Telling the past

Hi everyone,

Yesterday Jane Yolen and I finished a new collection of poems and sent it on its way. During the day we got to talking about the Scottish brogue and that brought back memories of when I was a child in Ajo, Arizona. My dad worked in the payroll department for Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation and one of his associates was a Scott named Harry Poole. The two couples got together from time to time and that was fine with me. I was six or so and I loved to listen to that man talk. He had grown up in the old country and could tell story after story about what it was like when he was a young man. When Mr. Poole retired, he and his wife moved to California. I only saw him one time after that, when we took a trip that way and stopped in for a visit. Their retirement bungalow was cozy with a small living room and kitchen. I don’t remember the bedroom. There was a white crocheted doily draped across the back of the brown sofa. Mr. Poole sat in his favorite chair beside the sofa. This is what I remember.

After the greetings and everyone was settled, Mr. Poole tamped fresh tobacco into his pipe, lighted it, took a few trial puffs, then looked off into the past while my dad and I waited. We were about to be treated to another of Mr. Poole’s stories. I could hear the women in the kitchen, catching up over tea. Mr. Poole said, “When I was a boy, twelve, thirteen, my father sent me to work at a saw mill. The family needed the extra money. A puff or two. The mill was a dangerous place. Lots of noise. No safety features. Accidents were commonplace.” I don’t remember if my dad was smoking a cigar but he was awake so he probably was. Mr. Poole went on, “One day a lad got careless and ran a log too close to the blade. Took his finger off.” The old man’s eyes began to smile. “The lad wrapped a rag around the stump,” he said, “then he slipped up behind the fellow at the next saw and dropped his finger down the back of his coveralls. You should have seen that lad carrying on when he eventually fished the finger out and saw what it was!” I don’t remember if I laughed or gasped. Mr. Poole obviously thought it was a funny story. He closed his eyes as if fact checking. Satisfied, he nodded, opened his eyes, and went to his pipe again, leaving a comfortable silence to drift around the room.

How accurate is this memory? I like to think it’s close to the way it happened. Whether it is or not, who is to say? It’s my memory and has lived in my mind as clearly as a video for nearly seventy-five years. Telling the past is an important part of what writers do.


A challenge within a challenge

Hi everyone,

Yesterday Jane Yolen posted a Word of the Month poem inspired by ESCAPE. In the process she may have invented a new form. She told it in iambic pentameter in four 3-line stanzas and a concluding line with the following scheme:
abc/bca/cba/bac/b. I wrote one using the same form and enjoyed it. If you missed our poems, here they are.
David from 417 Magazine
The Summer I was Hot

My mother made the most amazing cape
To help me capture villains that I fought
Who didn’t know that I was only four.

She sewed it with material she bought
That gave me strength and confidence to roar.
I knew if necessary I’d escape

Because of all the magic that I wore.
Hidden in my secret cave I’d plot
A plan so clever all the crooks would gape

When suddenly I’d fly and they’d be caught.
I’d tie their hands and feet with Super Tape
And tell the cops they’d find them on the floor.

I was four the summer I was hot.
~~ by David L. Harrison

The World So Hot

I remember summers in New York,
the world so hot,
we sat on the fire escape.

The boom box we brought
with us, songs on tape,
much laughter, talk.

Perspiration at the nape.
Air conditioning then? Not
even in the cards. The cork

of the wine bottle shot
into the street below. Its torque
carrying it through the cityscape

where the world remained so, so hot.

©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

If anyone else would like to try this form, I’ll look forward to reading the result.

My Italian Sonnet

Hi everyone,

Inspired by Steven Withrow’s sonnet,steven_withrow and spurred on by Jane Yolen’s witty example.

Comes now my contribution to the cause.David as bookends IMAG2753
by David L. Harrison

Honeybee, a vibrant buzzing thing,
Humming through the sultry summer hours,
Dipping in and out of willing flowers,
Sipping, pausing, sipping, taking wing,
Known more for her industry than sting.
Nature-blessed with honey making powers,
Performs her alchemy in hidden bowers,
Spinning gold with sisters as they sing.
Honeybees for twenty million years
Have met their fated daily rendezvous,
Pollinating blossoms in return
For smuggling pollen home to feed their peers.
So much depends on what the humans do,
And if the greatest predator will learn.

Jane Yolen
The little honeybee has buzz.
A taste for something sweet and runny,
Like a clown, she seems quite funny.
Body’s mostly stripes and fuzz.
She’s looking as she always does.
When she sells her cache of honey,
Her golden glow, bespeaks of money.
Why do we love her—just because.

But ask the little bending flower
Who gives up her hard-earned pollen
Whether she feels raped and fallen,
Or is filled with certain power.
There she is, all pollen laden
Virgin, violet violated.
By a bee much recreated,
Set aside, nor more a maiden.

(c) by Jane Yolen; all rights reserved


Hi everyone,
Jane Yolen
If you missed it yesterday, Jane Yolen and I amused ourselves ripping off quick poems about my turtle problem. Then at the end of the day I discovered that yesterday was World Turtle Day! So with apologies to turtles everywhere who might have found our fun and games offensive, here again is what we had to say. David from 417 Magazine

May 23, 2016 @ 7:43 am
Tortoise and Hare (for DH)

Turtles, turtles everywhere
Except when you’ve a camera there.
You click the button, turn it on.
You look around, the turtles–gone.

You wanted pictures you could share.
But much too slow, the Harrison hare.
While you were sighting from the lawn
The tortoises were going–gone!



May 23, 2016 @ 8:25 am

Tortoise and Hare, Part II

No matter how I creep and sneak
To steal a wily turtle peek,
They hit the water in a flash,
Leaving me to snap their splash.

Turtles, turtles everywhere
Living life without a care
While pictureless and helplessly
I listen to them laugh at me.



May 23, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

Tortois and Hare Part !!!

Who IS that creature up above?
I want to give it SUCH a shove
Always peeking, sneaking, staring,
Always nasty teeth it’s baring.

Always flashing bits of lightning,
Always makes our small heart tightening.
Thinks we’re slow? Ha! That’s HIS wish.
But when we’re scared, we swim like fish.

The Tortoises

May 23, 2016 @ 1:30 pm

Tortoise and Hare, Part IV

No need to bow or genuflect
But you should show me more respect.
More than once I’ve saved some fool
Baby turtle in my pool.

I stop to help you cross the street
When you’re out being indiscreet.
Now I beg you, if you will,
For just one second — sit still!


May 23, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

Tortoise and Hare Part V

That flash-and-dash man here again?
To capture us by pix or pen?
Well, like the hare, he’s gone tomorrow.
That will cause no tortoise sorrow.

He should read that Aesop’s fable
Soon as he is at his table.
There’s no race that he can win
If he is not a turtle kin!

(And kids, that’s how we old poets win the races,
steady and not so slow!)


May 23, 2016 @ 2:14 pm

Tortoise and Hare Part VI

I’m going to buy a selfie stick
To snap a shot of you so quick
You’ll see your game is all in vain.
I’m smarter than a turtle-brain.

I’m going to use my high I.Q.
To make a monkey out of you.
Surrender now and try to grin.
This one race I’m going to win.


May 23, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

Hare and Tortoise Part VII

“David, David, come inside.”
“Very soon my blushing bride.
I have one thing more to click
With my handy selfie stick.”

“Jane is on the phone for you.
A message–something you must do.”
He sighs. The sun is going down.
They have a dinner date in town.

What can she want? And which Jane? Who?
Picks up the phone. “What must I do?”
“The turtles called the cops on you.
Best stay away a day or two.”

“Do you hear sirens? Do they wail?
The cops might put you into jail.
A predator they’re calling you.
(The tortoise taught us something new.)

He throws the stick into the lake
And runs back home, he makes his break.
He swears off taking turtle pics
And using things like selfie sticks.

He works in tortoise rehab now.
Takes only snaps of sheep and cow
Who preen each time that he comes near.
Next week he’s photographing deer.



May 23, 2016 @ 2:56 pm

Tortoise and Hare Part VIII

Turtle rehab? Who would guess
I’d like it here, but I confess
I owe my gratitude to Jane
For saving me the awful pain

Of rotting in a prison cell
For coveting a turtle shell.
I’m growing fond of cows and sheep
And only now and then I weep

And pray for mercy for my sins.
I dream of wicked turtle grins.
The truth is, and I won’t lie,
I’d really like just one more try.


May 23, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

The End.

New England Reading Association Journal

Hi everyone,

I’m pleased to announce that the winter issue of New England Reading Association Journal is out. Edited by Helen R. Abadiano, Central Connecticut State University, the entire issue is dedicated to poetry in the classroom and was led and coordinated by Tim Rasinski at Kent State.

The ten articles are a balanced mix of scholarly work and contributions from poets. Tim is joined by Wendy Kasten, Belinda Zimmerman, Kasim Yildirim, and others. I’m one of the poets along with Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Brod Bagert, and others.

For anyone interested in the subject of what research has shown about the value of using poetry in the classroom as a tool for teaching both reading and writing, as well as personal insights from some of us who specialize in writing and/or teaching children’s poetry, I recommend this issue. The NERA Journal is one of the finest in the country. It’s an honor to appear in it.

I received my copy on Saturday and I think the online version will soon be available too. Here’s the link for when it does.