Poetry Friday: Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems by Laura Purdie Salas

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I first discovered the work of Laura Purdie Salas in 2008 when she wrote a series of poetry books for Capstone Press. Tiny Dreams, Sprouting Tall: Poems About the United States and Lettuce Introduce You: Poems About Food were perfect for two units my colleagues and I were revising. Since that time my students and I have enjoyed Stampede: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School (Clarion, 2009), Bookspeak: Poems About Books (Clarion, 2011), and most recently, A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook, 2015). (A complete list of Laura’s books can be found here.) So last spring, when Laura put out a call for teachers to collaborate with her on her latest poetry project, I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled to be chosen to create activities for Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems.

I loved every minute of working with Laura on this project. These poems, rich in imagery and figurative language, inspired many extension and enrichment activities. They celebrate the diversity of our ecosystems and geologic formations, as well as bring our history to life. I learned about landmarks I’d never heard of, and started planning trips to some of them! Laura graciously gave me permission to share some of her wonderful poems from this collection today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

“Indiana: Time to Walk the Dogwood”

Black-Eyed Susan rings the Bluebells—
“Dinnertime! Come eat!”
Sweet William drinks his Milkweed
with a sweet Mayapple treat.
They eat their toast with Buttercups
and have a lovely talk.
Then dinner’s done and they must take
their Dogwood for his walk.
William wears his Dutchman’s Breeches,
white and pressed and neat.
Susan’s Yellow Ladyslippers
snuggle up her feet.
Dogwood chases Cardinals flashing
red and wild and bright.
His Fleabane’s bad, he needs a bath—
another busy night.
It’s time to watch the Shooting Stars
against the darkened sky.
William plants a kiss on Sue—
Another day’s gone by.

© Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved, 2015

This poem, with its bouquet of Indiana wildflowers brought to life, begs to be illustrated. My art skills weren’t up to the task, but I’m sure there are plenty of young artists whose are!

Laura used an impressive variety of poetic forms in this collection. “America the Beautiful” is one of my favorite patriotic songs, so I especially loved “Colorado: Pink Lady (A Poem for Two Voices)” I can’t wait to hear our fourth graders performing this poem!

Long hike down through misty clouds,

O beautiful for spacious skies,

A dizzying descent

For amber waves of grain,

Rocks, ravines, and evergreens—

For purple mountain majesties

That clean-scrubbed pine tree scent

Above the fruited plain!

Pikes Peak, the watchman of the west,

America! America!

You rise from plains below

God shed his grace on thee

Rosy granite etched with ice

And crown they good with brotherhood

You wear the sunset’s glow

From sea to shining sea!

America,

America

Land beautiful

and free.

© Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved, 2015

Pike's Peak, (Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Pike’s Peak, (Library of Congress, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is a must-have collection for any classroom learning about the United States. Laura’s engaging poems will make students’ research about the states more meaningful and memorable. Click here for information on how to get your copy of Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems.

Thank you, Laura, for letting me share your work here today, and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this terrific poetry collection!

Be sure to visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem for the Poetry Friday Round Up, and you can read North Carolina’s poem today on Laura’s blog.

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12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems by Laura Purdie Salas

  1. Awww, William plants a kiss on Sue. LOVE! And how wonderful, yours and Laura’s collaboration on this project. Makes me happy to think about, and I am enjoying the work I am seeing on the web! Must order my copy! Thank you. Happy Poetry Friday!

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  2. I was so excited to see that you were one of Laura’s collaborators. What an honor as well as a challenge. Laura’s poems fit well into any classroom curriculum. I think poetry should be an every day activity and love finding more ways to bring it in, especially with such a winning combination as you two!

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  3. Excited to hear about this new book and your part in it, Catherine! Of course I’m very curious to see what the Hawai’i poem is about :). Love the two sample poems you shared today — of course the food mention in the first made me very happy — and the second for 2 voices is beautiful.

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  4. These poems are wonderful, Catherine. I especially am excited that you shared the one about Colorado, of course! How exciting to work with Laura, and she’s right in her comment above, I wish you had shared some of the activities, too.

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  5. A triple HUZZAH — one for Laura’s book (just ordered), one for your involvement (can’t wait to see the activities you came up with) and one for this Colorado poem! PERFECTION! It makes me homesick for “that clean-scrubbed pine tree scent” and for the first view of Pikes Peak from an hour away, poking above the flat flat flatlands. Love the way she wove in America the Beautiful. Perfection.

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  6. Dear Catherine, Thanks for the Indiana peek with such a clever title, “Time to Walk the Dogwood.” It must be a thrill to represent your state for young readers.
    I think the children will have fun with this collection.
    Like Jama with Hawai’i, I’m also curious for my 2 states (N.J. & Fla.)
    I sang Laura’s Pink Lady / Colorado, because so much in my mind the one voice is great classroom/assembly song. Sweet post. ~ Jan

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  7. My daughter used to attend an American school for her elementary years (Grades 1-6), and I am sure this would have been a lovely addition to their poetry unit in school. I also love Laura’s BookSpeak which I use in my own higher-degree class. 🙂

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