Poetry Friday – Mini Sealey Challenge and Secrets

Today is Poetry Friday, and Mary Lee Hahn has the roundup with a GoGo’s song, Nancy Kuhl, Sandra Cisneros, secrets and more.

I have enjoyed taking part in The Stafford Challenge, writing a poem a day. A nice benefit of this challenge is I have been reading more poetry as well. This week it felt a little like August, as if I was in my own Mini Sealey Challenge. I’ve read William Stafford (reading a poem or two a day), Ada Limón, Margaret Gibson Simon, and Karah-Jo Procak, a young adult woman who pours her heart out in this, her first book.

Have you read the poem “Sacred Objects” by Ada Limon? Here is a video of her reading this powerful poem. I chose this one today because I love it, and, also in honor of the Inklings, for the phrase “in this secret shadowed place.”

In holds of shame,
this is true, an unshared
secret binds a heart,
shadowed and pinched in a
place of cruel captivity.

Has reading more poetry helped my writing? I definitely get ideas; that’s good. I hope I will learn to write better poetry during this year-long experiment writing a daily poem, but I’m not counting on it. I’ll keep writing nonetheless, like Stafford said, “Lower your standards and keep writing.”

Poetry Friday – Sugar Skull Piñata by Robert Benavidez

Today is Poetry Friday, and Susan Thomsen is hosting today with a pinata poem and story from Passaic, New Jersey. 

Día de Los Muertos
sings of bright rainbow skulls–
heart-shaped nose, starry eyes,
strong zygomatic arch,
mighty smile fills nighttime
fears with a holy hope

I learned the syllable square poetry form last week from Carmela A. Martino, here at Tyger, Tyger Magazine. This one is a 6×6 poem.

The artwork that inspired my poem: Sugar Skull Piñata by Robert Benavidez

Poetry Friday – Cherish

Today is Poetry Friday. Robyn has a delightful post about my favorite beverage, TEA.

Cherish is my word of the year. I just spent a week with my daughter and grandson at our home, cherishing every moment because they seem all too few.

Milo and I were playing a game in the picture above. Every time he slapped my Cherish rock, I would say “Bwue.” When he tapped my husband’s Explore rock, I would say, “Gumbo.” He composed little rhythms, like “Bwue, bwue, bwue, gumbo, bwue, gumbo, bwue, gumbo, bwue, bwue, bwue…” It was a favorite game of the week.

We had fun climbing rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

And wearing hats and a million other things, as he had fun with everything he came across. I was exhausted when they left, but I was satisfied that I truly cherished each moment I had with him.

Ethical ELA’s Open Write begins tomorrow. Check out the prompts Saturday through Wednesday this week!

Friday is the third day of The Stafford Challenge. It was founded by Brian Rohr, storyteller and poet. We will write a poem a day, inspired by William Stafford, who had a daily poem-writing practice for decades. (One of Stafford’s famous poems is “Traveling through the Dark.”) The Challenge started on Wednesday, January 17, the anniversary of Stafford’s birth. Last evening in a Zoom meeting, his son, Kim Stafford, inspired us to have a daily writing challenge that includes four things: the date, a diary (boring prose of the day), an aphorism, and a poem. I’m going to give it a try this year focusing on my local environment. Here’s Thursday’s poem.

Lovely desert holds life, like this
little hedgehog cactus that counts its
blessings, holding onto hope in the
whispering cleft of boulders. Ready
to grow, even when soil is sparse.
Life calls to life,
that it won’t be stopped. Like the cactus
You are beauty and promise, and you
won’t be sorry if you
give it your all in living fully. Drink
up your fill of grace this fine day.

A Golden Shovel poem from Jeannette Encinias’ “Begin Again” that was sent in her email today. “Lovely little blessings. Whispering to life that you won’t give up.” 

Writing this poem also reminded me of the poem Kat Apel wrote for me a couple summers ago. Read “How to Be a Cactus” here.


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!)

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?

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.