Begin

leap from the step
not knowing how
you’ll land
let your mind spin like a pinwheel
chase the flying shards of light
get distracted
by an ant
the scent of sliced cucumber
someone else’s words
stuff them up your sleeve
dump them on the table
make a mess in one room
move onto the next
come back later
to see what’s there

Elizabeth Steinglass

 

Last week I had the pleasure of reading Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises by Marjorie Maddox. Marjorie is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, winner of the 2019 Foley Poetry Prize, and the author of 11 collections of poetry, including Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry. I met Marjorie many years ago at a workshop at the Highlights Foundation where she led us through a wonderful exercise on metaphor.

Intended for YA readers (like much of YA also can be enjoyed by adults!), the collection includes 27 poems that take on poetry through poetry. The first six poems are about connecting with poetry as a reader, using all our senses and getting to know a poem like you might a friend. Befriending a Poem describes a much more appealing approach than the tortured analysis Billy Collins describes in his poem (one of my favorites) Introduction to Poetry.

 

Befriending a Poem

Invite him home for dinner
but don’t insist on rhyme;

he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.

Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.

Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,

be faithful and patient;

remember to listen.

Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.

Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.

 

I absolutely love the end of this poem—remember to listen, time and coaxing, between the lines. Just perfect.

The second set of poems addresses poetry tools, such as concrete and abstract language, metaphor and simile, personification, alliteration, line length, etc.

The couplet poem made me laugh out loud:

 

Couplet

Poetic twins all dressed in rhyme
stroll side-by-side in two straight lines.

 

The final set of poems are about various forms, for example the sonnet, the sestina and the villanelle, written of course in those forms.

I love the mash up of new and old and the clever reworking of the repeated lines in the poem “How to Text a Triolet.”

 

How to Text a Triolet

If you all want to text a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.
First concentrate on what you have to say
and if you want to write. A triolet
says what you said before; it’s déjà vu,
though you can always change a word or two
if you all want. To text a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.

 

The book ends with nine accessible and collaborative exercises that build on poems from the collection.

My poem, above, was written in response to Exercise 3: Tug of War between Concrete and Abstract. Though the exercise is intended for a group (and would be very fun that way!) I did it by myself. I wrote abstract words on little pieces of paper, grabbed one from my hat, and then did some freewriting about what the word made me see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. I then wrote a poem about the abstract concept without using the word for it. Marjorie suggests asking your writing friends if they can guess what your word was. Can you? Let me know your guesses in the comments.

The next one I want to try is Exercise 7: The Short and Long of It

In this one you find a poem you like, copy it twice as a block of words without breaks. Then you and a friend take the words and independently add breaks where you like. When you’re done, you compare and discuss your choices. At the end Marjorie suggests taking a poem you’ve written and rewriting it with different breaks.

What do you think?

 

Begin

Leap from the
step
not knowing how
you’ll land
let your mind spin
like a pin-
wheel
chase the flying
shards of
light  get
distracted by an ant  the scent
of sliced cucumber  someone else’s
words
stuff them
up your sleeve
dump them
on the table  make a mess
in one room  move
onto the next
come back
later  to see
what’s there

 

Well that was helpful! I think I’ll go back up to the top and make a little change…

To learn more about Inside Out, check out the reviews at Jama’s Alphabet Soup, Matt’s Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme, and Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children. Better yet, order a copy or request one from your library, so you can read the whole thing.

Happy Poetry Friday. Franki and Mary Lee have the roundup at A Year of Reading.

I hope all is well with you and yours.

 

Liz

 

 

finding myself
raking patterns
in the litter box

 

This month at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ blog, Today’s Little Ditty, Margaret Simon put out the challenge to write “to write a mindful poem about the present moment,” a poem of presence. I think it may have been Heidi Mordhorst who suggested we try to make this a daily practice with a hashtag on twitter. With Margaret’s and Heidi’s challenges in mind, I’ve been trying to take a few minutes each day to check in with the world around me and quickly write a haiku or senryu. (A haiku if the observation is about nature, a senyru if the observation is about human nature.) Over the years when I’ve been able to make myself do challenges like this on a daily basis, I find that it changes my attention, and I am able to be present to myself on and off throughout the day. This is what happened yesterday when, true story, I observed myself cleaning the litter box.

Jama has the round up today at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

I hope you all are well.

Liz

 

 

 

Welcome to Poetry Friday!

I can’t help but note that it’s May 1, the day after the last day of National Poetry Month. Is everyone exhausted? I know I am. I think I lost steam after about two weeks. To those of you who wrote a poem or shared a video or did anything else every day of the month, congratulations! It’s an impressive feat.

Though honestly, at this point, I’m impressed by everything everyone is doing and not doing. This certainly feels like a time for all of us to manage as we can and be understanding of ourselves and others.

Last Saturday I was supposed to appear at Scrawl Books in Reston, Virginia to celebrate what should have been Independent Bookstore Day. The day has been rescheduled for August, but the store asked those of us who were to attend if we’d make videos. This isn’t something I have any experience doing, but I gave it a try. I looked all over the house for a reasonable spot and recorded myself reading seven poems and describing two activities for kids to do at home. One is to color blank jerseys like those above (feel free to drag the image to your desktop). This is something my kids did for hours and hours. The other is to write a mask poem. I turned over the recording to my oldest who snapped his fingers and turned it into a video. Here you go, my first ever video offered with generous permission from Boyds Mills & Kane. Their guidelines allow me to share it on open platforms for two weeks and on closed platforms through the end of June. They would be thrilled to know (marketing@bmkbooks.com) if and how educators are using it. (You can also find a link to a Soccerverse Discussion and Activity Guide on my home page.)

 

 

What, if anything, are you doing for the first time while staying at home?

I do hope you all are well in every sense of the word during this awful time. We are fine and safe and together but devastated by the losses all around us.

Thank goodness for family, poetry, and friends.

Liz

 

 

My participation in Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project has drifted a bit, but I’m still checking in now and then.

Margarita Engle invited us to write an ode about water. With everything happening it feels like a perfect time to write a poem of appreciation. I wrote this one about my mother’s backyard swimming pool. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever swim there again but I can certainly remember.

Meg Eden invited us to make a list of favorite words and compare one of them to water. I wasn’t sure if she meant favorite words or concepts or both. Cat is one of my favorite things and purr is one of my favorite words. I worked both of them into this poem. I really enjoyed this challenge. I will definitely do it again.

 

Water’s Ways

water pools in puddles
on the floor or maybe on a chair,
anywhere

water weaves in and out
of your feet

silent, water
gives you no clue
as to its whereabouts

water purrs,
curled up in a wave
or a pot

mewing water entices you
to come and play

oh, but water roars
when it wants more

in many ways water
is a cat

Elizabeth Steinglass

 

Happy Poetry Friday to you all. The round-up is at Nix the comfort zone.

 

Wishing you all my best,

Liz

I wrote this for Laura’s Shovan’s Water Poem Project. On Day 15 Chris Baron challenged us to look beneath the surface of water. Apparently that was truly challenging for me. As you can see I saw a lot more above than below.

I was even more off topic on Day 9 with Kat Appel’s challenge to write a solage. A solage is a humorous three line poem. The first two lines rhyme. The third line is one word that adds a twist. My twist was leaving out the water!

 

Meta-solage

You say this poem has to rhyme?
Breaking rules is my favorite crime.
Free verse.

Elizabeth Steinglass

 

Today I also have a poem at Tabatha Yeatt’s blog The Opposite of Indifference. She is running a series for National Poetry Month, poems with the theme What I Wish You Knew. I am feeing incredibly grateful to Tabatha for thinking of this and organizing it and to the writers for sharing their experiences.

I hope you’re all hanging in there. I had some definite mood swings this week, but we are healthy and safe and together. I hope you and yours are well.

Amy has the roundup at The Poem Farm. See you there!

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

This form is called a skinny. A skinny has 11 lines, the first and last can be any length; they must use the same words, but the words can be in a different order. Lines 2-10 are one word each, lines 2, 6 and 10 are the same word. I find this form challenging to say the least. My goal was to get the words in lines 1 and 11 in a different order and to have slightly different meanings. Sheesh!

I wrote this for Linda Baie’s prompt on Day 14 on Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Liz

 

 

I am happy to add the next line of this year’s progressive poem. Irene Latham started this NPM tradition in 2012. This year Margaret Simon graciously agreed to keep it going. Donna started us off by offering two possible first lines. Irene and Jone have continued this pattern, so I have done it as well. I can’t help but think we poets have all had the experience of revising until we find ourselves going back and forth between two options, so we are now  joyfully taking advantage of the opportunity to let someone else make the final choice. Buffy, that’s you.

 

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes

and a banjo passed down from my gram.   (Option A)

a notebook and my best felt-tip pen.   (Option B) 

 

I hope you all have a good day today,

 

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Poetry Friday and National Poetry Month! This year I don’t have a particular plan other than to write and post every day. For the last 11 days I’ve been participating in Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project. I love daily prompts because I can get started without having to wonder what to write about. I end up writing poems I never would have written otherwise. I wrote the concrete or shape poem above in response to Heather Meloche’s prompt. I watched a video of ocean waves and this “poured” out. I had hoped to insert the words on an image, but I don’t have the technical know-how, so I did this instead. I think I like it even better.

Amy VanDerwater’s prompt was to write a water memory poem, and I’m so very glad she did, because I remembered this moment with my sister.

 

Sisters

Who else
would run outside
in the drenching rain?
Who else would agree
to pour buckets
over her head,
lather her hair in shampoo
on the driveway?
Who else
would sing and dance
barefoot
in soaking t-shirts and jeans?
Who else
would say yes
to my crazy ideas?
Remember those few moments
when we were the beautiful, carefree girls
on TV?

Elizabeth Steinglass

 

I hope you are finding ways to celebrate poetry and community this month, while staying well, physically and emotionally.

Heidi has the round up today at my juicy little universe. Tomorrow I’ll be adding the next line of this year’s progressive poem. Jone MacCulloch has the line (or is that lines?) for today.

Wishing you all my best,

Liz

 

Happy National Poetry Month! I don’t have a particular project this year, but I’m going to try to post something every day. I’ve been trying to keep up with Laura Shovan’s #WaterPoemProject, so I may be posting a lot of water poems. Today’s prompt by Buffy Silverman was to write a mask poem from the point of view of an animal about their watery home. I may also give other people’s projects and prompts a try. We’ll see.

I hope you are well.

Liz