Thursday, September 30, 2021

Poems to Explain Form: Inkling October Challenge

Hello October!

It's officially pumpkin spice season and I am thrilled! Thank you to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting this week's round-up of poems.

Re-cycled paper collage by Linda M.

Our Inklings' challenge for October is to write a poem that explains a form. This comes from THE CRAFT OF POETRY by Lucy Newlyn (2021) and, INSIDE OUT:: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (2020)by Marjorie Maddox 

Is this a Tanka?

Thirty-one small notes

Arise in glorias – birds

Nobles of the sun

Know earth is awakening

All who hear must praise the day

Linda Mitchell 10/1/21

Define Definito

If words are the very illustration

of what you express

A shining idea perfectly coalesced

into eight to twelve lines, more or less

of brief description analogous

to a dictionary, glossary or,

similar reference

highlighting wordplay in poetic verse

Then you have written a definito

Linda Mitchell 10/1/21

Palindrome Poem*

Poems such as these
recycle words
wildflower seed--


  seed wildflower
  words recycle
  these, as such, poems

Rules for writing palindrome poetry*

1. You must use the same words in the first half of the poem as the second half, but
2. Reverse the order for the second half, and

3. Use a word in the middle as a bridge from the first half to the second half of the poem.

To see more Inkling takes on this month's challenge visit:

Mary Lee

Hamish and I wrote a word poem in the style of Nikki Grimes this week. You'll never guess what it is -- see it on Hamish's padlet 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science. A review

Hello Friday! 

Thank you, Laura Purdie Salas, for hosting our poetry round-up this week. I'm so enjoying seeing her new book, If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (Boyds Mills Press. Oct 21) make its way into the world. The cover is so stinkin' cute! I can't wait to get my own mitts on a copy.

This week, I offer a review of Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science (Atheneum Books. Jan 22) by Jeannine Atkins.

This review started with an offer of an ARC of this verse novel coming out in January 2022. I will always say yes to a verse novel and that increases by about 1000% if it’s written by Jeannine Atkins.

Hidden Powers is a wonderful read. But, you knew that I would say that. I’m a bit of a Jeannine Atkins fan girl. What’s in it for you? Hopefully, an introduction to a book you will pick up.

Dr. Lise Meitner was born in Austria in the late 1800s into a Jewish family of eight children. She adored her father, a lawyer, mother, sisters, and brothers that went to school. Lise wanted to go to school too. However, young ladies weren’t provided formal education past grammar school and preparation for marriage.

Lise, however, persisted. By 1900 when young women were first offered opportunities for higher education, Lise studied years of high school material to take a University of Vienna entrance exam. Of fourteen girls who sat for the exam, four passed. Lise was one.

She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Physics by 1906 and left Austria for the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Europe’s premier center for science, in Berlin, Germany. In Berlin, she befriended Otto Hahn who she worked with for three decades eventually becoming the first female professor of physics at KWI.

By the 1930s Lise was collaborating on research with Fritz Strassman and Otto Hahn publishing dozens of groundbreaking papers in notable journals. Antisemitic Nuremberg Laws restricted her ability to continue work and publishing. Scientists from the Institute such as Albert Einstein were already fleeing Germany. She and Otto agreed that her name should be dropped from research publications. By 1938 Lise’s brother-in-law was arrested and imprisoned at Dachau.  Though she had resisted leaving Germany, Lise finally understood she must escape not only to continue her work but to survive.

The above, minus my admiration for the author, can be gleaned from Wikipedia.

What you can’t learn as easily is what Atkins masterfully includes in the book. The yearning of Lise for learning and then a career in physics as Hitler and the Nazi Party come to power in Germany. 

Lise Meitner was nominated for Nobel Prizes in Physics or Chemistry forty-eight times---all while an invisible partner of Otto Hahn. Ultimately, Hahn won and accepted a Nobel Prize for their discovery of protactinium and nuclear fission in 1948. Meitner’s decades-long collaborative efforts in that discovery were never mentioned or acknowledged by Otto Hahn or by the Nobel Prize committee. Meitner never did receive a Nobel Prize.

In her personal life, Lise witnessed the scientific community flee from or remain silent in Nazi Germany. These are her colleagues and dear friends. The bakery she’s always loved is suddenly anti-semitic and unfriendly. Her upstairs neighbor seems to be watching her every move...she overhears ugly talk about herself. The simple-minded girl that cleans her laboratory suspiciously disappears.

As a reader, I felt the tension building. I worried for Lise. I knew there was no good outcome for her outside of escape.

Lise did confront friends with her growing fears and frustrations with their self-protection over speaking up against antisemitism. However, none who remained in Germany seemed to think things were as bad as they were. We know this because of Atkin's masterful research and rich description of emotions in the verse.

Dr. Meitner does escape to Sweden as a refugee by 1938 and does continue her work...but at an incalculable personal and professional loss. 

We are fortunate that this novel in verse sheds light on Dr. Lise Meitner’s story as a world-renowned scientist, family member, and friend. Atkins knows how to weave truth and science into beautiful language that young people will want to read.

In one of the most touching stories of Hidden Powers, Otto Hahn gives Lise a gold ring that belonged to his mother as she escapes Germany. He tells her, 

This was my mother’s. In case you need it.
I’ll keep on with the experiments and write.
to you. I couldn’t get far without your insights.

Years later, after Otto won the Nobel Prize and rebuffed Lise's questions about why she wasn’t also recognized, she returns the ring so that he might take care of his impoverished family in post-war Germany. Dr. Lise Meitner was smart and determined and persistent and brave and incredibly kind. What a hero. I’m so glad young people can now know her through the pages of this book.

Check out this Hidden Powers pinterest board.

PS: from Hamish. He was impressed that poet Mary Oliver included ox in a poem that we read together this week. We made note of it on his padlet.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Rondelets for Constitution Day

 It's Friday!

Visit Denise at Dare to Care for a full scoop of poetry goodness. She's hosting our weekly round-up.

September 17th is Constitution Day here in the US. And, whoo boy! I love learning about constitutional history and there's a lot of discussion about it these days. 

I was inspired by Alan Wright's rondelets in his post last week. They are a bit addicting to write! If you need to remember the form, see here. That had a bit to do with these three rondelets I wrote for Constitution Day.

Our Bill of Rights
is meant to protect us all
Our Bill of Rights
flipped upside down elicits fights
Our Bill of Rights
makes our public square superfluous
Diminishing civic genius
Our Bill of Rights

We the people
are searching for a lost notion
We the people
with our stars and stripes and eagles
have given in to commotion
over peace of a great nation
We the people

A More Perfect Union 

is today's poem
untangling knots of unrest
is today's poem 
an unending civics pop quiz--
we haven't learned to do our best
our Constitution, under stress
is today's poem

Hamish was happy to see that kids at my school participated in making a poetry garden. They used Dictionary for a Better World as a base lesson to think about words to paint on rocks that would make the garden. Can you guess what word I painted? There's a picture of it on Hamish's padlet. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021



Opening the September 4th Poem-a-day from The American Academy of Poets, I guessed it was in memory of 9/11. 
I clicked on the link to find out more about the poet and was surprised that she lived and wrote so long ago that The Office Building, by Helen Hoyt, is in the public domain. 

The Office Building

Helen Hoyt

We kissed there in the stone entrance, 
In the great cool stone mouth of the building,
Before it took you.
We kissed under the granite arches.
And then you turned and were gone 
And high about and above were the hard towered 

The terrible weights of stone, relentless,
But for the moment they had been kind to us,
Folding us with arms
While we kissed.

The Office Building appeared in The Liberator, issue 10 (1918).

Rothman, Lily. “World Trade Center HISTORY: SEE 1960s Construction Photos.” Time, Time, 23 Dec. 2015,

Response to Helen Hoyt's The Office Building 

I was five when you died. 1972

was a time of poets, like us, but still

unknown to little me.
Twin towers of steel and concrete

rose higher and higher above city streets.

We didn’t know terrible weights of stone would

crumble so,

falling relentless through our folded arms.

There were moments they had been kind to us

remembered these decades now

beyond you, beyond me.

(c) Linda Mitchell

How to explain 9/11 to Hamish? It's a tough subject for an ox or any of us, really. Together, we read 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy.
Join us for storytime on his padlet.

Thank you, Miss Rumphius Effect for hosting this week's Poetry Friday round-up.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Ghazal for September

Happy September Poets!

Here's to calmer seas and fairer winds this month. It's been a bit rocky around our world as of late.

Thanks to Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for hosting our roundup today. 

This month's Inkling challenge comes from Margaret who asked us to write a ghazal. Ooooph. This was tough for me. I wrote a poem and then another, got feedback from the other inklings and still wasn't happy with my work. Finally, thinking backward from my usual approach freed me up to write a ghazal that I'm pleased to share.

Here's my third attempt...that works as a ghazal.

Photo: "A Moon in a Galaxy" by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

dark areas of considerable extent on the surface of the moon
                                                                                          Merriam Webster

Fear and worry run wild at night
disturbing what's reviled at night

The man in the moon lost his shine

Now, he roams hither and yon, exiled at night

No hay diddle diddle or cat with a fiddle
could unjangle nerves riled at night

Down through the leaves of an old oak tree

searching for a lost flower child at night

Where am I going and what do I wish?

uninterrupted sleep, sweet and mild at night

© Linda Mitchell

Here's how I figured out that backward was the way to think. Decide on the internal rhyme word...and make a list of word that rhyme with it. That became my word bank as I wrote each additional couplet. For this poem, I kept each couplet related to the moon from old English nursery rhymes, nightmares, and sleep. Once I caught on to the HOW...writing a ghazal was fun.

Hamish is growing stronger as a poet these days. He wrote a sevenling for his padlet. Sevenling is a new form to both of us. We learned about it from the August writing challenge at Ethical ELA. 

See more ghazals at

Reflections on the Teche
Reading to the Core
my juicy little universe
Nix the Comfort Zone 
A Year of Reading

September Spiritual Thursday

 Ah, September,

Will this month be a reprieve from the spiritual intensity of August? I hope so. Karen asks us to consider virtue this month. And, she's hosting this month's collection of posts. 

Like many of you, my present is all things back-to-school. Being in school even with the safety measure of a mask holds the kind of joy that made me a teacher. I love students that want to learn.

Students that are thirsty to know and grow are what get me out of bed and to work ready to teach every day. These students give me energy. And, often I learn more from them than I teach in a day.

I'm fortunate to have met many students ready to learn these past weeks. One of my favorite groups to work with is English Language Learners. Students who are learning English are categorized into levels where I teach. It's amazing to watch a student learn to communicate in English with peers socially and academically as they advance to new levels. I am fortunate to work in a place where I get to see a lot of this.

The library is a great place to practice English and find reading materials. Photo: Linda M.

Karen provided a list of virtues to consider for today's reflection. The pair of words that jumped out at me was cooperation and unity.

Two years ago, my school district changed the name of the school where I teach from the name of a Confederal General to Unity Braxton. Braxton is the last name of a husband and wife who served in the US Army for decades. As service members, they also became integrally involved in bettering our community. Mrs. Braxton helped integrate schools. Mr. Braxton served a long and distinguished military career. 

The Braxton's are now deceased. But, their legacy of service...cooperating with other members of their community for the betterment of all is a strong, clear message of what my school aims to be.

Unity was selected to show that we are one community. The high school that my middle school feeds into selected the name Unity as well. My students go from Unity Braxton to Unity Reed (another distinguished community member). 

The purposeful naming of our school caused some controversy. However, I think in a true spirit of cooperation and professionalism we've rolled up our sleeves, and are doing the work we are meant to do. I am grateful to be a part of the faculty at Unity Braxton. 

I realize that there is always room for improvement when it comes to cooperation. Students teach me this every day. 

Right now, I'm up at 5 am writing as I am most days. Coffee is brewing and I look forward to getting to school and working with students.