Friday, January 10, 2014

The Art of Description

I'm amazed at the ways poets can describe things. And I love finding poets I've never heard of. I had a poem stashed in my email that fits both of these and I rediscovered it today.

Because I cannot remember my first kiss

  by Roger Bonair-Agard

but I remember sitting alone on the brown
couch in my grandmother’s living room,
couch whose cushion covers were of velvet
and the color of dark rust, or dried blood
—and sewn by the tailor from up the block,
the same one who made me my first light blue
suit two years earlier 
             And I sat there running my hands back 
             and forth
over the short smooth hairs of the fabric
and understanding what touch meant
for the first time—not touch, the word,
as in don’t touch the hot stove or don’t
touch your grandfather’s hats but touch
like Tom Jones was singing it right then
on the television, with a magic that began
in his hips, swiveled the word and pushed
it out through his throat into some concert
hall somewhere as a two-syllabled sprite,
so that women moaned syllables back in return.

I just love the word choice and the way he describes sitting on a couch. What I thing to describe! And I have a thing for poems whose title serves as the first line. Is that weird? Ah, poetry...

Please check out the rest of this gem at And definitely check out the Poetry Friday round-up at Mainely Write.

photo credit: foka kytutr via photopin cc

Friday, May 10, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Kick of Creation

I need to get back to blogging here. My lay-off needs to end. I think I can do it. I'll start with today.

A friend shared this quote with me as we caught up over a beer recently. It's by Kurt Vonnegut:

Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.
I think I'll start doing that. And start blogging here more. I begin with sharing an amazing poem that came to my inbox this morning. "Time" by Chris Martin:

by Chris Martin

All that happens happens

in the hollow 


open mid-vow


only song will do

what an empty cave needs

done, drone

that seeds to fill

one space and then that

space's space, what 

are we made 

of if 

not chants.

Sun slumping up

the stucco, cat chewing

her tail clean, nimbi

darkening the fallen

leaves leatherlike, I make

voice, voice, voice, voices

like a fist

on thinking's door

a fistula 

wrapping abstraction

and binding it to what, morning

sickness, the lathed light

now flying through branches

made sinister

by season, a crook

in the amygdala's grey

ministry and all 

I see is a circling murder

above the antenna

that replaced the weathervane.

Read the rest of the poem here. And check out the Poetry Friday roundup at Anastasia's poetry blog.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Poetry Friday: There's an App For That

Confession time: I just got my first smartphone. Welcome to the 21st Century, right? Yes, it was about time. And yes, it didn't take me long to realize how very, very sweet having a smartphone is. Definitely embarrassed to admit how much I love it.

One of the first apps I downloaded was from The Poetry Foundation, a great app with two "wheels" to "spin". The wheels are marked with categories: humor, joy, compassion, youth, etc.   The wheels match up to create a list of poems that match the combination: Poems about Humor and Youth, Love and Joy, etc. Brilliant!

You can also search for poems by poet, poem title, subject, and mood. AND you can star your favorites for future reference. Also brilliant. If you're a smartphone user and a poetry lover, you've got to get this. Oh, and did I mention that it's free!?!? Again...brilliant.

With the app, I've found some gems that I probably wouldn't have discovered otherwise. Like this one:

Poem for Haruko

I never thought I’d keep a record of my pain
or happiness
like candles lighting the entire soft lace
of the air
around the full length of your hair/a shower
organized by God
in brown and auburn
undulations luminous like particles
of flame
But now I do
retrieve an afternoon of apricots
and water interspersed with cigarettes
and sand and rocks
we walked across:
                        How easily you held
my hand
beside the low tide
of the world

Read the rest of the poem here, or find it on the app you just downloaded! Does it make
you as happy as it makes me that the ending of it contains the phrase: "infinite

Check out how to get the Poetry Foundation Mobile app for your smartphone or tablet by clicking here.  
And be sure to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup at No Water River, a pretty nifty blog that I'm going to have to start following.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Poetry Friday: From the Hip

Sometimes, you need a plan. You've gotta think about things before you do them. Figure out what to do first, next, and last. Obsess over the details. Try to get it all right. Set yourself up to ensure success. Whether it's a lesson you're teaching, a vacation you're planning, or figuring out how to ask somebody out. Sometimes you need a plan.

And then there's those other times. The times when you just have to go for it and say "forget about a plan."

I'd love to be more like the latter, but I have to admit that it's the former that tends to describe my M.O. most of the time.

What's my point? Not sure. But today I'm picking the first poem I see to share with you. Rebellious, I know. But you have to start somewhere.

So here's the first one I found when I did some poetry hunting today, and it's by a poet I'm not all familiar with beyond the name, Willa Cather.


Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door ?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
'Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
Read the rest of this poem here. Not the most uplifting choice, but it's beautifully written, and that brings me joy. I wonder how long it took to write it. How much planning and thought went into it? How many drafts? Does great poetry ever come from the hip? Maybe in the early stages, when the idea first forms? Maybe someday I'll figure it out. Until then, be sure to enjoy the rest of the Poetry Friday offerings courtesy of today's host Read, Write, Howl

Friday, November 2, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Poet to Know--Maureen N. McLane

I don't know about you, but when I discover a new poet, I get so excited. By "new," of course, I mean new to me. It's just so fun to read a great poem and then dig into a little internet searching to find another and another of their gems. And then maybe dial up the library or bookstore to request anything and everything they've published.

Here's someone I found today, Maureen McLane. I just had to share some of her stuff in honor of the first Poetry Friday of my mostest favorite month, November.

Check out this beauty:

Populating Heaven

by Maureen N. McLane

         If we belonged 
to the dead, if we had our own
Egyptian culture of care—
the amulets of home entombed
for solace everywhere—
would we then have found
a better way to cast beyond
the merely given earth?
         If you want to follow me
you'd better leave your plaid
suitcase and makeup kit
behind.  I hope you won't
mind the narrow corridor;
the air in the chamber's
thinned out.  In this dark
I think my life's an old hinge
creaking in silence.
         Open the door
and you'll see the creatures
I imagined while you were waiting:
the green-eyed dog upright
on his throne, the winged lion,
the woman whose third eye
brightens the room.

You can read the rest here. It's written in such clear language. And it says so much.

And this next one appealed to me in the same way. I'm in a new position at my school as an instructional coach this year, so I'm out of the classroom...hardest part about this? Not getting to teach poetry. I would love to teach this poem and have students write their own "What I'm Looking For" poem:

What I'm Looking For

by Maureen N. McLane

What I'm looking for
is an unmarked door
we'll walk through
and there: whatever
we'd wished for
beyond the door.

What I'm looking for
is a golden bowl
carefully repaired
a complete world sealed
along cracked lines.

What I'm looking for
may not be there.
What you're looking for
may or may not
be me.

The rest of this poem is here.

If you like these two and you enjoy a good love poem (and even though I say I am not a love poem fan, poems like this one make me change my mind) you will really like "Syntax."

Thanks for enjoying the poetry of Maureen N. McLane with me. Be sure to check out the rest of the Poetry Friday lineup today at Mainely Write (best blog title ever???).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry Friday: Good Poems for Hard Times

I don't blog too much about my personal life. First of all, it's personal. Secondly, it's not all that interesting! I will say that I've been juggling a lot of work lately, including a new job, a book manuscript that's due in 2 months, and some big presentations that are coming up. It's been pretty stressful. Reading poetry is something that calms me, but I haven't made the time to do so during these hectic and anxiety-ridden early-autumn days.

I decided to remedy this situation today, so I downloaded a pretty fantastic book that I really need to tell you about. It's called Good Poems For Hard Times. It's an anthology that was edited by Garrison Keilor. I don't know much about Keilor outside of A Prairie Home Companion. And even that isn't something I'm very familiar with. But Keilor is, without a doubt, a poetry lover, and wow, can he pick a good poem (it's an aptly titled collection). Just look at what he has to say about poetry in the book's introduction...

"Poetry is about driving the nail into the pine, killing the chicken, mowing grass, putting luggage into the car, gratitude for food, the laughter of a little girl, about our common life."


"American poetry is the truest journalism we have. What your life can be, lived bravely and independently, you can discover in poetry...Nobody will ever speak to you as straightforwardly as poetry does. Nobody."


"Poetry is a necessity as simple as the need to be touched and similarly a need that is hard to enunciate."

So I turned to GPFHT the other day while riding the bus to work. I got through a total of one poem--and not because it was no good but rather because it was so good I had to keep reading and re-reading it. It was the very first poem in the book and it's called "Break of Day" by Galway Kinnell. Take a look:

Break of Day

He turns the light on, lights
the cigarette, goes out on the porch,
chainsaws a block of green wood down the grain,
chucks the pieces into the box stove,
pours in kerosene, tosses in the match
he has set fire to the next cigarette with,
stands back while the creosote-lined, sheet-
metal rust-lengths shudder but just barely
manage to direct the cawhoosh in the stove—
which sucks in ash motes through gaps
at the bottom and glares out fire blaze
through overburn-cracks at the top—

What a perfectly captured moment. And I'm an instant fan of any poem that has the word creosote in it. You can read the rest of the poem here.

What a great day for a Poetry Friday roundup, which is hosted today at Teacher Dance. Be sure to check it out!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday: Persona Poems

Persona Poems, poems written from the point of view of another person or an inanimate object, are one of my favorite types of poems for students to write. It's exciting and challenging to push them to "get inside the head" of someone else. It's also an excellent way to integrate poetry writing into your reading class (write a poem from a character's perspective) or social studies (write a poem from a historical figure's point of view).

I think it's also challenging to have students write as if they were an object. One of my most successful assignments came to me when I noticed someone's hat on the roof of our school. Students wrote poems in the hat's voice that told the story of how in the world it got up there. Good fun and yet another example of how poetry can bring the oft-neglected aspect of PLAY into the classroom.

One thing that's helpful to have when assigning poetry writing assignments is mentor poems, poems written by others (be it published/famous poets or other students) that can serve as models and inspiration.

There are plenty of mentor persona poems out there, but today I found a good one while looking for some poems by one of my favorite poets, Nikki Giovanni:


by Nikki Giovanni

(for Sally Sellers)

Like a fading piece of cloth
I am a failure

No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter
My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able
To hold the hot and cold

I wish for those first days
When just woven I could keep water
From seeping through
Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave
Dazzled the sunlight with my 

Read the rest of the poem at I love how the poet makes me feel (I know this isn't eloquently stated, but it's true) like a quilt. And this is definitely going to be one of the mentor poems I use when teaching persona poems in the future.

Please check out the Poetry Friday roundup, which today is being hosted at Paper Tigers.

Photo Source: