Poetry Friday: Finding Beauty

It’s the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Sunday Night Swaggers challenge. This month, Molly Hogan challenged us to “find beauty in the ugly” by reinventing “the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy.”

I had a few ideas, but hadn’t gotten far with any of them before I went to NCTE in Baltimore a few weeks ago. There, I attended Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, and Lester Laminack‘s session, “Seeing the World Like a Poet.” During her part of the presentation, Georgia explained that the job of the poet is to take “the film of ordinary off of everyday objects.”

These words were in my mind the next morning while I was waiting in line to check my coat. My eyes were drawn to a building across the street that was glowing in the bright morning sun. Then, as I turned to give my coat to the attendant, I noticed this:

At first glance, this jumble of hangars is decidedly everyday and unnoteworthy. But take a closer look…

A Wedge of Hangers

Like pinioned swans,
captives on a pond,
a wedge of hangers
wait, silent and still.

Soon each will rise,
basking in the embrace
of coats, grateful
for the support
of their plastic wings.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

During the same session, Ralph Fletcher shared that “photography uncovers surprises” and that we should “follow where they lead.” As I was writing this poem, I was surprised to learn that a wedge is in fact a collective noun for swans. So even though these hangers aren’t exactly wedge-shaped, I think wedge is the perfect word to describe a group of hangers.

Please be sure to visit my fellow swaggers to see where they found beauty this month:

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then be sure to visit Tanita at fiction, instead of lies for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “The Season’s Campaign”

This week, I’ve been thinking about verbs. Specifically gerunds and participles. (Don’t ask why!) The more I thought about this, I decided why wouldn’t you want to be able to turn power-house verbs into nouns and adjectives. What better way to energize your writing? I also wanted to gather some well-crafted lines showing exactly how gerunds and participles work. Joyce Sidman is one of my go-to mentors, and sure enough, I found several verbals, along with many other examples of fine writing, in this gem.

“The Season’s Campaign”
by Joyce Sidman

I. Spring

We burst forth,
crisp green squads
bristling with spears.
We encircle the pond.

III. Fall

All red-winged generals
desert us. Courage
clumps and fluffs
like bursting pillows.

Read the whole poem here.

“…clumps and fluffs like bursting pillows.”

Please be sure to visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: National Author’s Day

“Memories are like a fountain no writer can live without.”
~ Ralph Fletcher ~

It’s the first Friday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Sunday Night Swaggers challenge. This month, Linda challenged us to

Find prose text or poetry you love from a published author and use it as a mentor text to write your poem. The poem doesn’t have to be about an author or authorship…but it could.

How could I possibly choose one piece of text that I love? That would be like picking a single shell out of the sea and declaring it to be the best shell. I also misunderstood exactly what I was supposed to do, so I did something a little different.

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve used her books in my classroom for years. The loving grandmothers, the kids who, despite their good intentions, always find themselves in a muddle, the cats…I could go on and on. What’s not to love? I’ve written more than one picture book manuscript under the influence of Patricia’s warm and gentle style.

If I could write like Patricia Polacco,
I’d write a story about a girl and her grandmother
on a hot summer day.
A dog named Buster would lie
in the shade of big maple tree,
while a black cat named Inky
sat on the back step giving
himself a bath.

After lunch, the grandmother would
bring out an old basket filled with shells.
She and the girl would marvel over
the whorls and spirals,
the spikes and ridges.
The girl would run her finger
along the cool rim of
her favorite shimmering shell,
smooth as glass.
She’d hold it to her ear,
listen to the distant roar
of the pounding surf.
“How does it do that?”
the girl would ask.
Her grandmother would smile and say,
“Magic.”

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Read how my marvelous writing partners responded to this challenge at their blogs:

Molly  @ https://nixthecomfortzone.com/
Heidi @ https://myjuicylittleuniverse.blogspot.com/
Linda @ https://awordedgewiselindamitchell.blogspot.com/
Margaret @ https://reflectionsontheteche.com/

Also, please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: My Library

I have been visiting the library in my town for over 54 years! My weekly visits began when I was in Kindergarten and lasted until I left home for college. Several years later, I moved back to the town where I grew up and began bringing my own children to Story Hour. Now I’m honored to serve on the Board of Trustees, which is truly a labor of love.

A major renovation to the Children’s library was recently completed, and we’ll soon be celebrating with a ribbon cutting ceremony. What would a library celebration be without a poem? We invited the children at the elementary school next door to write a “My Library” acrostic. Once we have all the poems, we’re going to choose lines to create a crowdsourced poem, similar to Kwame Alexander and NPR’s “Where I’m From” project. To give the kids a springboard, I wrote my own version. The kid’s poems aren’t finished yet, but here’s my version of “My Library.”

My Library

Magical books for
Young readers to share.

Long-ago tales
Invite readers to dream.
Books about planets,
Rhinos, and more
Await curious minds.
Ready when you are,
Your imagination’s the limit!

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Mrs. Rothschild reading to my class during our weekly visit to the library, circa 1969. I’m pretty sure I’m the second back from the left on the bench in the foreground.

Please be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Poemtober/Inktober

Kudos to everyone who have been keeping up with the Poemtober/Inktober words! Your poems have all been impressive. My efforts haven’t been too successful. Last weekend, though, the word ash bumped into this tweet from Robert Macfarlane, author of The Lost Words.

Ash venation = this draft

When leaves are burned and turn to ash
their venation disappears
just like the whorls on your fingertips
have disappeared from the world.
Fingertips that will never again
crimp a pie crust,
knit a sweater,
stroke the hair of a sobbing girl.

But your heart,
now turned to ash,
still beats
in the hearts
of those you loved.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2019

 

Congratulations Karen Eastlund!
You are the winner of Thanku: Poems of Gratitude!

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

Sweet Treats

A friend alerted me the first “Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy” over at Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez’s blog, Math is Everywhere. As this is a theme at school this year, I was curious. This is an ambitious project. There are thirteen images to inspire any type of writing, “whatever suits your fancy for any kidlit age: board book through young adult.” The only limit is a maximum length of 200 words.

Many of the images are lovely autumn scenes, others lean distinctly toward a Halloween theme. There were several that intrigued me, but this is the image that I ended up writing about.

Even though it wasn’t a requirement, I wanted to stick with “Math is Everywhere,” so I wrote a fib poem. (I added a second stanza that counts back down to one syllable.)

Sweet Treats

Sweet
loot:
worms of
spun sugar,
dyed confetti hues,
fill my sack for just a moment,

then wiggle through the white stalactites and stalagmites

standing guard in the cave of my
mouth, inching toward
a hollow
hungry
pit:
Treats!

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

You can visit the official submission page to read all the entries here. Thank you, Kaitlyn, for this fun challenge!

The Poetry Friday Roundup Is Here! “Let’s Remake the World With Words

“It is not joy that makes us grateful;
it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
~ David Steindl-Rast ~

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! I’m happy you stopped by! If you want to know more about what the Roundup is all about, read Renée LaTullipe‘s description here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude recently. The world is worrisome place at the moment and I long for saner heads to prevail. And yet, there is much to be grateful for. For instance, this welcoming community. My writing has improved a thousand-fold because of all of you. I’m especially thankful for my extraordinary critique group partners Heidi Mordhorst, Linda Mitchell, Margaret Simon, and Molly Hogan. They nudge and nourish my work with smart, insightful suggestions. We have all grown because of, in the words of Maria Papova, “this enormously vitalizing virtuous cycle of mutual respect and admiration that is available to all who choose to welcome and celebrate one another’s kinship of spirit.”

It is with this spirit of kinship in mind that I share “Let’s Remake the World With Words” by Gregory Orr.

Let’s remake the world with words.
Not frivolously, nor
To hide from what we fear,
But with a purpose.

Let’s,
As Wordsworth said, remove
“The dust of custom” so things
Shine again, each object arrayed
In its robe of original light.

Read the rest of the poem here.

As I was reading about gratitude this week, I found the wisdom of David Steindl-Rast particularly helpful. Brother David acknowledges that “we cannot be grateful for violence, for war, for oppression, for exploitation.” Rather, “we can … open our hearts, our hearts for the opportunities, for the opportunities also to help others, to make others happy, because nothing makes us more happy than when all of us are happy.” 

In case you need one more dose of thankfulness, don’t miss Miranda Paul’s new anthology, Thanku: Poems of Gratitude (Millbrook, 2019), which includes poems by many Poetry Friday regulars. Leave your link or comment below before Wednesday, October 16th to be entered in a drawing for a copy of this lovely book.

Now on to the Roundup!

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