The power of posting student poetry

Hi everyone,

Nearly ten years ago, when this blog was new and teachers had more time to post poems written by their students, we routinely received students’ work. Classroom culture has changed now. It’s a rare month when a single student poem is posted. It’s a change that I regret.

Two student poets stand out in my memory. Ironically, neither went through the suggested route to get their poems on my blog. Both girls got there on their own, with parental help and support. Rachel Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan were in 4th grade when their early poetry appeared. In those days we held monthly balloting to select the “Children’s Poet of the Month,” and sometimes voting was spirited. One month the contest came down to Rachel and Taylor and votes poured in from several countries. At the time it was the busiest day my blog had experienced.

Not long after that event, I gave a keynote at SCBWI in New Jersey. Rachel begged her mom Michele to drive several hours to the conference so she could meet me. I introduced her to a crowded room of writers and illustrators and they gave her a resounding round of applause. The following year Michele again drove many hours to bring Rachel and young sister Sarah to my poetry workshop in Pennsylvania so we could share lunch together. And word has it that they just might make it again this year. I would love that!

As for my other poet, Taylor, I received a note from her yesterday that I appreciated so much I want to share a little of it.

“I’m sixteen years old now, and will be entering my junior year in high school…my interest in songwriting and efforts to write a musical recently reminded me of where I got my real start in poetry – your blog. To this day, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity that your monthly poetry contest afforded me. It gave me a chance to put my work out there, and kept me motivated even when writer’s block proved to be a hindrance. I have such fond memories of participating in the W.O.M. challenge…I have been writing for all the years since. I have participated in NaNoWriMo, drafted (or at least partially drafted) multiple novels, written award-winning “modern myths” for a youth academic convention multiple years in a row, composed songs (both music and lyrics), and also performed well on written assessments at school. I believe I owe some of that success to you and your contest; without it, I would not have been nearly so brave in my later endeavors.”

As we all know, writing is something we learn by doing. My blog didn’t teach Taylor to become the successful student writer she has become. She did that on her own. But we all begin somewhere, and I’m thrilled that Taylor believes her career began here. I’m deeply grateful to her for telling me and hope I don’t embarrass her by sharing some of her letter. I do it because we never know when, how, or where a young mind will become challenged and energized, turned on to a path of personal importance. And THAT’S why I regret that we so rarely see student poems posted here anymore.

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It’s a living

Hi everyone,

This orb spider has been making its home in our yard lately. The web, cleverly anchored to the corner of our house a few feet from the sheltering tree, is hard to see. My guess is that a good many small insects have found that true, too, and too late.

Imagine yourself a fly buzzing around looking for a nice picnic to spoil. In the distance you see a very small speck hanging in space, nothing worthy of further consideration.IMAG1623

But as you fly this way and that in the neighborhood, you can’t stop thinking about that little speck. Eventually you swing back that way and come somewhat closer. Hmm. The thing’s bigger than you first thought.IMAG1625

But what the heck. Somewhere there’s some yummy dog stuff along the curb. The odor beckons. And yet — that thing in space — what the devil could it be?
IMAG1627

Well, you know how this ends. Anyone have a spider story or poem to share? Here’s a quickie from me.

Bright
eyes,

ready
fangs,

eats
flies.

Thangs!

Pat’s back!

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve decided to leave this one up for a third day. We’re getting a lot of visitors to Pat Lewis’s challenge and poets are still contributing their poems to the fun. Thanks, Pat!

Hi everyone,

I’m delighted that our friend J. Patrick Lewis has just popped up with a devilishly clever new challenge, which he calls “mini-mini-book reviews.” Thank you, Pat, for giving us one that will be a challenge indeed. Let’s see what comes of this. Here’s the entire note from Pat, plus his usual helpful examples.

David, I wonder if your readers might have some fun concocting “mini-mini-book reviews.” To wit:

Moby Dick
(Herman Melville)

Man’s obsessed,
Whale is gored—
Man goes a little
Overboard.

* *

The Catcher in the Rye
(J.D. Salinger)

Adolescence
In its essence:
Anti-phony
Testimony
On society’s
Anxieties
By the golden-
Tongued Holden.

* *

Tarzan of the Apes
(Edgar Rice Burroughs)

Vanilla
Gorilla,
A sort of
Sportive
King of
Swing

Charlotte’s Web
(E.B. White)

At the fair, Wilbur (pig) wins!
Charlotte (spider) silk-spins
A reverie
Every
So often,
Saving Wilbur
From coffin.

* *
Fahrenheit 451
(Ray Bradbury)

People read books,
Books are harmful.
Fireman cooks
Books by armful.
People leave home.
Each one learns
A novel, a poem.
Fire Chief burns.

* *

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
(Brothers Grimm, Robert Browning)

Exterminator catches pests;
The town refuses his requests.
He sets out to right the wrong
By playing on his flute a song
Exciting and inviting . . . that’s
When kids start disappearing. Rats!

* *

Bambi
(Felix Salten)

Trouble’s coming
Here. Hear?
Hunters shooting—
Bam-blam!
Tearful tale of
Woe. Whoa!
End of Mother
Dear deer.

* *
I’ll go first, Pat. Here’s one effort. I’ll do others. David

Best Christmas Pageant Ever
(Barbara Robinson)

Every year, same play,
Same kids, same way.
Bullies come, loud, rough,
Hijack roles, act tough,
Unimpressed by plays past,
Shout the words to life at last.