Poetry Friday: Celebrating Janet Wong

In case you haven’t heard, Janet Wong received the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry at NCTE’s virtual gathering last weekend! Hooray! Congratulations, Janet! As Poetry Friday regulars know, Janet is a champion of poetry for children. Along with Sylvia Vardell, she created Pomelo Books, and published the acclaimed Poetry Friday Anthology series, as well as many collections specifically designed to help teachers bring poetry into the lives of students. She has published countless volumes of her own poetry, including my favorite, A Suitcase of Seaweed. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor.

I have had the good fortune to meet Janet on several occasions. She is the friendliest, most generous of humans, and I am forever grateful to her for the nurturing support she has given to me as poet.

Janet has written many incredible poems throughout her career, but I don’t think this one can be shared often enough.

Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Stay safe, everyone!

Poetry Friday: An Aubade

Every month, one member of my critique group poses a challenge for us to respond to. I love how these challenges push me, and am always astonished at where some of these poems lead. This month, Linda challenged us to write an aubade, “a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or early morning.”

As I said, these challenges always lead in unexpected directions. I struggled to come up with a way into this poem. Then, while I was walking one morning, the phrase “brittle blue sky” came into my mind and became the key to this draft.

This painting, which I found through Google Arts & Culture, also helped this draft come together:

Two Women Bathing
Carl Holty1948/1950, Georgia Museum of Art

How long has it been 
since we last went to the lake?
Twenty years? More?
It feels like yesterday
when we woke to the cry of loons,
whispers of the water kissing the rocky beach,
patches of light filtering through wispy pines

The sky brightens,
and my dream dissolves
into a patchwork of green and gold pixels.

The lake recedes into memory,
scattered among my worries 
of today.

Outside, jays squawk and squabble,
and the maple is a shock of scarlet
Against a brittle blue sky.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit my fellow Sunday Night Swaggers to read their aubades:

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Then stop by and say hello to Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Halloween Frighting

Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard are two of my poetry idols. I have shared their poetry with my students since I began teaching. More recently, I’ve been fortunate to learn from them at workshops and conferences. One silver lining to everything being moved online this year is that I was able to be part of “The Craft and Heart of Poetry,” their amazing Highlights workshop.

This draft is the result of a quickwrite Georgia and Rebecca shared during the workshop. It isn’t perfect, but I had fun writing it. Thank you, Rebecca and Georgia, for your never-ending inspiration!

Halloween Frighting

Ghosts ghouling
Zombies drooling

Vampires slurping
Mummies lurching

Ogres crunching
Trolls munching 

Witches hocusing 
Goblins pocusing

Skeletons rattling
Demons battling

Werewolves chomping            
Frankensteins stomping  

Orange moon lighting
Halloween frighting

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Linda Baie at Teachers Dance for a Halloween edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “Song”

by Seamus Heaney

A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.

There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

Please be sure to visit Jama Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Roundup. This week’s hostess with the mostest has some warm cider and apple cider doughnuts waiting for you!

Poetry Friday: Hop To It!

Today is my birthday, and it’s a BIG one. There are many ways this birthday will not be normal, so I am excited to be celebrating the publication of HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving instead. Hop to It is the latest anthology from the dynamic duo of Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

I am thrilled and honored to have my poem, “Mental Floss,” included with the work of so many stellar poets. Thank you, Janet & Sylvia, for your tireless efforts to bring poetry into the lives of so many!

I also love that fellow October birthday girl and poet extraordinaire Marilyn Singer’s Feel the Beat is the suggested companion piece to my poem.

Please be sure to visit Janice Scully at Salt City Verse for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Attempting a Duplex

The Sunday Night Swaggers are back with another monthly challenge. This month, Margaret Simon challenged us to write a duplex, a form created by Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Jericho Brown.

Challenge is the keyword here. I really struggled with this poem. I struggled to come up with a topic, then struggled to keep the poem from becoming too dark. I also didn’t exactly follow the rules, but I know I wrote with the spirit of the rules in mind. That has to count for something, right?

The facts are hard to dismiss;
We’re at the edge of a vast abyss.

At the edge of this abyss, can we ignore
Tons of plastic littering our shores?

Plastic-lined shores still sparkle and shine
But they are a beacon of nature’s decline

Nature’s decline is our fault alone.
Is it too late for us to atone?

Before it’s too late to atone for our greed
Let’s join together, plant the seeds

Plant seeds for the future, seeds of hope
We must stop our slide down this slippery slope

Stopping this slide is a goal we can’t miss
These are facts that we cannot dismiss.

© Draft, Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to read the duplexes my fellow Swaggers wrote at their blogs:

Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

Also, don’t forget to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Murmurations

Last spring, I decided to finish reading a couple of books that I’d abandoned for one reason or another. One of these, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, was a book that I felt I should love but just couldn’t. Macdonald’s writing is poetic and full of reverence for nature, and I appreciated the beauty of her writing. But the story was full of pain, so maybe it wasn’t the best choice for the dark days of April.

Then, in July, an essay from Macdonald’s new book, Vesper Flights, appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Here, the kindred spirit I’d glimpsed in H is for Hawk was in full view. Like the swifts she’s describing, this piece was “magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding.” I pre-ordered the book immediately.

I have been savoring these short essays one at a time, every couple of days. They are every bit as magical as the essay that was in the paper. Even the titles are lyrical, so I decided to create a poem from them. I know found poems are supposed to be kept in order, but these are not. I have added a few articles and prepositions to the beginning of some lines for clarity.

The numinous ordinary
of sunbirds and cashmere spheres
the vesper flights
of the human flock.

Thinking about “Murmurations” made me realize I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one. Then, on the way to work on Tuesday morning, a flock of starlings flew across the sky, begging me to write them a poem. How could I refuse?

A ribbon of starlings
unspools from a giant oak,
trimming the sky .

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch at her beautiful new website for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Nineteen Years

by Teddy Macker

dear lord in this time of darkness
help us see the darkness

dear lord help us to not pretend
no more pretending

dear lord may our gaze be defenseless
and unshardable

teach us the piety of the open eye

dear lord in this time of darkness
may we be unafraid to mourn and together and hugely

may dignity lose its scaffolding
faces crumble like bricks

dear lord let grief come to grief

read the rest here.

Please visit Kiesha Sheperd at Whispers From the Ridge for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Plentitude

Several months ago, I suggested that when my critique group partners and I resumed our monthly challenges we write “In One Word” poems. This form was created by April Halprin Wayland and you can read about it here.

I’ve been tinkering with ideas for this poem all summer. After playing with several potential words, I stumbled across the word “plentitude.” This word appealed to me for several reasons, including the fact that it seemed be contrary to the current state of our country. I’m not thrilled with this very drafty draft, but perfection isn’t the goal of these challenges.

Pick up a pen.
Write the secrets of your heart. Let
your truths flow, set down in
ink for all to know. Don’t dilute
the facts. Everyone is entitled
to tell their story, sing their tune.

So let’s lean in, tilt
our heads, lend
our ears, and listen to each line
with an open heart. Tend
and nurture one another, unite
and celebrate our plentitude.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Photo by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

Please be sure to visit my fellow Sunday Night Swaggers to read what word they chose for their “In One Word” poems.

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then head on over to Carol Varsalona’s blog, Beyond Literacy Link, for the Poetry Friday Roundup and Carol’s stunning “Embraceable Summer Gallery.”

Poetry Friday: Drops of Liquid Sunshine

Earlier this week, Margaret Renkl wrote in her column in The New York Times to “enfold ourselves in small comforts.” I needed this reminder, and found this small comfort on one of my morning walks.

A multitude of goldfinches,
trilling and chittering
like windchimes,
pierce the stillness of dawn
as they rise over the meadow:
drops of liquid sunshine.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit my critique group partner and poet extraordinaire, Heidi Mordhorst, at My Juicy Little Universe for the Poetry Friday Roundup.