My Word of the Month poem

BULLETIN: This is Paul Bunyan Day. One of my step into reading books for Random House is called PAUL BUNYAN, MY STORY and today I posted a classroom exercise to learn more about Paul, tall tales, and writing on the International Reading Association blog page called ENGAGE. If you’re a member, you can go there to read it.

Hi everyone,

Here’s my poem inspired by SUMMER. Sadly, it’s a concrete poem in the shape of an ice cream cone and I don’t know how to make it work on the blog. If you want to see how it really looks, let me know and I’ll send you a copy or copy the poem to your computer and center it.

David L. Harrison

Double dip
strawberry peach
chocolate chip treasury rich
with promises dripping down the
cone to take wide with joy-smeared
lips or savor in delicate tongue-tip
tastes to make it last make it last
stretch it out in miserly bites
smaller not even
bites nibbles tinier still
mere licks but oh how quickly
sun melts July faster now the
round mounds melt down to memories
delicious and regrettable as sticky knuckles
and here’s August the cone crunches like dry leaves
but down deep at the bottom one
final sip a reservoir of nectar
nestled beyond the tongue
taken only by biting
off the tip to get at
the last sweet
reward of

Taking a straw vote

Here’s a question for you. When I suggested that we might enjoy the challenge of creating a poem inspired by a single word, I had no way of knowing how much interest the idea would generate. We’ve now heard from a number of poets and I understand that a good many more poems will be on their way before the end of October.

If readers are having a good time with this idea, I’m wondering about establishing this on a regular basis. What if we started each month with the “word of the month” and gave everone thirty days to post their poem? That way we would have poems popping up throughout the month.


Do you like the idea of a word of the month poetry challenge?
Drop me a




Also, suggetions for words would be great. Lee Galda has already given me a good winter word for where she lives: slush. Think of words for November, December, etc through the whole year.


How to get started

Since we are seeing a growing number of poems inspired by dirt, I thought this would be a good time to demonstrate one of my favorite methods to get started on those days when my muse seems to be out for coffee. I call this Association. Here’s how it works.

Write a word at the top of the page on the left, leaving room for two more columns to the right. Below that word, write at least three things the word makes you think of. Choose one of those three to head the second column. Again, think of three things that word or phrase makes you think of. Choose one of those three to head the third column and repeat the exercise.

You now have nine thought starters. Of course you can make your lists longer and keep adding columns if you wish. I’ve made columns as long as a dozen associations. You can see how quickly this engages your imagination. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for ideas for poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. As an example I’ve chosen (what else?) dirt.

(1st column)


dishing the dirt
dirty trick
dirty joke

(2nd column)


not fair

(3rd column)


breaking a leg
two tests in one day
missing the bus

Notice how far the list has evolved by the third column and how dissimilar the ideas have become. Even if you don’t develop an idea further, this is a good warm-up exercise to kick start the day.


The other day I suggested that you look at Kathy Temean’s announcement about YOUNG AUTHORS AND ARTISTS GROUP ( Since then I’ve accepted Kathy’s invitation to serve on a panel of authors who will be involved in offering advice to young writers. I look forward to working with Kathy and other members of the panel for this new organization. I copied the information below from Kathy’s blog. Please refer to Kathy to learn more.

Do you know a young adult or child who is interested in writing or art? I would like to introduce you to a new organization – Young Authors and Artisit Group, fondly known as YAAGroup –

If you are a teacher and want to use their materials in you classroom, they have a special for you, too.

If you are a published author and want to be considered for placement on their Author/Illustrator Panel, click here for the form and please e-mail it to the link below.  There are lots of advantages for authors & illustrators, so check it out.  One is having your picture, bio, website and books listed.  Plus, children and teachers will be regularly reminded about you and what you do when they visit.