Monday, April 29, 2013

WEE RHYMES by Jane Yolen

WEE RHYMES: Baby's First poetry Book by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Jane Dyer includes sweet, short verses on the topics of eating and sleeping getting dressed and playing -- which is, of course, exactly what babies do! Most of the poems are authored by Jane Yolen with a few Mother Goose rhymes thrown in to round out the collection.

Here are two of my favorites:

by Jane Yolen

Oops, whoops,
Down the cup goes.
Now you have milk
All over your toes.

Now, little sweetling,
Don't you yowl.
Here comes Daddy
With a great big towel.

by Jane Yolen

Your stroller rolls along-long-long,
And as it rolls, you sing this song:
The cars go beep!
The trucks go zoom!
The people shout!
The buses boom!
And we go whee-whee-whee-whee-whee,
All the way home.

This book would make a nice gift for a new grandmother. And hey, Mother's Day IS coming up...... :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013


My sister took this picture in her yard!
Thanks to Mississippi Writers Guild, Lorelei Books and Vicksburg Public Library, Saturday I will be in Vicksburg, MS, teaching a workshop on ekphrasis in the morning and sharing a panel/reading with Jack Bedell, Julie Kane and Howard Bahr (moderator) in the afternoon. I'm excited!

Here's the questions we'll be discussing:

1. Why is poetry important?

2. Where do poems come from? Do you have a plan or a theory abut what a poems should do; where it should go?

3. What are some of the developments in contemporary American poetry?

4. Should poetry respond to the political/environmental challenges of our time, and if so, how?

Anyone care to take a stab at any of these? :) I'll share my responses and perhaps some responses from the other panelists next week!

Meanwhile, the Progressive Poem continues to progress over at radiant Robyn's Deckled Edge... and lively Laura Purdie Salas has Roundup. Happy last Friday of April, y'all. xo

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Can you see those jellyfish?? Or, if in a petri dish, sperm...

And here is a quote for you:

"The clouds, 
-the only birds that never sleep."
-Victor Hugo

Monday, April 22, 2013


All month I've been meaning to write about the awesomeness that is Poetry magazine, how they give away all those copies every year to anyone who wants them, and how this particular issue has much to love.

Like this poem, one of two by Mary Moore Easter:

Mama Said...
        (there'll be days like this.)
                          - The Shirelles

These folks 'bout to respect me into the grave.

At eighty mama said, (mama said)
     "People think you change when you're old
      but you still got a girl inside."

And men could see her, too

complete poem here

Don't you love it? Of course I am fond of Mama wisdom, as readers of LEAVING GEE'S BEND know.

Oh, and Happy Earth Day! My son who has been writing a poem a day this month had an extra requirement for today's poem... must include something from nature. I'm excited to read what he comes up with.

Yesterday I heard US Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway read and answer questions at University of West Georgia. She chose poems on the themes of ekphrasis and elegy, which was awesome for me, because I have a workshop to lead this coming Saturday in Vicksburg on the topic of ekphrasis. Now I'll be including one of Natasha's poems from her book BELLOCQ'S OPHELIA.

So, another busy week, as if oft the case in April. I'm excited to see the Progressive Poem continuing on its way -- and to see what everyone else has up their sleeves.

More soon!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Hello, and welcome to Poetry Friday Roundup! It is my pleasure to host today on this, the 3rd Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month. Yay for all the lovely stuff everyone has going!

And lo and behold, the 2013 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is parked here today.

What to say about this year's poem? We've got rhythm and dancing and words and music and circus acts and rhyme and alliteration... who knows what the last 10 lines will hold?! I'm excited to read, and yes, a little nervous to share my own line today as the poem makes another turn and begins to wind down, come back around, and I'm certain, surprise us.

Thanks to all of you for making this so much fun. Y'all amaze and inspire me. Please see the list of all participants in the left sidebar. And hey, if you haven't had a chance to check out Heidi's very similar (micro!) project this month, please do. Fascinating!

Without further ado:

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.
Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging
from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–
limb-by-line-by-limb envision, pyramidic penned precision.
And if you should topple, if you should flop
Hey, is anyone feeling a title yet?? I'm thinking something like "Writer Dance" or "How to Dance like a Writer" or "The Three Ring Writer." :) I'd love to hear your suggestions in comments... of course we've still got ten lines to go, so who knows what other titles might emerge...
Please use inlinkz below to leave your link! I've set it for "unlimited" in the name/description field, so feel free to include specific info about your post. And if you have any trouble at all, please leave me a note in comments. Thank you!


I've just spent some quality time with WHEN THUNDER COMES: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis with illustrations by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So.

I really like the variety of civil rights leaders featured here. And while I worried that the wide variety of illustration may take away from the continuity of the book, that wasn't the case. At least not for me!

My favorite poem/illustration pair features Mitsuye Endo, Japanese American interned durning WWII, 1920-2006. This basic information is provided for each leader on the bottom right-hand corner of the page. More detailed information is included in the backmatter, which allows for a great jumping-off point for readers who want to discover more about these amazing individuals.

And here is the poem I love best:

The Captive
by J. Patrick Lewis

I was a typist, nothing more.
I loved my life, I hated war.

But it was war that stole from me
My job, my life, serenity.

They put me in a hateful house --
Internment camp -- and I, a mouse,

Refused to squeak like most of these
One hundred thousand Japanese,

Until the day I told the man
What constant thoughts my heart began:

I am a typsit, nothing more,
and I am no conspirator!

For 18 months, they tired the sun
With talking. In the end, I won

The freedom to resume all three:
My job, my life, serenity.

Those of you who frequent my blog should find this choice as no surprise. I am often drawn to poems that explore the themes of captivity and freedom. And how great is "they tired the sun/ With talking." ?? Nice! And shout-out to John Parra, whose illustration is perfect for the poem. You can see it in John's portfolio here.

And now for some under sea fun: Greg at Gotta Book has an original, unpublished poem of mine as part of his annual National Poetry Month celebration, 30 Poets/30 Days project. It's called "The Octopus Postcards." Give it a read!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Okay, so I stole the subject line from a poem called "Daffodil Bulbs" in SEEDS, BEES, BUTTERFLIES, and MORE: Poems for Two Voices by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.

It's a perfect book for spring, and I have always been fond of the way poems in two voices can engage readers.

One of my favorite poems in the collections is not on the showy blossoms or buzzing, winged creatures. It's a poem about something hidden:

by Carole Gerber

I get no attention.
                             You're hidden. It's true.

I'm gnarl and twisted.
                              But all plants need you.

Plants take me for granted--
then don't give two hoots!

                              Until gardeners move them
                              and dig up their roots.
                              They can't live without you!

That's true, very true.
                              You store food for those plants!

I anchor them, too.
My looks aren't important.
I have other strengths.

                             You're tough and can grow
                             to incredible lengths.

I feel a lot better. Thanks mainly to you,
I'm proud to be doing what a root's meant to do.

I really like how the book is designed with each voice printed in a different color ink. It really helps the reader. Happy spring, y'all!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


What to say about Fay B. Kaigler? It was awesome!

It started at True Vine Cottage, thanks to gracious, generous Beck McDowell, author of THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Beck relaxing on the porch swing.

This is what the sky looked like:
An omen, perhaps?? We did spend some quality time in the stairwells at USM on Thursday of the conference due to tornado warnings...

Next I got to see sweet,talented Robyn Hood Black and meet for the first time wonderful, zany April Halprin Wayland. LOVE THESE GALS! We shared meals and stories and thoughts and dreams and oh yeah, a session at the conference. :)

April, Robyn & me cooking up some fun for our presentation "Take Five: Create Fun with The Poetry Friday Anthology."

Lest you think we were the only ones having fun, here's a shot of our participants enjoying their paper tacos (one of the Take Five! activities for Rebecca Kai Dotlich's "A Taste of Taco")

The conference included books sales hosted by Barnes and Noble on campus, and oh wow, were we in good hands:

Thank you, Marie and Benita!

And here we are during a slow time:

me, Beck, Robyn & April (shhhh, there were lots of slow times, but we still had fun!)

One of the unexpected highlights was a personal tour of the de Grummond Exhibit room with the amazing Ellen Ruffin:

Is there anything Ellen doesn't know?!

Oh, and guess who visited with us at our table during the Southern Breeze-hosted reception? Yep, the hilarious Jon Sciezka, this year's Medallion winner!

Congratulations, Jon! (Jon, Beck, me, Jo Kittinger, Robyn)

I loved seeing old friends and meeting new ones. It's a great festival. See you next year!

Oh, and here's a little bonus something: On Saturday I spoke in Tuscaloosa as part of the celebration for the winners of the Letters about Literature contest. I heard letters inspired by J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton and Langston Hughes. Amazing kids and parents and teachers! 

AND THEN... my friend Paige and her family took me to lunch! I loved getting to know her husband Adam and adorable kids Kai and Quinn. Here's a picture of me and Kai, who loves Pokemon and says he's going to be a dentist someday, but don't count him out as a storyteller:

Kai told me his mom cried twice while reading DON'T FEED THE BOY to him. :)


And now it's time for another busy week: 3 school visits. Isn't April awesome?! :)

Friday, April 12, 2013


You know it's going to be a good book of poems when it's authored by the likes of Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich -- and GRUMBLES IN THE FOREST: FairyTale Voices with a Twist most certainly is good! Illustrations are by Matt Mahurin.

The poets take a new look at 15 fairy tales, providing unexpected perspective (like the pea from The Princess and the Pea!) and fresh thoughts (such as the policeman who encounters the crime in Goldilocks and the Three Bears). My most favorite spread was for Beauty and the Beast, with a poem from each Jane and Rebecca:

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I'm dizzy with dance,
pink petals in my hair,
waltzing and weaving--
the floor becomes air.

I'm dreaming of love
(dreaming is fine)...
of a rose, a wedding,
a valentine.

But it's only a dream
of the boy I adore--
I can't get past
his fangs, his roar.

If I could
If I could,
might I love him more?

by Jane Yolen

It is winter now,
and the roses are blooming again,
their petals bright against the snow.
My father died last April:
my sisters no longer write
except at the turnings of the year,
content with their fine houses
and their grandchildren.
Beast and I
putter in the gardens
and walk slowly on the forest paths.
He is graying
around the muzzle
and I have silver combs
to match my hair.
I have no regrets.
Though sometimes I do wonder
what sounds children
might have made
running across the marble halls,
swinging from the birches
over the roses
in the snow.

Will the world ever time of fairy tales? I think not. Be sure to visit Diane at Random Noodling for Roundup! Also, today's edition of 2013 Progressive Poem is brought to you by Linda Kulp. We're nearly halfway done!

On my way home from Fay B. Kaigler. Report to follow soon!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


There is something so appropriate about the marriage of poetry and the subject of fishing in Tamera Will Wissinger's debut GONE FISHING with adorable illustrations by Matthew Cordell.

It's a classic sibling story that reminds me of a picture book my kids loved called I WISH MY BROTHER WAS A DOG by Carol Diggory Shields with illustrations by Paul Meisel. Sibling-love is certainly a roller-coaster-ish adventure, as these books show.

And the poems! We get Sam's voice as well as little sister Lucy's, and there is much to love. Here's one in Sam's voice:

Lyric Poem

I wish a fish
     I wish a fish
          I wish a fish would bite.

I hope I catch
     I hope I catch
          A fish before tonight.

I think I feel
     I think I feel
          I think I feel a tap.

I reel it in,
     I see a fin,
          And then I catch

                 A cap.

copyright 2013 Tamera Will Wissinger

Cute, huh? I'm thinking first graders will be asking for poles and buckets and worms (or crickets, which is what we use in these parts).

I do hope you'll read it. Fun and sweet. And appropriate, as I am signing off today, on my way to Hattiesburg, MS, for Fay B. Kaigler, where I hope I'll catch a fish *this* big.

Before I go, though, a fishing photo from the Latham Family Archives, circa 2003:

Happy day to you!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Guest Post: Janet Fagal for 2013 Progressive Poem

Today I'm excited to welcome Janet Fagal, a poetry enthusiast whom I had the pleasure of meeting this past November at NCTE. While she doesn't have a blog (yet!), she's got poetry in her heart, and I am so pleased to have her contributing her line here at Live Your Poem.

And here's the poem so far, with Janet's line at the bottom:

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you're rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you're beguiling, as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers

Don't you love it?! Thank you, Janet! And now.... drum roll, please....

Introducing a future Kidlitosphere blogger: Janet Fagal
Today I am so grateful to Irene Latham for allowing me to be a guest blogger so I can participate in the 2013 Progressive Poem. Some of you may know me as a commenter who goes by Janet F. and Janet Clare on FB. I have yet to start my own blog, but one is coming, I promise.
I loved watching last year’s Progressive Poem grow. I was lucky to meet Irene at NCTE in November along with Laura Purdie Salas, Mary Lee Hahn, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Leslea Newmann at Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell’s session about their book, The Poetry Friday Anthology. Perhaps you have seen this photo where we all sported pink to support Sylvia’s recovery from breast cancer treatment.

During the last 10 years of my 40 year teaching career, I discovered the expansive power of poetry for its own worth and as a teaching tool. Better late than never! Almost by accident I developed an approach that puts poetry at the heart of the classroom. My 3rd graders eagerly learn poems by heart without any pressure or homework or testing. I actually never tell the children we are going to do this, it just happens naturally! By the end of the year we have a Poetry Night where they recite over 40 poems for close to an hour. Most of the poems are by published poets, but some are poems the children have written.

Here’s a link to a 3 min. video clip that gives an idea about how Poetry Night looks, though this was an encore Poetry Night done as a fund-raiser in mid-September and the children had not been together since June!!! But you’ll get the idea.
We mainly learn and recite as a group, but if the children ask I let some do solos or recite poems in small groups. The best part is how easy it all is. I didn’t know any poems by heart when I started. With all the generous poetry resources available on the Kidlitosphere, any teacher can easily replicate what I have done and tailor it to meet her kids’ ages, community and curriculua.
The children love doing this, and because we work as a group, they learn the poems in a very short time. They may cue one another on tricky parts and the group recitation creates happy bonds. It doesn’t take much class time to accomplish, either. Children are natural sponges for oral language at this age. But recitation and performance are not the only benefits. There are many educational side benefits, too. Besides learning about poets and poetry, the kids are exposed to rich vocabulary and sophisticated language. Academic content shows up in some poems and re-reading poems helps with reading fluency which aids comprehension. The quality of their own writing grows from being immersed in the poems we share. And the list goes on!
Today while traveling I found an Indie bookstore, The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, CT. I was so excited to learn that Marilyn Singer often goes there for book signings and readings. Kate Coombs’ wonderful Water Sings Blue was on the children’s poetry shelves (note the plural) along with Caroline Kennedy’s fabulous new anthology, Poems to Learn by Heart, which includes one of Janet Wong’s poems and has a teacher’s guide written by Sylvia Vardell. I took it to be a sign. I want to help spread a love of poetry all over the country because I know firsthand about its power to make a difference in kids’ literary and personal lives.
Thank you to all of the poets and writers who keep giving us wonderful words to sprinkle in children’s hearts. I am delighted to add my voice to the growing chorus of those who are realizing the power poetry has to change and brighten lives. And by the way I told the bookstore about the exquisite new Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and they are going to order it! I take my role as “poetry cheerleader” and “Ms. Pied Piper of Poetry” very seriously! (Thanks, Pat Lewis!)
I have made many poetry friends in person and online in the past couple of years and I am particularly grateful to Heidi Mordhorst who first told me about the Kidlitosphere, and Janet, Sylvia and Laura Purdie Salas who, like Irene, have been welcoming and supportive along with so many other bloggers! I had been looking for this community for quite a while and am so glad to be here.

Thank YOU, Janet! So happy to hear about all the ways you promote the love of poetry. And we're all so glad to have you as a part of this year's Progressive Poem. Can't wait to see where the poem goes next!

Friday, April 5, 2013


Is it just me, or is it sad to read a book of poems by a poet who is no longer with us? Especially when you really love the poems. Sigh.

Valerie Worth wrote such brilliant little poems, and here, in PUG AND OTHER ANIMAL POEMS, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, we get eighteen poems about animals we might see on any given day: fox, wood thrush, bull, dachshund, fly... well, maybe not the bengal tiger, which happens to be one of my favorite poems, but who knows? Maybe you live in a place where there's a zoo nearby.

The two poems I'd like to share with you are about creatures quite different from one another, yet the poems share a theme of captivity/escape/freedom -- which is a theme near and dear to my heart.


The Bengal tiger
Batters his cage:
HIs rage is thunder,
Sharp stripes flash
In his fur--
Is it too wicked
To wish
He would break out,
Fill the zoo
With storms,
Run his lightning
Into the world?

- Valerie Worth


A fairy
Tale come
True: the

Humped brown
Gnome Split
Up the back,

The silver-
Caped prince
Set free.

- Valerie Worth

This is a book I will return to. Love! Don't forget to visit Robyn for Roundup, where she has a fun little something that relates to next week's gig at Fay B. Kaigler children's book festival in Hattiesburg, MS! And the Progressive Poem is progressing beautifully... check out the latest at Doraine's blog! Y'all are awesome. xo

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Leave it to the one and only J. Patrick Lewis to birth a book based on odd holidays. Illustrations are by Anna Raff. And the title poem "World Rat Day" is for today, April 4. Bet you didn't know that. :)

This is such a fun book, and a nice departure from the expected holidays' fare. One of my favorite poems is for Frog Jumping Day, which happens May 13.

Said the Frog

I was really in a muddle
looking over a mud puddle
'cause I didn't have a paddle
or a twig to ride the reef.
But I said, "Oh, fiddle-faddle,
this is just a little piddle
of a second fiddle puddle."
So I saddled up a leaf.
I set sail on the puddle,
but I reached the muddy middle
and I rocked the leaf a little,
then I gave it all I had.
And I solved the mighty riddle
of the whole caboodle puddle
when I hopped up on the middle
of a beetle launching pad.

- J. Patrick Lewis

Isn't that fun?! And exactly what a frog would say, I think. I really love the idea of "saddling up a leaf." Really fresh and fun.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


One of the things I love about poetry is the opportunity it provides for creative wordplay. You can alter words, smush them together, add or subtract letters or just plain make words up. Which is part of what makes STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY AND OTHER POEMS by Jack Prelutsky & illustrated by Carin Berger such a fun read.

The book is assembled like a naturalist's notebook, as if the author discovered and catalogued all these new species. This format will particularly appeal to the young scientists among us. We meet Chormorants, Slobsters, Plandas, Magpipes and others. My kind of zoo!

Here's one of my favorites:


JOLLYFISH are radiant,
Ebullient blogs of mirth,
With merry dispositions
From the moment of their birth.
Though they know their every motion
Is dependent on the tides,
They laugh with such abandon
That they almost split their sides.
         * * *
Their humor is infectious,
And as aimlessly they drift,
Their buoyant effervescence
Gives the neighoborhood a lift.
JOLLYFISH possess the gift
Of fundamental glee--
There's no creature half as happy
At the bottom of the sea.

- Jack Prelutsky

The world needs more jollyfish. Can you think of a creature you might create, just by changing one letter of that creature's name? Hmmmm...