Tabatha A. Yeatts



What is Poetry Friday? Poems and poetic ideas, suggestions, and morsels for students, teachers, and language lovers of all ages. To receive weekly notices when Poetry Friday is updated, send an email to with "Poetry Friday" as the subject.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

There are two wonderful things I'd like to share with you this week. One is a poem by Wm. Stafford. The other is environmental poetry resource packs from the Poetry Society U.K. Enjoy and see you next year!

How These Words Happened
By William Stafford

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meanings while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began. Sometimes they lost. Never again
do they separate in this world. They are
together. They have a fidelity that no
purpose of pretense can even break.

And all of this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.

The Poetry Society UK has commissioned award-winning poet, ecologist, and educator Mario Petrucci to develop the following Environment-centred resource packs, designed for schools, young adults and poets:

1. Poetry : the Environment. (PDF 185KB) Four of the most pressing Environmental themes, comprehensively explored through poetry.

2. Biomimicry : Poetry. (PDF 118KB) This fascinating new branch of science is concerned with solving problems by imitating Nature. Mario’s unique poetry pack explores Biomimicry to support independent imaginative writing activity and National Curriculum alike.

3. The Green Poetry Pack. (PDF 272KB) Poems and writing ideas to engage with the natural world, soil and trees, and local self-sufficiency.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In our house, we use a Muppet version of The Gift of the Magi advent calendar. No one can really do Kermit's voice successfully, but that's not to say we don't try. has a neat poetry lesson plan based on The Gift of the Magi. I like how they mix the story with poetry and music. You can check it out here.

If you'd like to listen to the original Gift of the Magi, you can on LibriVox. In addition to audio options, they also have text versions.

While we're thinking about gifts, here's an excerpt from Giving by Kahlil Gibran:

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

You can read the rest here.

Lastly, if you'd like to hear Twas the Night Before Christmas, LibriVox has that too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Evening
by Chrystos

in the northern mountains
Moon is a silver turtle
moving slowly through the stars


excerpt from Perhaps the World Ends Here
by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.


Friday, December 5, 2008

First, it's time to announce my new contest for young writers! You can get the details here. Don't miss it!

A little poetry from a monkey and her friend this week.

Julie sent her monkey friend this haiku:

I don't believe you
I will not look behind me
There is no monkey

And monkey replied:

how silly you are
frida is not behind me
no, i will not look.

I love haiku conversations between friends.
Monkey also penned:

do tell me, frida,
what is that necklace made of?
toasted marshmallows?

Julie has a Magic Robot Cross Stitch generator that will turn phrases into cross stitch patterns. Here's one I made:

Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way. -E.L. Doctorow

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetic Miscellany this week!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

During his short lifetime (1867-1902), Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki is said to have breathed new life into the traditional art forms of haiku and tanka.

Poems By Masaoki Shiki

on the pine needles,
each of the slender needles,
a dewdrop rests—
a thousand pearls lie
quivering, yet never fall


On how to sing
the frog school and the skylark school
are arguing.


Here is the dark tree
Denuded now
Of leafage...
But a million stars


entangled with
the scattering cherry blossoms-
the wings of birds!


far away
under the skies of America
they began
I could watch it forever!

Visit a monthly haiku contest named in Shiki's honor.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Ah, autumn! "The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." ~George Eliot

Before you think I'm getting too carried away with the beauty of fall, I'll take a moment to offer this Simpson's animated video version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. (I wonder if they have videos for other poems?)

Come Little Leaves
By George Cooper

Come, little leaves,
Said the wind one day;
Come to the meadows
With me and play.
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;
For summer is past,
And the days grow cold.

Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all.
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
All singing the soft
Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying,
The leaves went along,
Til Winter called them
To end their sweet song.
Soon, fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow lay a coverlet
O'er their heads.

From The Milkweed
By Cecil Cavendish

The milkweed pods are breaking,
And the bits of silken down
Float off upon the autumn breeze
Across the meadows brown.

How To Make an Autumn Leaf Bookmark

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Poet Pat Schneider offers up some good advice to young writers on her web site. Among other things, she says, "A writer is not someone who is published, or someone who is famous. A writer is someone who writes. Now I am not young any more, but I still am a writer, and I have not forgotten being a writer when I was very young. It's important to write when you are young. All important things need practice. Writing is like dancing or painting or sports -- the more you do it, the deeper and better the work will be."
(You can read the rest of her advice here under "Poems for Young Writers.")

I especially like the last line of the poem below.

The Patience of Ordinary Things
By Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween! Mwa ha ha! We have two haunted house poems today...actually, one is a poem and one is a song. They couldn't be more different, which is the great thing about poetry -- its phenomenal diversity.

Haunted Houses
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses.Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air...

And here's a verse of The Twelve Houses of Halloween, Author Unknown:

At the twelfth house on Halloween my neighbor gave to me...
twelve cherry bonbons,
eleven creamy nougats,
ten shiny pennies,
nine orange gumdrops,
eight chewy caramels,
seven candied apples,
six peanut clusters,
four peppermints,
three sticks of gum,
two lollipops &
a large piece of chocolate taffy.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

This week, I'm revisiting Charles R. Smith, Jr., who was the first poet featured on this Poetry Friday journal. Mr. Smith has a book called The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth that caught my eye. He recites four poems from the book on his web site (about Ares, Athena, Medusa, and Zeus).

Interested in sports/history? He has also written about legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and offers recitations of four of those as well.

Looking to illustrate your poetry? Don't miss his suggestions for photography exercises for budding photographers (He took up photography at age 16 when he joined his school yearbook staff).

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Friday, October 17, 2008

I said, Baby! Baby!
Please don’t snore so loud.
Baby! Please!
Please don’t snore so loud.
You jest a little bit o’ woman but you
Sound like a great big crowd.

Langston Hughes, from Morning After

I decided to do things backwards this week and start right in with a poem. I saw this stanza in the Smithsonian in Your Classrom "The Music in Poetry" lesson plans. We are lucky to have these wonderful free resources.

Here, you can listen to music snippets that go along with "The Music in Poetry." Paul Robeson singing "Amazing Grace" gave me goosebumps!

A tip of the hat to young Kenzi B.! Kenzi used Art Thursday works as the inspiration for four poems, then she put together a book of her poetry with those and other works. Nicely done, Kenzi!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

One of my favorite holidays is approaching -- Halloween! I am a fan of costumes and sweets, so it's not surprising I would enjoy October 31st. I read about a poetry-related Halloween tradition in Scotland, where children would go "guising" and perform a poem or song or tell jokes and then be given candies, nuts, or fruit. Sounds like a fun tradition!

Here's a poem that would be great for memorizing at this spooky time of year:

At Last the Secret is Out
by W.H. Auden

At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end,
the delicious story is ripe to tell, to tell to the intimate friend;
over the tea-cups and into the square, the tongues has its desire;
still waters run deep, my dear, there's never smoke without fire.

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
behind the lady who dances, and the man who madly drinks,
under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
there is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.

For the clear voice suddently singing, high up in the convent wall,
the scent of the elder bushes, the sporting prints in the hall,
the croquet matches in summer, the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
there is always a wicked secret, a private reason for this.

Listen to a Writer's Almanac version here.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Excerpt from A to Z
by Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac 'Gaarriye'

Caalin, listen, I'm going to travel
From A to Z carried by language -
The alphabet, alive on the page.

I write the words and send them to you;
You sing to the wind and the crows as they fly
Carry my lines through the noonday sky
Chanting each to each. The ants
Become orators. The gossiping camels
Crowd the waterhole, eager for rumours.

Even the trees, as they rustle their leaves,
Are sharing a joke; the sheep and goats
Talk tough as they sniff out the latest news.
The hum of the breeze in the river-bed
Is the language of pride; the termites talk
With a tap and a touch; the clouds compose
Poems as only they can; the land
Speaks in prose of growth and gain
And the sound of rain in the season of rain
Rumbles like thunder and why this should be
Is something only the rain can explain.

How often do you think poems are recited in movies? I would have guessed not too often, but I think we are actually so used to it that we don't even notice it. There's a partial list of poems that have been in movies that shows they are more common than we might guess.

William Blake's poetry has been popular, for instance:
Blake's Milton; ["And did those feet in ancient time"] was featured in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, 1962; Privilege, 1967; Chariots of Fire, 1981; and Calendar Girls, 2003.
His Auguries of Innocence was in Dead Man, 1995; In the Bedroom, 2001; Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001.
Blake's The Tyger was in The End of the Affair, 1955; The Horse's Mouth, 1958; Blade Runner, 1982; and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, 2002.

T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was used in Love and Death, 1975; Apocalypse Now, 1979; Till Human Voices Wake Us, 2002; and The Fog of War, 2003.

William Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality appeared in Splendor in the Grass, 1961; Alice in Wonderland, 1966; and A River Runs Through It, 1992.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The great thing about Poetry Friday is the wonderful works that other people introduce you to ... for instance, I just got around to listening to this version of the Scottish traditional "The Water is Wide," which Melissa Wiley shared, and it was a treat! Thank you, Lissa.

"Inside this room, all of my dreams become realities, and some of my realities become dreams..."

Pure Imagination (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
by Roald Dahl

Come with me and you'll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look and you'll see
Into your imagination

We'll begin with a spin
Traveling in the world of my creation
What we'll see will defy

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world, there's nothing to it

There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you'll be free
If you truly wish to be...

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Friday, September 19, 2008

I've posted Michael McClintock's work before (see Jan 2008), but he and his wife Karen McClintock have new Poetry & Art postcards. Here are two:

You can write MM at MchlMcClintock (at)

A fun poetry assignment -- making a poetry comic book! On Apple's Edcommunity, there's a lesson plan which stars students as poetry super heroes. The students work in groups to write a comic (in verse) and take digital photos of themselves in poses that illustrate their story.

Thinking about "Poetic Justice"...

Have you heard the term "poetic justice"? It originally referred to the idea that fiction should have things work out properly -- good guys should be rewarded and bad guys should be punished. Today it is used to mean "strikingly appropriate reward or punishment," such as when villains are hurt by a situation they created themselves. I heard about a group that calls themselves "Poetic Justice League 4 America," which is such a cool name that it's too bad someone took it already!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

OK, so I'm not featuring Shakespeare today, but I like this picture anyway:

Two delightful poem excerpts this week. The first is by Mary Cornish and is included in Poetry 180. Billy Collins initiated Poetry 180 "to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. I have selected the poems you will find here with high school students in mind. They are intended to be listened to, and I suggest that all members of the school community be included as readers. A great time for the readings would be following the end of daily announcements over the public address system." Sounds like a great idea.

by Mary Cornish

I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Read the rest at Poetry 180

Poet Charles Simic is wonderfully original as he describes why he would like to be a stone...

An excerpt of Stone
by Charles Simic

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive
by Cathryn Essinger

It all began when he came out one morning
and found the dog waiting for him behind the wheel.
He thought she looked pretty good sitting there,

so he started taking her into town with him
just so she could get a feel for the road.
They have made a few turns through the field,

him sitting beside her, his foot on the accelerator,
her muzzle on the wheel. Now they are practicing
going up and down the lane with him whispering

encouragement in her silky ear. She is a handsome
dog with long ears and a speckled muzzle and he
is a good teacher. Now my wife, Millie, he says,

she was always too timid on the road, but don't you
be afraid to let people know that you are there.

The dog seems to be thinking about this seriously...

Read the rest here . I also love Essinger's Wild Card.

It's already started, but you can jump on in -- During September, PoeWar is having 30 Poems in 30 Days . Each day, John Hewitt posts a poetry prompt to get you thinking.

MsMac has been working on a list of Top 100 Poetry Books. Check it out.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

The Scottish Poetry Library is our focus this week. What a wonderful resource for people in Scotland! But their web site is also a great resource for all of us. They have links to:

Meet six Scottish poets

Poetry postcards
Here are a few of my favorites: Just Another Pebble by Eunice Buchanan, Two Trains by Rody Korman, and The Spell of the Bridge by Helen Lamb.

Poetry Map of Scotland The Poetry Map offers a selection of over a hundred places or natural features written about by living Scottish poets.

And now a poem I discovered through the link to meet six Scottish poets...

by Liz Niven

Here, deep in a cave dark,
lacking air,a fern grows.

Fed by the smallest drip
seeping from lead slate

it's flourished.
See its glossy leaves shine.

Watch the water caught
in the camera's quick lens,

green fronds outstretched like palms.

That life can spore
and grow in such frail light!

Celebrate the shadows,
for fresh starts can fall out of them.

Around us, unseen,
nothing need be truly lost.

Slowly,much is possible,
even from darkness.

from Burning Whins

And while we're at it, let's tip our hats to the Scots for this creative idea:

In August 2008, St. Andrew Square in Edinburgh (which was the first UNESCO "City of Literature") allowed visitors to the garden to float poetry written on paper lotus flowers across the pond in preparation for turning the Square into a poetry garden.

Reader-in-residence Ryan Van Winkle was on hand as a 'personal poetry shopper' to recommend a perfect poem for visitors to read to match individual styles and tastes.

Richard Holloway, Scottish Arts Council chair, said: "The wonderful thing about having a poetry garden in a famous square in a beautiful city is the way it will help people to pause for a minute or two and let poetry into their lives."

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Writers in the Schools is a non-profit organization that engages children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing. Their blog features writing by kids, including this wonderful bilingual poem by Susan.

Mi corazón como es (How My Heart Works)
By Susan, 3rd grade

Mi corazón es como un borrador.
Puede borrar las cosas malas
y mejorarlas y perdonar con cariño.
Mi corazón puede que sea una bolsa con amor,
y las personas que me quieren y juegan conmigo
las metería adentro.
Adentro de mi corazón,
yo tengo mi familia. Son muy buenos conmigo.
Mi corazón es como un huevo pequeño,
y cuando abre, estoy contenta.
Mi corazón es como una máquina trabajadora.
Hace que me mueva. Si puedo moverme,
puedo jugar y conocer la amistad.

My heart is like an eraser.
It can erase all the bad things,
make them better,
and forgive others with kindness.
It could be that my heart is like a pouch full of love.
In this pouch, I could put
the people who love me and play with me.
In my heart, I keep my family.
They are good to me.
My heart is like a small egg,
and when it opens, I am happy.
My heart is like a hard-working machine.
It makes me move. And if I can move,
I can play and get to know what friendship is.

I heard about a terrific poetry project called the Poetry Postcard Fest, which was initiated in 2007 by poets Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers. This fun idea seems reproducible in various settings (at school and in writing groups, for instance).

To do this project, each participant needs a postcard for every day of your event. The Poetry Postcard Fest takes place during August so it is 31 days (and they use 31 postcards). You can make your event last a week, though. It's up to you.

Each participant collects their postcards from wherever -- book stores, thrift shops, online, drug stores, antique shops, museums, gift shops -- (or you hand them out) and then during the event, each person writes a poem and sends it to the person whose name is below theirs on the event list.

The next day, each participant sends one to the next person on the list (if your name is on the bottom, you start at the top and work your way down). If you want, you can send postcards to more than one person the same day.

You can pick a theme for your event or a theme for each day or you can leave it up to the participants. Instead of a theme, you could also pick a form (such as haiku or limerick) for each day. Some artist-poets might even like to illustrate their poems on their postcards. You can really do what you want with this idea!

One last bit for this week! Billy Collins creates some great images, such as this first stanza of Thesaurus:

By Billy Collins

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

You can read the rest here.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

It's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland week here.

Here's the Mad Hatter's song, The Bat.

The Bat
By Lewis Carroll

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly
Like a tea-tray in the sky.

When she is being quizzed by the Caterpillar, Alice recites her version of You are Old, Father William.

an excerpt from You are old, Father William
By Lewis Carroll

'You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
'And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head -
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'

'In my youth,' Father William replied to his son,
'I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.'

"Off With Her Head!"

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Friday, August 8, 2008

In 1907, a sweet book by Robert Williams Wood was published called How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers: A Manual of Flornithology for Beginners. "Flornithology" is a word Wood invented, mixing "ornithology" (the study of birds) with the prefix "flor-", relating to flowers. You can read the whole thing here.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

I just heard about America Scores -- so cool! Soccer and poetry, together. Check it out.

A riddle poem for you:

The beginning of eternity,
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
And the end of every place.

from The Guess Book (c. 1820)

What's the answer?
The letter "e"

More riddle poems
Even more riddle poems

The Chaos was first published in 1920 in a book by Dutchman G.N. Trenité called Drop Your Foreign Accent. The Chaos covers many words in English that have confusing pronunciations.

An excerpt from The Chaos
By Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you'll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it's written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say - said, pay - paid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak...

... Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

This week we've got info on Poetry Games, followed by a new poem by me.

* You can find computerized poetry games at Poetry 4

* offers a well-liked poetry game called Exquisite Corpse:

1. Pick a theme or leave the theme of your game open. Rip out a piece of paper from your notebook and write a line of a poem on a piece of paper. Fold your line over so it can't be seen by your friend and hand the paper over. Your friend then writes her own line and she folds the paper so you can see neither her line nor yours. Repeat until you fill a side or two (you decide) of paper.
2. You can also tell the person the last word of your line if you want to try a rhyming "poem". These often are quite funny.
3. Once you're done, read it aloud. This exercise helps develop a playfulness and also can produce some interesting combinations. A lot of beginning writers suffer from over seriousness. Not that there's anything wrong with seriousness, but over seriousness spoils many a hard effort. Inject some playfulness into your work and experiment with language. It's a game and it's fun and sometimes breaking yourself out of your typical mode of writing can do a poet at any level some good.

* There are poetry games you can play with other people online on the The Literature Network forum

* Lastly, we've got Haikai (Collaborative Poetry Game) From WikiHow:

Haikai collaborative poetry (aka renku, or renga) has a long history in Japan, where it combines aspects of game-play with literature. It's a fun and creative group activity which is becoming popular in the west in recent years. You don't need to be a poet to play! The plan below is for a 12-verse haikai, but there are many other plans (up to 100 verses, if you and your writing partner(s) are feeling energetic!). Each haikai consists of alternating three- and two-line verses.

1. Decide who is to write the first verse. It should make reference to the current surroundings and season (not necessarily by name - e.g. 'Christmas' indicates winter; 'beach' would suggest summer). Three lines, up to 17 syllables total.
2. Pass the writing pad to the next player, for the second verse. This one will be just two lines, up to 14 syllables maximum. Come up with something to suggest the same season as the first verse. It should link to the first verse, but shift away from it a bit as well. After that first verse, everything is fictional.
3. Pass it over to the third player (or back to the first if you are only two). Another three-line verse now, but this one should make no reference to season. And while it should link somehow to the previous verse, this should shift right away from the verse before that (the first verse)
4. Alternate three- and two-line verses. Of every three verses, one or two should mention a season. Main thing is to link (sometimes quite tentatively) to the preceding verse, while always shifting away from the one before that. Link and shift, that's what it's about.

For additional info and a sample poem, visit WikiHow.

The Muse Calls Forth A Poem
by Tabatha Yeatts

Blowing softly into her small horn,
the muse calls forth a poem.

The words rise from the still water
like a swiftly-shooting tendril,
growing and luxuriously unfolding;
petals reaching in all directions,
sturdy enough to hold
the notes of her song
as they seek a place to rest.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Should poetry be only for a few people, just for special occasions, kept in classrooms? Actually, poetry should ride the bus...

An excerpt of Poetry Should Ride the Bus
By Ruth Forman

...Poetry should ride the bus
In a fat woman’s Safeway bag
Between the greens n chicken wings
To be served with Tuesday’s dinner

Poetry should drop by a sweet potato pie
Ask about the grandchildren
N sit through a whole photo album
On a orange plastic covered La-Z-Boy with no place to go

Poetry should sing red revolution love songs
That massage your scalp
And bring hope to your blood
When you think you’re too old to fight...

from We Are the Young Magicians.

The Poetry House

Inspired by a poem penned by Sonoma State University professor Elizabeth Carothers Herron, sculptor Bruce Johnson created a major work of redwood and copper called "Poetry House" as an architectural sculpture in the form of a traditional Japanese teahouse.

Herron, a professor of Arts and Humanities, composed a poem for installation within the sculpture. Herron's epic has been seamlessly blended into Johnson's sculpture, with lines of poetry transcribed onto all of the under-layers of the building, both inside and out, including the roof, walls, floors, and the paper of the central lantern. "The intention is to imbue this small quiet space with poetry," she says.

"So what is a poetry house?" asks Johnson. "I have come to feel that it is the empty space where attention resides..."

Info from Jean Wasp, SSU

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Friday, July 11, 2008

I checked out The Sound of Colors by Jimmy Liao from the library, but it is so gorgeous that I would like to get my own copy. This picture book, which was also made into a movie, is about a young girl coming to grips with the loss of her sight. She goes into the subway on a “journey of the imagination.”

Poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe explained that poetry is "the rhythmical creation of Beauty.” E.A. Robinson define poetry as “language that tells us, through a more or less emotional reaction, something that can not be said.” For those two reasons, I'm including The Sound of Colors in Poetry Friday.

“I’ve forgotten how blue the sky can be,” the girl says,
“But in my mind I still
watch the clouds change shape.”

Another book-related poem...I picked up The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer (sequel to The Sea of Trolls, which I loved). After the pages listing the cast of characters, there was a poem called The Song of Wandering Aengus. I assumed it was written by the author, so as I read it, I thought, “That Nancy Farmer can write a nice poem.” But then my eyes flicked to the bottom and I saw William Butler Yeats had actually written it. My bad.

Well, I think it's already been established that W.B. can write a nice poem. See for yourself:

The Song of Wandering Aengus
By W.B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Composer Antonio Vivaldi's violin concertos The Four Seasons were published in 1725. Vivaldi wrote a sonnet to go with each season. You can listen to the music as you read and see how the two complement each other. This is an electric guitar version and here is Willard Scott reading the poem as the music plays. On this NASA site, you can listen to portions of each season and guess which is which.

By Antonio Vivaldi

Allegro non molto
Beneath this hard season of the burning sun
Man and flocks languish and pines burn;
The cuckoo raises its stuttering voice;
The turtle dove and goldfinch sing in answer.
The sweet Zephyr blows, but is challenged
As Boreas (the north wind) invades his territory.
The shepherd weeps because he fears
The fierce looming storm, and for his destiny.

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
Depriving his tired limbs of rest
Is fear of lightning and fierce thunder
And flies, large and small
In a furious swarm.

Ah, his fears are all too true,
Flashes and thunder in the heavens and hail
Dashing the heads from the stalks
Of the ripe grain.

In honor of the 4th of July:

This Land Is Your Land
By Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

First Fig
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths
by Philip James Bailey

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest:
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life's but a means unto an end; that end,
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God.
The dead have all the glory of the world.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Nobel Prize-winning poet Octavio Paz, who was born in Mexico in 1914.

Entre lo que veo y digo,
entre lo que digo y callo,
entre lo que callo y sueño,
entre lo que sueño y olvido,
la poesía.

English translation:

Between what I see and what I say,
Between what I say and what I keep silent,
Between what I keep silent and what I dream,
Between what I dream and what I forget,

an excerpt from No More Clichés
By Octavio Paz

This poem is dedicated to those women
Whose beauty is in their charm,
In their intelligence,
In their character,
Not on their fabricated looks.

This poem is to you women,
That like a Shahrazade wake up
Everyday with a new story to tell,
A story that sings for change
That hopes for battles...

...To you, fighter of a thousand-and-one fights
To you, friend of my heart.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Illiterate
By William Meredith

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

William Meredith: "Whatever a poem is up to, it requires our trust along with our consent to let it try to change our way of thinking and feeling. Nothing without this risk. I expect hang gliding must be like poetry. Once you get used to it, you can't imagine not wanting the scare of it. But it's more serious than hang gliding. Poetry is the safest known mode of human risk. You risk only staying alive."

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Friday, June 6, 2008

My favorite word that Mr. Eliot rhymes with Macavity has to be "suavity," but I also like "he breaks the law of gravity" and he's a "monster of depravity."

Macavity - The Mystery Cat
by T.S. Eliot

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

Eliot's cat-poem collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was the inspiration for the musical Cats.

Secondly, I'm going to include a link that is not about Poetry. This new site looks useful, so here it is:

"Guys Lit Wire exists solely to bring literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them."

Friday, May 30, 2008

OK, Mike Keith likes a poetic challenge. But as he says here, he also offers a challenge for the reader: "The poem below is a transformation of William Blake’s "The Tyger" via an unusual linguistic constraint. Your challenge is to determine the constraint, given the hint that strict application of the rule will invariably result (as it does here) in a composition containing exactly 109 words."

The first stanza of The Hydra
By Mike Keith

Hydra, hydra, looming bright
(Be calm now, O forest night!),
No man’s art - so plainly, see -
Can ask, know, capture symmetry!

Hercules and the Hydra by John Singer Sargent


I admit, I did not figure out what he was doing. Don't continue reading if you want to figure it out on your own...


"In The Hydra, the first letter of successive words is required to be the same as the first letter of the chemical symbols (in order) in the Periodic Table, thus producing a constrained language that might be called Elemental English."
H H N B B C N O F N S M A S P: Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Neon, Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus, and so on...

Checking in on poetry in England:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Have you read The Unwritten by W.S. Merwin?

It begins:

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they're hiding

they're awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won't come out
not for love for time for fire...

Sixth grader Emily Birnbaum wrote a response to The Unwritten called Longing to be Written:

Inside this paper
Lay trees that
Long to be written on.
It's waited for so long.
Collecting dust in the attic,
It's never been written on.

The pencil won't give way,
In its stubborn way it stays.
So the paper is left sitting,
Full of trees and the long-forgotten stench of factory.
The paper that longs to be written on.

The pencil is full of words,
But the paper is only full of trees.
The pencil is selfish, holding its words inside its slim, yellow body,
Never giving the paper the only thing
It's ever wanted.

Inside this paper
Lay trees that
Long to be written on.

This paper only wants the touch of lead
On its thin, blue lines.
But the pencil won't give way,
In its stubborn way it stays.

Jiyeon Song is an Art Center College of Design student who made a very interesting project called “One Day Poem Pavilion." He took hardboards, cut holes in them at specific angles so over time during the day, the sunlight will cast a poem. Each stanza of the poem lasts for about an hour, and then a new one begins. See One Day Poem Pavilion here.

According to the project description, the holes in the hardboard, "reveal different shadow-poems according to the solar calendar: a theme of new-life during the summer solstice, a reflection on the passing of time at the period of the winter solstice."

Friday, May 16, 2008

This has to be heard to be appreciated:
Television by Todd Alcott.
Mr. Alcott refers to it as a monologue rather than a poem. That brings up an interesting point -- how can you tell the difference when you're listening? Does it make a difference? The Internet Archive describes it as "spoken word."
Hat tip once again to Mlle. Felicite.

Just Thinking
By William Stafford

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot--peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A hat tip to Mademoiselle Felicite for letting me know about Taylor Mali.

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

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Friday, May 2, 2008


Creating visual accompaniment for poems is popular. Here are a few poetry videos:

Humpty Dumpty by Edgar Allan Poe (No, this wasn't really written by E.A. Poe. Someone re-wrote Humpty Dumpty in his style. Just see for yourself.)

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. This is a popular poem for Poetry Out Loud participants to perform and always a crowd-pleaser.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron.

Tuesday 9 a.m. by Denver Butson. I love this poem. This video was made by two 8th graders and won the Shanghai Student Film Festival.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Stanley Cat
Laura Shovan

Stanley Cat the food critic
Walked into Ed’s Café

Disguised in sunglasses and a wig,
Notebook hidden under his beret.

“I’m sick and tired of fish and fowl.”
He told the waitress, Sue.

She said, “Our specials are spaghetti
And turtle eggs from Timbuktu.”

“Nutritious dishes, sound delicious,”
Stan purred. “Slap some pasta down!”

Sue, the clumsy waitress, slipped.
Stan left with a spaghetti crown.

Stanley Cat by Tabatha Yeatts

Here is a totally cool idea from Education World for making a class Poetry Calendar. Individuals could also make a poetry calendar -- it would be a terrific birthday or holiday gift for a writer/reader/teacher/poetry enthusiast!

Education World's plan:

Arrange students into pairs or small groups and assign each a month. Have students find the names of five poets who were born in his or her group's assigned month, and record on a piece of paper, each poet's birthday and the titles of 1-2 poems by that poet. (Students should read the poems as well.)

Ask students to share with their groups the information they find, eliminating duplicate poets. The goal is to end up with 8-12 unique birthdays per group. Then invite each student to read to the group his or her favorite poem. After listening to the poems, each group should to decide which poet and what image to feature for the month. The image should represent the month (in terms of seasons, holidays, and so on) and the month's poets or their poems.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

This week: Poetry for two voices!

Poems can be fun to read together. Getting the rhythm right can be a challenge, but once you get it, it can sound good.

Here's a pretty easy one. (Have you had this conversation before? I have.)

How to hang up the telephone
by Delia Ephron

‘Are you still there?’
‘Are you?’
‘Yeah. Why didn’t you hang up?’
‘Why didn’t you?’
‘I was waiting for you.’
‘I was waiting for you. You go first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘No, you first.’
‘OK, I know. I‘ll count to three and we’ll both hang up at the same time. Ready? One, two, three. ‘Bye.’
‘Are you still there?’
‘Why didn’t you?’
‘What do you mean, me?’
‘OK, do it again. This time for real. One, two, two and a half, two and three quarters, three. ‘Bye.’
‘Are you still there?’

Teacher Gail Desler has some great ideas for kids studying what World War II was like for Japanese Americans on the West Coast. She suggests reading A Graduation Poem for Two by Stephanie Klose to get a feel for a poem from two different, but sometimes overlapping, view-points.

Then, students can pair up and read copies of Franklin Roosevelt's "A Date Which Will Live in Infamy" speech and An Interview with Marielle Tsukamoto.

In their own words and/or using words from the speech and interview, students use the poetry-for-two-voices format to create a poem on Japanese internment.

Any poet/student could use this idea -- contrasting two points of view in a poem for two voices -- with any historical or current event. Or a situation closer to home.

Here's a Youth Radio podcast of students performing poems for two voices (They also have a podcast of quidditch poems by students who were in a school quidditch tournament!)

Paul Fleishman won the 1989 Newberry Medal for his book Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Margaret Cavendish

Of Many Worlds in This World
by Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)

Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found:
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape:
For creatures, small as atoms, may there be,
If every one a creature’s figure bear.
If atoms four, a world can make, then see
What several worlds might in an ear-ring be:
For, millions of those atoms may be in
The head of one small, little, single pin.
And if thus small, then ladies may well wear
A world of worlds, as pendents in each ear.

Poet Trivia:
Margaret Cavendish, a.k.a. the Duchess of Newcastle, wrote one of the earliest examples of science fiction (The Blazing World).

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Friday, April 4, 2008

I might use this for Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 17th)...

A Blank White Page
by Francisco X. Alarcón

A blank white page
is a meadow
after a snowfall
that a poem
hopes to cross

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Friday, March 28, 2008

We've got another song this week. How quickly can you name this tune?

...Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors?
I think they're one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it,
There's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it,
The Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Yes, it's The Rainbow Connection by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, most famously sung by Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson), but also performed by Sarah McLachlan, Kenny Loggins, The Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake, The Carpenters, Jason Mraz, Willie Nelson, and more. Here's Kermit singing it on YouTube.

Plus, here's a bit of Walt Whitman's Miracles from Leaves of Grass.

WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles...

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass­-
the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

And lastly, an explanation of what is poetry by David McCord:

"Poetry is so many things besides the shiver down the spine. It is a new day lying on a new doorstep. It is what will stir the weariest mind to write. It is the inevitable said so casually that the reader or listener thinks he said it himself. It is the fall of syllables that run as easily as water flowing over a dam. It is fireflies in May, apples in October, the wood fire burning when no one looks up from an open book. It is the best dream from which one ever waked too soon. It is Peer Gynt and Moby Dick in a single line. It is the best translation of words that do not exist. It is hot coffee dripping from an icicle. It is the accident involving sudden life. It is the calculus of the imagination. It is the finishing touch to what one could not finish. It is a hundred things as unexplainable as all our foolish explanations."

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Friday, March 21, 2008

This poem from Teaching Tolerance is by teen poet Ashley Thornton.

Building Bridges
by Ashley Thornton

Why does the color of our skin
Affect the world we’re living in?
Many people worked to stop the fight,
The fight between the blacks and whites.
Too bad their dream did not come true,
Bridges ought to be built between me and you.

The Civil Rights Movement
Didn’t end segregation.
I still see it living
All over the nation.
It may not be as blatant as in 1908,
But there’s still a barrier
Between each race.

Many might wonder
About the cause of this grief.
How come both worlds
Will not live in peace?
It is not impossible
Nor an unreachable goal,
For both worlds live
In the depths of my soul.

I am half black, I am half white.
In my heart both worlds unite.

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The Heron
by Diane Ambur

Standing regally against a cloudless sky,
The heron, blue crowned, and dressed in flowing white feathers,
Stands sentry to the lagoon.
His stance is arresting as he seems to reign over his territory.
Life teems all around him, as he stands motionless, observing silently.
A passerby wanders just a little too close.
And the once stalwart guard,
Startles and zooms into flight to the nearest tree.
Regaining his royal presence, he stares nonchalantly from above.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Quote of the week:
To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which all good citizens owe to their country.
~ George Washington

And now a poem:

by Charles Simic

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

From Return to a Place Lit By a Glass of Milk

Mr. Simic is our current U.S. Poet Laureate.

What is a Poet Laureate?

"Laureate" comes from the laurel plant, which in ancient Greece was sacred to the sun god Apollo, and was used to form a crown of honour for poets and other heroes. The word "laureate" came from that to signify eminence or glory.

A Poet Laureate is a poet who is chosen to be honored by a country, state, town, or school for their talents. In the middle ages, England's kings and queens started having personal poet laureates who would compose poems in the royals' honor. In England, poets laureate traditionally receive the title for life; in the U.S., their term is approximately one school year.

In addition to our national poet laureate, there are also state laureates:
Poet Laureates of the individual states

More about Charles Simic:
Charles Simic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1938 and lived his childhood in the midst of the European battleground of World War II. As he told JM Spalding of The Cortland Review in 1998, “Germans and the Allies took turns dropping bombs on my head while I played with my collection of lead soldiers on the floor. I would go boom, boom, and then they would go boom, boom. Even after the war was over, I went on playing war. My imitation of a heavy machine gun was famous in my neighborhood in Belgrade.” At 15, he moved to Paris with his mother; the next year they joined his father in the U.S.
Becoming a poet in Chicago and New York: Simic’s family settled in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, and he graduated from high school there. He has said that he began to write poems to impress girls: “I still tremble at the memory of a certain Linda listening breathlessly to my doggerel on her front steps.”
from poetry

Lastly, in the spirit of poets writing works for special occasions and political events, here is a link to Maya Angelou's recitation of On the Pulse of Morning at the 1993 presidential inauguration.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

The first annual Poem In Your Pocket Day is coming!

The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you on April 17. You could also add a poem to your email footer, post a poem on your blog or page, or text a poem to friends.

Poem In Your Pocket Day has been celebrated each April in New York City since 2002. Each year, city parks, bookstores, workplaces, and other venues burst with open readings of poems from pockets. Even the Mayor gets in on the festivities, reading a poem on the radio. For more information on New York City’s celebration, visit here.

And here's an excerpt from Happiness by Jane Kenyon. She creates wonderful, surprising images.

...happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon...

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Friday, February 29, 2008

A poem about the immortality of art by Robert Louis Stevenson, who, in addition to writing poetry, also authored Treasure Island (1882) and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886):

Bright Is the Ring...
by Robert Louis Stevenson

From Songs of Travel

Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.
Still they are carolled and said --
On wings they are carried --
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.

Low as the singer lies
In the field of heather,
Songs of his fashion bring
The swains together.
And when the west is red
With the sunset embers,
The lover lingers and sings
And the maid remembers.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Poetry Out Loud is coming! If you live in the D.C. area, pencil this in:

The 2008 National Finals will be held at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Semifinal rounds will take place all-day on Monday, April 28 and the Finals will be held in the evening on Tuesday, April 29. Admission is free and open to the public.

If you live elsewhere, you can still attend your state's finals.

When the Poetry Out Loud participants recite a poem, they own it -- once you've memorized a poem, it's yours.

Here's a short one ... very easy to memorize!

by A.R. Ammons

Birds are flowers flying
and flowers perched birds.

By Mila Zinkova

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Two flower-inspired poems, just because...

an excerpt from somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by e.e. cummings

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

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by Frances E.W. Harper, 1825-1911.

Though a tremor of the winter
Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
To greet the vernal sun.

And the sunbeams gave them welcome.
As did the morning air
And scattered o'er their simple robes
Rich tints of beauty rare.

Soon a host of lovely flowers
From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
The crocuses were first.

First to weave for Earth a chaplet
To crown her dear old head;
And to beautify the pathway
Where winter still did tread.

And their loved and white haired mother
Smiled sweetly 'neath the touch,
When she knew her faithful children
Were loving her so much.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, born to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland, was an African American abolitionist and poet.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Willow Song
by He Zhizhang (659-744, Tang dynasty)

From the clear green jade of one tall tree,
ten thousand green ribbons hang silkily.
No one knows who cut out the thin leaves;
perhaps the wind-scissors of February.

Jane Sassaman's "Willow"

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Have you heard of HBO's show Def Poetry Jam?

Here's 18-year-old Sarah Kay performing "Hands."

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A bonus...

by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer ...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Friday, January 25, 2008

It's basketball, basketball, basketball at our house during the winter. So I had to include this poem written by Rachael Kerney when she was in middle school:

Rachael Kerney

Why be shopping at the mall,
When you could be playing basketball?
Why be standing still,
When you could be doing basketball drills?
Why be lying in a cot,
When you could be shooting a foul shot?
Why be a cheerleader rooting,
When you could be a basketball player shooting?
Why be sitting in the sun,
When you could be playing one on one?
Why be talking to your sibling,
When you could be in a gym dribbling?
Why be on the couch being lazy,
Because if you don't play basketball, you are crazy!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

In honor of the upcoming birthday of a great thinker & brave man, this week's poem is actually from a song, James Taylor's Shed a Little Light:

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

"Everybody can be great because everybody can serve."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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National Poetry Month is April. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers can request a free copy of the 2008 poster here. Posters from past years can be purchased for $5 by the general public here.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

It seems as if everyone is familiar with haiku, but fewer people have heard of tanka. Tanka was developed in the late 700s in Japan and consists of five lines -- traditionally the first and third have five syllables, the second, fourth, and fifth have seven.

A haiga is artwork that is accompanied by haiku, but tanka writers have started making "taigas," like this one by Michael McClintock (poem) and Karen McClintock (art).

Some additional information from artist Karen McClintock:

The new movement in modern English tanka over the last 20 or so years has strayed away from the formal syllable counting of the past, with many prominent poets dropping it entirely. Poem lines are still short, and three or five lines, but haiku and tanka is being written in our language with an ear to content, flow, lyric, and expression of idea rather than adhering to a strict pattern of syllables which many poets find too confining. My husband (Michael McClintock) pioneered this movement 40 years ago and thinks it is the future direction of the whole genre in the west.

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A bonus...

A haiku by pre-modern Japanese poet Raizan

You rice-field maidens!
The only things not muddy
Are the songs you sing.

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It's a double bonus day...I am loving all this wonderful imagery!

Prairie Fires
by Hamlin Garland, 1860-1940

A curving, leaping line of light,
A crackling roar from hot, red lungs,
A wild flush on the skies of night,
A force that gnaws with hot red tongues,
That leaves a blackened smoking sod
A fiery furnace where the cattle trod.

Friday, January 4, 2008

by Emily Brontë,1818-1848

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

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