Category Archives: National Poetry Month

Where Poems Hide: NPM20 Day 16

How is it that time both stands still and seems on permanent fast forward at the same time?  And in this warped dimension, I am looking for poems while also stuck in my house, my yard, my neighborhood.  I’m trying to figure out where poems hide.

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My latest photographic endeavor is trying to uncover which stray weed or bedraggled plant in my backyard will make an interesting photograph.  Combine these two unexpected and yet enduring constraints…and here is what you get:

Where Poems Hide

 

This ordinary weed conjures magic.

Get close.  When you do

 

you will discover

worlds

 

where miniature feathered fairy umbrellas

float

drifting along unmapped pathways

on invisible air currents

 

landing in cracks

on walls

in sidewalks

between mineral crusted rocks

on thick carpets of carefully groomed lawns

 

waiting for nature’s elixir

dew drops

raindrops

sprinkler drops

to set off the chain reaction

 

Sturdy stems root in

toes grabbing hold

standing firm

against weather

and weed whips

 

until a riot of sunburst yellow

explodes

polka dotting

unsuspecting landscapes

 

This is the place where poems blossom

hiding behind petals

floating on a child’s breath

 

listen closely

you’ll hear

the poetry of the

dandelion

®Douillard

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Time for Revision: NPM20 Day 15

On day 15 of our poem-a-day challenge I invited my students to revise.  In this remote learning environment my usual revision strategies–class brainstorming, working with peer partners, individual conferring–were not in play.

I spent some time thinking about ways to help my students understand HOW to revise, what concrete steps they might take to improve a poem written earlier this month.  So I started by thinking about some characteristics of effective poetry.  The use of simile and metaphor, sensory images, the use of vivid verbs and carefully selected details, personification, sound words…you get the idea.  I create a chart of these poetry elements for my students to select from as they considered a revision.  And I videotaped myself giving some directions…and thinking aloud about my own revision.

I reminded students to pick a poem they cared about–but not the one they love the best.  I wanted them to want to make changes!  Then I asked them to pick one or two elements from the chart to use for their revision.  I demonstrated with my own poem–stopping the video to do my own revisions–and then reading the new version at the end.  And because we revise when we have a reason, the point of this revision was to use the revised poem in our project…to make a narrated version of the revised poem using Adobe Spark Video.  I also asked for students to submit the “before” and “after” versions of the poem in our Google Classroom.

I selected my poem Waterworks to revise:

Waterworks

In this place where skies
are desert dry and sapphire blue

water pours
rushing down streets pooling on lawns

snails skate
down sidewalks worms
rise up
birds duck and cover

and I walk soaking up
sky tears breathing in water-saturated air

fully submerged in today’s
waterworks

®Douillard

I thought about how I might incorporate sound into my poem and a simile.  As I revised, I found that my ending wanted to change, making myself a part of the waterworks I was describing.  (I did have a student tell me he liked my original better than the revision!)

Waterworks (revision)

In this place
where skies are often
dry
and as blue as the jeans I wear walking in my neighborhood

water pours

sploosh-shushing down sloping streets

pooling like soup bowls on once dry lawns

snails skateboard
down slippery sidewalks
worms
rise up
bird—sensing danger—duck and cover

and I keep walking

soaking up sky tears

that mix with my own

and I become a part of today’s
waterworks

®Douillard

 

In our remote learning environment, my students worked at their own pace.  They decided when to work on revision, when to work on math…  After a while I started to notice the revisions coming in.

I love it when my students get it!  And even more so, when this complex task works out in this remote learning environment.  I picked a few to share with you.  Here is K’s revision:

Kylies revision

R’s revision resulted in a slightly new…and musical focus:

Remys revision

And P’s revision brings an interesting new simile into play:

Patricks revision

Now the challenge will be to keep both the poetry writing and the revision going as we continue through the month.  I’ll be thinking up some more reasons to revise…at least one poem each week to keep practicing revision, and hopefully internalize more poetry elements as well.

I’d love to hear your revision stories.  How does revision work in your classroom?  With your writing?  In this remote learning environment?  And the snail is to remind myself that writing can be a slow process…that you have to stick with it, stay on the path…and that you carry all you need on your back and in your heart!

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Ode to Decaf: NPM20 Day 14

I’m definitely feeling the poetic struggle as I reach mid-month.  My mind is on my students and figuring out how to support them in this distance learning emergency.  I’m housebound with little outside inspiration.  My neighborhood is nice–but it really isn’t evoking poetic thoughts right now.

So instead…I turn to thoughts of the coffee I drink every morning.  The coffee I crave…want…need…  And I know it’s not about a caffeine addiction, I switched to decaf more than a decade ago.  So today’s poem is an ode…to decaf.

Ode to my Decaf

 

I swim in its depths

the warm, dark steamy whirls

of decaffeinated comfort

 

earthy aroma

that spirals

from my mug directly

into my nostrils

 

steaming open my brain

loosening thoughts

opening the doors

to today

 

the whir of the bean grinder

echoes

the drip drip drip

a tympanic symphony

within the glass carafe

 

I come up for breath

wrapping my hands

around the ceramic

warming

from the inside out

 

for me

it’s not the caffeine

it’s the coffee

 

®Douillard

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A Poetry Game: NPM20 Day 13

Spring Break is over (sigh) and we’re back at our distance learning.  It’s still National Poetry Month and we’re deep into the poem-a-day challenge in my classroom.  To change things up a bit, today we played a poetry game.

At school I have some different versions of poetry dice (or writing dice).  You know, those cubes with words printed on them.  To create a virtual version of rolling word dice, I found a cube template online, pulled together a poetry word list, made a video of myself explaining how to make poetry dice…and then what to do with them once they had their own versions of the dice in front of them.

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Using an old favorite, the poetry book I am Writing a Poem About…A Game of Poetry edited by Myra Cohn Livingston, I asked my students to roll their dice 3 times, collecting 3 words that they would craft into a poem.  (I used all nouns on the dice, trusting students would be able to come up with other words to create their poems…following the book’s lead.)

In the book, the 3-word version of the game uses the words: ring, drum, blanket.  I used the poem Grizzly by Madeleine Comora (from the book) as an example text.  Students could use the poem as a mentor poem or not.

 

I rolled the words purple, basket, and waves.  I was immediately drawn into my poem thinking about the song America the Beautiful…at first having purple waves of grain in my head.  After a bit of revision, I realized I had written an #USvsHate poem.

America

 

In this place we know

with purple mountains majesty

and amber waves of grain

 

there are some

who carry baskets

that are empty

 

let’s fill those spaces

with love and compassion

opportunity and freedom from oppression

 

when the gaps close

and all can thrive

that’s when

we’ll truly have

brotherhood

sisterhood

personhood

from sea to shining sea

#USvsHate

 

®Douillard

Here are a couple of early student examples:

E was excited to roll night, mountain and egret…he said it was the best combination ever.  (When I questioned the missing word mountain, he said that he thought volcano was a good substitution since mountains can be volcanos.)

 No Light On Dreadnaught Island

 

South West from Moon Island I’m told,

A haunted island lies.

No sailor roams there freely and bold,

No egrets fly in the skies,

From the volcanoes belching their lava out,

Evil creatures of magma come,

In one big lava spout.

With all their arrogance, they even defy the very Sun.

And ruling the island, throwing everything in sight, is the great Magma Golem,

He’s rude, impatient, and very solemn.

Here it always seems to be night,

And there’s not a thing that doesn’t bite.

R rolled cactus, stoplight, and rock

Desert

 

A desert

of thirsty

dry rocks

 goes tumbling 

down sand biomes.

The spiny cactus

as a bright 

stoplight reminding

the earth to stay still.

It’s your turn.  What can you do with 3 randomly rolled (or selected) words?  You’re welcome to borrow ours and try your hand at a poem or two!  We’d love to know what you come up with!

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Blackout Poetry: NPM20 Day 11

Thanks goodness for the National Writing Project…just when my inspiration was beginning to lag and a poem every day started to feel like a chore, this post arrived in my Twitter Feed. Blackout poetry–why hadn’t I thought of that?

So I grabbed the newspaper that arrives only on the weekend and was immediately drawn into an article about the only school in California that has not closed due to the coronavirus. I selected words that drew my attention, not really paying much attention to anything other than the fact that they called to me.

I started to arrange the words, grabbing one here, another there, combining others into phrases until I had a poem in front of me. And then I wondered…had I broken the rules of blackout poetry by rearranged the words rather than taking them in the order they appeared?

So I tried again–this time only using space as my poetic license. I haven’t taken the time to actually black out the rest of the text as I’ve seen done before…and I did doodle a laptop…a connection to the now of schooling with no schools.

So here’s the photo of the blackout process…and both versions of the poetry. Does one speak to you louder than the other? What meaning emerges from these selected words?

Holdout  (version 1)

Virus accelerates

U.S. now closed

 

10,520 schools

shuttered education

disinfected

sanitized

students stay home

 

Essential

social distancing

tangled clusters

walnut trees

 

generations

shelter-in-place

Civil War

 

None of us knows when

school will resume

®Douillard

 

10,520 Holdout (version 2)

accelerates

stay home

essential schools

students shuttered

 

Civil War

walnut trees

education

 

generations

shelter-in-place

 

virus

disinfected

sanitized

 

social distancing

tangled clusters

 

none of us knows when

U.S.

now closed

 

school will resume

®Douillard

 

Water Works: NPM20 Day 10

Will it ever stop raining? We have gone from impending drought here in Southern California to several inches over our rainfall average for the year. Today alone we may have gotten more rain than we often get in months!

The downside of the nonstop rain is that feeling of being cooped up in the house. We’ve had no real breaks in the rain today…so I finally decided I would walk, rain or not. I got into my raincoat, grabbed my (mostly neglected) umbrella and headed out. The skies opened up about halfway through my walk. I pulled up my hood and popped the umbrella and forged forward. The walk was just what I need…

So today I offer a water poem.

Water Works

In this place

where skies

are desert dry

and sapphire blue

water pours

rushing down streets

pooling on lawns

snails skate

down sidewalks

worms

rise up

birds duck and cover

and I walk

soaking up

sky tears

breathing in

water-saturated

air

fully submerged

in today’s

water works

®Douillard