May winners and June word of the month

Hi everyone,

WRITERS AT WORK, regularly scheduled for today, will appear tomorrow this week so that I can announce this month’s honored poets.

First, the Word of the Month poets chosen by our panel of distinguished judges.

Ken Slesarik for his poem, “Yeti’s Promise.” Ken is from Arizona and last month tied with Mary Nida Smith (Arkansas) for the Hall of Fame voting. Here’s a comment from one of the judges. “Certainly original, with a touch of the absurd! This imaginative poem has an interesting rhyme scheme, with line 7’s chime echoing loud and clear. Repeat vowel sounds also work well: ‘sassafrassin’ and ‘horoscopes in hopes.’ Congratulations, Ken!

Runner-up for May’s Word of the Month Poet is Cory Corrado from Montreal for her poem, “Promises.” One judge had this to say about Cory’s poem. “I love these lines especially: ‘Buzzing pollen kisses,’ ‘Cherrilicious red harvest,’ and ‘Nature’s pledge-unspoken, unbroken.’ Way to go, Cory!

Several past winners in both divisions who are ineligible to win again during this cycle nevertheless joined in the fun of Word of the Month and entertained us with their work. Thanks to Gay Fawcett, Julie Krantz, Steven Withrow, and other previous winners who continue to support W.O.M.

Every judge commented on how strong the young poets’ work was in May. As a group they all deserve much credit.

The poet selected to be May Word of the Month Young Poet is Maya Dayal who attends 6th grade in Ohio at Maumee Valley Country Day School and whose teacher is Jana Smith. Maya’s poem is “Broken Home, Broken Field.” Congratulations, Maya. The judges were moved by and loved your poem!

In a close second place is Emma Lavetter-Keiden, a 5th grader at Maumee Valley whose teacher, Nan Valuck, posted her lovely poem, “Balance.” Here’s what one judge had to say about Emma’s poem. “I like the light and dark contrast created in this poem: ‘One shedding light/ The other stealing it.’ The occasional use of a single word per line is effective. Repetition works well in the last three lines. A nice piece of writing — with an air or mystery about it.”

I should mention that a previous winner in both divisions (Word of the Month Young Poet and also Monthly Hall of Fame Young Poet) turned in another strong effort this month. He couldn’t win again during this period but we still appreciated the work of P. Andrew Pipatjarasgit for his poem, “The King’s ‘Grammer.'”

Now we turn to May’s Hall of Fame Poets who were selected by popular vote from readers and fans.

Jackie Huppenthal from Indiana wins in a tight race for her poem, “It’s Sneaky — Be Aware.” Previous winners who were also in the race include Gay Fawcett for her poem, “Foolish Games,” Ken Slesarik for his poem, “Yeti’s Promise,” Steven Withrow for his poem, “Right Whale Bones,” and Janet Gallagher for her poem, “Promises.”

Our winning poet for May is Ishani Gupta, grade 5, for her poem, “Unbroken.” Runnerup is Rory Hopkins, grade 5, for his poem, “Curse You Homework.” Rory’s poem is the only one for two voices that we’ve ever received. Both students are from Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio.

Congratulations to all of our winners and to everyone who spent the time and effort to participate in the month’s Word of the Month exercise. I’m grateful and I look forward to your contributions next month. And now . . .

The Word of the Month for June is PET.


Summer schedule

REMINDER: Voting ends today at noon CST. If you haven’t voted yet for May Hall of Fame poets, time is running out!

Hi everyone,

Wednesday I leave for Honesdale, Pennsylvania for the poetry workshop I’ve mentioned. We’ll hold sessions in the home of the founders of Highlights and at night our eight poets will enjoy the serenity of their own cabins on the property. I’m eager to be there.

I am now at work or preparing to work on half a dozen book projects. Time is tight and I must back away from the daily demands of my blog for the summer. My solution is, I think, a good one. At this time I have had dozens of great Featured Guests and each has brought words of wisdom, advice, and inspiration to my readers. I plan to bring many of them back over the coming weeks so you can appreciate them again or, in some cases, maybe for the first time. If you want to go to the trouble of looking for their original appearances, you can do that now. My thought is to make the discoveries easier by bringing them back as re-posts.

I plan to continue introducing new Featured Guests as my time allows but on some days you will find old friends who are reappearing for your pleasure.

I know you understand and I thank you for supporting this blog with your loyalty and participation since we began in August 2009. I’ll continue to make weekly appearances of my own so I’m not going anywhere. I just need to reallocate how I spend my time this summer.

All best wishes to you for a great summer of your own!


Word of the Month poetry judges

Hi everyone,

I remind you each month of the judges who give their time and talent to help shine some light on the best poems submitted during the month. Here they are once again. Please check out their sites and make sure you are aware of their work.

Bobbi Katz

Charles Ghigna 

Avis Harley

Laura Purdie Salas /

J. Patrick Lewis

Rebecca Dotlich

Sara Holbrook

Avis Harley today

REMINDER: Don’t forget to vote for this month’s Hall of Fame Poets. The ballot boxes were posted yesterday.

Hi everyone,

Avis Harley loves poetry in all its many forms and faces. As my Featured Guest today Avis demonstrates her skill and passion by presenting her remarks in — what else? — verse. Read on!


By Avis Harley

A good poem gives repeated pleasure.
Tender or tough: it is a treasure.
But all too often through the years,
delight in poetry disappears.

The adult count is very small
of those who read a poem at all.
Did ‘Simile Safaris’ in days of yore
burden poetry and make it a chore?

Whatever the reason, we need to effect
ways that have kids and poems connect.
How about poetry as a daily diet?
Imagine if everyone would try it!

It’s a World of Words, so inviting—
but it’s crafty business: poetry writing.
Sometimes I stare at a blank white page
stuck in the tabula rasa stage.

What to say? Where to begin?
How to get out what is within?
Should it be free verse? Limerick? Haiku?
Acrostic? Sonnet? Clerihew?

My poems go through multiple revisions.
Over and over I review decisions.
polishing a poem, line by line.

Always, I read the lines out loud.
Does the rhythm flow? Do the syllables crowd?
Does the subject dictate how the form should be?
Do words resonate inside of me?

Like a butterfly in its chrysalis stage,
lines take shape within the page:

(Editor’s note from David: I cannot get this poem to line up to show off the acrostic poem below. Be assured I’m trying and I apologize to Avis for my failure so far! Anyway, please note the initial letter in each line.)


“At last,” cried Butterfly,

Over its
Empty chrysalis,
“My final draft!”

Many poems grew out of my teaching career,
recording those moments, year after year.
Life in the classroom is a wonderful place
for a poet to find ideas to embrace.


My teacher said I should look up
I’ll check it out when I get home,
it’s just a little wait.

But after school my friends drop by,
we laugh and play and fight;
then suddenly it’s dinner time,
I’ll look it up tonight.

But now the television’s on,
homework’s looking bleak.
PROCRASTINATE can wait a bit,
I’ll look it up next week.

If kindergarten kids know Tyrannosaurus
(and longish words should never bore us)
why not onomatopoeia and alliteration?
Such delicious words for exploration!

Children will ask what makes a poet.
The best preparation, as I know it,
is to be an observer—take second looks,
and read and read all kinds of books.


This book is the best—
I woke up to read it
Before getting dressed.

This book is so cool—
It’s the first thing I grabbed
When I rushed home from school.

This book is a winner—
I forgot I was hungry.
I almost missed dinner.

This book is just right—
I’m reading by flashlight deep into the night
Deliciously thirsty to see how it ends.

Books are such mind-thrilling
Spine-tingling friends!

Encouraging poetry memorization
offers the wonderful realization
that a favorite poem off the shelf
is a lifetime gift you can give yourself.

My advice to writers is never lose heart.
Poem rejections all play their part.
Choose a subject where passion lies
and try to describe it with fresh clear eyes.

Nature themes appeal to me
and invite me into their mystery.
Whether it’s stars in the galaxy…


In the language of stars
lie stories of old
brilliant legends
told and retold.

Spelling out sagas,
Spilling out light,
a mythical manuscript
filling the night.

…or creatures gliding beneath the sea:


Examine the suckers on tapered limbs –
moon sequins pale as porcelain skins.

See how the flow of elbow and angle
smoothly moves in a tasteful tangle.

Think how this creature can gracefully scroll
down through the tiniest, narrowest hole.

And imagine the pageant with eight arms at play
when they bow at the end of their octo ballet.

It falls on adults to bring to light
the magic of poetry—to share the delight
with kids as they savor words at play.
A poem-a-day is a wonderful way.