Steven Withrow today PLUS April Hall of Fame winners PLUS the new word for May!

Voting for April poets has been wild and attracted three times more appreciative readers than we usually get. Thanks to everyone who participated. Last night at 10:00 CST the polls closed so I can now announce our April Hall of Fame Poet to be Barb Turner with second place going to V. L. Gregory. Tied for third place are Tricia Stohr-Hunt and Cassandra. Our April Hall of Fame Young Poet is Rachel Heinrichs who came in with a whopping 702 votes! Second place, with an enormous turnout of 377 votes, goes to Taylor McGowan. Third place goes to Hope Murphy. Liz Korba, a previouis Monthly Hall of Fame winner, received the most votes again this month among the adults and Steven Withrow, today’s guest and another past winner, tied with Tricia and Cassandra.Congratulations to all of our winning poets and my gratitude to everyone who gave us so much good reading by sharing their poems this month. As I’ve said many times, this month-end voting process is both to recognize the poets and to encourage more readers. Thanks to everyone for being good sports and entering into the fun of the monthly challenge. To all of our poets — adult and young, first timers and “old pros” –I look forward to seeing what you will contribute when I announce the word for May, which is: STONEAnd now it my pleasure to present today’s guest, Steven Withrow!

THE BRAVE LITTLE POET

By Steven Withrow

There’s bravado, audacity of spirit, in calling yourself a poet. In naming yourself publicly a writer of verse.Most people, on hearing your declaration (for a declaration it is), will not know how to respond straightaway. You might have said, “I’m a polar bear psychologist” or “I’m a night gardener,” for all the sense it makes to the average listener.Novelists, journalists, and scriptwriters have the advantage here; they can talk about the story they’re writing or the agents, publishers, and studios they’re courting. In other words, writing equals fortune and fame, or at least a slave’s wage.Poets are, by and large, professional amateurs, hobbyists, oddities. We are also normal people who hold down regular jobs, raise families, and write in different forms. It’s usually better to converse about those other aspects of our lives instead of our poems.

Or is it?

A quieter sort of daring exists in sitting and writing your poems down, or walking along and thinking them up, but it’s a bold act nonetheless. Such boldness ought to be honored if not celebrated. By hiding away our poet selves, we help cloister poetry from the general public and we never share the gift that a good poem is.

And sharing, I have learned, is at the center of a poet’s life.

A harsh reality: your chances of earning money by publishing poems are slim to nonexistent. Many “successful” poets earn their livings as teachers, librarians, fiction writers, or something else entirely. Children’s anthologies and verse novels fare better, but the market is crowded and the opportunities are few.

For a determined poet seeking an audience as well as a community of readers and writers, the key is sharing your poems—trading them, gifting them, reading them aloud everywhere and every moment you’re able.

Start with websites like this one. Take part in local poetry readings, poetry slams, and school visits. Publish your work in chapbooks, small magazines, and online—shout it out proudly to everyone you know. Life’s too short (or too long) to be bashful about what’s most important to you.

What you receive in exchange for sharing your gifts is feedback (which makes you a better writer), fellowship or even friendship (which makes you a happier person), and fuel for the fire (which keeps you writing and inspires you to stretch beyond your limits). You can also return the favor for another poet or group of poets from across the country or around the world. It’s a virtuous circle that pays surprising rewards.

For more than a decade I kept my poems mostly to myself. I published several in small magazines, but hardly anyone read them. I sent out manuscripts to publishers and received polite rejections. Out of frustration, I even stopped writing poems for a couple of years. I was anything but a poet. I stopped learning; I stopped growing; I stopped being my favorite self.

I realized I was waiting for someone else to come along and select me from the crowd, to christen me a “real” poet. I might have waited forever.

In 2009, at 35 years old, I decided to start sharing my poems, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled or inspired. I now blog my poems (http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ ); I participate in the weekly poetry stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect (http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/ ); and I serialize a blank-verse science-fiction novel (http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/ ), which was inspired by a poem I wrote for David’s January word-of-the-month contest here at this site.

If I hadn’t started sharing my poems with other poets and readers, I never would have— never could have—composed “Rockhoppers.” It’s the boldest statement I’ve made yet about who I am and what matters most to me. I’m grateful for all the encouragement and constructive criticism I’ve received as a result of letting the poem live in the world.

ROCKHOPPERS
By Steven Withrow

Under the right whale bones
breaching the blue ceiling
of the New England Aquarium,
a waddle of rockhopper penguins,
tufted punks from the South Pole,
skrawks in a raucous chorus
as a feeder wades in wetsuited,
floating a bucket of tiny fish
for their lunch. And Marin,
who is four, watches them
through the low glass partition
with an aquarist’s rigor,
her mirrored mouth mimicking each grab
and gulp of open orange beak. She
presses against me, daughter
of my grateful heart, and asks,
“Why don’t they say thank you?”
I tell her, “I don’t know.
Penguins can’t speak like we do.”
But inside I think of how
they drop from rock to rock,
clumsy on their bird-feet,
until one, and then another, slips
without a splash into the cool pool
that passes here for home,
their cold and southern sea.
I name them Water-glider,
Tidal-feather, Torpedo,
and Swims-as-peregrine-falcons-fly.
We trace their loops and interlaces
and laugh as a pudgy male
pops his bottle-body up
onto the lip of a slick stone slab,
upending an unsuspecting hen,
before barging in line
for a chance at seconds.
After, Marin tugs my hand,
her patience for penguins at its end,
and we wander toward tanks
that hold cuttlefish, anemones,
lampreys, leafy sea dragons
practicing camouflage
among the fluorescent fronds.
Behind us, the hoppers chatter on,
clap their wings against their sides.
I want to turn and applaud,
but Marin has spied some mollusk shells,
and we give thanks to them.

Steven Withrow is a poet, storyteller, teacher, and author of six books for visual artists: Toon Art, Webcomics, Character Design for Graphic Novels, Vector Graphics and Illustration, Secrets of Digital Animation, and Illustrating Children’s Picture Books ( HYPERLINK  http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com  http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ ). He is the producer, with Edward J. Delaney, of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary about children’s books ( HYPERLINK http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com  http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com/ ). He is now blogging The Feather of Memory, a time-travel adventure novel for young adults written in blank verse ( HYPERLINK http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/  http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/ ). He studied writing, literature, and publishing at Roger Williams University and Emerson College and has taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Suffolk University. He lives with his wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

For an interview with Steven, please visit: HYPERLINK http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842 .

Steven Withrow tomorrow

BULLETIN: If anyone is having trouble finding the voting boxes, I put them up on April 24 so you have to go there to find them. Here’s the link to that day. https://davidlharrison.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/let-the-voting-begin-3/ Click this, go there, and get your vote in before the cutoff.  If you haven’t been following the mad race between Taylor McGowan and Rachel Heinrichs, you need to see this!

Hello everyone. When we started Word of the Month Poetry Challenge last October, one of the first poets to step forward to take the challenge was Steven Withrow. Although I didn’t know Steven, I was at once attracted to his writing. The word for the month was dirt and here is what he wrote:THE DIRT-READER
The earthworm knows no books.
He chews, instead, hard news
That gravels through his crooks.
He grinds each borer’s bit
Of literary grit
And feeds wildflower’s muse.
— Steven Withrow

I was glad to see another poem from Steven the following month. Steven is a dedicated writer and multi-talented person. He has continued to contribute at least one poem each month since the beginning in spite of his many other projects, which he will discuss tomorrow, but also the terrible challenges caused by the flooding in his home area in Rhode Island.

It seemed fitting to me to invite Steven to be my guest and I was glad that he agreed. Here, then, is a brief bio on Steven to whet your appetite for his blog tomorrow.

Steven Withrow is a poet, storyteller, teacher, and author of six books for visual artists: Toon Art, Webcomics, Character Design for Graphic Novels, Vector Graphics and Illustration, Secrets of Digital Animation, and Illustrating Children’s Picture Books ( HYPERLINK http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ ). He is the producer, with Edward J. Delaney, of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary about children’s books ( HYPERLINK http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com/http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com/ ). He is now blogging The Feather of Memory, a time-travel adventure novel for young adults written in blank verse ( HYPERLINK http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/ ). He studied writing, literature, and publishing at Roger Williams University and Emerson College and has taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Suffolk University. He lives with his wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

For an interview with Steven, please visit: HYPERLINK http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842 . >

NEED I REMIND YOU THAT VOTING FOR THIS MONTH’S HALL OF FAME POETS ENDS TONIGHT AT 10:00 CST? Our adult leaders going into this final day are Liz Korba, V. L. Gregory, and Tricia Stohr-Hunt. Liz has already been a Hall of Fame Poet of the month so she won’t be eligible to win again until the next 12-month cycle. Rachel Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan are leading among our young poets.

David

Past Hall of Fame Poets

Good morning! After a hotly contested race yesterday, Rachel Heinrichs now has a slim lead over Taylor McGowan for the April Hall of Fame Young Poet. All of our young poets provided good work so even if you have voted already, you can still leave them comments. Among our adult poets, V. L. Gregory trails slightly behind Liz Korba but Liz is not eligible to win again until after September.

Tomorrow night we will cut off voting for this month and announce the Hall of Fame Poets for April. For those who may be discovering this site for the first time, we began the Word of the Month Challenge in October 2009 and voters have selected winners each month since then. Our second year will begin October 2010. During this initial twelve month period, no one can be Poet of the Month more than once. That doesn’t mean you cannot vote for previous winners and we love to see previous winners continue to enjoy the challenge of writing poetry and sharing with all the readers who drop by here to appreciate and comment on their work. It has happened that a previous winner has gained the most votes again even though he or she can’t be proclaimed the winner.

I’ve posted the growing number of winning poets before but here they are again with the latest update. This is all done in the spirit of writing for the pleasure it gives the poet to write and share. Voting does have meaning but it is also a vehicle to draw attention to the work of all the poets for the month. Some of our poets post their poems on their own websites and urge readers to come here to see all the poems. I hope everyone continues to enjoy the whole process.

Word of the Month Poetry Challenge
Hall of Fame Winners

Month Poet From Poem

OCTOBER Word: Dirt
Adult Poet: Mimi Cross, New Jersey, Dirt Blues
Young Poet: Alyssa Kirch, Missouri, Mud Pie

NOVEMBER Word: Thanks
Adult Poet: Liz Korba, New Jersey, You’re Welcome
Young Poet: Claire Scott, Maryland, Thanks for Nothing

DECEMBER Word: Bone
Adult Poet: Linda Kulp, Maryland, Wishes
Young Poet: Priya Shah, Maryland, A Mother’s Wish

JANUARY Word: Time
Adult Poet: Steven Withrow, Rhode Island, The Time Ship
Young Poet: John Sullivan, Ohio, End

FEBRUARY Word: Road
Adult Poet: Beth Carter, Missouri, A Country Drive
Young Poet: Megan Barnett, Ohio, A Toxic Life

MARCH Word: Life
Adult Poet (tie): Laura Purdie Salas, Minnesota, Without
Jackie Huppenthal, Indiana, The Life of a Housewife
Young Poet: Colin Hurley, Missouri, The Flower’s Life

If you come to NCTE in November . . .

I know I told you recently that I’ll be speaking at NCTE in Orlando on Saturday, November 20. I’ll present for seventy-five minutes on two main subjects: Word of the Month Poetry Challenge and the value of two-voice poems in developing readig fluency. I intend to involve the audience in both subject areas, first by brainstorming ideas for poems from a single word; second, by reading aloud several poems for two or more voices and discussing the variety of ways they can be employed in the classroom.

I’ve heard from some of you who plan to attend the conference and come to my presentation. I look forward to seeing you again or meeting you if it’s for the first time. I also hope that you will encourage others you know to come to my session. I’m excited about the opportunity to give Word of the Month a good introduction to as many as possible and I love doing poems for two voices. I intend to post some ideas on that subject soon.

REMINDER: Voted yet for April Hall of Fame Poets? Deadline is Thursday night at 10:00 CST. Current leaders for adults are Liz Korba and V. L. Gregory. Young poets are led by Taylor McGowan and Rachel Heinrichs.

David

Index of poems of the week

As weeks pass, the number of Poems of the Week grows as Kathy reads through my published work and selects a poem to post on Sundays. I hope you enjoy this feature of my blog. For those who might like a quick reference to the poems that have gone up so far, here’s an index.

POEMS OF THE WEEK

9-06-09 Butterfly, Farmer’s Garden
8-31-09 dragonfly, bug
9-18-09 Friends, Partner Poems
9-13-09 Two Frogs and a Witch, The Book of Giant Stories
9-27-09 Swimsuits, Vacation
10-05-09 Jarrett Junior High School, Connecting Dots
10-11-09 Down and Dirty, Word of the Month poem
10-12-09 Signing on a Crew, Pirates
10-20-09 Goodbye Picture, Connecting Dots
10-25-09 Giant Named Groans, The Book of Giant Stories
11-02-09 Rooster Walk, Sounds of Rain
11-08-09 Rhythms, Sounds of Rain
11-15-09 Song of Bees, Sounds of Rain
11-22-09 Wondering on the Stars, Sounds of Rain
11-26-09 A Poem Begins, Children’s Literature in the Reading Program
11-29-09 Pirates Nest, Pirates
12-06-09 Wolf, Wild Country
12-13-09 Night Stalker, Sounds of Rain
12-20-09 Above the Tree Line, Wild Country
12-27-09 No Words , Wild Country

1-03-10 Away from Camp, Connecting Dots
1-10-10 The Bus, The Mouse was Out at Recess
1-17-10 My Essay on Birds, The Mouse was Out as Recess
1-24-10 Ambassadors, Sounds of Rain
1-31-10 The Dog in School, The Mouse was Out at Recess
2-07-10 Kryptonite Blues, Connecting Dots
2-14-10 Love, Somebody Catch My Homework,
2-21-10 Vacation, Vacation
3-01-10 My Bed, The Alligator in the Closet
3-10-10 Song of the Tree Frogs, Wild Country
3-14-10 The Guest in the Pantry, The Alligator in the Closet
3-21-09 Socks Without Partners, The Alligator in the Closet
3-28-10 bookworm, bugs
4-04-10 No Words , Wild Country
4-11-10 Weeds, The Boy Who Counted Stars
4-18-10 Blowing Downriver, Sounds of Rain
4-25-10 Puffin, Wild Country

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE POETS. POLLS CLOSE THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 10:00 P.M. CST!


David