Poetry Friday: July 20, 1969

When school ended in June, I had a difficult time getting back into a writing routine. I searched through some of my favorite resources looking for an idea that would jump start my writing. This prompt, from Laurel Snyder in The Creativity Projectedited by Colby Sharp, appealed to me:

“You can create anything you want, anything at all! The only catch is that you need to mention:

  1. A type of fruit
  2. An animal
  3. Something musical
  4. Some sort of machine
  5. A historical figure

Now, go crazy, but be sure to include them all.”

Here is what I created:

July 20, 1969

She sat in front of the TV
cross-legged on the living room rug
still wearing her shorts covered
in drips from watermelon
she’d eaten at the neighbor’s picnic
celebrating Apollo 11’s moon landing.

It was long past her bedtime.
Everyone had gone home to watch
this historic event in their own living rooms,
on their own TVs.

Suddenly, Neil Armstrong’s voice
crackled across a quarter million miles of space.
She was so nervous it was hard to sit still.
She hugged her cat close.

A ghostly image appeared on the screen.
There he was!
Coming down the ladder as easily
as if he were climbing out of her fort
in the maple tree out back.

She cheered, startling Luna,
who was named for the moon
because of her smoky gray fur.
She began to sing a song
she’d heard at the picnic,
“Good morning, starshine,”
hoping her voice would calm the cat.

But then she laughed out loud.
Maybe by now it was morning,
and a star was shining
and it was so bright she could see
men walking on the moon.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong

Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Found Haiku

My friend and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, was in the “spotlight” at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, last week. Linda challenged Poetry Friday friends to “create a ‘found haiku’ from “an interesting article.” This challenge appealed to me immediately and I found two article in last weekend’s New York Times that had potential. The first article is “Kids Need a Digital Detox: A Ball,” by Nellie Bowles.

digital detox:
playing with blocks and painting
live fully present

Perfect advice, don’t you think?

The next article, “Letter of Recommendation: Dinghy Rowing,” by Heidi Julavits, made me want to go buy a dinghy. It was a joy to read and reread this exquisite piece of writing, finding just the right lines for this haiku.

Full confession: I did have to rearrange some phrases slightly to meet the 5-7-5 syllable count in both haiku.

Thank you, Linda and Michelle, for this fun challenge!

Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Deo Writer for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “Meditations of a Tortoise”

Last weekend, I found a beautiful box turtle while I was out for a walk. She was on the edge of the road, headed for a busy intersection, so I walked along beside her, ready to help her if needed. She found her way without my help, but I enjoyed our time together. Of course she was an inspiration but I haven’t had much writing time this week, so I “found” a poem by gathering lines (with a few minor alterations) from poems about turtles by a few of my favorite poets.

The turtle hides
Inside her bony dome; her mobile home
She trusts that shell.
She seems to relish solitude
In a world of glimmering green:
A turtle in July.

In order, these lines are from:

“The Turtle” in Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis
“The Box Turtle” in Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs, by Douglas Florian
“Desert Tortoise” by Byrd Baylor
“Three T’s” by Mary Ann Hoberman
A Bale of Turtles” by me
“Turtle in July” in Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer

During my search, I also came across “Meditations of a Tortoise” by E.V. Rieu.

MEDITATIONS
OF A TORTOISE
DOZING UNDER A ROSETREE
NEAR A BEEHIVE
AT NOON
WHILE
A DOG
SCAMPERS ABOUT
AND A CUCKOO CALLS 
FROM A 
DISTANT WOOD

So far as I can see
There is no one like me.

Please be on the lookout for turtles as you drive! Learn how to help them here. (Thank you, Margaret Simon!) Don’t forget to visit Michelle Kogan for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Celebrating Namoi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry has informed my teaching and writing for many years. I am thrilled about her recent selection as our Young People’s Poet Laureate. Her poetry inspires, and she generously shares her wisdom in interviews, presentations, and volumes such as Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writingand more. I created this sign early in my career and it still hangs in my classroom:

Here’s another bit of wisdom that I love:

I’ve been scouring my books and the web, searching for just the right poem to share today. I’ve shared many of my favorites previously, and I didn’t have a lot of time to write this week. As usual, though, inspiration came through at the last minute from Mary Lee Hahn, this week’s hostess for Poetry Friday and today’s Naomi Shihab Nye celebration. She directed me to Colby Sharp’s The Creativity Project, where Nye encouraged writers to “Write a list of ten things you are NOT (not an astronaut, a perfectionist, a wool spinner, a butterfly, a name-caller). Then pick your favorite lines and develop, or embellish, them, adding metaphors, more description, whatever you like.”

Here is a draft of my response:

I am not someone who speaks
the language of birds.
But at dawn, when they sing a tune
from the distant past,
their chirps and whistles ripple
into the silence
of the sleeping house,
reaching into my dreams,
recognition stirs inside me
and their melody carries
me into the day.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Don’t forget to visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Instructions For a Bookcase

Last weekend I went to an estate sale and bought this bookcase for $10. What a deal, right? I didn’t even think twice. It clearly needed a little TLC, and as soon as I got it home, I got to work. As I was sanding, I realized a bookcase was the perfect topic for this month’s ditty challenge from Elizabeth Steinglass over at Michelle Barnes’s blog. My new bookcase needs another coat of paint before it will be ready to follow these instructions, but I know it will carry them out beautifully.

Before

Instructions for a Bookcase

Stand up straight.
Keep your shelves long and strong;
Don’t let them sag!
Hold each book in a gentle hug,
Protect covers from fading,
Prevent dust from settling on pages,
Preserve words, ideas, stories.
Welcome every reader;
Generously share your treasures.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Almost ready for books!

Please be sure to visit Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Poetry-Filled Weekend

Last weekend, I kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake and not in a blissful poetry dream. I was indeed awake and sitting at a table with Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Janet Wong, and several other amazing poets. Oh, did I mention this table was at Poet’s House in New York City? And that there was a stunning view of the Hudson River right outside the window? It’s all true, but I still have to keep pinching myself.

I can’t begin to share all the wisdom and advice that Rebecca, Georgia, and Janet shared, but here are a few pointers I found helpful and inspiring:

  • Let the image be your guide
  • Your memory is a poet-in-residence in your mind
  • Find wonder in everything you look at
  • Write about what takes your breath away

We drafted many poems. Most of mine aren’t ready to share, but this almost-haiku, inspired by the empty playground in Rockefeller Park, makes me happy.

on a rain-splashed day
puddles tromp through the playground
for their turn on the slide

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Please be sure to visit Elizabeth Steinglass for the Poetry Friday Roundup.