Poetry Friday: Words


I couldn’t keep up with life, work, and Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project, “10 Words Found in the News” this week. A few drafts are hiding in my notebook, and for now, that’s where they’ll stay. Thursday’s words, rural, warm, digester, dumps, compost, hanging, cartel, burial, peels, scraps, were culled by Ruth Lehrer from “The Compost King of New York” in the New York Times. They appealed to me immediately. My grandmother had a compost heap in her back yard for fertilizing her garden, and I initially went down that path. But, as often happens, another possibility presented itself.

bubble up,
seeking my attention.
Some form a cartel,
hanging together
to demand a high
price for their use.

One or two peel away,
shimmering with possibility.

The rest are buried,
dumped along with
scraps of stories
and lines of abandoned poems
to a compost heap in some
rural part of my brain.

In the warmth and darkness
of my unconscious,
as if in a digester,
they ferment,
waiting their turn
to bubble up
to the surface
and bloom.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017


Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Check it Out for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Truth, the Last Word


Once again, I am sharing a poem written in response to Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project. This year’s theme is “10 Words Found in the News.” For Thursday’s inspiration, Mary Lee Hahn chose Elizabeth Warren’s words from a CNN interview after she was banned from speaking on the Senate floor by Mitch McConnell. “They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth,” Warren proclaimed.

As soon as I saw these words, Mary Lee’s post on Nikki Grimes’s amazing new poetry collection, One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomsbury, 2017) came to mind. Using the Golden Shovel form, Grimes uses lines from and/or entire poems written by giants of the Harlem Renaissance to create new verses.  Each line in the new poem ends with a word from the original verse. (Be sure to read Mary Lee’s post for a much clearer explanation. Better yet, get yourself a copy of One Last Word and read Grimes’s note about the form. The poetry, both the original poems and the new poems they inspired, is breathtaking. Warren’s statement seemed to be tailor made for a Golden Shovel poem. Here is my attempt at the form.


For more information about climate change, watch this video from Yale Climate Connections.

Please be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Poetry Friday: “Worldview”


This poem was written in response to Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project. This year’s theme is “10 Words Found in the News.” Laura’s goal is to “encourage everyone to look at that language as a poet. We can create found poems and word art to reflect what’s happening in our country and world.” Today’s words, worldview, help, shareholders, safer, protections, dishonest, media, replace, business, and Messiah, are from NPR’s February 1st story about Rex Tillerson’s approval as Secretary of State.

"Earthrise" Image Credit: NASA
“Earthrise” by the astronauts of Apollo 8. Image Credit: NASA

Let the worldview
we carry within us
be this:

We are all shareholders,
caretakers of the abundance
of our planet.

We owe her our protection,
to keep our water safe,
to help our neighbors in need.

This is the business of living.

Don’t dwell on the media’s howls
of dishonest, troubled souls.
Replace fear with love,
and find the power of your Messiah within,
in the light of your heart.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Please be sure to visit Penny Parker Klosterman here for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: News from the Natural World


For the past four years, poet Laura Shovan has hosted a February Poetry Project. What started as “a birthday project” has grown to include 54 poets committed (or challenging themselves) to write a poem a day. I submitted one poem in 2015, when Laura’s theme was Pantone paint colors. Last year’s theme was “found object” poems, and I contributed many poems, but did not succeed in writing every day.

This year’s theme is “10 Words Found in the News.” Laura’s goal is to “encourage everyone to look at that language as a poet. We can create found poems and word art to reflect what’s happening in our country and world.” The project officially begins on February 1st, but Laura and other poets have posted several “warm-ups,” pulling words found in articles related to current events. I have been looking at these words and have tried to engage with them in way that doesn’t drive me to despair. One of my biggest concerns about the current administration is their total disregard for the environment and action toward climate change, so I’ve decided the most meaningful way for me to participate in Laura’s challenge is to view the words through the lens of the natural world. This may not always be possible, but that’s my goal.

Here is my first effort in response to warm-up#1, using eight of the ten words Laura’s randomizer pulled from Trump’s inauguration speech. I also changed some tenses. (factories, behind, pleasant, interests, disagreements, fallen, starting, complaining, cash, stops)

News from the Natural World

A honey factory
clings to a branch
high in an ancient maple.
Starting at dawn,
when the first rays
of sun peek from
behind purple hills,
bees begin their ancient
dance anew.

They have no interest
in disagreements
rippling through the world;
cash and complaints
have no currency here.
Golden liquid
is their only care,
oozing, dripping, falling,
from waxy honeycombs,
free for the taking.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Thank you, Laura, for once again being so generous with your time and talents.  Thank you also to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing 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.

Poetry Friday Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Truth Serum”


Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry is filled with love, sensitivity, and compassion. Her work has been a source of solace and inspiration to me for years. So I was thrilled when she was announced as the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture on Monday during the ALA’s Youth Media Awards Announcements. The Arbuthnot Award recognizes “an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.” I can’t think of a more appropriate choice to share her insights and wisdom in our troubled times.

“Truth Serum”
by Naomi Shihab Nye

We made it from the ground-up corn in the old back pasture.
Pinched a scent of night jasmine billowing off the fence,
popped it right in.
That frog song wanting nothing but echo?
We used that.
Stirred it widely. Noticed the clouds while stirring.
Called upon our ancient great aunts and their long slow eyes
of summer. Dropped in their names.
Added a mint leaf now and then
to hearten the broth. Added a note of cheer and worry.

Read the rest of the poem here.

by Jonathan M. Hethey via unsplash.com
by Jonathan M. Hethey via unsplash.com

Please be sure to visit Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: The Woman Citizen


When I was a sophomore in high school, my social studies teacher was an engaging, charismatic young woman named Carla Kazanjian. She was also a feminist. Really the first one I had ever known. (My strong, independent grandmothers and mother would not have considered themselves feminists). In the sleepy, conservative corner of Connecticut where I grew up, Ms. Kazanjian was laughed at by some, and considered by a few to be downright dangerous.

I didn’t care what anyone thought of her, though. I loved her. She taught me about the history of the women’s movement and its heroes: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull, and so many more. She opened my eyes to injustice, but she also taught me to have confidence and believe that anything was possible. Most importantly, she inspired me to push myself and to never give up.

In the spring of my junior year, Ms. Kazanjian gave me a book that still has a place on my bookshelf. In The Woman Citizen: Social Feminism in the 1920s (University of Illinois Press, 1973), by J. Stanley Lemons describes how “various women and organizations worked for a broad reform movement to civilize, democratize, and humanize the American system, as they worked for progressive reform they advanced the status of American women. And as they fought for women’s rights, they pushed progressivism along in a decade of waning reformist impact.”

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This sounds eerily familiar. Although I read this book forty years (!) ago, this passage from the book’s Preface makes me think I need to reread and rediscover how “social feminists held the progressive faith longer than most.” Many of the causes these women fought for, “…conservation…pensions, municipal improvements, educational reform, pure food and drug laws…social justice, and peace” are our causes still. As unbelievable and discouraging as that may sound, it also strengthens my resolve not to give up on the issues I believe in. Issues I know in my heart are worth fighting for.

As I stood on the lawn of the capitol in Hartford on Saturday, I thought of Ms. Kazanjian. I wondered if she was there among the crowd of 10,000 women and men of all ages and races. I knew I was there, in part, because of her.


  Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing 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.

Poetry Friday: “To You”


In her “Note from the Author” at the beginning of This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort (Candlewick, 2002), Georgia Heard writes:

“During any difficult time, we all need a place where, as Faiz Ahmed Faiz writes in his poem “Song,” ‘the heart [can] rest.'”

No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, no one can deny this is a “difficult time.” This poem, by Karla Kuskin, gives my heart a place to rest.

“To You”

I think I could walk
through the simmering sand
if I held your hand.
I think I could swim
the skin shivering sea
if you would accompany me.
And run on ragged, windy heights,
climb rugged rocks
and walk on air:

I think I could do anything at all,
if you were there.

by Josh Boot via Unsplash.com
by Josh Boot via Unsplash.com

Please be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly at Violet Nesdoly/Poems for the Poetry Friday Roundup.