Thursday, May 27, 2021

Drawing Strength

Happy Poetry Friday Everyone,

See my book -- Children's Guide to Knowledge? It was given to me in the 1970s by people dear to me.  When I was six, seven, eight, and older, I poured over this book. It was the anchor book of antique-blue shelves I constantly re-arranged (by color, by topic, by favorite... many whims). 

All that time ago, I lived in a rural, western New York conservative town, in an old-fashioned and conservative family. Although I loved both, I hoped always that I would leave someday. Books and reading provided possibilities.

The best pages of the book, for me, were about people in other parts of the world. I was fascinated by other countries and languages --the farther away, the better.

Skip ahead decades to last month. 

I saw this tweet from Grace Lin about a lecture she was giving:

I attended the lecture virtually and was impressed not just with the content of her talk but also the way in which she delivered it. Ms. Lin related painful instances of racism at several points in her life as she spoke about what books can do. At these points, she gave her audience drawing breaks.

By her conclusion, we had drawn an Ox which is this year's zodiac animal on the Chinese calendar. And, we'd processed a great deal of emotional information. 

You may remember that my one little word for 2021 is ox. 

I wish I could have made things easier for Ms. Lin and newcomers like her when I was a child. I hope that I've grown into a person that does. 

The poem below is my response to listening to Grace Lin. I saw kids like me in her story. I want her and other writers like her to know that she has and continues to make a difference for me and for the young people I select books for as a children's librarian. 

Thank you, Ms. Lin.

After Listening to 'Putting Books to Work' By Grace Lin 

I want to draw strength.

First, I listen to a story of a girl 
who’s family moved 
to a new homeland 
               my homeland. 

                Draw a cup, she said. 

All that she recognized 
by sight, scent, sound 
were within the walls 
of her family’s house. 

               Draw a potato

The girl learned to speak 
names of places, foods, 
and neighbors quickly. 
She was smart 
and accepting. 

To me, she was a stranger. 
A new kid. 

         Draw two half-moons.  

One day, the girl auditioned 
for a part in our school play 
our teacher said no! 

I did not pay any mind. 

         Draw a hook.  

The girl was hurt and sad 
She knew that our teacher 
saw her as different -- not right. 

I did not speak up for the girl. 

         Draw a cross line 

After months, and years 
we both grew up. 
She drew strength from her differences --
        knew home in more than one place. 

I admired her--
I wished I had befriended her. 

         Draw two eyes and a smile 

The girl drew 力, a symbol for Ox 
known for strength in any homeland. 
I could only write two letters -- o.x. 

         Add two nostrils.  

Now grown, she publishes 
stories and illustrations.  
She communicates 
more than one language. 

I listen more now--
and read. 
I draw an ox.

~Linda Mitchell 

Michelle Kogan is hosting our round-up this last Friday of May. How did this month slip by so quickly? Thanks for hosting Michelle, I always look forward to the fine art you share.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Best Wishes Mary Lee!

Good Poetry Friday,

Christie at Wondering and Wandering is leading our round-up today. Be sure to stop by and say hello. Thank you, Christie!

Have you heard the news that our poet teacher friend, Mary Lee Hahn, is retiring from the classroom?  I am thrilled for her. 

What love she has poured into a career of teaching inside and outside her classroom. All those lessons and writing prompts and wonders and wows! All those gingerbread cookies with icing sessions! I count myself lucky to be a reader of her work. I have learned much from this wise online friend I met through poetry.

A Note to My Students
By Mary Lee Hahn 

Stop me if I start to preach.  
That’s not my job;  
I’m here to teach.  

And if I talk and talk and talk,  
remind me — gently – I should stop  

and listen more  
and let you speak,  
discover, wonder,  



Hey Ms. Hahn
No need to stop,
Ms. Hahn, teach on! 
I’m here to learn;
that’s my job. 

I write, and write and write,
because I love—new ideas --
and ways to share. 

and question thoughtfully
and converse with other poets
my discoveries, 
my wonders. 

Thank you, 
thank you, 
thank you. 

Your Poetry Friday Friend,
Linda M.

Can you believe it? Hamish caught up with two calves from Idaho named Caterpillar and Diesel. The boys are in school learning how to be big, strong oxen. See them on Hamish's padlet.

Law, Bridgett/Kit. “Training Baby Oxen.” Law Family Homestead, Law Family Homestead, 16 June

Thursday, May 13, 2021

D-39 A Review

Hey There, Hi there Ho There!  

This is Linda sending high-fives and hellos to poemstitchers everywhere this Poemdive Fifthday.

Make sure to stop by Live Your Poem for a circlescoop of poetry offerings. It’s also the web-nest of Irene Latham, poet, author and long-time Poetry Friday friend. 

Last month, I attended the Penguin Random House Book & Author Festival  with Library Journal and was delighted to see Irene and editor, Karen Boss,  talk about D-39: a Robodog's Journey (Charlesbridge May 18, 2020).  Their presentation, Irene’s reading, and the fact that D-39 is a novel of prose poems were fantastic!

There’s much goodness to share about D-39 for readers and writers of MG novels. Let's begin with the fun voice of the main character Klynt Tovis. I attempted to mimic Klynt’s voice in today's greeting's a kind of silly-but-makes-perfect-sense style. I can tell that Klynt is smart and inventive by her language. She's the kind of character I want to stick with.

Klynt and her Papa live on a looganaught farm in the Worselands in the middle of a devastating civil war. Both the Tovis family and neighbors, the Tannins, have built bomb shelters for what they fear is coming.  Klynt is a can-do kid, handy with her ever present screwdriver. She fixes what needs fixing, including ancient items such as toasters and a ham radio displayed in her museum of fond memories. Klynt hopes that someday, one of her messages will reach her mother whose been missing for years. 

Readers learn that when Klynt was a baby, a deadly virus, BRXms, spread from canines to humans prompting the government to euthanize all dogs. Klynt’s mother, a veterinarian and founder of the Canine Corredor, (think underground railroad) smuggles dogs out of the Worselands to save dogs targeted for death. 

Klynt struggles with her mother's absence and her father’s explanation about what has happened to her when a Dog-Alive model D-39 robo-dog shows up. Even though D-39 is so life-like it eats and poops, the robo-dog quickly fills Klynt’s life and heart -- though Papa threatens to sell its parts for cash to purchase expensive M-fuel that powers the chug-chug requires to harvest looganuts. Klynt introduces D-39 to her best friend, Jopa Tannin, who adores pet ants the way Klynt does D-39. Life is better with friends and pets.

The horrors of war do strike Klynt's home. Soldiers advance into the Worselands and bombs fall. After their bomb shelters are no longer safe, Klynt and Jopa are separated from the adults and have no choice but to strike out on their own looking for safety. They head north fifty miles to where Klynt believes Mama has gone along the Canine Corredor. Can they make it? Will Klynt's can-do outlook protect them from the oncoming freezeseason? 

I asked Irene about D-39 and shared her responses below. 

I've interspersed some favorite quotes from D-39 throughout our Q&A.

Question: As I was reading the book all I could think of at first were the connections to The Cat Man of Aleppo (G.P. Putnam's Sons 2020). I want to know...which book came first and how did they impact each other? 

Answer: This is a great question! I was writing both books at the same time, and both were borne out of my obsession with the Syrian Civil War. It's a very complicated war (as all wars are). The more I learned, the more I had to write, just to sort things out in my own mind. 

With CAT MAN, Karim and I were really interested in delivering a story about the people who STAY in war-torn places. We tend to make heroes of the refugees, the ones who leave, but what about those who stay? 

With D-39, I shifted angles: the hero (Klynt) wants to flee, but her father insists they stay... until things happen, and staying is no longer a viable option. In both there's this overarching theme/question/idea about heroism, and what big and small things make a hero. 

Q: I’m not going to ask why prose poems because the form works perfectly for this story. But I did wonder what gave you the idea of a variation on a crown as in a crown of sonnets? 

D-39 A Robodog's Journey by Irene Latham (Charlesbridge 2021)

A: I am in awe of sonnets. Meter and rhyme intimidate me, so I am a huge admirer of the form. But I don't really want to write them? Borrowing the “crown” of sonnets idea is probably as close as I will ever come to crafting a sonnet. For those who don't know (I didn't!), in a crown of sonnets, the last line of one sonnet becomes the first line of the following sonnet. In D-39, the last line of each prose poem becomes the title of the following poem. In my mind this makes the book a circle—the last line of the last poem is also the title of the first poem (my editor Karen Boss' idea!)—and it makes me think of each poem as a bead on a chain. I don't really know where I got the idea, just that I liked how it pulled readers from one poem to the next. 

And as a writer, I really enjoyed the challenge of taking words that may mean one thing in the last line of a poem and reinventing them somehow— adding texture, meaning— when I applied them to the next poem. It was so much fun, and I'm proud to have pulled it off! 

Q: Klynt has a complicated relationship with her mother -- why was that important to you to write? As an author, how did you write such complexities for such a tender-aged audience? 

A; I find the mother-daughter relationship to be rich, deep, and endlessly fascinating—and I only know it from the side of being a daughter (as we have three sons). Writing this book allowed me to tunnel around in issues I experience with my own mother. Ultimately, I think, this book is about acceptance. Writing it helped me to accept myself, and all the ways I'm different from my mother...and it also helped me to accept and love my mother, just as she is. Side note: I adore reading books that explore mother-daughter relationships, and there are some good ones for middle grade. One I read only recently (but was released in 2015) is BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly. Amazing book. Completely slays me! 

Thank you, Irene, for taking the time to answer these questions and I wish D-39 the very best of luck as it enters our world in a few days. 

I've purchased a copy for my school library and can't wait to share it and the teacher resources developed by our own Mary Lee Hahn with my school community. 

You don't have to be a teacher to learn from or use the resources--I loved reading through them as a reader and a poet. And, I'm a grown-up (most days). Seeing this book come out feels like a Poetry Friday slamjam of joy! Make sure you don't miss this one. 

I predict awards.

Imagine Hamish’s surprise when he googled “robotic ox” after reading D-39 and found some interesting results! 
 Head on over to his padlet and let Hamish show you the Iron-Ox.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

In Conversation

Hello May Friends,

Wasn't April wonderful? So much fun reading and writing and enjoying the poetry community. As a librarian at my school, I hosted a poetry "something" for every day of the month. We enjoyed a bracket-style Poetry Pandemonium competition and field trip poems on Fridays.

Please visit Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones for this week's round-up. I wonder what Smidgey has gotten up to?

This week, I'm in conversation with Cheryl Dumesnil's poem Today's Sermon

Here are the first few lines of Dumesnil's work


is slop buckets knocking
            against each other

and a towel cart
          squeaking down the hall

and grease stains
        worked into cracked palms.

Today's sermon is (read the rest here)

In conversation with Dumesnil's poem

Today’s Poem 

is my carefully parked car 
      in a pull-through space
taking five extra minutes
     to arrange a double mask 
before lining up to swipe my keycard
     socially distanced from colleagues.
Today’s poem is 
     black vultures roosting 
on my suburban house rooftop 
     hissing over death.
Today’s poem is stacking take-out boxes,
     praying the landfill doesn’t overflow 
that there’s room for now. 
     Today’s poem is breaking a twenty 
so I can toss a few bucks to the guitar busker 
     his daughter fiddling the melody
in the grocery store parking lot. 
     Today’s poem is meeting pandemic-worn
languishing -- 
     pretending it will soon end.

(c) Linda Mitchell -- draft

Hamish appreciates the visits to his padlet. This week, he's visited with some extinct ancestors known as aurochs, from the Lascaux Caves of France. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

May Spiritual Thursday

Hello Friends, Hello May,

I hope you are finding and feeling spring softness in your spirits today.

My sister-in-law was a bestie for two years before I met her brother and then married him. She knows me better than I like and, always finds the perfect presents. This is from a desk calendar that I love turning the pages of. Snoopy makes everything more fun...and reminds me of me and my sister-in-law.