Poetry Friday: “Instructions For A Life”

Today I’m joining millions of people in mourning the passing of poet Mary Oliver. Oliver’s poems, essays, and interviews comprise a master class not only in being a poet, but in being a better human. She taught us to live with our eyes, ears, and hearts always open to the multitudes of wonders and possibilities present in the world.  It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite poem or even passage. So instead, I’ve taken the seven magically simple words that make up “Instructions For A Life” and created a Golden Shovel:

“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver
1935-2019

 

Someone’s not-so-hidden entrance in this ancient rock wall in the woods behind my house.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for so generously sharing your poetry, wisdom and love of our magnificent world. You will be missed. Please be sure to visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

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Poetry Friday: “I Was an Artist”

“Astonishment is the proper response to reality.”
~ Terence McKenna ~

This week, two astonishing yet unrelated news items filled me with wonder. The first was about the discovery of a series of “high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space”.  The second was the story of the discovery of lapis lazuli in the teeth of a medieval nun. Somehow these amazing stories converged into this draft of a poem.

Hardly a trace
of her bustling world remains.

But there, cradled within her teeth,
flecks of brilliant ultramarine
cry out,
like a signal, bursting,
hurdling across space,
across time
until its pulse
is captured,

a forgotten voice
announcing,
“I was an artist.”

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Unknown
The Annunciation, about 1240, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and iron gall ink on parchment
Leaf: 17.8 × 13.5 cm (7 × 5 5/16 in.), Ms. 4, leaf 1
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

In case you missed it, last week I suggested a Poetry Friday celebration of women when I host the Roundup on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day. You can find all the details here. Please be sure to visit Kathryn Apel for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

 

Slice of Life: Not Procrastinating

Just do it. Put your butt in the chair and write. So here I am, sitting in a chair, writing. I have a project I’ve been working on for several years that is nearing completion. An endless list of writing ideas for poems, picture books, and more. No more procrastinating.

This weekend, before I decided to stop procrastinating, I cleaned out my email inbox. (Is there such a thing as productive procrastination?) As I scanned the subject lines, certain words began to grab my attention. Simple words, but all words are full of possibilities, aren’t they? Soon, I had a list of more than twenty words in my notebook. Before I knew it, the words were arranging themselves into a poem.

There are many variations of found poetry. Some retain the word order as it appeared in an original text; others are more flexible. Because I found these words in email subject lines, I felt free to rearrange the order and add articles and small words such as to. Besides, keeping the beginning of the list in order resulted in this:

Today, hours
Are free.
The code
Is yours,
Waiting

Here

Here

Here.

If only!

Here is another poem I drafted with the found words from my email subject lines:

Seeds lie hidden
in books:
A collection, a code
waiting
to reveal
hidden gifts
for each soul
lucky enough
not to miss

the miracle.

Happy writing, everyone. Keep an eye out for those miracles!

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, 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: Strong Women

Happy New Year to all my Poetry Friday friends! As I was entering important dates into my new desk calendar, I discovered that, by pure coincidence, I am hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup on International Women’s Day (March 8th). I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the day by sharing poems that honor women. These could be original poems or poems written by others. They could be poems about an important woman in your life who deserves to be celebrated, someone famous, an unsung woman of historical significance, or a poem by your favorite female poet. The choice is yours. So please feel free to participate (or not) in any way that feels right to you. I’ll post a few reminders between now and March 8th.

The theme of this year’s celebration is #BalanceforBetter. In 2017, I wrote this poem celebrating the women in my life who helped me be a better person. (You can read the original post here.)

Strong women taught me
how to knit, to bake,
to cook and sew.

Strong women taught me
how to love, to live
through strife and woe.

Strong women taught me
not to count
on others for my bread.

Strong women taught me
to rely
on my own wits instead.

Strong women taught me
to be brave when lies
and hate are spread.

Strong women taught me
how to think, to stand
for what is right.

Strong women taught me
to be kind, to fill
the world with light.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

With my sister and mother, still going strong at 81, on Christmas day.

Please be sure to visit Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: 2019 Reading Goals

Resolutions really aren’t my thing. I’m much better at setting goals and working toward them. That way, I’m always making progress.

At school, we always challenge our students to, in the words of Lucy Calkins, “outgrow themselves as readers.” January is the perfect time to check our progress and set new goals. Knowing that many of our students need help choosing titles, we’ve adapted The Strand Book Store’s “Reads-olutions” (I know; I said I don’t like resolutions, but this is too catchy to pass up.) to guide them.

I always tell kids that these categories are only suggestions, and really, as long as they keep reading, they’re achieving their goal. I do share with them my reads-olutions (aka goals), and tell them that I almost never read every book I plan to, but always read many more that I didn’t know about when I made my list.

With that in mind, here are several titles I hope to read in 2019:

  • Book by a debut author (also covering Book with a one word title):
    Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt

  • A Newbery Award winner:
    Although I haven’t read every Newbery winner, I’ve read many of them. Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata is the most recent winner I haven’t read. Of course, if I haven’t read this year’s winner, I’ll add that to my list.

As always, I’ll continue to chip away at the mountains of books already scattered around my house, waiting to be read! Thanks to Betsy Bird for her fabulous blog, A Fuse 8 Production, and her incredible series, 31 Days/31 Lists. Many of these titles came from these posts. The Nerdy Book Club also has wonderful year-end lists if you need more suggestions.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2019?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, 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.