Choosing which poems to read

Hi everyone,

At the Notable Poetry Books panel presentation on Saturday I’ll have time to talk about ways teachers can put poetry to work in the classroom and then read one or two poems from CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS. I’ve been trying to decide on which poems to choose. I’m looking at these three. Help me rank them.

Camouflage Class

Today in class
our teacher said
to change colors,
blend,
play dead,
stay so still
we disappear.

One kid went
too far
we fear.

He’s gone
without
a trace
behind him.

We’ve called
and looked,
but we can’t
find him.

(c) 2018 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Horsefly Grade Card:
Doesn’t Play Well with Others

In my heart
I know, of course,
it isn’t nice
to bite a horse.

They’ve tried to teach me
gentleness,
but after school,
as you can guess,

Even thought
I feel remorse,
I must go out
and bite a horse.

(c) 2018 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

What’s Left of Termite Class

Today at school
we ate some snacks —
pointers, posters,
pictures, plaques,
pansy petals,
ballpoint pens,
puppet piggies,
play-dough hens,
purple plastic
pansy pots,
pencils, paste,
and paper dots —

We ate the walls
and foundation,
hungry for more
alliteration.

(c) 2018 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Lovely things can grow from seeds

Hi everyone,

A few weeks ago Terrell Young, who is a professor of children’s literature at Brigham Young University, asked if I had a pumpkin poem in my files suitable for kindergarten children. I did not but told him I would write one. I sent the result to Terrell who then shared it with Amy White, who teaches kindergarten at the BYU Lab School, and Amy shared it with her children.

I love the pictures Amy sent of the kids acting out actions described in the poem.


With Amy’s help, the students made a poster-card to send me, which of course I found to be utterly charming. The poster arrived yesterday so here I am beaming like I just swallowed a mouse. Thank you, kids!

Like Willy says, on the road again…

Hi everyone,

Has anyone seen a conference? I’m ready to go. NCTE in Baltimore this weekend will do just fine. Here’s part of my schedule on Saturday.

11:00 – 12:15
Inquiry through Poetry: The 2019 Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels, in Room 345.
This is the committee that presents the 2019 choices for Notable Books and introduces the upcoming list for next year. My book, CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS, is on the upcoming list.
My role at this session is to present for 15 or 20 minutes on ways teachers can introduce poetry into the classroom. I’m trying to help drum up a crowd so tell anyone you know who will be attending the conference to come to Room 345 at 11:00.

12:30-2:30
Children’s Book Awards Luncheon. I don’t know how many authors will be recognized this year but the room is usually filled with tables for ten, each hosted by an author with a current and/or popular book, and sponsored by their publisher. This year Paul Janeczko will be honored posthumously. Earlier this year my book AND THE BULLFROGS SING was published by Holiday House but I’m being sponsored by Boyds Mills & Kane for CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS. Some of the other authors I know about are Louise Borden, Rebecca Dotlich, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Nikki Grimes, Georgia Heard, Elizabeth Steinglass, and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. there will be many, many others.

2:30 – 3:00
I’ll be signing CRAWLY at the BMP/BMK booth, #831. Come by to say hello!

4:00 – 4:30
I’ll be around the Holiday House booth, #844. I’m not scheduled to sign there, but if they have copies of BULLFROG, I’ll be happy to personalize them for anyone who drops by while I’m there.

The rest of my time at the conference is scheduled with meetings and happy reunions. I’m eager to be there.

Me being holier than thou

Hi everyone,

This past week has been one to make one smug. On Monday I got my teeth cleaned. If there’s anything more satisfying than leaving the dentist’s office with a clean set of choppers, it would be getting a good medical report on a checkup. On Friday I saw my doc and got the best lab test reports I’ve had in years. It doesn’t get much better than that! Oh, yes, I got a flu shot too. I’m good for another six months or ten thousand miles, whichever comes first.

Working on those muscles

Hi everyone,
(Photo thanks to Nathan Papes, Springfield News-Leader)
An old thought revisited: the other day at the gym I observed those around me who were working out in various ways. A few men were body builders. They were all muscle and dedicated to honing their sculpted physiques. Most were under six feet tall. Their arms and thighs were awesome. They never moved far from the weights, never looked at anyone else, stayed focused on what they came to do — become more awesome. Other men were rangier. Their muscles were longer on their arms, their hips thinner. They weren’t into lifting the big weights; stuck more to pulling themselves up on bars, machines that improve stomach muscles, and worked more with dumbbells than with dead weights. There were runners. These guys love that track and alternate slow walking with sudden bursts of energy that carry them around the 1/10 mile track in anything from a jog to a run to an all-out sprint. I don’t see them get off the track to visit the weights or machines very often. But boy can they move around that track.

Me? I walk ten times around the track, spend thirty minutes on the machines working on arm, leg, and stomach muscles, and call it good. My walking gate is steady but breaks no records. I pass a few along the way but am more often the passee than the passer. It takes me 19 minutes to walk the mile. A couple of the men I see now and then on the track are runners who lap me a number of times during my nineteen minutes of walking and wishing I were somewhere else doing almost anything else. I swear one of those guys is my age. My guess is that he ran track in high school and has never lost his lust for running. On rare occasions I try my luck at jogging for a while. I’m not accustomed to moving like that and it always makes me feel, I don’t know, a little daring maybe? Doing something out of my usual routine just because I want to?

Somewhere along the track, or later while watching the monster men go about their grueling programs, I start thinking about writers and how different we are in what we do. Some of us develop our skills in the short game: picture books, poetry, short stories. Others are more like distance runners who work on strengths for the long game. Each to his/her own comfort-zone specialty. We tend to follow our successes and build on them rather than change our writing workouts to take on new genres.

Changing from one regimen to another requires risk and the attempt to develop new muscles. It’s hard to make those decisions. When was the last time you tried something new? Tried a different form of writing, just because you wanted to? Failure, at least at first, is almost guaranteed, but the adrenaline rush is worth it. It’s like going where we’re not supposed to be, like going to a party without underwear. It’s our little secret, a mixture of sassy and bold and naughty. It’s very sexy. Best part is there’s no age limit. In parts of Europe they won’t rent you a car over a certain age. At the Grand Canyon they won’t let you ride a burro over a certain age. In writing? Age is no problem. Go for it.