“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
~ Joseph Chilton Pearce ~
Every day, we encourage our students to swallow their fear and take risks. And every day, they take them. But how often are we that brave? Hitting the “Publish” button on our blog posts is one type of risk, but this is usually only an individual risk. This year I decided to be brave and take part in Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem. “A poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning April 1,” this is the poem’s 8th year. (You can read more about this amazing project here.) Matt Forrest Esenwine got us started by challenging us to use “only FOUND lines” from songs!
I have been in a panic about my line all month. I feared my line wouldn’t measure up and I would let Irene, Matt, and all the other poets down. But I’d made a commitment. So I dusted off CDs I haven’t listened to in years, watched hours of YouTube videos, and read reams of liner notes. I gathered a list of lines I thought might work. But the poem is a living entity. It changes direction often. And it changed right before it was my turn to add my line! I did find a line I was happy with, but I had several unused lines that I really liked. I decided to use one as a strike line for a Golden Shovel poem. (BTW, the Progressive Poem is with Penny Klosterman today. Check it out here.)
This line is from “Upside Down,” the first track on Jack Johnson’s Curious George soundtrack.
We’ll sing and dance to mother nature’s songs
Also, happy birthday to William Shakespeare! And even though this post isn’t about him (although he was a master borrower), where would we be without the Bard?
On a recent episode of On Being, Krista Tippett’s sublime podcast, Lawrence Kushner explained the concept tzimtzum, or “god’s self-contraction to make spaces within god for creaturely beings to live” (Read more here.) (For the record, I am not Jewish, so I hope I haven’t muddled this or offended anyone.) Kushner went on to say that this idea manifests itself in our daily life when we make a space to create “so that something you love will have room to grow.” I love this.
Making space in my life to create, to write, has been an incredible challenge recently and I almost feel like I don’t even remember how to write anything. But I’m not giving up.
Inspired by Irene Latham’s Artspeak! theme of happy, I scrolled through Google Arts & Culture until I found a painting that brought a smile to my face. I found Undergrowth with Two Figures by Vincent van Gogh completely enchanting. I longed to step into the painting and gather armfuls of flowers. Instead, I gathered inspiration for this haiku:
Beneath silver trees coruscating daffodils illuminate the day
Another March is coming to a close. After five years of successfully blogging every day, this is the second year that I haven’t been able to keep up with the pace of slicing. As my friend Heidi so wisely stated: “It might be okay to miss a day, because, you know, LIFE.”
And meetings. Have there always been so many meetings? It seems like they’ve multiplied exponentially lately. At a recent meeting in our Library/Media Center, I happened to be sitting at the end of the row, near a table where a bin of Legos awaited the next day’s students. They intrigued me because they were many more colors than I remember from my children’s Legos. There were brown bricks, orange bricks, gray bricks! I confess, my mind started to wander. The next thing I knew, this draft of a poem was in my notebook.
Brown earth thaws, softens Green shoots peek out of the soil Gray clouds skitter across the sky, unveiling an Orange sunset blanketing the sky, cradling a Yellow crescent moon.
Naomi Shihab Nye is absolutely correct: “Poems hide…What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them.”
What I didn’t know as I jotted down my ideas was that I was inadvertently warming up for Mary Lee Hahn‘s National Poetry Month project, “Playing With Poetry!” And though I doubt I’ll get a poem up every day, I’m looking forward to joining in the fun!
Congratulations, Heidi Mordhorst! You are the lucky winner of a copy of In the Middle of the Night: Poems From a Wide-Awake House! I know you and your second-graders will LOVE Laura’s new book.
There is a lot going on at my house these days. Our renovation project is winding down and we’re hosting an engagement party for my son and his fiancee next weekend. I know we all have busy lives, and kudos to all of you who juggle everything so well, but my attention has NOT been on my writing. I have managed to jot down a few ideas and make some notes, but not much more than that. I am looking forward to writing more in April, but have no particular project in mind for National Poetry Month.
Last week, it was my turn to post a prompt for Laura’s Food Poetry Project. Deciding what to favorite food to post was more difficult that I thought it would be. In the end, I went with the my idea of the delicious breakfast food ever, the pancake.
Writing about pancakes turned out to be just as difficult as choosing them. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I write acrostics to get ideas flowing. This week, after a bit of tinkering, I decided to stick with the form.
I’m a recipe follower. Before I got married, I told my mother I wasn’t moving out unless I got a Betty Crocker cookbook so I’d have the recipe for apple pie. After many years of trying new recipes, though, I learned to be a little more flexible about improvising when I cook. In fact, when it comes to chicken soup, I just start tossing ingredients into the pot. So when my poetry pal and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, suggested writing about soup, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. This poem, which is basically how I make chicken soup these days, is still a very rough draft.
In a pot as blue as the sky, a poem simmers. Corn kernels become a hundred tiny suns. Carrots and potatoes are the warm, rich earth while parsley and rosemary are fresh and green and fragrant. Chunks of chicken add more earth and sunshine. Water, bubbling up as if from a spring, mixes and melds with salt, with pepper, with love sating my soul.
Please be sure to visit Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Thank you also to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Kelsey, 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.
In a separate post, today I’m hosting a stop on the blog tour of In the Middle of the Night: Poems From a Wide-Awake House, by Laura Purdie Salas. (Leave a comment on that post, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your very own copy!)
There is a direct link between being part of Laura’s blog tour and participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge. I “met” Laura when I responded to a tweet she sent out looking for teachers to write activity guides to a series of poetry books she was self-publishing. Designing activities to support favorite books is something I love to do. But I wasn’t confident I had the writing experience that Laura was looking for. As I worked to summon up the courage to write to Laura, I reread past blog posts and people’s comments, many from fellow Slicers. Indirectly, this community gave the push I needed to send the email. And, miracle of miracles, Laura put her trust in me! A few months later, Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems, part of Laura’s “30 Painless Classroom Poems” series, debuted with an activity guide written by yours truly.
Thanks to a supportive administration, I was able to attend NCTE later that year and meet Laura in person. Since then, we’ve seen each other at other conferences and connected online through Twitter and our blogs. This is exactly the kind of supportive friendship that I’ve been fortunate enough to develop with many other teachers and writers, all thanks to everyone, past and present, at Two Writing Teachers!
I don’t know if it’s because of the time change or because we had parent conferences at the beginning of the week, which altered our schedule or a combination of these and other events, but I feel like I haven’t gotten much accomplished this week. (Check my recent blog posts for confirmation. Oh wait, I haven’t written since Sunday. I rest my case.)
Last night I was planning a lesson on elaboration for a fifth grade class. I had my teaching point, the basic sequence of the lesson, and the mentor text I wanted to use. But I hadn’t written my model. I knew what I was going to write about, but it was after 10:30 and I was just too tired. Knowing I had time to write it in the morning, I headed for bed.
But I couldn’t get the lesson out of my head. Sentences from my unwritten model were swirling around in my head. At 2:00 I told myself to just follow my breath back to sleep. At 2:30 I got up for some water. At 3:00 I gave up and got up to write the model. Then I wrote a possible sequence for future lessons. Then I figured that I was on a roll and might as well write a Slice of Life.
So what’s the lesson? Next time, instead of losing at least four hours of sleep, I’ll make myself a cup of tea and power through another half-hour or so of work. I’ll have a much better chance of getting a good night’s sleep!