Category Archives: National Poetry Month

Learning from Writing: Reflections on the Poem-a-Day Challenge 2019

After 60 days of daily writing, it’s time to reflect on all I’ve learned from writing every day.  My first 30 days were entries classified as “slice of life,” vignettes and stories from life as I lived it. The second 30 days were poems, one each day of April as part of my classroom poem-a-day challenge.

The first and most important lesson learned is that daily writing makes daily writing easier. The more I write, the more I have to say.  That is not to say that writing is easy.  In fact, writing is work.  Every. Single. Day.  I have my share of “writer’s block,” but when I expect to write every day, I look for strategies to push through it.  Throughout my day I find myself paying attention to words, images, interactions…everything I encounter is potential fodder for my writing.

A tiny, furry caterpillar scurrying across the sidewalk grabs my attention and I stop to take a photo or two, knowing that there’s a story or a poem or a musing about life somewhere in that fuzzy body.  I’m reminded that attention to tiny, perfect things primes me for daily writing.

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I’ve also learned that my students need me to give them tips, techniques, and inspiring mentor texts to nurture them as writers.  They need to see me as not just their teacher, but as a fellow writer who also experiences challenges and successes, who starts and stops, and even stalls sometimes during the composing process.  My scribbles and scratch throughs show that writing takes effort and that it is worth the effort.  Being a writer in a community of writer breathes wind beneath our writerly wings.

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I’ve learned to see revision as a gift rather than a chore.  Writing doesn’t have to be perfect as you lay the words on the page.  Revision invites opportunities to revisit and re-see, allowing for new ideas to reshape that thinking on the page.  I especially love what revision offers my students.  Once they push past the idea that “done” is the goal, they are willing to rework their writing, especially when they have specific techniques to experiment with and concrete feedback to focus the reworking.

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say a brain surgeon.  You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.  Robert Cormier

I leave this post saying now what?  60 days of blogging challenges have kept me accountable to my daily writing.  Will I write tomorrow without a challenge to motivate me?  Will I invent a new challenge to keep myself going?  Can I keep up a daily writing practice without posting publicly?  And what will keep my students writing?  They will spend time over the next week or two curating their poems: selecting and revising to create a book that showcases ten of the poems written in April.

Habits are hard to form and easy to break, so I’ll be working to keep this writing habit alive…for myself and for my students.

 

 

Temporary: NPM 2019 Day 30

30 poems in 30 days…poof, April is done.

Today’s poem was inspired by the art I saw carved in the sand on my walk today and the power of fleeting experiences.

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Temporary

 

Swoops and swirls

scratched in the sand

transform the expanses of low tide

into a canvas

 

The view from above

reveals a seascape

nautilus shells and giant kelp

dwarfing people who mill around

brushstrokes along the shoreline

 

Like voices spoken into the wind,

laughter shared between friends,

the magic is elusive

rising tides erase each mark

washing the canvas

into the sea

 

Though seemingly temporary

art experienced,

laughter shared,

words spoken

leave trails in our brains

and on our hearts

 

A canvas wiped clean

makes space

for reimagined creations

interactions with

space, time

sand and sea

 

Temporary

is time enough

to make a mark

 

©Douillard

Searching for Blue: NPM 2019 Day 29

A weekend with a horrific shooting at a local synagogue and today’s unexpected downpour created a feeling of gray that seemed to seep through the bones into the soul.

On the second to the last day of National Poetry Month, here is my poem for the day.

Searching for Blue

 

Some days feel like

crawling through a tunnel of gray

sides pushing in

narrowing vision

muffling sound

restricting each breath

 

breathe in, breathe out

 

I search for a crack

a break in the tunnel

a space where light

threads through

brightening the sky

where streaks of blue open paths

to hope and possibility

 

©Douillard

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Wavy Turban Snail: NPM 2019 Day 28

Wavy Turban Snail

Wearing an elaborate castle

the wavy turban snail

pushes out its foot and sticks it to a rock

while salty waves splash

and then recede

exposing

the spiral  staircase

that reaches to the sky

embracing spring sunshine at low tide

wearing a feathery cap

or just bringing red algae

along as a friend

the snail pulls in

preserving the wet

and keeping the drying sun out

in its castle

on the rock

©Douillard

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Texture: NPM 2019 Day 27

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Impressions

My eyes trace the curves

filigree curlicues

etched

into what was once a smooth sheet

Blue peeks through

adding a pillow of soft

to the sculpted edges

Shadows cast on concrete

echo as sunlight

passes through

cooling the midday rays

Texture tap dances

on my heart

rhythms as reminders

that life takes place

in the spaces between

touch the raised surfaces

the dips and cutouts

the places we feel

leaving impressions

imprints

of life lived

©Douillard

 

Royal Terns: NPM 2019 Day 26

Though it’s still April, we’re already dealing with what will soon become May gray.  It’s that pervasive marine layer that characterizes spring and early summer here in Southern CA.  But we really can’t complain.  The weather is mild and the ocean always welcomes.

Today I noticed the royal terns hanging out on the beach.  Before I knew what they were, I called them Groucho Marx seagulls.  They have big dark eyebrows and a bright orange beak. Distinctive, distinguished, comical.

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Today poem is a Haiku…short and sweet.

Groucho Marx eyebrows

atop orange beak and white wings

shore birds entertain

©Douillard

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Lifeguard Towers: NPM 2019 Day 25

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Lifeguard Towers

 

They rest on their haunches

waiting out winter

tucked away

in suspended animation

until the warmth

of summer’s sun

(along with the the assist of a tractor or forklift)

entices them to water’s edge

 

Spring teases

with bright skies

swimmers tiptoe

into chilly seas

but the towers know better

and will wait

for the border of

May gray and June gloom

to make their way

to their perch

along the shore

©Douillard

Feasting on Yellow: NPM 2019 Day 24

Still leaning on paint chips, I realized I had left mine in the classroom.  After my walk, with yellow on my mind, I stopped by the home improvement store nearby and picked up a few paint chips.

Our local beaches are not known for their floral beauty, but I was struck by the abundance of native flowers at a beach a bit north of where I usually walk.

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Feasting on Yellow

I feast my eyes on

lemon meringue

garbanzo paste

English custard

plantain chips

sprinkled with turmeric

So many yellows

shards of sunshine

sprinkled across fields

taking root

dancing on my taste buds

I sip on spring’s energy

fragrant blossoms

bubbling, fizzing

unfolding

in my belly

I leave craving summer

©Douillard

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Between practicing for our state tests, our minimum day, and too many other demands, we didn’t have time for any sustained poetry writing in class today.  Here’s a couple of student poems from earlier in the week.

Rose Colored Glasses

I have my rose colored glasses on,

the grass is always greener.

I am going to the foggy harbor,

it’s a long drive so I need to take a taxi.

I still have my rose colored glasses on,

I will never take them off.

–Leah F.

 

Word Rocket

Poetry is like a rocket

blasting you off to a new world

of poems

and new vocabulary

plus new techniques

The fun thing is

your rocket never runs out of fuel

just keep exploring

in the galaxy of words

–Aspen

 

More Poetry Play: NPM 2019 Day 23

Today we went for it…paint chip poetry, metaphor dice, and Haikubes!  Students picked what they wanted, rolled dice, and wrote.  Poetry is flowing–some silly, some serious, and some simply beautiful.

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There’s something precious about the misconceptions students have about some of the paint chip colors.  Wax seals frolic in waves, pearly gates are beautifully adorned entryways, wisdom teeth make you smart, and blizzards create the icebergs that sank the Titanic.  But I also love the way they make these words work for them, weaving them into their 8 and 9 year old views of the world.

Here’s a smattering of poems that emerged today.

This is Just to Say

This is just to say

I was eating grapefruit

on the way to the pearly gates

I saw so many sunflowers

across the way

This is just to say

that everything that I saw

inspired me today!

McKay

 

Outside

the dappled sunlight

is shining so bright

on the dandelions

in the grassland

Leah P.

 

As you stare at a chalkboard

you move slow

as you see a wax seal

you go closer

it is so detailed

as you start to hear a whale song

you love the slow, loud musical whale song

you keep hearing it

then you see a seal jumping in the waves

it looks like a wax seal.

Brooks

Last night I invited students to write Poetry Is poems.  Here is the one Alice wrote:

Poetry

Poetry is like

weaving

threading words

together

to create something

beautiful

When I listen

to poetry

sounds jumps out

sounds as loud as

a bear’s roar

or as soft as the

fluttering

of

a butterfly’s

wings,

all waiting be heard

Poetry can feel

as smooth

as silk

or as gravelly

as loose

cement

Poetry can taste

like sunshine

on a platter of gold

or like

melted stone

in a bowl

of rubber

Poetry can change

Alice

And my own, inspired by a few paint chips (and a cube I forgot to use!):

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Poetry is

the sweet pop

of purple joy

pulled from the blackberry bramble

key lime so tart

it puckers your mouth

and makes your saliva run

warm sticky honey

that reminds you

of summer days of youth

the blues

played low and slow

lamenting opportunities lost

hinting at possibilities

yet to come

©Douillard

 

Paint Chips and #USvsHate: NPM 2019 Day 22

I finally got the chance to break out the Paint Chip Poetry with my students–and they loved it! I shared a few of my attempts, explaining how the poems don’t have to be about color…they could use the paint chip words with whatever topic they wanted.

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And because there is an #USvsHate deadline for student anti-hate messaging on Friday, I encouraged students to write anti-hate poetry.

I wish I had taken a photo of the paint chips upside down on the back table where students were invited to choose 3 or 4 at random.  Some cheated a bit–giving back chips that they didn’t understand or didn’t like.  And some “borrowed” paint chip words that they saw and liked…from one of my poems or something they saw as I showed the huge variety they would have to choose from.

Some of the poems were simple…but oh, so interesting.  Aspen pulled “Sahara” as one of the paint chips and wrote this:

As I moonwalk

in the Sahara desert

I look up and see

the magical blue moon

and then look ahead at the

endless dunes

Luca (who broke his arm over the weekend and had to write wrong-handed today) wrote about the Earth on Earth Day.

Earth

It’s the neighbor

to the red planet

but unlike Mars

with its radical red

our world has a verdant green

and heavenly blue

with white clouds

like a blank canvas.

And Hudson, often reluctant to commit words to a page, wrote this piece in about 2 minutes! Clearly paint chips inspired him!

As I cross

those pearly gates

and cross the antique brass

I boarded that old ship

and expected smooth sailing

But soon a blizzard

created an iceberg

and before you know it

a big chunk of ice

sank that old ship that they called

the Titanic

And a couple anti-hate poems.  It was fun to see both the paint chip influence AND the influence of some of our class read-alouds.  We recently finished reading Save Me a Seat about a 5th grader who had recently immigrated from India to a school in New Jersey.  He found himself the victim of a charismatic, mean bully–making fun of him and treating him badly–to the point that he wanted to quit school.  The characters learn a lot about themselves…including the power of reflecting on their own actions.  I see evidence of this book in Elli’s poem:

Her name is Sunset

people think its weird

but I don’t get it

As she watches the bird making a nest

someone out of nowhere said

I hate you and hate the birds

As your wisdom tooth is growing

and the fire is blowing

hate shouldn’t be a thing

but kindness should always be a part of our life

the kindness of our joy

will bring us love

bad names like curryhead or bom bom butt

say who cares because that’s junk

things that do matter

are happily happy things

hate or no hate?

And Henry is thinking about how to make a difference through his poem.

US vs Hate

In a garden bed

with four leaf clovers

A boy makes good luck

turn into real life.

His wish was for everyone

to feel like they’re special.

A tiny change

makes a big change

A tiny change

makes everyone change.

For my poem I pulled four chips: wonderful wisteria, smoke signal, black tie, and lily of the valley.

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Sending Signals

Watch out for words

thoughts’ smoke signals

have fire to burn

causing damage beneath the skin

Don’t let a disguise

of suit and black tie

mask the danger,

excuse the vitriol

Listen carefully to your own words too

smell them

consider how they will affect others

Are you spreading wonderful wisteria,

lily of the valley

or the stink of malice

and stereotype?

©Douillard