Saturday roundup

Hi everyone,

Today I’m in Atlanta, or at least that was the plan when I wrote this yesterday. I should return Tuesday night.

Those of you who visit my blog often may have noticed that our friend Silindile Ntuli has been silent lately. Silindile’s health is fragile. She is often too weak to get much work done and she’s nearly always in pain. Her mother, Nomusa, also has health problems but has managed to be a strength for Silindile as well as her other children and the family. Several weeks ago Nomusa was hospitalized with a painful condition that has prevented her from coming home. She will finally be released this weekend so you can imagine the joyous reunion awaiting her. I asked Silindile for permission to tell you about this. I know she misses everyone. She reads your comments as often as she can and promises to join in again as soon as she feels stronger.


My mother’s house finally sold after being on the market for 3 1/2 years. When going through some old books, I ran across my master’s thesis from Emory University in Atlanta, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. The title? Are you ready for this? THE GROWTH OF THE RAT TAPEWORM, HYMENOLEPIS DIMINUTA, DURING THE FIRST FIVE DAYS IN THE FINAL HOST. The thesis became my first publication when it appeared in The Journal of Parasitology,October, 1961. My wife typed the thesis and swore off forever. In those days we used typewriters, onion skin paper, and carbon paper to make copies as we typed. Make one mistake and we had to start over. Sandy was a Spanish/English major. You can imagine how she loved typing passages like this:

“Calculations for area, given in table III, were made on 401 worms in the same six age groups. The worms showed area increases of 1.3 x the first day, 4 x the second day, 4.2 x the third and fourth days, and 2.2 x the firth day.” Or how about this? “Prior to the use of the scraping method for recovering young tapeworms, only 0.4 percent of 1,500 cycticercoids given to 10 rats were later reclaimed as worms.”


Lovely? I thought so then! If you don’t care for tapeworms, how do you feel about mice? Here’s an excerpt from my second publication, printed in The Pharmacolgist, Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1962. Mom kept it too. By then I was a pharmacologist and spent my days in research. The name of this one? A STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF MOUSE MOTOR ACTIVITY DATA AS RECORDED WITH THE NUTATING ANNULAR ACTIVITY CAGE. But you probably guessed that. And here’s some of the sterling prose from the abstract. “The total activity counts of 500 mice given 0.9% saline were distributed in a log normal curve at 60′ and closely approached it at 30′.” Well, you get the drift.


So now you know how I became a children’s poet. My education and early profession led me directly to it.

Woza Woza, Poetry Tag, and WOM Poems

Hi everyone,

I’m home for a while and have a lot of catching up to do. Here are three cases in point.


I haven’t kicked off a Woza Woza Poem for this month. This suggestion came from Silindile Ntuli. The idea is that someone begin with a first line and others add a line (or more) each day to see how the poem develops and where it takes us. We tried the first poem in November but somewhere along the line we got bogged down and never finished it. I’ll go first again this month. Here is my line to get us started:

She came to me, a stranger, and climbed on my lap.
She is so cute, I smiled and knew we would be friends
(2nd line just now added, thanks to Janet Kay Gallagher.)
I stroked her fur; felt the scar upon her floppy ear
(Thanks, Cory Corrado.)

Thanks and keep the lines coming. Let’s keep this poem free verse. It needs no meter or rhyme.


On December 1, we started a game of poetry tag, which was suggested by Jane Heitman Healy. She started with a poem about orthopedic shoes and was quickly followed by Corry Corrado, Scarred Poet, and Ken Slesarik. Each poet picked up some element of the preceding poem to relate to. Ken left us with a hippo and no notion of what it migh eat. That’s how poetry tag works. We started with shoes and wound up with a hippo with a mystery diet after only three new poems.

In the spirit of keeping the game of tag going, here’s my contribution. My poem is connected by the idea of diet. The poem is previously published in the book THE BOY WHO COUNTED STARS.

The Perfect Diet

Mrs. LaPlump weighed 300 pounds,
Her husband weighed 202.
“I’ve got to lose some weight,” she said,
“I’ll give up potatoes and pizza and bread.”
Mr. LaPlump said, “I will, too.
My darling, I’ll do it for you.”

When each of them lost 100 pounds,
He weighed only 102.
“I’ve got to lose more weight,” she said.
“This next 100,” said he, “I dread
For when we are finished I’ll only weight 2,
But darling, I’ll do it for you.”

They lost another 100 pounds,
Her figure was perfect and trim,
But there is a lesson here I think,
Mr. LaPlump continued to shrink
And one day disappeared down the sink,
And you may find this grim, my dears,
But it was the end for him.

I hope this poem will inspire some new directions with your poems that somehow relate. Think humor, weight, diet, sink, food, pizza, etc. There are lots of ways to tie in.


I’m glad to see that we already have two poems posted for this month’s Word of the Month Challenge. From Steven Withrow we have “Climate Change in Faeryland” and in the WOM Young Poets, Grades 8-12, Omar Teran has posted his poem, “Weather.”

I look forward to December, as busy as it is, to see what will come from your creative spirits during the month.

Thanks everyone,

A good idea from Jane Heitman Healy

BULLETIN: Check out the comments below to see that we are already having some players in the new poetry tag game!

Hi everyone,

A while back I had a note from Jane Heitman Healy, who is a very welcome and regular participant here. Jane was wondering if we could play a poetry game along the lines of Sylvia Vardell’s poetry jams. Sylvia assembles a panel of poets. One leads off by reading a poem. Everyone else on the panel starts scrambling to find one of their own poems that connects in some way to the first. If more than one poet has a poem to read, that’s fine. Someone must then find a new poem that relates to the previous one, and so on.

These poetic romps are great fun and the connections may be quite tenuous at times. Just about anything goes. Match humor with humor, short with short, shoe with boot, bird with seed, flowers with butterflies. You get the idea.

Jane and I decided to introduce the new game today and Jane leads off with the following poem. Read, enjoy, and start your engines. Post a new poem or one from your files. All is fair and the result should be entertaining. You must tell us in what way your poem relates to the one you’re matching. Frankly, I expect some real groaners.

Orthopedic Shoes Don’t Flamenco
by Jane Heitman Healy

Orthopedic shoes don’t flamenco.
They don’t tango, fandango, or romp.
They don’t cha-cha or foxtrot or two-step.
Their only dance is the stomp.

Orthopedic shoes help my feet grow
Into the shape they should.
Someday I’ll swirl, twirl and pivot
And give up orthopedics for good.

In case you think I’ve forgotten about Silindile Ntuli’s Woza Woza Poem, I have not. I’m afraid I got us off to a poor start last month but I intend to try it again this month, unless someone else beats me to it. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to keep it going? Maybe I butted in too much? Maybe we tell the December Woza Woza in couplets?

Onward and upward!


Want to read October’s winning poems?

UPDATE: We’re moving along,Woza Woza-wise. Mary Nida Smith and I collaborated on line 7. But now we’ve run ourselves up a tree and need someone’s help to get back down or offer other suggestions about our mystery creatures surfing through the cinnamon leaves. Help!

Today I saw something I’ve never seen before,
A sea of cinnamon swirls surfing the forest floor.
Leaves you say? And well you may, but more it seemed to me,
Tiny brown-clad creatures surfed that swirling sea.

Tiny brown-clad creatures wearing leather hats
Trimmed with gold feathers! Can you believe that?
Could trees provide these wee folk shelter for themselves?

Now we need to consider who these diminutive, fashion-conscious creatures might be. Where did they come from? What are they doing? Where are they going? Remember, we are composing a 30-line poem so we can’t paint ourselves into any corners here. The story needs to remain open to further development, surprises, and adventures.

Hi everyone,

Sorry that I’ve not been as available as usual. Readers want to see the four winning poems from October so here they are.

The first two were selected by our panel of judges to be our first ever WORD OF THE MONTH POETS.

Our judges chose Barbara J. Turner as the October Adult Word of the Month Poet for this poem.


She came into the world
a dollar bill,
fresh and crisp,
hot off the press,
a brand new member of the
strong and steady Greenback family.

But something happened.
At sixteen, she changed,
turned into two quarters,
four dimes, a nickel
and five pennies overnight.
No one saw it coming.

She quit school,
ran off to the city and
joined a gang of nickel slugs
and Canadian quarters,
worthless folks, unwelcome
even in the grimiest payphone.

The penny arcade crowd lured her next.
Day after day she shushed
down slippery steel slopes
into the hot grubby hands
of pre-pubescent teens.
It was fun and exciting and she liked it.

But over time, she lost herself.
Just bits and pieces.
A nickel her, a penny there,
change so small
she barely noticed.
When she did, it was too late.

She’d become a fifty-cent piece,
copper with nickel plating
and no silver at all,
freakish and strange,
an object to gawk at,
as odd as a Susan B. Anthony.

She took up with a ruble
who devalued her,
brought her down even lower,
then kicked her to the curb.
In the streets, people whispered,
“Loose change,” and she knew it was true.

Her green was gone.
Even her nickel plating.
She was all copper now, a dull,
lifeless penny too worthless to save,
hovering on the edge of a sewer
ready to roll in and die.

And then she saw it,
a sign in a window,
bright green letters wrapped in dollar signs.
‘Bank with us and earn.’
‘Build your savings.’
Salvation was at her fingertips.

She could save herself.
She could check herself in.
It would take time, and work, but she could grow.
She could bounce back and become
the dollar bill she’d been before.
She could even become stronger.

Why not? There was nowhere to go
but up, and this was America, damn it!
her home, her country,
the land of the Almighty Dollar,
where cotton was king and . . .
No. . . . er, wrong metaphor.
But she could come back.
She would come back.
After all, tomorrow was another day.
(She’d read that once in a book.)
Oh yes. Tomorrow was another day.

Barbara J. Turner
New Hampshire

The nod for October Word of the Month Young Poet went to Claire Tipton for her poem.

The Run

As I step onto the path,
My adrenaline started
Rushing through my veins
I started running and
The cool breeze
Swept through me.
Leaves flew all over
The ground almost
ready to change brown.

Buckeyes covered the trail
As I tried to step
Over them like they
Were hot lava
Little children came
To play on the swings
Screaming wildly
Through the air

As I get to
My destination,
My lungs get cold
And it gets harder and harder
to push on.
And as I sprint up the
It all happens again.

The cool breeze,
The leaves
Flying all over the ground,
Buckeyes covering
The trail,
The children screaming
Wildly through the air,
And as I stop,
Take a deep breath,
I turn around,
And do it again.

Claire Tipton, 6th Grade
Maumee Valley Country Day School
Toledo, Ohio

October’s HALL OF FAME POET, selected by popular vote, is Silindile Ntuli. Here is Silindile’s winning poem.

This Change, Wishing It Away

I’ve seen the devil’s eyes,
Filled with hatred and hungry for torment.
I looked into those eyes; I was just a little girl.
Each touch, no each yank left a bruise on my skin,
Each drag made me scream out loud,
But my heart was suffering the most,
In a fog I could not understand.

A slap across my face followed by harsh words,
The smell of his body suffocated me,
That alone brought him to a smile.
I looked in the eyes of hatred,
Wondering what my crime was.
Till I found myself facing a knife,
I was not even five.
This sudden change was new to me,
But I knew it was evil at its best.

Send me down my angel,
Fling him down, throw him down.
I need help, because my soul is dying.
They told me about angels,
I need mine by my side.
Just a few minutes ago,
I was playing with my teddy.
Now my head is pinned to the dirty ground,
I am only a little girl.

Minutes later I’m sleeping on the ground,
Tightly holding my teddy.
My clothes are dirty from the dragging,
My body is in pain,
The kind I never knew existed.
My soul is filled with hatred,
And burning with anger.
Traumatized little girl,
Heart shattered into pieces.
I cry myself to sleep on the floor,
Clutching my brown bear.

Silindile Ntuli
South Africa

Our October Hall of Fame Young Poet award goes to Emily Rigby for her poem.

Four Little Rain Boots

A drifting leaf,
Mud sloshing,
Raindrop after raindrop,
Four little feet running out of a barn,
One little yellow boot on each,
Two little children.
Oh, how they run,
If only they knew,
How lucky they are.
Curly red hair,
Hiding the giggly face behind it.
If only they were aware of how much others envy them.
For, they still carry their innocence.
These happy expressions will stay happy for a while.
These two minds hold no knowledge of,
Laughter floating around the rustic red barn remains loud.
And they begin to
near the field.
Their lives are still sugarcoated.
And they should stay that way.
But change is imminent.
There’s no way around it.

Emily Rigby, 5th Grade
Maumee Valley Country Day School

NEW THING: Woza Woza Poem!

ANNOUNCEMENT: My thanks to Mimi Cross for writing such a lovely article about her experience in my three-hour poetry intensive session at the New Jersey SCBWI state conference in June. I just received a copy of Sprouts, Issue 3, 2010, which carries Mimi’s article. Thanks to Editor-in-Chief Kathy Temean, Executive Editor Anita Nolan, and especially to Mimi. Here is the link to the journal: .

Hello Everyone,

I’m pleased to show you another of those marvelous videos that Jana Smith and her students have created. This one, by Hope, is a real delight. If you like it, please let her know in your comments.
Here is the poem link:

If you are among those who indicated on the survey that you enjoy writing poetry, here’s another challenge. This one comes from South Africa and from none other than our friend Silindile Ntuli, who goes by Soul Dose on her site ( ).

Silindile suggested this new poetry challenge, which is open to adults and students, and shall be known as a Woza Woza Poem. Woza woza is a Zula term for something that has such strong appeal that we find ourselves returning to it again and again. At least I think that’s the definition. If I’m not quite accurate, I trust Silindile to correct me. Little by little she has been teaching me a few words and terms of Zulu.

Here’s the proposition.

1) Today I give you the first line of a poem.
2) After tomorrow’s post is up, someone else must add a line.
3) Post your suggested next line in the comments box.
4) I’ll choose one of your suggested lines to add to the poem.
5) Each day I’ll repeat the process of selecting one of the new proposed lines to add to the growing poem.
6) We’ll do this all month until the final poem is 30 lines long.

That’s it. Sound interesting? Are you hooked?

I think a Woza Woza poem can be composed in verse or in free verse. It can even be a combination of both over the course of the 30 days of November. However, I propose to start this first poem in free verse. Here is my first line.

Today I saw something I’ve never seen before.

Got it? Okay, be thinking about a second line. Tomorrow I’ll expect to see some killer ideas!

My thanks to Silindile for suggesting this new fun challenge. Let’s try our first Woza Woza Poem and see where it leads.