Poetry Friday: Sydell Rosenberg’s H is for Haiku

“It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.”
Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Looking closely and seeing familiar objects in new and unique ways is the essence of poetry. H is For Haiku is a joyful collection of haiku by Sydell Rosenberg, a poet and New York City public school teacher who passed away in 1996, that celebrates everyday life 17 syllables at a time. Rosenberg’s daughter, Amy Losak, has lovingly gathered 26 poems to fulfill her mother’s dream of publishing a book of haiku for children. (Read more about this journey here.)

I love that this collection begins with the word adventure, for that’s exactly what H is For Haiku is. Readers step into a world where children’s daily lives and dreams spill across the page, just as the universe seems to be pouring out of a cat’s tail in the first poem. What child hasn’t thought of monsters when they see lobsters in a tank or wondered about turtles perched on a rock?

Rosenberg’s haiku are also full of the joy of language. Young readers may not know what a jaunt is, but they will to go on one with a “wide-eyed doll” after reading the poem for the letter C. The subject of each poem does not necessarily begin with the letter the poem represents. This inventiveness shows children how playful language can be. After reading “a squirrel sweeps up sunbeams/with her transparent tail,” who won’t be inspired to notice the world in new way?

 This collection is spirited, inventive, and fun. Sawsan Chalabi’s whimsical illustrations fill H is For Haiku with a diverse cast of expressive characters that perfectly complement the tone of Rosenberg’s poems. After reading H is For Haiku, children of all ages will pay closer attention as they go about their day, always on the lookout for the poetry hiding in unexpected corners of their world.

Honoring Syd’s life,
crafted with her daughter’s love:
H is For Haiku

Thank you, Amy Losak, for giving us the gift of your mother’s poetry.

Please be sure to visit Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

 

 

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Poetry Friday: “…With Care in Such a World”

As I searched for an idea for today’s post, I came across this poem by William Stafford:

“The Well Rising”

The well rising without sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through deep ground
everywhere in the field–

The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer–

Read the rest of the poem here.

The final line, “with care in such a world,” resonated with me, and I decided to use it as the strike line for a Golden Shovel.

Please be sure to visit the lovely Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

 

Poetry Friday: Questions for the Author

Over the summer, all our students in grades five through eight read Restart, by Gordon Korman. The kids loved the book, and have had some amazing discussions about its characters and themes. Earlier this week, as a culminating event, we had a  Skype visit with Mr. Korman, who entertained us with stories and writing advice. Before our visit, the kids came up with many insightful questions. Their thoughtful wonderings inspired this poem. (Which was also inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye‘s ditty challenge for September on Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty.)

To the Author Of My Favorite Book:

What made you write this story?
What gave you this idea?
How did you find the just-right words
to show the way I feel?
Did you peek inside my diary,
or spy on me each day?

Were you ever lonely?
Were you ever blue?
Did someone ever write a book
that felt like a friend to you?

Do you think I can be happy
like the girl inside your book?
You made her come alive,
you gave me a new friend.
Please write more of her story
so our friendship never ends.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

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

Slice of Life: Life is Short

Every teacher knows the week before school starts is one of the busiest of the year; a week that leaves little time for reflective, thoughtful writing. I’ve decided that working through some of the mentor texts in Linda Rief’s The Quickwrite Handbook is a realistic option to keep me writing during these first few weeks of school.

This week, Linda’s suggestion to borrow the phrase “Life is short…” from Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones,” appealed to me. Here is my response:

Life is short, so on the last Sunday of August, the day before school started, when I still had piles of books I wanted to read and at least one poem I wanted to write, I drove for half an hour to meet my friend.

Life is short, so we met at a place where we could walk in the sunshine of a late summer morning through a field still wet with dew and bedecked with the lacy offerings of a thousand spiders and talk about our busy week, our busy children, our busy lives.

Life is short, so even though there was laundry to sort and rooms to vacuum, we drove to a diner where we drank hot coffee and ate fluffy eggs and ignored the hustle and bustle around us and talked some more and worked on the crossword puzzle, just like we used to when she lived down the street, enjoying the easy comfort of our long friendship, a friendship that makes this life beautiful.

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, 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.

Slice of Life: When I Was Young…

As summer winds down, I’ve been thinking not only about what I accomplished (closets cleaned, books read, poems written), but what I didn’t do. For many years, my in-laws had a very rustic cabin on a lake in “down east” Maine.  We spent many weeks there over the years. Going to camp was right up there with Christmas and birthdays for my boys. The cabin was sold long ago, but for some reason, I missed it more than usual this summer.

Maybe that’s because I started thinking about it in June after I received my copy of Linda Rief’s fabulous new book, The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing. One of Linda’s quickwrite suggestions is to “borrow Cynthia Rylant’s line ‘When I was young in the…’ (or ‘at the’) and write down all that comes to mind about that place you love or that place that you dislike.” Although I never spent time at the lake when I was young, it isn’t hard to imagine this magical spot through the eyes of a child.

When I Was Young at the Lake

(with thanks to Linda Rief and Cynthia Rylant)

When I was young at the lake, I woke to the sun shining through the trees, making puddles on the floor of the cabin’s loft. I skipped stones across the glassy water and paddled a canoe to the island near our cove. My brother and I ran wild through the forest and built a fort to defend our territory. We swam in the cold water and searched for unusual rocks on the beach.

When I was young at the lake, the air smelled of pine trees and we picked wild blueberries that grandma baked into a pie. On rainy afternoons, as raindrops pinged on the roof, we sat on the porch and put puzzles together. On clear nights, we watched meteor showers from the beach that were better than any fireworks we’d ever seen.

I fished for trout with my grandfather from our rowboat. Grandma always clapped when we presented her with our catch. Then she breaded each fish in cornmeal and fried them in her big cast iron skillet. Once a year, we drove to Machias for lobsters and corn on the cob. On those nights, we felt like kings as pulled tender meat from bright red claws and licked our buttery fingers clean.

When I was young at the lake, we fell into bed, exhausted from the day’s adventures, and drifted to sleep to the lullaby of loons.

A rock from the shore of Beddington Lake.

Linda explains that “these quickwrites are seeds of ideas, the beginning of a piece to be worked on right away or, at the very least, captured for later use.” I can easily imagine revisiting “When I Was Young at the Lake.” I can imagine a poem emerging from these lines, or maybe a picture book. Even if these memories never get farther than this post, my memories of the lake are always in my “deep heart’s core.” (“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats)

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, 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: The Heron

A quick scroll through the photos on my phone would let you know that I am fairly obsessed with birds. So when Christie Wyman, a true kindred spirit and fellow bird devotee, issued a “bird-related poem challenge…to anyone willing to fly along,” I knew I was in.

My contribution to Christie’s feather-filled roundup was inspired by a chance encounter earlier this summer.

The Heron

All at once, a heron
is standing
in the middle of the road.
Maybe she thought flecks
of mica in the pavement
were fish darting back
and forth in a creek.

But no quicksilver fish
swim in this endless
stream of asphalt.

Bewildered, she extends
her graceful neck
like a periscope,
searching.

Suddenly, an alarm
only she can hear
buzzes and
the moment is over.

Without a sound, her wings lift,
beat the air, and she is aloft,
her beak a compass needle
pointing toward true north.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Christie’s blog, Wondering and Wandering, for her “Birds of a Feather” Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Habits of Mind and Writing

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”
~ Horace Mann ~

One of the professional books I’m reading this summer is Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. Published in 2008, this book outlines “a set of behaviors that discipline intellectual processes” and provides teachers with strategies to integrate them into “instruction in every school subject.” (p. 12-13) These habits “are dispositions that empower creative and critical thinking.” Costa and Kallick’s work begins with the same premise behind Carol Dweck’s work with growth mindset. That is, “intelligence is a set of teachable, learnable behaviors that all human beings can continue to develop and improve throughout their lifetimes.” (p. 12) During the coming school year, my colleagues and I will be working to incorporate these habits into our daily work with children. This, of course, will include modeling.

This tweet from Jane Yolen last week instantly provided a modeling strategy for three of the sixteen habits of mind:

* Gathering Data Through All the Senses

* Creating, Imagining, Innovating

* Responding with Wonderment and Awe

Writers won’t get far without these three habits, but we all know we have plenty of students who tell us “I don’t know what to write about.” Kids are so distracted by the world available to them through the myriad of devices to choose from, they can’t concentrate on any one topic for long. By modeling these habits in particular I think we can help our students focus on the world right in front of them. When they do that, they will find plenty to write about.

All of this was swirling around in my head when I went for a walk this morning. As usual, I had my phone with me because, for me, taking pictures is a form of prewriting. It didn’t take long to find five new ideas for writing.

  1. How could you not respond to this view with wonderment and awe? I was reminded of the way the sun streams through the trees at the cabin in Maine where my family spent many summers. My boys canoed to an island in the middle of the lake and spent entire days being wild in the woods. I could write a story about their adventures.

2. Again, a scene of wonderment and awe. This could inspire a poem or be woven into a scene in a middle grade story idea I’ve been playing with.

3. I was truly shocked to see this heron land on the road right in front of me! This is destined to be a poem, I think. It could also inspire a nonfiction piece about herons or birds of the neighborhood. 

4. This is my cat Noodles. He likes to be included and often follows me to the end of the driveway when I leave the yard. Doesn’t he look sad at being left behind? This could inspire a small moment story or a series of adventures Noodles might have throughout the day.

5. This swallowtail butterfly was trying desperately to fly, but appeared to be injured and couldn’t get off the ground. I gently moved him into the grass. When I went back to check on him, he was gone. I hope he was able to fly away after resting.

After sharing these images with my students, I will take them outside so they can respond with wonderment and awe as they gather their images that will inspire them to create, imagine and innovate. I’ve used similar strategies with students in the past with mixed success. Part of the reason for this may have been because we didn’t do this kind of activity often enough. Consistent trips outside to gather ideas will help students develop these behaviors into unbreakable habits. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, 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.