Tell me about yourself

Hi Everyone,

Please do me a favor. Read down the list below and check each circle that applies to why you visit this blog. If you’re a parent who comes here seeking information as a parent, check parent. If you’re a librarian and a parent but you visit the blog primarily as a librarian, check librarian. If you write nonfiction but also come here in your role as a teacher, check those two circles.

I try to bring you the kind of information that serves a useful purpose so it helps me to stay in tune with you. I’ll leave this open for a week to give you plenty of time. Most readers don’t respond to surveys but I hope a good many of you will help me. Many thanks!

Voting for 2010 Hall of Fame Poets!

Many thanks to my Featured Guest yesterday, Mary Downing Hahn. If you havne’t read her interview yet, this is a good time to get caught up.

REMINDER: There are 24 hours left to bid on a chance to be featured on my blog. If you or anyone you know would be pleased to step on the stage for a day, please get your bid in. At this point someone is going to get a real bargain!

Hello everyone,Today I’m happy to present you with the monthly winners of our first year of Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Below the ballot boxes you will find each of the winning poems so that you can refresh your memory and enjoy the poems all over again.

When you are ready, please cast your ballot for one adult and one student poet. The winners of this election will be named our Hall of Fame Poets, 2010. The polls will remain open through Friday, October 8 (until 10:00 p.m. CST), and I’ll announce our winning poets on Saturday, October 9. Good luck everyone, and have fun. Please remember, the spirit of this blog is to write for the joy of writing. Everyone who has done that has succeeded.

Please note that many of our poets have copyrighted their work and all rights to their work are reseverd by them. Copying and using their work without asking their permission is prohibited although I’m sure that most poets are very happy to see their poems made available to as many readers as possible.


October 2009
Word: Dirt
Winning poem: DIRT BLUES
by Mimi Cross, New Jersey
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.

November 2009
Word: Thanks
Winning poem: YOU’RE WELCOME
by Liz Korba, New Jersey
A gift.
And free
Set free.
(That’s why.)
Need met.
(No debt.)
How powerful!
How unlike prose!
At times
Is a poem.

December 2009
Word: Bone
Winning poem: WISHES
by Linda Kulp, Maryland
After dinner
Mom asked if I
wanted to break the
wishbone with her.
When I said, “No.”
She didn’t say anything
but I could tell
she was hurting.
I was hurting too
remembering how
you and I shared the wish-
bone every Thanksgiving.
You’d always laugh,
wrap your fingers tight
around your half
and pretend to snap it
before I was ready.
But then you’d
always let me win
so I could make
my own special wish.
Well, I’m older now,
you’re gone
and wishbones
have lost their magic.
So what good are they?
Wishes don’t come true,
do they,

January 2010
Word: Time
Winning poem: THE TIME SHIP
by Steven Withrow, Rhode Island
I boarded August Twenty-Ten
That silver ship at Chronos Key.
I’m sure of this, but then again,
It might have been another me.
I signed ship’s log as second mate,
Just nineteen summers to my name.
I perfectly recall the date—
It’s Time itself that’s not the same.
The captain read my duties clear:
To chart our course, night’s watch to keep,
To rouse her crew should bearing veer,
To hail and interrupt their sleep.
We sailed twelve cycles undisturbed,
A glancing headwind at our prow.
Our compass slumbered unperturbed,
Until we reached the Straits of Now.
I stalked the crow’s nest, falcon-eyed,
Regarded marvels in the Stream,
Saw dwarf stars dawning on the tide
And dying there, a sailor’s dream.
Our minds stretched thin, our lives pressed short,
We drifted, time-tossed, toward our berth,
A startling, unfamiliar port,
Though all signs told us this was Earth.
On shore leave, as I write this poem,
The calendar reveals “LV.”
We’ve landed on the sands of Rome.
We’re stranded: Fifty-Five B.C.
And Julius Caesar, six years hence,
Will cross the mighty Rubicon,
And we’ll bear witness, present tense,
Before our Time Ship journeys on!

February 2010
Word: Road
Winning poem: A COUNTRY DRIVE
by Beth Carter, Missouri
I jumped into my blue Chevy truck
Grinning ’cause these drives bring me luck.
As I turned ’round the sharp bend,
I noticed a frayed hole that I must mend.
Soon, I spotted a large frog in the road
Swerving, I barely missing the fat toad.
A soft breeze blew through my hair
As I whistled without a care.
Popping open a diet Coke
I was happy—a lucky bloke.
Driving along with my left knee,
Windows down, nearly stung by a bee.
Sipping my soda, I scanned the dial
As my favorite singer made me smile.
Turning up the sound, I hummed along
Then loudly broke into a song.
I spotted a mooing Jersey cow
Standing beside a lazy sow.
The cow was in a cool pond.
I could drive like this ‘til dawn.
A fast-moving Jeep passed me,
oblivious to the scenery.
Driver’s on the phone–in a hurry.
Where’s the fire? Why the flurry?
A small speckled deer was in sight
As two red birds quickly took flight.
Looking up, I stroked my chin
Dark, ominous clouds rolling in.
Deciding to change my plans,
I turned around to head to Jan’s.
Gonna pick up my best girl
Go dancin’, give her a twirl.
A country drive is hard to beat
“By the way, you can call me Pete.”

March 2010 (2-way tie)
Word: Life
Winning poem: WITHOUT
by Laura Purdie Salas, Minnesota
Without plunging, a waterfall is only a river
Praise the falling, the walling, the surprise of water standing on end
Without sinking, a sunset is only slow-spreading light
Praise the creeping of night and its battle for sky control
Without night falling, the moon just hangs, a pale, cold rock
Praise the backdrop of black, the reflected white glow of sun
Without wintering, summer overstays like holiday houseguests
Praise the sharp freshness of ice, the clean slate before spring
Without dying, life is a treadmill
Praise deadlines and pressure, and the shortness to make time matter
Without ending, the story is unfinished
Praise the anticipation, the fear, the delight of The End

by Jackie Huppenthal, Indiana
“What’d you do today Dear?”
He asks, so I say –
Well, this housewife works hard
gets no glory, no pay…

I weeded the garden
paid most of the bills
cleaned the nasty bird cage
dusted wood blinds and sills

Washed the day’s dishes
then vacuumed the rug
glued the handle back on
my #1 MOM mug

I tackled the laundry
picked up Lego toys
wrapped birthday presents
read books to our boys

Helped with school work
brushed and then walked the dog
grocery shopped (super-quick)
fixed that sink with the clog

The youngest and I
baked a three-layer cake
played several fun games
defrosted the steak

I sewed on two buttons
placed important calls
ran last minute errands
wiped down dirty walls

Finally started the dinner
then wrote this cute poem
so you’d know all I did
right when you came home

Geez… I never relaxed
But the house – Still a mess
Note I did quite a lot
Please don’t add to my stress!

April 2010
Word: Spring
Winning poem: ALL NESTLED IN
by Barbara J. Turner, New Hampshire
With soda and chips
I sit on the couch
put up my feet
slide into a slouch
turn on the tv
click a channel or ten
find a good program
I’m all nestled in
When suddenly a scream
flies off of my tongue.
What in the world – – –
Spring’s finally sprung.

May 2010
Word: Stone
Winning poem: STONE WISE
by Mary Nida Smith, Arkansas
Stone soup is
filled with
apricot stones,
and cherry stones,
that will turn
a person
stone green.
Upon one gravestone
is written:
Here lies
Miles Stonewall,
he stayed away
from stormy
and slippery
stepping stones.
But never learned
to make soup…
with chicken bones.

June 2010
Word: Song
Winning poem: SONG OF THE WEST
by V. L. Gregory, Missouri
How do you sing a song of the West,
Refrains of days gone by?
Start with a banjo, a Stetson, a vest
Then let the melody fly.
The clickety-clack of wagonwheels;
The screech of hawks above;
Son-of-a-Gun Stew for too many meals
Are themes of the West we love.
Around a campfire, many a night,
Keeping the cattle calm–
A mouth-harp plays, assuages their fright;
A comforting, soothing balm.
Prairie grass hums a tedious song
In concert with the wind–
Repeating stanzas all day long;
Tiresome drone without end.
A ballad of storms, strife, and stampedes
Demanding a cowboy’s best.
Sing of your awe of this gallant breed
Of men who conquered the West.

July 2010
Word: Itch
Winning poem: ITCH IN MY SWEATER
by Silindile Ntuli, South Africa
There’s an itch in my sweater, dear granny.
It’s climbing up my arm, dear granny.
There it is moving up my back,
Help me granny, it is spreading all over.
How can I help you now, dear grandson,
When I have an itch up my own sweater, dear grandson,
There it is tickling my back,
Making me jump around and round.
It must be those ants you’re standing on, dear Peter.
Move over to my side, dear Judy.
My side does not cause an itch,
But for now, jump around and get those ants off your backs.

August 2010
Word: Love
Winning poem: MODERN LOVE
by K. Thomas Slesarik, Arizona
Embers, ashes where’s the flame?
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
A love that once was without doubt,
now it’s gone, the fire’s out.
Sizzlin’ fireworks there’s the flame.
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
She feels a love with certainty
and hooks up with the bumble bee.
Where’s the fireworks and the flame?
Two fireflies don’t feel the same.
Then in his heart he feels a tug
and moves in with the ladybug!

September 2010
Word: Book
Winning poem: THE BOOK MOMENT
by Euleta Usrey, Missouri
I can recall
the exact moment
it happened.
It was better than
the proverbial light bulb
clicking on.
The teacher was reading
about Dick
about Jane
and Spot
while I held the book.
And I got it
the words on her lips
came from
the letters on my page.
So began
my lifelong love affair
with books.


October 2009
Word: Dirt
Winning poem: MUD PIE
by Alyssa Kirch, Missouri
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!

November 2009
Word: Thanks
Winning poem: THANKS
by Claire Scott, Maryland
Thanks for Nothing
Thanks for not being there,
when I needed you most.
Thanks for not answering me,
when I had questions.
Thanks for not helping me,
when I needed a hand.
Thanks for not understanding,
when I needed to be understood.
Thanks for not believing in me,
when I needed to beleive.
Thanks for not loving me,
when I needed warmth and care.
Thanks for everything
that you haven’t done.
Thanks for nothing.

December 2009
Word: Bone
Winning poem: A MOTHER’S WISH
by Priya Shah, Maryland
Everyday, I look at
Your face before I left
For a tiring day at work.
Sometimes I came home
A little bit early so I
Could spend a few extra
Minutes with you.

When you grew up
And left home to get a
Good job, I wrote a letter
To you every day saying
How much I missed you,
But I never got a reply.

In the few times I talked
To you on the phone, you
Always said, “I have no time
To visit soon, but I’ll try.”

You never came,
I waited and waited
To see not only you, but
Your child running around,
and I waited and waited
To have a chance to go
And chase after him, but
You never came.

After my body began to
Weaken, I sent one, last
Letter that said, “I spent
My whole life wishing to
Have just one glance at
you, only one, to know
That my little boy has
Grown up.

I needed just one glance
To spend the rest of my
Life in peace. I needed
Just one glance tp know
That my son was okay,
And happy. I never lost
Hope that some day you
Would come and meet me.
I wish I could have come to
Meet you, but my health was
So terrible that I didn’t have
The strength to come.

Son, by the time you read
This letter, I will no longer
Be part of your busy world.
I waited and waited for you
Until, finally, death knocked
At the door. I hope you have
A great life. You and your
Darling family have my
Blessings. Try not to miss
Me too much.”

These old bones perished
After seventy-four long
Years of loneliness.
Looking down from above,
I spot my beloved son
Regretting his action.
At least now I can,
Finally, see him.

January 2010
Word: Time
Winning poem: END
by John Sullivan, Ohio
the end. the Time
has come. My life flashes before my Eyes,
the innocence of childhood seeming Only

yesterday. But those days are gone. Now before my eyes,
the looming grave, bringing terror and relief as I wonder about what will happen when my Time

is up. will I go to the realm so dark and forbidding that my Eyes
will be useless until the end of Time?
or will I go to a place of peace, paradise and comfort Only?

Now as my time comes to an end, I don’t think about that, I only lay back and shut my eyes forever.

February 2010
Word: Road
Winning poem: FAR BEHIND
by Megan Barnett, Ohio
Leaving the state
Leaving your friends
Leaving your school
Leaving your house
Leaving every memory
Far behind
As you travel
On the road
As everything runs through your mind
Every secret
Every friendship
Every crush
You think of everything
That has happened to you
In your life
In this one small town
A tear falls from your eye
Wanting to go back
Wanting your friends back
Wanting everything to come back
Trying to get everything to
Come back
You can’t
Because you’re
Leaving the state
Leaving your friends
Leaving your school
Leaving your house
Leaving every memory
Far behind

March 2010
Word: Life
Winning poem: THE FLOWER’S LIFE
by Colin Hurley, Missouri
In the spring flowers bloom
lots of people assume
that the flowers will be there forever.
But when winter is near
all of the world fears
that the flowers will die
but new ones will come
when spring is here.

April 2010
Word: Spring
Winning poem: SPRING
by Rachel Heinrichs, Pennsylvania
Spring has sprung,
But not just once,
It happens every year.
Now it is here,
The sky is clear,
Spring has sprung again.

May 2010
Word: Stone
Winning poem: SUNDANCE
by Taylor McGowan, Pennsylvania
Staring into the canyon below,
Amazement and awe are the feelings I show.

The fiery sun makes it glow so bright,
The heated orange rocks are a wonderful sight.

I start to climb up the wall made of stone,
without any equipment, and I’m all alone.

But am I, really? Is the canyon my friend?
Or is it my enemy? Is its beauty just pretend?

Friend or foe, I must go on,
But if its the wrong choice, my life may be gone.

Finding a handhold, I climb a bit higher,
Looking down, I find my situation is dire.

My foot slips off, and rocks tumble down,
If the fall doesn’t kill me, in the river I’ll drown.

But I cling to the stone, my heart beating fast,
Next time, will I fall into the canyon so vast?

I move my foot so I’ll be okay,
How long will this take me? An hour? A day?

As I pull myself higher, my arms start to ache,
I’ve started to think this is a path I cannot take.

Sweat dampens my hair, the sun burns my face,
This is a battle, its the clock that I race.

I see the top, but it’s so far away,
I am so tired… I’m starting to sway.

But I have to go higher, it’s my only choice,
I’m sure my reward will make me rejoice.

My hands are raw from the rough orange rock,
But I can’t stop now: I’m racing the clock.

There’s the top! I’m finally there!
I hoist myself up: sights like this are rare.

I manage to stand on the high flattened stone,
I look at the sights that I found on my own.

The bright, hot sun floods the canyon with light,
Its outrageously beautiful… a picture perfect sight.

I sat there for hours, admiring the sun,
And before I knew it, my visit was done.

The sun was sinking, so it was getting dark,
Here in Grand Canyon National Park.

September 2010
Word: Book
Winning poem: IMAGINE
by Courtney Clawson, Ohio
I wonder what would happen
if you jumped into a book
You could meet your favorite characters
and maybe take a look

At the enchanting pixies flying
and the lands above the trees
Look at the dragons roaring
and the fish beneath the seas

Or maybe it goes deeper
right into your heart
And that is what makes a book
such a work of art –

Poetry Tip #6


Today I’m happy to present Poetry Tip #6. This one is about the two shortest forms of verse, the couplet and the tercet. Next time I’ll get to the four line stanzas.


In 1959 I sat in an auditorium in Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia to hear Robert Frost speak. At 85 and rather frail, he thrilled us with his famous poems read as only the poet could read them. Toward the end of his presentation, Frost confided that he no longer had the energy to compose longer works but he still loved writing couplets.


A couplet, that shortest of all stanzas, can stand alone as a single poem or be used as a building unit for longer poems of any length. Writing couplets is a great way to get into verse (structured poetry). Ogden Nash made mirthful use of the two line poem when he penned:

The cow is of the bovine ilk,
One end is moo, the other, milk.

In my case, I found frequent use of the couplet in BUGS, POEMS ABOUT CREEPING THINGS. For example:

The termite doesn’t eat the way it should.
It’s not his fault, his food all tastes like wood.

In the first case, Nash uses four beats per line of iambic meter so we call that structure iambic tetrameter. My poem is also in iambic but uses five beats per line, making it iambic pentameter. These two are the most popular forms but there are many other combinations.

For example, here are two samples from T. S. Eliot’s work, taken from his wonderful “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” which provided the basis for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, CATS. Eliot employed seven beats per iambic line to introduce us to GROWLTIGER, which begins:

GROWLTIGER was a Bravo Cat, who lived upon a barge:
In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.

It took eight stressed syllables per line to tell the tale of The Old Gumbie Cat:

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots.

Contrast Eliot’s long, playful lines to my quick report in BUGS regarding my inability to manage a chocolate covered grasshopper:

Me chew it?
Can’t do it.

You can also write a two-line stanza of verse that doesn’t rhyme. There’s even a name for such a form. It’s called a distich. Change one word in Nash’s poem:

The cow is of the bovine kind,
One end is moo, the other, milk.

We have now established an internal rhyme (bovine/kind) in line one. Line two still retains its alliteration with moo/milk, and the two lines still form a perfectly valid poem. However, it’s now technically a distich rather than a couplet.

Many poems are written in a series of couplets. Again using BUGS for examples, I used two sets of couplets to tell about no-see-ums:

No-see-um’s tiny bite
Keeps you scratching half the night.
No-see-um’s no fun.
Next time you don’t see ‘um, run!

I took three sets of couplets to tell on these beetles:

Two dumb beetles set out to float
Across the sea in a tennis-shoe boat.
Sadly, the tennis shoe sank before
The beetles had sailed a foot from shore.
The beetles cried with red faces,
“Duh, we shoulda tied da laces.”


A stanza one line longer than a couplet is a tercet. If all three lines of the tercet rhyme, it’s called a triplet. As you might imagine, finding three consecutive rhymes is not easy so the triplet is a fairly rare bird. However, it isn’t too unusual to compose three-line stanzas in which only two of the three end in a rhyme.

One version, called the terza rima, calls for the first and third lines to end in the same sound in stanza one. In stanza two, the ending sound of the middle line of the first stanza becomes the rhyme sound for the first and third lines of the new stanza, and so on.

Here is an example of how I’ve used tercets. In “Daydreams,” from CONNECTING DOTS, I used three-line stanzas in which the second and third lines rhyme, leaving the first lines to set the scene for each of the six stanzas. Like this:

I remember the turtle
beneath our basement stair.
I see him sleeping there.

Maybe he’s dreaming of clover,
shade beside a tree,
days when he was free.

In THE MOUSE WAS OUT AT RECESS, the poem “The Bus” is told in tercets in which the first two lines rhyme and the third line is a kind of refrain that appears with slightly altered wording in each of the nine stanzas:

You know what’s cool
About going to school?
Riding on the bus!

You wave at your friends
When the day just begins
And you’re riding on the bus.

In “It’s Better if You Don’t Know” from THE MOUSE WAS OUT AT RECESS, I devised sets of three-line stanzas in which the second lines of consecutive stanzas rhymed. The third lines of the same stanzas also rhymed but not with the same sound. Like this:

There’s a Welcome sign
On the principal’s door,
(But try not to go.)

Her office is long.
There’s a rug on the floor.
(Never mind how I know.)

As you can see, two-line and three-line stanzas can be employed in a variety of ways to get your ideas told. To be such short forms, they are surprisingly adaptable.

Thanks to you who have let me know your preferences among the features I’ve introduced since starting my blog last August. Many readers have dropped by to review the boxes. Voting ends Saturday.

Announcing Marjorie Maddox as an upcoming guest

Have you voted yet? Please use the boxes that went up on Saturday to provide me with your feedback. Here’s the link: 

I’m assigning a value of 3 to all 1st place votes; 2 for 2nd place votes; and 1 for 3rd place votes. So far the list from most liked to least looks like this:

1 — Word of the Month Poetry Challenge
2 — Guests on Fridays
3 — Poetry Tips (want them more frequently)
4 — Poem of the Week
5 — Monthly Teaching Tool
6 — Activities on Kids page
7 — Voting for Hall of Fame poets

These early results are based on a small sampling of visitors to my blog so I hope to see more of you let me know what you think.

I’ll leave the boxes up through this coming Saturday so please take time to give me your opinions! Thanks!


This is the final week for submitting May’s Word of the Month poems!! I hope you still plan to share your work based on the word of the month: STONE. Let’s hear from you! Students, we’re waiting to see your poems come in too. Don’t lose track of the time and let Friday slip by.

I’m pleased to tell you that this week’s Friday guest is Marjorie Maddox. Many of you enjoyed Marjorie’s work during April when Tricia Stohr-Hunt selected her as one of her featured poets. Here’s the link to that:


Which features do you like best about my blog?

Hello everyone,

Now and then I ask for your opinions and advice about this blog. Since it’s start-up last August I’ve introduced a number of features to the blog and/or website. Individually and collectively these take time to maintain so it helps me to know how well these features are being received.

With Kathy Temean’s help I’ve posted voting boxes similar to the ones you see at the end of each month when you vote for your favorite poets. But these boxes give you a chance to vote for your top three favorite feature on my site.

Here’s how it works. You see below the same box three times and you can vote three times. In the first box, vote for your number one favorite. In the second box, vote for your second choice. In the third box, vote for your thired choice. This way I’ll get a better sense of how each feature ranks among those of you who take the time to cast ballots.

I hope you will make free use of the comment sections to add your thoughts and suggestions. As I’ve said before, my goal was and is to bring you a blog that’s worth your time to visit and/or participate in. Your thoughts are important to me.

Thanks for your help. I’ll leave these boxes up for a week to give you plenty of time to consider your selections.