Poetry Friday: Outside My Window

Last week, poet Julie Fogliano visited Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty and left readers with this challenge:

 “…just stare out the window and write what you see.”

Some months, I ponder these challenges all month. But I’d been watching this robin for a few weeks, so this month I knew immediately what to write about.

Bedecked in fresh leaves,
delicate and lithe,
an old apple tree,
its limbs loaded
with fat pink blossoms
ready to burst open,
stands outside my window.

Concealed within
this veil of green,
a robin sits on her nest,
still as a statue,
guarding her eggs
from the jays and crows
who screech and caw
in the branches above her,

right outside my window.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

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


Poetry Friday: Spring is Here!

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe,
the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
~ Rachel Carson ~

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you read or hear about a topic and then, suddenly, it’s everywhere? The connection between science and poetry isn’t news to Poetry Friday regulars, but in the past week, this relationship was gloriously celebrated by Maria Papova, Janna Levin and friends at the second Universe in Verse, “an evening of science-inspired poems read by artists, writers, scientists, and musicians, part protest and part celebration.” The event, which was livestreamed, was dedicated to the legacy of Rachel Carson and included readings of poetry celebrating everything “from the oceans and trees and volcanos to bees and kale and the armadillo.” It was a truly inspiring event.

Then I found this article about the intersection of math and poetry, which led me to JoAnne Growney’s blog, “Intersections–Poetry with Mathematics.” Growney writes about both mathematical forms, including Fibs, and poems about math and declares, “let our STEM be STEAM.” Indeed!

Further inspiration came from my poetry pal Christie Wyman, who wrote poems about vernal pools every day in April. (Congratulations, Christie!) Thanks to her, I’ve recently been paying close attention to a vernal pool near my home. After two days of above-average temperatures, this scene greeted me on my morning walk yesterday:


The unfortunately named skunk cabbage caught my attention. Kale, armadillos, even skunk cabbage, all are worthy subjects of our attention, our words.

“Fib for a Skunk Cabbage”

and veined, skunk
cabbage leaves unfold,
arise from hidden vernal pools
boldly proclaiming, “Spring is here! Spring is finally here!”

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for the Poetry Friday Roundup.



Poetry Friday: The Poemporium

Recently, while driving in an unfamiliar town, I passed this sign:

Maybe because I’m often thinking about poetry when I drive, I misread the name of this store as “Poetporium.” (Never mind the dog and cat silhouettes; I missed them completely!) What a store that would be, I thought. Then of course, the wheels really started turning. What kind of poem could advertise a Poetporium? After renaming this imaginary store the “Poemporium,” I came up with this draft of a promotional poem.

“The Poemporium”

At the Poemporium you will find
Verses and rhymes of every kind:

A wide assortment of
Couplets and quatrains,
Repeating roundels.
Odes evoking the sacred muse.
Soaring sonnets,
Tanka, haiku,
Iambs or trochees,
Cinquains and more!

Poems that make you giggle,
Poems that make you cry,
Poems that heal a broken heart,
Or make you wonder why?

So don’t be shy!
Just open the door,
come and explore
this enchanting poetry store.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

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

Poetry Friday: Cormorant & Swan

I love taking the train into New York City. Not only is it a great place to observe and eavesdrop on my fellow passengers, I love watching the scenery pass by. I can usually count on seeing swans on a large reservoir near the tracks. I love watching as they float along, serene and oblivious to the hubbub passing by. On a recent trip, I wondered how many swans would be on the water, as it’s been unseasonably cold in the Northeast this spring.

I shouldn’t have worried. There were at least a dozen swans swimming in the morning sun. What I didn’t expect to see were, I’m fairly sure, two cormorants, still as statues, perched on stumps near the shore.

My mind immediately started playing with poetic possibilities, but nothing was clicking. Then I read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Poem #20: Back and Forth Structure.” Of course! Here was the structure I needed to make sense of the scene on the reservoir.


By Yerpo, via Wikimedia Commons                  By Jbdavisjb, via Wikimedia Commons

I glide with grace;
You divwith ease.

I’d rather swim among the riffles;
You prefer to perch near shore.

My feathers are as white as skittering clouds;
Yours as dark as a sculpted bronze.

I nibble algae, weeds and grass;
A feast of fish is all you need.

And though my name is “mute,” I make a lot of noise;
You are the quite one.

As different as night and day, you say?
Maybe, except for this watery home we share.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup AND to celebrate the publication of IMPERFECT: Poems About Mistakes: An Anthology for Middle Schoolers. Tabatha has gathered 70 poems by many Poetry Friday friends. I am proud and honored to have my poem, “The Laws of Motion” included in this collection. Thank you, Tabatha! You can learn more about IMPERFECT at the Team Imperfect blog.

SOL: Following a Poem

Naomi Shihab Nye has famously said that “poems hide…What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them.” I often find inspiration in images, and when I saw this photo on Twitter recently, I knew a poem was hidden within:

Indigo Milk Cap, by Dan Molter [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What I didn’t expect was where this poem would take me. Which is, after all, the point of writing.

At a bend in the trail
I freeze, startled
by an upturned mushroom.
I’m at your kitchen table,
wisps of morning breeze,
rich with melodies of songbirds,
drifting in through wide-open windows
as you set an ancient flow-blue
bowl before me.
Nestled within its chipped rim
are glistening blueberries,
which you rose at dawn
to pick,
making sure to leave a few
for the birds.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanie, 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: Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!


Today, the KidLitosphere is celebrating poet and anthologist extraordinaire Lee Bennett Hopkins‘s 80th birthday. Although I’ve never met Lee, he has been a guiding light to me for years. Pass the Poetry, Please was one of the first professional books I purchased when I began teaching, and the poetry section of my classroom library is filled with anthologies Lee has edited over the years. More recently, Lee’s wise words have helped me write and polish my own poetry.

It was impossible for me to choose one favorite Hopkins book or poem to share today, so I created a found poem using the titles of some of Lee’s books.

To Lee Bennett Hopkins, on his birthday:

Pass the Poetry, Please!

Good Rhymes! Good Times!
Days to Celebrate:
Hanukkah Lights,
Christmas Presents,
Halloween Howls,
Morning, Noon, and Nighttime, Too!

Wonderful Words:
Hand in Hand
Jumping Off the Library Shelves

I Am the Book
Blast Off!
The Sky is Full of Song,
Full Moon and Star

Sky Magic
Sharing the Seasons
On the Farm
A Dog’s Life,
A Pet For Me

My America
Home to Me
Amazing Places
City I Love

World Make Way
Time to Shout:
Happy Birthday!

Please be sure to visit Robyn Hood Black at Life of the Deckle Edge for a special Poetry Friday Roundup of birthday wishes for Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Poetry Friday: Small Comforts

Today’s poem was inspired by Janet Wong’s prompt for Renée LaTulippe’s Community Collection earlier this week. Janet shared “Joyce’s Beauty Salon,” a poem from her book A Suitcase of Seaweed and other Poems. Inspired by Janet’s mother’s beauty salon, the poem recalls women leaving the salon “carrying a lighter load” because of Joyce’s magic. Janet asked poets to consider this: “Is there something you can do—or someone you can count on—to help you “carry your load”?

As I was thinking about Janet’s question, I turned the page on my desk calendar and saw this photo:

Short-tailed Albatrosses, photo by Tui De Roy

These two birds are surely helping one another carry their load! A little research revealed that the short-tailed albatross was hunted nearly to extinction at the turn of the 20th century for its delicate white and yellow feathers. Today, it breeds on only two Japanese islands, one of which is threatened by volcanic eruptions. Scientists are working to establish additional colonies on other islands in an effort to save these beautiful birds.

The look of content on the smaller bird’s face inspired this poem:

No gilded palace
or cushioned throne
could lure me
from our island home.

Murmuring in the moonrise
beak to pearly beak,
By your side forever,
cheek to feathered cheek.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

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