Remember when?

I’m here in Branson with my wife, mother, son, daughter, son-in-law, grandsons, sister, nephew, and grandniece. I enjoy these opportunities to be near the young people in the family. Sometimes I try to remember what I was like as a five-year-old or a sixteen-year-old. Do you do that too?

I wrote Connecting Dots that way. I started by making a list of things I remembered from my youth. At first the thoughts were random but as more and more made the list I began arranging them chronologically and focusing on what I was like at each age. From there the poems flowed and I spent the next months reliving and experiencing a good many poignant times in my youth.

If you would like to play a little exercise with me, comment below about one of your earliest memories. How old were you and what do you recall?

I’ll go first. When I was three, my parents put a turtle in our basement. The basement floor had cracks in it so sometimes after a hard rain the basement was moist and attractive to bugs. I think Mom and Dad hoped that the turtle would eat the bugs. All I knew was that the turtle was easy to slide across the floor. I don’t know how many times I slid the poor creature, probably not many before my mother discovered what I was doing, but I’m sure that the turtle was in grave danger at the hands of a three-year-old who thought it was a toy. I apologized decades later in a poem in Connecting Dots.

Have fun on Memory Lane.


New on my website

As I work  with Kathy Temean to keep my website interesting and useful, we have agreed to post one of my published poems each week on the blog site, add a new teaching tool each month on the teachers page, and add a new word puzzle each month on the kids page.

The latest poem of the week is based on my memory about being a new kid in school and getting lost in the hall. It comes from Connecting Dots and is called “Jarrett Junior High School.” I attended Jarrett and so did my father.

The teaching tool — “Getting Started on Your Story” — is from my book about writing stories. It’s a Scholastic Guide Book called Writing Stories, Fantastic Fiction from Start to Finish. I’ve used this as a conference handout to help students (or anyone else) create a scenario they’d like to write about.

The new word puzzle on the kids page comes from a Random House title, Wake Up, Sun! This book, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, was published in 1986 and recently passed the 1,000,000 mark in copies sold. Hans and I are currently at work on a new title.

Well, back to work on my poem about dirt. Yesterday I finally got a few thoughts on paper. It’s a start; right?

DON’T FORGET THIS MONTH’S CONTEST. I’ll send a signed copy of Partner Poems for Building Fluency to the person who leaves the most comments during October.

Garage treasure

My thanks to Mary Nida Smith for sharing her story yesterday about becoming a writer. I hope to hear from others on that subject.

Yesterday I was in our garage in search of one thing but found another. My discovery was an old book that had been in my parents’ house, stacked in a closet along with family bibles. It’s called THE IRIS Illuminated Souvenir and was published in 1851 by Professor John S. Hart. The publisher was Lippincott, Grambo & Co.

As you might expect of a book published ten years before the Civil War, the book is in danger of falling apart. I spent some time carefully moving through its pages and wondering who, more than a century and a half ago, once sat with the book in his or her hands, enjoying that same book.

THE IRIS is a book of inspirational writing and poetry. To my modern ear, the language is flowery and overly demonstrative, complete with heaving breasts, deep sighs, and tears that tumble. I’m sure that our language will seem equally quaint to readers in our own future.

Here is the first verse of a rather long, nostalgic poem called “The Old Kitchen Fire,” written by Caroline Eustis. Enjoy this gift from our past.

OH, happy were my early days,
And pleasant was my home,
And sunny was the green hillside
Where I was fond to roam;
No scenes, which memory recalls,
My thoughts with joy inspire,
Compared to my own little seat
Beside the kitchen fire.

I suppose today we might calll this a memory-based poem. I’ve done a couple of books based on memories. If this old poem moves you to share a memory poem of your own, I’d love to see it.