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As I sit down to write,
a cat creeps in
and sits on my head.
She circles once,
before settling
on the hummock
of my brain,
tucks her head
beneath her feet
and purrs herself
to sleep.
I can’t think of anything
but fur.


Buffy Silverman and I are doing a month-long poetry swap. Every day we exchange poems and critiques. The accountability makes the process very motivating, as do the friendly and helpful replies. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful partner. On the first day of the month, Buffy sent me a poem about fog (inspired by her gorgeous photographs) with the preface that she wished she’d written Carl Sandburg’s poem. Don’t we all? I thought, and how brave she is to write about fog when every time anyone sits down to write about it, that damn cat shows up and blocks the view. Did I mention that the swap is also inspirational?

Next Friday I’ll be at the SCBWI Conference in NYC. Will any of you be there too?

For more Poetry Friday, visit the Miss Rumphius Effect.

All the best,


Today I want to share some of our family’s favorite holiday books. My kids are too old for them now, but when I bring them up from the basement every year, the three of them squeal or sigh and sit down to read.















Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hymn

Let me begin by saying that I have read this book thousands of times, during the cold dark nights of the season and the bright warm nights of summer. My kids, especially my daughter, loved this book. The goblins are creepy and by the end downright scary, but Hershel cleverly outsmarts them again and again.












Herbie’s Secret Santa written and illustrated by Petra Mathers

This is one of my all-time favorite picture books because it addresses a side of life that is so real and so rarely mentioned. Herbie makes an impulsive mistake. He feels bad about it, and he makes amends. Like the other books about Herbie and his dear friend Lottie, it’s authentic and quirky. Of course Vince is making Christmas pickles. Doesn’t everyone? To me this story feels deeply connected to the essence of the holiday.















The Trees of the Dancing Goats written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

I love this book because it acknowledges that people who celebrate Christmas and people who celebrate Hannukah live together as neighbors and friends (and even family members). When scarlet fever rages through their town, the central family celebrates their traditions and enables their sick friends to celebrate theirs. This is a deeply respectful and caring story.














The Gift of Nothing written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell

This book has charming characters (Mooch and Earl from the comic strip Mutts), clever language play, and in the end gets to the heart of what’s really important about sharing “special days.” It’s just been adapted into a musical, which I hope to see despite being well over the recommended audience age of 4.


I hope that you enjoy your holiday (no matter what you celebrate) and get to share it with loved ones and books.

For more Poetry Friday vist Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog.













Like a virus it crawls
along your skin
casting about for an easy
way in, like the holes
in your nose, which it finds
like a door you’ve oddly forgotten
and left unprotected.
It travels your length
on a highway of bones,
freezing your insides
down to your soul,
until all you can do
is shiver and moan
and retreat to the bed
you should never have left.


I’m heading to a soccer tournament today. Can you guess how I feel about the cold? I hope you’re keeping warm and don’t have 9 feet of snow outside your door.

For more Poetry Friday visit Becky Shillington at Tapestry of Words.












Note to the Teacher

Dear Miss Sinclair,
I’m sorry
I made that loud farting noise
after you’d told me
to stop
three times already.
I’m sorry
I fell out of my chair
and everyone laughed
so hard
that Louis and Elijah
fell out of their chairs too.
I’m sorry
everyone stopped listening
to you
explain about our new
spelling words.
It’s just that I suck
at spelling
and I don’t understand why
an O makes
so many sounds.


This summer we realized that one of our kids has dyslexia. We just couldn’t understand why our bright boy was so stressed about school. Now we know. We didn’t realize he has dyslexia because he reads. That’s one of many common myths about dyslexia. Once we heard the news I started studying. I quickly realized our son had many common signs of dyslexia–shockingly poor spelling, a terrible time with handwriting, writing far below his abilities, and low self-esteem. If I’d known a little more, I could have saved our boy from years of feeling badly about himself. So today I want to share this poem, and I want to share this link to a list of a wide variety of symptoms. Please take a look. It’s worth knowing the signs.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day.

Cherry Tomato, take one

the pop of skin–

a rush of sweet and sour
to your tongue

like when you bite
your ripe lip


Cherry Tomato, take two

the bite of sudden thunder
a skyful of rain—
sweet relief
tinged with the sour end
of blue skies


I love growing cherry tomatoes. I buy small plants in May, transfer them to large patio pots, and water them every day. For this small amount of work, the pay-off is huge. We get bite-sized red and yellow tomatoes for months. They never even make it into the salad because we eat them straight from the vine.

Before I wrote these poems, I went out to the yard and harvested all the cherry tomatoes I could find. I put them in a bowl next to my computer. I ate them one at a time, thinking: how do I describe the experience of eating one? How do I put a taste into words? I tried a bunch of different metaphors, including the two above. In the second version, I kept going back and forth between skyful and mouthful. Which version of the poem do you prefer? Which word–skyful or mouthful?

I’m happy to be back this week. I’ve missed celebrating Poetry Friday with all of you. Life and parenting has been a little too complicated and time consuming lately for me to blog as much as I’d like. While I was away I had a thought about the poems I post here. I think they’re kind of like sketches–they aren’t first drafts and they aren’t fully fleshed out and polished poems. They’re like the doodles you might find in the margins of someone’s biology notes. I’m not saying whose.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Amy at The Poem Farm.

Did you notice my new look? It’s all thanks to Gabe Seiden at Connect4Consulting. Thanks, Gabe!

I’m looking forward to lots of things about the summer, including less homework and more time for reading. Of course we’ll be reading poetry! Below are some of the books I’m planning to dive into. In addition to these, I’ll be visiting the library regularly and bringing home plenty of poetry surprises.












Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas. Salas’ poetic appreciation of water came out this year. I loved her book BookSpeak! Poems about Books. I’m looking forward to reading this poetic nonfiction book for younger readers, as well as its predecessor A Leaf Can Be. Plus, the illustrations look gorgeous and Salas is giving 10% of her proceeds to WaterAid, a nonprofit organization working around the world to ensure there’s clean water for everyone.













Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems edited by Paul Janeczko. Everyone seems to be talking about this book and the exceptional poems Janeczko has included. I love short poems, and I often feel they get short shrift, so I’m happy to seem them highlighted here.











Hi, Koo! by Jon Muth. I love Muth’s picture book Zen Shorts, I love haiku, and I love cute and clever titles. Need I say more? I’m especially excited to see that these haiku break free of the 5-7-5 syllable rule!












Pirates by David Harrison. When my son finished David Harrison’s book Cowboys, he sighed and said, “That’s all?” Yes, that was all of the cowboy poems, but now we can read about pirates! I especially appreciated that the cowboy book had been thoroughly researched and included poems from a variety of viewpoints. I expect the pirate book will too.











Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian. I can get quirky, crazy, well-crafted poems about vehicles by both J. Patrick Lewis and Doug Florian in one book? Sign me up.














Rutherford B Who Was He? Poems about Our Presidents by Marilyn Singer. My youngest loves history, and Marilyn Singer is the brilliant author of Mirror, Mirror and many other books of poetry. How could we not read this?














Miss Emily by Burleigh Muten. My interest in Emily Dickinson and her work was rekindled a few years ago when I visited her home in Amherst, Massachusetts and read White Heat, a fascinating book about her relationship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I’m curious to see how this book in verse for children 7-10 portrays the reclusive but apparently playful poet.














Good Luck Gold by Janet Wong. Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell are the editors of the Poetry Friday anthologies and tireless advocates for children’s poetry. Janet Wong is also an award-winning poet who draws upon her Chinese and Korean cultural heritage in her work. I loved her second book A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems. I’m looking forward to reading her first book Good Luck Gold.














The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. I was completely sold on this book when I read the first four lines on the inside of the cover! Josh Bell plays basketball, and he rhymes, and he has a twin brother, and there’s a new girl in school. I’m guessing this novel in verse for readers 9-12 will interest lots of kids (and grown ups).














The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle. Over the winter holiday I read Engle’s wonderful book Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. I loved Engle’s use of poetry to tell the story of the many different peoples involved in the project. She even included poems from the perspectives of the animals displaced by the construction. The information was eye-opening, and the poetry was lovely. This summer I’m looking forward to reading more of Engle’s novels in verse including The Firefly Letters which is for readers 10-15 and tells the story of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish woman who visits Cuba in 1851 and forges relationships with Cecelia, the young slave from Africa who accompanies her, and Elena, the daughter of a wealthy Cuban family.













How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. In this fictionalized memoir, Nelson uses 50 unrhymed sonnets to tell the story of an African American girl growing up in America in the 1950s. The book, for kids 12 and up, appears to tell an intimate personal story in a powerful historical context.


What poetry books are on your summer reading list?

For more Poetry Friday, please visit Carol’s Corner.
















The Girl in the Catalog Speaks

Please, I beg you,
find some scissors
and set me free.
Release me
from this empty space,
this frozen moment.
Help me put down
the pink paisley cinch sack
I’ve had in my hand since
long before the season.
Let me have my own
edges. Cut carefully
around my limbs,
my fingers, the strands
of my fan-blown hair.
Once I’m out, please
don’t let me flop.
Give me some cardboard
backbone—a bit of box
will do. Paste it on.
Snip my feet. Slip a tab
into the slots and help me stand
on my own. I wouldn’t mind
some different clothes—
long jean shorts in lime or peach
a ruched knit tank in ultramarine,
or maybe a pine green taffeta skort.
I think you’ll find
they all come in my size.
How I long to drive around
in a shoe box of friends
from other pages,
other companies.
Perhaps we could pose
for a picnic on the lawn,
but please, I beg you,
don’t leave me
in the rain.


Lately I’ve been reading blog posts and internet essays about the tradition of making paper dolls. Girls (and boys?) used to wait for the new Sears catalog to arrive knowing that meant it was safe to cut up the old one. The girls would cut out figures, clothes, furniture, and household objects. They would paste them to cardboard and fold the bottom edge back so the pieces could stand. Some girls made box houses for their dolls. Others made cars out of shoeboxes. After the catalogs had been cut to shreds, they went to the outhouse for their third and final use.

For more Poetry Friday visit Anastasia Suen at Poet!Poet!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2014, all rights reserved













Our Love

Should I compare our love to this full moon?
No way! Each month its light takes off alone.
A rose? The petals swoon and fray too soon.
Our aging love is like an old, gray stone.
We share this ever-present weight, too great
To move, too there to notice much, unless
You stumble into it. Your toe’s poor fate
Reminds you to regard what you possess.
The endless sometime flow of rain and tears,
Unfinished kids, dishes, bills, day and night,
The moments snatched from sleep for all these years,
Has rubbed our stone until it’s smooth and right.
Who cares that others don’t discern its shine.
This old, gray stone is only yours and mine.


So many songs, stories, and poems are about the excitement and/or despair of early love. What about lasting love? Does anyone have a favorite text about love that stands the test of time?


For more Poetry Friday visit Linda at TeacherDance.

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

from wikipedia by lowkeyvision

from wikipedia by lowkeyvision








Lately I’ve been listening to the Poetry Foundation podcast Essential American Poets. Each episode includes a short introduction to a poet’s life and work and a few poems read by the poet. One of my favorite episodes features Ted Kooser. I love his concrete world and his midwestern sensibility. I’m from St. Louis and my father was from a small town in western Missouri. Some of Kooser’s poems seem to describe a life my father lived but didn’t talk about. I never got to use my grandmother’s depression glass, but I’m sure she had some.

I’m going to break with tradition and share the end of Kooser’s poem Depression Glass.

                                          It was hard
to hold up your end of the gossip
with your coffee cold, but it was
a special occasion, just the same,
to sit at her kitchen table
and sip the bitter percolation
of the past week’s rumors from cups
it had taken a year to collect
at the grocery, with one piece free
for each five pounds of flour.

Ted Kooser

Here’s a link to the entire poem.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Jama. I can’t wait to see what she’s serving!













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.