Announcing our 2010 Hall of Fame Poets

Hello everyone,

Today is a momentous occasion. I can annouonce our first annual Word of the Month Hall of Fame Poets. Drum roll please.

The 2010 Hall of Fame Poet is Euleta Usrey from Missouri. Our runner up is Mimi Cross from New Jersey.

The 2010 Hall of Fame Young Poet is Courtney Clawson from Ohio. Runner up is Taylor McGowan from Pennsylvania.

My thanks to all who participated, and that includes a lot of people. Dozens of poets from half a dozen countries contributed their work and tens of thousands of readers enjoyed them. Many of you leave comments now and then to let me know who you are. Most visitors elect to browse but remain silent. I’m always pleased to hear from someone for the first time.

So here we are in the first month of our second year and the word is CHANGE. Already we are receiving new poems inspired by the new word. I’m eager to report on Word of the Month next month when I present at NCTE in Orlando. I look forward to featuring selected poems and comments from teachers, students, and our adult poets.


Last few hours to vote

REMINDER: Here’s the link to the ballot boxes. /

Hi Everyone,

I had a fine time yesterday evening at the Missouri Library Association conference. I was given twenty minutes for the banquet talk and my wife clocked me at twenty-one, so I didn’t get the hook. I spoke about the life of a children’s author and the background work that prepares us for our chosen profession. My audience was mostly public library and university library people, and they were very kind.

Next Friday I’ll be part of the group of authors in Springfield at the annual Children’s Literature Festival of the Ozarks. Missouri State University hosts the group on its campus. I don’t know how many students will be here this year but I think the count is usually between 1,000 – 1,500. I look forward to seeing old friends again and meeting new ones.

I checked the votes a few minutes ago for our 2010 Hall of Fame Poets. In the adult division, the race is as close as one could get. Mimi Cross is ahead of Euleta Usrey by one vote. In the Young Poet group, Courtney Clawson leads Taylor McGowan by a slim 5 votes. Anything can happen in the closing hours. We still have about ten hours before the polls close.David
P.S. Thanks to those who have been letting me know which of my W.O.M. poems you prefer. “Read It Before” is slightly ahead of “Louder Than Words” and “A Sad Tale.”

David L Harrison W.O.M. poems

Hi everyone,

Sunday is always reserved for a Poem of the Week that Kathy Temean selects from one of my books. This time I’m preempting. Yesterday I posted all of the winning monthly poems so we can select our Hall of Fame Poets for 2010. The ballot boxes will remain open until October 8 at 10:00 CST.

Today I’m posting my own monthly contributions to the cause over the past twelve months. I don’t include my own work on the balloting for Hall of Fame Poets so here I’m posting my own separate ballot box in case anyone would like to indicate a favorite among the twelve. No obligation of course. I would just be curious. The poems are posted immediately below the ballot box.

October 2009
Word: Dirt

I liked you the first time we met,
at least I thought I would like you
if I got to know you,
except for your nails.
I couldn’t help noticing
the foul moon-rims of grime
clutching at your cuticles.

The thought occurred that dirt,
which you like enough
to pack at your fingertips,
might have a poem buried in it.

Honestly, I had little hope for my subject.
It’s hard to hold something in high esteem
that one tracks in on one’s shoes.
Only my respect for you kept me going.

Turns out there’s more
than meets the eye with dirt.
Roots slow-motionly wriggling down
like moles in the dark after water
prize off tiny flecks of bedrock.
Mix enough rock parts with humus
and you’re getting somewhere, dirt-wise.

Humus is a dry gumbo,
the handiwork of dentrivores,
a multiracial gang of ruffians, mostly
fungi, worms, bacteria, mites, and insects —
mercenary goblins that dine on decay,
slurping dead plants and animals
till you could easily mistake diner for dinner.

Thanks to dentrivores, not all dirt
tastes the same. But considering
the supply you keep handy,
I may not be telling you something
you don’t know.

When you think about dirt,
and I can’t seem to stop,
dirt provides lodging for a zoo
of creatures that grub, grope, and burrow
through its gritty underworld.

Mixed with water dirt fortifies bird nests and
helps mud daubers stick their homes
in annoying places such as
above my garage door.

By contrast, dust courts the corporate crowd.
Swirling like a truant genie,
dust grants wishes to carwash owners
and supports entire industries
of polish, soap, and facial tissue makers,

but I digress. The thing is, I was right
about liking you in spite of your nails
crammed with limestone powder, worm goo,
and the odd molecule of bee leg or roach
(all in a day’s work for humus).

But I can’t resist suggesting that dirt
should stick with dirt and you might consider
returning your private stash to the garden
or perhaps to a trash sack headed to
the dump. Then, I believe,
at least I hope very much, that
I can put down this thing about dirt
and wipe it off of my worry list.

November 2009
Word: Thanks

Once he took me caving,
Maybe I was three,
Small enough
That he could carry me.
He didn’t have to do it –
Let me tag along –
But oh my daddy
Felt so big and strong.
He loved to take me fishing
No matter what the weather,
Dad and me,
Two guys out together.
He chose the wiggliest worm
So I could get my wish
And promised me
I’d catch the biggest fish.
On trips he told us stories,
Sang in silly rhymes,
Said my homemade
Jokes were good — sometimes.
I always meant to thank him,
But years crowd quickly on.
I hope he knew,
Because, now he’s gone.

December 2009
Word: Bone

Mostly I crawl though now and then
I duck-walk until starved
muscles cramp me back
to all fours.
The tunnel runs on for miles.
It is dark yet I see, dimly,
my way illuminated
by thin-walled pipes
that offer a glow the hint of red
and gurgle with cargo pumped
from the engine room upstairs.
Familiarity gnawing at me,
I struggle on for days (years?)
knowing that femurs
aren’t supposed to be
and I shouldn’t be here
watching mint-shaped platelets form
and cells like red and white donuts
roll off assembly lines.
Don’t ask how I suddenly
find myself peering out
my own belly button.
The thought of navel gazing
with a glazed pastry in each hand
awakens me to face yet
of bran flakes.

January 2010
Word: Time

100 million years ago,
give or take a few –
when dinosaurs ran around
stamping and screaming
and scaring small mammals –
there lived a wasp with a sweet tooth,
which is to say the wasp
preferred sugar water
to more traditional diets
of spider juice and grub goo.
What caused this curiously altered taste
is a mystery. One can’t chalk it up
to good judgment, considering a brain
the size of this period.
Call it signs of the time:
time for blooming angiosperms,
time for bees,
time they got together.
The obliging wasp and its progeny
eventually produced a bee.
A little bit wasp but mostly bee,
the nectar lover got busy
sucking sweets and impregnating
coquettish blossomy plants
by wallowing in their sticky seeds
and spreading them around.
Tsunamis of pollen-bearing,
insect-toting plants covered the land.
Some have said the dinosaurs,
strangers to hay fever,
developed allergies that left them
vulnerable as sitting ducks
(to borrow a figure of speech from a cousin)
and ill-prepared for catastrophes lurking
on future horizons.
This probably never happened,
hay fever I mean,
but you have to admit
that a sneezing T-Rex –
a toothy island stranded amidst
a relentless sea of blossoms
while serious bees buzzed its head –
would be something.
And who among those first men,
tens of millions of years hence,
would have risked a finger
under T’s twitching nostrils
to utter an approximated “gesundheit”?
When I see a bee,
sometimes I wonder if its ancestors –
still carrying carnivorous wasp-lust
in their genes –
took on the big guys armed with
the latest technology,
and won.

February 2010
Word: Road

The sign says EAT AT MADGE’S!
I whiz by Exit 12-B,
forfeit my chance to meet Madge
and sample her cooking.
Can’t help wondering though
how Madge is doing.
That’s a big sign, cost her a bundle,
sleep, too, I bet,
all that money nailed onto poles beside the road –
cost a lot of eggs.
Is Madge there now, off Exit 12-B,
hoping travelers inspired by her sign
will swing off the Interstate to see if
she’s really as good as she says?
I imagine her red faced from the heat,
hair showing gray – no time for color –
blowing strays from her eyes,
cracking eggs on the grill,
yelling at someone, “Hey folks!
Thanks for coming! Be right with you!”
hoping this week, this month, she’ll crack
enough eggs to pay for that sign.

March 2010
Word: Life

When Earth was an acned youth given
to volcanic tantrums and cosmic collisions,
certain atoms,
bobbing like microscopic apples
in toxic pools acidic enough to eat a car battery
(if cars or batteries had existed then),
happened to align themselves just so,
thereby acquiring the capacity
to repeat their likeness among other atoms.
Life, of a sort, was off and running.
This accident of chemistry made possible,
four billion years hence,
the pair of Mallard ducks
that just strolled by my window searching
for a suitable place to duplicate themselves.
It wasn’t simply from atom to duck.
Bacteria came early
in numbers too staggering to guess
producing enough oxygen
to clothe our spinning rock,
cool its temper,
keep it out of fights with passing asteroids.
Soon these ducks will repeat their likeness
in the next generation.
So will gnats and elephants
and horseshoe crabs.
Those ancient molecular stews
did what came naturally.
Today, through better chemistry,
so do we.

April 2010
Word: Spring

struts the fence
red as a Valentine,
tail seductively flickering,
issuing throaty notes
of invitation.
without comment,
finds a limb
with a better view.
sails to the ground,
returns with a twig,
his man-around-the-house
not-so-subtle proposal.
does not leave.
She flies,
returns when he resumes
an appropriate distance,
everything considered
at this point in the game.
How this ends
I think I know.
utters urgent yearnings.
seriously weighing
her options.

May 2010
Word: Stone

Before she went to surgery,
I stood beside her bed.
“Granny, please oh please!” I begged,
“Remember what you said!”
Daddy sadly shook his head,
“Son, don’t be absurd,”
But I saw Granny wink at me,
And Granny keeps her word.
I like my skulls and turtle shells,
I like my spider jar,
I like my pickled octopus,
I like my baby gar,
I like my walls of wings and hides,
I like my bugs and bones,
I like my snakes and scorpions, but
I LOVE my granny’s stones!

June 2010
Word: Song

The stillness
of the chill night breaks
as if a tree
has taken voice to sing.
the solo rings,
a second singer
Singers throbbing
ancient issues
riddle the lake by night.

July 2010
Word: Itch

Nothing frightened Bryon Biggers,
Not even lions, not even tiggers,
He spent his life exploring this land,
Knew these hills like the back of his hand.
Striding down the path he came
Always looking for bigger game
But in the end he met his match
In a lowly Ozarks chigger patch.
Byron laughed, “Ha ha!” cried he,
“No bug could be the death of me!”
But halfway through that patch of chiggers
And it was over for Byron Biggers.
He clawed those bites till his dying breath,
Sighing, “I’ve scratched myself to death.
Someday they’ll find me here alone
With chiggers gnawing on my bones.”
He died the way he lived – brave,
And few have seen poor Byron’s grave.
He’s buried high on a lonely hill
Where to this day he itches still.
Here lie the bones of Byron Biggers,
Eaten alive by hungry chiggers,
So if you see poor Byron twitch,
Scratch his bones ‘cause they still itch.

August 2010
Word: Love

He never told her,
not in so many words,
or kissed her,
or said she was pretty.
Sometimes she might have wished
for a hug,
might have wished
to hear the words
Yet she knew, always knew,
he did.
Whatever she needed he’d do –
blow the hurt off a skinned knee,
save his best tomato for her,
take her hunting and let her
carry the squirrels.
When she started school,
he picked her up
in his bread truck
and took her home
for a better meal.
when she lived three states away,
after work he’d drive all night
to see her for a single day,
bring her baby a bunny,
press small amounts into her hand
that made all the difference.
He’s been gone awhile and with him
his favorite expressions:
“You did that to yourself.”
“Boy I like ‘em.”
Gone, his boyish grin, beloved garden,
gone, those words unspoken
but few right deeds undone.
And even now she knows,
has always known,
how he loved her.

September 2010
Word: Book

Okay, the basement needs some work,
The drive is sprouting weeds,
I’ll do them both immediately
And see what else she needs.
I’ll hang those pictures in the hall,
I’ll scour the outdoor grill,
I’ll clean out all the gutter leaves –
I promised her I will.
I’ll straighten up the garage (again),
(I promised that before),
I’ll clean my office till it shines –
I’ll do all that and more
The minute I finish the poem I’m on.
So why do I get the look?
What does she mean by telling me
She reads me like a book?

Voting for 2010 Hall of Fame Poets!

Many thanks to my Featured Guest yesterday, Mary Downing Hahn. If you havne’t read her interview yet, this is a good time to get caught up.

REMINDER: There are 24 hours left to bid on a chance to be featured on my blog. If you or anyone you know would be pleased to step on the stage for a day, please get your bid in. At this point someone is going to get a real bargain!

Hello everyone,Today I’m happy to present you with the monthly winners of our first year of Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Below the ballot boxes you will find each of the winning poems so that you can refresh your memory and enjoy the poems all over again.

When you are ready, please cast your ballot for one adult and one student poet. The winners of this election will be named our Hall of Fame Poets, 2010. The polls will remain open through Friday, October 8 (until 10:00 p.m. CST), and I’ll announce our winning poets on Saturday, October 9. Good luck everyone, and have fun. Please remember, the spirit of this blog is to write for the joy of writing. Everyone who has done that has succeeded.

Please note that many of our poets have copyrighted their work and all rights to their work are reseverd by them. Copying and using their work without asking their permission is prohibited although I’m sure that most poets are very happy to see their poems made available to as many readers as possible.


October 2009
Word: Dirt
Winning poem: DIRT BLUES
by Mimi Cross, New Jersey
When you talk about dirt,
You gotta talk about dig.
When you talk about mud,
You gotta talk about a pig.
Oh baby . . .
How do I make my way?
When I start with common dirt – I naturally head straight for a cliche.
My Grandma said, “You eat a peck
Of dirt before you die.”
But I say, “What the heck?!”
I can avoid that if I try!
Oh Grandma . . .
What can you tell me now?
I gotta write this dirty poem, but I cannot – figure out how.
I guess I’ll start from scratch.
With a wordy mud pie.
That way I’ll use a bit of dirt
And mix it with these tears
I cry . . .
Out of frustration and fear.
I’ve got a grimy little blues song – that no one else will ever hear.

November 2009
Word: Thanks
Winning poem: YOU’RE WELCOME
by Liz Korba, New Jersey
A gift.
And free
Set free.
(That’s why.)
Need met.
(No debt.)
How powerful!
How unlike prose!
At times
Is a poem.

December 2009
Word: Bone
Winning poem: WISHES
by Linda Kulp, Maryland
After dinner
Mom asked if I
wanted to break the
wishbone with her.
When I said, “No.”
She didn’t say anything
but I could tell
she was hurting.
I was hurting too
remembering how
you and I shared the wish-
bone every Thanksgiving.
You’d always laugh,
wrap your fingers tight
around your half
and pretend to snap it
before I was ready.
But then you’d
always let me win
so I could make
my own special wish.
Well, I’m older now,
you’re gone
and wishbones
have lost their magic.
So what good are they?
Wishes don’t come true,
do they,

January 2010
Word: Time
Winning poem: THE TIME SHIP
by Steven Withrow, Rhode Island
I boarded August Twenty-Ten
That silver ship at Chronos Key.
I’m sure of this, but then again,
It might have been another me.
I signed ship’s log as second mate,
Just nineteen summers to my name.
I perfectly recall the date—
It’s Time itself that’s not the same.
The captain read my duties clear:
To chart our course, night’s watch to keep,
To rouse her crew should bearing veer,
To hail and interrupt their sleep.
We sailed twelve cycles undisturbed,
A glancing headwind at our prow.
Our compass slumbered unperturbed,
Until we reached the Straits of Now.
I stalked the crow’s nest, falcon-eyed,
Regarded marvels in the Stream,
Saw dwarf stars dawning on the tide
And dying there, a sailor’s dream.
Our minds stretched thin, our lives pressed short,
We drifted, time-tossed, toward our berth,
A startling, unfamiliar port,
Though all signs told us this was Earth.
On shore leave, as I write this poem,
The calendar reveals “LV.”
We’ve landed on the sands of Rome.
We’re stranded: Fifty-Five B.C.
And Julius Caesar, six years hence,
Will cross the mighty Rubicon,
And we’ll bear witness, present tense,
Before our Time Ship journeys on!

February 2010
Word: Road
Winning poem: A COUNTRY DRIVE
by Beth Carter, Missouri
I jumped into my blue Chevy truck
Grinning ’cause these drives bring me luck.
As I turned ’round the sharp bend,
I noticed a frayed hole that I must mend.
Soon, I spotted a large frog in the road
Swerving, I barely missing the fat toad.
A soft breeze blew through my hair
As I whistled without a care.
Popping open a diet Coke
I was happy—a lucky bloke.
Driving along with my left knee,
Windows down, nearly stung by a bee.
Sipping my soda, I scanned the dial
As my favorite singer made me smile.
Turning up the sound, I hummed along
Then loudly broke into a song.
I spotted a mooing Jersey cow
Standing beside a lazy sow.
The cow was in a cool pond.
I could drive like this ‘til dawn.
A fast-moving Jeep passed me,
oblivious to the scenery.
Driver’s on the phone–in a hurry.
Where’s the fire? Why the flurry?
A small speckled deer was in sight
As two red birds quickly took flight.
Looking up, I stroked my chin
Dark, ominous clouds rolling in.
Deciding to change my plans,
I turned around to head to Jan’s.
Gonna pick up my best girl
Go dancin’, give her a twirl.
A country drive is hard to beat
“By the way, you can call me Pete.”

March 2010 (2-way tie)
Word: Life
Winning poem: WITHOUT
by Laura Purdie Salas, Minnesota
Without plunging, a waterfall is only a river
Praise the falling, the walling, the surprise of water standing on end
Without sinking, a sunset is only slow-spreading light
Praise the creeping of night and its battle for sky control
Without night falling, the moon just hangs, a pale, cold rock
Praise the backdrop of black, the reflected white glow of sun
Without wintering, summer overstays like holiday houseguests
Praise the sharp freshness of ice, the clean slate before spring
Without dying, life is a treadmill
Praise deadlines and pressure, and the shortness to make time matter
Without ending, the story is unfinished
Praise the anticipation, the fear, the delight of The End

by Jackie Huppenthal, Indiana
“What’d you do today Dear?”
He asks, so I say –
Well, this housewife works hard
gets no glory, no pay…

I weeded the garden
paid most of the bills
cleaned the nasty bird cage
dusted wood blinds and sills

Washed the day’s dishes
then vacuumed the rug
glued the handle back on
my #1 MOM mug

I tackled the laundry
picked up Lego toys
wrapped birthday presents
read books to our boys

Helped with school work
brushed and then walked the dog
grocery shopped (super-quick)
fixed that sink with the clog

The youngest and I
baked a three-layer cake
played several fun games
defrosted the steak

I sewed on two buttons
placed important calls
ran last minute errands
wiped down dirty walls

Finally started the dinner
then wrote this cute poem
so you’d know all I did
right when you came home

Geez… I never relaxed
But the house – Still a mess
Note I did quite a lot
Please don’t add to my stress!

April 2010
Word: Spring
Winning poem: ALL NESTLED IN
by Barbara J. Turner, New Hampshire
With soda and chips
I sit on the couch
put up my feet
slide into a slouch
turn on the tv
click a channel or ten
find a good program
I’m all nestled in
When suddenly a scream
flies off of my tongue.
What in the world – – –
Spring’s finally sprung.

May 2010
Word: Stone
Winning poem: STONE WISE
by Mary Nida Smith, Arkansas
Stone soup is
filled with
apricot stones,
and cherry stones,
that will turn
a person
stone green.
Upon one gravestone
is written:
Here lies
Miles Stonewall,
he stayed away
from stormy
and slippery
stepping stones.
But never learned
to make soup…
with chicken bones.

June 2010
Word: Song
Winning poem: SONG OF THE WEST
by V. L. Gregory, Missouri
How do you sing a song of the West,
Refrains of days gone by?
Start with a banjo, a Stetson, a vest
Then let the melody fly.
The clickety-clack of wagonwheels;
The screech of hawks above;
Son-of-a-Gun Stew for too many meals
Are themes of the West we love.
Around a campfire, many a night,
Keeping the cattle calm–
A mouth-harp plays, assuages their fright;
A comforting, soothing balm.
Prairie grass hums a tedious song
In concert with the wind–
Repeating stanzas all day long;
Tiresome drone without end.
A ballad of storms, strife, and stampedes
Demanding a cowboy’s best.
Sing of your awe of this gallant breed
Of men who conquered the West.

July 2010
Word: Itch
Winning poem: ITCH IN MY SWEATER
by Silindile Ntuli, South Africa
There’s an itch in my sweater, dear granny.
It’s climbing up my arm, dear granny.
There it is moving up my back,
Help me granny, it is spreading all over.
How can I help you now, dear grandson,
When I have an itch up my own sweater, dear grandson,
There it is tickling my back,
Making me jump around and round.
It must be those ants you’re standing on, dear Peter.
Move over to my side, dear Judy.
My side does not cause an itch,
But for now, jump around and get those ants off your backs.

August 2010
Word: Love
Winning poem: MODERN LOVE
by K. Thomas Slesarik, Arizona
Embers, ashes where’s the flame?
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
A love that once was without doubt,
now it’s gone, the fire’s out.
Sizzlin’ fireworks there’s the flame.
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
She feels a love with certainty
and hooks up with the bumble bee.
Where’s the fireworks and the flame?
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
Then in his heart he feels a tug
and moves in with the ladybug!

September 2010
Word: Book
Winning poem: THE BOOK MOMENT
by Euleta Usrey, Missouri
I can recall
the exact moment
it happened.
It was better than
the proverbial light bulb
clicking on.
The teacher was reading
about Dick
about Jane
and Spot
while I held the book.
And I got it
the words on her lips
came from
the letters on my page.
So began
my lifelong love affair
with books.


October 2009
Word: Dirt
Winning poem: MUD PIE
by Alyssa Kirch, Missouri
Yummy, yummy mud pie,
I eat it all the time.
It’s brown, watery, and smells real bad,
But I’d rather eat it with a lime.
Yummy, yummy mud pie,
It looks just like brown mush.
It’s getting weirder everyday,
Don’t step in it! Eww (Squish).
Yummy, yummy mud pie,
Now it’s on your shoe.
It’s getting green and ugly,
I wish I had some too!
Yummy, yummy mud pie,
Now it’s almost gone.
Yummy, yummy mud pie,
I guess I’ll make another one!

November 2009
Word: Thanks
Winning poem: THANKS
by Claire Scott, Maryland
Thanks for Nothing
Thanks for not being there,
when I needed you most.
Thanks for not answering me,
when I had questions.
Thanks for not helping me,
when I needed a hand.
Thanks for not understanding,
when I needed to be understood.
Thanks for not believing in me,
when I needed to beleive.
Thanks for not loving me,
when I needed warmth and care.
Thanks for everything
that you haven’t done.
Thanks for nothing.

December 2009
Word: Bone
Winning poem: A MOTHER’S WISH
by Priya Shah, Maryland
Everyday, I look at
Your face before I left
For a tiring day at work.
Sometimes I came home
A little bit early so I
Could spend a few extra
Minutes with you.

When you grew up
And left home to get a
Good job, I wrote a letter
To you every day saying
How much I missed you,
But I never got a reply.

In the few times I talked
To you on the phone, you
Always said, “I have no time
To visit soon, but I’ll try.”

You never came,
I waited and waited
To see not only you, but
Your child running around,
and I waited and waited
To have a chance to go
And chase after him, but
You never came.

After my body began to
Weaken, I sent one, last
Letter that said, “I spent
My whole life wishing to
Have just one glance at
you, only one, to know
That my little boy has
Grown up.

I needed just one glance
To spend the rest of my
Life in peace. I needed
Just one glance tp know
That my son was okay,
And happy. I never lost
Hope that some day you
Would come and meet me.
I wish I could have come to
Meet you, but my health was
So terrible that I didn’t have
The strength to come.

Son, by the time you read
This letter, I will no longer
Be part of your busy world.
I waited and waited for you
Until, finally, death knocked
At the door. I hope you have
A great life. You and your
Darling family have my
Blessings. Try not to miss
Me too much.”

These old bones perished
After seventy-four long
Years of loneliness.
Looking down from above,
I spot my beloved son
Regretting his action.
At least now I can,
Finally, see him.

January 2010
Word: Time
Winning poem: END
by John Sullivan, Ohio
the end. the Time
has come. My life flashes before my Eyes,
the innocence of childhood seeming Only

yesterday. But those days are gone. Now before my eyes,
the looming grave, bringing terror and relief as I wonder about what will happen when my Time

is up. will I go to the realm so dark and forbidding that my Eyes
will be useless until the end of Time?
or will I go to a place of peace, paradise and comfort Only?

Now as my time comes to an end, I don’t think about that, I only lay back and shut my eyes forever.

February 2010
Word: Road
Winning poem: FAR BEHIND
by Megan Barnett, Ohio
Leaving the state
Leaving your friends
Leaving your school
Leaving your house
Leaving every memory
Far behind
As you travel
On the road
As everything runs through your mind
Every secret
Every friendship
Every crush
You think of everything
That has happened to you
In your life
In this one small town
A tear falls from your eye
Wanting to go back
Wanting your friends back
Wanting everything to come back
Trying to get everything to
Come back
You can’t
Because you’re
Leaving the state
Leaving your friends
Leaving your school
Leaving your house
Leaving every memory
Far behind

March 2010
Word: Life
Winning poem: THE FLOWER’S LIFE
by Colin Hurley, Missouri
In the spring flowers bloom
lots of people assume
that the flowers will be there forever.
But when winter is near
all of the world fears
that the flowers will die
but new ones will come
when spring is here.

April 2010
Word: Spring
Winning poem: SPRING
by Rachel Heinrichs, Pennsylvania
Spring has sprung,
But not just once,
It happens every year.
Now it is here,
The sky is clear,
Spring has sprung again.

May 2010
Word: Stone
Winning poem: SUNDANCE
by Taylor McGowan, Pennsylvania
Staring into the canyon below,
Amazement and awe are the feelings I show.

The fiery sun makes it glow so bright,
The heated orange rocks are a wonderful sight.

I start to climb up the wall made of stone,
without any equipment, and I’m all alone.

But am I, really? Is the canyon my friend?
Or is it my enemy? Is its beauty just pretend?

Friend or foe, I must go on,
But if its the wrong choice, my life may be gone.

Finding a handhold, I climb a bit higher,
Looking down, I find my situation is dire.

My foot slips off, and rocks tumble down,
If the fall doesn’t kill me, in the river I’ll drown.

But I cling to the stone, my heart beating fast,
Next time, will I fall into the canyon so vast?

I move my foot so I’ll be okay,
How long will this take me? An hour? A day?

As I pull myself higher, my arms start to ache,
I’ve started to think this is a path I cannot take.

Sweat dampens my hair, the sun burns my face,
This is a battle, its the clock that I race.

I see the top, but it’s so far away,
I am so tired… I’m starting to sway.

But I have to go higher, it’s my only choice,
I’m sure my reward will make me rejoice.

My hands are raw from the rough orange rock,
But I can’t stop now: I’m racing the clock.

There’s the top! I’m finally there!
I hoist myself up: sights like this are rare.

I manage to stand on the high flattened stone,
I look at the sights that I found on my own.

The bright, hot sun floods the canyon with light,
Its outrageously beautiful… a picture perfect sight.

I sat there for hours, admiring the sun,
And before I knew it, my visit was done.

The sun was sinking, so it was getting dark,
Here in Grand Canyon National Park.

September 2010
Word: Book
Winning poem: IMAGINE
by Courtney Clawson, Ohio
I wonder what would happen
if you jumped into a book
You could meet your favorite characters
and maybe take a look

At the enchanting pixies flying
and the lands above the trees
Look at the dragons roaring
and the fish beneath the seas

Or maybe it goes deeper
right into your heart
And that is what makes a book
such a work of art –

Let the voting begin!


Can you believe that we are about to conclude the first full year of Word of the Month Poetry Challenge? We are! Beginning in October, we start a new year and all the previous monthly winners will again be eligible to be named Monthly Hall of Fame Poet.

On October 2, I’ll put up the ballot boxes for our twelve monthly winners and we’ll select our two Hall of Fame Poets for 2010, one adult and one student.

I’m so pleased this month to see the return of student poets to the blog. Thanks to Jana Smith in Ohio and Marjie DeWilde in Missouri and their talented poets for bringing us four fresh poems to appreciate. I hope to see many more young poets join us in the weeks ahead.

I’ve updated the letter to principals, which you’ll find in the tool box along the top of this page. Teachers, librarians, and parents, please pass along the information to the principals at your schools.

And now it’s time to start finding out who will be our September Hall of Fame Poets. To refresh your memories on this month’s poems, I’ve listed them below the ballot boxes.

Let the voting begin!


Steven Withrow, © 2010

Between commutes, night workers have
Houdini’d a two-lane overpass,
Leaving steel-studded supports
Bookending the old post road,
Totems, tomes, magician’s lore,
A sleight of civil engineering
Conjured wholly out of place,
Span of vanished expectation,
As though traveling a novel
And slamming, mid-sentence, into
Ellipsis … blank caesura
Of a chapter break … cliffhang-
Ing, bridge-defying business,
No job for the faint (the feint?)
Of heart—this morning, are those
Hard-hatted daysleepers dreaming
Of dawn’s interpolation
In night’s rhythm of wreck and rest,
Or are they too done in by toil
To presto forth illusions
On the disappearing scrim of sleep?

Lee Ann Russell, (c) 2007

Library bookshelves hold
volumes and volumes of tomes
reaching from floor to ceiling in pursuit
of life from new to old.
Crisp or musty pages roam
through centuries where authors substitute
the printed page for speech.
Storytelling is an art
Gutenberg perfected in pure pursuit
allowing one to reach
beyond oral counterpart
among gigantic shelves of author’s fruit.

Gay Fawcett

Head out
Heavy load
Once a week
Two miles
One way
Musty smell
Dark quiet
Stuffed shelves
Do things
Her way
Icy glare
Return here
Face up
Neat piles
This way
20 more
I shall
By age ten
Read all
My way
30 more?
40 more?
50 more?
She bought more?
No way!

Ken Slesarik,(c) 2010

To my fellow bookworms, who dine on this book,
before you take a bite, be sure to look.
You’ll find missing some vowels that I’ve devoured
and the c’s and q’s before they soured.
I’ve left you the e’s and most of the u’s
and they are yours to sample, should you choose.
Most of the consonants, for me lacked flavor,
but the b’s and x’s are ones to savor.
Some final advice, I’d almost forgotten,
don’t eat the g’s because they are rotten
and irregular blends, you’ll wish you had waited,
because they will make you constipated.

Liz Korba

From tree to leaf – each side a page,
But now the leaves are leaving,
As did the scroll
(The noun, not verb)
So many years ago.
Do not lament these leaving leaves –
The paper that you know,
Where once was stone, papyrus, clay
And parchment long ago.
From tree to leaf – each side a page
A way to hold us – Words,
But we can’t stay –
For it’s our way
To move
From time
To time.

Euleta Usrey

I can recall
the exact moment
it happened.
It was better than
the proverbial light bulb
clicking on.
The teacher was reading
about Dick
about Jane
and Spot
while I held the book.
And I got it
the words on her lips
came from
the letters on my page.
So began
my lifelong love affair
with books.

Julie Krantz

I ran
deep green
and played
in fields
of corn
Words on paper till the wind…
I slept
the August
and didn’t
till dawn
Words on paper till the wind…
And tho’ I’m
a city kid
who’s never
a farm
Words on paper till the wind…
I ran through
deep green
and played
in fields
of corn.

Oya H. Mwanza

First Bell
Jamal struts across the threshold with a song in his hair, a poem in his heart and a flair in the air…
He’s ready!
Su Lin has her translator dictionary (audio version), 5 questions on last night’s home work, and 5 new vocabulary words she’s learned…
She’s ready!
Pearl smacks her lips, brushes her hair, clicks the makeup case and puts away her copy of Seventeen Magazine…
She’s ready!
Miguel made it today after working a late night shift. He has some of last week’s work done and some questions about make up work….so much work…but he finished the novel…He is determined…and …
He’s ready!
Jonathan enters…looks at the agenda…”Oh, Snap!!! I forgot my homework!!!….Can I get on the computers???”…He walks to the back of the room…
He’s ready!
Actually, Anita was the first to arrive. She has special privileges (because of her wheel chair) … She’s gifted, Ivy League bound and …
She’s ready!
Second Bell
“Good Morning, Class!!!”
“Good Morning!!!”
Instructor Profile: M.Ed. in Content Area, Certified in Content Area, ESOL Endorsed, Reading Endorsed, Gifted Endorsed, Special Education Certification, Tech Savvy, and…

Wynee Wang

Bear, Bear, Bear
By Wynee Wang
“What is this word?” asked my mother,
“Um…um…” my face turned red.
Next comes a slap that makes me shiver
“Bear, bear, bear” she read.
“How many times I have to tell you
This word here is pronounced bear!
You’re dumb, dense, and know so few,
It makes me pull out my hair!”
“Bear, bear, bear” I whispered
As tears streamed down my watery eyes.
“Xiong” should be the word that’s heard,
But Chinese needs to say its good-byes.
“BEAR, BEAR, BEAR” she cried
And throws the book back at my face.
I don’t know why but at least I tried,
I’d rather read at my own pace.
“Please, please, please” I breathed,
Praying this pain will seize.
Some day I will teach children to read
So they may learn in peace.

Jane Heitman Healy

Geese vee across the sky,
Wings spread as open books.
Every wing stroke turns a page
From northern marsh
To southern swamps.
Every flap of every feather
Relates chapters:
New horizons,
Changing seasons,
Fresh fields to feed
On tender grass and grains
Near nests of downy reeds,
Onto the same waters,
Over the same flyways,
Honking vees narrate migration.

Barbara J. Turner

“Welcome to my parlor,”
said the spider to the child.
“Come in, get comfy cozy.
Sit and stay awhile.
I will spin a web and wrap you
in the pages of a book.
Come inside,” the spider said.
“Come. Please take a look.”
The child came in and settled down.
The spider laughed with glee.
She spun a web so wondrous
the child could not break free.
And still today that child sits
enraptured in a book.
“Come inside,” the spider says.
“It’s your turn. Take a look.”

Mary Nida Smith ©

I am
The Book Protector
Be kind to books
For I am watching
I am
The Book Protector
You can not hide
I see everywhere
If you are unkind
To books
I will jump out
Take the book away
For I am
The Book Protector

V. L. Gregory

Along a secluded river strand–
Squatting beside dying embers–
A cowboy stokes the fire he manned
To illumine the treasure in hand.
He sits down, relaxes–remembers.
A comely woman with raven hair
And delicate lavender scent;
Her eyes, doe-brown, her complexion fair.
She sheltered his youth, absolved his care.
Until Cholera–Blue Death–was spent.
He was left alone when Papa died;
An orphaned child of only ten.
Death bequeathed to him this gem, his pride;
A cherished book always at his side.
A book where wisdom changed boys to men.
It was penned in Mother’s sweeping script.
Family tales–joyful and dire.
Lifetime scenes from crib to crypt.
Dog-eared, but not a single page ripped.
Revealing her hopes, plans, and desires.
He mutely mouths words as pages turned,
Each tale etched in his heart and mind.
For the old times, his heavy heart yearned;
Times at her knees when he might have learned
To read these words and name she signed.

Jackie Huppenthal

he looks
crawls over
scoots back
until he reaches my lap
his tiny warm body presses into mine
I load his legs with stories and rhyme
rub my chin over his soft golden hairs…
I read; he listens, he cares
he was so young
but already knew
for it was our favorite thing to do
read his picture books

Cory Corrado

Outside, autumn wind and rain are venting,
unleashing their blustery cold wetness,
sweeping the last of summer away…
Inside, window-side she perches
wrapped in a blanket; delicious warmth
ripples through her body and soul.
On her lap, another world rests.
She fingers the hard cover trying to remember every detail:
the textured jacket, the spine firm and thick;
the bold lettering; the soft rich illustrations.
The title she reads over and over;
recalling how she had been magnetized to it…
In the palm of her hands, a whole universe dwells.
Embedded in every page: the sun, the wind, the moon and the rain;
the birds, the bees, the flowers, and the trees;
the love and energy of every living thing.
Outside, cold windy and wet
Inside, warm delicious and dry
Excitedly, mindfully the reader flips to page one.
The opening lines grab her …
Time stands still.

Silindile Ntuli

It started as a joke,
A dare between young mates.
You knock on the door and run,
She’ll have to step out of the shower.
Knock and run, we’ll take pictures.
Willy was a skinny kid
A wimp (as his peers called him)
He will never do it,
Hicken Willy was his middle name.
“Today is the day” Willy thought,
Charging for the door, heart pounding.
He reached it, thump thump his heart pounded,
But Wimpy Willy was fed up.
He rang the brown door, turned to run south,
His left foot on his right lace,
Willy had no way of knowing,
He wanted to prove a point.
Now he’s screaming in pain,
broken leg, bruised arm.
Banged head, bruised ego.
Book him in, says the nurse,
Look at Willy,
Banged but chicken no more.


Courtney Clawson, grade 6

I wonder what would happen
if you jumped into a book
You could meet your favorite characters
and maybe take a look
At the enchanting pixies flying
and the lands above the trees
Look at the dragons roaring
and the fish beneath the seas
Or maybe it goes deeper
right into your heart
And that is what makes a book
such a work of art –

Maria Ciminillo, grade: 6

A book,
a normal object you think.
you are wrong.
It is a door,
a portal.
To a magic world,
a different place to everyone who enters
It is blank.
No color.
No life.
No sound.
As you flip a page the world is colored in,
bit by bit,
page by page.
The rivers fill with words
The sky with imaginary birds.
Then it is there.
You made it!
Your own kingdom!
When you close the book the kingdom stops filling in,
the rivers stop flowing,
the colors stop rolling in.
It awaits your return.
The book sits there,
your kingdom inside.
Trying to find a way to make you open up and imagine more.
Then you flip again
and enter the kingdom.
And the life
and sparkle in the kingdom
is revived.
You begin to feel like,
you belong in this world
like what you live and breathe for
is finding better ways to develop it
to make it better
more interesting
a bigger and better kingdom.
It becomes impossible to leave,
impossible to shut the heavy wrought iron gate
and lock it away forever.
Leaving the kingdom that
rains words,
the kingdom that can hold every emotion at once,
the one where anything is possible,
where the sun shines at night
and the moon glows at dawn.
And you know that the gate will
remain open.
You will never close your book.

Kaartikeya Raj Gupta (KK), grade 6

I am irritated
I am locked away in a prison
I am trapped inside
I am pinned to homework
If I was free
If I was not inside
If I had no homework
I would be in my Redwood fort
I would take a book and dash to the top
where you can feel the cool breeze against your skin
I’d sit there and …

Clio, grade 5

Books are smart,
books are funny,
books are relaxing,
books are nice,
books are great,
books are cool,
books are super duper,
books are helpful,
you don’t need a computer to read,
books will not be happy if you read the computer,
books are just like us because they are living things, too,
so don’t be mean to books.