Saturday, November 5, 2011

Poetry Friday: Looking to the Past

I tend to turn towards modern poetry a lot in my teaching and reading. I thoroughly enjoy contemporary poetry  and all that it has to offer. Collins, Merwin, Shihab Nye, and so many other of my favorites write such beautiful and inspiring poems...there is never a shortage to choose from, both as a teacher and reader. I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to look to the past. provides me with a poem each day, delivered straight to my inbox (you should sign up, too), and while a lot of the poems they choose seem to be intended to provide exposure to late 20th and 21st century poems, every so often, they mix in poems from older greats such as Whitman, Dickinson, Donne, and Shelley.

A couple of weeks ago, they delivered a poem from the 19th century by someone I don't think I realized wrote poetry, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I really got into the transcendentalists as a high school student and read a lot of Whitman and Thoreau and Emerson...but none of his poems, I guess. Here's one I really enjoy:

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Short and simple. I like it a lot. Poetry Friday is being hosted by Laura Salas at Writing the World For Kids. Please be sure to check it out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Joys of Poetry 180

Are you familiar with Poetry 180? It's a program designed to help integrate poetry into the daily lives of high school students. Founded by poet Billy Collins during his tenure as poet laureate, it offers up an incredibly enjoyable poem every day for all 180 days of the school year.

If you explore the Poetry 180 site, you're bound to find a gem that you haven't read before. Better yet, you can subscribe and have each day's poem delivered directly to you. A collection of the 180 poems has been published as a book and it was so successful they published a second collection, too.

Poetry 180 is one of my favorite sources for discovering new poems. Once you start exploring it, you'll have trouble stopping. Check out Poem #36, which was delivered to me earlier this week:

The Printer's Error

Aaron Fogel

Fellow compositors
and pressworkers!
I, Chief Printer
Frank Steinman,
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
as president
of the Holliston
Printer's Council,
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers' errors.

First: I hold that all books
and all printed
matter have
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
textual editors.
Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer's trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.

Read the rest of the poem here. I think it's a brilliant piece, don't you? There's a lot there for students to sink their teeth into. I hope you find some time to explore Poetry 180. Let me know what you think.

Poetry Friday, my favorite day of the week, features a round-up of bloggers which this week is hosted by the awesome Diane at Random Noodling. If you liked this post, you'll love the collection of posts featured there. You'll also want to be sure to subscribe to this blog via email in the handy sidebar widget or via RSS.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Mix Tape for Autumn 2

It has been quite some time since I put together a Poetry Mix Tape. Since autumn is in full swing here in Michigan, I thought it would make for the perfect topic. I mixed some poems on autumn for you last year, but I think I like these even more. I hope you like them, too:

Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg
Aftermath by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
October by Bobbi Katz
Fall, Leaves, Fall by Emily Bronte
After Apple Picking by Robert Frost
Late Autumn Wasp by James Hoch

And perhaps my new favorite poem about Autumn by Juhan Liiv...

"Leaves Fell"

A gust roused the waves,
leaves blew into the water,
the waves were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

It was good for my heart,
there my feelings were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

You can read the rest of the poem here. The ending is good. Really good. And while the mood of the poem is kind of down, I like it for the complexity that's hidden there. The repetition and the imagery. I like it a lot.

If you like it, too, let me know. And if you like poetry, you'll love Poetry Friday, which today is being hosted at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Jama's also sharing some autumn poetry today (and one delicious-looking photo of a doughnut). So be sure to check it out!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poet Laureate Philip Levine

Time is a tricky thing. It seems like W.S. Merwin was just named U.S. poet laureate a few days ago. But apparently his term in that position is nearly over. While The Small Nouns was on hiatus this summer, Philip Levine was named to the post. In typical fashion, Mr. Levine's response to his appointment included this nugget: "If you take it too seriously, you're an idiot."

His career is quite accomplished. He has published over 20 books and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. I'm particularly fond of his poems because of Mr. Levine's roots--he was born and raised in Detroit, the city I grew up not far from and in which I currently work. He has written about Detroit often and, in my opinion, some of his poems reflect an urban "grittiness," that definitely resonates with Detroiters.

So while I'm a few months late to the party, I want to showcase a few of Philip Levine's poems here for my weekly Poetry Friday post. I start with one about a Detroit landmark:

Belle Isle, 1949
By Philip Levine

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow. I remember going under
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl
I'd never seen before, and the cries
our breath made caught at the same time
on the cold, and rising through the layers
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere
that was this world, the girl breaking
the surface after me and swimming out
on the starless waters towards the lights
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking.

Read the rest of this poem here. It's worth it. I just love the imagery. Here's another, the title poem of his Pulitzer Prize winning book:

The Simple Truth
by Philip Levine

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner
 with a little butter and salt.

Then I walked through the dried fields 
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me 
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste 
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way, 
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering 
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

Read the ending of this poem here. His poems, in my opinion, have a similar voice, but each stands out on its own as unique somehow. Also, they all seem to have really good endings. The last few lines of "The Simple Truth" contains this amazing line: "Can you taste what I'm saying?"

Here's the ending of "He Would Never Use One Word When None Would Do:" 

Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.

I love that. The rest of the poem can be read here

I hope Philip Levine's poetry appeals to you as much as it does to me. I can see how it might not, but if it doesn't, give it another chance. You might change your mind!

Poetry Friday is hosted at fomagrams today. Please get over there and check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Poetry Friday: Fill in the Blanks

I recently attended the TEDxDetroit conference and got filled up with a day's worth of motivation and great advice. I think the event was aimed mainly at entrepreneurs, but there was a good deal of stuff that had implications in education.

One of the tidbits was provided by improv comedienne and self proclaimed "Idea Goddess," Hailey Zureich. She proposed that in order to be successful, you must "articulate your reality." In other words, say it out loud...this will help make it so. She offered this as an explanation: "Every day, when you wake up, you make the decision of whether you're going to have an 'oh sh** day' or a 'hot sh** day.'" Making that decision, articulating your reality, saying it out loud...this goes a long way towards making it happen.

I found this to be fairly insightful. And it somehow brought to mind a poem by Lou Lipsitz that I came across a while back:

"Have a _____ Day"
by Lou Lipsitz

Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day. Have a
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.

You can read the rest of "Have a ___ Day" here. (Try reading it out loud, it makes this one even better.) I hope you're able to fill in your own blanks today. I hope today is the kind of day you want it to be. I hope you say it and make it so.

I also hope you check out the Poetry Friday round up at Great Kid Books. There's SO much great poetry to read about today. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Goes Mainstream?

(A day late on this post, but that's okay!)

Recently discovered in my mailbox:

Included among the coupons, you'll find "gems" such as this:

a pick-me-up perk
how about another cup?
two o'clock delight

and this:

fresh breath on a brush
mint polish for your choppers
make your momma proud

Some questions come to mind:

If the #2 retailer in the world is using poetry to sell Tide, Dasani, and Hefty, does that mean poetry has gone mainstream?

Will the average junk mail recipient really "get" what it's all about?

Are there some ancient Japanese poets rolling over in their graves as they see their beautiful form, written to celebrate the beauty of nature, hijacked to sell trash bags? (I checked the back of the booklet for an apology to Issa or Basho, but found none.)

I guess I don't know the answer. I don't know whether to find it cute or to be cynical about it. I don't know if I should be happy that Target has essentially tricked possibly millions of non-poetry readers into reading poetry.

I'll let you be the judge. Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

The awesome blog Picture Book of the Day hosted the Poetry Friday roundup yesterday. It's not too late to check it out!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poetry Friday: From Under the Pile

My poetry blogging hiatus this summer was a double-edged sword. On the plus side, I got a lot of work done for my little side project (click the snazzy EE logo on the Small Nouns homepage to find out more). However, I was away from poetry for way too long...I missed reading poems. I missed blogging about poems. I'm not exaggerating when I say something was obviously missing from my life. It just wasn't the same.

So now I'm back and another benefit of taking the blogging break is that the poems have piled up. And I've got tons of reading and blogging material to choose from.

This Poetry Friday, I'd like to share one from the bottom of the poems that have piled up, waiting for me to read and write about them. It was one of the first to be delivered to my inbox (thanks to the Poem A Day subscription) earlier this summer. I hope you like it:

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
   the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
   with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
   quiet and bright, 
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

Read the rest of the poem here. I do love Whitman. And miracles. And knowing nothing else but them seems like a good outlook to have.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Amy at The Poem Farm and there are so many good poems to read about there today. You've just got to check it out!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Poetry Friday: In Praise of Poignancy

Today seems like a good day to return from hiatus. The television seems intent on reminding me that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is Sunday. There's certainly no escaping it. As a classroom teacher, I have made certain to discuss the events of that day with my students every year at this time. However, I teach 10-11 year olds, children who will never know what that day was like. Alas, we discuss it anyway. They watch TV, too, so I know it's as inescapable for them as it is for me.

In my mind, poetry exists for moments in time such as 9/11/01. Where else can you turn to in such times? How else can you attempt to make sense of something so insensible? Whether it's by reading or writing, the poignancy poetry is capable's a powerful thing. Words are failing me here. I suppose I'm proving my point.

I'm rambling. It's as if I forgot how to blog! For this Poetry Friday, I want to share a poem I shared last year on the 9th anniversary of the attacks, a poem I think every American needs to read:

Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

You can read the rest of the poem by clicking here. If you're a teacher and you need other resources to help you teach about 9/11, you should examine these:

Not all are poetry related, but I think all are worthwhile and in all you can find poignant memories and thoughts to read (or write) about.

Secrets and Sharing Soda is where you'll find the Poetry Friday Round-Up. Be sure to check it out. And stay tuned as I dust myself off from hiatus and try to start blogging about poetry again on a more regular basis. There are some subscription options in the sidebar that I hope you consider taking advantage of! Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Poetry Friday: Hiatus Time

I've been avoiding making it official although it's been unofficial for about 3 weeks now, so now I'm making it official (got all that?)--The Small Nouns is taking a hiatus. A little side project I'm working on is taking too much of my time, it seems, to get any poetry blogging done. So I think I'll step back for a bit, continue collecting poems, and return rejuvenated and with plenty of new material sometime later this summer.

Until that time, be sure to peruse The Small Nouns archive. There's plenty of posts to keep you going that you probably haven't seen. Here's one last poem I found that I just love. I hope you feel the same. Seemed like a good "beginning of hiatus" poem and also a good one to mark the unofficial start of spring, which I think just recently happened here in the Great Wet Midwest:

by Kim Addonizio

Watching that frenzy of insects above the bush of white flowers,   
bush I see everywhere on hill after hill, all I can think of   
is how terrifying spring is, in its tireless, mindless replications.   
Everywhere emergence: seed case, chrysalis, uterus, endless manufacturing.
And the wrapped stacks of Styrofoam cups in the grocery, lately
I can’t stand them, the shelves of canned beans and soups, freezers   
of identical dinners; then the snowflake-diamond-snowflake of the rug
beneath my chair, rows of books turning their backs,
even my two feet, how they mirror each other oppresses me,
the way they fit so perfectly together, how I can nestle one big toe into the other
like little continents that have drifted; my God the unity of everything,
my hands and eyes, yours; doesn’t that frighten you sometimes

Read the rest of "Onset" here. And even without The Small Nouns around, there's plenty of poetry to be enjoyed, especially on Poetry Fridays. Today's round up is hosted at The Drift Record. Be sure to check it out. See you soon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Month--The Penultimate Poem

My daughter came to work with me today. Thought this one was a good one to share. I just discovered it in Garrison Keilor's anthology Good Poems for Hard Times:

"For My Daughter"
by David Ignatow
When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.

Read the rest of the poem here. And be sure to check out the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted at The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha's awesome blog.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--the 28th Poem

Some poets are just able to capture a moment in magical ways. I think Raymond Carver captures this moment perfectly:

by Raymond Carver
So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together

Read the entire poem here.

As April wanes away, be sure to check back to see our final two poems tomorrow and Saturday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Slacker Update

I was doing so well bringing you new (to me) poems in celebration of National Poetry Month...then life intervened. Nothing major, but lots of minor. All apologies. Can I make it up to you, dear readers, by posting the 6 poems I'd intended to post during my absence? I'll try anyway...

I am pretty sure I can get back on track for the last 3 days of Poetry Month. Cross your fingers!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Poem 21

For the first time, I almost didn't make the deadline...almost didn't get this posted. Time crunch today, so once again, I'm forced to post and run...

by Tracy K. Smith

There will be no edges, but curves.
Clean lines pointing only forward.

History, with its hard spine & dog-eared
Corners, will be replaced with nuance,

Just like the dinosaurs gave way
To mounds and mounds of ice.

Women will still be women, but
The distinction will be empty. Sex,

Having outlived every threat, will gratify
Only the mind, which is where it will exist.

For kicks, we'll dance for ourselves
Before mirrors studded with golden bulbs.

The oldest among us will recognize that glow—
But the word sun will have been re-assigned

To a Standard Uranium-Neutralizing device
Found in households and nursing homes.

Read the entire poem here. And keep enjoying National Poetry Month. It's almost over!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--20 of 30

Some times, it's just good to share a poem and just let it hang there.

by Rae Armantrout

Quick, before you die,

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.

Read the rest here. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--19th poem

More prose poetry for you to enjoy. A new (to me) poem by Ray Gonzalez:

"And There Were Swallows"
by Ray Gonzalez
  Tadpoles seeing the future for the first time, monuments against the tide when the bats flew in and out of Carlsbad Caverns, cycles of burned ghosts who fell into the secret caves in the late nineteenth century.

   And there were swallows in the memory of lust, hundreds of them guarding the opening in the desert, shadows plunging below the waist to guess where the body begins, where the soul stops searching, darting wings captivated by the flame in the will where the wind becomes the sound inherited after stepping too far into the mind.

Read the final two stanzas here. Have I mentioned how much I love the new Poetry Foundation website? I'm going to need to blog about that in detail in May. That and so many other things! Until then, enjoy the rest of National Poetry Month and the ten remaining poems in this series.

Monday, April 18, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Poem 18

Long poems can be intimidating on many levels--they take a lot of time, require a lot of thinking, etc. etc. At least that's what some people think. Personally, I don't adore them, but if I find a good one, I'll give it a good read and file it away for sharing or re-reading.

Here's one by Mark Jarman that's broken into parts and that has some vivid imagery. I'm sharing the first and last sections today:

Dispatches from Devereux Slough
by Mark Jarman

Black Phoebe

Highwayman of the air, coal-headed, darting
Plunderer of gnat hordes, lasso with beak –

"Surely, that fellow creature on the wing,"
The phoebe thinks, "should fly like this."

                     And loops
His flight path in a wiry noose, takes wing
Like a cast line and hits the living fly,

Ripping it from the fluid of its life.


When we are reunited after death,
The owls will call among the eucalyptus,
The white tailed kite will arc across the mesa,
And sunset cast orange light from the Pacific
Against the golden bush and eucalyptus
Where flowers and fruit and seeds appear all seasons
And our paired silhouettes are waiting for us.

Read the entire poem at I love how the sections go together, but each one is unique and can stand on its own. I also have a thing for poems and songs with geographic references. Apparently Devereux Slough is an estuary that's a part of the Coal Oil Point Reserve near Santa Barbara, California. (Thank you, Google!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--17 of 30

A good poem, to me, says things that you're feeling in ways you never could have said them yourself. It seems you can always count on poetry to do that. You can always find a poem to connect with. And then you're kind of bound to that poem--it is yours for life.

Loss is a common poetry theme. And for good reason. The experience of loss creates such a complicated set of emotions. And it's an experience that is different for every individual person, and different for every individual loss. But somehow you can always count on some poem out there to capture it for you. To speak the loss back to you and, hopefully, give you comfort.

Here's a poem I discovered at Ted Kooser's site, An American Life in Poetry:

"The Thrift Shop Dresses"
by Franny Lindsay

I slid the white louvers shut so I could stand in your closet
a little while among the throng of flowered dresses
you hadn’t worn in years, and touch the creases
on each of their sleeves that smelled of forgiveness
and even though you would still be alive a few more days
I knew they were ready to let themselves be
packed into liquor store boxes simply
because you had asked that of them

Read the rest of the poem at An American Life in Poetry. And please continue to enjoy this series of new (to me) poems for the remainder of April.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--the 16th poem

I think it was Poem #10 where I featured a poem I had never heard before by Naomi Shihab Nye, one of my favorite poets ever. Today I'd like to share a poem by another of my poetry idols, W.S. Merwin. I am in utter awe of anyone, like Merwin or Nye, who every thing they touch turns to poetry gold. Like this one, for example:

"Rain at Night"
by W.S Merwin

This is what I have heard
at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind
after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas

Read the rest here.

Enjoy your Saturday. Only 14 more poems left!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Month Poem #15

We've reached the middle of National Poetry Month. And yet another Poetry Friday. If you've been following along, you know that my theme for NPM has been "New Poems" and I've been sharing a poem each day that's new to me (and hopefully to you, too).

Today, however, since it is Poetry Friday and the last day of work before my Spring Break, I think I'll break my own rules slightly. I'd like to share one of my favorite poems of all it isn't new to me. Maybe, though, it's new to you.

Gary Soto is an incredibly talented (and quite prolific) writer. Not only does he write terrific fiction for children and young adults, but he also can write some really amazing poems. Here's my favorite of his:

by Gary Soto
The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December.  Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge.  I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore.

Read the rest of the poem here. It's worth it, trust me. You can also find links to lots of other Soto poems there.

I just love the way he captures such a tender moment in vivid detail. Not only can you picture it in your mind, but also, more than likely, you can connect to it with a memory of your own from your youth. Perhaps you were the boy with the oranges. Maybe you were the girl walking with the boy. I wasn't exactly either one, but I remember being 12 and in love. Mr. Soto describes it way more perfectly than I ever could. I hope you like this one as much as I do.

Please continue to follow along via subscription or by following me on Blogger. And also be sure to check out the Poetry Friday round up at Random Noodling.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Poem Fourteen

Haven't had any prose poems in this National Poetry Month series yet. How did that happen? Not sure. Let's fix that, shall we?

from genesis
by Laura Walker

in the beginning the sound of holes, and the weight of treason and light paper streamers. and a hundredfold, and below; and the girls with thickening braids, wet paper maps, brought round at last to see the slick animal caught in the rain. and the deluge; and the dark; and the story past the window

and the window
and the stutter

Read the final half here. I like the first half, but the second half and the ending are even better. Hope this new (to me) poem is one you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Lucky 13

I find myself without much time for commentary today, sadly. Instead, I'll let today's new (to me) poem do the talking. It has plenty to say.

"The Best Year of Her Life"
by Gerald Locklin
When my two-year-old daughter
sees someone come through the door
whom she loves, and hasn't seen for a while,
and has been anticipating
she literally shrieks with joy.

I have to go into the other room
so that no one will notice the tears in my eyes.

Later, after my daughter has gone to bed,
I say to my wife,

"She will never be this happy again,"
and my wife gets angry and snaps,
"Don't you dare communicate your negativism to her!"
And, of course, I won't, if I can possibly help it,
and of course I fully expect her
to have much joy in her life,
and, of course, I hope to be able
to contribute to that joy —
I hope, in other words, that she'll always
be happy to see me come through the door

Read the rest at the Writer's Almanac. See you tomorrow.

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Number 12

Just because you have a favorite poet, that doesn't mean you can't stumble upon poems of theirs that you've never read before. Such was the case last week with Naomi Shihab Nye and again today with William Stafford. I don't think I've ever read this one before. And it is definitely a gem--a work of poetic genius you might say. Can anyone capture an image like Mr. Stafford could?

"The Well Rising"
by William Stafford
The well rising without sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through deep ground
everywhere in the field—

The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer—

Read the final stanza at the Poetry Foundation (really liking their new site design by the way). It was William Stafford who produced one of my most repeated poetry-related quotes. When asked by an interviewer when he started being a poet, Stafford replied "When did you stop?"

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--XI

I love poems that aren't about what they say they're about. Like the Updike poem I shared the other day. When you find a poem with an intricate, extended metaphor, you can't help but be awestruck. Maybe this is because when it comes to writing, I'm pretty much awful at metaphors. I can spot them a mile away--but ask me to create one and you're probably going to be disappointed.

And so today for my 11th new (to me) poem in honor of National Poetry Month, I bring you "Hermit." A poem about crabs that's totally not about crabs:

by Gail Mazur
In ancient Greece, a man could withdraw into the desert
to praise his God in solitude—

he'd live out his days by himself in a cave of sand.
Eremos—Greek for desert, you could look it up.

Hermit crabs live mostly alone
in their self-chosen hermitages, they learn young

to muscle their soft asymmetrical bodies
into abandoned mollusk shells.

Without shells, those inadequate bodies
wouldn't have survived the centuries,

so they tuck their abdomens and weak back legs
inside the burden they'll carry on their backs.

It was Aristotle who first observed
they could move from one shell to another.

But sometimes a hermit crab is social—
sometimes a sandworm, a ragworm,

will live with it inside a snail shell.
And sometimes when the crab outgrows its shell

it will remove its odd companion
and bring it along to a new larger shell.

(The Greeks who taught the Western world
what could be achieved by living together

were also the first in that world to work out
a philosophical justification for living alone.)

Read the rest at Ms. Mazur's website.

So are you enjoying all these new poems this month? I hope so. Please spread the word if you are!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

National Poetry Month Fun

My students love the word cloud generator at Wordle. I wanted to make some more signs to blanket the school with, so I asked them to use Wordle to do so.

They had three choices: make a word cloud using poets' names, make a word cloud of poem titles, or make a word cloud out of an entire poem. They turned out great and will be soon be decorating the halls of our school.

Here's a sampling:

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Poem 10

We made it to double digits! I don't know about you, but the task of blogging every day for a month, even if it's just posting a little poem and a smidge of commentary, is a pretty big deal. I think the most I have ever posted in a month so far is 18 times. I thought that was pretty impressive. 30 days out of 30? I hope I can pull it off!

Today I bring a poem that's new to me from a poet who I've admired for a long-time. In fact, depending upon the day and which poem of hers I've read most recently, I might consider her my all-time favorite poet. I'm speaking of Naomi Shihab Nye. Here's one I came across while trolling around

"The Man Whose Voice Has Been Taken From His Throat"
by Naomi Shihab Nye

remains all supple hands and gesture

skin of language
fusing its finest seam

in fluent light
with a raised finger

dance of lips
each sentence complete

he speaks to the shadow
of leaves

strung tissue paper
snipped into delicate flags

Read the conclusion here. Don't you just wish you could make language do the things that Naomi Shihab Nye does? I mean, I speak the same language...why can't I do what she does? Instead of wasting time contemplating that question, I'll spend this Sunday being thankful for Ms. Nye and all the poets out there who continually amaze me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--#9

I am constantly on the look-out for "teachable" poems--poems that I can use to build reading and writing skills. There is never a shortage of them. Just as important as poems students can learn from, however, are poems that can "hook" students--poems that can open their eyes to the wonders of poetry and get them wanting more.

Today's new (to me) poem, I think, just might be both. But it first stood out to me as a poem that, if shared with a high school male, would really appeal to them. Maybe I'm too old to make this sort of prognostication, to far removed from my own youth and my own infuriatingly mundane high school experience...or maybe it just connects with me and takes me back to my youth. And THAT is a pretty powerful thing, too.

The Poet at Seventeen 
by Larry Levis

My youth? I hear it mostly in the long, volleying   
Echoes of billiards in the pool halls where   
I spent it all, extravagantly, believing
My delicate touch on a cue would last for years.

Outside the vineyards vanished under rain,
And the trees held still or seemed to hold their breath   
When the men I worked with, pruning orchards, sang   
Their lost songs: Amapola; La Paloma;

Jalisco, No Te Rajes—the corny tunes
Their sons would just as soon forget, at recess,
Where they lounged apart in small groups of their own.   
Still, even when they laughed, they laughed in Spanish.

I hated high school then, & on weekends drove
A tractor through the widowed fields. It was so boring   
I memorized poems above the engine’s monotone.   
Sometimes whole days slipped past without my noticing,

And birds of all kinds flew in front of me then.
I learned to tell them apart by their empty squabblings,   
The slightest change in plumage, or the inflection   
Of a call. And why not admit it? I was happy

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind   
Of solitude the world usually allows   
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

Read the rest of this terrific poem here. And continue to follow us during your celebration of National Poetry Month. I'll be sharing a newly discovered poem (new to me, at least) each day during April.

Friday, April 8, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--the 8th Poem

I hope that all my faithful readers have been enjoying my National Poetry Month series. I wasn't really sure how to celebrate. I wanted to be fresh and original. But I also wanted it to be high quality--there are just so many great blogs doing so many great things this month. I wanted to be deemed a worthy resource. I wanted to fit in!

I hope my idea to share a poem that's new to me each day does just that. It's been great fun searching for new poems and learning about new poets. And it's only day 8! I get to do this 22 more times.

But enough of my long-winded prattle...on to today's new (to me) poem...

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

You can read the rest here. I'm morally (and legally) obligated not to post the entire poem, but I really had trouble figuring out where to cut this poem off. The brilliance of it has yet to be fully revealed in the few lines above. Promise me you'll read the rest! It's just perfectly unique. And that title. Gosh, I do love a good title. What more can I say? And it's obviously a love poem, too, which you know I'm not that crazy about as a group. But one like this could get me to change my mind.

Let me know what you think of it. Then after that, check out the rest of today's awesome Poetry Friday round-up at Madigan Reads.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--No. 7

I picked up Robert Hass's most recent book of new and selected poems, The Apple Trees at Olema, from the Poetry Month display at my local library. I'm not that familiar with Hass. To be honest, I liked the cover and the title:

I'm a sucker for a bird on a cover. Anyway, the way I usually read books of poetry is to start with some skimming and scanning. I page through, stopping at poems whose titles I like, maybe reading a few lines here and there, kind of finding poems by happenstance. Nothing very deliberate or planned out. I just usually don't have time to sit down and read 60 pages in one sitting or something like that. So I just end up leafing through.

I definitely want to spend more time with this book, but I wanted to share a new-to-me poem "Faint Music." It was actually published in 1996. And I'm actually pretty obsessed with it. I'm sure I've read it at least 10 different times now. Here's the beginning...

Faint Music
by Robert Hass

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,   
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,   
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

Read the rest here. I really think the poem could have ended there. But it keeps going into this sprawling, almost miserable tale of a guy getting his heart ripped out, only to circle around at the end with an ending that makes you think that, will all be okay. It's a pretty long poem, too, and that's not something I generally enjoy. But I just can't help getting wrapped up in this one. When you get time, give it a good reading (or two, or four...). Let me know what you think.

I'll be back tomorrow for the start of week two of our National Poetry Month series!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--Six of Thirty

John Updike certainly isn't a new name. But I don't think I knew that he wrote poetry. And I certainly hadn't read this gem before:

by John Updike

Show me a piece of land that God forgot—
a strip between an unused sidewalk, say,
and a bulldozed lot, rich in broken glass—
and there, July on, will be chicory,

its leggy hollow stems staggering skyward,
its leaves rough-hairy and lanceolate,
like pointed shoes too cheap for elves to wear,
its button-blooms the tenderest mauve-blue.

How good of it to risk the roadside fumes,
the oil-soaked heat reflected from asphalt,
and wretched earth dun-colored like cement,
too packed for any other seed to probe.

Read the rest here.

I think this would be a great model for young poets to use as inspiration, especially when it comes to descriptive language. And a good vocabulary builder, too. Not only did I have to look up "chicory" (turns out I'd seen it, but didn't know what it was called. And you can eat its roots. Who knew?) but also "lanceolate."

The first week of National Poetry Month is nearly over! Don't worry, you can get caught up on the parts of this series you might have missed. And also you can make sure you never miss another post. More tomorrow!

Photo source:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

National Poetry Month Posters

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Poetry Month series to share with you some signs my students made to spread the word around school about National Poetry Month.

We were inspired by the Academy of American Poets' official NPM poster:

Is that not the best line of poetry ever? The poster rocks. Dowload a PDF of it here.

So using it as a model, students searched for great lines of poetry and made these signs that are now decorating the hallways of our school:

More to come from my students. Stay tuned and keep enjoying the series!