Welcome!

I am so glad you are here to celebrate poetry and community.

Poetry Friday is a perfect way to celebrate. As is J. Patrick Lewis’ anthology The Poetry of Us. I love this gorgeous book because it uses poetry to celebrate the crazy diverse community that is the United States. There are wonderful poems about everything from “Saturdays at the Portland Farmers Market” (by Janet Wong) to the Oklahoma Dust Bowl (“Child’s Chant” by Renee LaTulippe) to the “Tulip Time Festival” in Holland, Michigan (by Buffy Silverman) to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival (“Mass Ascension” by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes). The book highlights regions, geography, animals, culture, events, history, food, literally everything you can think of. To me this seems like exactly the book we need right now, and wouldn’t it make a wonderful holiday gift?  

You can see why I am especially thrilled to have my poem, “The Menorah,” included. As tonight is the sixth night of Hanukkah, it seems an appropriate poem to share today.

The Menorah

Most of the year, I sit and wait.
When the days grow cold and dark,
someone pulls me out.
I’m rubbed and shined,
old wax pried from my fists.
Voices tell the story of how I came here,
hidden in a suitcase, wrapped in a blanket.
At night I stand in the window, defying the dark.
Behind me, my family glows
with the light of my fire,
with the story of the ancient miracle,
with the joy of eating latkes, spinning dreidels,
singing, together, year after year.
Every night I am handed one more flame–
until my hands are full.
I savor the moment,
while I sit and wait, knowing
the cold, dark days will come again.

Elizabeth Steinglass © 2018

I hope that if you are facing cold, dark days (as we are here in Washington), you are also finding warm, glowing lights and good company (human, literary, or furry!) to share them with.

Please feel free to comment and add your link.

Also, if anyone might be interested in working together on a poetry proposal for NCTE next year, please let me know.

All my best,

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote!

Make your mark.
Poke a hole.
Pull the lever.
Vote!

People fought.
People died.
So we, the people,
can decide

who’ll represent
our point of view
and do the work
we need them to.

Claim your right.
Raise your voice.
Make it count.
Vote!

 

Whether you’re voting for class president or a member of the U.S. Senate, use your power, your right, your voice and VOTE!

That’s how democracy works. If you’re a parent and you can swing it, take your child with you. I always went with my parents. They made it a priority to teach me that voting was not just my right but my responsibility. It may have been tiresome to wait in line, but it felt special and grown-up to go with them. Now that I’m the grown-up it still feels special every single time. Every time I vote I think of all the people who can’t–people who don’t live in democracies, people who have served time and live in states where they are temporarily or permanently disenfranchised, people who have come for the safety and opportunity provided by living in the United States but aren’t yet entitled to vote. So please make sure you’re registered and vote!

Elizabeth Steinglass © 2018

 

 

Once again Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have demonstrated their profound commitment to getting poetry into the hands of children with their latest anthology Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. Not only are Sylvia and Janet wonderful advocates for children’s poetry, they are also incredible strategic thinkers. “How can we get more poetry into schools?” they ask. This time the answer is: school leaders! The people who make morning announcements and who sometimes make decisions about how time and money are allocated. Let’s definitely make sure these people have poems to love and share!

The book includes 36 poems to share once a week. They generally follow the school calendar and include topics relevant to everyone—forms, safety drills, lunch, making friends, taking tests. They’ve also included 39 additional poems about the first day, the last day, and others that connect to the first 36. That’s 75 poems with suggestions for how to share poems and how to follow up. Brilliant, right?!

I am completely thrilled and honored to have three poems in the book—one about the school nurse, one about field day, and one celebrating student diversity. This one is especially dear to my heart, so I was deeply touched when Janet showed me the visual she had made to go with my poem.

Check out this pinterest page to see many more stunning visuals of poems from the book.

For more about the book and to read one of my favorite poems, “Look for the Helpers,” by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, see Sylvia and Janet’s wonderful blog post at the Nerdy Book Club.

A huge thank you to Sylvia and Janet for all you do for children, for poetry, and for poets!

Happy Poetry Friday!

Liz

The Day After

How do we go on?
I ask those who came before
and have gone.
How did you keep going
over lifetimes
of losses
seeing how easy it is
to be cruel?

Child,
the voices whisper,
though I have children
nearly grown
we acknowledged our losses,
wept from the pain,
sat together,
sang together,
recounted small victories,
remembered who came before us
and went on
as we do
when there is nothing else
but forward.

 

Elizabeth Steinglass © 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a joy to receive the day’s mail and find a trove of poetic treasures from Irene Latham. Thoughtful and clever, Irene had been to my website, so everything she sent had special meaning just for me. I had written a “Why I’m Here” poem, so she wrote a “Why I’m Here Poem” too–about me! She knows I am a huge fan of haiku, so she used one of my haiku to write two new haiku, using a line or two from mine and adding a new line or two of hers. It’s a brilliant exercise she found in a book titled Write Your Own Haiku for Kids by Patricia Donegan.

Here’s my haiku:

always
one step ahead
sidewalk sparrow

Here are Irene’s:

always
one step ahead
crabgrass

traffic snarls
in front of hotdog stand
sidewalk sparrow

Irene turned the haiku into calling cards and slipped them into a sweet bowl I now have by my door. I dream of adding to the pile and giving them to friends who stop by. Over the summer I read in the Haiku Handbook (by William Higginson and Penny Harter) that  haiku writers used to include haiku in their letters to one another–to tell each other how they were. I love that.

Thank you Irene, for giving me a special treat this summer and congratulations on your wonderful book Can I Touch Your Hair, written with Charles Waters, and your many new books coming soon! And thank you Tabatha Yeatts for organizing another wonderful swap and reminding us that poetry is a gift and that we are part of a beautiful community that gives so generously.

Mary Lee has the Poetry Friday round-up today.

Happy Summer!

Liz

World Refugee Day

Who would choose
to leave their home—
the place they live
with those they love?

Who would choose
to leave their beds,
their alters,
their ancestors’ graves?

Who would choose
to leave their lives?

No one.

Only a man running
from a gun,
only a woman running
from starvation,
only a child in the arms
of the running

leaves their world.

And how will we receive
those who survive,
those who arrive
at our door?

Will we pretend
they are strangers,
unfamiliar,
unwanted,
unrecognizable
as humans?

Or will we see
our cousins
as cousins?

Will we allow ourselves
to see the pain
in their faces?

Will we allow ourselves
to feel the pain
they feel?

Will we dare to say
come in,
share my shelter?

Will we dare to give
something of ours
to someone else?

 

I wrote this this morning in honor of World Refugee Day.

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy National Poetry Month!

In 2012 Irene Latham launched the first Progressive Poem to celebrate the month, poetry, and community. Every day in April, a different poet adds a line, and together we compose a poem. It’s a mysterious and surprising process that results in a beautiful and unexpected piece of writing. (You can read all of them here.)

I was surprised and honored when Irene asked me to write the first line this year. I was also a little nervous. I wanted to write something poetic and unique but also open-ended, something that offered a solid first step along a path that could head off into the woods in any number of directions.

You can read more about Irene’s inspiration and my agonizing at Heidi Mordhorst’s blog My Juicy Little Universe. Last Friday, as host of Poetry Friday, Heidi posted an interview with Irene and myself. She also suggested we add a little twist this year.

New for Progressive Poem 2018:  Participants, when Liz posts her Line 1 on Sunday, April 1, please take a minute to record your first impressions of how the line strikes your imagination and what you think the poem might become.  A few lines should do it, and that’s Step One.

Step Two is to hide this reaction/prediction from yourself until your day to add your line arrives.  : )

Step Three is to bring it back out and include it in your post  that day, with a little commentary about how your initial expectations have to be adjusted now that each person has altered the trajectory of the poem. 

 

Are you ready? With great thanks to Irene and Heidi and to all of our participants, and without further ado (drumroll, please) …

 

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.

 

Jane, you’re up!

I hope you’ll all follow along for the rest of the month to see where this poem takes us.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Liz

 

 

April

2 Jane at Raincity Librarian
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
Jan at bookseedstudio
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
21 April at Teaching Authors
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
28 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
30 Doraine at Dori Reads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now here’s something that doesn’t happen everyday. Each spring the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District runs a haiku contest and then prints the winning entries and many, many honorable mentions on signs and posts them in tree boxes all over the neighborhood. They are literally beautifying the neighborhood with poetry. I love that they are putting poetry out in the world where people can see it during the course of their day. I love that they do this in March just before spring really arrives. The haiku are like the earliest flowers, helping us wait just a few more weeks for the daffodils and tulips. I want to thank the Golden Triangle BID for celebrating the city, spring, and haiku. I encourage you to follow the link to read the wonderful haiku. I also want to thank the store Shop Made in DC for having my haiku on their window. I love being part of a store that celebrates local makers by selling their work and hosting their events. The store sells fabulous jewelry, ceramics, clothing, cards, etc. And chocolate! Did I mention the chocolate? I’m feeling super appreciative!

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Here

I’m here to make pancakes
when it’s hard to go to school.
I’m here to save the crossword
and talk about the day. I’m here
to be calm when others can’t,
to hug and find what’s lost.
I’m here to listen. I’m here to cry.
I’m here to make a warm chair
for a spiraled, sleeping cat. I’m
here to walk in the woods and find
the purple crocus hiding in the snow.
I’m here to pet the ancient pug
and say hello to the gray-haired
woman who lives across the street.
I’m here to sit at my desk and stare
at a blinking cursor on a white page
and tap, tap, tap the keys to make
letters, images, melodies. I’m here
to tinker and reshape, to follow
unintentional leads. I’m here
to share my words and hope
someone will understand.

 

I hope you all know George Ella Lyon’s beautiful poem “Where I’m From.”

I love that poem. I love the powerful connection between the intimately concrete, her heritage, and her identity. I know many schools use the poem as a model for student writing. I’ve used it as a model to write about my family and identity too.

It’s also a model and inspiration for the poem above. In our busy rush-rush world where we’re all racing to get through our lists of things to do, I think it can be hard to remember why we’re here. It can be hard to connect to the important things that give our lives meaning. I wanted to take the time to think about why I’m here. As with George Ella Lyon’s poem, I’ve tried to use the particular and the concrete to connect me to my deeper commitments. I was hoping to connect the things I actually do to the why I do them.

I think I’ve wanted to write this kind of poem ever since I saw this TED talk by the artist Candy Chang. In mourning for a loved one, she got some friends together to paint an abandoned building in her neighborhood in chalkboard paint. She then stenciled the phrase “Before I die I want to __________” all over the building. By the next day the building was covered in answers: some humorous, some concrete and manageable, some tender, and some hugely ambitious. She doesn’t say it in her talk, but I saw the building as a poem written by a community. Other communities, inspired by the project, have made their own versions.

With all of this in mind, I wrote “Why I’m Here.” I hope maybe some of you will want to write a “Why I’m Here” poem too.

Please share your links below, go visiting, leave lots of comments, and have a wonderful Poetry Friday!

Liz

 

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Rose Gold

Here lie the shattered remains
of Liz’s iPhone 7.
It succumbed to the weight of her minivan
and now it rings in heaven.

 

As always, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has a wonderful interview and inspirational challenge on her blog this month. This time the interview takes the form of a mock Newly Read Game featuring the ins and outs of writing partners J Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen. The end comes too early with a challenge from their featured book, Last Laughs Prehistoric Epitaphs.

My epitaph may not be prehistoric, but I hope it’s humorous. It’s been a tough month for technology around here. I spilled an entire cup of tea on my laptop and dropped my phone face down on the sidewalk. Fortunately all my data survived.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Jone at her blog Check It Out.