Poetry Friday: Cormorant & Swan

I love taking the train into New York City. Not only is it a great place to observe and eavesdrop on my fellow passengers, I love watching the scenery pass by. I can usually count on seeing swans on a large reservoir near the tracks. I love watching as they float along, serene and oblivious to the hubbub passing by. On a recent trip, I wondered how many swans would be on the water, as it’s been unseasonably cold in the Northeast this spring.

I shouldn’t have worried. There were at least a dozen swans swimming in the morning sun. What I didn’t expect to see were, I’m fairly sure, two cormorants, still as statues, perched on stumps near the shore.

My mind immediately started playing with poetic possibilities, but nothing was clicking. Then I read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Poem #20: Back and Forth Structure.” Of course! Here was the structure I needed to make sense of the scene on the reservoir.

               

By Yerpo, via Wikimedia Commons                  By Jbdavisjb, via Wikimedia Commons

I glide with grace;
You divwith ease.

I’d rather swim among the riffles;
You prefer to perch near shore.

My feathers are as white as skittering clouds;
Yours as dark as a sculpted bronze.

I nibble algae, weeds and grass;
A feast of fish is all you need.

And though my name is “mute,” I make a lot of noise;
You are the quite one.

As different as night and day, you say?
Maybe, except for this watery home we share.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup AND to celebrate the publication of IMPERFECT: Poems About Mistakes: An Anthology for Middle Schoolers. Tabatha has gathered 70 poems by many Poetry Friday friends. I am proud and honored to have my poem, “The Laws of Motion” included in this collection. Thank you, Tabatha! You can learn more about IMPERFECT at the Team Imperfect blog.

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SOL: Following a Poem

Naomi Shihab Nye has famously said that “poems hide…What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them.” I often find inspiration in images, and when I saw this photo on Twitter recently, I knew a poem was hidden within:

Indigo Milk Cap, by Dan Molter [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What I didn’t expect was where this poem would take me. Which is, after all, the point of writing.

At a bend in the trail
I freeze, startled
by an upturned mushroom.
Suddenly,
I’m at your kitchen table,
wisps of morning breeze,
rich with melodies of songbirds,
drifting in through wide-open windows
as you set an ancient flow-blue
bowl before me.
Nestled within its chipped rim
are glistening blueberries,
which you rose at dawn
to pick,
making sure to leave a few
for the birds.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!

 

Today, the KidLitosphere is celebrating poet and anthologist extraordinaire Lee Bennett Hopkins‘s 80th birthday. Although I’ve never met Lee, he has been a guiding light to me for years. Pass the Poetry, Please was one of the first professional books I purchased when I began teaching, and the poetry section of my classroom library is filled with anthologies Lee has edited over the years. More recently, Lee’s wise words have helped me write and polish my own poetry.

It was impossible for me to choose one favorite Hopkins book or poem to share today, so I created a found poem using the titles of some of Lee’s books.

To Lee Bennett Hopkins, on his birthday:

Pass the Poetry, Please!

Good Rhymes! Good Times!
Days to Celebrate:
Hanukkah Lights,
Christmas Presents,
Halloween Howls,
Morning, Noon, and Nighttime, Too!

Wonderful Words:
Alphathoughts,
Hand in Hand
Jumping Off the Library Shelves

I Am the Book
Blast Off!
The Sky is Full of Song,
Full Moon and Star

Sky Magic
Sharing the Seasons
On the Farm
A Dog’s Life,
A Pet For Me

My America
Home to Me
Amazing Places
City I Love

World Make Way
Time to Shout:
Happy Birthday!

Please be sure to visit Robyn Hood Black at Life of the Deckle Edge for a special Poetry Friday Roundup of birthday wishes for Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Poetry Friday: Small Comforts

Today’s poem was inspired by Janet Wong’s prompt for Renée LaTulippe’s Community Collection earlier this week. Janet shared “Joyce’s Beauty Salon,” a poem from her book A Suitcase of Seaweed and other Poems. Inspired by Janet’s mother’s beauty salon, the poem recalls women leaving the salon “carrying a lighter load” because of Joyce’s magic. Janet asked poets to consider this: “Is there something you can do—or someone you can count on—to help you “carry your load”?

As I was thinking about Janet’s question, I turned the page on my desk calendar and saw this photo:

Short-tailed Albatrosses, photo by Tui De Roy

These two birds are surely helping one another carry their load! A little research revealed that the short-tailed albatross was hunted nearly to extinction at the turn of the 20th century for its delicate white and yellow feathers. Today, it breeds on only two Japanese islands, one of which is threatened by volcanic eruptions. Scientists are working to establish additional colonies on other islands in an effort to save these beautiful birds.

The look of content on the smaller bird’s face inspired this poem:

No gilded palace
or cushioned throne
could lure me
from our island home.

Murmuring in the moonrise
beak to pearly beak,
By your side forever,
cheek to feathered cheek.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

A Golden Shovel: “We Share This Tender Planet”

 

As you may know, April is National Poetry Month. Many poets and bloggers are writing and sharing a poem a day in celebration. I won’t be posting daily, but I am following these projects and joining in when I can. Today, I’ve created a Golden Shovel (Mary Lee Hahn’s project) with a line taken from a recent episode of Krista Tippett’s program, On Being. This is one of my favorite podcasts. Tippett interviews a wide range of theologians, scientists, philosophers, poets, among others to, as explained on their website, “pursue deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.”

In “Cosmic Imagining, Civic Pondering,” Tippett facilitated a conversation between the creator and editor of Brain Pickings, Maria Papova, and Natalie Batalha, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Their rich and thought-provoking exchange was full of insights, and I found myself nodding in agreement over and over again. After poring over the transcript, I chose this line to create today’s poem:

“We share this tender planet.”
Maria Papova

Photo by Douglas Mills via Flickr

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.