Category: Poetry

My poem in Radical Teacher– “Still,” about the magic of learning to read!

I wrote a poem about the magic of teaching a child to read, “Still.” It captures why I love what I do as a Literacy Coach in a K-3 school. It’s just been published in the latest issue of Radical Teacher!

Although there are days that I wish I could stay home and write all day, my work feeds me as a writer and a human. I’m grateful for it.

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. It’s been a while! This week, Irene Latham hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!

Wintry delights: Illustrating Poetry with Young Children

Last week I had the delight of leading a Poetry Friday lesson in a second-grade classroom. I used my poem “Skating with Dad,” featured on the wonderful poetry website Dirigible Balloon. 

After reading the chart together, we had fun using highlighter tape, finding each consonant cluster in the poem… sk in skate, gl in glove, sl in slide… they even found the cr in Cronin!

Then each child illustrated the poem in their poetry notebook. We always talk about how “thinking like an illustrator” means that every illustration in the class will look different. I love all the ways the students brought this poem to life in the illustrations…

from the close-up of the gloves,

to the child and parent skating together,

to the valentine to hockey from the young hockey player,

to the ads on the side of the rink!

Poetry Friday has come alive in my school, and it’s a delight to be a part of it.

I’m wishing all the poets and poetry lovers out there a wonderful and restful holiday break. See you in 2024!

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, Jone hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!

NCTE Convention 2023: A Sweet Spot!

Have you ever felt like you were in the sweet spot, a place where the two overlapping circles in a Venn diagram meet? That was me, attending the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) 2023 Convention in Columbus Ohio. 

 

Meeting the authors/illustrator of one of my favorite books, NO VOICE TOO SMALL!

Being at the conference brought together my two worlds– teaching and writing/children’s literature. I had the chance to learn from amazing authors and educators, and to make a brief presentation myself!

My presentation title was Alegria: Celebrating and Elevating Portuguese-speaking Brazilian Students with an Author Visit.

One of the best parts was meeting so many poetry friends…

Georgia Heard receiving her NCTE Poetry Award!
Finally meeting Amy Ludwig VanDerwater was a thrill.

 

Poetry friend Willeena Booker
Rebecca Kai Dotlich!
Seeing Pomelo Books that contain my poems on display was a delight!

Then there was meeting authors whose books I love…

Carole Lindstrom!

 

Lilliam Rivera!

 

Cynthia Levinson!

…plus learning from keynotes by Hanif Abdurraqib, Jacqueline Woodson, and Angie Thomas.

I attended a lot of sessions with my new teacher friend from Missouri, Clayton!

I cannot wait to attend the NCTE 2024 conference. It will be in Boston (closer to home!), and I’m already brainstorming with friends about putting together a panel presentation proposal. All of the energy I gained at NCTE feeds my work as a Literacy Coach in a K-3 Cape Cod elementary school.

In the meantime, I am serving on the This Story Matters Teacher Corps. We will be developing book rationales to help educators and librarians battle book bans and attempts at censorship.

Here’s to finding our sweet spots.

 

 

 

Poetry Friday Goes to School

Inspired by the lively Poetry Friday community in the blog world, this year I decided to bring that magic into my work as a Literacy Coach in a K-3 school. 

Each Friday, I share a poem via email to our school community. Teachers can choose to share the poem on a screen or print it out so that children can illustrate it. To make it even better, the poem is read aloud each Friday during morning announcements!

The kick-off poem was “Circle of Sun” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich from the wonderful anthology HERE’S A LITTLE POEM. Last week it  was Deborah Ruddell’s “The Cardinal.” The week before, Molly Lorenz’s poem about making friends with a new kid was a big hit– “Lunch” from the book What is a Friend? (edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell of Pomelo Books). 

Weaving poetry into the school day is academically sound, and good for the heart and soul… Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, poet Buffy Silverman hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!

 

Feeling the beat, feeling the love

Poetry came to life when the very talented music teacher in our Cape Cod elementary school used my poem “Drum” in her exploration of percussion recently. What a delight to read my poem to our K-3 students, to hear children drumming, to listen to them beat out the rhythm of this poem on various types of drums.

Music class in a K-3 school

I was thrilled to collaborate with the music teacher in this effort, and to kick off this school year by celebrating the publication of the new middle-grade poetry anthology from Pomelo Books called WHAT IS HOPE? I made a video of myself reciting the poem so the music teacher could use it in her classes when I was not available to read it to each class in person. So I’ve been getting a lot of “I know your poem!” from children as I walk through the halls. 

I’m grateful to editors Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell for including my poem “Drum” in this lively and full-of-heart book. 100% of the profits from the book go to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. Where can you order it? Check here.

Happy Friday, friends!

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. Check out the celebration of poetry on Matt Forrest Essenwine’s blog today. 

Finding Just the Right Word

Slipping into someone else’s voice when writing a poem is one of my writerly challenges and delights. In my hospital-themed poetry collection for adults, Unity Hospital, the poems are in the voices of women who intersected with the hospital in some way: nurses, a doctor, a reporter, a candy striper, and more. (It’s out on submission now.)  I love immersing myself in a time period and the particulars of a profession, then trying to find just the right words to convey that time and place and person.

The word “handsy” is a word not used often these days, but I think it is both descriptive and belittling at the same time, and evocative of a certain time period and attitude.  Interviewing a retired nurse, the mother of a friend, gave me the spark for “Call the Doctor,” just published in an online journal from the medical community called Medmic. You can read it here.

In memory of Barbara Maniaci

Barbara, the mother of my dear friend Kathie, worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse for over 40 years. She passed away six months ago, and I’m so grateful I got to learn a little more about her nursing experiences, and about small acts of transgression in the nursing world of the past.

Happy Friday, poetry friends! Here’s to finding our voice, and to small acts of transgression!


On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. Check out the celebration of poetry on Jama Rattigan’s blog today!

The history of a hospital– in a poetry collection!

Over the past three years, one object of my writing obsession has been the hospital in Brooklyn where my grandmother completed her nurse’s training as a young Irish immigrant. The nurse’s residence was the address on her marriage certificate. It was called Unity Hospital, located in Crown Heights. I dove into newspaper archives, reading tragic and heroic accounts of the role that Unity Hospital played in people’s lives. I’ve written a poetry collection for adults, UNITY HOSPITAL, that spans the 50 years that the hospital was in existence. It’s out on submission now.

The poems are in the voices of an array of women who intersected with the hospital in some way: nurses, patients, a candy striper, a switchboard operator, new mothers, a “pantry girl,” a woman who died from a botched 1952 abortion, a newspaper reporter, a medical clerk, and more. Many of the poems were inspired by news accounts.

 

Passager is a journal and press for writers over 50

And one of the poems was selected for a beautiful journal, out now, called PASSAGER! So here’s a peek at one voice from Unity Hospital– an emergency room nurse in 1947. More to come soon, hopefully!

My poem, “Silent,” from UNITY HOSPITAL

The text of the poem:

SILENT

Emergency room nurse, 1947

 

Barely 20,

he huddles silent on the gurney,

all knuckles and knees.

One eye wide,

one swollen shut.

He’s not talking,

but I can read the story on his body—

abrasions

contusions

lacerations.

Some punks worked him over like a side of beef.

They nearly killed my brother that way—

tried to beat the sissy out of him,

like this kid.

It won’t work, bastards.

It won’t work.

~~~~~~~~~~~

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, Rose hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup on her blog Imagine the Possibilities. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!

Hope is a Drum

Feel that drumbeat? School is starting.

A new school year fills me with hope– hope for fresh starts, open hearts, new learning. I’m back to work in my job as an elementary school Literacy Coach. How perfect to kick off this school year by celebrating the publication of a new middle-grade poetry anthology from Pomelo Books called WHAT IS HOPE? 

I’m delighted to have a poem included in this collection. “Drum” was fun to write, and I’m hoping to collaborate with the music teacher in our school to do something together with the students around percussion and this poem!

I’m grateful to editors Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell for including my poem in this lively and full-of-heart book. 100% of the profits from the book go to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. Where can you order it? Check here.

My wish for you is that this new school year, and this new season, starts with hope.

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. Check out the Poetry Friday gathering at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s blog today!

 

“Make it poetic, but not rhyming.”

You might have heard this advice before; I know I have. A quick search on the internet finds lots of similar examples…

“Tips for writing picture books: don’t write in rhyme.”

“The editor loved the concept, but was not drawn to the rhyme.”

I admit it—I love rhyme! But I also try to challenge myself to utilize other tools in my poet’s toolbox, too:

repetition, rhythm, assonance, consonance, alliteration, and more.

I recently happened upon a wonderful example of a poetic, lyrical picture book text: A ROOM OF YOUR OWN: A STORY INSPIRED BY VIRGINIA WOOLF’S FAMOUS ESSAY by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid (Cameron Kids, 2022). 

First, the concept is brilliant: talking about having a room of one’s own in which to dream and create, and then encouraging children to think about where their “room” might be, their place “to think, to dream, to be.”

Could it be under a table, in a hayloft, up a tree, or on a cool city stoop?

Second, the narrative is lyrical, poetic, and a beautiful example of a text that does not rely on rhyme yet is packed with so many other poetic elements. I now have it on my shelf to boost my creativity when I find myself leaning too heavily on rhyme!

I hope it inspires you, too, and that you have some sweet summer days ahead of you in a room of your own.

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, Mary Lee Hahn hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!

 

Glimpses of Green- a poem about nature in the city

I’m delighted that my poem “Glimpses of Green” is published today in the online children’s poetry journal Tyger Tyger, based in the UK. What I love about Tyger Tyger is that it is aimed at children and teachers– giving educators (and anyone who cares for children and loves poetry!) free access to high-quality poems. I wrote “Glimpses of Green” in response to their call for submissions for the “outdoors” theme, and I had fun remembering that even city kids can savor and notice signs of the natural world as they go about their day.

“A tree tickles windows next to my bed.”

I recalled running through the grass in Central Park, playing under shade trees in St. James Park in the Bronx, and laughing at the antics of city squirrels.

“In the middle of traffic, buildings, and people,

nature thrives in my city for all to observe.”

You can read “Glimpses of Green” here, and enjoy other wonderful poems about blowing on puffy dandelions, beachcombing, cloud gazing, and more. 

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, Margaret Simon hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!