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?

Child,
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

World Refugee Day

Who would choose
to leave their home—
the place they live
with those they love?

Who would choose
to leave their beds,
their alters,
their ancestors’ graves?

Who would choose
to leave their lives?

No one.

Only a man running
from a gun,
only a woman running
from starvation,
only a child in the arms
of the running

leaves their world.

And how will we receive
those who survive,
those who arrive
at our door?

Will we pretend
they are strangers,
unfamiliar,
unwanted,
unrecognizable
as humans?

Or will we see
our cousins
as cousins?

Will we allow ourselves
to see the pain
in their faces?

Will we allow ourselves
to feel the pain
they feel?

Will we dare to say
come in,
share my shelter?

Will we dare to give
something of ours
to someone else?

 

I wrote this this morning in honor of World Refugee Day.

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy National Poetry Month!

In 2012 Irene Latham launched the first Progressive Poem to celebrate the month, poetry, and community. Every day in April, a different poet adds a line, and together we compose a poem. It’s a mysterious and surprising process that results in a beautiful and unexpected piece of writing. (You can read all of them here.)

I was surprised and honored when Irene asked me to write the first line this year. I was also a little nervous. I wanted to write something poetic and unique but also open-ended, something that offered a solid first step along a path that could head off into the woods in any number of directions.

You can read more about Irene’s inspiration and my agonizing at Heidi Mordhorst’s blog My Juicy Little Universe. Last Friday, as host of Poetry Friday, Heidi posted an interview with Irene and myself. She also suggested we add a little twist this year.

New for Progressive Poem 2018:  Participants, when Liz posts her Line 1 on Sunday, April 1, please take a minute to record your first impressions of how the line strikes your imagination and what you think the poem might become.  A few lines should do it, and that’s Step One.

Step Two is to hide this reaction/prediction from yourself until your day to add your line arrives.  : )

Step Three is to bring it back out and include it in your post  that day, with a little commentary about how your initial expectations have to be adjusted now that each person has altered the trajectory of the poem. 

 

Are you ready? With great thanks to Irene and Heidi and to all of our participants, and without further ado (drumroll, please) …

 

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.

 

Jane, you’re up!

I hope you’ll all follow along for the rest of the month to see where this poem takes us.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Liz

 

 

April

2 Jane at Raincity Librarian
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
Jan at bookseedstudio
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
21 April at Teaching Authors
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
28 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
30 Doraine at Dori Reads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Here

I’m here to make pancakes
when it’s hard to go to school.
I’m here to save the crossword
and talk about the day. I’m here
to be calm when others can’t,
to hug and find what’s lost.
I’m here to listen. I’m here to cry.
I’m here to make a warm chair
for a spiraled, sleeping cat. I’m
here to walk in the woods and find
the purple crocus hiding in the snow.
I’m here to pet the ancient pug
and say hello to the gray-haired
woman who lives across the street.
I’m here to sit at my desk and stare
at a blinking cursor on a white page
and tap, tap, tap the keys to make
letters, images, melodies. I’m here
to tinker and reshape, to follow
unintentional leads. I’m here
to share my words and hope
someone will understand.

 

I hope you all know George Ella Lyon’s beautiful poem “Where I’m From.”

I love that poem. I love the powerful connection between the intimately concrete, her heritage, and her identity. I know many schools use the poem as a model for student writing. I’ve used it as a model to write about my family and identity too.

It’s also a model and inspiration for the poem above. In our busy rush-rush world where we’re all racing to get through our lists of things to do, I think it can be hard to remember why we’re here. It can be hard to connect to the important things that give our lives meaning. I wanted to take the time to think about why I’m here. As with George Ella Lyon’s poem, I’ve tried to use the particular and the concrete to connect me to my deeper commitments. I was hoping to connect the things I actually do to the why I do them.

I think I’ve wanted to write this kind of poem ever since I saw this TED talk by the artist Candy Chang. In mourning for a loved one, she got some friends together to paint an abandoned building in her neighborhood in chalkboard paint. She then stenciled the phrase “Before I die I want to __________” all over the building. By the next day the building was covered in answers: some humorous, some concrete and manageable, some tender, and some hugely ambitious. She doesn’t say it in her talk, but I saw the building as a poem written by a community. Other communities, inspired by the project, have made their own versions.

With all of this in mind, I wrote “Why I’m Here.” I hope maybe some of you will want to write a “Why I’m Here” poem too.

Please share your links below, go visiting, leave lots of comments, and have a wonderful Poetry Friday!

Liz

 

[inlinkz_linkup id=767095 mode=1]

 

 

Rose Gold

Here lie the shattered remains
of Liz’s iPhone 7.
It succumbed to the weight of her minivan
and now it rings in heaven.

 

As always, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has a wonderful interview and inspirational challenge on her blog this month. This time the interview takes the form of a mock Newly Read Game featuring the ins and outs of writing partners J Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen. The end comes too early with a challenge from their featured book, Last Laughs Prehistoric Epitaphs.

My epitaph may not be prehistoric, but I hope it’s humorous. It’s been a tough month for technology around here. I spilled an entire cup of tea on my laptop and dropped my phone face down on the sidewalk. Fortunately all my data survived.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Jone at her blog Check It Out.

Some of my favorite haiku books and journals.

 

 

chapstick and nail clippers
all that’s left
in my father’s dresser

 

For almost twenty years, the Haiku Society of America has hosted The Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for students in grades 7-12. I hope you’ll take a moment at some point to read the winning entries. The students’ work is beautiful and moving and impressive. Over the years an outrageously disproportionate number of students earning honors have come from classes taught by two teachers at opposite ends of the country: Tom Painting and Arlie Parker.

In the most recent episode of the podcast Haiku Chronicles (a podcast I could not recommend more highly) Teaching Haiku, Tom and Arlie discuss haiku and senryu, how they teach it, prompts they use, and why they think the form is so valuable for students.

I’ve already listened to the interview twice this week, and I am quite sure I’ll want to listen to it again. As a writer and someone who has taught a few haiku workshops and would like to teach more, I value their suggestions about what examples to share, how they think and talk about the form, the limits they give their students, and when they bend them. I had thought of haiku and senryu as two broad categories of poetry, but Tom and Arlie break these categories into smaller ones–such as meaningful moments, painful reminders, and things that don’t go together. These categories can be used as prompts, which is how I came to write the senryu above.

In some ways I think haiku is quite different from other poetry, especially in the way that the writer is supposed to get out of the way and allow the reader to have a direct experience. On the other hand I think haiku is poetry distilled to its essence–strong imagery, strong feeling, and an abiding belief in the power of a few, carefully chosen words.

Happy Poetry Friday! Donna JT Smith has the roundup at Mainely Write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote this cinquain in response to Carol Varsalona’s invitation to contribute to her gallery Autumn Ablaze. Carol’s galleries are always full of gorgeous images and provocative language. Thank you, Carol for your inspiration and for your regular celebrations of poetry, community, and life.

For more Poetry Friday visit Linda at TeacherDance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone

Someone has to.
Someone has to go.
Someone has to go down
in the dark, musty basement.
Someone has to.
Someone has to tip toe
along the concrete floor.
Someone has to.
Someone has to listen
for the quiet, steady snores.
Someone has to.
Someone has to slip aside
the hulking creature’s
big behind.
Someone has to.
Someone has to sidle by
before the giant
roars awake
its eyes alight
with raging flames.
Someone has to.
Someone has to run
for her life
and bring back
a roll of two-ply soft, white
toilet paper.

I’m so happy to be here! I’ve missed you all. Life has been busy and distracting. Thank goodness for Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ wonderful blog. Her spotlight interview with Carrie Clickard and Carrie’s challenge to write a poem about something that spooked you as a child were just what I needed. Wishing you all a happy Poetry Friday! Leigh Ann has the roundup at A Day in the Life.

This looks so good, I’ll simply have to read it!

 

 

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have done it again! They’ve brought another wonderful book of children’s poetry into the world. I’m beyond thrilled to be included with so many other fabulous children’s poets. Pet Crazy is Sylvia and Janet’s 7th Poetry Friday book and their 3rd Poetry Friday Power Book.

What makes it a Power Book? In addition to the fabulous linked poems, each Power Book also includes a PowerPack of activities and writing prompts to support kids’ writing. The books are anthologies, activity books, and Language Arts workbooks, all rolled into one.

Designed for students in Kindergarten through Grade 3, Pet Crazy encourages kids to explore concepts such as rhyme, repetition, alliteration, and form.

My poem, Book Hound, is an acrostic about a dog that loves to be read to.

Pet Crazy also includes poems by Kristy Dempsey, Helen Frost, Janice Harrington, Eric Ode, Laura Shovan, Eileen Spinelli, Don Tate, Padma Venkatraman, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, Tamara Will Wissinger, and Janet Wong. What a team!

If you’re crazy about pets or crazy about poetry or especially if you’re crazy about poetry about pets, you’ll definitely want to get your paws on this book.

Happy Pet Crazy Birthday! And Happy Poetry Friday!

MsMac is hosting today at Check It Out (and she’s sharing my poem!). Thanks, Jone!

Liz

Yes, I read. Of course, I read. What of it?

 

How to Be a Wall

Stand tall.
Stand still.
Keep people out.
Keep people in.
Let the ivy
grab hold.
Watch the birds
soar over.
Sear in the sun.
Peel.
Chip.
Give the ants
an Everest.
Watch the shadows
switch sides.
Stand tall.
Stand still.
Crack.
Crumble.
Don’t last forever.
Make someone ask
do we need
this wall?

 

Like many of you, I have been dismayed by the current political climate. I hate seeing families and lives torn apart, the prioritization of profit over all else, including fresh air, clean water, and the future of our planet, the callous disregard for our shared human needs for education, health, choice, and respect. I could go on and on. It’s been hard for me to find the wonder in the world when what’s been staring me down has been the cruelty. I’ve struggled to turn pain into art–art worth sharing in any case. I’ve even wondered if writing is the best use of my time. This is one attempt to turn what I’m seeing and feeling into poetry.

I wish you all a Happy National Poetry Month.

For more poetry this Friday, visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem!

Liz