Wednesday, April 12, 2017

ARTSPEAK! Portraits poem "Sixteen" + Janet F.'s line in our Progressive Poem

Hello and Happy National Poetry Month! Here it is, day 12 of ARTSPEAK!: Portraits, my National Poetry Month poem-a-day project, during which I am looking, listening with my spirit ear, and asking these subject to share with me their secrets.

But first: Janet F. is in the house! It's her day to add to our Progressive Poem, and I am happy to host her here at Live Your Poem. Take it away, Janet!

You will find my line below in bold, but first, here’s a toast to the Progressive Poem 2017, the poets and our host (and my host), Irene! Bravo to all!

Janet is passionate about early literacy
experiences for all kids and loves
watching her first grandchild
grow into a lover of words and books. 
I’m so happy Irene is once again allowing me to write from her blog!  Someday I will have one, but for now I am on Facebook as Janet Clare, comment on blogs as Janet F.,  am a Poetry Advocate, poet and retired teacher interested in joyous literacy for all kids. I’m president of the Central New York Pen Women Branch, NLAPW ( which keeps me very busy! I’m a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club and a believer in allowing children free access to all kinds of books in a literacy-rich classroom without stress from over-emphasis on testing. 

My biggest discovery as a teacher, very late in my long career, was the value of learning poems by heart and reciting them as a class with no requirement to participate. (They all did.) I continue to substitute teach in my old school and beam when kids say, “oh, you’re the poetry teacher, right? Are we doing poetry today?” Or “you’re my favorite sub because we get to do poetry.” 

Many thanks to Irene and to my Poetry Friday friends and bloggers here, old and new. In my last year of teaching I discovered the Kidlitosphere thanks to Heidi Mordhorst and I have rejoiced ever since. 

So, we’re off to a grand start with our poem about a kid. For kids.  Thanks to Ramona at Pleasures from the Page I had a lot to play with. I thought about sound and syllable and rhyme and pattern, but mostly when I played with my line, I wondered about this child, this bouncy, story-sprouting child. A child with zest, imagination and a playful spirit. Or so it seems. What is she (or he) really like? What stage is he or she drawn to, what is the enticing story? 
I can see so many possibilities. Is this child a viewer, a performer, a reader, a reciter? Does she juggle? Does he breakdance?  Endless wonder.  In the end I decided to use his (or her) energy to lead us on.

 I toss our poem on to Margaret at Reflections on the Teche  and continue to wonder about our fidgety, creative, story-loving friend.

I’m fidget, friction, ragged edges—
I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle,
stories of castles, of fires that crackle,
with dragonwords that smoke and sizzle.

But edges sometimes need sandpaper,
like swords need stone and clouds need vapour.
So I shimmy out of my spurs and armour
facing the day as my fickle, freckled self.

I thread the crowd, wear freedom in my smile,
and warm to the coals of conversation.
Enticed to the stage by strands of story,
I skip up the stairs in anticipation.

Isn’t April and National Poetry Month here in the Blogosphere wonderful? I simply love it. It’s better than being in a candy store! The delicious richness of the offerings of so many talented, creative thinkers fills me to the brim with sweet delight. Thank you all. 

Thank YOU, Janet! I am skipping up the stairs in anticipation, too! (Btw, for the purposes of this post, I took the liberty of adding the stanza breaks back in... it's easier for me to read... but as ever, it's up to those of you with lines yet to write!)

And now, here are the ARTSPEAK! Portraits poems so far:

11. "Promise" after Portrait of a Little Italian Girl by Maria Kroyer
10. "Portrait of a Writer" after Oskar Maria Graf by Georg Schrimpf
9. "Speaking of the Weather" after Profile of a Woman by Fujishima Takeji
8. "Happiness" after Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun
7. "Virginia, Sitting for a Portrait" after Portrait of Virginia (Little Girl) by Frida Kahlo
6. "Paint-by-Number" after Portrait of a Woman by Alexei von Jawlensky
4. "I Am" after The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas by George Catlin
3. "What If?" after Portrait of Camille Roulin by Vincent van Gogh
2. "The Lady Confesses" after Portrait of a Lady with Mask and Cherries by Benjamin Wilson
1. "Mona Lisa in Love" after Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

And now for today's subject! A portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne by her husband Amedeo Modigliani. Here's what she'd like you to know:

Readers, Jeanne is rather a tragic figure. An artist in her own right, she married Modigliani at a young age. Shortly after her husband died -- when she was only 22 -- she committed suicide. You can find out more about Jeanne here. Jeanne was actually 21 when she sat for this portrait. But to me, she looks so young -- and, knowing what was to happen to her, I couldn't help but imagine her as a teen. There's a softness and innocence in her face, but also an almost-menacing resolve. She seems to me caught in the inbetweenland of power and powerlessness. She seems sixteen. And so, for me, for this poem, she is! Thanks so much for reading!


  1. Wow, there's so much goodness in this post! Thanks, Janet and Irene!

    1. Thank you, Ruth. I always love watching the progression of this poem, mainly it is fun, but have lots of trepidation when it is my turn!! I love Irene's poems based on famous art. She is quite inspiring. This one is so poignant. Janet

  2. Janet, now you've begun more questions, up on that stage for what? Wonderful anticipation for us, too. And Irene, that sixteen year old's many-faceted moods - beautifully shown. I love her look in the portrait.

    1. I much wonder. Can't wait to read what happens next! And yes, Irene's poem is lovely. That face is so familiar from his paintings. Janet

  3. Ohhhh, Janet, I love that our spirited child is headed up those stairs. Already anticipating Margaret's line tomorrow. And Irene, your poem captures that sixteen year old inbetweenland struggle. What a sad story of this young artist.

    1. Thank you, Ramona. I can't wait to read what Margaret does with the next part of our poem. And yes, this poem of Irene's does speak to both the woman in the painting and to the rest of us, too.

  4. As Linda said, now I am full of anticipation. What awaits the narrator, and us, at the top of the stairs? Irene, I love Modigliani and have always felt his compassion for his subjects shines through in their portraits. This has a different feel, though, an edge which your poem captures perfectly.

    1. Oh, I can't wait to see what Margaret writes and I agree about the way Irene's poem catches the discord in this young woman's life.

  5. I love the skipping. So childlike. I'm excited to see what's next!

    1. Thanks, Penny. I tried all sorts of words there and felt skips fit really well. Eager to see where we are headed. I think there are many possibilities.

  6. Janet, your line captures the childlike spirit of the character who awaits what at the top of the stairs??? Irene, Jeanne's life ends in tragedy but as a 16 year old she is suffering from teenage angst. Words like pressing, drowning, trash-fish as compared to heart, teasing, drift show her up-down side but that description of her as the shark is seen in her eyes. Well done, ladies!

    1. Thank you, Carol. It will be interesting to see where Margaret takes us and I can't wait to read the next poems Irene is working on. They are thought-provoking and really perfect reflections of these portrait paintings.

  7. Replies
    1. I know....what if, what next, what might to let our imaginations run wild.

  8. "I skip up the stairs" is so fun to say, and a great fit for this intriguing poem and lively character! Thanks, Janet, and gratitude for your warm and wonderful energy, too.

    Irene - wow. Seems perfectly suited to the portrait, and... that last line! RHB (raises one eyebrow, applauds!)

  9. Hooray for Janet's line, and WOW! That shark is all kinds of the truth! I was one at sixteen and for quite a few years after that. The shark only comes out very occasionally now... :-)

  10. Oooh. Ooh. Ooh. So true of a teen girl. Nailed it.

    Janet - Your line is such fun to read! I am truly enjoying these alliterative and joyous lines. Where next??



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