catherine at Reading to the Core

Before you go, today is #GlobalGwen Day which is the 50th anniversary of the day Gwendolyn Brooks won a Pulitzer Prize. If you happen to be out and about on twitter, enjoy the celebration and response to this incredible poet. About a year ago, I wrote a poem in the style of Gwendolyn Brooks. I offer that today as part of #GlobalGwen.


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
sweepy tune for sleep
tucking worms in drier dirt
then runs inside on muddy feet.

(c) Linda Mitchell

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Different Ways to Pray #Shelter in Poems

Hello Poets,

Here we are, at the end of April with our universal greeting, I hope you are well.

I'm finishing off Poetry Month as I began, #Sheltering in Poems. Ramadan begins for Muslim friends today. And, another large part of the world celebrates faith and family without being able to physically touch each other. I was looking for a shelter poem as Christians and Jews have gone through the same this month.

Different Ways to Pray

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.
       Read the rest here

birrellwalsh @pixabay

Please visit Christie at Wondering and Wandering for all the Poetry Friday goodness. She's done a spectacular job with a #ThoreaulyInspired project this month. Thank you, Christie.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Hatful of Dragons Author Interview II

Hello Again,

There was simply not enough room in one Poetry Friday blog post for all the goodness Vikram Madan shared about reading, writing and illustrating his new collection, A Hatful of Dragons: And More Than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems (Wordsong 2020). 

This is part II

First, a correction. The editor for this book is Rebecca Davis. I mistakenly used the wrong last name yesterday.

Now for the fun!

Reader Questions
(My 6th Grader Hat)

Q: Do you think in rhyme? Tell me about your thinking...where do your ideas come from?

Vikram Madan: I don’t think in rhyme, but rhyming comes naturally to me. I wrote my first poem for a third-grade assignment. The entire poem went like this: “There was a king / Who liked to sing.” 8-year-old me was so excited at producing this opus that he’s never stopped writing poems since.  

Q: What is your favorite poem in the collection and why?

Vikram Madan: I’m quite fond of ‘The Flippy, Floppy Flappers’ (p.13). I was painting a mural project a few years ago for which kids submitted imaginary creatures that I then repainted in my own style. A 3 year old’s sketch turned into these two bouncy characters:

(c) Vikram Madan

Every time I looked at them, I imagined them bouncing around, ears flapping up and down, begging to have their own poem. And now they do!

QWhere do you connect with audiences?

Vikram Madan: I love connecting with kids through school visits where I read poetry and do a raucous creativity exercise where I prove to them that they are all more imaginative than Shel Silverstein. It gets them very excited about writing and drawing.

Adults who follow my art and writing usually connect through social media: @ArtByVikram (instagram, facebook, twitter), my website , and my art gallery in Seattle.

Writer Questions(Wearing a Poet's Hat)

QTell me about when you knew this was a collection

Vikram Madan: I’m fond of thick books (I like getting my money’s worth J) and had this fantasy of publishing a fat 500-page poetry book. So I was targeting creating a collection right from the very beginning, although I wrapped up my manuscript at 150 pages for practical reasons. For even more practical reasons, the publishers distilled my manuscript into a 64-page collection.

Q: Who do you write for? 

Vikram Madan: My inner kid, first and foremost! J

Q: Who are your writing heroes?

Vikram Madan:  Guy Wetmore Carryl, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Terry Pratchett.  

Please join me in thanking Vikram for sharing a bit of his reading, writing and illustrating self with us. I have no doubt that A Hat Full of Dragons will be making its way into homes, classrooms, libraries and reading spaces of kids from three to one-hundred-and three very soon. We all look forward to seeing your future successes in publishing.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Hatful of Dragons Review

Hello Poetry Friday!

We did it, we did it, we did it!

We made it mid-way through National Poetry Month. For me, this means I've written at least a poem a day for over half a month. Woot! You?

Writing is my favorite form of mindfulness. It has helped this time of ongoing physical distancing.

Today's Poetry Friday Round-up is hosted by Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone. Stop by and see lots of poetry goodness there. Thank you, Molly!

I have the pleasure of sharing thoughts on a new poetry collection, A Hatful of Dragons: And 13.8 Billion Other Poems (Wordsong 2020)  by Vikram Madan.

The publisher asked if I would be interested in reviewing this poetry collection. I'm glad I said yes. Truly, this collection is delightful...more than middle school students are going to love it!

Why do I think these poems suit my students? 

They are fun and funny! There are graphic novel style poems,  interactive mad-lib type poems. And, the poems are beautifully illustrated by the poet...perfectly for middle schoolers who have been asking me for funny books.

A Hatful of Dragons: And More Than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems by Vikram Madan (Wordsong 2020)

I asked poet, Vikram Madan if he would answer questions for readers and questions for writers  These questions are similar to those I posted last week for all of us. 

Please enjoy getting to know this poet/illustrator. 


(putting on my 6th grader hat)

Q: Do you read graphic novels? Some of your poems look like a graphic novel page. Where did you get that idea from? It's so cool!

Vikram Madan: My other childhood passion was cartooning. I loved comics and once tried to make cartooning my career. (It didn't work out). When I'm creating a poem, I let the words and images evolve together and if they decide to take on a comic format, well who am I to stop them?!

A Hatful of Dragons by Vikram Mandan. Wordsong 2020

Q: Are you silly in real life? These poems are funny and silly. Tell me about a time that shows your silliness.

Vikram Madan: In order to hoard all the whimsy for my work, I go about wearing a very serious demeanor in real life, so much so that absolutely no one would say "silly" is my middle name :) That said, as a young adult (before I had to grow up, get a job, raise a family, turn into a grump, etc.) I was every kid's favorite uncle: juggling, magic tricks, physical comedy, other funny things. The poem, Our Favorite Uncle is a nostalgic ode to my younger self...

Q: Are you writing more books? What can I read next from you?

Vikram Madan: I have an early reader graphic novel series, Bobo & Pup-Pup, illustrated by Nicola Slater, coming out in 2021. I spend more time painting than writing (my day job is visual artist) and post my new paintings regularly on my social media accounts. 


(putting on my poet hat)

Q: What is the first poem you wrote in the collection? How long ago?

Vikram Madan: Most of the poems were written back in 2015 so I no longer remember which was first. However, I can tell you which one was last. We had been struggling to find a title for the book and when my proposed title, A Hatful of Dragons was approved, I had to then go write a matching poem that would be worthy of the title and find ways to tie it into the rest of the book.

Q: Who decided the order of the poems...did you have lots of editing and then re-writing?

Vikram Madan: We (with editor Rebecca Heard) started with a 100 poems and wrangled them down to 30. I then created a book dummy outline on a whiteboard and used sticky notes to represent the poems, arranging and rearranging the sticky notes till I found a sequence that made sense, factoring in the page-turn punchlines, the sequence of recurring subplots, and not have emotionally-similar poems too close together. It was a lot like playing Tetris.

Q: What does your writer's space look like?

Vikram Madan: My favorite writing spots are in the large libraries at the University of Washington in Seattle. They have quiet corners, are filled with inspiring books, and since I can't access the internet there, I have zero distractions.

My other writing space looks just like the inside of my head -- one big mess

Q: What is the best writing advice you've gotten and/or can give?

Vikram Madan: As a kid I never understood how people produced finished art or books - the gap between what I made and what I admired seemed insurmountable. Then I read Leonardo Da Vinci's advice to young artists - and I'm paraphrasing freely here: If you like what you produce and take pride in it, that's a bad sign because you will stop trying to learn, stagnate, and start fearing the making of mistakes; whereas if you don't like what you produce that's a very good sign because then you will keep trying to learn and keep trying to improve." So anytime you are frustrated with what you're producing, just remember how good a sign it is - Leonardo said so!

Our poet/illustrator actually answered more questions that I posed to him. I will post those tomorrow in a part II for Poetry Friday friends that want to know more. And, there are additional blog interviews to enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Progressive Poem 2020

Good Morning Poets!

Our poem is making its way through the kidlitosphere day by day. It's hard to believe we are already up to day12!

So far, our poem has been packed with lots of choice. Donna Smith kicked off this year's event with a choose your own line adventure. 

Here's how our poem has taken shape thus far including Janet Fagal's last line (hosted by Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche):

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake.
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.
I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song.
and night melts into a rose gold dawn.
Deep into nature’s embrace, I fold.
Promise of spring helps shake the cold

Janet has given me a choice for the next line of the poem. And, while it's difficult as a "I'll take a small slice of each," kind of gal, I have decided on...

Hints of sun lightly dapple the trees  
(choice A)

I whistle, then whisper a snippet of poem  (choice B)

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake.
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song.
and night melts into a rose gold dawn.

Deep into nature’s embrace, I fold.
Promise of spring helps shake the cold
hints of sun lightly dapple the trees

I now send this poem off to the very capable and creative writing of Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers with these two lines to choose from:

there's a song to be heard upon the breeze (choice A)

calling out the sleepy bees (choice B)

Go, Kat Go!

Here’s where you can find all the contributors to this year’s Progressive Poem. It’s a fine journey and I hope you will leave a comment or two along the way. It is always nice to hear from readers and other poets:
1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, at deo writer
4 Liz Steinglass at Elizabeth Steinglass
6 Kay McGriff at A Journey Through The Pages
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagal hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28 Jessica Big at TBD
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces30 Michelle Kogan at Michelle Kogan

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Spring Celebrations

Hello Poets,

Spring is creeping from south to north, muddy ground to waving tree-tops. I am grateful. Poetry champion Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting our round-up today at The Poem Farm. Don't miss her amazing Roll-the-dice project during National Poetry Month.

In our house we celebrate Gotcha Days--the days we met each child of ours. Twenty-years ago, we met our eldest in Wuhan, China. Yes, that Wuhan.

Our eldest's birth family, who we do not know, have been on my heart. If you are so moved, please think of them as we celebrate the day the child they could not raise became our family.

Our child was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger...absolutely fitting. Tigers fierce and strong and loyal. Our tiger is a senior in college. They've done well in studies and have been fortunate enough to take a job at a great organization before Covid-19 shut down the university and graduation celebration. We are grateful.

Gotcha Day card from re-cycled books by Linda

And of course, I am grateful for Passover and Easter! Happy Peseach and Happy Easter to all.

Easter Card from re-cycled book pages by Linda

Next week, I'm reviewing A Hatful of Dragons: And More than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems (Wordsong 2020) by Vikram Madan. I was able to interview him about his new collection collection. Take a moment to think of your answers to the questions I asked. After all, we're all poets here.

Consider this an opportune moment of reflection. Pick any question(s) to answer in the comment section below. Our collective responses will make for wonderful Poetry Month reading. 

I'll go first.

Interview Questions for Poets
Pick any question(s)

1. Where do your ideas come from?

2. Talk to me about silliness.

3. What is a favorite poem you've written and why?

4. What do you read for fun? 

5. Where do you connect with audiences?

6. What's next?

7. What is the first poem you wrote? How long ago?

8. How does your life inform your writing?

9. Who do you write for? 

See you next week with A Hatful of Dragons!

Thursday, April 2, 2020


Hello April!

This first Friday of April, my Swagger friends are writing to a prompt from The American Academy of Poets, Shelter in Poems.


Bear with me as I introduce a poem to shelter in...

Last week, Tabatha Yeatts Lonske introduced a poem she wrote as an opposite to another poem. I thought, Wow, I've got to try that! 

And, The American Academy of Poets called for readers to find a poem from their site to shelter in. While looking around their website, I stumbled across Alice Duir Miller. 

Oh, Alice! She was a poet and a pistol in her day! I fell a little bit in love with Alice.

Alice Duir Miller was born over 100 years ago. She wrote poetry that pushed for Women's Suffrage. She pointed out inconsistencies, disingenuousness, hypocritical reasons and policies that kept women from universal suffrage. 

This poem of hers, published in 1915, is a bit prose-y. 

Do You Know

 - 1874-1942

 That in 1869 Miss Jex-Blake and four other women entered for a
        medical degree at the University of Edinburgh?
    That the president of the College of Physicians refused to give
        the women the prizes they had won?
    That the undergraduates insulted any professor who allowed
        women to compete for prizes?

    That the women were stoned in the streets, and finally excluded
            from the medical school? (Please read the rest of the poem here. It will make sense later if you do)
However, Do You Know, works as a perfect foil for my response  poem of opposite. I hope you find shelter in it. 

What We Know
By Linda Mitchell in response to Alice Duir Miller

That in March 2020, Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, an African American woman
    leads Dr. Barney Graham’s Seattle  coronavirus vaccine team. 
That her  journey began with a Bachelor of Sciences in Biology and
      a second major in Sociology from the University of Maryland.
That Dr. Corbett spent a post-baccalaureate year training at the National
      Institute of Health researching, practicing, honing skills.
That she then enrolled in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
      earning  a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology.
That her Ph.D. garnered  awards for distinction, induction into
      the Frank Porter Graham Honor Society and a  fellowship to develop vaccines in Sri Lanka.
That dissecting human antibody responses to virus infection
      is this woman’s, this African American’s, this doctor’s  jam.
That Dr. Corbett’s mission is to block spike proteins from binding to
cells to prevent Covid-19...the science she’s leading  for our National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease team to fight our nightmare.
That according to a recent Black Enterprise dispatch, hospitals
since the outbreak of this pandemic, have called women to the front lines
of obliterating  the curve of COVID-19. We  know Dr. Corbett’s got this.

See more #ShelterinPoems from my fellow SWAGGERS

Catherine Flynn
Molly Hogan
Margaret Simon
and, Heidi Mordhorst who is hosting today's Poetry Friday Round-Up. Thanks so much, Heidi!

Givens, Dana. “Meet The Black Woman Taking the Lead to Develop a Vaccine For COVID-19.” Black Enterprise, Black Enterprise, 26 Mar. 2020,

“Kizzmekia S. Corbett PhD.” Keystone Symposia, Keystone Symposia & Digitell, 2020, Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with more than a 40-year history of convening open, peer-reviewed conferences that connect the scientific community and accelerate life science discovery.