Thursday, October 8, 2015

Carrie Clickard: Step Three– CHANGE IT UP

Over the past year, we've met some rather unsavory characters in Carrie Clickard's Rhyme Crime Investigation series:

Igor Meter: Step One– PICK A BEAT  

Today Carrie's back to introduce us to our next villainous versifier.

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Change it up!
Shaking off the slippery snooze of Singsong Sal.

Trail weary from chasing down Rhyme Crime desperados and haulin’ em off to the hoosegow, you slip through the doors of the Tanglefoot Saloon. But before you can sidle up the bar and order a tall cool one, a flicker of something soft and slippery catches your eye.

Dagnabit.  It’s Singsong Sal, come to spoil your poetry.

Singsong Sal isn’t a hardened criminal, not like those other pesky polecats we’ve been arresting.  She doesn’t break the rules of rhyme but she’s trouble all the same. She can take your rhyme and turn it into such a monotonous misery that any editor worth her salt will run for the hills.

Time to change it up, quick!

If you’ve been following along with our Rhyme Crime articles, chances are you’re feeling pretty good about your rhyme right now.  You’ve got the meter solid as a rock, you haven’t let weasel words sneak in and there’s not a close rhyme in sight.  It’s clap along, tap along perfection.

And that might just be a little TOO perfect.

Remember those long epic poems you read in high school or college – that went on and on in the same unvarying cadence?
On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O'er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset...
                                           Excerpt from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha"
                                           (Read the rest here.)

I’ll confess I never made it past three or four stanzas. My apologies to all those who were Hiawatha fans. It wasn’t what Longfellow was saying, I love Native American legends to this day.  It was how he was saying it, that droning tick tock sameness.  When a verse, even the best poetry, marches along in lockstep, never varying – it can fall from smooth right into …

That’s the last thing we want an editor to do.  So let’s take a look at a few cures if your verse has the Singsong Sal blues.

Give your verses a dancing partner: 
Try the “verse – chorus” two-step.

Ah, the magic of a repeated chorus – the part of the song we actually know all the words to, when everyone chimes in.  It can be as simple as a phrase or a couplet. It doesn’t even have to rhyme. (GASP!!)  What a chorus can’t be is the exact same line length and rhythm of your verses.

Here’s an example from the great Shel Silverstein, just in time for the Halloween season:

Down in Lou´siana where the black trees grow
Lives a voodoo lady named Marie Laveaux.
She’s got a black cat tooth and a mojo bone,
And anyone wouldn´t leave her alone.

Another man done gone.

She lives in a swamp in a hollow log
With a one-eyed snake and a three-legged dog.
She’s got a bent bony body and stringy hair,
And if she ever sees you messin´ around there,

Another man done gone.
                                                            Excerpt from "Marie Laveau"
                                                            Words & Music by Shel Silverstein & Baxter Taylor.
                                                            Copyright © 1972  /  Evil-Eye Music Inc, N.Y.

Shel uses just seven words and or six words and one shriek, and snap! He’s avoided the singsong repetition and he gets audience participation, whether they’re singing along (yes, you can find it on YouTube) or young readers are shouting it out.  The structure is basic and predictable, but in an entertaining, engaging way.

Sometimes it takes a bit more than just a phrase to keep the story flowing. Maybe you need a regular four or six line chorus. Don’t let that worry you. It’s the change in reading rhythm that matters.  And while you’re dancing those verses around, remember you’re not limited to the two step.

You can vary it to a cha-cha:  
Verse-verse-chorus. Verse-verse-chorus.  

Like this fun old gospel tune:
Down in the town where I was born
there was a haunted house
and all the folks that passed that way
would creep by, like a mouse.

Now Cap’n John who owned that house
had died some years before.
but neighbors claimed they’d seen him there
still standing in the door.

          That old house is ha’nted.
          Folks take it for granted.
          If you’re down
          in that part of town
          don’t you go near that house!
Soon every night the strangest sounds
would come from out that way.
Those ghosts would carry on all night
‘til roosters crowed for day.

Old Deacon Brown was bold and brave
at least that’s what he said.
He’d often claimed he’d liked to talk
and mingle with the dead.

          That old house is ha’nted.
          Folks take it for granted.
          If you’re down
          in that part of town
          don’t you go near that house!

A prize was offered to the man
He might be black or white
Who’d stay there in the cap’n house
So folks could sleep at night

Deacon Brown was bold, he said,
And so he promised us
That he would stay out there a week
And stop that spectral fuss
                                              Excerpt from "That Ole House is Ha’nted" by Jester Hairston

It’s up to you how often you break up the verses, and how long the chorus lasts.  The choices are endless and there are no rules. Well, there is one rule, and Louis says it best:

Let your caboose loose.

Maybe you’re a rebel.  You need to spice up that rhyme, but anything as traditional as verse-chorus is NOT for you.  Great!  Break out of the mold and try something surprising.  How about a single line refrain that comes FIRST in each stanza?

I was a teenage creature.
I was a junior wolfman, at night there’s a werewolf moon.
Come and hold my hairy hand down at the black lagoon.

I was a teenage creature.
I’m covered with a lizard scale.
I’ve got to cut a hole in my jeans to wag my slimy tail.

I was a teenage creature
I was a teenage vampire, a rock and rolling ghoul.
Won’t you let a Dracula walk you home from school?
                                                                  Excerpt from "Teenage Creature" by Lord Luther              
                                                                  Music & Lyrics by Ric Masten, Don Stevens

                                                                  Les Cangas Music Publishing, 1958

It’s quirky, but it works. Maybe it works because it’s quirky – you be the judge.

Shake an extra leg: 
Change your verse to use nonstandard stanzas.

This solution takes a bit more work, but it can have some startlingly good results.  An unexpected stanza structure might seem a bit unbalanced at first, but that’s precisely the point.  It keeps your reader from falling into a samey-samey sleepwalk. Take a risk and shorten one line, lengthen one line or even add a line at the end to make a five line stanza.  See what it does for the offbeat flavor of this H.P. Lovecraft poem:

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
  And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
  And the harpies of upper air,
  That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
  Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
  Where the rivers of madness stream
  Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.
                                                        Excerpt from H.P. Lovecraft's "Hallowe’en in a Suburb"
                                                        (Read the rest here.) 

The odd structure adds to the weird feeling the poem evokes, in my opinion.  It might not be the right choice for a different topic, but that’s where your writer’s instinct comes in.

There are so many options and so little time to try them all.  I’m sorry to say there’s no short cut, the one easy-peasy recipe for this step.  You have to feel the rhythm of your story as a whole and tweak it in just the right spots.  Sometimes you’ll get your rhyme out on the dance floor and bust a move. Other times you’ll tweak something and bust a leg instead.  That’s why we call her slippery Singsong Sal.  Getting her to vamoose can feel like one step forward, two steps back.

It’s a little like a cha-cha – or a do-si-do – don’t you think? And on that note, I’ll leave you with a bit of Bugs Bunny square dance inspiration. Thanks for joining me on another Rhyme Crime Investigation. Now get out there and get your verses dancing!

Thanks, Carrie!
 (Just so long as I do-si-don't land myself in Rhyme Crime incarceration.)

Carrie Clickard is an internationally published author and poet whose career also spans graphic design, illustration and film.  Her first picture book, VICTRICIA MALICIA, debuted in 2012 from Flashlight Press.  Forthcoming books are MAGIC FOR SALE (Holiday House, 2016) and THOMAS JEFFERSON & THE MAMMOTH HUNT (Simon and Schuster, 2017).  Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals including Spider, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Clubhouse, Spellbound, Penumbra, Haiku of the Dead, Underneath the Juniper Tree, Inchoate Echoes, and The Brisling Tide.  

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In case you missed last week's spotlight interview with Marcus Ewert, he's challenged us to write love poems this month– about relationships that seem unrequited, but which end up being requited after all. Click HERE for more details.  Featured this week were poems by Janie Lazo, B.J. Lee, and my daughter Miranda.

Deputy Laura Purdie Salas is holding down the Poetry Friday fort at Writing the World for Kids.

DMC: "Ketchup & Ice Cream" by Miranda Barnes

Ketchup & Ice Cream

"I love you, Ice Cream."
"I love you too, but Ketchup,
we won't work as two."
Till one day, there's a 
science breakthrough!
"So what if no one likes ketchup-
flavored ice cream?"
"Yes, that's true! And now,
I'll always be with you."

© 2015 Miranda Barnes (age 12). All rights reserved.

Marcus Ewert has challenged us to write love poems this month– about relationships that seem unrequited, but which end up being requited after all. Click HERE for more details.

Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, October 30th, and one lucky participant will win an autographed copy of his fabulous new picture book:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DMC: "Turnabout is Fair Play" by B.J. Lee

Turnabout is Fair Play

“Not fair!” I was telling my mother,
“I love him, but he loves another.”
     Then, as they were wed,
     I turned someone’s head,
and now I am wed to his brother.

© 2015 B.J. Lee. All rights reserved.

Marcus Ewert has challenged us to write love poems this month– about relationships that seem unrequited, but which end up being requited after all. Click HERE for more details.

Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, October 30th, and one lucky participant will win an autographed copy of his fabulous new picture book:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DMC: "Cat" by Janie Lazo


I crave her silky softness
As her slender body moves
Graceful passes so alluring
Still my touch she dares reprove
When I call to her she listens
But to hasten? no not she
Though I beckon - she ignores me
Too aloof to hear my pleas
So I sit alone in silence
I'm no fool, I shall not beg
Then this flighty, flirty, vixen
Soon is rubbing on my leg 

© 2015 Janie Lazo. All rights reserved.

Marcus Ewert has challenged us to write love poems this month– about relationships that seem unrequited, but which end up being requited after all. Click HERE for more details.

Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, October 30th, and one lucky participant will win an autographed copy of his fabulous new picture book:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spotlight on Marcus Ewert + DMC Challenge


I was first introduced to children's author and poet Marcus Ewert during the 2013 March Madness poetry tournament, sponsored by Ed DeCaria on Think Kid Think. With poems about interlocking puzzle pieces from different boxes, a heart-dwelling oyster and jellyfish, a confrontation between and vegan and a vampire, and the internal struggle of an ex-mermaid, I was enchanted again and again by Marcus' unique approach, fertile imagination, and enthralling stories. I wanted more.

Next, I picked up his award-winning 10,000 DRESSES (Seven Stories Press, 2008). It's about a transgender child who dreams of wearing magical dresses, like one "made of crystals that flashed rainbows in the sun" or another "made of windows, which showed the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids."  Not only did Marcus fill an important need by addressing gender identity in a picture book, but he did so with heart and his characteristic imagination. 10,000 DRESSES has since been incorporated into anti-bullying curricula throughout the English-speaking world.

Clarion Books (July, 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-0544340824
Find at, Barnes & Noble,
or via
Earlier this year, when I discovered a new rhyming picture book was on the way, I jumped at the opportunity to feature Marcus on Today's Little Ditty. My next available opening was October.  Mummies... Halloween... purrfect! Little did I know that MUMMY CAT would be so much more than a seasonal book. It is a treasure at any time of year.

The foundation of this book is a compelling story about a mummified cat who wakes for one night each hundred years to search the tomb for his beloved mistress, Queen Hatshupset. At the same time, we witness another, more perilous story that plays out in the murals on the walls. Elegantly designed, Lisa Brown's gorgeous and detailed illustrations capture the feel of ancient Egyptian art, and are truly a feast for the eyes.

On top of that, you'll find layer upon layer of intriguing information for young Egyptologists– about ancient Egyptian royalty and culture, their reverence of cats, the practice of mummification, a large assortment of ancient Egyptian artifacts, plus, at the back, a glossary of hieroglyphics to find within the pages of the book. This is not a one-time read. Children will be poring over and "unwrapping" the story of MUMMY CAT again and again.

But now, my friends, let's delve into the mystery of Marcus Ewert. Who IS this man who lives in an honest-to-goodness turret and is allergic to cats (except for the mummy variety)?  

Perhaps a few favorites will give us some clues....
Favorite color:  Green
Favorite sound:  Rainfall
Favorite children’s book:  The Hobbit
Favorite country you’d like to visit:  Finland! And Iceland!
Favorite children’s poet:  Dr. Seuss (I liked him just ok as a kid, but I really love his work now, as an adult.  Faultless euphony.)             

Favorite subject in school:  History, hands down!
Favorite quote:  “Candor ends paranoia.” ~Allen Ginsberg

What drives you to write for children and what do you enjoy most about being a children’s author?

All the books that had the biggest influence on me were ones I read as a kid. Kids react to life in such a primal way – they haven’t learned how to hold anything back. So they throw themselves into books in a way we adults never can. Why wouldn’t you want to write for such an amazing, rapt audience?

Besides, you can be way more creative in a kids’ book. Kids take whatever you tell them as ground-zero. I could say to a kid: “Once upon a time there was a world made entirely out of kites. The people were kites, the trees were kites, and all of the buildings and rivers and mountains were kites too.”

And a kid would be like, “Yes. And then what happened?” No hesitation. That’s priceless.

Can you tell us a little about your writing routine?

Oh man! It’s taken me years and years to get to a routine that’s workable for me. I had a boyfriend once who wrote for hours and hours a day, every day, and although I can do that sometimes, when I judge myself by a 9-5, five days a week schedule, I’m doomed. It’s taken me a very long time to be ok with the fact that sometimes I can only write for four minutes at a time, before I get too worked up. My current goal is an hour a day, which often looks like twenty minutes in the morning, seven minutes on the bus, ten minutes on a break at work, another seven minutes later, two minutes here, five minutes there... whatever it takes to add up to sixty.

May I also just take a moment to say that my very first boyfriend (not the guy cited above) was the poet Allen Ginsberg? I say this not to brag (okay, 5% bragging) but instead to say how DISempowering this was for me. Allen was very dismissive of my writing for a long, long time and that utterly paralyzed me. It took me a long long long time to feel confidence in my own poetic voice and compass. I have a hefty inner critic anyway; a lot of my daily craft and discipline involves facing down my myriad fears and anxieties. Three minutes of writing at a time, sometimes is all I can muster! Or two minutes! Or one!

You have to sneak past your inner critic however you possibly can.

What inspired MUMMY CAT?

I was thinking about what might make for a cool kids’ book, and I landed on ‘mummy.’ But mummies have been done before, a lot. So I mashed ideas up in my head: mummy robot, mummy dentist, mummy dog,! “Ooh, a mummy cat!” I thought. “That’s a great idea - and the Ancient Egyptians did mummify cats, so that even makes it historical...”

And as soon as I had that title/concept, “Mummy Cat,” I immediately I saw the long, lean form of a mummified cat – very horizontal – and he was padding down these long horizontal halls, and over his head long horizontal murals stretched. And I knew the story would be told in verse, in long, horizontal lines, and that the meter would be the footfalls of this dead cat as he strode the long halls... a soft, funereal tread...

 © Lisa Brown

So the whole thing came to me very clearly, in other words. And I knew at once that the murals above the cat’s head would be bright colorful scenes of when he was alive, and they would contrast with his dull, dry, dusty gray present existence, and they’d torment him. They’d invoke all this longing in him.

MUMMY CAT, text © Marcus Ewert, illustration © Lisa Brown (clike to enlarge)

Another point of inspiration for the book: the very first thing I ever wanted to be as a kid was an Egyptologist! So working on Mummy Cat was a way to cherry-pick from that treasured childhood dream.

One last impetus/influence/inspiration: How sad I was as a very young kid - as a very young gay kid - whenever I heard “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was about two male characters who loved each other – it was, in fact, the ONLY example I had of two male characters who were explicitly said to have love for each other – i.e., not familial love, but instead love for each other as individuals – and then the boy totally turns his back on the magical creature and abandons him! And then- and it’s utterly heartbreaking - Puff is left alone in the gloom, completely bereft, voiceless, despairing, and - my god! - even his scales are “falling like rain” – in a kind of depression-induced dragon-mange! This KILLED me as a kid! If someone would just turn Jackie Paper around, and let him see what his once-friend was going through! Surely, surely, he’d feel some sympathy!

So, in Mummy Cat, I wanted the book to have that same terrible longing and sadness... but I ALSO wanted the love between the human and the magical creature to be REQUITED. Hat-shup-set adores Mummy Cat just as much as he adores her. She wants them to be re-united just as much as he does. I desperately wanted that parity.

From MUMMY CAT, text © Marcus Ewert, Illustration © Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown, Illustrator
In the making of a picture book, usually there is little, if any, communication between author and illustrator. But for MUMMY CAT, you were able to meet with Lisa Brown and develop the rich layering of the story together. Can you describe for us what those meetings with Lisa were like?

We both live in beautiful San Francisco - in adjacent neighborhoods, even - so it was easy for us to meet in person and discuss.
Let me back up a second: before working with Lisa, for about a year, I was working on the Mummy Cat poem myself, in private, very very slowly and painstakingly (see question #2). Sometimes it took me a month or more to complete even a single couplet. And I hadn’t shown the piece to ANYONE. But, all along, as I was working, I pictured Lisa’s artwork illustrating the poem - even though I didn’t even know Lisa’s art all that well, at the time! 

by Lisa Brown (HarperCollins, 2010)
Click HERE to watch trailer.
I really just knew one book by her: Vampire Boy's Good Night. But always, as I kept plodding along on Mummy Cat, my inner voice said: “Lisa Brown does the art. Lisa Brown does the art.” My inner voice was insistent that she was the illustrator for the book, no argument.
But I only knew Lisa a little bit at this point. And was very nervous about imposing too much on our nascent friendship. Thus, I was too shy to ask her outright to illustrate the book. For one thing, what if she said no? I’d be so bummed! That said, from time to time, I’d post these little updates on Facebook, like “Mummy Cat stanza 14: complete!” And one day Lisa commented back: “I love drawing cats. Hint hint.” And I was floored. I immediately messaged her saying “OMG, you are who I’ve been picturing all along!” and she said, “Well, why don’t you send me the ms. and let me see.” And I DID send it to her, and I was SO nervous! I mean, in the privacy of my own heart, I thought the poem was pretty great, but maybe I was totally delusional? What if the poem made no sense at all, and had absolutely no narrative traction? (See my response above regarding all my doubts post-Allen Ginsberg!) Luckily, she really, really liked it - and Lisa doesn’t even like rhyming books! But she liked this one. And so we began working together (all of this is still probably about two years before we submitted it for publication anywhere).

Okay, so once we were “officially” working together, we’d meet every few weeks at a great tea house here in town called Samovar. And, as I remember it, a lot of what we were doing was “merely” gushing about how cool ancient Egypt was, and wouldn’t it be cool if we included X and Y in the book? Hieroglyphs, for instance. 

"Meow" © Lisa Brown.

And we showed each other pictures of beautiful artifacts, etc. Or tidbits of Ancient Egyptian life & society.  “Let’s get that in the book too!”

So, I think mostly what we did was egg each other on: encouraging each other to really pour all these things that we loved into the book.

Surprise! Look under the book jacket! © Lisa Brown.

On a more technical note: Lisa is a very good editor, and she made some great redactions to my text, especially at the end, which originally rambled on a bit. She just flat-out chopped a few couplets. For the better. And the whole back-story, regarding Hat-shup-set’s evil sister, that all springs from Lisa! (Lisa’s such a fan of Edward Gorey!)

And I offered some not-too-unclever (IMHO) thoughts/feedback about a few of Lisa’s spreads. And then of course, once Anne Hoppe at Clarion Books bought the book, we both worked with her (and with our art director) very closely. So then even more elements got teased out and combed, and then even more tightly and gracefully interwoven.

Would you share a favorite selection from MUMMY CAT?

From MUMMY CAT, text © Marcus Ewert, illustration © Lisa Brown

I like this section because it’s very earthy and concrete (something Allen always would get on my case about!). (Boy, I seem to be mentioning him a lot on this interview! Well, why not? Clearly he was a big influence on me, for good and for bad.)

The details are very specific, and very cat-like, I think. And yet these specific, natural details are being used to paint a very supernatural picture: a mummified cat is rising from the dead (again).

Also, points to me for spelling rustling with extra s’s, to get some onomatopoeia in there. Also, points to me for remembering to include details that are auditory as well as visual.

According to the informational section at the back of your book, “the Ancient Egyptians had many different beliefs about souls and the afterlife, but generally they believed that a properly mummified person would spend eternity enjoying the things with which he or she had been buried.”  If you were “properly mummified,” what would you hope to have in your tomb?

Books, books, books, and books. Books to read and books to write in. Pens. 
And internet access.

Can you give us a hint about what’s coming up next for you?

Well, Lisa and I definitely want to work on another book together, and we’re mulling over several different idea-babies.

And I’m working on a middle-grade sequel to my very first book, the transgender-themed children’s picture-book 10,000 Dresses. The sequel is called Bailey & the Valentine Castle.

And I have a bunch of other picture-book ideas: we’ll just see which one gels first and/or most successfully.

And finally, I’m working on a very very long rhyming epic called The Zillion Scoops. It’s like The Divine Comedy meets Animal Farm meets There’s a Wocket in My Pocket. It’s for older-aged kids than Mummy Cat is, though it’s possible that’s it’s ultimately for a very fervent audience of just one person: me. We’ll see!

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

10 year old Marcus at a Japanese temple
Please be very nice to each other. Insults and meanness can be incredibly cruel. Just like you, everybody on the planet has something that they struggle with, something that’s very hard for them. And most of them time, we can’t see what they’re struggling with: it’s invisible to us. So please, don’t add to anyone else’s invisible struggles with meanness or cruelty.

Similarly, please don’t be mean to yourself. Don’t insult yourself, don’t harshly compare yourself to someone else. Something that might be very easy for someone else might be incredibly hard for you. Please try to give yourself the love and understanding and encouragement that you would give to a dear friend.

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.

Write about a long-time love that seems unrequited, but which ends up being requited after all.

Is that too heavy for a ‘ditty’? It could be about your [un]requited love for ice cream... or maybe the [un]requited love between ice cream and a waffle cone– that totally counts!

Are you kidding? I LOVE it! 

         ...but does it love me back?  Probably too soon to tell.

Please join me in thanking Marcus for today's interview, and also for generously offering a copy of MUMMY CAT, signed by both Lisa Brown and himself, to one lucky participant in this month's DMC challenge! A random drawing will be held at the end of the month.


Throughout the month, send your love poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form.

BLOGGER FRIENDS:  Thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please also remember to send me a copy of your poem or a direct link to your post. That way I know I have your permission to post your poem on Today's Little Ditty.

Some poems may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will appear in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, October 30th, 2015.

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Last month's ME poem challenge, courtesy of Lee Bennett Hopkins, was all I expected and more. With fulsome thanks, I must echo Lee's comment on the celebration post:
"THERE is SO much herein; SO much within; SO much therein. Thanks to all of you for reaching back, giving forward." has determined that the winner of an autographed copy of JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES: A BOOK OF POEMS selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, with illustrations by Jane Manning is:

JESSICA BIGICongratulations, Jessica!

In celebration of Poetry Friday and diversity, Heidi Mordhorst has a juicy little roundup for us today at my juicy little universe.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

DMC: "As if I could knock out the Ocean" by Ed DeCaria

As if I could knock out the Ocean

I punched wave after wave —
Punched them! As if
I could knock out
the Ocean
with one




© 2015 Ed DeCaria. All rights reserved.

Lee Bennett Hopkins has challenged us to write a "ME poem" this month, based on one simple moment in your childhood that changed you in some way. Click HERE for more details.

Last call to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. Visit our wrap-up celebration to read all of this month's contributions. One lucky participant will win an autographed copy of Lee's gorgeous new anthology:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

September DMC Wrap-Up + Giveaway

"magic mirror" by Rajesh Kumar

At the beginning of this month, Lee Bennett Hopkins challenged us to write a ME poem–
a poem based on a moment in our childhoods that changed us in some way.

We've had poems that express our many faces...

Steven Depolo

             wonder and fear, curiosity and contentment, 
                                      pride, disappointment, happiness....

Poems about finding our strength and poems about questioning who we are. Poems about people, places, and things we loved, and events that left a lifelong impression.

Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu

I'm grateful to have been trusted with all these precious memories and honored to be able to share them here today.

Many thanks to all those who participated, and especially to Lee, for inspiring us to remember and record these moments for posterity.

All poems are copyright 2015, and published with permission of the authors, who control all rights.

     by Lana Wayne Koehler

It was aqua and not blue
But for all I knew it was the finest,
Most beautiful,
Two wheels in the world.

Daily I would streak through town
Boldly going up and down the streets until
The lights came on.
Silent happiness.

                                                                          TUMBLING WITH DADDY
                                                                               by B.J. Lee

                                                                          Daddy taught me
                                                                          every Sunday morn.
                                                                               Perfect handstands
                                                                               straight and tall
                                                                               Tiger bends—
                                                                               watch out! Don’t fall!
                                                                          Daddy taught me
                                                                          every Sunday morn
                                                                          When Daddy taught me
                                                                          was born.

     by Linda Kulp Trout

Walking home from school
I found a kitten,
almost hidden,
beneath a bramble bush.

Lying on the ground
bone thin and shivering—
her tail was quivering,
as I wrapped her in my jacket.

Afraid she might die
I carried her inside—

I was happy and  surprised
when she licked
warm milk
from my fingertips!

Then she curled herself
into my lap,
and thanked me,
with a purr-fect

                                   by Michelle Kogan

                              sure wish
                              I left you
                              where you

                              But you fit
                              in my small,

                              you felt squishy,
                              and warm,
                              and wet,
                              all at

                              and your breath
                              inside my

                              my heart broke
                              when your
                              breath drifted

                              in your

                              but the
                              lump in my
                              felt like

     by Linda Mitchell

Down in the creek
no guppy was safe
from our plastic pails or,
fingers reading a braille
of moss, rocks and clay.

Side by side on our bellies
we were single-minded
about guppies
like never again, on
climate change
food allergens.

Those fish in pails
sloshed home in
bike baskets,
our sisterhood
peddled harder
uphill toward

You proudly showing
mom our catch
her smile wan
at my promises to tend
this batch better so they
won’t die and stink
up our room
like the last.

                                                                                              ONE BRONX LIBRARY
                                                                                                   by Michele Krueger

                                                                                              I used to sit
                                                                                              in one Bronx library,
                                                                                              on one small chair

                                                                                              I hardly even noticed
                                                                                              the other people there

                                                                                              I'd sit for hours dreaming,
                                                                                              where miracles happened
                                                                                              if only you dared or cared
                                                                                              to come and find them

                                                                                              I ran there
                                                                                              returning books,
                                                                                              to look for more
                                                                                              to take me to a world,

                                                                                              not the one I knew

                                                                                              it was long ago
                                                                                              but I still remember it
                                                                                              so sweetly

                                                                                              that one Bronx library,
                                                                                              that one small chair

                                                                                              with a happy child

                                                                                              reading there

                             RED KEDS AND FIREFLIES
                                  by Ellen Leventhal

                             First one to see the streetlights come on!
                             Knock on wood,
                             Our luck will be good!

                             I bounce about in my new red Keds,
                             the ones that make me strong.

                             The sun fades to darkness.
                             And then we see.
                             Flittering, glittering,
                             Twirling and flipping.

                             “I caught some!” he says.
                             “I put them in a jar.”

                             A knot in my gut,
                             and a tear stained face.
                             But, still
                             I find the words.
                             Loud, strong, formidable.
                             “Let them go!”

                            And he does.
                            Up, up, up to the sky,
                            winking and blinking
                            and looping figure eights
                            all the way home.

                            “Goodbye fireflies,” I call.
                            Standing tall
                            in my new red Keds,
                            the ones that make me strong.

     by Kristi Dee Veitenheimer

Six flags-

snaking lines.

Log flume-
straddle the seat.

splashing every turn.

Uh Oh-
chains pulling up incline.

frightened knowing what comes next.

anticipating the freefall.

losing my stomach racing downhill.

running, getting back in line one more time!

     by Doraine Bennett

We lie in grass
thick as August
cradled between
our two homes--
one summer blue,
one gray with age--
and watch while clouds
hurl in circles
slowly settling
into shapes
only we
can see.

                                                IN GRANDPA'S BACKYARD
                                                     by Linda Baie

                                                Splendid limbs of a backyard tree
                                                gave leaf-green shade -
                                                my summer A-C.

                                                Hidden me became
                                                a noticer-
                                                and I wrote;
                                                a reader-
                                                and I traveled;
                                                a climber-
                                                and I took risks.

                                                Blossoming tree,
                                                blossoming me.

     by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Was it the snow that set you on edge?
     The swish of my pants?
     The crunch underfoot?
The day I took the shortcut.

Or was it the race–your hunger, my fear?
     The thrill of the chase?
     The moment I slipped?
The day I took the shortcut.

Things might have been different.
We could have been friends
     if you weren’t so mean
     and I wasn’t so tasty.
The day I took the shortcut.

SCARED OF COWS by Kathryn Apel  (click to enlarge)

                                                                                           A PASSING REMARK
                                                                                                by Donna JT Smith

                                                                                           I was a child
                                                                                           of field and truck
                                                                                           with fingernails
                                                                                           a’la dirt and mud

                                                                                           the neighbors had
                                                                                           a girlie girl
                                                                                           with skin so soft
                                                                                           and hair a’curl

                                                                                           pale of face
                                                                                           with body narrow
                                                                                           a shape that barely
                                                                                           made a shadow

                                                                                           rosy cheeks and
                                                                                           toned farm arms
                                                                                           should not have been
                                                                                           cause for alarm

                                                                                           but our neighbor’s visitor
                                                                                           said to me
                                                                                           as I passed by
                                                                                           “Hello, chubby!”

                                                                                           from that time on
                                                                                           I realized
                                                                                           it mattered if
                                                                                           you weren’t pint-sized

                                                                                           and that is when
                                                                                           my fight began
                                                                                           with body image
                                                                                           and who I am.

     by Jan Godown Annino

It padded on a sand road
that snaked
through summer pines,
a Jersey Barrens
fat and far ahead.

We bumped behind it in
Dad’s old blue Chevy with
one replaced door, pine green.

"It's big," I said.
Dad shushed me,
"It can hear."
He stopped the motor.
I hugged the back seat,

I wanted to sing
     the bear went over the mountain,
I sang it in my head.

"Could it be a girl?" I whisper-asked.
Dad whisper-said,
"It's a big ol' sow, is
what I think. And
she may catch our sent.”
All windows were open!

I cupped his ear,
“Can you see cubs?”
I'll never know if she heard
the whisper behind my hand.
Maybe she just decided
to look behind, anyway.

She lifted her snout high
I fingered the Tootsie Roll,

pushed it deeper
in my pocket,
heart racing.
Could she smell
all the way into the Chevy,
into my pocket?

a blur of brown fur
crashed away into the pines.

Dad started the car
rolling us to where she had been.
My nose hurt from
a smell
like the barn yard
at Cherryville Dairy.

"She stinks!" I said.
Dad laughed,
"You figure she takes bubble baths?"

"What was she doing here,
"Oh, I suspect she just wanted
to see if there was any
candy in a little girl’s pocket
out this way."

I sunk back in the seat,
all giggles.
"Oh, Daddy!"

I stood up. I knew why she
was here. I sang the reason loud,
    "…to see what she could see."
Then I warbled a line new to the song -
“and what she saw was me!”

                                                                                                   THE AUTOMAT
                                                                                                        by Diane Mayr

                                                                                                   One day, Grandma took
                                                                                                   me to Manhattan.
                                                                                                   Just the two of us.
                                                                                                   Lunch at Horn & Hardart.

                                                                                                   Up and down the rows
                                                                                                   of windows we'd go.
                                                                                                   Macaroni and cheese
                                                                                                   in small bowls oozing
                                                                                                   cheesy goodness.

                                                                                                   Sandwiches cut into two
                                                                                                   triangles, their fillings
                                                                                                   invitingly exposed.

                                                                                                   A hundred slices of pie
                                                                                                   on a hundred china plates
                                                                                                   behind a hundred
                                                                                                   sparkling glass portals.

                                                                                                   Feed nickels into a slot
                                                                                                   and any one of those
                                                                                                   was mine for the taking.

                                                                                                   It was enough to take
                                                                                                   my breath away.

     by Janie Lazo

The round moon was shrouded in mist,
The crisp air charged with mystery.
Streamers- orange and black- cast a spell of enchantment.
Leaves crunched underfoot as they came-
A princess- a pirate - a witch- too many to count.
The night unfolded with ghoulish drinks and fearful fare,
spooky stories and daring games.
All night long we celebrated, but we knew - He was out there.
The magic of this night always brought him out of hiding.
We never knew what form this shape shifter would take- Grim Reaper- the Devil-
or something worse that not even the farthest corners of our minds could imagine.
He would come and fear would come with him.
I saw him before anyone else-a shadowy figure at the window.
He burst in and roared around the room dropping candy and treats in his wake.
I ran. I ran fast and never looked back.
From my hiding place I could hear their screams. I covered my ears.
He slipped back into the darkness and was gone.
Then, amid laughter, a frenzy of diving and grabbing and wrestling for candy that
was strewn across the floor.
I crept out of hiding but the candy was all gone.
And I knew that next year I would face my fear.

                                                                     BABY BROTHER
                                                                          by Madison Rayne, age 6

                                                                     On graduation day a baby came and I was scared.
                                                                     Would he replace me? 
                                                                     Would my mommy still love me?
                                                                     Would he love me? 
                                                                     Would I ever have my very own birthday party again? 
                                                                     Will I be brave enough to hold him? 
                                                                     Will he cry? 
                                                                     Will he be mean to me? 
                                                                     Or would he be nice?
                                                                     Would I love him?
                                                                     But I was brave.
                                                                     I held him and closed my eyes and something changed. 
                                                                     And I knew that it would turn out alright.

                    ME, AFTER THE FALL
                         by cbhanek

                    Me.  Rolling ‘long the sidewalk, speeding fast of all.
                    Me.  Knees all bruised and bloody.
                    Me.  After the fall.
                    Mommy.  “Oh, no! Why? How could you!”
                    Mommy.  “Communion pictures will be spoiled!”
                    Me.  Tears.
                    Mommy.  Painting my knees in Mercurochrome.

                    Me.  Dressed all in white: veil, gloves, dress, shoes, socks, and shawl.
                    Me.  Nice. Smelling nosegay.
                    Mommy.  Proud picture-taker. Click!
                    Me.  Camera-ready. Flashing smiles.
                    Me.  Semi-toothless. Not camera-shy.
                    Me.  After the fall. Happy.
                    Me.  Knowing Jesus loves me. Orange knees and all.

     by Sarah Rudd Ragsdale
© Sarah Rudd Ragsdale

as my fingers
smooshed and smeared
the strange wet paints
across a slippery white surface
a row of purple hyacinths
began to march across the bottom
of a deep blue sky
that held a yellowish sun
a smiling face with glasses
and very, very large ears

all the better to love me

                                                                                            THIRD GRADE BUG PROJECT
                                                                                                 by Suzy Levinson

                                                                                            Tom and Jerry:
                                                                                            giant roaches
                                                                                            in a bucket
                                                                                            on my desk.

                                                                                            All my friends in
                                                                                            class are psyched but
                                                                                            Mrs. Smith says
                                                                                            they're grotesque.

                                                                                            Tom and Jerry:
                                                                                            giant roaches,
                                                                                            almost bigger
                                                                                            than my palm.

                                                                                            Time to feed them
                                                                                            fruit for breakfast—
                                                                                            Wait a minute...
                                                                                            WHERE'S TOM?

                              ME IN GRADE THREE
                                   by Kathryn Apel

                              in Grade Three –
                              marching with the
                              Grade Seven girls
                              as we form rows
                              from tallest
                              to shortest,
                              a wave of girls
                              in house colour
                              marching past
                              left, left, left-right-left,
                              tallest to shortest
                              and up near the front
                              is me –
                              in Grade Three.

                                                                                …I write her name in my notebook.
                                                                                         by Matt Forrest Esenwine

                                                                                I’m not sure why.
                                                                                What is it about her eyes,
                                                                                her lips,
                                                                                that makes me think
                                                                                she’s smiling at me
                                                                                even when she’s turned away?
                                                                                I write her name in my notebook.
                                                                                I’m not sure why.
                                                                                What is it about violets and – is that vanilla? –
                                                                                that make a girl smell so nice?
                                                                                I don’t even like vanilla, but still…
                                                                                I write her name in my notebook.
                                                                                I’m not sure why.
                                                                                Why do I crane my neck to watch
                                                                                as she walks away, yet hide
                                                                                my face
                                                                                when she sees me
                                                                                What would she say,
                                                                                what would she do,
                                                                                if only she knew…

     by Buffy Silverman

Whenever Amy came to play,
we hid in my bedroom
and spent the afternoon in our forts.

My closet was the perfect stronghold--
safe behind a mirrored door
you pulled a long chain
and a solitary bulb shone,
casting a dim light
on saddle shoes and PF Flyers
and the cool wooden floor.

I imagined sharing the cramped closet--
one of us curled on the floor,
the other perched on a painted shelf,
inventing stories of shadowy foes,
conquering an invisible enemy,

But Amy said we needed separate forts—
each of us in our own private sanctuary
equipped with stacks of books,

and Amy was the guest.
She rifled through my bookshelf,
grabbed my pillow
and retreated to my closet—
her fort.

I slipped into the narrow space
between bed and wall,
my cheek pressed against rough carpet,
enough room for me and a book,
and disappeared into stories
where Pippi rode the high seas
and Tommy and Annika were always welcome.

                                                      THEY HAVE TAUGHT ME
                                                           by Jessica Bigi

                                                      Some of the women in my life are strong,
                                                      aging so beautifully with their hair of silver,
                                                      my mind thirsts for their knowledge.
                                                      Vera's iron, heavy in her trembling hand
                                                      as it straightens each wrinkle in her slacks.
                                                      Learn to do this she says without words
                                                      for it keeps the blood young even at ninety.
                                                      She smiles a sweet grandmotherly smile.
                                                      Irene also, a young woman in her nineties
                                                      wearing a bright red kimono.  Gracing these young eyes
                                                      like a lady painted on a canvas she will not grow old.
                                                      Hannah's many talks of the birds and flowers of her homestead.
                                                      She has written like a poem inside my heart.
                                                      And my dear friend Anna May whose strengths and
                                                      will for living life to the fullest taught me to never give up.
                                                      Most of all, I admire my mother as she
                                                      mows the green path of her barefooted youth!
                                                      From her I am learning the secrets
                                                      that my grandmother taught her–
                                                      their blood flows my veins.
                                                      I will admire these women always
                                                      for the life they have taught me to live.

     by Jessica Bigi

When I was little Mom pushed me
© Jessica Bigi
on a swing I flew so high
I pretended I was flying I know
her love was links of a chain
Keeping me from falling Little
by little those links were shortened
Till she set me free on my own
Through my life struggles she
couldn’t always Be there to help
me up As I watch her in her struggle
with cancer I struggle to understand
why my hugs my words my prayers
Don’t ease her pain In a puddle of
my family’s tears Is a reflection
that breaks Into a million ripples of
emotions Inside my heart Fly mom fly
free from cancer I’m learning to let go

                                             As if I could knock out the Ocean
                                                       by Ed DeCaria

                                             I punched wave after wave —
                                             Punched them! As if
                                             I could knock out
                                             the Ocean
                                             with one




Feeling inspired?

You have until Wednesday, September 30th, to send your ME poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Participants in this month's challenge will be automatically entered to win an autographed copy of JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES: A BOOK OF POEMS selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Jane Manning. (One entry per participant, not per poem.)

Alternatively, you may enter the giveaway by commenting below.  If you contribute a ME poem and comment below you will earn two entries in total. Comments must also be received by Wednesday, September 30th.

The winner will be determined by and announced next Friday, October 2nd, when we reveal our new Spotlight ON interview and ditty challenge.

Best of luck!

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are rounding up this week's poetry offerings at Poetry for Children. Join them for a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.