Thursday, November 30, 2017

Poetry Friday: Let's Go to London!

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

I've been reading A LOT. See this week's earlier post on MOZART'S STARLING, which includes a wee interview with my bird-loving nephew Matt (and Frosty).

Also, Shelf Awareness did a lovely write-up about CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? You can read it here.

Thanks to the CYBILS, I have quite a few poetry titles I'm excited to share with you, including today's feature: ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS by Patricia Toht, illustrations by Sam Usher.

wee Daniel, our London
traveling companion!
It's been more than twenty years since I was last in London, and this book took me right back there! The book begins with a family boarding one of those famous hop-on/hop-off double-decker buses to explore the sights. And then there are poems about Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, museums. The River Thames poem weaves across a double-spread. We find ourselves standing at the famous Globe Theater. There's even a seek-n-find poem at Trafalgar Square! There are lots of strong analogies and unexpected images... I have quite a few favorites! But since London is known for rain, I'd like to share with you the Piccadilly Circus stop:

by Patricia Toht

Sun slips,
dips behind clouds.
A drip.
A spritz.
Carts sport spots.
Watery window polka dots.
Fatter drops
in plips and plops,
bounce off bright
umbrella tops.
Window ledges,
awning edges
trickle with streams.
Rain fills pavement
cracks and seams.
Waters flow.
Puddles grow.
Traffic splashes --
spills a chill
that climbs your spine.
Just in time,
you find a door.

.... and also the Tower Bridge poem, which employs an epistolary form and features the voice of the Bridge itself:

by Patricia Toht

Dear Visitor,
I grow weary of being
called by the wrong name.
I tell you, 'London Bridge'
and I are NOT the same!
Years ago dismantled, he
was shipped across the sea.
And without a doubt,
he's not as GLORIOUS
as me.
I decorate the city like a
fancy wedding cake,
while unadorned,
he plainly spans
an Arizona lake.

      Tower Bridge

I really want to share with you the final poem in the book, which reminds me of the book GOODNIGHT MOON, but I'm out of time, so you will have to check the book out for yourselves. :) Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mozart's Starling, Matt's "Frosty" and a Wild Summons

I've just read MOZART'S STARLING by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

In it Haupt introduces us to Star, Mozart's pet starling, and to Carmen, her own pet starling -- and she presents some insights about how life with a starling might have impacted Mozart's music.

Here are some things I learned:

If you Google 'America's most hated bird,' the top results all refer to starlings. Because starlings aren't native to America and have run off other birds. They are invasive and aggressive, and they are EVERYWHERE.

When Star died (after living with the maestro for 3 years), Mozart wrote an original poem and staged a funeral.

Mozart's piece "A Musical Joke" (a playful piece with a wildness that critics never warmed to) sounds very much like a starling's song. And it's the only piece by Mozart that the author's starling Carmen responds to with excitement.

Mozart and his bird actually had a lot in common. Here's Haupt:

"Both maestro and starling shared an astonishing likeness in talents (mimicry, vocal play, musical gymnastics), personality (busy-ness, silliness, flirtatiousness, tomfoolery), and social priorities (attention-seeking!)."

Haupt loves birds. Clearly. How else could one tolerate -- and love -- a pet starling? They are social and fragile and loud. And they poop a lot. Not for me, I say! Not for me!

But. My almost-15 year old nephew Matt has a pet cockatiel. His name is Frosty. My sister says that Frosty perches on Matt's shoulder while he (Matt) sleeps!

Here's Matt:
"I loved the uniqueness of having a pet bird and I enjoyed the idea of an independent pet. Frosty has an attitude of a human -- he’s a human stuck in a birds body. The most important thing to know about
Frosty, feasting.
having a bird is that all they want is for you to feed them and love them. Frosty
 sings all the time but mostly when he’s happy. I love it when he whistles 'pop goes the weasel.'"

Thank you, Matt, whom I adore!

And now back to Mozart. Not only did Wolfgang enjoy musical play, but also wordplay. Here's a fun Jabberwocky-ish excerpt from a letter Wolfgang wrote to his wife:

"I have received reprieved your highly esteemed writing biting, and I have noted doted that my uncle gafuncle, my aunt slant, and you are all well mell. We too, thank god are in good fettle kettle. Today I got the letter setter from my Papa Haha safely into my paws claws."

More from Haupt:
"Poet Gary Snyder wrote that wildness is 'a quality of one's own consciousness,' an elemental characteristic that ran deep in Mozart -- he had a way of being, a habit of imagination that belonged int eh realm of wildness and nature, regardless of where he lived. It is a quality that, at some level, we all share."

Here's another quote I love from the book, about being a writer:

"People always ask how I get the ideas for my books; I think all authors hear this question. And, at least for me, there is only one answer: You can't think up an idea. Instead, an idea flies into your brain - unbidden, careening, and wild, like a bird out of the ether. And though there is a measure of chance, luck, and grace involved, for the most part ideas don't rise from actual ether; instead, they spring from the metaphoric opposite - from the rich soil that has been prepared, with and without our knowledge, by the whole of our lives: what we do, what we know, what we see, what we dream, what we fear, what we love."

And I love Haupt's conclusions about "the river beneath the river" -- that something below the surface of any art that teases, prickles, stuns...
art by

"And what is this wild summons? What art is asked of us?" 

To live our poems, methinks.

Says Haupt: "To wander paths, nibble purslane, notice spiders. To be rained upon. To listen with changed ears and sing back what we hear."

Read this book! It's a good one. And if you're a bird person, I'd love to hear more about that in comments!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Movie Monday: COCO

One of our Thanksgiving family traditions is to see a movie together. This year the pick of the day was COCO. And I loved it!

I was worried at first -- the trailers we saw were all ho-hum predictable... until the very last one: THE INCREDIBLES 2. (How often does the quality of the trailers represent the main feature? In my experience, quite a lot.)

By the way, is it just me or was THE INCREDIBLES a long, long time ago? (2004!!!) Well, this trailer filled me with so much joy that I have to embed it here for all of you to enjoy as well. I think the sound featured in this trailer may be the best one ever. It may me weep with laughter and joy! Watch it. You'll see (hear).

And now back to COCO. Take a little boy who loves music and throw in a family ban on music and dia de Muertos, and you've got a rich and visually stunning movie.

I loved our young hero and felt invested in his adventure across the bridge... and most of all I was touched by how this movie showed so much of the magic and warmth of the Mexican culture -- especially in its appreciation for the elderly.

Here is a picture we don't see often in American movies: great-grandmother Coco beloved and valued, a vital part of this multi-generational family. No putting Grandma in a corner here! No stashing her in a nursing home! Her life is important, and all the younger members love and include her, even as she nods off and forgets things.

Grandma Dykes - cooking, of course!
(She never did like her picture taken.)
It made me wish for one more kiss on my Grandma Dykes' papery cheek.... I could have done more. I wish I'd done more.

And the movie also filled me with the spirit of all my loved ones who have already crossed that bridge. I miss them, yet they are here with me.

Beautiful, meaningful movie. Hats off to Disney for bringing a quality multicultural film into the mainstream. Go see!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Choir #NCTE17

Charles Waters, (editor) Carol Hinz,
Irene Latham
It's been a few days now since I returned from NCTE, and I am still as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey -- with gratitude. And poetry!

I'm grateful for all the words I heard, the old friends I hugged, the new friends I made... along with so many lovely educators/humans, I met for the first time 3 poetry heroes: Marilyn Nelson, Ralph Fletcher, and Allan Wolf!

Charles Waters and I signed books and presented together and plotted future adventures. I met with some of my editors, presented alongside people I admire, and came away exhausted and recharged.

Jeannine Atkins, Irene Latham, Mary Ann Sacco,
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Kim Doele, Emily Callahan
Here are a few favorite moments that somehow made it into pictures:

Spotting a new friend sporting rainbow shoelaces in support of diversity and individuality and CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

Witnessing Jeannine Atkins meetup with one of Edmonia Lewis's sculptures at St. Louis Art Museum. (Edmonia is the heroine of Jeannine's beautiful verse novel STONE MIRRORS.)

Seeing my poem "Music Teacher" in SCHOOL PEOPLE, a book of poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrations by Ellen Shi and published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press -- my first time to have a poem included in one of Lee's anthologies!

Photo-op with the one and only Nikki Grimes! Nikki appears in our book, so Charles and I were delighted to present to her a copy AND also collect her signature on the pages in our reading copies where she appears. Joy!

Charles Waters, Nikki Grimes,
Irene Latham

The Awards Luncheon. How much do I love attending this luncheon?! This year Lerner sponsored Charles and me at tables, where our seat-mates got free copies of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?... and oh wow, what a great group! "Can I touch your hair? HAIR, No!" (You had to be there. :) And then all the amazing words from Marilyn Nelson and Jason Reynolds and Melissa Sweet... I walked away so full of the book-love! (And the cake wasn't bad either.)

And now, here's a poem by Rabia of Basra, and female Islamic saint (who preceded Rumi by 500 years) from a book called LOVE POEMS FORM GOD, edited by Daniel Ladinsky.

This Choir

So amazing this choir of
socks, shoes, shirt, skirt, undergarments,

earth, sky, suns, and

No wonder I too, now,
sing all day.

- Rabia

To my U.S. friends, Happy Thanksgiving! xo

Thursday, November 16, 2017

two small poems for November

Hello! It's been a wee bit crazy around these parts as I returned from AASL only to leave again for NCTE...

but, oh, Alabama is beautiful in November! So I wanted to share with you these to pics I took in my backyard (before the rain came and left the trees naked) and two small poems (below) to go with them. (Also, just remembered a previous November poem I shared back in 2014!)

Excited to see some Poetry Friday friends at NCTE... I am honored to be part of the following sessions:

On the Wonder Pathway to Deepen Inquiry-based Learning and Amplify Voice - Friday, 11 am - 12:15 am, room 275 (Charles Waters and I will be talking about "Wonder as a Starting Place for Teaching Tolerance")

signing with Charles Waters at Lerner booth  314 -- 12:30 pm Friday -- FREE books!

Learning from Poems: How Studying Poetry Can Strengthen Writing in All Genres - Saturday, 3 pm - 4:15, room 100

And here are the poems:

 all it takes
is an easy breeze
for Novembers nose
to freckle

- Irene Latham

Before Rain

November kisses
bare belly

- Irene Latham

If someone would add this link at Jane's Roundup at Raincity Librarian, I'd be so grateful. Thank you!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Another Star for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

pic taken just minutes after
our meeting
Yes, another starred review! But first, let me give you some sky...

Wow, what to say about AASL? Charles and I had a great time introducing CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? to readers in Phoenix. The whole weekend was a dream! Not only did we finally get to meet each other (!), we were so touched by the enthusiasm and heartfelt response from our first readers!

So many had stories to share with us from their own lives or from their experiences with students struggling to understand differences. So many expressed the need and desire for books that can help us make the world a better place. I am filled with hope and gratitude and honored to be a part of it.

Also, Charles and I learned at least five more things we have in common, including both being named after our great-grandparents and both working at Disney and both attending the same church as children and and and... Forever Friends, I tell you. FOREVER.

Icy Smith, Ellen Oh, Charles Waters, Irene Latham
Bill Konigsberg, Carole Boston Weatherford
And how inspiring was the Mirror, Mirror: Reading All Readers panel?! Carole Boston Weatherford was the perfect facilitator, blessing us with her words and ideas, and I loved getting to know authors Bill Konigsberg, Icy Smith and that dynamo Ellen Oh! I wrote so many notes during the panel... about the courage it takes to share books like these, how it's complicated and important and it's our job to tell the truth. AND to write the stories that call to us. To proceed carefully and thoughtfully. Do the research. Listen.

Another highlight was hanging out with librarians and some of the great folks at Lerner! Kathleen and Lois and Brad and Andy and Adam... awesome, each one. I have never been more #proudtobeaLerner.

My most favorite moment of the conference is something I can't put into words, but I will share a picture of the two fabulous people involved.
Tracy and Charles
Grace, miracles, love... that's what it's all about.

Finally, it's always a joy to meet in person a Poetry Friday friend! Here we are with Linda Mitchell. So glad you spotted us, Linda! Now go write more amazing poems.

Oh, and the whipped cream on the milkshake? We got a note from Lee Bennett Hopkins informing us that along with KirkusPublisher's Weekly gave CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? a starred review! (Lee always knows before anyone else... how does he do it?!) Here is a snippet:

 the poems delicately demonstrate the complexity of identity and the power of communication to build friendships. 

Thank you thank you thank you! And now... on to NCTE! See you in St. Louis. xo

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

5 Reasons I'm Excited to Attend #AASL17

1. This is my first time at attend AASL. And since I totally love librarians, I am excited to make some new friends!

2. It's in Phoenix, where the air is warm and dry -- which is a nice change for this for this Deep-South-humidity gal!

3. After hours and days and years, I will finally get to meet, in person, my Poetic Pal and Forever Friend, the irrepressible Charles Waters!

4. I'm honored to be included in the "Mirror, Mirror: Reading All Readers" panel, along with Charles, of course, and Carole Boston Weatherford (who is moderating), and authors Bill Konigsberg, Ellen Oh, and Icy Smith. I can tell already this is going to be a rich discussion. So so grateful to Lerner for making this happen!

5. Delivering CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? to the world! The book doesn't actually release until January 1, 2018, so this feels a bit like getting one of those late ultrasounds, when baby is pressing against the lungs, and you are just DYING to meet him... and really, the pressing is getting uncomfortable already. (This could be just me... this time 21 years ago I had a soon-to-be 10 pounder making me short of breath!)

Hope to see you there! I'll share a full report on the blog next week. :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Rocketful of Space Poems

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.

Here at Live Your Poem I'm getting ready for presentations at AASL and NCTE (Poetry Friday Friends, please let me know if you will be at either conference, so we can meet!)... and also working my way through the Cybils-nominated poetry books. What fun! And today I want to share with you A ROCKETFUL OF SPACE POEMS selected by John Foster, illustrations by Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln Children's Books).

The book gets all kinds of points for being imaginative. It begins with Space Fantasy by Patricia Leighton, visits the moon and introduces us to "Asteroid Dog" by Richard Evans. There's and "Email from the Space Hotel" by John Foster and a "Garage Sale in Outer Space" by Robert Scotellaro. Witches and wizard and monsters and "Inter-galactic Squibble-ball" by David Harmer. And of course there's a "Dumb Earthling" by Clive Webster" and a few space-y riddle poems to give readers a light, fun romp through space. It also includes a poem by our very on J. Patrick Lewis that I'm happy to share with you below -- especially for those among us who have said or heard "are we there yet?" Happy space-adventuring!

If You Drive to the Moon

If you drive to the moon in your average car,
And you wonder how long the trip is and how far --
Here's the answer. At seventy miles per hour
In the family sedan with its average horsepower,
No skyway patrolmen out cruising for speeders,
No need to feed flying parking meters,
Make sure you pack plenty of outer-space food,
Star-carsickness pills for the high altitude.
No to get to the moon on the lunar freeways
Will take you...
                              134 days!

- J. Patrick Lewis

Thursday, November 2, 2017

On Gratitude with Karen Eastlund

Hello and welcome to this month's installment of Spiritual Journey Thursday! Roundup is HERE, and I am delighted to welcome Karen Eastlund as our guest hostess. Welcome, Karen!

"I have a friend who starts her prayers with: “Father, thank you for another day.” I am always struck by the simplicity and intimacy of her prayers. She has much to teach me, and I consider her lessons more and more.

God so often seems remote, incomprehensible and unreachable, yet scriptures teach us the opposite: God as our creator, the good shepherd, the potter, etc. There is closeness in these images, and a sense of hands-on knowledge and compassion. Consider how we feel about our own creations… our children, our writing, our gardens and meals. What love we pour into them! These images describe a God who readily walks with us each day, shaping us, guiding us, protecting us. Psalm 139 speaks of God’s intimate knowledge of us: “You are familiar with all my ways… your hand will guide me… your right hand will hold me fast…you knit me together in my mother’s womb…”

I am thankful for a God who knows me inside and out, and who encourages me to come close in prayer. To me, this very thought is both shocking and heartwarming. Can God really be my closest confidant? Scriptures say yes, and say it overwhelmingly. My challenge is to remember and nurture this closeness in my life, to be open to God’s guidance.

The second part of my friend’s prayer that touches me is her thanks for the day. I love the simplicity and honesty of this prayer. It’s so easy to focus on the list of tasks before me, sometimes feeling overwhelmed, instead of savoring the gift of the day itself. And if I have overlooked the gift of the day, what other gifts have I overlooked?

I hope to cultivate an attitude of gratitude this month, thanking God for each day, for water and sky, for the cool air and the beauty of the season. I hope to look for blessings in my life, and to give thanks for each one.

May the spirit of gratitude be with you, and keep you searching for blessings in each and every day ahead."
Many thanks to Karen for those beautiful words! It reminds me of a poem I've just run across as I've been downsizing my poetry collection. (How many times have I kept a book when there is only one or two poems in it that I adore?! Now I am working on recording those poems in digital files and gifting the poetry book.)
 Here is one of those poems:

Small Wire

My faith
is a great weight
hung on a small wire,
as doth the spider
hang her baby on a thin web,
as doth the vine,
twiggy and wooden,
hold up grapes
like eyeballs,
as many angels
dance on the head of a pin.

God does not need
too much wire to keep Him there, 
just a thin vein,
with blood pushing back and forth in it,
and some love.
As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
So if you have only a thin wire,
God does not mind.
He will enter your hands
as easily as ten cents used to 
bring forth a Coke.

- Anne Sexton

Some days I have only a thin wire. But it is enough. And yes yes yes to appreciating the beautiful day! Reminds me of "I thank you God for most this amazing" by e.e. cummings. Here's the first stanza:

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

... and now, I invite you to share your links below!