The Maple

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The Maple

She couldn’t bear to wear
that same green dress
another day. She was sick
of blending in, of posing
in the same plain uniform
as everyone else in the wood.
So, about a week ago, she showed up
orange. Her leaves sparkled
like the bells on a belly dancer’s belt.
She shimmied like she was on fire.
The whole place was shaking,
until yesterday, when the accordion
sneezed, the lute snapped a string
and all her sequins flopped.
Now there she is
standing naked in the cold.

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

For more Poetry Friday, visit Diane at Random Noodling.

Metaphor

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, Oct. 2008.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, on Oct. 20, 2008.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Collins was a guest on the Diane Rehm show this week. It was, as always, a pleasure to hear his voice reading his poems and talking about poetry and life. The show also includes a very cute 3 year-old reciting one of Collins’ poems and a great idea for a dinner party.

Collins did say one thing I took exception to. He said he didn’t think you could teach the rhythm of language or metaphor.

Maybe you can’t teach the rhythm of language in an afternoon or even a semester, but what about over the course of many years? I think I learned about rhythm of language from taking my three kids to early childhood music classes over many, many years. I think I learned about the rhythm of language from reading them picture books and poetry over years and years. I also think I learned and relearn it from walking and feeling the rhythm in my body as I walk.

Metaphor too, I think can be taught. Maybe you can’t teach someone to be a genius, but surely you can help a writer move ahead from where they are. I think the first step is to teach writers to be alert to and reject the cliché. Encourage them to push on and find a new, fresh comparison. I find it helpful to make long lists of possible metaphors. The cliché’s seem to fill the beginning of the list, but then once I’ve gotten them out on paper, other ideas seem to come—brighter, fresher ideas.

Here’s a quick example, using perhaps the most clichéd object around.

Possible metaphors for the moon

A cookie
A cake
A bowl of milk
A cracker
A plate
A face
A bunny
A spoon
A medal
A coin
A balloon
A mirror
A marble
A ball
A baseball
A soccer ball
A saucer
A raindrop
A tear
An eye
A belly button
A button

I don’t think my ideas start to get interesting until pretty far down the list.

Here’s a quick draft, using tear.

Moonfall

The moon
slips down
the cheek
of night
drawing
sorrows
through
the dark.

There’s no time now but I think a second stanza about the sun might work.

 

What do you think? Can we teach the rhythm of language? Can we teach metaphor?

Would you like to give the list strategy a try and report back?

 

For more Poetry Friday, visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem…

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

Mortimer Minute

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Today I’m participating in The Mortimer Minute, a bunny hop through the children’s poetry blogosphere. The Hop was started by April Halprin Wayland with these guidelines:

1) Pose and answer three questions you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview about children’s poetry. (Ideally, use one question posted by the person who invited you to the Hop.)

2) Invite one, two, or three other bloggers to go after you.

3) In your post list the names of the bloggers you invited and give the dates when they’ll be posting.

April tagged Laura Shovan who tagged Janet Flagal who tagged me. Unfortunately, Janet’s post has been delayed but I will jump ahead.

 

Do you compose on paper or on a computer?

I like starting poems in my notebook on old-fashioned paper. Starting on paper with a carefully chosen pen allows me to get the flow and rhythm going without interrupting myself with revisions. It also allows me to write when I’m away from my desk (otherwise known as the kitchen table). After I have a first draft, I move to my computer so that I can revise more easily. I try to save my drafts. I write one, copy it, paste it above and revise. I do this over and over until I have a draft I’m happy with. I save my drafts so I can see how far I’ve come, so I can go back if I prefer something in an earlier draft, and so I can show students how terrible my first drafts are.

 

What’s your favorite “serious” poem for kids?

I love funny poems and looking-close-at-nature poems, but I also love poems that address the harder parts of being a human. One of my favorite poetry anthologies is The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury edited by Jack Prelutsky. The theme of pages 64-65 is hard feelings. I love these poems: “The Bad-Mood Bug” by Brod Bagert, “Mad Song” by Myra Cohn Livingston, “When I Was Lost” by Dorothy Aldis and “Moving” by Eileen Spinelli. Can’t we all relate to the heavy feeling of being lost, the pain of moving, and the urgent need to slam a door?

 

If you could have any “superpower” what would it be?

I wish I could talk to animals. I have some questions for the squirrels who have been pelting me with hickory nuts.

 

I have tagged Cynthia Grady who is a poet and a middle school librarian and has written a gorgeous book of poetry entitled I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery. The poems incorporate history, quilting, music, religion, art and so much more. I hope Cynthia will have time to hop next Friday.
 
I have also tagged Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town. I always enjoy Ruth’s posts and I saw this hop as a chance to get to know her a little better. She plans to post next Friday.
 
For more Poetry Friday, visit DoriReads.

Your Neighbor

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That woman who walks around
in clothes that look like yesterday’s,
with hair that might not have been washed
today, that woman who mumbles strange
rhythms too low to hear, who stops
to examine the small and the dead,
all things invisible from the window,
that woman sitting on the stoop scratching
in the notebook she carries everywhere,
that woman you see from time to time
but never the same time, that woman
isn’t crazy. She hears voices for sure,
but she isn’t crazy. She’s me.

 

I’m sure hoping some of you can relate to at least some of this?

For more Poetry Friday visit Teach Mentor Texts.

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

Morning Glory–A Work in Progress

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Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the morning glories growing in my yard. I noticed myself spending more and more time sitting next to them with my computer in my lap, so I gave myself an assignment: Write a poem that explores your feelings for these flowers. Here’s what I wrote:

 

Morning Glory

There isn’t much left
When someone’s dead
The property sold
A shopping mall built
Where the house once stood
Just these morning glories
Outside my door
Twining through time
As urgently blue
As the ones she grew

 

I was pretty satisfied with this as a day’s work, but the next day I asked myself: Is this poem short because that’s what’s best or is it short because you were too scared to keep going? That’s when I gave myself a new assignment: Take what you wrote yesterday and use it as a starting point for writing today.

 

I’m still working on this one. I’m also still working on answering the question: How do you know when a poem is complete?

For more Poetry Friday, visit Laura at Author Amok.

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved.