Friday, April 18, 2008

Poetry Friday

Writer2b featured a poem a few weeks ago that several of us puzzled over. This made me think about the importance of "interpretation" in poetry, and the reason for reading a poem. Last week she posted a poem about poetry, The Secret by Denise Levertov, which got me thinking even more. This week I am offering up a poem by Don Paterson, a Scottish poet. He seems to be speaking directly to my thoughts.

"I would say that the poem exists in a space somewhere between the reader and the author, and in a sense belongs to neither, and both." -Don Paterson

Poetry by Don Paterson

In the same way that the mindless diamond keeps
one spark of the planet's early fires
trapped forever in its net of ice,
it's not love's later heat that poetry holds,
but the atom of the love that drew it forth
from the silence: so if the bright coal of his love
begins to smoulder, the poet hears his voice
suddenly forced, like a bar-room singer's -- boastful
with his own huge feeling, or drowned by violins;
but if it yields a steadier light, he knows
the pure verse, when it finally comes, will sound
like a mountain spring, anonymous and serene.
Beneath the blue oblivious sky, the water
sings of nothing, not your name, not mine.
Roundup is at The Well-Read Child

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Yeah! We have started poetry in 4th grade. We started with an "author study' of Douglas Florian, poet and illustrator. This proved to be a great hit. Florian doesn't use a lot of metaphor and simile; his poems are down to earth and short. As my students noted, some make you laugh, some make you sad, and some make you go "hmmm".

We turned to Joyce Sidman to go a little deeper. The class loved her mystery poems in Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. I registered their enthusiasm for the guessing game (and the fact it really makes them pay attention to the words) and put up a poem each day without the title and asked "Who am I?"

For fun I've been reading Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky. They love it so much they almost stormed the classroom of another teacher on learning that it was locked in their classroom. No self-respecting teacher should be without this book. You don't need sub plans if you have Scranimals.

Today, we tackled Basho. My collaborating ELL teacher has a thing about haiku and brought this wonderful picture book to share with the class Grass Sandals : The Travels of Basho by Dawine Spivak and illustrated by Demi. This is a great introduction to the ultimate master of haiku. It tells of his travel by foot across Japan and how he was inspired to write his poems. It includes haikus by Basho and his successor Issa.

hibiscus flowers
munched up in the horse's mouth
eaten one by one

winking in the night
through holes in my paper wall-
moon and the Milky Way

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poetry Friday

I was looking for a poem about sunflowers because it is April 11, and we have a Winter Storm Warning in Minnesota (six months of winter and counting), and spring break is gone, and testing begins next week. Yesterday, as the sleet shot at my windscreen, and the windshield wipers worked overtime, I tried to describe a field of sunflowers in France to my daughter.
Anyway, as you will see, I did not find that poem this time (though some of you may be able to point me in the right direction). I was intrigued by this title. Mostly because doing laundry reminds me of my mother, who loves nothing better than to hang white cotton sheets out to dry on the line on a windy day. This may be a well known poem but it is my first encounter and I am warmed by it. So many beautiful images. But best of all, the last two lines describes what I would like to be able to do.
Roundup is at A Wrung Sponge

Doing Laundry on Sunday
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

So this is the Sabbath, the stillness
in the garden, magnolia
bells drying damp petticoats

over the porch rail, while bicycle
wheels thrum and the full-breasted tulips
open their pink blouses

for the hands that pressed them first
as bulbs into the earth.
Bread, too, cools on the sill,

and finches scatter bees
by the Shell Station where a boy
in blue denim watches oil

spread in phosphorescent scarves
over the cement. He dips
his brush into a bucket and begins

to scrub, making slow circles
and stopping to splash water on the children
who, hours before it opens,

juggle bean bags outside Gantsy’s
Ice Cream Parlor,
while they wait for color to drench their tongues,

as I wait for water to bloom
behind me—white foam, as of magnolias,
as of green and yellow

birds bathing in leaves—wait,
as always, for the day, like bread, to rise
and, with movement

imperceptible, accomplish everything.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Poetry Friday

I am in Kentucky for Spring Break, so I thought a Wendell Berry poem would be appropriate. There are so many great lines, "Love someone who does not deserve it", "Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees", "Be joyful though you have considered all the facts".

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Roundup is at Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Power of the Series

My 8 year old is a series junky. Whenever I suggest a new title to her, the first question out of her mouth is, "Is it a series?" The second one is, "Does it involve animals and/or fairies?" If the answer is no, there is a high probability the book goes unread and she misses out on some fabulous fiction. She is currently reading books from five different series: Harry Potter, Warriors, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Rainbow Magic, The Fairytale Detectives and she's waiting impatiently for the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians fourth installment. On a recent trip to the bookstore she picked up book one in The Faerie Wars Chronicles. I read series too when I was younger but they never had the same staggering number of titles e.g. Dark is Rising, Chronicles of Narnia. Even the Potter series at seven books is a lightweight compared to the others. There are currently 63 titles in the Rainbow Magic series, 15 Warriors titles (plus guides and graphic novels), and title number 14 comes in October for the Guardians. The problem is that it takes my daughter about thirty minutes to read a Rainbow Magic book and a day for the Warriors and Guardians. So, obviously there is some compelling story telling going on there but is there much else? Mind you, I did learn that there is such a thing as burrowing owls when she read me a chapter.

I have noticed this trend with my sixth graders, too. We've got the Eragon Trilogy, Artemis Fowl, Maximum Ride, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Clique, Uglies Trilogy (which has a fourth book????), His Dark Materials Trilogy , Ranger's Apprentice, The Underland Chronicles, The Twilight Saga, The Looking Glass Wars, Charlie Bone, The Bartimaeus Trilogy and need I go on?

Serial success is so abundant that writers that already have one start others. James Patterson is following on the success of Maximum Ride with The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. The three ladies who write Warriors have a new series Seekers about bears. Other writers, flushed with success, suddenly find the fact that they originally declared their series a trilogy rather inconvenient, so they have to call the new books something else. Philip Pullman is writing a prequel to his series about young Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison called Once Upon a Time in the North and in 2003 he wrote a "stand alone novel" Lyra's Oxford. Pullman calls these "amuse-bouche—you know, those little French hors d’Ĺ“uvres served at the beginning of a meal to whet the appetite. Each one is a short story, really, intended to divert and entertain." He also plans to write more stand alone novels about Lyra the next is The Book of Dust.

Publishers also know they are on to a good thing. You can count down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the next book in your favorite series come out (see widget). Then there are the websites. Some of them are really fun. I found out what clan I would be in if I was a Warrior Cat, which house I'd be in at Hogwarts, and what my daemon would be if I lived in Lyra's world. I think that this topic will have to be a separate post.

It's hard when you come to the end of a book you love. You mope around for days and there's a big hole inside. Today's youth don't have to deal with that pain. There's always another book in the series, the trilogy turns out to be five books, or the characters turn up in another series. Even if they're not great literature (excluding Pullman of course), they've got kids hooked. Even with all the other distractions - I spent two hours on my daughter's Nintendo DS today trying to light a virtual fire with virtual twigs -they're reading!!!! I really think JK Rowling, much as I hate to admit it, started a mini-revolution. She's worth more than the Queen of England, and that is a revolution in itself.