At 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:
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