Poetry Friday: A Found Poem

Teachers often wonder about their true impact on students. We have work samples, observations and assessments that help us gauge a student’s progress. But these can’t really let us know the degree of influence we’ve had on a student. And in many cases we may never know. We’re like mother turtles burying our eggs in the sand, only to swim away and hope for the best.

But then there are moments when the stars align and magic happens. This morning I was working with a 5th grade student whom I’ve worked with to varying degrees since first grade. He’s quiet and shy, but very sweet. He’d rather play soccer than anything else, especially read. He read the first few lines in The Amazing Amazon, by David Meissner, (Reading A-Z) then stopped. Looking up at me, he said, “It’s like a poem.”

I. was. speechless. Recovering quickly, I said, “I agree.” I asked why he thought so. Again, his response blew me away.

“Well, it rhymes and it’s describing. It’s like I can see it.”

As I said, magic. Here is the poem E found.

“There Is a Place”

There is a place where monkeys swing and howl.
There is a place where jaguars leap from tree to tree.
Bananas and pineapples grow for free.
Tiny frogs live in flowers.
Pink-colored dolphins swim in the river.
Storms come often,
and the air is sweet.

By spacebirdy (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Sweet indeed. 

Please be sure to visit Tara Smith at A Teaching Life for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: “Be Astonished”

I didn’t make it to all the Poetry Friday posts over the weekend. I rarely do, despite my best intentions. But the posts I did read were, as usual, full of beauty and inspiration. Jama Rattigan shared Mary Oliver’s breath-taking poem, “Messenger.” (Read it here.) These lines have been in my head all weekend:

“… Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

We owe it to the world to “be astonished” and “give shouts of joy” about the beauty that surrounds us. As I was walking to my classroom this morning, I looked out the window and was astonished by the beauty of fallen cherry blossoms.

Scattered by the wind,
cherry blossoms dart and dance
across the playground

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

I also appreciated Brenda Harsham’s interview with Irene Latham. Both of these smart women inspire me, but I really appreciated Irene’s advice to “just WRITE. Even if all you have is fifteen minutes, just do it.” Why do I need to be reminded of this constantly? At this time of year, though, it seems especially important to find those quiet moments amid all the hubbub, both for our students and ourselves. Recent research “suggest[s] that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance.” So amidst all the busyness of the day, find a minute to just be. Then (to remind myself) write about it!

Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny 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: “Turtle Came to See Me”

For the past few weeks, my writing has taken a backseat to the busyness of life. One poem in particular has me stumped. So I went looking for models to emulate. I don’t think the structure of this poem, from Margarita Engle’s verse memoir Enchanted Air, will work for my poem, but it touched my heart.

“Turtle Came to See Me”
by Margarita Engle

The first story I ever write
is a bright crayon picture
of a dancing tree, the branches
tossed by island wind.

I draw myself standing beside the tree,
with a colorful parrot soaring above me,
and a magical turtle clasped in my hand,
and two yellow wings fluttering
on the proud shoulders of my ruffled
Cuban rumba dancer’s
fancy dress.

In my California kindergarten class,
the teacher scolds me: REAL TREES

Read the rest of the poem here.

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

Poetry Friday: Spring Tanka

“…seek the resonance that enters a poem only when it is touched by the stillness of nature.”
~ Margarita Engle ~

Spring has finally arrived in my corner of Connecticut! The forsythia have been ablaze for the last two weeks, and greening lawns are dotted with dandelions. Everywhere you look, the world is abloom. For this final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to revisit Margarita Engle’s tanka challenge for Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s Today’s Little Ditty Challenge. Even though there is nothing still about spring, the beauty of the season resonates deep within me.

Lithe limbs arch and bend
trimmed with a thousand blossoms,
graced in frilly pink tutus,
chasséing on a spring breeze.


On a southern slope,
columns of bright daffodils
raise their trumpets high
and play a rousing fanfare
heralding winter’s retreat.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Thank you, Michelle, for inviting us to your DMC Potluck this month! Be sure to visit Michelle’s to read more poetic offerings. And don’t forget to visit JoAnn Early Macken at Teaching Authors for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Song of the Butterflies

A few weeks ago, I came around the corner in my hallway and this greeted me:

“These butterflies are so beautiful!”I said to the teacher. “They deserve to have poems written about them.” She agreed and invited me into her class to help her students write butterfly poems.

Laura Shovan’s fabulous onomatopoeia lesson was a great inspiration, but I wanted to focus the kids on the movement of butterflies. I found this poem, from Nibble, Nibble by Margaret Wise Brown, to get them thinking.

“Song of the Bunnies”

Bunnies zip
And bunnies zoom
Bunnies sometimes sleep tip noon





All through the afternoon

Zoom   Zoom   Zoom

This is the song of the bunnies.

After reading the poem several times, I asked the kids to close their eyes and imagine being a butterfly and think about how they would move. After a minute or two, they shared words with a partner, then we made a list. Several words from the bunny poem were shared, but they came up with great movement words, too. We brainstormed color words, adjectives, and they even came up with some similes.

Working together, we created this poem:

Butterflies float.
Butterflies glide.
Light as a feather,
blue as the sky.
Perched on a daffodil,
sipping sweet nectar.
Me, oh my!

After we were happy with the class poem, they set out to write their own butterfly poems. Some were having trouble getting started, so I suggested “Things to do if you are a butterfly…” as a prompt. (Thank you, Elaine Magliaro!)

Here are a few student poems:

If You Were a Butterfly…

If you were a butterfly, what would you do?
Would you glide like a bird,
or sail like a fly?
Or would you sip nectar,
just like a bee?

by C.B.


Butterflies flap,
butterflies flip,
light as a leaf,
nice and sweet,
red, blue, pink, and orange.
I love butterflies.
Do you?

by I.V.

Colorful butterflies
zip and zoom
they float and flutter
diving for food,
sipping nectar.

by E.O.

I am a chrysalis.
I look like I’m sleeping,
but I am changing,
waiting for my wings.

by Z.J.

If you are a butterfly
you can fly high
in the sky.
You can have
colorful wings, too.
You can find a daffodil
to get nectar.

by K.H.

Little butterflies.
Colorful butterflies,
flutter butterflies,
spying for daffodils,
feeling the wind
on its wings.
Using its proboscis.

by L.O.

Here is the door now, with all the butterflies and their poem:

 Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny 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: Responding to Rilke

In February, I took part in Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project on Facebook. (Read more about this here.) Everyone agreed we wanted to continue the project with a new set of ten words each month. For April, Heather Meloche found ten words in “Early Spring” by Rainer Maria Rilke to inspire new poems.  From these words, (vanished, softness, meadows, rivulets, tendernesses, earth, subtle, risings, expression, and trees) I zeroed in on “rivulets.” Our family has been kayaking forever, and spring is a paddler’s favorite season, especially here in the Northeast. As I worked through my ideas, I realized I wanted a tighter form and that my lines were arranging themselves into tanka-like rhythms on their own. So I created a series of tanka for early spring.

Vanishing snow digs
furrows in softening earth.
Trickling toward the sea,
icy rivulets quench the
thirst of stirring roots and buds.

Joining together
in rising streams and rivers,
subtlety is lost.
A cauldron of froth and foam
bubbles up into being.

Growing impatient,
cascading over boulders,
water expresses
its overwhelming power,
sweeping away winter’s dregs.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

My son Michael, facing spring’s froth and foam.

Please be sure to visit Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

DigiLit Sunday: Asparagus: A Digital Poem

When Margaret posted this week’s Digilit Sunday topic, Digital Poetry, I felt a sense of relief. The past few weeks have been pretty hectic and I just didn’t have the time to devote to the topics Margaret had suggested. But Spring Break began on Friday and I finally felt that I could stop and take a breath.

The spark for this poem came from “Autumn’s Way” by Charles Ghigna. I took the first line,

“In their yellow-most goings,”

and reworked it for spring. Thinking about how to narrow down the greening of spring, for some unknown reason, I settled on asparagus.

With the help of this video the poem itself came together pretty easily  As I thought about the digital element of this poem, I wanted to challenge myself and create something that conveyed a sense of movement. I have limited experience with iMovie, but I thought it might create the effect I wanted.

I scoured the web for royalty-free images of growing asparagus. (NOT an easy feat!) While I was doing this, a memory of “Simple Gifts” popped into my head, and I knew that tune would be the perfect soundtrack.

With all the elements collected, I set out to create this movie. After about four hours of trial and error, I have a 24 second video! As with any work, I feel this still has room for improvement. So I offer you the latest digital draft of my poem, “Asparagus.”

In the greening days of April,
stalks of asparagus
raise their heads
after slumbering deep
in the earth.
Stretching into
the air’s bright warmth,
growing taller,
they sway to and fro,
like a troupe of modern dancers
welcoming spring.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017