Poetry Friday – Poetry Swap with Jone Rush MacCulloch

What fun the poetry swap was this summer. I was able to fit three of them into my schedule. The first one was with Tabatha: I wrote about it here. Today I’m writing about Jone’s poetry swap. My third poetry swap is coming late to Mary Lee Hahn. (She should get it tomorrow.)

Here are the lovely gifts of poetry I received from Jone. Have you had a chance to read Jone’s Solace in Nature book? It does provide solace! The photos and words are joyful, lilting, and comforting. (It was the latest and last Sealy Challenge book I read in August; I’ve been too busy with home improvement projects.)

Look at this journal Jone created with a photo from Ireland and a poem she wrote. So lovely, and I was just about in need of a new journal.

Finally, as a fellow tea lover, she sent these teas, including these special ones from Portland. I’m drinking a cup of #54 right now as I write this post.

Jone wrote about our poetry swap a couple of weeks ago here.

Thank you to Linda B. at Teacher Dance for hosting Poetry Friday today.

Poetry Friday – Bridge the Difference

This week in the Sealy Challenge, I read just one book: Bridge the Distance: Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance (An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems).  You can read the PDF version free here or purchase a copy at cost, thanks to Oklahoma State University. Published in 2021, Bridge the Distance is a collection of poems by 38 teacher-poets who wrote during the COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020. Margaret Simon and Linda Mitchell, and I each have poems in the book. We wrote them at Ethical ELA, hosted by Sarah Donovan.

Reading the poems all at a time this week, I was struck with the memories of the lockdown that were stirred by this interesting history of thought from just 2.5 years ago.  I rejoiced that this oral history project will be available for future generations. Not all of the poems are about COVID, but certainly in a good portion of them the teachers obviously have on their minds the pandemic and teaching through the lockdown.  I gathered some of the lines that resonated with me and created this cento poem today. (The lines and the poets are listed below in the order they appear.)

In the Safe Spaces

In the safe spaces of your hands
Die, right or wrong, longing for an end to this
It was the first day of school
a child’s fingers hold her face before a screen
A school with no pulse or heartbeat
I need an elixir, a potion
Love thy neighbor is spelled w-e-a-r   a   m-a-s-k
knotted, left your song unsung
Now a squinting shadow
with the whirring blur of white noise fan
where I am sheltered in place
Say we watch the world end from our couch
the good, the bad, and the wildly fanciful and unexpected
sunset serenade

Teacher Poets
“Free Writing” by Stacey Joy
“Incorporating ‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks” by Donnetta Norris
“Indelible Moments” by Denise Hill
“The Duplex of Virtual Teaching” by Margaret Simon
“Abandoned” by Emily Yamasaki
“Cocktail Hour” by Susie Morice
“2020 Duplex” by Linda Mitchell
“I am COVID” by Susie Morice
“Almost Asleep” by Kimberly Johnson
Strangerfriends” by Susan Ahlbrand
“Borrowed Lines” by Betsy Jones
“Dear Lauryl” by Lauryl Bennington
“Barnyard Concert at Dusk” by Kimberly Johnson

Coincidentally, over at Ethical ELA, we are beginning our monthly Open Write this weekend. You are welcome to join us for this special group that Susan Ahlbrand called “Strangerfriends” about whom she writes:

I am awed by the vulnerability others show
the raw sharing of abuse
the honest telling of fears
the open storytelling
the beautiful describing

with strangerfriends

I’ve often been skeptical of stories
of people finding “friends” online…

Not anymore

~From “Strangerfriends” by Susan Ahlbrand

Today is Poetry Friday. Dave at Leap of Dave is hosting. Head on over there to discover castles in the forest and poems today.

Poetry Friday – More Sealy Books

I read just two poetry books this week, but they were good ones by Laura Shoven and one by many of you, edited by Bridget Magee.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shoven is a sweet, believable story of a school that has to close at the end of the school year. The last fifth grade works tirelessly to talk the Board of Education into changing their plans. The students, all 18, are lovable with bags of personality and each shows growth during the school year. Their teacher, Ms. Hill, is a peach, who encourages them to process their year by writing poetry. That’s what we get the privilege of reading in this great novel in verse.

Here is an excerpt of “Insubordinate” by Rachel Chieko Stein who was punished for being part of a protest against losing their school:

I got my first
detention ever
for being

(I looked it up.
In means “not.”
Subordinate means

I like the way
that sounds.

Me too, Rachel! Another super part of this book are all the resources in the back. “Favorite Forms from Room 5-H” includes descriptions of 17 forms, along with a prompt and example poem to turn to in the book. The prompts continue in the next session: “From the Fifth Grade Poetry Prompt Jar.” Then there is a glossary of poetic terms. Thanks, Laura. What a great resource for teachers. Now my copy is off to a fifth grade teacher friend in Iowa whose school will be closing after this year. I think it will be a great read aloud for them.

The other book I read this week is 10.10 Poetry Anthology: Celebrating 10 in 10 Different Ways, edited and compiled by Bridget Magee. It wasn’t my first time reading this clever volume. I love reading poems by so many familiar poets–Linda Baie, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Robyn Hood Black, Karen Eastland, Karen Edmisten, Janet Fagal, Mary Lee Hahn, Ruth Bowen Hersey, Molly Hogan, Michelle Kogan, Irene Latham, Bridget Magee, Linda Mitchell, Elisabeth Norton, Laura Purdie Salas, Janice Scully, Laura Shovan, Buffy Silverman, Carol Varsalona, Alan j. Wright and Tabatha Yeatts. Wow! And that is not even all of the poets who are part of this collection.

Full of Bridget’s magical puns and play on words, the ten categories of tens are Tentative, Tenderness, Tenacity, Ten More Minutes, Tension, I Wouldn’t Touch that with a Ten-Foot Pole, Ten Little Fingers/Ten Little Toes, Take Ten, Tenth____, and I Tend to…

Here is a snippet of one of the Tenderness poems. It’s “Do Not Lose Your Song” by Alan j Wright, and I do think it is so tender:

When the sorrows of the wider world
pile up at your door
Do not lose your song

I have more books lined up for next week, and I have really appreciated taking time to read poetry each day.

Happy Birthday to you, and thank you, Margaret, for hosting Poetry Friday’s Roundup today. Head on over to Reflections on the Teche for some beautiful rainbows.

Poetry Friday – Shortened Sealy Challenge

Thanks to Marcie’s post last week about the Sealy Challenge, I decided to read some poetry books in August. This is my first time trying the Sealy Challenge, and I already know I won’t make 31 books. That’s okay. I have a small stack of books on my shelf (a novel in verse, poetry collections and anthologies, and children’s books that could be considered poetry :). I also have a few on my Kindle, so here I go.

This week I’ve read just three books: Call Us What We Carry (Amada Gorman), Dictionary for a Better World (Irene Latham and Charles Waters–just a quick read this week — I’ve also committed to revisiting this one daily in my reading and writing for August and September), and Life Songs: My Personal Poetry Anthology (Denise Krebs).

Here is a bit about each of this week’s books.

I love so much about this book by Amanda Gorman. Wow. It is at once mournful and grieving over injustice and the losses from Covid-19, and yet it is still so hope-filled and gracious. One of my favorite poems is called “What We Carry.” That line: “What is marred is still marvelous.” Wow! It reminds me of so many clever and perfect phrases and lines in this book. And what she does with the two meanings of the word ark as the poem progresses is beautiful. You should really read it if you haven’t. I shared one poem with my husband, and now he is reading the whole book, too.

I am excited to read this book slowly over the next two months with Kim Johnson, looking at a word a day. However, this week I read all the poems through in one sitting. It is full of so many new forms and topics by Charles Waters and our own Irene Latham. I loved this shadorma poem–staying open in the midst of so much that could cause despair. That’s what I need now.

This was an anthology of the poems I loved and those I wrote. This was a project I did annually with my junior high students a few years ago. It is a collection of my poems from that chapter in my life, and it was fun to revisit it this week. I wrote that sonnet in 1975.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup can be found at Molly Hogan’s Nix the Comfort Zone blog. Be sure to check out the baseball poems she wrote!

Poetry Friday – Dictionary for a Better World

I wasn’t going to post for Poetry Friday this week, but look what I got my hands on this afternoon!

It’s Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. On Tuesday, Dr. Kim Haynes Johnson shared her plan for doing a study in August and September and invited others to join in “a time of deep personal book friendship, sharing insights on the words and the response opportunities that the authors create in the book.” Read more here on Kim’s blog, as she has been writing daily posts of introduction. Here is a Padlet page that Kim has created for us to share our blogs and insights.


I decided to order the book based on her blog post. However, now that I’ve seen the book in all its colorful glory, perfect size, and beautiful poems and ideas, I’m all the more excited to join Kim in digging into this beautiful book. Join us, if you would like!

Thanks to Marcie Flinchum Atkins for hosting Poetry Friday today. Read more at her blog about the Sealey Challenge for August.

Exchanging Poems with Tabatha

It’s Poetry Friday. Thank you, Mary Lee Hahn, for hosting us today. Enjoy Mary Lee’s poem entitled: “That’s What You Wrote About the Green Beans.” It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, so it is good to be here with you all. 

I was excited to participate in the summer poetry swap for the first time ever. I was paired up with Tabatha Yeatts. What a joyful experience!

Tabatha went to my blog and found inspiration from a poem I wrote titled: “What I Learned from the Birds and You.” She used my title for a golden shovel poem.

Photo by Tabatha Yeatts


“You shouldn’t make friends with crows,” he’d told her…“They don’t have any manners.” ~Leigh Bardugo

The crows surprise me with what they know and what they don’t know. What
they don’t know: what it means when I hiss at them to be quiet. Stop it, I
say, as one rushes another, dagger-beaked and screaming. I learned
that they disgorge pellets –food less digestible than my oatcakes– from
watching one produce such a gift. Later, a second crow, spotting the offering, cast another. The
crows who aren’t brawlers strive to follow etiquette. It is these silent, solitary birds,
these sleek shadows willing to wait to be noticed, who stop me from putting the oatcakes away and
spur me to leave the curtains open. We can persist, trying to fathom each other– me and you.

Photo by Tabatha Yeatts

Do you believe it? She has befriended the crows, and though it seems true most of them lack manners, Tabatha feeds them anyway. I believe it is a good metaphor for loving the unlovable. I have crows in my town too, and I do look at them differently this week, striving to learn from them.

Thank you, Tabatha, for the wonderful gift. It was so fun to get it in snail mail and open it to see your beautiful poem, written for me, as well as the lovely postcards and stickers! My water bottle is enjoying the new decor!

Here’s the poem I wrote for Tabatha. You can click on each link to read ten of her poetry treasures!

Ten Things Found in Tabatha’s Poems

Tabatha, the poet’s friend,
Shares gifts, so our hearts can mend


Poetry Friday – Springtime Update

It has been too long since I’ve taken time to read and write on a Poetry Friday. Thank you to Buffy Silverman for hosting today. Do read her post to learn about the sly lady slipper wildflower. 

Today I came to leave a little springtime joy (as summer bears down, making a growling entrance here in the California desert).

In April, Linda Mitchell shared this poetry prompt at Ethical ELA. It is a poem where you use one or more parts of the scientific method to inspire poetry.  On April 25th, I wrote this because, after a sweltering day, we had gotten a dusting of snow overnight.

the weather
gods bewitch you
with heat and humidity
one day and freezing the next,
how do you always come up on top?
Or will you?
We’ll have to wait and see.

We spent five weeks of our spring in Orange City, Iowa. When we arrived, just about everything was brown, dead, cold and in winter despair. A month later, the Midwest was alive in springtime.

Update on the tulip poem: Orange City has a tulip festival every  third weekend in May. The question I asked in the poem was a common theme of conversation around town all month. Will the tulips be up? Or will they be gone already, forcing the dreaded stem festival?

As usual, the tulips knew best, so the Orange City Tulip Festival was a big success. These pictures were taken on a beautiful day just before the festival (and the crowds). It was hard to believe this was the same brown town we drove into less than a month ago.

These were taken after the Tulip Festival. The tulips were still hanging in there.

We froze this day of the Tulip Festival in the 50s!



Poetry Friday – Ars Poetica

Last summer I learned about the 2-Day Poem Contest. I wrote an Ars Poetica poem with last April’s words here. Then this month I actually signed up for this April’s 2-Day challenge. On Sunday morning I woke up remembering it was coming up. I realized I had 16/48 hours left to get started and finish, which actually worked better for me. I can’t imagine how many changes I would have made and undone over 48 hours!

I didn’t spend much time finding a story where all the words could live together somehow. Instead I did another Ars Poetica poem.  The words for this year were bog, noctambulant, slink, peachy, broadside, spine, wax, mnemonic, cross, toast.

Ars Poetica

After Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be
Stirring me in small hours
For noctambulant awe,
A stroll to revive my heart,
Even a mnemonic to start
To help me remember

A poem should be
Mother Mary burned on toast
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Heavenly, holy tidings
Hitting me broadside
Shivers to my spine

A poem should be
Absent plugs of wax
And corked up feelings, but
Lift my mind’s fog
As I cross the endless bog
Of misunderstandings

A poem should be
Peachy and creamy
And full of dreamy
Waves of sweetness
But not sappy or jejune
A little sour too for my soul

A poem should be
Not a still slink calf
Aborted too soon
Not silent and dull
But one born fully alive
Fragile yet ready to thrive

A poem should just be

Today is Poetry Friday and the roundup is happening at Jone Rush MacCulloch’s blog today. Head over there for lots of good things this morning.