The First Day of Summer

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Tomorrow is a blank piece of paper
For me to color
However I want.
After a long sleep,
And a long stretch,
And a long, long daydream,
I can draw whatever I want.
I can use whatever color I choose.
Maybe I’ll make the sky pink and the trees blue
Just because I want to.
I’ll take my time drawing sun and sky and earth and me in the middle.
I might take all day to draw my world.
And no one will be there to tell me time is running out
Because tomorrow is a blank piece of paper
Just for me.

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

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

Haiku for Kids, Questions for Bloggers

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pay dirt—
under the roses
a soccer ball

 

late at night—
a cricket sings
in the lizard’s cage

 

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

 

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve had two recurrent questions: Who is my audience? And why do I do it? It’s been a year and a half now, and I’m still not sure I have any good answers. Am I writing for poets, teachers, kids, friends? Is my goal to write more, share more, promote more, connect more?

I’m the kind of person who likes to talk through questions like these. So, fellow poet bloggers, I ask you:

1. Who is the audience for your blog?

2. Why do you blog?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Why Limericks?

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Two Original Limericks:

 

There once was a boy with a stick
Who wanted to try a cool trick.
He threw the stick up,
Held his hands like a cup
And grasped the fine point of the stick.

 

There once was a girl who loved rhyme.
She rhymed when she talked all the time.
Her friends grew to hate
This maddening trait
And prompted her interest in mime.

 

Why Limericks?

A few weeks ago I wrote about why I think we could all benefit from spending some time reading and writing haiku. This week I want to advocate for a very different form—the limerick.

Here’s why I think kids, and their grown-ups, should study and write limericks:

1. Limericks are funny.

2. Limericks have a strong, easily identifiable rhyme and meter.

3. Because of #1 and #2, limericks provide a perfect jumping off point for the study of rhyme and meter.

Lately, I feel like I’m reading more warnings against writing in rhyme and meter and even against teaching children to write in rhyme and meter because it’s so hard. It is hard. Often the difference between an excellent poem and a poem that makes you wince is the rhyme and/or meter. Rhyme and meter are basic elements of poetry, music, language, and humor. We can’t give up! We need to study and practice and work. Limericks provide a great opportunity to do that work, while also having fun.

 

For anyone who’s interested, here’s one possible approach to teaching the limerick:

1. Read a limerick out loud and have the kids read it out loud multiple times, until they can nearly sing it by heart.
(Be sure the example follows the rules of the form very closely.)

Here’s a classic by Edward Lear:

There once was a 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!”

2. Work with the kids to rewrite the limerick in nonsense syllables like da and DUM: da for the unstressed syllables, DUM for the stressed syllables. Have them chant this a few times too.
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

You could at this point talk about variations in the form, such as:
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da da DUM da da DUM
da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

Or:
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da

You could also show them how people typically mark meter—with ˘ and ‘
As in
˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´
˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´
˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´
˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´
˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ˘ ´
(For information about how to make these symbols on a mac go to ChrisWrites.com.)

3. Show the kids a different version of the same limerick that disrupts the rhyme:

For example, with apologies to Mr. Lear:

There once was a man with a beard
Who said, “It is just as I dreaded!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Jay,
Have all built their nests in my hair!”

What’s wrong with this version?

You might want to mention that Lear’s limericks often use the same word at the end of the first line and at the end of the last line. Sometimes contemporary readers don’t seem to feel comfortable with this rhyming of the word with itself.

4. Show the kids another version that disrupts the meter:

For example, again with apologies to Mr. Lear,

Once there was a man with a beard
Who exclaimed, “It is exactly as I feared!
Owls and white Hens,
Twenty-one Larks and Wrens,
Made nests in my long beard!”

What’s wrong with this version?

I think that by comparing this version to Lear’s, kids can see for themselves the importance of getting the meter right.

5. Give the kids another messed up limerick.

Here’s another Lear limerick I’ve taken the liberty of ruining:

Once there was a Young Lady of London,
Whose shoelaces were almost never untied.
She bought some clogs,
And some tiny spotted cats,
And frequently galloped about Ryde.

Can they fix it (alone, in pairs, or as a class)?

Here’s the original:

There was a Young Lady of Ryde,
Whose shoe-strings were seldom untied.
She purchased some clogs,
And some small spotted dogs,
And frequently walked about Ryde.

6. Finally, ask them to write their own limerick. I think it’s important to mention that it’s harder than it sounds. I would also provide opportunities to get help—either from partners or the whole group. And as always, when I ask kids to write, I write. I want them to see that I’m willing to take on all the risks and challenges I ask them to take on. Often I’m the very first to ask for help.

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

Next week, Poetry Friday will be here!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

Soccer Book Spine Poems

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Soccer Team Upset

Football Mad
Strikers
Shoot to Win
Glory!

Keeper
Reading the Game
Thinking Outside the Box
Stars!

 

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How Soccer Explains the World

Kick,
Striker Boy.
Kick the Balls.
Shoot to Win
Glory.
Dream On,
Young Blood.
The World is a Ball.

 

Two of our family obsessions are soccer and books, so I’ve been meaning to try a soccer book spine poem for a while. I think they’re a fun reminder that one can love both sports and books.

For more Poetry Friday visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

2013 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem

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For the second year running, Irene Latham, of the blog Live Your Poem, has organized a unique celebration of National Poetry Month. Each day a poet contributes one line to a slowly unfolding poem. Today, on the 16th day of the month, I am honored to contribute one more line.

 

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging

From life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring

 

Here’s the month’s calendar so you can follow along:

April

1  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

2  Joy Acey

3  Matt Forrest Esenwine

4  Jone MacCulloch

5  Doraine Bennett

6  Gayle Krause

7  Janet Fagal

8  Julie Larios

9  Carrie Finison

10  Linda Baie

11  Margaret Simon

12  Linda Kulp

13  Catherine Johnson

14  Heidi Mordhorst

15  Mary Lee Hahn

16  Liz Steinglass

17  Renee LaTulippe

18  Penny Klostermann

19  Irene Latham

20  Buffy Silverman

21  Tabatha Yeatts

22  Laura Shovan

23  Joanna Marple

24  Katya Czaja

25  Diane Mayr

26  Robyn Hood Black

27  Ruth Hersey

28  Laura Purdie Salas

29  Denise Mortensen

30  April Halprin Wayland