Poetry Friday: Missing You

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Missing you,
the star
at the center of their universe,
the cats wander the apartment,
their orbit thrown off kilter
by your sudden departure.

They sniff the rug,
the sofa cushions
wondering,
“Where is she?”
“Did she sit here a minute ago?”

They wrap around my legs,
seeking, searching.
They nibble at their food,
lap up water with their rough,
pink tongues that long to kiss
your beautiful face,
then meander back to the bedroom,
hoping to find you
waiting there,
where you belong.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

Thank you, everyone, for your all your kind words and understanding last week. My daughter-in-law Julia was a beautiful woman who will be dearly missed by everyone who knew her.

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Julia Bean 1982-2015

Please visit Sylvia at Poetry for Children for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

The Poetry Friday Round Up

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The Poetry Friday Round Up is here today, but I hope you’ll all forgive me and let the comments serve as the round-up. We had a sudden death in our family yesterday, and I am distraught. I promise next time I host I will be in a more festive spirit.

Lead
by Mary Oliver

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Slice of Life: A New Reality

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Do you remember having a magic slate when you were a kid? You know, those cardboard tablets with a gray film over a waxy black background that you could draw and/or write on with a stylus. Then you lifted the film and everything was erased and you could start over.

I feel like my summer has had that gray film over it. The illness of a dear family member has colored my every waking moment. I wish I could lift the film and erase the events of the past six weeks. But life isn’t a magic slate. This is our new reality, and we are dealing with it one day at a time.

It has been a challenge for me to write during this time. I’ve had a hard time concentrating, and haven’t written anything I felt was worth sharing. But I’ve missed this community. So although this is a short slice, I just wanted to say hello to you all, and let you know I haven’t forgotten you. I hope you all have a good start to the school year.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Picture Book 10 for 10: Poetry Picture Books

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Children’s first reading experiences are usually through picture books, and for this reason, people have fond memories of them and are passionate about their favorites. Because of the role picture books play in introducing the magic of reading to children, they are worth celebrating. 

Picture Book 10 for 10 is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its sixth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out dozens of Picture Book 10 for 10 lists here. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of picture book love. 

Many children are introduced to picture books through collections of nursery rhymes. The rhythm of poetry is soothing and the rhymes give kids the foundation they need to become independent readers. But most importantly, reading nursery rhymes and poetry to children is fun.

Creating this list was quite a challenge, as there are many, many beautiful poetry picture books available these days. For any one of the poets listed below, there are one or two or ten other books that are just as worthy of inclusion on this list.

1.  Bookspeak: Poems about Books, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Clarion Books, 2011)

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What could be better than a collection of poems celebrating books? Laura Purdie Salas gives voice to all parts of books, including the cover, index, and the end. You can watch the trailer for Bookspeak, listen to Laura read two poems, and read the teacher’s guide here.

2. Red Sings From the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009)

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Joyce Sidman is one of my favorite poets, and I love Pamela Zagarenski’s whimsical style, so this book was a shoe-in for this list. I have written about it before here.

3. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick Press, 2014)

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This award-winning anthology, illustrated with whimsical perfection by Melissa Sweet, includes poems celebrating each season and is not to be missed.  Julie Roach, writing in School Library Journal described Sweet’s illustrations this way: “Colors and shapes with willowy details expertly blur or bring bits of the images into focus to create a magical sense of place, time, and beauty.”

4. A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, by J. Patrick Lewis, pictures by Alison Jay (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002)

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Lewis brings his signature blend of humor and interesting facts to the world of geography in this collection. Allison Jay’s muted colors and craquelure,“a cracking or network of fine cracks in the paint, enamel, or varnish of a painting,” illustrations evoke maps from the age of exploration.

5.  Forest Has a Song, by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley (Clarion Books, 2013)

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Amy Ludwig VanDerwater turns her keen poet’s eye to the forest landscape throughout the year. Gourley’s delicate watercolors are the perfect complement to VanDerwater’s evocative poems.

6. On the Wing: Bird Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Harcourt, 1996)

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Douglas Florian’s sophisticated humor and word play make his poetry perfect choices for any elementary classroom. Find out more about Florian and his other poetry collections here.

7. What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, by Katherine B. Hauth, illustrated by David Clark (Charlesbridge, 2011)

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This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book is chock-full of hilarious poems about the very serious subject of how animals capture their prey. Hauth includes factual information about each animal, as well as a list of suggested reading. David Clark’s cartoon-like illustrations add to the humor.

8.  Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems, by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple (WordSong, 2012)

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Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, my 2013 Picture Book 10 for 10 post was devoted to her work. Yolen has published many volumes of poetry, but her collaborations with her photographer son, Jason Stemple, are my favorites. Stemple’s photographs are full of incredible details, and Yolen’s poetry captures the “beauty and mystery” of “these tiny living beings.” (From Yolen’s author’s note.)

9.  Turtle in July, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Macmillan, 1989)

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Marilyn Singer is the 2015 winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and has long been one of my favorite poets. You can read a previous post about Marilyn’s poetry here. This collection, filled with Jerry Pinkney’s stunning illustrations, is a must-have for any elementary classroom.

10. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, by Georgia Heard, drawings by Jennifer Owings Dewey (WordSong, 1992)

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 Georgia Heard has written that “poets find poems in hundreds of different places” (Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School, Heinemann: 1999), and in this wonderful collection, which has long been a staple in my classroom, she has found poems throughout the animal kingdom. Dewey’s detailed, realistic drawings add to the beauty of this book.

My previous Picture Book 10 for 10 lists:

2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books

Poetry Friday: The Word That Is a Prayer

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This poem was recently featured in The New York Times Magazine. It was exactly the poem I needed to read at that moment, and I’ve been carrying it with me ever since.

“The Word That Is A Prayer”
by Ellery Akers

One thing you know when you say it:
all over the earth people are saying it with you;
a child blurting it out as the seizures take her,
a woman reciting it on a cot in a hospital.
What if you take a cab through the Tenderloin:
at a street light, a man in a wool cap,
yarn unraveling across his face, knocks at the window;
he says, Please.
By the time you hear what he’s saying,
the light changes, the cab pulls away,
and you don’t go back, though you know
someone just prayed to you the way you pray.
Please: a word so short
it could get lost in the air
as it floats up to God like the feather it is,

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Poetry Friday: “From Blossoms”

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A friend recently asked me, “But what makes it a poem?” I confess I was stumped for a minute, then resorted to a fairly dry, textbook definition. This bothered me, so I went in search of a better answer. I’m not at all surprised that I found one in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. Oliver ends her analysis of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams with this brilliant description:

“It is, above all, a poem that celebrates not only a momentary enchantment plucked out of the vast world but the deftness and power of the imagination and its dazzling material: language.”

Isn’t that a wonderful explanation of a poem? I have been enchanted by fresh peaches this week, and found this dazzling celebration of them to share with you today:

From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

Read the rest of the poem here.

"Harrow Beauty Peaches at Lyman Orchards" By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
“Harrow Beauty Peaches at Lyman Orchards” By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Please be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Poetry Friday: “A Box of Pastels”

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“A Box of Pastels”
by Ted Kooser

I once held on my knees a simple wooden box
in which a rainbow lay dusty and broken.
It was a set of pastels that had years before
belonged to the painter Mary Cassatt
and all of the colors she’d used in her work
lay open before me.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Please be sure to visit Kimberely on Google + for the Poetry Friday Round Up.