Announcing Bobbi Katz

BULLETIN: This morning I put into a bowl the names of those who signed my website guest book for the first time during January and drew out a winner. Congratulations to Ken Slesarik. Ken has chosen to send me some of his poetry to be critiqued. I look forward to reading more of Ken’s work.

Yesterday I received excellent news from an old friend. Bobbi Katz has accepted my invitation to make a guest appearance here on Friday, April 9.

Thursday I’ll leave Springfield to attend CCIRA in Denver. Friday I’ll make a presentation on poetry and also join my friend and co-author Kathy Holderith in a second presenation. CCIRA is a great reading conference and I’m always pleased to be part of it. One of the things I’ll talk about is Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Maybe we’ll start getting more poems from Colorado. I would like that.

This month’s teaching tool on my website (go to Teachers) is about journaling and idea files. It should be up in the next day or so. Not everyone keeps a journal but quite a few writers do and I think it might be a good conversation point.

Please let us know your thoughts and your practices of keeping ideas in some form. If you keep a journal, when did you start? How often do you write in it? What kind of entries do you make? Do you also keep folders of ideas, scraps from articles, and other tidbits that might lead to something to write about? I hope someone will get us going rght away.

On a silly note, we have uninvited guests in our attic. Raccoons are up there and by the sounds I’d say they’re bowling, square dancing, or enjoying the mating season. Sandy read on the Internet that loud music might drive them off so last night I pulled down the stairs, climbed into the attic, turned on a radio full blast, and left it there until we went to bed. I haven’t heard from the raccoons today but it can’t be this easy. I have a feeling that before this is over we’ll be fighting over which station to listen to. Stay, uh, tuned.

Last day for your poems

My sincere thanks to Vicki Grove for yesterday’s guest article. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure you don’t miss it!



BULLETIN: Guess who posted a poem last night? Kathy Temean, that’s who! Better go have a look. It’s a fun poem.

Hi Everyone,

This past week was a busy one.

On the 16th, I proposed to provide tips on writing poetry and said I’d get back with a plan. I also listed the schedule for upcoming guests including Vicki Grove (1/22), Laura Robb (1/29), Laura Purdie Salas (2/5), and Lee Bennett Hopkins (2/12).

On the 17th, Kathy Temean posted another of my poems, “My Essay on Birds,” as the Poem of the Week. Thanks to the generous support of George Brown, Sharon Umnik, and the graphic team at Boyds Mills Press, Kathy now has access to all of my books with BMP and can choose at random a poem each week for the Sunday feature. I hope you enjoy the weekly feature because I have enough published poems to last a number of years. By asking Kathy to do the choosing, I’m often surprised to see old friends.

On the 18th, I told you about newly posted poems by Liz Korba, Rosalind Adam, Erin McMullen, V. L. Gregory, Melanie Bishop, Reta Allen, and Genia Gerlach. I also discussed the poetic foot as part of my proposed series of poetry tips.

On the 19th, I posted a proposed outline for poetry tips to come. I said that I’ll try to stay with a schedule of adding tips on Wednesdays but asked that you not hold me to it every week.

On the 20th, I announced that we had heard from our first four young poets of the month and urged everyone to read their work. Jan Gallagher posted a poem. I reported on an article I like in this issue of Language Arts, a publication of NCTE. The article is called “Asking the Experts: What Children Have to Say About Their Reading Preferences.”

On the 21st, you read some biographical information about Vicki Grove prior to her appearance the following day as my guest. Mimi Cross posted her poem for January.

On the 22nd, Vicki’s straight talk from the heart reached a lot of readers who related to her words and shared similar problems in making time to write. Vicki observed that life-inspired surprises can happen to a story when it’s left alone. Jane Yolen shared her term for it: “Here come the elves.” We also received poems from three more young poets.


Of contests and dirt poems

votesmThanks to everyone who has completed the PollDaddy survey to help me get a better idea
of who you are and how my blog can serve you better. If you haven’t done so yet, I hope you will.  Just click the “Vote Box” on the left to vote.  It takes less than a minute to click a few buttons and like I said, it will help me focus on the right content.


My thanks to everyone who is participating in this month’s contests. At the end of October I’ll draw a winning name from those who have signed my website guest book. The winner will receive his or her choice of an autographed book or a critique of some poetry or a picture book.Also at the end of October I’ll send an autographed copy of Partner Poems to the person who has left the most comments on my blog site during this month.

I’ve been delighted by all the poems you’re shared this month! It’s amazing how many ways the word dirt has inspired us. The first of November I’ll announce a new word so I hope you’ll participate again and spread the word to others who might like to join the fun.

I expect to see more dirt poems come in but here’s what we have so far. I thought you might enjoy seeing them all in one place. Let me know if I’ve overlooked anyone.


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 on hand,
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.
— David L Harrison


Just sitting here a thousand years – not doing much it seems,
But without me you wouldn’t see that field of flowing green.
There wouldn’t be a hilltop there and vessels made of clay,
No spot for seeds to hide and grow, no place for mice to play
Or other creatures great and small – from moles to bears in caves.
Some things would not know where to stop – like rivers, lakes and waves.
Just sitting here a thousand years – if you dig deep, than more!
I’d let you know so many things – if I had lips like yours.
I’d tell you if the dinosaurs were green or blue or grey,
What ancient people liked to do and what they had to say.
And how the Moon in eons past drew near, was giant-size!
I’d share with you the wonder of that very first sunrise.
I wish that you had all the time that I have sitting here
To slowly watch the changes taking place each million years.
And oh, the things that happen, if you have more time than this.
I’m sorry for those things you haven’t seen and all you’ll miss!
The earth, it moves! And mountains form! New creatures come and go.
Whole cities rise and fall and then will once more start to grow.
Just sitting here thousands of years I’ve watched a lot go by.
I know you cannot live this way, but sometimes, won’t you try
To think about the things I’ve seen and all that I might see.
Remember that I look to you and when you walk on me
The silent dirt that’s all around – the soil, sand and clay
Imagine all you’d be and share if you were me one day.
— Liz Korba


Young Bobby went outside to play
In a black-muddy, spring-sloppy way.
He took off his shoes
As he danced in the ooze
And gave thanks for the glorious day!
– Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved


concrete rivers hide
hungering, slumbering clay
sleeping gardens wait
– Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved


Did I hear you say,
“Eeeuuu, worm poop”?
Well, let me tell
you something, Missy–
worm poop is just
another name for dirt.
Dirt may be an odd
way of saying life, but
for me that’s exactly
what it is. So, if you
want me predicting
your love life, you’d
better be showing
those worms a little
more respect. Got it?
– Diane Mayr


The opposite of clean is dirt
Like ketchup dribbled on your shirt
Or grass stains on your favorite jeans
Or brown stuff stuck to fresh plucked beans
It’s bunnies made of dust and hair
And specks and flecks found everywhere!
— Tricia Stohr-Hunt


Dirt, Oh boy. mud pies!
I’ll make up lots and lots
and set them here to dry
When that kid down the road comes by
I’ll make him eat them pie by pie.
— Jan Gallagher


Pies for sale!
Mud pies for sale!
The finest mud pies
In the world for sale!
Mud pie cherry,
Mud pie peach,
Mud pie apple,
One dollar each,
Mud pie chocolate,
Mud pie lime,
Mud pie gooseberry,
Two for a dime!
How about you, Sir?
Give a pie a try?
Step right up
For a nice mud pie!
If you don’t like
How my pies are made,
Try a nice glass
Of my mud lemonade.
— David L Harrison


Mud is like Silly Putty
it is for playing.
Mud puddles after rain
a slpash delight.
Mud is for mud pies,
but who eats them.
To a cow,
mud is cool.
To a pig,
a beautiful thing.
Toe prints are nice.
Mud fights are not.
— Mary Nida Smith


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.
— Mimi Cross


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!
— Alyssa Kirch, 5th Grade


The dirt of earth is often thought
to be a thing not pretty.
It may be black or tan or red
and rocky, smooth or gritty.
But dirt is probably the most
important thing we’ve got.
Without it where would orchards grow
or clay to make a pot?
Or what would bricks to build a house
be made from without dirt?
Or sandbags to protect a town
and people from flood-hurt?
A mound of dirt piled up real high
could be a climbing hill;
a tiny rose might spring from soil
upon a window sill.
God even formed the first man from
the dirt of earth, you see.
So when we stop to think of it,
without dirt where’d we be?
— Reta Stewart Allen


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


Guest Book Contest

Thanks to everyone who has dropped by my website and signed my guest book.  I love to hear from you.

To encourage others to sign my guest book,


At the end of October I going to take all the names of everyone who signed my Guestbook , put them in a hat, and draw a WINNER. 


A SIGNED COPY OF PIRATES. The book was selected by NCTE as a notable poetry book for 2008 and by VOYA for its nonfiction honor list in 2009. Soon I’ll have some new good news to share about Pirates.


A PICTURE BOOK OR POEM CRITIQUE – if you write poetry for young people or have a picture book and would like your work critiqued, I’ll give you that choice if you’re our winner.


Poetry submissionno more than three double-spaced pages in regular 12 point type.

Picture book  — in rhyme or otherwise — no more than five – 12pt, double-spaced pages. Be sure to leave your e-mail address!

Hope to see you on the guest book!

Am I the only one working on a poem stimulated by a single word? Yesterday (on day four) I finished a rough draft of the one I’m writing based on dirt. I hope on Sunday to hear from others who took the challenge!  David