Slowing Down and Finding Words

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I don’t know what this post is about.  It’s a ramble and I apologize upfront.

I’ve been having trouble lately putting words to the images, thoughts and feelings I experience.  It’s not that I can’t recall them, it’s just that I’m struggling for the right fit – the perfect description.  Maybe I’m just exhausted.  Well, it halts me in my tracks.  I get frustrated and end up writing clichés or simple phrases just to hold on to the moment.

Last Friday was the most beautiful September day.  As I walked from my car to the school door, carrying my bags and coffee in hand, I caught sight of the horizon.  Fog blanketed the playground and a layer of dark clouds rested along this horizon.  Just at the crust of these clouds, light beamed.  The sun, not showing itself yet, was announcing it’s arrival. The entire sky was glowing with rays of light.  I stopped for a moment to take in its beauty. It filled me.  I had no words.

At lunch, as I walked to the mailbox, I heard honking above.  As I craned my neck to the sky, hundreds of geese flapped their wings in the most magnificent V of geese I have ever seen – all heading south.

Again.  I stopped to take in the awe.

A boring description – again, I apologize.

As I reached for a poetry book off my shelf this morning, John O’ Donohue, one of my favorite poets and also an Irish teacher, jumped into my hands.

Here was his first poem:


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to color.

Oh my heavens.

The words I had been clamoring for.

I printed it off and pasted it to my September Birthday Poems collection.

John O’ Donohue understands poetry.  He put words on the page to paint the description of my experience.

For this, I am grateful.

Each day, we have moments of awe.  It’s difficult to describe their significance and maybe we don’t have to.  We can just feel them.  But, sometimes, I want to put it in writing.

John O’Donohue describes it as such:

There is a quiet light that shines in every heart.  
It draws no attention to itself, thought it is always secretly there.
It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty,
our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.
Without this subtle quickening, our days would be empty and wearisome, 
and no horizon would ever awaken our longing.
Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us
that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life.
We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs
to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us
and will no enfold, nourish, and sustain us.
The gift of the world is our first blessing.

There are days when it seems these quiet gifts of the world come pouring in.  There are other days where it feels like God forgot that I’m still here.  Perhaps other people need more, on those days, and He thinks I’ll be fine.  But really, it’s the days that I am so consumed with the pace of life that I am blind to what is in front of me.

Slow down, I hear.

Slow down.

The moments are there.

And the words will appear.

 

A Poem A Day: Birthday Gifts To Me

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There is something about a poem that reaches into your soul and grabs you there.  A poem can speak loudly in so few words  causing you to pause for a moment to say the words over in a hope that they might land in your memory for you to retrieve at a later time.

Maybe that’s why I love them so much.

When life moves into auto pilot, I neglect poetry.  But, somehow, it always seems to find it’s way back to me.  We are like old friends – so grateful to have crossed paths again and we reminisce for a spell.

September is my birthday month.  I enjoy giving myself small birthday gifts during the entire month of September.  These gifts do not usually cost anything; a walk along the river, a drive to the library or finding a small space amongst the trees in my backyard to write.  The best gifts are free.

This month, I’m giving myself the gift of poems.  A poem a day.

Some poems are from my poetry books, some I write.

Today’s poem found me.

Garrison Keillor, at his website, The Writer’s Almanac, posts a poem a day, along with other literary and historical notes about the current day in history.  It’s a lovely site.

Today’s featured poem was written by Kate Barnes.  Kate’s words could be my own words as I reflect on my birthday, time and getting older.  I’m only 51 years old, but I appreciate poetry that celebrates getting older.  We need to look forward to what many are not able to.

Here is her poem.

And my gift to myself today.

Future Plans

by Kate Barnes

When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.

“Future Plans” by Kate Barnes from Where the Deer Were. © David R. Godine, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

Mondays ~It’s What You’d Expect

 

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There are a few things I hope my third graders always remember when they leave my classroom in June.  First, that reading, writing, poetry and art can bring you great happiness. Second, that learning is hard – and it should be or you’ll never make your brain grow.  And, third, that you create your own reality.  (And, that I loved them dearly.)

Attitude is such an important part of life.  What we think is what we will most likely see. My kids have heard me say it so many times, I now am hearing them parrot it to me when I need my own attitude shift.

Rainy Mondays are perfect for examining your attitudes.

I shared the following poems with my third graders today.  We talked about what we noticed, felt, and what the author might want us to think.  Then, we compared and contrasted.  I asked my kids which poem was them today.  The hands were split-half and half.

More teaching about how our minds work happened.  We talked about how if we expect to have a bad day, we probably will, because our minds are prepped to notice all the bad things that happen, bypassing any goodness that comes our way. After our conversation, I took another show of hands to see if anyone changed their minds about which poem they want to guide them today.  Of course, many switched teams over to the Happy Monday side.

Seriously.

Why would anyone WANT to create a their own gloomy day?

Shari 🙂

Happy Monday
By Joy Acey
Lying in bed
just after dawn
the sleep of night

is suddenly gone.

I'm listening to doves
cooing away
as I lie here and think
of the coming day.

Monday is the start
of this new week.
There's lots to do
and lots to seek.

I'm making my list
of things to get done.
I'm counting blessings
for lots of fun.

I hope whatever
you have to do
this will be a
great week for you.

 

Monday Morning

I was happy this morning, as I woke up in bed,
Then realized it was Monday and I faced the day with dread,
For somehow, whatever comes my way, my temper is displayed,
Just mentioning ‘it’s Monday’, my nerves, they become frayed.

The day will be just a ‘ write off’, it’s no good me trying to do
Any sort of reasonable job, things won’t go right. It’s true!
It’s like a ‘cloud’ which hangs around and never let’s you be,
Whatever I attempt to do, disaster follows me.

If I could sleep through Mondays, then that would be just bliss!
Then Mondays wouldn’t have happened, I’d have given them a miss!

© Ernestine Northover

Poem Triggers

Fifty 8 and 9 year olds squished into my classroom this afternoon.  A neighboring teacher home with a sick child and being short of subs, we take turns inviting extra children into our own classrooms for portions of the day.

“What are you going to do with them all?” my teacher friend asks.

“Poetry,” I reply, “We are going to write poems.”

She gave me a look.  You know the one.

I gathered them all and told them that I saw Poetry on my way to school this morning.

They looked befuddled – like Poetry wore clothes or walked around.

“I heard it first, as I stepped out of my car, singing in tweets so happily.  Because is was morning, I’m sure.  I looked to where the poetry was coming from and then I spotted them, in trees.  Hundreds of them.  Flocks.”

“I saw them, too, Mrs. Daniels!” they beamed.  “The robins are out!”

“I stood under the tree for a moment, holding my bags and my coffee mug.  I felt called to take in the poetry – the singing of joyful the morning, the red ripe berries hanging on to the branches patiently waiting for these robins to come to enjoy them, the robins with their bellies overstuffed with either babies. . . or berries.  How was I to know?

A poem was shouting at me.

I skipped inside, whipped off my coat, sat down my coffee mug and scrambled for my notebook.  When a poem arrives, it is the poets responsibility to get it down onto paper quickly, before it leaves and finds someone else.”

I quickly wrote my Fat Robins poem for them on the chart paper.

Fat Robins
There you all sit
Singing joyful tunes
on berry tree
that waited
for you.

But honestly!
Those bellies!

Are there babies in there?

Or do you all
just need
to lay off
on the berries!

They giggled – those third graders.

I told them how poetry finds me and then I have to write it down and how I love to write poetry more than any other kind of writing because. . . .

Poetry breaks the rules.  Free verse, that is.  My poetry form of choice.

After I shared the rules that you can break with poetry (complete sentences, punctuation, capital letters, paragraph form), I set up objects around he room and we wrote small poems. Rocks, a toddler mitten, monopoly houses, a deck of cards, any item I could find in my house in a 2 minute search for stuff.   I showed them how an object can trigger a thought and as a poet, you have to pay attention to that very first thought that pops into your head and grab it by the tail and put it down on paper.  A poet can’t sit around and think too long or the thoughts go away to someone else.  Poet’s get stuff down.  They don’t think stuff up.

Away they went, eager to be poets.  I gave them only three minutes per object and said to write fast, keep your pencil moving and get down your first thoughts.

Always, I am in awe of what children can do.  All I did was model my own poem and get them excited.  I didn’t hover over their shoulders telling them to add line breaks and rhymes or to start here or skip spaces.

This happened on its own.

If these are our quick three minute drafts, I can only imagine where we can go with poetry.

But for now, we will joyfully write. . .

content with the freedom

of free verse.

Shari 🙂

 


 

The Unchosen Poems

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The Unchosen Poems

They sit and wait
hidden in books
some still scatter words
not yet crafted
to even live
as a poem yet.

All waiting
and waiting
to be chosen.

Pick me!
Pick me!
they cry
waving their arms
I have something to say!
The children. . .
they need to know me!

But, oh. . .
I squint my eyes
and shake my head
You are
too confusing
too long
and those rhymes?
no. . . I can’t even.
I don’t want the children
to believe that
poems
have to rhyme
you are fun
but. . . no.

Always
they pout
she chooses her pets
Wild Geese
A Snowy Evening
An Apology
What do they have
that we don’t?

It’s so unfair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I like to believe that poems choose me and I don’t not choose them.  But, after this poem made it’s way out of my pen this morning, I realized that yes, I do have my favorites. They are chosen over and over to teach whatever I might need to teach that day.  My class pets that I pick on the most are my memorized poems.  They sit at the ready until I call them up for their duty.  I’m sure the unchosen poems think they are spoiled.

The neglected poems were screaming at me this morning, begging for attention.  “You are so lazy”, they cried.  “Give the children something new!”

Ugh.

When the truth speaks, it hurts.

I do rely on these chosen poems and yes,  perhaps they do need a rest.

And, those rhyming poems?

Personally, it was those bloody rhymes that damaged my own beliefs about what poetry really is.  In my classroom, I encourage students NOT to rhyme because immediately they are all trying to force feed these words into their poems just to make a rhyme.  Poems fall apart.  The rhymes take away the heart and meaning of what they are truly trying to say.  If a child is composing a poem about her dog dying, the last thing she should be thinking about is, “What rhymes with dead?”

Action Plan:  Branch out beyond what I already know and believe.  Use a poem I don’t connect with personally.  Perhaps it is meant for a child in my room and not me.

Play with rhymes, but not too soon.

And, for Pete’s sake, memorize some new poems.  Those Wild Geese and Snowy Evenings need a rest.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in the 2016 NaPoWritMo (National Poetry Write Month) and hoping to blog about poetry for 30 days in April.  Please join me and others by visiting their site!

 

 

 

Poem Crazy

 

A Dog's Sigh

A Dog’s Sigh

I wish
I could read a dog’s mind
when it sighs so heavy.

Is it bored
wishing that it
could be outside
chasing squirrels
and playing tag
with dog friends?

Perhaps the sigh
is tiredness~
a sign that
it just wants
to sleep.

Or maybe
best of all . .
it’s contentment~
an inner peace
and happiness
that it belongs
to this family
and
can sleep
on
a
bed.

Really.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I didn’t always love poetry.

Honestly, I can’t say that like even described my feelings toward it through most of my years as a student.  Between the analyzing, confusion, rhyming, and assignments to produce haikus, sonnets, quatrains and filling in templates for acrostic poems , what’s not to like, right?

Ugh. . .

Poetry used to bring fear to my already befuddled mind.  Fear that I would not know what in the heck a poem was supposed to mean, fear that I was alone in this fear of being the only idiot that would not understand what the secret messages that poets were trying to tell us.

By the way, did you know there actually is a word that defines the fear of poetry?  It’s called metrophobia.

I do not make this stuff up.

A shift occurred in my late thirties when I was trained as a Literacy Collaborative coach at Ohio State University.  The introduction to Georgia Heard, Ralph Fletcher, Mary Oliver and Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge changed my entire vision of what poetry truthfully was. I learned that a poem can speak to me in whatever way I want it to.  We savored a line, or even a word and asked ourselves, “What does that say to you?” or “How did they do that?” I learned that before anything, a poem has to tug at your heart.  You have to feel it.  I learned that a poem does not necessarily harbor secrets that only the sophisticated- intellectual-well-educated-literary-geniuses can decode.

And, I also discovered, first hand, that when that first poem shakes you to your core, you are hooked on poetry for life.

It was also revealed to me that anyone could write poetry and it certainly did not need to follow a structure, especially a rhyming one.  Oh, how I despised having to restrict my words to a poetry form when those thoughts just didn’t want to fit into any poetry form.

The angst.

I came to adore free verse and in writing simply.  No polysyllabic fluffery for me.  If I desired to say the cat slept.  That’s what I’ll said.

I found freedom in free verse.

Although poetry lives in my heart and in my classroom all year round, April is a paramount month for celebrating poetry more than any other month of the year. April stirs my poetry senses, new notebooks need to be purchased for filling with poems, fancy new pens show up, and most certainly. . . a few new poetry books find their way to my shelves.

This month, coming down from the rush of the 2016 Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers, I feel a tug to keep blogging onward.  What better than to take up a new challenge to write about anything poetry.

I may just a write a simple poem, like one about my dog, Sandy, and her heavy sighs.  Or, perhaps I’ll share an attempted lesson with my third graders. I certainly will brag about the inspirational poetry teachers who have walked before me.  Or, I could just take pictures of the poetry in our lives.

Whatever it will be, I’m on poetry alert.

Prepare to be swaddled in words of poetry this month.

Giddy-up~

Shari 🙂

I Am The Moon #sol16

How am I the moon?
a poem ~ Shari Daniels
The moon is ever changing
emptying and filling
unlearning the old
to learn new

Always present
but sometimes needs 
to disappear
to become new again

Silent
it watches
observing
when ready to be seen
you notice it
speaking volumes

Living in seasons
aligning with human energies
it whispers
the natural time
for starting things, maturing
reaping
rest 
renewal 
and planning

This first full moon 
after spring equinox
reminds us
to rest, stop, reflect.

And begin again
with new eyes.

You Do Not Have To Be Good #sol16

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The eastern morning sky kissed goodbye to nighttime sky as I climbed out of my car, scrambling with my totes and slamming the car door with my foot.  As I glanced eastward, ribbons of orange, velvety apricot and gold caught my attention and I was captured for a moment, lost in this small gift of the morning sunrise. . . and then I heard them.

The Wild Geese.

High above, I listened to their calls to me.  I’ve heard that music before.  I knew what they were messaging.  Mary Oliver’s poem came to me in full verse.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees 

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting . . .

Yes, yes, I know.  Always, the wild geese.  They remind me of this.  I should quit hauling all this stuff home on the weekend, thinking I am going to dig into it.  I carry this bag back and forth from my classroom, to my car, to the house, back to my car and into the classroom again.  The contents remain in the bag, while I wear a cloak of guilt that says I’m not doing enough.  Thank you, Mary Oliver for teaching me that who I am, what I am, and what I do is good enough.  It’s ok. Thank you.

Poetry is such a part of who I am.  I’ve memorized a few poems.  Wild Geese.  Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening. These poems bring me calm and peace, like a prayer, when I call on them to rest upon.

I have plenty of poetry mentors:  Mary Oliver, Georgia Heard, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and Ralph Fletcher.  But, my online secret social media poetry mentor is Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  She is the author of several fabulous poetry books, however, it’s her online home at Poetry Farm that keeps me alive when I need a poetry feeding.

She leads me to poems of any topic or technique.  If you are looking for poems about art, she’s got some.  Need a poem about spring mornings?  You’ll find one of those, too. Once you discover this secret hiding spot of poems, you will visit here a gazillion times.  If you peek along the left side, you will discover resources galore.  I so love it when writers/poets/artists share their ideas for free.  It’s such a gift.  Especially to us teachers.

Amy also teases me into sneaking over to her other playground – sharing her writers notebooks.  Heavens.  Seriously.  I can’t even. If you are not using a writers notebook, you will be when you are done visiting here.  Stuck for notebook ideas?  Go here now.  Never again should you say, I’ve nothing to write about.

And, if you write poetry or would like to try your hand at it, you need to swing over to Poetry Friday, which sometimes  Amy hosts.

Hopefully, you don’t save poetry for one month in April and instead, you sprinkle it in your classroom all year long.  Regardless, one way or another, you are missing out on some glorious poetry treasures if you have never stopped in at Amy’s home.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.

 

 

 

Dreams sol#16

Dreams

“What would we be without our dreams?”

I asked that to my third graders today.  There were looks of befuddlement.  It was a heavy question for a Monday morning.  Then, I shared Langston Hughes’ poem.  I read it several times, allowing the words to marinate for a moment.

I let my kids turn and listen to each other talk about their dreams and to then about what Langston Hughes wants us to know about our dreams.

And, I just listened.

It’s moments like these that are part of my own dreams.

Dreaming.  Sharing.  Listening.  Smiling.  Laughing.

We went from early Monday morning-I-need-another-hour-of-sleep to sharing our biggest dreams and feeling inspired by others dreams and filling a classroom with uncontainable energy.  If only I could bottle that up.

I shared my dreams – of having a little farm out in the country,  raising chickens, llamas, a few goats and of course, puppies.  I’d have a big garden and a little house with a loft up above that faces the east so I could see the sun rise – and that will be by writing room, because I’ll be an author, you know.

Of course, some of my students added raising llamas and writing rooms to their dreams, too.

Calub dreams of being a metal worker and creating robots that will help those who are handicapped.  His dad is a metal worker and he watches him.  He knows what to do.   Miguel dreams of being a guitar player and creating you tube videos.  Nathan dreams of being a video game designer and combining old games with new ones.  Camille wants to be an artist, author and book illustrator while at the same time, be a doctor.   “I’ll be a doctor to earn my money and write and illustrate on the weekends,” she confidently said.

Caden dreams of racing snowmobiles and four-wheelers, but also, he wants to help the homeless somehow.  Kimberlee dreams of raising horses on her own horse ranch.  Grace – she’s dreamed of being a ballerina forever.  She twirls to her spot in the circle.

These third graders have big dreams.  I tell them that if we let go of those dreams, Langston Hughes tells us our life will be changed somehow, and we go back to the poem to for another close reading.

We decide that our dreams are what keep us alive.

Of course, I snuck in a little lesson on metaphors as this poems begs to be noticed because of the comparisons.  But, it did not overshadow the bigger message here.

A poem is meant to felt, to be taken in and become of part of you.

A poem should be lived.

Just like dreams.

What dream or poem are you living?

Shari 🙂

Inspired by Brett Vogelsinger’s post on Edutopia last week:  4 Reasons to Start Class with a Poem Each Day