SOL 18 & Poetry Friday: A Golden Shovel


I have lived in New England my entire life. Certain snowstorms are vivid in my memory. In the late 60s, a drift the size of a dump truck blocked our street for what seemed like days and we had to get fresh milk straight from the farm across the street. When we returned to school after the blizzard of ’78, the snow was drifted to the roof of our sprawling, one-story school in some spots. I even remember one winter when we didn’t have a single snow day until March. Then we had one every week.

But I can’t remember any winter that compares to the weather we’ve had in the past two weeks. Three nor’easters since the beginning of March have dumped almost two feet of snow at my house, and we’re on the lower end of the snow totals! Even though it’s still winter, the days are getting longer and snow melts quickly at this time of year. There was even a tiny hint spring in the air last week.

So when I reread the poems Nikki Grimes and Michelle Heidenrich Barnes shared for this month’s ditty challenge, this line, from Nikki’s poem, “Truth, by Tyrone Bittings,” shone out like a beacon:

a reason for a song

It made me think of a photo of crocuses blooming in the snow I’d seen recently and inspired this Golden Shovel:

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Hope your crocuses are blooming, or will be soon!

By Meneerke bloem (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Please be sure to visit Linda Baie at TeacherDance for the Poetry Friday Roundup. And thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


SOL 18: Another Slice of Poetry


I spent much of the evening working on a writing project that I hope to tell you about one day. After playing with one four-line stanza for the better part of an hour, it was time to step away. My brain was too muddled to make any more progress on this day. Then I realized I hadn’t written anything for Poetry Friday! I searched my recent jottings and found the bare bones of this poem hiding in my notebook. Since this is what I’d been doing all evening, it seemed appropriate to polish it up a bit and share it today.

Find a word
      write it down
play with its meaning
      listen to its sound.

Pick another
        do the same
string them together
         make it a game.

Soon you will have
         a new work of art
a story or poem
         straight from your heart.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash

Please be sure to visit Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Also, a big thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

A Slice of Poetry


Have you ever had the experience of passing an object on a daily basis and not really seeing it? We get so wrapped up in our busyness that we fail to notice the beauty present all around us. This is certainly true of this silk embroidery. It was given to my husband’s grandfather, an Army major, when he served in Southeast Asia during World War II. (I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know exactly where or by whom.) When our son, the first son of a first son, was born, Rodney’s grandparents gave it to us. It’s been hanging in our upstairs hallway ever since, but I never really stop to LOOK at it.

When Laura Shovan announced that her February Poetry Project would be ekphrastic poetry inspired by art in participant’s homes, I knew I wanted to share this embroidery. These playful birds and delicate petals deserve a poem. (Or a dozen or more!)


Playful swallows swoop
among dancing white blossoms
chittering, chirping
iridescent acrobats
tumbling on a spring breeze

© Catherine Flynn

Don’t forget to visit Renée LaTulippe at No Water River for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Also, thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.





Poetry Friday: An Epitaph for Medusa

Every month I look forward the Ditty Challenge that Michelle Heidenrich Barnes shares on her blog. In February, to celebrate their new book, Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs (Charlesbridge, 2017), J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen challenged Michelle’s readers  to write an epitaph poem. All month I’ve been at a loss for a topic. Then, yesterday, inspiration arrived in the mail:

“An Epitaph for Medusa”

With slithering, serpentine hair
and a cold, penetrating stare,
you turned men into statues of stone,
so most mortals left you alone.

But while you slumbered in bed,
Perseus chopped of your head.
Now, instead of resting in Elysian’s field,
you’re entombed on Athena’s bronze shield.

 © Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Elizabeth Steinglass for the Poetry Friday Roundup, and then stop by Michelle’s blog to read more epitaphs.


Poetry Friday: The Maiden and the Dove

Like many Poetry Friday friends, I’m participating in Laura Shovan‘s 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project. This year’s theme is ekphrasis. Each day, a group member posts a photo of a work of art in his or her home. The variety of works shared during the past week alone has been astounding. I haven’t been able to keep up and write a poem every day, but I’m trying. This daily writing is stretching my poetry muscles in different ways and has yielded many surprises. Almost accidentally, I’ve also been playing with new and different forms. Last week, I shared an abecedarian. This week, Heather Meloche shared a block print created by her grandmother, Thelma Wilson Brain.

Troubadours and courtly love immediately came to mind, so I decide to tried my had at a lai. In The Essential Poet’s Glossary, Edward Hirsch writes that “in Old French Poetry, a lai is a short lyrical or narrative poem…usually written in octosyllabic verse.” Sticking to a strict syllable count and rhyme scheme was quite a challenge. I tried not to sacrifice sense while maintaining both, but don’t think I completely succeeded. In any case, this draft was fun to write, and brought back many fond memories of a favorite English professor who specialized in the lais of Marie de France.

The Maiden and the Dove

When troubadours in days of old
Sang songs of maids with hair of gold,
Sweet lady Jane traversed a wood
To where the sacred hazel stood.
Beneath its boughs she met a dove
Who trilled the promise of true love.
“Gather rosebuds of red and white.
Present them to a gallant knight.
For you he will forego all strife,
Preferring an idyllic life.”     

No damsel in distress was she,
Jane soon was down upon one knee.
“Dear dove, thank you for these wise words
But taking such advice from birds
Seems like a foolish plan to make
And sure would bring me much heartache.
Don’t fill my head with fluff and froth.
I’ll only ever pledge my troth
To one who’s loyal and steadfast,
Whose bravery is unsurpassed.
On such a man I will bestow
My tender love, then all will know.”

To her word, gracious Jane was true,
Tales of her love and kindness grew,
Throughout the land her story was told,
By troubadours in days of old.

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Please be sure to visit Sally Murphy’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Poetry Friday: An Abecedarian

The first few lines of this poem, inspired by the first prompt of Laura Shovan’s 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project, came to me in alphabetical order. I’ve been working on an abecedarian for my WIP, so I decided to go with my instinct and get some practice with the form.

According to the Academy of American Poets, an abecedarian is 

an ancient poetic form guided by alphabetical order. Generally each line or stanza begins with the first letter of the alphabet and is followed by the successive letter, until the final letter is reached.

Unfinished self-portrait by Jay Shovan

To me, the pain in this painting is palpable, but Jay’s eyes are strong and steady. It felt necessary to acknowledge a possible source of what look like bruises (Real? Metaphorical? Does it matter?), yet see into the fulfilling future those piercing eyes are looking toward.

Bully’s words,
Calculated for maximum
Echo through my brain
Grow softer, but never fully
I want to scream, “Who are you to
Judge me?  Because I
Lurking behind your
Malicious mask is a
Neglected soul.
On my neck, this
Quilt of colors will fade,
Recede from sight and I will
Stitch my soul back
White sails unfurl. I’ll become a
Xebec,* sail to far away shores, leaving
Your taunts behind, reaching my
Zenith despite you.

* “a small, three-masted ship with overhanging bow and stern, once common in the Mediterranean.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

© Catherine Flynn, 2018

Don’t forget to visit Donna Smith at Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Also, please stop by my friend and critique group partner Linda Mitchell’s blog, A Word Edgewise. Linda invited me to answer a few questions about poetry and writing. It was revealing process to reflect on Linda’s questions, and I thank her for the opportunity. As usually happens, when I read my responses, I realized I neglected to mention all my poetry mentors, especially Laura Purdie Salas and Mary Lee Hahn. Forgive my addled brain!


Poetry Friday: Maya Angelou’s “I Love the Look of Words”

Did you know today is National Popcorn Day? It is also one of those days when I was at a bit of a loss about what to share for Poetry Friday. So I casually Googled “popcorn poems.” Maya Angelou’s “I Love the Look of Words” was one of the results. The title sounded vaguely familiar, and as I started reading it, I realized this poem is one I shared with my third graders for many years.

Angelou’s poem is a celebration of words and ideas, bouncing around in our brains like popcorn. I’m sorry this poem lay tucked away in my memory for so long. I’m happy National Popcorn Day brought it back up to the surface.

“I Love the Look of Words”

Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor
of a hot black skillet
and into my mouth.
Black words leap,
snapping from the white
page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding
into my brain which gobbles them
the way my tongue and teeth
chomp the buttered popcorn.

When I have stopped reading,
ideas from the words stay stuck
in my mind, like the sweet
smell of butter perfuming my
fingers long after the popcorn
is finished.

I love the book and the look of words
the weight of ideas that popped into my mind
I love the tracks
of new thinking in my mind.

by Maya Angelou

Photo by Charles Deluvio via Unsplash

Grab a bowl of popcorn and visit Kay McGriff at A Journey Through The Pages for the feast of poetry served in the PF Roundup.