Poetry Friday: Halloween Frighting

Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard are two of my poetry idols. I have shared their poetry with my students since I began teaching. More recently, I’ve been fortunate to learn from them at workshops and conferences. One silver lining to everything being moved online this year is that I was able to be part of “The Craft and Heart of Poetry,” their amazing Highlights workshop.

This draft is the result of a quickwrite Georgia and Rebecca shared during the workshop. It isn’t perfect, but I had fun writing it. Thank you, Rebecca and Georgia, for your never-ending inspiration!

Halloween Frighting

Ghosts ghouling
Zombies drooling

Vampires slurping
Mummies lurching

Ogres crunching
Trolls munching 

Witches hocusing 
Goblins pocusing

Skeletons rattling
Demons battling

Werewolves chomping            
Frankensteins stomping  

Orange moon lighting
Halloween frighting

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Linda Baie at Teachers Dance for a Halloween edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Murmurations

Last spring, I decided to finish reading a couple of books that I’d abandoned for one reason or another. One of these, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, was a book that I felt I should love but just couldn’t. Macdonald’s writing is poetic and full of reverence for nature, and I appreciated the beauty of her writing. But the story was full of pain, so maybe it wasn’t the best choice for the dark days of April.

Then, in July, an essay from Macdonald’s new book, Vesper Flights, appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Here, the kindred spirit I’d glimpsed in H is for Hawk was in full view. Like the swifts she’s describing, this piece was “magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding.” I pre-ordered the book immediately.

I have been savoring these short essays one at a time, every couple of days. They are every bit as magical as the essay that was in the paper. Even the titles are lyrical, so I decided to create a poem from them. I know found poems are supposed to be kept in order, but these are not. I have added a few articles and prepositions to the beginning of some lines for clarity.

The numinous ordinary
murmurations
of sunbirds and cashmere spheres
rescue
the vesper flights
of the human flock.

Thinking about “Murmurations” made me realize I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one. Then, on the way to work on Tuesday morning, a flock of starlings flew across the sky, begging me to write them a poem. How could I refuse?

A ribbon of starlings
unspools from a giant oak,
trimming the sky .

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch at her beautiful new website for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Nineteen Years

“Prayer”
by Teddy Macker

dear lord in this time of darkness
help us see the darkness

dear lord help us to not pretend
no more pretending

dear lord may our gaze be defenseless
and unshardable

teach us the piety of the open eye

dear lord in this time of darkness
may we be unafraid to mourn and together and hugely

may dignity lose its scaffolding
faces crumble like bricks

dear lord let grief come to grief

read the rest here.

Please visit Kiesha Sheperd at Whispers From the Ridge for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Plentitude

Several months ago, I suggested that when my critique group partners and I resumed our monthly challenges we write “In One Word” poems. This form was created by April Halprin Wayland and you can read about it here.

I’ve been tinkering with ideas for this poem all summer. After playing with several potential words, I stumbled across the word “plentitude.” This word appealed to me for several reasons, including the fact that it seemed be contrary to the current state of our country. I’m not thrilled with this very drafty draft, but perfection isn’t the goal of these challenges.

Pick up a pen.
Write the secrets of your heart. Let
your truths flow, set down in
ink for all to know. Don’t dilute
the facts. Everyone is entitled
to tell their story, sing their tune.

So let’s lean in, tilt
our heads, lend
our ears, and listen to each line
with an open heart. Tend
and nurture one another, unite
and celebrate our plentitude.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Photo by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

Please be sure to visit my fellow Sunday Night Swaggers to read what word they chose for their “In One Word” poems.

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

Then head on over to Carol Varsalona’s blog, Beyond Literacy Link, for the Poetry Friday Roundup and Carol’s stunning “Embraceable Summer Gallery.”

Poetry Friday: A Queen Anne’s Lace Etheree

In July, the Poetry Sisters challenged one another and all Poetry Friday participants to write etherees. As Tricia Stohr-Hunt explained on her blog,

An etheree is a poem of ten lines in which each line contains one more syllable than the last. Beginning with one syllable and ending with ten, this unrhymed form is named for its creator, 20th century American poet Etheree Taylor Armstrong.

I’ve never tried to write an etheree, but the mathematical progression appealed to me. But what to write about?

Our house is surrounded by hay fields. At this time of year, each one is a glorious patch of wild flowers and grasses, birds, bees, and butterflies that deserve a poem that celebrates their beauty.

Queen Anne’s Lace Etheree

Queen
Anne’s lace
fills summer
fields, clusters of
lacy white haloes
soaking up bright sunshine,
hosting bees and butterflies–
a serve-yourself, all-day buffet,
soon to be transformed into silage,
live up to its other name: cow parsley.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Ramona at Pleasures from the Page for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Powerless

Tuesday

Ahead of the storm
a pair of wrens
search the gutters
for delectable tidbits
before they’re washed
away.

Wednesday

Branches and limbs
akimbo,
wires tangled
like a kitten’s toy.
Phones fall silent.
Butterflies don’t care.

Thursday

Black bear lumbers
across the yard,
oblivious to generator’s roar.

Friday

Wake to rain–
rush to catch
this morning shower
in a bucket.

Saturday

At dawn, the translucent
waning moon
winks good morning.
It’s power never
fails.

Sunday

A book* transports me
to another place and time.
When the lights blink on,
I keep reading.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell. Simply amazing and I highly recommend it.

Please be sure to visit my friend Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: The Roundup is Here!

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Find our more about Poetry Friday in this post by Renée LaTulippe here.)

When our world came screeching to a halt last March, my local indie bookstore, The Hickory Stick Bookshop, soon reopened for phone orders and curbside pickup. I was happy to keep them busy. But I was even happier when they reopened for in-person (with masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, and social distancing, of course) shopping. On my first trip, I found this book on the display table in the children’s section.

I have been a fan of Emily Winfield Martin’s work since I first discovered it several years ago. To have a whole book of her fanciful, dream-like images felt like a gift. The fact that there were “little scraps of larger stories” included with each image was an added bonus.

Since I brought The Imaginaries home, I have delved deep into the images and the ideas and feelings they stir in me. They have inspired quite a few poems, and I can’t wait to share Winfield-Martin’s paintings and words with my students. Here is one of my favorite images from the book and the poem it inspired.

“She never told anyone what she saw at the edge of the world.” Emily Winfield Martin

“The Edge of the World”

At the edge of the world
rocks rise from the fathomless
blue-green sea
spangled with starfish
forming countless constellations
that glimmer in the sun.

Explorers, untethered
from home, follow
limitless wonderings
to this far horizon,
braving perilous shoals
searching for secret songs
and untold stories
seeking unimaginable creatures,
discovering this truth:

Here there be mermaids.

© Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please join in the roundup by sharing your link here:

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Poetry Friday: The Comet

For the past week or so, I’ve appreciated being distracted by Comet Neowise. I was lucky to see our latest celestial visitor with and without binoculars one night last week, but because of the weather, I haven’t been able to spot it since then. Many friends have shared their pictures though, so I feel like I’ve gotten my fair share of sightings. How could I not be inspired to write a poem?

The Comet

A massive ball
(three miles wide!)
of ice and dust
sailing through
the solar system,
pulled by gravity,
warmed by the sun,
is suddenly a
celebrity:
a cosmic exclamation mark,
a reminder to look up,
to be dazzled,
to dream.

© Catherine Flynn, 2020

Comet Neowise over Caliente, CA by Jason Hullinger / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) via Wikimedia

Please be sure to visit my poetry pal, Margaret Simon, at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: “Worth” by Marilyn Nelson

It no longer seems appropriate to say, “What a week!” It seems that every single day brings some new mind-boggling occurrence. This week, at least, the bad news has been balanced by two momentous Supreme Court decisions. Still, my heart hurts for our entire country. Recently, The New York Times acknowledged the power of poetry to bring us “solace, strength, and power” by asking many prominent poets, including Kwame Alexander, Joy Harjo, and Arthur Sze, what poets and poetry they have turned to during these tumultuous days. I read many of the poems recommended, thinking I would find some to share with the my middle school students. As I read, a link to Marilyn Nelson’s poetry came up. Marilyn Nelson, former Poet Laureate of Connecticut, is the author of many powerful books of poetry for young people and has long been a favorite of mine. This poem is from Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color (WordSong, 2007), which she co-authored with Elizabeth Alexander.

Canterbury, CT 1833-1834

“Worth”

for Ruben Ahoueya

Today in America people were bought and sold:
five hundred for a “likely Negro wench.”
If someone at auction is worth her weight in gold,
how much would she be worth by pound? By ounce?
If I owned an unimaginable quantity of wealth,
could I buy an iota of myself?
How would I know which part belonged to me?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Amira Abdel-Aal and Shawna Coppola led a session on The Ed Collaborative this spring about ways to maximize student engagement with their writing. One of their suggestions was to share “provocations,” rather than prompts. They suggested that provocations are intended to “provoke thoughts, discussions,and questions.” This poem will do all of that and more.

Please be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Finding Light with Nikki Grimes

At NCTE last November, I had the pleasure of sitting with Nikki Grimes at her table at the Children’s Book Award Luncheon. Everyone at the table received a copy of her extraordinary verse memoir, Ordinary Hazards (WordSong, 2019). I have long been a fan of Nikki’s poetry, but reading the story of her childhood and teen years left me with a deeper admiration for Nikki.

Recently, Irene Latham announced that she wanted to celebrate Nikki Grimes when she hosted Poetry Friday today. Irene said,

Nikki has won all kinds of awards lately, and due to covid, there haven’t been in-person events, so this gives us all an opportunity to say:

I knew immediately that I wanted to write a Golden Shovel to honor Nikki. This is a form Nikki made popular through her stunning book, One Last Word, using the words and “wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance” for her strike lines. Nikki’s poetry abounds with gorgeous language and words of wisdom, but I thought these lines, from the end of Ordinary Hazards, would speak to us all during our troubled times.

Thank you, Nikki Grimes, for sharing your light with us. And thank you, Irene, for hosting today’s celebration of this amazing woman.