Poetry Friday – Thank You, Robyn, and this Week in Elfchens

Today the Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Michelle Krogan. Last week she shared elfchen poems and today has more delicious elfchens for us.

What joy I had in preparing for the Winter Poetry Swap! I loved writing poems and crocheting for my partner. Then it was even better and such a delight to get beautiful gifts and a glorious haiku of hope from Robyn Hood Black. The tags and gift wrapping was another gift, and I just spent two days looking at them and unwrapping slowly. Just look at these treasures:

That precious tea pot bookmark and a beautiful variety of tea bags, a whole collection of artistic notecards, and a vintage map magnet of the very desert where I live!
Oh, yes, I love HOPE, Robyn knew that, and she wrote this beautiful haiku for me. Look at that artwork too, done with transparent printing. It’s a photo of a sunset from her yard.

Thank you so much, Robyn, for making me feel so special.  I followed Michelle’s lead and wrote a few elfchens this week too.

creates warmth
South Carolina mountains
glowing with her love

VP of
sunshine and hope
sweet solstice-born daughter

Fills breath
As rain begins
Sweet desert comes alive

Sings Jesus
In the manger
hopes and fears continue
House of Bread

And one Lazy Sonnet inspired by an email from Sarah Donovan, who adds a poetry prompt to her email signature. Such a sweet and poetry-spreading practice!






Poetry Friday – Rachel Carson and Ann E. Burg

Today is Poetry Friday and Jone Rush MacCulloch is hosting today with her winter solstice adventures. My younger daughter was born on the winter solstice, a bit of added sunshine for this early darkening day. I just got back from a trip to visit my elder daughter and came home to a delightful winter poetry swap from Robyn Hood Black. I want to revel in the exquisiteness of it for a few days and share next week. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Force of Nature, by Ann E. Burg, is a verse novel of Rachel Carson. It is a delightful celebration of the love Rachel had for Earth and her all too short life here. In her extensive research, Ann found a voice for Carson as a child and young person with dreams of being first a writer and then a scientist, until finally finding her place as both–“Why did it never occur to anyone that my pen and my microscope could find new purpose together?” Rachel asks in the novel when she has success as a science writer.

The life of Rachel Carson as told through Burg’s eyes and wisdom, immediately led me to borrow Silent Spring from my library and read it. I had heard of and read of Rachel Carson before, but I had yet to read her work. Even though it is sixty years since publication, I was enthralled to read her world-changing writing. The poisoning of the environment with chemical insecticides like DDT was the major theme. With much research and many examples, she made the case, and the world heard. She ends the book with reasons for hope as she described alternative methods to reduce insects that cause disease and crop devastation.

Carson writes in her own poetic style; for instance, in the first half of chapter 15 she artfully describes the inter-connected community of insect species: “Or there, almost invisible against a leaf, is the lacewing, with green gauze wings and golden eyes, shy and secretive, descendent of an ancient race…” After reading Rachel Carson, it makes me appreciate even more Burg’s verse novel genre for Force of Nature.

Rachel was born in 1907, therefore her educational and career opportunities were limited. Burg describes well how she surmounted obstacles to become a successful author and scientist, especially sexism. One small (huge) thing in Silent Spring that I noticed (bothered me) was the use of the word men. Not just the word “men” in place of “humanity” or “people,” but also in speaking of people who did the work of the world: control men, federal field men, understanding men, spraying men, research men, medical men, practical men of industry, working with chemicals men, even though many times she was part of the people she called men (e.g., research person, understanding person). Of course, we all know the era she found herself in was even more dominated by men than it is today!

I was curious about how things have changed since Silent Spring, so I continued digging and reading. Some chemical pesticides were banned for use on agriculture because of Carson’s work, and the bald eagle was saved as a result. However, the use of pesticides in the U.S. has continued to grow–we use more than 500% of what was used in 1960*.

Here are some of the many interesting articles that come up in a simple Google search:

Ann Burg’s new novel, Force of Nature, comes out in spring of 2024. I am hopeful it will inspire many young people (and old) to dig deeper into Rachel Carson’s legacy and find for themselves a greater love and concern for our Earth. I have.

we are keepers of Earth, but too cowardly to
move the goal to sustainability. We’ve wreaked havoc
from Antarctica to Iceland, in a
crisis of melting. From U.S.
to China to India in a
crisis of poisoning.
Merely for more money, we are
trading Eden for Hades, and
one Earth is not large enough. A
problem for us, but more
for those coming after–there won’t be
another Earth. Let’s repair this one.

Striking line: “We move from crisis to crisis, merely trading one problem for another” from Silent Spring.

Poetry Friday – What’s Up?

Today is Poetry Friday and our host is Anastasia Suen has a delightful small poem about her first sale on the first snow of the season–30 years ago. 

“What’s Up?” by the 4 Non Blondes: Have you heard it?

I heard it, maybe for the first time, yesterday (on my husband’s playlist in the car). I was touched with the line about the “great big hill of hope.” I just want to live on that hill. How about you?

I found this poem in the lyrics.

What’s going on?
Life is still
that great big
hill of hope
I knew
I should
cry sometimes
a deep breath

I try and I pray
oh my God
all the time
for revolution

You might want to take a minute to listen to this catchy song again (or for the first time).

Or listen to Dolly Parton’s cover of the song. (Thank you for sharing that, Tabatha!)

Slice of Life – NCTE Reflections

28 November 2023 TwoWritingTeachers.org

I guess “Reflections” in my title is a bit of a stretch because I didn’t actually take time to reflect much yet. Instead, I wanted to get some thoughts down and share some photos. There is so much more to say about the whole NCTE experience, but for now here are some of my delighted, though surfacy, highlights.


  • Having presentations to attend where I knew presenters, like fellow Slice of Life writers–Glenda, Sally, Margaret and Trish.
Sally and I with Glenda at her round table discussion on “Planning with Purpose”
Trish inspiring us at “English Language Arts and the Climate Crisis”
  • Presenting and rooming with Mo and Jennifer
Sarah Donovan was the lead presenter, but sadly we took no photos of her.
  • Hearing Jacqueline Woodson and Tom Hanks


This beautiful mural in the Convention Center with my favorite word
That yellow book on the top shelf is one I wrote with Gallit Zvi, and there it was on display in the exhibit hall.
I had several opportunities to write poetry. It is such a peaceful practice during a busy conference. I bought some new Poetry Spark cards–examples on lower left (moon, echo, distant)
We went to the Scholastic brunch and heard these four authors and received their books–Alan Gratz, Joanna Ho, Ali Terese, and Ann E. Burg.
My return flight was on Southwest, so I was able to check a bag and a suitcase full of books I received from the conference. Free books and free transport for them. They will do a lot of good in my community.
The fall leaves were gorgeous, as was the neighborhood Airbnb we stayed in together

New Connections

  • Meeting Victoria Pasquantonio, a fun and passionate educator who is now the education producer at PBS NewsHour Classroom.
  • Meeting Dr. Luz Carime Bersh from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Carime used a kaleidoscope as a beautiful metaphor for the multiple layers of identity.

Delicious Food

  • Restaurants at the Short North Arts District on High Street in Columbus were a definite high–but I didn’t take any photos! My favorite was Brassica, where we ate dinner two nights in a row.

Poetry Friday – Giving Thanks

It’s Poetry Friday and Ruth is rounding up the posts for us and gave us a beautiful “Ode to Taxonomy.”

I was in Columbus last week for NCTE. I was delighted to see Poetry Friday friends Margaret Simon, Laura Purdie Salas, Laura Shovan, Mary Lee Hahn, and Heidi Mordhorst. I didn’t take pictures very often, but I did get this one after Laura signed her sweet Finding Family book for me.

Thankful and Questioning

The last love letter I write will say
thank you for this life,
the whole of it–
the spilling of Thanksgiving dressing in the oven
the wrapping yarn in a ball
the sore wrist that makes using the yarn difficult
the coyotes moaning and howling in the early hours
the morning hugs in the kitchen with my partner
the foamy milk on my cup of tea this fine day

The last love letter I write will ask
questions, questions like
Who decided the one with the most money gets the most power?
What has bewitched us that made love low on the priority list?
When will justice and peace come?
Where are the helpers?
Why do some grandchildren die in war?
How can you sort through all this mess?

Slice of Life – Open Write for November

21 November 2023 TwoWritingTeachers.org

I had a wonderful time at NCTE, and I want to write more about it later. Here are a few pictures on Instagram, but my slice today are the poems I wrote for Open Write. My Sunday poem includes a strong feeling I had this week.

Saturday, 11/18/23 “Instructions on Being a Dragonfly” with Kim Johnson

Instructions on Healing with Witnesses: A Skinny Poem

Not on a journey. I’m alone.
I’m on a journey; not alone.

Sunday, 11/19/23 “Belonging” with Fran Haley

Kaleidoscopic Encounter

I met someone yesterday
At a conference–
We engaged in
standing in the exhibit hall.
She’s come here from a
South American country
Where she fled to the U.S.
as a refugee.
Her grandfather came there as
A refugee fleeing the Holocaust.
Her name came together,
a perfectly delightful mix of
Spanish, Arabic, and Jewish.
She is a kaleidoscope of
color and light and generosity,
And I am better for having met her.

I’ve come here from
a white-washed history,
a white-washed lineage,
and so much loss of
color and light and generosity.
I’ve come from who knows where,
Except the generic ‘Wales,’
as a child, it was all I was given
when I asked, evidence enough
that we were in the right pot,
melting into America.
I came from who knows when–
not in this century,
or the last,
maybe the one before.

We are all losers
in the myth of white supremacy.
We are not a melting pot,
We are a kaleidoscope.
We will all win, when
We all belong.

Monday, 11/20/23 “Give Me This” with Kim Johnson

On the airplane, Moon followed me home
last night. She wore a hefty grin–
face half full of bright white teeth,
gleaming, she smiled at me
as I peered out through
the darkness. Watched
her dance with
the plane’s

I view
her playful
moves, She reminds
me: we need the dance.
While the Sun brightens far
away, we are left here with
Moon. She transforms: new-, crescent-, half-,
full-faced, while dancing with obstacles.

Tuesday, 11/21/23 “Birdspiration” with Fran Haley

Quail families grow–
Eggs hatch, and precocial chicks
hit the ground running.
Soon, coveys are filled with teens.
How quickly we come of age!

Wednesday, 11/22/23 “Doggerel” with Fran and Kim

There once was a dog named Sonny
Whose lifelong goal was not money
All he wanted was rubs
Castle King he was dubbed
scritch-tingle-scratch of the tummy

Poetry Friday – At NCTE

It’s Friday and Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday today with thoughts about the last poem.

I’m at NCTE this week, and today, as I wandered the Exhibit Hall feeling overwhelmed with all the busyness and people, I chanced upon this collaborative poetry project called Tend the Flame, sponsored by Traveling Stanzas and the National Writing Project. I love poets and people who love poetry, and there were both hanging around this exhibit. It was a delight to take time out to sit at a picnic table and write and draw–just what I needed for a sensory-overload break.

“Poetry Sparks” was a deck of cards, each with either an adjective, a noun or a verb, along with more specifics and definitions. I randomly chose three cards: moon, echo, and distant. I chose to use them when I wrote my addition to the collaborative poem:

I give my students
a rocket 
and they give me back
the moon
with a distant echo
of where we 

This is the deck of cards that sparked my poetic thinking today. I bought a deck for future use.

Slice of Life – NCTE and more biking

14 November 2023 TwoWritingTeachers.org

A few weeks ago we met a new friend at Starbucks. He’s a fellow bike rider and lives in the town of Joshua Tree. He has literally ridden every highway and road–paved and dirt–as well as all the trails. He helped us find a new shortcut to Joshua Tree on a three-mile trail to his house. Now, he has taken us on several adventures seeing the landscape and sites. This week we went on two 20-mile rides. Just some of the sites we saw were beehive homes, a split rock, a suspiciously-not-really-contaminated “high energy microwave field”, a mirrored egg embedded on a mountain, a train museum (where the train has never passed through) and more. He estimates it will take two more months to finish seeing the sites he has to show us. Here are some photos of our last two bike rides.

Those are full-sized train cars in the background. In the foreground are tracks for a narrow-gauge train that goes around the grounds.
Is this warning sign really something? There was no fence around the area, and “Security by Julia.” Do you see the egg-shaped light in the background?
Here is the egg up close. I’m wondering if the warning is to protect this beauty.
How do you suppose this rock split?
A working fire hydrant in the desert (There was a house behind me)
These little cabins are made with socks of dirt with cement powder arranged in concentric circles.
My husband riding up ahead
We made it home just in time for the sun to fully set



I’m working on my own personal schedule from the NCTE Conexiones schedule. Have I missed any that you are leading or that you are attending?



7:00 a.m. – One Line Coffee with Ethical ELA friends
F.14 – “Building Networks: Bringing Together Teachers, Researchers, Families, and Communities to Explore, Expand, and Interrogate Writing Instruction” with Sarah Donohue and Margaret Simon and others
H.10 – “Acts of Assemblage: Bringing Art, Science, and History Together in the Storytelling Classroom” with Glenda Funk and others
I.18 – “Connecting English Language Arts and the Climate Crisis” with Trish Emerson and others

K.19 – “Authors are Real People: Connecting Students to Children’s Book Creators” with Margaret Simon, Sally Donnelly, Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst, Amy Ludwig VanDerWater, Laura Shoven, and Laura Purdie Salas and others.
L.29 – “Relational Poetic Practice: How Poetic Thinking Empowers Teachers to Author Their Own PD” with Sarah Donohue, Mo Daley, Jennifer Guyor Jowett, and me, Denise Krebs
M.34 – “Planning with Purpose: Nuts and Bolts for New College Classroom Teachers” with Anna J. Small Roseboro, Glenda Funk, and others and 4:00-4:30 – Laura Purdie Salas signing Finding Family

P.11 – “Connections within Research in Young Adult Literature” with Leilya Pitre and others