“Our revels now are ended…”

“Our revels now are ended…”
William Shakespeare
From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Mixing plays, I know, but I love the joy of these revelers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

And what revels there have been! Bravo to all of you who had daily poetry projects this month. I may not have visited or commented every day, but I truly admire your hard work and dedication. You are an inspiration!

Although National Poetry Month comes to an end today, true believers know no day is complete without poetry. We’ll always dream; we’ll always write…

Words click
into place like
tumblers inside a lock,
revealing truths hidden within
my heart.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Poetry Friday: Finding Beauty, Even in a Snake


When I was a kid, I loved hanging out on my swing set. One day when I went out to play, there was a huge snake, so black he was blue, sunning himself under the swings. I ran screaming back into the house, and have been terrified of snakes ever since.

Then one of my boys turned into a lover of all reptiles, especially snakes. On our first trip to the Bronx Zoo, he made a bee-line to the Reptile House. So I had to learn, if not to like snakes, at least not be petrified when I saw one.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to see this on Michael’s Instagram feed last week:

Photo by Michael Flynn
Photo by Michael Flynn

And even though I still really don’t like snakes, it was hard to ignore the beauty of this one.

His scales polished
to a glossy shine,
green glimmers,
blue-black shimmers
as rat snake slithers
over sun-warmed slate
like lightning flashing
across the sky.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Please be sure to visit Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Desertbells


“The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.”
~ Natalie Angier ~

Today is Earth Day. I wanted to write a poem specifically to commemorate that, but trying to write a poem about the whole Earth overwhelmed me. Then I remembered this photo from an Arizona Highways desk calendar. The beauty is in the details.

Photo by Tim Fitzharris in 2016 Arizona Highways Calendar
Photo by Tim Fitzharris in 2016 Arizona Highways Calendar

Cradled like newly hatched
desertbell vines
run rampant
through the jaws of an agave,
weaving their blossoms
between its toothy thorns.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Please be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Two Poems for Your Pocket


It’s National Poem in Your Pocket Day! My school is closed for spring break this week, so we’ll celebrate next week. When we do, I’ll be carrying Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody, Who are you?” especially for a fifth grade student who asked almost the same question in a poem she wrote last week.

“I’m Nobody, Who are you?”
by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – Too?
Then there’s a pair of us?
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

I was thinking of this poem while I walked this morning. When I heard an unfamiliar bird calling from the top of a tree, I automatically asked, “Who are you?”

Who are you,
flooding my dreams
with your rosy chee-chee-heeee?

Who are you,
bouncing through the apple tree’s
golden finery?

Who are you,
sipping the last beads of dew
from tender new leaves,
like it was nectar for the gods?

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

“Japanese Tree Frogs”

Large-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-LogoAt the Highlights Foundation Spring Poetry Retreat last April, Rebecca Kai Dotlich recommended A Celebration of Bees: Helping Children to Write Poetry, by Barbara Juster Esbensen. Esbensen, who passed away in 1996, was an NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children winner. (You can learn more about Barbara here, part of Rene LaTullipe’s “Spotlight on NCTE Poets” series.)

“Words are the beginning,” Esbensen tells us, of “the writer’s never ending but highly interesting task of discovering exactly the right word for this feeling, that sound, a movement, a color.” She goes on to describe beginning her work with children by asking them to “find some words” to,  in the words of Sherwood Anderson, “throw into a box and shake.”

Having done this with students countless times, I couldn’t remember when I had last just played with words this way. So I got a marker and let loose. I had a photograph I’d found online in mind when I created my word splash, but when I went to find the photo, I found this instead:

Japanese tree frogs (© Shinji Kusano/Minden Pictures)(Bing Canada)
Japanese tree frogs (© Shinji Kusano/Minden Pictures)(Bing Canada)

I gasped when I saw it and knew this was the photo I had to write a poem about.

“Japanese Tree Frogs”

Under a bower
of glistening green lanterns,
tree frogs trill
their exuberant refrain,
welcoming the soaking spring.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Slice of Life: Alive Below Crystal


It is National Park Week, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. (Thank you to Tricia Stohr-Hunt, aka Miss Rumphius, for the heads up on this.)

My family and I are fortunate enough to have rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon twice. This is an incredible experience, one that leaves you with a deep appreciation for the grandeur of the canyon and the power of nature.

The course of the river is punctuated by powerful rapids, but there are two that stick out in my mind. One is Lava Falls, which I’ve written about here. The other is Crystal, which was formed, literally, overnight.

“In December 1966 a storm unlike any witnessed before, dropped over 14 inches of rain in some places along the north rim. All this water sent debris flows crashing down side canyons [including Crystal Canyon]. When the storm had passed, the debris fan constricted the Colorado to less than a quarter of its original width, and a large boulder at the top created one of the largest holes on the river”

From “Nature, History, and Culture of the Grand Canyon: Crystal Rapid

Brian in Crystal Rapid, August, 2007
Brian in what I think is Crystal Rapid, August, 2007

Alive Below Crystal

Skirt the wave
at the edge of the hole,
kiss its lip with your paddle,
close enough to feel its power,
distant enough to avoid being sucked in,
overwhelmed by her might.

In the course of one life,
how often do these upheavals
The path is altered,
a chasm opens.
Never fully healed,
full of fissures that can crack
without warning,
bringing us to our knees.

Alive below Crystal,
our view forever transformed.
We’ve gazed into the face
of the cataclysm
and survived.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016


 Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb 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.

A Fibonacci Poem


National Poetry Month is rushing by, and although I’ve been sharing poems with students and created some book spine poems, I haven’t been able to keep up with writing a poem a day. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been collecting ideas and inspiration from all the amazing poetry projects going on in the Kitlitosphere. (Jama Rattigan has collected information and links to this poetry-palooza here.

Earlier this month, I found this lovely image on Twitter:

“Gillyflower, Mayfly, Fly, and Snail” Artist/Maker: Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 – 1600) and Georg Bocskay (Hungarian, died 1575), Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

I knew right away I wanted to write a poem about that snail and flower. and started drafting a few ideas. I put it aside for some other ideas, but thought of it again when I read my friend Margaret Simon’s post this morning about Fibonacci poems. Fib poems are “based on the mathematical Fibonacci sequence which begins with 1,1,2,3,5,8.” What form could more fitting for a poem about a snail?

a garden
path, hunting for grub,
swirls of cream and plum guard her back.
Drowsy gillyflower leans down to whisper good night.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016