There was an old man with a hat.
The hat had a hole for a bat.
When the bat flew away,
The man cried, “Please stay!”
How I hate to wear a cold hat.”


There was an old man with a slug.
He wanted to give it a hug.
The slug cried, “Oh no!
You must let me go!
Your hugs are too snug for a slug.”


There once was a boy with a frog.
What he’d wanted to get was a dog.
The boy ordered, “Sit!”
The frog had a fit,
And burped, “First, you must get me a log!”


(c) 2013 Elizabeth Steinglass, all rights reserved


Oh my poor family, for I have dedicated this week to the limerick. Once I started, I found it nearly impossible to stop. I can still hear the anapests galloping in my head. As you probably know, a limerick is a five-line poem in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme and use the following pattern of accents—da DUM, da da DUM, da da DUM. Lines three and four also rhyme and follow this pattern of accents—da DUM, da da DUM. (Alternatively, lines three and four can be combined into one line with an internal rhyme, which is how Edward Lear wrote them.) In some limericks the last word of the last line repeats the last word in either line one or line two. Though traditional, this repetition seems to offend some of today’s readers.


My favorite limerick is from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense:

There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, “It is just as I feared!–
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”


To me this poem seems a perfect example of the kind of innocent silliness kids (and grown-ups) enjoy. But as a poet, what I really admire is Lear’s simple language and what appears to be an effortless use of the form. After a week of writing limericks, I’m guessing that what seems effortless is actually the result of great effort, great talent, and good fortune. Compared to the example above, many limericks act like contortionists, twisting themselves uncomfortably to fit the form. It’s the rare limerick that glides across the tightrope with grace and ease.

For more information about the limerick, visit

For more Poetry Friday, visit Julie Larios at The Drift Record.

(c) 2013, Elizabeth Steinglass




You sit by the door
Two old Labradors,
Two rabbits hunched in the grass
To hop after mama,
Happy to welcome
These foul, wandering feet,
Never complaining
You’re not the ones
To go out.
Circled in fur,
Two open sacks folded back,
Two manes without their lion heads,
Without their thoughts,
Without any idea
Where to go
Without me to say
Time for the kitchen,
Time for the office,
Time for bed.
So little do I think of you,
I’ve worn you
Out the door.
It was the feeling of something wrong
That made me notice
You’d gone too far.
I’ve flattened your fur,
Bored a hole in your toe,
But you never complain.
Happily you swish swish across the floor,
Singing a song
Of someone returned



I’ve been preparing to visit a middle school writing/drawing elective. Because some kids are writing and some are drawing, I thought I would bring some odes. My plan is to ask the kids to choose something in the room to draw or write about so they can really examine their chosen subject. I know that when I have my subject directly in front of me I can come up with ideas that would never occur to me if I were simply picturing it in my head. To prepare for my visit I’ve been reading Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda and because I’ll be working with kids I’ve also been reading Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto. I’ve also been inspired by Laura Shovan’s lesson plans for odes.

I love my copy of Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. It has the original poems in Spanish on one side and the English translations by Ken Krabbenhoft on the other. It also has beautiful pencil drawings by Ferris Cook at the top of each page. Even the drawings make interesting pairs—a violin on one page and its case on the opposite, closed scissors on one page and open scissors on the opposite.

Here is the opening of Neruda’s “Ode to a pair of scissors:”


(looking like
birds, or
you are as polished as a knight’s
shining armor.

Two long and treacherous
crossed and bound together
for all time,
tiny rivers
thus was born a creature for cutting,
a fish that swims among billowing linens,
a bird that flies


Gary Soto also uses beautiful and surprising imagery in his odes. Here’s the beginning of his “Ode to Los Chicharrones” (fried pork rinds):


They are shaped
Like trumpets,
The blow of salt
On your lips
When you raise
One to your mouth.
The music is a crunch
On the back molars,
A hard crunch that
Flushes the ears
And tires the jaw.


One thing I hope to discuss with the kids is the language the poets use to describe the objects—how they look, sound, and even taste. I love the images of scissors as fish swimming among billowed linens and of chicharrones as salted trumpets. These images feel new and unfamiliar. One thing we can talk about is how to get past the old and familiar to discover the new.

I also hope we can talk about how odes are about familiar objects and something more. Neruda’s scissors cut fabric and hair, but they also cut happiness, sadness, and poetry. Soto’s chicarrones are so good, ants drop their breadcrumbs in hopes of a salty flake.

I’m looking forward to my visit and to hearing and seeing what the kids come up with.

For more Poetry Friday visit Sheri Doyle.



Whose woods these are I think I know,
Which is why I think I better go.


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
All I can say is you’re hotter than May.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Scream and cry and beg for light.


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
One for the nights. Two for the days.


Because I could not stop for Death—
He sent a snake to steal my breath.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Beastly creatures sat beside me, hissed my verse, and left me teary.


I ask them to take a poem,
Ball ‘em up and throw ‘em.


The art of losing isn’t hard to master—
All you have to do is race someone faster.


Earlier this week J. Patrick Lewis posted a poetry challenge on David Harrison’s blog. The challenge was to write a “tailgater,” a couplet that begins with the first line of a famous poem and ends with an original second line, in the same meter, which puts a quick end to the poem. The form would appear to take its name from the metaphorical slamming of the back gate of the pick-up truck before any more words can get in. A number of us found the challenge both fun and addictive.

For more Poetry Friday, please visit A Teaching Life at

As you can see, I’ve moved to WordPress and reinstated the name my parents gave me. Thanks for following me over here and for bearing with me while I get used to my new home.

petits fours by Erica


The Sparrow at the Store

I saw a sparrow at the grocery store.
I offered to show him the way to the door.
“Thanks,” he said, “but there’s one thing more.
Do you know where they keep the petits four?”




The Secret of the Cat

What’s the secret
Of the domesticated cat?
She understands you perfectly,
But doesn’t care to chat.

Goodness, I’ve been grumpy. I hope it’s just the weather and the gray skies. I thought I’d use this week’s post to try to improve my mood. I got out my Ogden Nash poems. They always do the trick. Then I decided to write some of my own silly animal poems. I’ve posted yesterday’s work above. I hope it brings a little warmth to your winter.


For more Poetry Friday, go to Teaching Authors.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

winter morning
walking to school we see
our words

a sudden accumulation
at the window

winter storm warning:
ninety percent chance
of freedom!

I’ve been drawn to haiku again this week. It’s like standing by the door frame in the kitchen to be measured. Maybe if I go back to the same place, I’ll be able to see how much I’ve grown. This time I’ve been thinking about the challenge of writing haiku that are both surprising and meaningful. Sometimes I come up with interesting images and words, but even I’m not sure what they add up to. Other times, the meaning is too clear and too familiar. The trick is to set up fresh images that give the reader an experience of unfolding understanding. And, as always, there’s the question of audience: will these images, these words, these meanings speak to kids?

For more Poetry Friday go to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Dear Teacher,
Please, never
The red
Of stop and blood.
How about blue?
The color of endless skies…
Be sure to write
So I can read.
Read so I can write
Better the next time.
Tell me,
How did I do? Not
Did I do
What I was supposed to do. Not
Did I write
Your point of view.
What effect did my words have on
You? Did I
Amuse? Did I
Confuse? Did I
Persuade you to think another way or lose you
When I took a sudden
Turn? Show me where
I went right
So I know
To do it again.
Yes, I want to spell and punctuate
But not until
My story’s straight.
Remember, I’m learning.
Remember, this is hard.
Ask yourself
How would you like me
To grade you?


Last Friday, Tara at A Teaching Life wrote about the devastating effects that unsupportive comments and grades can have on young writers. I was really touched by the crumpled student paper she found on the floor. Only days before, my son had brought home a paper with a confusing grade and comments he needed help to decipher. I did appreciate that the comments supplemented the circled numbers on a rubric. I can see the advantages of rubrics, but even as a parent (and not the actual writer) they seem unsatisfying, and a very different approach to student writing than I was taught when I went to graduate school years ago. All of this mixed together inspired the poem above.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Violet Nesdoly.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Photo: Jerome Liebling, Mt. Holyoke Art Museum

Your dress hangs
At the top of the stair
A ghost
Without a soul
So we can compare
Your pleats and stitches
To the dress of the day
With its bunches and bulges
And know your every day
Was your own


In the next room
The docent locks the door
With an imaginary key,
“Ah, Maddie—“
She recites,
“Freedom is here!”
Then she points
To the bare table,
The made bed,
The empty basket,
The Franklin stove
Pulled from the wall.


Making my excuses,
I slip
Through the door and stare
At the place
Where you aren’t
I want to grab
Your gown
Run to the garden
Let it fly—
But in my mind
I find it
Hooked on a branch
Floating, going
I stuff my ticket stub and the nub
Of an old pencil
In your pocket
Before going


In December while visiting friends in Amherst, I went on a tour of the Emily Dickinson Museum. Our guide was lovely and incorporated Dickinson’s poetry into her description of the home and Dickinson’s life and times. The contrast between the living woman and the lifeless house was disconcerting, yet it seemed somehow resonant with the poet’s feelings of being most free within the confines of her home, her room, her words.
If you’re ever in Amherst, I highly recommend the Museum and the tour.


For more Poetry Friday, visit Renee at No Water River.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

All day long
He hides
From view,
In the darkness
Under beds,
In the corners
Children dread.
Then at night
He skims
The walls,
The shadow
Of a cat
Long gone.

Three of the best things about visiting Grandma are her two large dogs and her cat, Houdini. Unfortunately, Houdini doesn’t seem to enjoy our visits. He hides day and night, so seeing him is a special treat.

For more Poetry Friday visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Oh, the night has been nibbling the day!
We barely notice it slipping away,

Until the morning’s been swallowed by night,
And we stumble to breakfast, starving for light.

We wonder what happened to sunlight at dinner,
Finally aware that the days have grown thinner.

That’s when we welcome our families to feast,
To light the candles, and look to the east,

Knowing the night has finished its snack,
And tomorrow the day will start biting back!

For me the worst thing about winter isn’t the cold. It’s the dark. The early dusk makes me tired and ready for bed. Our ancestors were wise to establish traditions that bring light and warmth to the winter darkness. Imagine how terrible the depths of winter would seem without the candles, the cookies, and the togetherness.

Thanks to Heidi for organizing a new celebration of light and togetherness and for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Happy Holidays.

(c) 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved