Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Poem

So much for my hiatus...this poem came to me via an email subscription and I felt compelled to share it.

Such a large part of the holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate, is made up of memories. As I share my own favorite Christmas memories (those that I remember; there seem to be so few, but I guess that's an issue for another day) with my children, I realize that so much of this time of year revolves around nostalgia and the pangs of missing those that can't be with you. It can really be a sad time of year if you think about it in the wrong way.

Jeanne Marie-Beaumont writes about it far more eloquently than I ever could in "When I Am in the Kitchen:"

When I Am in the Kitchen
by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

I think about the past. I empty the ice-cube trays
crack crack cracking like bones, and I think
of decades of ice cubes and of John Cheever,
of Anne Sexton making cocktails, of decades
of cocktail parties, and it feels suddenly far
too lonely at my counter. Although I have on hooks
nearby the embroidered apron of my friend's
grandmother and one my mother made for me
for Christmas 30 years ago with gingham I had
coveted through my childhood. In my kitchen
I wield my great aunt's sturdy black-handled
soup ladle and spatula, and when I pull out
the drawer, like one in a morgue, I visit
the silverware of my husband's grandparents.
We never met, but I place this in my mouth
every day and keep it polished out of duty.

Read the rest here, at And subscribe to their Poem-a-Day email. It's worth it. And please have a safe and happy holiday season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Hiatus

I think I'm going to shut it down here at The Small Nouns for the rest of 2010. There's just not enough time it seems to get anything posted.

But fear not, faithful readers, one of my (many) 2011 resolutions is to blog more. So check back in early January for our return.

In the meantime, why not check out some great bloggers in my blogroll, or peruse the Small Nouns archive.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Poems I Haven't Been Reading

Seems like every month I say, "I think ____ is the busiest month of the year." An easy excuse for not getting anything done? Maybe. An annoying exaggeration? Probably. Either way, the poems are stacking up around me and I haven't had time to enjoy them. I've been trying to collect and save them from my various online sources, but I've barely had a chance to do more than scan the poems I've bookmarked. I keep meaning to go through them and identify the ones I like most and the ones I want to share in the classroom and here on the blog, but in all seriousness, I think December is the busiest month of the year, and I just haven't gotten around to it.

Luckily, though, I do have a little time this morning to read through some of my bookmarked poems, and I think I owe it to my faithful readers to share a few of them...

Our Bed Is Also Green
by Joshua Bell

Please speak to meonly of the present
            or if you must            bring up the past
bring up only thatwhich you and I
            don't share. I know            this is a selfish
thing to ask. Yes, as Ihave often
            remarked, shore lunch            at hanging rock
was lovely. Yourhair and mine
            stayed put. Later on            we didn't, as we
do now, pull it fromeach other's clothes
            as if for final proof            that we've been
sleeping witheach other. In the glorious
            picnics of the past            we simply knew
such things. The rockupon which
            we sat, ran beneath            the lake, and was
the same rock wewere both looking
            over to the other            side at. I almost
felt, believe me,as if we were
            two people. Person,            I nearly could
have said, hold on.Instead, I used
            the name we had            agreed upon. Not
your fault. A nameis useful, it helps
            with the blankness            I am sometimes
feeling in regardsto you. I apologize
            for saying this            out loud. You are not
the blanknessI am speaking
            of. Plug your thought            or daydream
into me, and theyor I will often
            fail to light. You are            beginning to see
what I mean aboutthe past, how I,
            despite my facility            with pliers, and eye
for detail, may notbe suitable. What was
            your name? I am            not kidding. What comes
will run us throughfrom the front, we
            pull our way            down its length
if only to see, at lastwhat has ahold
            of the spear-grip.            Therefore, the future,
as a topic, is sadlyalso out.

Please read the rest here and let me know what you think. I'm enchanted by the layout of this poem. The two-column format with alternating indentations...I'm not sure I know what that's about (which my most faithful of readers know I love), but I like it. The symmetry makes me wonder if the speaker is talking to another person (hence the two columns) or if he's talking to himself (hence the mirror images). And the choppiness of the breaks and space and indentations...I bet this poem is terrific when read aloud by the poet.

On to another great piece, this one by Catherine Bowman and delivered through the Poem-A-Day email. I really like list poems and litanies. (Remind me to blog about my all-time favorite someday soon). They're great as mentor texts for teaching poetry writing and they're fun to read for poetry novices and experts alike. This poem reads like a litany to me...

by Catherine Bowman

When he procured her, she purveyed
him. When he rationed her out, 
she made him provisional. On being

provisional, he made her his trough.
On being a trough, she made him her silo. 
At once a silo, he made her his cut. On being a cut,

she made him her utensil. On being
a utensil, he turned her downhill. So being
downhill, she made him her skis. 

When she was his stethoscope,
he was her steady beat. From beat
she was dog, from dog he was fetch,
from fetch she was jab, from jab
he was fake. When he was her complex
equation, she was his simple math. 

So she turned him into strong evidence,
accessory after the fact.
Read the last few stanzas here. There are great twists and turns here and I really enjoy line and 
stanza breaks. Oh, it also has a terrific ending. (Choosing where to end a litany must be challenging.) 
But I'm pretty sure I need someone to define the word "stet" for me. I thought it was a verb.

If you have more time than me, check out some of the other good poems I haven't had gotten a chance
to explore:

"Jet" by Tony Hoagland
"Dawn Dreams" by Rachel Hadas (This one will "insinuate all day at the corner of your eye." Brilliant.)
"Interruptions" by Mary Crow
"Alone for the Fifth Day" by Jason Shinder
"The Coming of Light" by Mark Strand

Hopefully you'll be able to take a moment and enjoy one or all of these. Let me know how it goes.

(I don't know what's messing up the format of this post, sorry. I can't figure it out!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poetry in Movies: Take Two

I recently posted questioning the existence of poetry in movies. Can movies be considered poetic? In my first post, I discussed the film Inception, which has been stuck in my head since I saw it a few weeks ago. Last week, I believe I confirmed the poetic possibilities when I revisited one of my all-time favorites, The Royal Tenenbaums. It, too, has lodged itself in my brain--just like a good poem does.

It's certainly a different kind of movie, to say the least. Not everyone will find the dysfunctional Tenenbaum family to be as entertaining and endearing as I do. The trailer doesn't completely do the movie justice, but it certainly has a "love it or hate it" quality. You'll know right away if you're like me and this is a movie you'd adore or if you're not and this is one you'd rather skip:

But trust me, there is poetry woven throughout. If you watch this clip or this markedly sadder one, you can certainly find it. At least I think so.

Like so many great poems, this film is alternately touching and hilarious. It's certainly quirky and could be perceived as "weird," like so many poems (and movies, and songs...) that I love. It's not for everyone, certainly. But it's nothing if it isn't poetic.

Above all else, though, is the fact that every single part of its design is so intentional, from the colors used in the set design or the reappearing taxi cabs of the "Gypsy Cab Company." And as my students tire of hearing me say, even though it's absolutely true, there are no accidents in poems. Everything on the page is there for a reason. Every word is carefully chosen with deliberate intent. The same is true of The Royal Tenenbaums. And, thus, it feels like a poem to me.

What's the most poetic film you've seen? Let me know, please and be sure to check out the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poems I Love to Teach: Poems I Don't Understand

How's that for a title of a blog post? Maybe I should explain. I find (sometimes, not always) that I'm drawn to poems that are just a little out of reach, just a little too complex for me to truly understand the first time through. Maybe they're still even a little too complicated after five reads. Or ten. Sometimes it's that I enjoy trying to figure it out--but not always. Sometimes I just like to bask in the genius of the poet and recognize that he or she has created something beautiful, even if I don't know what it all means.

Take this poem I read today by Carey McHugh:

You will come first as a sound
and then      a breath

will come like a cold spell      a hipbone

    your lilt above the lake a crowcall
you will come as expected in

iron weather      will craft a blade

from the horse's winter stall

Please read the rest at Poetry Daily.

I don't really "get" this poem, but I like it. I don't even know if I can say why I like it right now. And for me, with poems, that's okay. It's so much fun to chew on a poem, ponder it for awhile. Come back to it over and over and discover something new about it each time. Even if I never find myself really grasping its "true meaning."

I don't react this way to all poems that I don't understand. Heavens, that would mean I'd be swooning in adoration over millions of pieces. But if I poem has some other amazing characteristics, other things about it that I enjoy, then I can give up on any desire I have to truly comprehend and instead just appreciate these poems for what they are.

There's another poem I love--it's called "Password" and it's by one of my all-time favorites, Naomi Shihab Nye. It starts out like this:

I have made so many mistakes
you might think I would sit down 

You really must read the rest via Google Books (and then run out and buy the collection it comes from).

There's so much I don't really "get" about this poem, including the title, but there are so many other things that are just so wonderful about it, like the first two lines, and her use of simple language, and the ending, and so on. I love it completely, but I don't completely understand it. Again, that's okay.

Which brings me back full circle to the title of this post--why do I love to teach these kinds of poems? Well, for one, they stimulate some amazing discussions. If you don't truly understand parts of a poem, you're bound to hear some new ideas from your students. It's one of the reasons I sometimes (but not often) wish that I taught secondary school--the discussions could reach tremendous levels, more so than at the elementary level (which isn't to say we don't have some great ones in my classroom!).

Also, poems like this help prove to your students that poems don't have to be understood to be useful or great. In both the poems I've mentioned, for example, there are countless things that you could "zoom in on," regardless of whether the poem makes sense to anyone in the room. This, as I've said before, is an important poetry lesson to teach.

And on top of all of that, it helps get rid of that whole "teacher as all-knowing ruler of the classroom" sort of thing. When a teacher can admit to students that they don't understand something, I think that's a big deal.

I've gone on for quite some time on this topic. Thanks for reading. I guess it's been awhile since I posted and I had a lot of pent-up poetry energy. And before we go, are there any poems you love that you don't really "get?" Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poets of the Blogosphere

I follow a lot of blogs. It's a pretty good mix of educational technology and literacy instruction, for the most part. And while I follow many bloggers who write about poetry and who share poems of others and who discuss the teaching of poetry, I don't follow many blogs written by actual poets. I know they're out there. I guess I just haven't made time to find ones that suit me. (If there's any you like, please aid my search by passing them along!)

You also have to be a bit of a voyeur, it seems, to read writers' own blogs. It's an intensely personal experience to be able to read firsthand the thoughts and poems of a poet. Maybe I'm blowing this a bit out of proportion, I don't know. Or maybe this is true of all blogs (this one included?). Again, I don't know. Or maybe I'm just biased. Perhaps lurking in my mind is that "if they were any good they'd be published and wouldn't need a blog." But that seems like a mean thought to have. Regardless, I just know I find myself sometimes not all that comfortable with reading poets directly through their blogs.

There is one exception for me, though: Fox the Poet. It's the blog of an Arizona-based poet named Christopher Fox Graham. He shares a lot of poems as well as features about local poetry slams and spoken word events in Arizona and surrounding areas. (He's also introduced me to the concept of the "Haiku Death Match," for which I am eternally grateful). Anyway, I'm not sure how I came across this blog, but I find it to be a good read.

A poem posted on Fox the Poet this week stood out to me. It's called "Orion" and it starts like this:
MapQuest the miles in the sky
it's easier to find you that way
than to traipse the hills between us
(You really should read the rest here.)

You don't find the word "MapQuest" in many poems. I like that. I like it more because he uses it as a verb. I like nouns that can also be verbs. Especially proper nouns. (Tangent alert: Are words like this uniquely 21st century? Are there proper nouns/verbs from pre-2001 that I can't think of right now?)

In the rest of the poem, Graham goes on to make numerous references to different stars that make up the constellation Orion. On the blog, he provides a visual guide to help you out, but to be honest I'd almost rather not have seen it before reading the poem. It would have been more intriguing and puzzle-like. The poem's so good, I would have headed straightaway to Google (proper noun used as a verb!) names like "Meissa" and "Saiph" and "Rigel."

The poem is also long, sprawling, and has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it. These are all things I enjoy about it. A lot of the poems Graham posts are like that. ("This Country" is a good example.) It seems as though he performs at a lot of spoken word / poetry slam type of events and I think these characteristics would make his poems quite enjoyable to hear read live. I'll have to try to make it out to Arizona someday.

So please, give Fox the Poet a try and let me know which poets out there I need to add to my Google Reader. I think it's time I broaden my horizons when it comes to my blog subscriptions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spreading the Gospel of Poetry

So I found out yesterday that my proposal to present at the Michigan Reading Association 2011 Conference in Grand Rapids has been accepted. My topic will be poetry instruction for all grade levels. I'll be combining my own experiences from my classroom with knowledge I've gained from books, mentors, and other resources to present a program of poetry immersion for teachers. The purpose of the immersion, naturally, is to get students (regardless of age) to enjoy poetry.

I'm pretty proud of being accepted. I've worked hard over the last year-and-a-half to incorporate poetry reading and writing into my teaching. And I have come to be a believer in the power of poetry when it comes to helping students to become stronger readers and writers. I hope that I'll share my successes, my failures, my ideas, and the ideas I've gathered with other teachers so that they, too, can make poetry a part of their everyday classroom routine.

I've presented a couple times before at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies conference, but both times that was about educational technology, my other passion. This will be a slightly scary venture into brand new territory. At the very least, I hope to inspire a couple of people to immerse their students in the world of poetry (and to subscribe to this blog!).

The thought of presenting my ideas at a statewide conference is a bit intimidating, to say the least. But I am pretty excited about it. I'll keep you posted as the event draws nearer and I'll share my notes and handouts, too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Poetry Notebooks

The folks over at the Academy of American Poets have a terrific website. If you haven't explored it yet, you are missing out. It's a great resource for readers of poetry and for teachers, too. Their database of many, many poems is searchable both by title and poet. Also, they have poems grouped by occasion if you want to browse by category.

They have recently debuted an idea called a Poetry Notebook, which they describe as a way of "gathering and sharing your favorite poems with the community." Basically it allows you to create your own personalized collection, or "Notebook," of poems centered around any category you wish. Your Notebook is then viewable by the general public.

So for people like me who are always looking for new ways to organize and keep up with their online poetry collections, this could be a real gem. Might also make for a great assignment for the students of all you teachers of the genre out there. Check it out and let me know what you think.

And speaking of categorizing poems, keep an eye out for my next Poetry Mix Tape--Poems About the End of the World!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Old Words in New Poems

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard about a new website: Save the Words. It's a site created for people to go and "adopt" a word that has been dropped from the Oxford English Dictionary due to lack of use. Apparently words have do be dropped to make room for new words like "blog" and "tweet" and "defriend."

Anyway, when you adopt a word at this site, you commit to incorporating the word into your everyday conversations, thus resurrecting it and giving it new life.

So how about this for a poetry prompt...choose a word from Save the Words and incorporate it into a poem. Doesn't seem too difficult. And great poems make good poems even better. The list of words I first learned through poems includes such wonders as "cuneiform" and "chaparral" and "creosote."

So I intend to adopt my own word and incorporate it into my conversations AND my poems. Let me know if you try this, too, either by yourself or with students.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poetry in Movies?

I've written about poetry in music before, but have you ever seen a movie and thought, "Wow, that was poetic?" I'm not sure if I ever have...before tonight.

I don't watch a lot of movies, so maybe right away that disqualifies me from this discussion, but tonight I found the time to sneak away (by myself...I think the last 10 movies I've seen in theaters have been by myself...ah, the joys of parenthood) to see one--Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Christopher Nolan of Batman fame (but whom I worship because of his directorial debut Memento).

Inception is action packed and overflowing with myriad visual effects. But there's poetry in there somewhere. I'm not sure if I can explain it and maybe I'm just looking to discuss it with others who've seen it, but I'm all but certain that the story could be written as a poem.

Are there other movies out there like this? I'm certain there are many independent, artistic films that could be considered so, but how many multi-million dollar, visual effects laden movies like Inception can we say this of?

Has a film ever struck you as "poetic?" Or am I the only weirdo to ever think this? Please let me know.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poetry Friday: Birthday Poems Mix Tape

I'm a huge supporter of birthdays. In a way, I feel like birthdays are the most important of all holidays. Well, today happens to be mine and once you pass a certain age and become the parent of the certain amount of children, it becomes impossible for birthdays to be as special as they once were. However, I still think everyone deserves to be treated to whatever they want on their birthday. My birthday wishes, the ones that are attainable, are pretty simple...I want to watch whatever I want on TV, and I want to share Merwin and Kunitz with the world.

Forced to choose, I am 99 percent certain that I'd have to pick W.S. Merwin and Stanley Kunitz as my all-time favorite poets. I hardly ever read anything they write that I don't like/love. So on my birthday, I turn to them. Here's a bit of W.S. Merwin's "A Birthday"...

Something continues and     I don't know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way of language
                but they are all anonymous
and it's almost your birthday     music next to my bones

these nights we hear the horses     running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out     and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping     after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers     slips through the dark house
down near the sea     the slow heart of the beacon flashes
Read the rest here. But you should also check out "In the Winter of My Thirty-Eighth Year" by Mr. Merwin:

It sounds unconvincing to say When I was young

Though I have long wondered what it would be like

To be me now
No older at all it seems from here
As far from myself as ever

Walking in fog and rain and seeing nothing
I imagine all the clocks have died in the night
Now no one is looking I could choose my age
It would be younger I suppose so I am older
It is there at hand I could take it
Except for the things I think I would do differently
They keep coming between they are what I am
They have taught me little I did not know when I was young 
For this poem, you can read the rest here.

This may not be the best birthday poem ever, though. That title may belong to Mr. Kunitz's "Passing Through:"

—on my seventy-ninth birthday

Nobody in the widow’s household   
ever celebrated anniversaries.   
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
that my friends were given parties.   
Before I left town for school
my birthday went up in smoke   
in a fire at City Hall that gutted   
the Department of Vital Statistics.   
If it weren’t for a census report   
of a five-year-old White Male   
sharing my mother’s address
at the Green Street tenement in Worcester   
I’d have no documentary proof   
that I exist. You are the first,   
my dear, to bully me
into these festive occasions.

Read the rest of this amazing poem here. And if today is your birthday, too, (I'm talking to you, P. Diddy) or even if it's not, please take the time to enjoy these beautiful birthday poems. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Poem for Election Night

Maybe I'm a masochist. I'm sitting here watching the midterm election returns and it's hurting me pretty badly. I try not to blog too much about my political leanings, but it's been a painful night for me. I can't act like I didn't see this coming; no one can. But it still rankles me. And I continue to watch for some reason. Maybe I want to watch Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachman make fools of themselves by refusing to answer questions. Maybe I'm holding out hope that one of my favorite senators, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, will pull out a come-from-behind victory. Or maybe I'm a masochist.

Anyway, I found a good poem today thanks to the Writer's Almanac. It's called "To Be a Danger" and it's by C.G. Hanzlicek:
Just once I'd like to be a danger
To something in this world,
Be hunted by cops
And forced into hiding in the mountains,
Since if they left me on the streets
I'd turn the country around,
Changing everyone's mind with a word.
Please read the rest here. And if you're staying up late with me, waiting for the Alaska Senate returns to come in, let me know!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I'm not much of a Halloween guy. Never been that into costumes--I can never think of any really good ones. I'm all for the kids getting candy and then me eating the 90 percent of their bounty that they don't like, though. Anyway, since I hadn't posted in awhile, I thought I'd share a spooky poem by Thomas Lux that the kiddies might or might not enjoy.
Cellar Stairs

It's rickety down to the dark.
Old skates, long-bladed, hang by leather laces
on your left and want to slash your throat,
but they can't, they can't, being only skates.
On a shelf above, tools: shears,
three-pronged weed hacker, ice pick,
poison-rats and bugs-and on the landing,
halfway down, a keg of roofing nails
you don't want to fall face first into,

no, you don't. To your right,
a fuse box with its side-switch-a slot machine,
on a good day, or the one the warden pulls,
on a bad. Against the wall,
on nearly every stair, one boot, no two
together, no pair, as if the dead
went off, short-legged or long, to where they go
Read the rest at the Writer's Almanac. And happy haunting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Do You Become a Poet?

On my list of "Things I Have a Thing For," pretty close to the top, below "Happy Hour" but above "Dystopian Fiction," you will find "Poems About Poetry." My most faithful of readers will remember that my first Poetry Mix Tape was about these kinds of poems, and I've been trying to collect more ever since.

I've been reading poems about poetry with my students this week. We started with Eve Merriam's brilliant "How to Eat a Poem" and then moved on to one I recently discovered that I thought was a nice follow-up, "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand. I think my students enjoyed the former, but they weren't really sure if the latter made sense to them. (Although it did give me a chance to stress to them that you don't have to understand a poem completely to really like it.)

Then today we read another Merriam poem that is pretty new to me. It's called "In Reply to the Question 'How Do You Become a Poet?'" It goes like this...

    take the leaf of a tree
    trace its exact shape
    the outside edges
    and inner lines
    memorize the way it is fastened to the twig
    (and how the twig arches from the branch)
    how it springs forth in April
    how it is panoplied in July

Read the rest here. It's splendid, isn't it? I love the word "panoplied" and is there a kind of play with "forth" and "July" or am I making that up in my head?

By the way, a few spots below "Poems About Poetry" on my list, right between "McSweeney's" and "Lucky Charms" and "Using the Word 'Splendid'" (they are tied), are "Poems with Great Endings." This poem fits into that category, too. Looks like "Poems by Eve Merriam" might need to crack the top-50 during my next list revision.

P.S. Although I posted this on Wednesday, it's been a busy week, so I'm going to pass it off as my Poetry Friday post, too! Be sure to check out the round up at a wrung sponge.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poetry Mix Tape: Poems of Autumn

Is it trite to say that autumn is my favorite season? It seems to be a lot of people's favorite season. Granted, all of these people are awesome, so maybe it's not trite at all. Maybe it's brilliant.

Anyway, I wanted to revive the mix tape concept for some autumn poems before it gets to late. Here in Michigan, autumn can often seem like it last's about 3 weeks. Before we know it, the leaves are all on the ground waiting to be raked or, even worse, those leaves are blanketed by a layer of snow.

There's just something about a crisp autumn day or taking a walk and kicking up clouds of fallen leaves as you go that just seems perfect. It seems I'm not the only one to think so, because there is no shortage of poems about autumn. I tried to pick a few you might not have heard before...

Autumn Movement by Carl Sandburg
The name--of it--is "autumn" by Emily Dickinson
To Autumn by John Keats (I set aside my Romantic bias for this one. It's a really good poem.)
Echoing Light by W.S. Merwin
Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare
When Autumn Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

And then there's this one by Lucy Maud Montgomery called "An Autumn Evening:"

Dark hills against a hollow crocus sky
Scarfed with its crimson pennons, and below
The dome of sunset long, hushed valleys lie
Cradling the twilight, where the lone winds blow
And wake among the harps of leafless trees
Fantastic runes and mournful melodies.

The chilly purple air is threaded through
With silver from the rising moon afar,
And from a gulf of clear, unfathomed blue
In the southwest glimmers a great gold star
Above the darkening druid glens of fir
Where beckoning boughs and elfin voices stir. 

Read the final stanza here. I love the imagery and word choice in this poem: "crocus sky" and "purple air." Words that don't go together but somehow here make perfect sense.

Got an autumn poem or two to share? Add them in the comments below, please. And happy falling.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Revealing My Sources

In my last post, I talked about digging through my bookmarked poems, but I didn't share anything about where I get all these poems. Over the past year, I've found quite a few reliable sources for quality poetry. Most of these might not be new to you, but I'd like to share anyway. (In most cases, I tried to link directly to the sites' RSS feeds.)

American Life in Poetry--Ted Kooser's site that I recently discovered. Their feed delivers a new poem with Kooser's commentary about every week.
The Writer's Almanac--Put together by Garrison Keilor, this site delivers a new poem every day, in addition to other Keilor-esque material. (Trouble with the feed on this one so link goes to main page)
How a Poem Happens--This blog produces new material rather infrequently, but when it does, it's usually pure gold. Posts include a poem and an in-depth interview with its author about its creation. (Not sure about the link to the feed for this one. Here is the main page.)
Poem of the Day from The Poetry Foundation--Pretty much just what it says, brought to you by my beloved Poetry Foundation.
Poetry Daily--Almost always a poem by a poet I've never heard of, but almost always a really thought-provoking, savable gem.
Poetry 180--Billy Collins's site which delivers a poem a day for the entire 180-day school year. These poems pretty much rule.

When I'm searching for poems, I also often use and The Poetry Foundation and their Poetry Tool. I also get really good stuff from the bloggers who post on Poetry Fridays. Check back here most Fridays for links to those posts or check my blogroll. And of course, if I'm missing anything, please comment and add to the list.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Poetry Friday: Perusing the Bookmarks

I spent some time this evening combing through the poems I've saved and bookmarked recently. These come from blogs I read and feeds I subscribe to. I end up bookmarking poem after poem but hardly ever find the time to go through them. Luckily I did find some time tonight and I came across this gem by Deborah Garrison.

"A Drink in the Night"

My eyes opened
at once for you were standing
by my side, you’d padded
in to ask for a drink in the night.

The cup was—-where?
Fallen down, behind?
Churning in the dishwater, downstairs?
Too tired to care, I cupped
my hand and tipped it
to you. You stared, gulped,
some cold down your chin.
Whispered, “Again!”

O wonder. You’d no idea
I could make a cup.
You’ve no idea what
I can do for you, or hope to.

Read the rest of the poem here

I think this one stood out to me because raising children has been hard these last couple months. Not in a bad way, just in a challenging way. But there are always small moments like the one described by Garrison, moments that kind of melt your heart and remind you that it's all so worth it. 

Please also visit Liz in Ink to check out the rest of the Poetry Friday round-up. And thats to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog where I first read this poem. Oh, and read that article about Deborah Garrison I linked to above, it's pretty interesting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poetry Confession Rebuttal

So this blog hasn't generated a tremendous amount of readership, but it's still in its infancy. Given time, I just know it will hit the big time, generating hundreds of hits a day and drawing oodles of comments on my thought-provoking, insightful, and poignant posts. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah...

Last week, I made a huge poetry confession regarding poetry of the Romantic period. Via email, I received the following comment from my friend Leah, a teacher, poetry whiz (she knows a million times more about poetry than me), Ivy Leaguer (my envy knows no end), and fellow blogger:

OK, I'm with you on Wordsworth and Coleridge.  I'm partially with you on Percy Bysshe Shelley (because he's a loser who died in his boat during a lightning storm that he knew was coming but that he wanted to see from the water to witness its beauty) and partially with you on Burns and partially with you on Byron.  I'm not with you on Keats who has several poems I love.
Ok, if I never knew that about Shelley. And if I had to choose one of the Romantics to read, it would probably be Keats, but mainly because of that movie about him that came out last year that I never got a chance to see and can't remember the name of. Where was I? Oh, yeah...

Leah went on to share a Shelley poem that's pretty darn good, I have to admit...

Love's Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle;--
Why not I with thine?

Read the rest here and find out that Leah knows how to pick a poem, even if it is by an electrocuted Romantic.

And be sure to comment on this or any other post in which I make ridiculous statements that you disagree with.

Our Poetry Walk

After posting my last Poetry Mix Tape, I decided to teach William Carlos Williams's "Between Walls" to my fourth graders. First, we read it. Then we made some observations and they answered some questions about it.

We focused mainly on the fact that Williams is taking something that may seem ordinary and noticing its beauty. That broken glass in that dirty alley might be something you'd walk by without noticing. Williams not only wants us to notice it, he wants us to appreciate it.

So after all this, I wanted to do some writing. But first, we grabbed a digital camera and went for a walk. There's an alley behind our school, which connects to a kind of unique dead end street. We stopped along the way to snap pictures and jot down ideas. Then we came back and wrote poems. Here are a couple:

The Branch of the World
by Jenna

The branch of the world
makes us wonder

Is it born in the world?
You are a very handy tool

The piece makes us happy
while it sits there and dreams

The branch of the world


Death  Of  A  Funeral  Home
     By  SUHMER

Down   in  a  small  black   alley
  you  see  trees and  plain   leaves

The death of  a funeral  limousine
with a skull  of a lady  inside
with red pedals  falling  on her head

And  down  in  a small  black  alley
you see  trees  and plain leaves
at the death of a funeral  home


And maybe my all-time favorite student-written poem from a fifth grader last year after a poetry walk on the same street:

Monster Jaws
By Claire

In a lot
freezing cold 
a car

It serves
no purpose
poorly rusted
its jaws 
something to
Monster Car


So I thought I'd try one, too. It's called "ice cold." Here's the picture I took that inspired me:

your non 
stenciled on 
the curb
confounds me
puts me out
of synch
out of touch
with what
I know 
to be true

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poetry Confession

Some say that the things I like and like to do are a bit odd. I like, for example, to read magazines backwards, from back to front. I also like my pancakes cut prior to pouring syrup on them. Same goes for my dislikes. I enjoy eating blueberries by the pint, but put them in a muffin and I won't touch it. I tend to almost always adore poems that people send me to read, but I can read poems on my own for weeks without finding one worth bookmarking or photocopying. Remember those hit television shows Friends, ER, Grey's Anatomy, and Survivor? Can't stand them. They say there's no accounting for taste. So please, dear readers, don't shun or unsubscribe when I confess the following...

...I don't care for Romantic poetry.

Yes, it's true. Keats, Burns, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Wordsworth (although I've always enjoyed "The Daffodils"), and almost, almost all of Blake--you can keep them. I know I'm supposed to worship their magnificent rhyme and meter, their lyrical beauty...but I can't do it. I'm sorry. I have tried the Mariner, the Grecian Urn, etc. but I struggle to find the appeal.

Who's to blame for this? I suppose I could blame some teacher or professor from years gone by, but no, the blame falls to me. The Romance period is like the biggest, fanciest, tastiest of blueberry muffins--something I'll just never get into. Feel free to skewer me on this one, I know I deserve it. I just felt it was time to come clean. Maybe I'm hoping there are some out there who feel the same. There are, right??? Or, better yet, what's your poetry confession? Feel free to comment, we can keep it between us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Poetry Moves I Love to Teach: Repetition

I try to share poems with my students that they'll enjoy. I don't always accomplish this, but I do a pretty good job, I think. I want them to discover the joy of poetry and the beauty of poems. And since I also want to help them become better writers of poems, I try to teach them to notice poetry "moves" in the poems that we read.

I stole the phrase "poetry moves" from a poet/teacher named Joe Tsujimoto. I had the pleasure of meeting Joe last summer at a poetry seminar. He said that he tells his students that "poets have more moves than Michael Jordan." A poetry move is essentially a common characteristic of good poems, a characteristic that makes a poem an enjoyable poem to read.

The list of moves is obviously long, but I do find that if I can expose students to them in their reading of poems that they will tend to try to incorporate the moves into their writing.

One move I introduce early in the school year is repetition. It's one of my favorites...I am drawn in by repeated elements and patterns in poems. Repetition is also a move that's easily imitated.

There are oh so many poems I could hold up as an example, but I think I'll choose one by Jane Kenyon:

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . . 

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . . 

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . . 

I am water rushing to the wellhead, 
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . . 

Please read the rest of the poem here. 

I realize this poem has so much repetition in it that it ends up reading 
like a litany, but it's a pretty good example of what I'm talking 
about. I also like to get students to notice poems with more 
subtle repetition. Then I get to ask them, "Why do you think 
the poet repeats that?" THEN, once they're on the look out for
repetition and similar patterns, they'll be able to start noticing breaks in 
those patterns and we can talk about why the poet would break the pattern. It 
goes on and on.