Friday, October 18, 2019

Poetry Friday: Ciardi, Reid, Brown...and Paschkis!

Today, I'm going to send you over to Books Around the Table, a Wordpress blogsite I share with four other writers, because this whole month we've been posting some of our favorite kids' poems. Specifically, I'm going to link you to the post by the multi-talented author and illustrator Julie Paschkis, because I love her choices: a poem by John Ciardi, a wordplay delight by Alistair Reid, and a poem (and book) completely new to me by Margaret Wise Brown. Julie P. recites that last poem to the crows in her neighborhood.

To lure you in, I'll post the Margaret Wise Brown poem here, but take the time to read Julie's choices - then, if you have time, click on the links she lists where each one of us (Bonny Becker, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Laura Kvasnosky and I) posted a few favorites.

Little Old Rook
Little Old Rook
Where do you look? 
At the very last page
Of this very same book
Said the Little Old Rook.  

from Where Have You Been? by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

The Poetry Friday Round-up is hosted today by the incomparable Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Head over there to see what other people have posted. Jama's blog always puts a smile on my face and often makes me hungry!  Thanks, Jama, for hosting!

Friday, October 11, 2019



Such fun! Don't you love nominating your favorite children's books of the year for the annual Cybils Awards? It means a lot to me to shine a light on my favorites, especially if they've been flying a little under the radar. Sometimes it's important to pull for the underdogs, right? Time for some sunshine, favorites!

Of course, many of my favorites are books of poetry, and it's wonderful to see 33 books already nominated in the Poetry category. But there are SO many more that need to be nominated, and OCTOBER 15TH is the last day for nominations, so don't delay. You'll find all the information you need at the Cybils website, including an FAQ page in case you end up with questions.

Here's a description of the kind of books which qualify for the Poetry category, offered up by Bridget Wilson, this year's Poetry Chairperson:

What belongs in Poetry? 

  • Anthologies or collections written by multiple authors
  • Anthologies or collections written by a single author
  • Novels in verse or verse novels
  • Some poetry will have illustrations. Some will not.
  • Verse written for children and young adults 
  • The audience can be toddlers, preschoolers, elementary, middle grade, or young adult.
  • Poetry does accept eBooks. 

I've been busy down at my local library, reading through the newest children's books (nominated books need to have been published between Oct. 16, 2018 and Oct. 15, 2019)  trying to get a handle on what to nominate in the Poetry category.

Right now, on my shelf of Still-Must-Reads, I have an anthology called Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, put together by Miranda Paul. It has poems by many fine poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, an outstanding poet for both children and adults. I'm also looking forward to reading Marilyn Singer's Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals and  Margarita Engle's Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems. Loved Boom! Bellow! Bleat!: Animal Poems for Two or More Voices by Georgia Heard - definitely would  love to hear kids perform those! Also loved The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander - that's one I just might nominate, especially if I don't see anyone else nominating it. It deserves to be considered.  

I have no individual poem to post today for Poetry Friday. Just want to encourage you to click here for the Cybils website and get busy nominating your favorite kids books of 2019. 

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Catherine over at Reading to the Core. Head over there to see what other people have posted. And thanks, Catherine!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver Among the Trees

The poem I’m posting for today's Poetry Friday is pure Mary Oliver. Along with Kay Ryan, Oliver is the poet whose work I hope children learn to love as they become young adults, and I've chosen  “When I Am Among the Trees” because it does what a poem does best:
  • Takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary
  • Starts exactly where it should, with real-world details rather than abstractions, by naming the specific trees - willows, honey locusts, beeches, oaks pine
  • Has the courage to be full-hearted and to address life’s large complications. 
I found Oliver’s poem recently while reading Maria Popova’s Brainpickings. It moved me because I know that this fall I’ll be taking many walks among trees - here in the Pacific Northwest the maples are already beginning the turn from green to red - it’s a wonder-filled season for walking. 
Some of the walks will begin at lunch time, because I love to see the kids at Columbia Elementary - just around the block from our house - racing around full of the dickens on the playground during lunch recess. Maybe I’ll head down to the fishermans’ terminal. Maybe past that cedar-shingled house on North St. that always reminds me of my years in Berkeley. Or maybe west on Connecticut St. to see the bicycle nailed up in a tree, the one that’s kiddie-corner from the garden decorated with pieces of an old boiler that blew up....

Chances are I’ll collect a few leaves, a few acorns, a few pine cones along the way. And I’ll think about Mary Oliver, how she trained both her body and her soul to see the world. I’ll consider how the trees might help me fill with light. 

  Hope you have some trees to walk among, too. 

by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Mary Oliver
Today’s Poetry Friday host is Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink. Head over there to see what other people have posted. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: Tulips by A.E. Stallings

Tulip Fields in the Skagit Valley, Northwest Washington

There was no doubt in my mind what poem I wanted to share this week for Poetry Friday. I can feel something new in my bones and in my head and in my skin and my lungs: Spring is coming, bringing the daffodils and tulips. Glory be, hip, hip, hooray, hallelujah!



The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge. Head over there to see what other people have posted. And if you're in the mood, check out a few sources of inspiration I'm sharing (including this poem) over at Books Around the Table.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Poetry Friday: In the MIddle of Winter, A Summer Day

Image result for mary oliver
Well, I've had the holidays so I've not posted recently. I've had a busy few weeks. And...and, and. Excuses, excuses.  But the news that Mary Oliver died has nudged me into a Poetry Friday post.
I can sometimes be cynical. I can sometimes be satisfied with what amounts to clever wordplay  in my own poetry. I'm terrified of sentimentality. But the poem you see below, written by Mary Oliver, full of sentiment, is not sentimental. It's also more direct with its final question than I normally like, being a fan of indirection. Still, I like it. It's clean and clear - and it's clearly felt. The description of the grasshopper is not too embroidered - it's fresh and clean. Strong descriptions which are free of aggressive adjectives are rare. This poem has been a favorite of mine for quite a few years and - since the death of my mom - has floated up to the surface again. Now it's coupled in my mind with the death of the poet.

Here it is, hope it gives you pause, and hope you enjoy it.

The Summer Day

Who made this world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

                                      -- Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at Going to Walden. Head over there to see what other people have posted.