Some of our beaches reopened this week–much to my delight. I’m back to walking the shoreline as often as possible (when the tide allows walking room that fits my work schedule). On Monday morning I noticed the mucky, murky waves…and remembered that we are in the midst of a red tide. A red tide is an algae bloom and all that muck is red algae.
During the day, the red tide is not particularly appealing…but at night, it’s spectacular! Last night we headed the beach after sunset, in the dusky light before darkness comes. We were surprised at the number of people at the beach–it had been a gloomy day and there was plenty of cloud cover. But then, people were not there for the sun…they were there for the light!
As we parked we noticed lots and lots of surfers heading to the beach. People kept their distances, but one glance at the waves told the story of why they were at the beach as darkness was settling over the sea. As waves crashed, the water glowed brilliant blue!
We watched surfers soaring through the electric blue of the waves, waders and swimmers trying to catch up to the light. Walkers and gawkers in their coronavirus masks kept their distances and tried to capture this bioluminescent phenomenon with their cameras.
I’m always reminded that I need to work on my night photography technique when I get these spectacular photo ops after the sun sets. But I keep trying anyway. Even if the photos don’t begin to capture nature’s beauty, they do give a glimpse into the wonders of bioluminescence. And it was a wonderful break from staying at home in my neighborhood!
What a light show!
On the last day on National Poetry Month, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, I found myself without inspiration for poetry writing. So like all good writers, I picked up my phone to look for some inspiration. I started generally on Twitter where I found myself going down the rabbit hole of pandemic politics–lots of uproar about beaches and closures in our state, with the governor “punishing” Orange County for bad quarantine beach behavior during the heat wave last weekend. But I digress (you can see…I did go down that rabbit hole…)
And then I came across my friend Kevin’s blog where I found his pocket sized poem for today about watching. And then I remembered the rabbit–not the rabbit hole–from this morning…and I used Kevin’s words to find some of my own. (Thanks Kevin!)
Pandemic Morning Walk and Watch
Watching the wild rabbit on the black road
Watching the neighborhood walkers
Watching long-eyed snails crawl across almost dry sidewalks
Trying not to squish them
Watching misty dew drops slide down shrubs
Across crosshatched cobwebs
And down my unnecessary sunglasses into my eyes
Watching you as I cross the street
And the rabbit runs.
Our school librarian posted a book spine poetry challenge for my students today. With the poem-a-day challenge, students have done many different kinds of poetry, but I hadn’t introduced book spine poetry–so this was pretty perfect. And I was inspired to create my own book spine poem as well.
I’m not sure if it breaks the rules to add a title…but I did it anyway. Here is my book spine poem:
minds made for stories
open a world of possible
between the world and me
rhythm and resistance
the power of habit
writing and teaching to change the world
What poem will your book spines write?
Our mentor text for today was Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish, a fun reminder that there are topics that are overused and sometimes we need to think about the mundane, the ordinary, the run of the mill when we go looking for poems.
My students had fun with this. They wrote about grubs, paper, kumquats, an ant, a carrot and more. I am reminded that it really does take daily practice and a commitment to trying things that feel hard or uncomfortable to get better at whatever skill you are working on. I can see my students’ daily improvements, moments of breakthrough, troughs of lack of inspiration. One of the benefits of the this remote learning environment is that I am writing feedback on the poems that are submitted each day–and I see the take up of that feedback in subsequent poems.
My own poems are lacking that kind of feedback. But lucky for me, I am also learning from my students. As I study their poems, I learn about my own. When I see their fresh, unexpected moves, I imagine what those might look like in my own poetry. And like them, the daily practice matters.
So my own poem, inspired by Karla Kuskin’s Write About a Radish.
Write About Hands
Write about hands
too many people write about diamonds.
The shiny gold setting
the faceted cuts
that reflect the sun
creating a sky full of stars
in the moonless sky.
with unrefined nails
and sun beaten skin
wear those diamonds,
a symbol of a love
Last year in April I experimented with paint chip poetry with my students. It was so much fun to rifle through the paint chips, picking them at random and then incorporating them into poems. I noticed right away how this color language elevated their poems, adding a layer of sophistication to their already beautiful ideas.
And in this time of remote learning I wanted to figure out a way to bring a version of paint chip poetry to my students. Some google searches uncovered a thesaurus of color by a blogger on the web. This color thesaurus became our new version of paint chip poetry.
Having played with poetry dice a couple of weeks ago, students had already experimented with incorporating words into their ideas and poetry from outside sources. So today’s assignment to pick some color words to use when crafting their color-focused poems wasn’t a stretch. And there were some wonderful results!
K played with yellow words:
R took us out in space:
AT THE CENTER
MILLIONS OF TINY COLORS
LIKE SWIRLING BRIGHT BUTTER
IN A MIXING BOWL, FUCHSIA,
MAGENTA, GARNET, SCARLET,
THE COLORS OF THE GALAXY!!
WHITE FLECKS, TOO, OF ROSES AND SNOW,
ORANGE OF SUN, BLUE OF THE DEEPEST SEA.
AND THEN THERE’S LIGHT.
NOT THE WHITE LIGHT OF THE STARS, BUT
THE LIGHT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY, WHERE
BIRDS DRIFT AND SOAR. THE BLUE OF ICE
DELICATE AS LIFE.
And E started with canvas and ended up with autumn’s leaves:
An ivory surface,
A beautiful sheet.
Changing over time,
But sticking to an overall beat.
As hot as it is magnificent.
Chaotic as fire.
Glowing like the sun.
Leaving a trail of bitterness.
Spreading seeds across the page.
Night sky purple,
Dark but not dreary.
All these colors,
Put into one piece of paper,
One pile of Autumn leaves.
For my own poem, I found inspiration in my neighbor’s lawn as I walked down the street to check the mail.
They arrived in a flamboyance*
every color of pink
from the palest of morning sunrise skies
to the mortification
of heat that creeps up the neck
to blaze in your cheeks.
on the lawn
en pointe in ballet slippers
a display of extravagant proportion.
A quarantine gift for a neighbor
A delight for the neighborhood.
*a group of flamingos
Pick some interesting color words and try your hand at writing some poetry under the influence of color today!
These last couple of days have felt like summer. Temps rising into the high 80s, cloudless deep blue skies, lengthening days and so much time at home–it’s hard to believe we are still in April. And we came home from the grocery store with an artichoke yesterday; a huge, round, green globe that ended up as part of our dinner tonight…and the subject of today’s poem.
In the Artichoke Scraps…
In the purple papery leaves
and I remember racing through the sprinklers
screaming as the cold droplets landed on warm skin
laughing with my sister
as we ran back and forth across the lawn
In the salty butter
I taste home
dinner like clockwork at 5
our family of 4 gathered around the dinner table
to eat and argue
mediated by dad and the dictionary
In the sharp spines
a fortress is present
circle the wagons
with our hearts, soft and tender, at the center
closing tightly when necessary
In the leaves, the curves, the smells, and the taste
of an artichoke
all wrapped up in a thistle
Yesterday my students used Valerie Worth’s poem Safety Pin as their mentor text. This is a poem we had studied earlier in the school year–when I discovered that many of my students didn’t know what a safety pin was! Luckily, I had some safety pins in the classroom to show them.
With this poem in our remote learning environment, students were invited to craft a poem about an ordinary object–as defined by each individual. I am absolutely loving watching my young poets find their poetic voices!
D chose a spoon as the ordinary object:
E took on the power of paper:
And M–although I wouldn’t use ordinary to describe a clam, chose a clam as the ordinary object:
And I decided to write about my mask.
keeping my respirations close
breathing in and out
my own air
warmed by each breath
unrelieved by the breeze
distorting sore ears
to hold the cotton close
only eyes peering above
can you smile with your eyes?
I’m learning how.
It’s all on the slant
slippery and sliding
out of balance
out of whack
front door views
only in the neighborhood views
the world in a box
screen eyes, screens eyed
encircled by a 6 foot bubble
Waiting to connect
until the slant
My students and I are 23 days into our poem-a-day challenge. While not all have stayed caught up…many have. It’s such fun to watch their knowledge and skills with poetry and writing grow as they engage with written language and ideas every day.
Yesterday I invited students to create some Haiku focused on gratitude–something I had experienced through #haikuforhealing a while back. This seemed like a good time for some healing Haiku.
It was such fun to see what my student came up with. They posted their Haiku along with a photo on our class padlet. Here is a small collection of just the poetry–and notice how many students focused on family members as the subject of their poems.
And my own:
Neighborhood Naturewind brushing my face
dappled light bouncing off trees
nature brings me peace