On this Perfect Spring Day


We didn’t listen

when she whispered.

The plants heard.

The animals too.

The checkerspot butterfly moved up the mountain.

White oaks, sugar maples, and hollies headed north and west.

The nine-banded armadillo found its way from Texas to South Carolina.

But we kept drilling and fracking, driving and flying.

So she cried a little louder.

Glaciers and polar ice melted.

Sea levels rose.

Massive swaths of the Great Barrier Reef turned white.

A Colorado of pines and aspens in the Rocky Mountains died.

But we kept drilling and fracking and burning.

And so she roared.

Harvey sat over Houston for days,

delivering a once-in-a-lifetime rain.

Lucifer swept across Europe,

with its once-in-a-lifetime heat.

Drought pushed Cape Town within sight

of the day there would be no water.

The Earth is speaking, even now

on this perfect spring day,

wisteria and red bud blooming fully,

weeks before they used to.


© Elizabeth Steinglass 2019, all rights reserved


(With thanks to Gabe Seiden at Connect4Consulting for my new website design.)



A fact is a fish on ice. 
We can all see its glassy eye. 
We can all feel its razor-edged fins.
We can all smell its sea-salty past. 
A fact is raw.
It can be baked, grilled, or fried,
but we can all agree we are eating fish. 
Perhaps you like fish,
perhaps you don’t,
but there it is—
staring up at you. 


© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2019, all rights reserved

For more Poetry Friday Visit Catherine at Reading to the Core.



Last week I wrote about a lesson I did with two local elementary classes that began with a discussion of haiku. I thought I’d follow up today with a little more about haiku and teaching poetry.

I’ve probably already said this, but I’ll say it again: I think haiku are wonderful to share with students.

Because haiku focus on one particular haiku moment, they are wonderful for discussing and teaching close observation.

Because haiku try to give a reader an opportunity to experience the haiku moment directly, they are wonderful for discussing and teaching descriptive language and the value of using multiple senses in writing.

Because haiku are short, they are also wonderful for discussing and teaching word choice. It’s far less overwhelming to ask young writers to think carefully about a handful of words, than every word in a longer story or essay.

If you are looking for a book of haiku intended for children, you might take a look at H is for Haiku, a collection by Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, illustrated by Sawsan Chilabi, and published by Penny Candy Books. The National Council of Teachers of English has selected the book as a 2019 Notable Poetry Book. Hurray! It is also a Cybils finalist in poetry. Double hurray!

The book begins with beautiful notes from both Syd and her daughter Amy Losak, who lead the project, describing what haiku do so well. Then page by page the book presents 26 haiku, one for each letter of the alphabet. Every one of them does exactly what Syd and Amy describe in their notes—they take a close look at a single resonant moment. The moments in this book will be of particular interest to children.

Here are a few of my favorites:

I love both of the poems on this spread. I can so clearly feel what it might be like to be in a car covered in snow—slightly dark and cold, but not too dark and not too cold, and there’s the doll ready to go, but the car is not, and where’s the child? In the house wondering where the doll is? Outside playing in the snow, momentarily forgetting about the doll? Just about rescue the doll or clean off the car and go on a jaunt?

In the facing haiku, I can hear the sound of the rain drops hitting the metal watering can perfectly. And how ironic that no one fills the watering can anymore, except the rain. And if it’s raining, who needs a watering can full of water?

I also love the bold, colorful graphic illustrations. Look at that doll’s face and her leg that isn’t bending quite right and the words in the raindrops that look like tears coming from the face in the sky. The images give the book a liveliness that works so well with poems that are observant snapshots of a moment.

This haiku immediately transports me to the bike. I am the girl plunging (what a fabulous word!) downhill! I can feel the petals and the wind and the slightly scary excitement of going fast.

What’s truly special about moments like these is both noticing them—noticing the doll on the backseat, the rusty watering can, the girl on a bike—and also noticing that you are noticing them. It’s that second step that’s essential for writing.

If you’re looking for ideas for sharing haiku with students, here are some activities that I have used:

Read Haiku: Read one aloud a couple of times. Have the students close their eyes: what do they see as you read? Look at two or three. How are they similar? Different?

Observe the Natural World: Go outside. Look closely at plants, animals, etc. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Take notes on observations.

Imagine the Natural World: If you can’t go outside, talk about what kind of day it is and what one might see on a day like this.

Write together: Begin with a first line that describes the day (a snowy morning, first warm day); use student observations to write the second and third lines.

Revise together: Are there any unnecessary words? Are there any words that could be more interesting?

Write individually or in pairs: Allow students to use the shared first line if they like.

Share: Make a seasonal bulletin board with all of the student haiku about the day.

For more ideas, here is an article from Teachers and Writers Magazine by Erika Luckert about using H is for Haiku in the classroom.

I hope I’ve been able to share a little of my haiku love with you.

For more Poetry Friday visit Laura Salas at Writing the World for Kids.

Last Friday I visited two elementary language arts classes at a local school in Washington, DC. I knew beforehand that the students had already done some work on haiku and had written winter animal haiku. I also knew that the teacher was hoping we could discuss poetic language and perhaps some other forms of poetry. With this in mind I planned our lesson.

We began with introductions. I said that I had heard they had been learning about haiku and asked them what they remembered learning. I said that I had also heard that they had been writing winter animal haiku and that I had brought my favorite winter animal haiku:

A bitter morning:
sparrows sitting together
without any necks

J. W. Hackett

Before I read it to them, I said that they could follow along while I read (I had it on a handout for them) or they could close their eyes while I read, if they liked. (When I have done this in the past, many students have said they really liked closing their eyes.) I read the poem slowly, twice. We talked about what bitter means, and I asked them what they noticed about the poem. One student asked why the sparrows didn’t have any necks. A few other students quickly hunched their shoulders to demonstrate. When I asked how they felt when I read the poem, some said cold.

Then, with heart-felt apologies to J. W. Hackett, I shared this with them (it was also on the handout):

A winter day:
birds sitting next to each other
hunching their shoulders

I said that I was trying to imagine what J. W. Hackett’s poem might have looked like when he first wrote it. (Again, my deepest apologies. Perhaps J. W. Hackett wrote truly impressive first drafts.) We then compared the two versions line by line and talked about how they were different. A student said that winter days can be warm or snowy or cold. We talked about how birds could mean any bird, but a sparrow is a specific little brown and gray bird. We talked about how the words bitter and sparrow are more interesting words than winter and bird. We talked about how the word “together” is more concise than “next to each other” and more emotional. For many of us “together” felt cozier and snugglier. We also talked about how the phrase “without any necks,” made us wonder what that meant, made us ask ourselves a question in our heads, and then think through the answer. Along the way the students noted that the syllable count in Hackett’s poem follows the 5/7/5 pattern and that mine does not. We clapped out syllables and talked about how some haiku follow the syllable pattern and some do not.

To pull it all together I said that J. W. Hackett’s haiku used more poetic language than my version. I wrote “Poetic Language” on the white board, and we made a list of what makes language more poetic. One student said, “This is like a list of what good poets do.” I quickly put that heading over mine. Underneath we wrote: “more specific, more feelings, and more interesting words.”

We then moved on to discussing another form of poetry, the “How to be…” or instruction poem. We read an instruction poem I had written, discussed it, identified any poetic language we could find, and then wrote a poem together. I chose the topic “Instructions for our Desks” before I arrived so we didn’t have to spend any time thinking about what to write about. My assumption was that everyone would have something to say about a desk and that it would be helpful to have  the desks right in front of us. Before we started writing, we brainstormed using guiding questions:

What does our ideal desk look like?
What do we do at our desks?
What do we want our desks to do?
What do we hope our desks won’t do?

After a lively discussion, I wrote “Instructions for our Desks” on the white board and solicited lines from the class. The students seemed to have lots of ideas about what to add. I left them with the idea that what they might do next is look at the language in the poem and see where it might be even more poetic.

Overall, I would say the workshops went well and the kids were engaged. It was interesting to see how different parts of the plan engaged different kids. I think it worked well to compare versions with and without poetic language. I also think it worked well to brainstorm before writing together.

Next time, I will definitely ask one of the other adults in the room to signal me when there’s 10 minutes left. I find it very challenging to be engaged with the students while also keeping track of the time!

I welcome all thoughts about my lesson, sharing poetry in schools, and especially collaborative writing with students.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

the snow fall


caught in a web
of branches
government shutdown


I wrote these senryu earlier in the week for my many friends and neighbors who work for the federal government. So many people are struggling from the shutdown–employees, contractors, restaurants and other local businesses, lyft drivers, spouses, children, and on and on. Washington feels quiet and hopeless and angry.

For more Poetry Friday visit Miss Rumphius Effect, where I’m sure many will be posting tributes to Mary Oliver.


















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,

















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

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.


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!


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?

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:

one step ahead
sidewalk sparrow

Here are Irene’s:

one step ahead

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!