We have a young poet among us

Hi everyone,

I’m happy to announce that we have a student poet posted for the Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Please go to Young Poet W.O.M. Poems to meet Justin Farlee, a 3rd grade student at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Upper Elementary School in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and enjoy his poem. His home school teacher, Joan Upell, posted Justin’s poem and I’m grateful to her. Although we have a grand old tradition of introducing young poets on this site, Justin is the first to appear here in a long time. I believe that last student poets were posted by Ken Slesarik, our friend in Phoenix, Arizona. Joan has also posted previous student poems from her 8th grade ELA students.

I’m reminded of two girls who posted their poems eleven years ago in April, 2009, Rachel Ryan Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan. They are young women now and I still hear from them when they can snatch a few minutes from their busy lives. Taylor’s last note, a few months ago, relates how excited she is to be a student at Emerson College, where she won a $20,000 merit scholarship. She told me, “I will never, ever forget it (the first poem she posted here) —or the other poems I wrote for your W.O.M contests. I may not recall the precise words of the poems themselves, but I will always remember the process: the thrill of putting pen to paper, then fingers to keyboard; the excitement of posting; the joy of seeing people’s reactions to my work.” Taylor is majoring in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and hopes to become an editor of YA books.

I’ve been hoping to see some student poems posted now that we have millions of children working from home these days and teachers everywhere working hard to keep them involved and learning. Let’s hope that Joan Upell’s example will encourage others to follow by sharing poems by their kids for us all to enjoy and offer our encouragement. You never know when a few words of support will help change a young life.

4th stop on my blog tour for AFTER DARK

Hi everyone,

As the blog tour for AFTER DARK continues, today I am delighted that Sylvia Vardell is hosting at PoetryForChildren https://poetryforchildren.blogspot.com Thank you, Sylvia!

If you’ve followed the first three stops on the tour, you know that each one is different. Many of you have been helping through your own networks and for that I’m very grateful too.

My thanks to all!

On another issue, we’ve all seen the posting of student poems by teachers fall from robust to zero most months, especially since the introduction of Common Core State Standards a few years ago, which took away nearly all of a teacher’s time and focused on analyzing over writing. Over the weekend I’ve had a conversation with Rachelle Burk, who wanted to add my blog site to her suggested list of places where students can get some attention with their writing, but Rachelle became discouraged by how confusing the instructions were on the Young Poets W.O.M. Poems page plus the lack of contributions she found there.

With all that in mind I’ve made an effort to rewrite the page as you see here. Please give my your thoughts about the new page plus — especially — how we might go about attracting teachers across the country (and elsewhere) to get back in the habit of posting their students’ poems here. Many thanks!

Young Poets W.O.M. Poems

Dear Teachers,

When you are looking for ways to inspire your students to write poems, this is a special place to show off some results. Every month I post a new word and invite students of all ages to write a poem inspired by that one word. Poets in the adult category write poems based on the same word.

Young poets have been featured here since 2009. Two of the first ones are now in college and one is going into journalism.

Getting your students “published” is easy and free. Here is all you need to do.
1. Choose up to three poems per classroom to post (per month).
2. If your kids are under 13, please have on file a permission slip signed by a parent or legal guardian.
3. To post a poem, scroll down to the box at the bottom of the screen where it says LEAVE A REPLY and paste the poem there.
4. Please include the student’s name, grade, school, and city in the post.
5. Hit button to submit.
Adults who follow my blog are primarily teachers, librarians, and children’s writers or artists. You can rest assured that your students will see notes of encouragement and appreciation posted about their work. This is above all a friendly BlogSpot!

At the end of each month I erase all poems and comments and we start over with a new word. I hope to see your students join the fun.



PS: The word for February is AGE


We have student W.O.M. poems!

Hi everyone,

With thanks to teacher/poet Ken Slesarik, who teaches at Esperanza Music Academy in Phoenix, we have four poems posted by Esperanza students this month. Click on “Young Poets W.O.M. Poems” and check out the efforts of two fifth graders, Daniela and Emma, and two fourth graders, Landen and Trace. Way to go kids!
Ken Slesarik Photo
I met Ken in 2011 when he was one of eight poets in my first Highlights Foundation workshop near Honesdale, Pennsylvania. We were all taken by Ken’s adroit juxtaposition of words, unexpected rhymes, and wry humor. He’s not only a master teacher and accomplished children’s poet, he also does school visits when his time permits. Meanwhile he’s inspiring Esperanzo students to reach higher and learn the satisfaction of expressing themselves through poetry. It’s a lucky student who has Mr. Slesarik for a teacher.

At a time when so many good teachers everywhere are struggling to find the moments to post their student’s work, Ken remains one of the few who somehow make it happen, and for that I’m grateful. Please read the poems by these young poets and give them the encouragement they deserve.

Thanks, Ken!


Where will tomorrow’s poets come from?

Hi everyone,

When I began posting a word each month, in October 2009, we received many student poems submitted by teachers. Every month we met new, enthusiastic young people who took pride in having their classroom writing selected by their teacher and posted on Word of the Month.

In the beginning, we voted at the end of the month to choose the Poet of the Month. A group of wonderful poets pitched in to help judge: Charles Ghigna, Pat Lewis, Jane Yolen, Rebecca Dotlich, Sara Holbrook, Bobbi Katz, and Laura Purdie Salas. When some teachers pointed out that the act of choosing winners meant that everyone else became losers, I discontinued the practice. Almost without exception, adult readers have been supportive of student poets. Teachers have told us that such warm comments have meant a lot. In one high school class, the teacher said that many of her kids struggled to learn and to be published on Word of the Month made them feel ten feet tall.

Then it all stopped. Teachers became scheduled so tightly that they could no longer afford the time it takes to choose student poems and post them. Good teachers who love poetry and love teaching poetry threw in the towel. Now and then we still see some student poems but gone are the days when each month we could count on seeing the efforts of dozens of young people from across the country.

I’m uncertain about what this small sample signals. IF students are still being taught to write poetry in the classroom, I don’t worry as much. IF they aren’t writing poetry at all, I worry a great deal. Last week I had coffee with a public school superintendent who spoke of the need to nurture students’ creative efforts. We agreed that this is a key issue that needs attention. In a time when some areas have given up teaching art and music and have shut down school libraries, we need to ask where the next generations of creative young people will come from. These days great emphasis is placed on digging out information and writing nonfiction. Goodness knows we need that skill. But I wonder if a steady diet of nonfiction is enough to stimulate a love for all writing, enough to help young students feel the joy of writing a really good story, enough to develop the habit of looking around, observing, and writing a poem.

Word of the Month for November

Hi everyone,

I don’t have my computer today and won’t be able to remove October poems and comments just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get started with new poems for November.

Remember what it is? BREW. Brew and Spree tied when we had a ballot so I announced then that we’d go with Brew this month. Whose idea was that? You, Matt?

My thanks again to everyone who played a role in making October so much fun. It was a fine celebration! I hope those who joined us for the first time or for the first time in a while will continue to play with us in November. I must say that the word — brew — is fairly foaming over with potential!