Monday, July 11, 2016

DMC Challenges

This comprehensive list is in alphabetical order.
Click on a challenge for the month's wrap-up celebration.

Cinquains (water-inspired)
          - Laura Purdie Salas, May 2014

          - Kwame Alexander, April 2015

Couplets (a dragon's feast)
          - Penny Parker Klostermann, August 2015

Deeper Wisdom Poems
          - Joyce Sidman, January 2015

"Ditty" Poems
          - David L. Harrison, February 2016

Echo Poems
          - Marilyn Singer, April 2016

Free Verse (wordplay)
          - Nikki Grimes, May 2015

Haiku (monster-inspired)
          - Bob Raczka, November 2014

Kindness Poems
          - Rebecca M. Davis, November 2015

Letter Poems
          - David Elliott, February 2015

Me Poems
          - Lee Bennett Hopkins, September 2015

Parody/Tribute Poems
          -Tamera Will Wissinger, July 2014

Persona Poems
          - Laura Shovan, May 2016

Poems about Nothing
          - Douglas Florian, January 2016

Poems of Address
          - Irene Latham, September 2014

Poem Videos
          - Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, June 2014

Small as a Chickadee
          - Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, March 2016

          - Margarita Engle, March 2015

Treehouse Poems (using multisyllabic rhyme)
          - Corey Rosen Schwartz, June 2015

(Un)requited Love Poems
          - Marcus Ewert, October 2015

Wake Farmer McPeeper
          - Lori Degman, August 2014

          - J. Patrick Lewis, October 2014

Spotlight ON Interviews

This comprehensive list is in alphabetical order. 
Click on an individual's name to read their interview.

Alexander, Kwame (April 2015)
          featuring The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Davis, Rebecca M. (November 2015)
          Senior Editor, Boyds Mills Press/WordSong

Degman, Lori (August 2014)
          featuring Cock-a-Doodle Oops! (Creston Books, 2014)

Elliott, David (February 2015)
          featuring On the Wing (Candlewick, 2014)

Engle, Margarita (March 2015)
          featuring Orangutanka: A Story in Poems (Henry Holt & Co., 2015)

Ewert, Marcus (October 2015)
          featuring Mummy Cat (Clarion Books, 2015)

Florian, Douglas (January 2016)
          featuring The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits (Little Bee Books, 2016)

Grimes, Nikki (May 2015)
          featuring Poems from the Attic (Lee & Low Books, 2015)

Harrison, David L. (February 2016)
          featuring Now You See Them, Now You Don't: Poems About Creatures That Hide
          (Charlesbridge, 2016)

Hopkins, Lee Bennett (September 2015)
          featuring Jumping Off Library Shelves: A Book of Poems (WordSong, 2015)

Klostermann, Penny Parker (August 2015)
          featuring There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight
          (Random House  Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Latham, Irene (September 2014)
          featuring Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
          (Millbrook Press, 2014)

Lewis, J. Patrick (October 2014)
          featuring Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis (Creative Editions, 2014)

Raczka, Bob (November 2014)
          featuring Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole (Carolrhoda Books, 2014)

Salas, Laura Purdie (May 2014)
          featuring Water Can Be... (Millbrook Press, 2014)

Schwartz, Corey Rosen (June 2015)
          featuring What About Moose? (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Shovan, Laura (May 2016)
          featuring The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books, 2016)

Sidman, Joyce (January 2015)
          featuring Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Singer, Marilyn (April 2016)
          featuring Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths (Dial Books, 2016)

VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig (March 2016)
          featuring Every Day Birds (Orchard Books, 2016)

Vardell, Sylvia and Janet Wong (June 2014)
          featuring The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Pomelo Books, 2014)

Wissinger, Tamera Will (July 2014)
          featuring This Old Band (Sky Pony Press, 2014)

Wong, Janet and Sylvia Vardell (June 2014)
          featuring The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Pomelo Books, 2014)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Taking Time for Silence

"Moon shadow" by James Jordan

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
          ― Robert Lynd

It's time to be silent for a while.
Reacquaint myself with stillness and the wonder of the moon.

"Moon child" by Michal Koralewski

     by Carl Sandburg, 1916

The child's wonder
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, “See the moon!”
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.

Reacquaint myself with my own pen and paper babblings.

Back in February, I introduced my One Little Word for 2016:

Enkrateia = to be "in power over oneself."

Without getting into that discussion all over again (you can read it here), my goal was to find where I can cut back on some things in order to make room for others. I've taken enkrateia to heart (even if I still can't spell it *by* heart), and to that end, here are three ways Today's Little Ditty will be changing over the coming months:

1. Spotlight interviews and the Ditty of the Month Club will be published eight months out of the year: February through May and August through November.
The "off" months will be spent focusing on other projects. I still hope to blog occasionally, even if it's just my illustrated quotation series (Two Line Tuesday), but it probably won't be with any kind of regularity. I hope that doesn't cause the Ditty of the Month Club to lose momentum, but some things are worth the risk.

I'm reminded of these words from Adam Clay's "Meditation for the Silence of Morning": 
I wake myself imagining the shape
of the day and where I will find

myself within it.

. . .

We destroy the paths of rivers to make room for the sea.

We have some wonderful Spotlight interviews scheduled for the rest of 2016, so trust me, there's much to look forward to!

2. I'm delighted to be adding a new regular contributor to the TLD line-up.
Diane Mayr has agreed to bring her expertise as a librarian to explore various resources, tools, and opportunities to expand our horizons as writers, readers, and poetry-appreciators. Thank you, Diane– I'm looking forward to your posts!

3. Would you like to share a blog post with the TLD community?
I'm opening Today's Little Ditty's doors to guest bloggers. Not to be confused with TLD's regular contributors, these one-off posts might fall into an existing TLD series—Book Love (reviews) Haiku Garden (focusing on haiku), Limerick Alley (focusing on limericks), or Poetry in Action (focusing on poetry combined with other mediums, music, video, art, etc.)—you decide who or what you would like to feature and write the post, I will publish it. Or maybe you have something related to children's poetry, picture books, or verse novels that you would like to share outside of these series. While I don't have a whole lot of slots available for this kind of thing, I do have a few. Contact me– I'd love to hear your ideas.

There may be other changes to the blog as well, though I haven't spent enough time exploring feasibility to know if they're actually going to work! I do promise plenty of good stuff come August and hope you'll be here to join me for that.

And speaking of good stuff...
How about that persona poem celebration last week?! There were a couple of late arrivals, so you might want to go take another look.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed a persona poem in response to Laura Shovan's challenge. In an email exchange with Laura, she said, "There were some great characters and voices created in response. Who knows – maybe one among them will go on to star in a book someday." I couldn't agree more! has determined that the winner of a personalized copy of Laura Shovan's THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House) goes to . . .

DIANE MAYRcongratulations, Diane!

"Cape Cod fantasy" by Elliot Margolies

Wishing all of you a wonderful summer!

See you August 5th for our next Spotlight interview and DMC challenge. 

Jone MacCulloch is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Check It Out.

Friday, May 27, 2016

May DMC Wrap-Up + Giveaway

"Personas" by Nicolas Nova

At the beginning of this month, Laura Shovan challenged us to write a persona poem— a poem written in first person, taking on the voice of the poem's subject. She also described the process of writing a persona poem and how she used the process for her verse novel THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY.

I've so enjoyed reading the poems that came in this month, hearing these characters' stories, and discovering the worlds they live in.  Many thanks and a hearty "Well done!" to all who participated in this challenge, plus special thanks to Laura for encouraging us to find these hidden stories and let them be heard.

All poems are copyright 2016 (unless otherwise noted) and published with permission of the authors, who control all rights.

                                                                                                                It's storytime–
                                                                                                                hugs and books
                                                                                                                with Daddy and James.
From an advertisement illustrated by J.W. Welch (1946)
     Daddy nestles us
     close together.
     Millie comes along.
     We love to listen to
     Daddy's deep voice
     as he reads
     our favorite book.
     When I grow up
     I will read
     Scratchfoot again
     and again to Millie.
     I'm going to be
     a great reader
     like Daddy.
     He told me so.
    – Carol Varsalona

"The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit"
by John Singer Sargent (1882)

     by Suzy Levinson

Florence and Jane have been
whispering, whispering
older-girl secrets that aren't meant for me.

I'm stuck with Julia—
babyish, babyish,
handing me Dolly as if I'm still three.

My mind's like a mare, always
galloping, galloping
far from this parlor, unbridled and free.

                                                                                 The beat
                                                                                 starts in my toes,
                                                                                 startles my legs,
                                                                                 My fingers feel the groove
                                                                                 until the tingling,
                                                                                 spine-riveting jolt,
                                                                                 is more than I can stand.
                                                                                 I must
                                                                                 I must
                                                                                 beat the drum!

                                                                                 – Margaret Simon
                                                                                 Watch the video that inspired this poem HERE.

– Carol Varsalona
Read more persona poems by Carol Varsalona HERE.

                                                                                 DAUGHTER TO MOTHER
                                                                                      by Linda Baie

                                                                                 You agree, don’t you
                                                                                 that I’m young and demanding?

                                                                                 My eyes stare:
                                                                                 then chastened.
                                                                                 I cringe in the mirror,
                                                                                 stick out my tongue
                                                                                  (when no one can see.)

                                                                                 I am a firefly making a lazy journey,
                                                                                 because I know
                                                                                 I will turn in the evening
                                                                                 to who and what you are.

                                                                                 Click HERE to view the photograph 
                                                                                 that inspired this poem.

     by Brenda Davis Harsham

"Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer"
by John Singer Sargent (1902)
I will never live this down,
painted with my kid
brother and sister
when I should be dancing
at balls
or singing
in an opera
or traveling
the continent.
Instead, I will forever
be stuck here,
stinging my nose,
with no way
into the world.

Photo by Linda Mitchell
        by Linda Mitchell

   Lightning strokes
   within my familiar grid.
   erase and sketch
   moving pencil
   against my light.

   Capture her values
   within the portrait painter's 
   Asian vase
                                                                                                Dutch tulips
                                                                                                Satin and English lace
                                                                                                to please a patron father
                                                                                                and husband by
                                                                                                whose name she’s

                                                                                                A dress, lace
                                                                                                tulips, vase
                                                                                                these are props
                                                                                                of Plymouth, Massachusetts
                                                                                                rich and famous

                                                                                                But what of
                                                                                                Mrs. George Watson’s face?
                                                                                                Her gaze is not
                                                                                                an apathetic
                                                                                                patrician stare.

                                                                                                Mrs. Watson
                                                                                                dares me to find her
                                                                                                a new American woman--
                                                                                                of the revolution
                                                                                                that births
                                                                                                our nation.
                                                                                                Mrs. Watson and her
                                                                                                portrait artist
                                                                                                share lessons with my
                                                                                                fingers and my soul
                                                                                                no history textbook
                                                                                                could impart.

“Morning Glories” Winslow Homer, 1873
                              Through an open window,
                              the wide world beckons

                              I toss my crewel work aside,
                              its neat silk stitches
                              no match for the ropes of green
                              twining up outside the sill,
                              toward the sky,
                              where a menagerie of clouds
                              is parading by.

                              I watch them skitter and shift,
                              morphing into fantastic creatures.

                              I wish I could transform
                              into a hummingbird.
                              I’d dart and hover
                              among the morning glories
                              and geraniums,
                              sipping their summer sweetness.

                              But like this philodendron, I’m
                              trapped inside, bound to this place,
                              never allowed to roam free,
                              never allowed to touch the sky.

                              – Catherine Flynn

– Mindy Gars Dolandis

Madame de Pompadour, by François Boucher (1703-1770)
     by Michelle Kogan

Come closer dear and sit beside
my lyrical harpsichord.
An interruption never you,
with music we both adore.

The keys will dance around the room,
enrapturing our senses–
music only nightingales sing,
without any pretenses.

You’re whispering my confidant...
My play, yes I’m preparing;
there’s nymphs, gods, and enrapturement,
tis light and not despairing.

Oh yes, dear king, I’m engraving,
a secret gemstone for you.
A precious stone fit for my love,
and our private rendezvous.

"Bride with Fan" (1911) by Marc Chagall, US public domain
     by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

At the moment we met
I don’t recall breathing–
your eyes were so blue
and vast as the sky.

Mine lowered in silence,
I heard our hearts beating
and knew my forever arrived.

You gave me your vow,
your soul and your secrets,
a fan made with feathers,
so gentle and white.

And now, like a cloud
passing over your canvas,
with every breath, I sigh.

"The Sleeping Gypsy" (1897), Henri Rousseau

At last the river
The sojourner rests
Robed in stripes
Lute and flask at her side
She sleeps
Staff clasped in hand
Basking under the round moon

Words and dreams weave and flow
A powerful seraph
Eyes fierce as fire
Watches over
Protects any

Pilgrim through this barren land
Guide me, O thou great

Even though I walk through the valley….
You are with me

I am weak, but Thou art mighty

Your rod and your staff

Comfort me…

Surely goodness and mercy
Shine on me this night


– Karen Eastlund

                                                 COSSACK SONG
                                                      by Doraine Bennett
                                                 Old Hesselberg, half dead,
                                                 mans the helm.
                                                 Scurvy is our master.
                                                 Waxell gives no orders.
                                                 Bering lies helpless on his bunk.
                                                 None listen to Herr Stellar.
                                                 The ship drifts, deadwood in a tossing sea.

                                                 Never will I carry
                                                 Anya to the Cossack crug, 
                                                 nor have their blessing
                                                 to call her wife,
                                                 will not raise sons
                                                 faithful to serve my tsar,
                                                 teach them the ways of war, 
                                                 share their prayers at evensong.

                                                  A Cossack should die in battle,
                                                  not drowned in the sea.
                                                  What else to do but sing?

                                                 “Stormy clouds delirious straying,
                                                  Showers of whirling snowflakes white,
                                                  And the pallid moonbeams waning—
                                                  Sad the heavens, sad the night.”

                                                                                                       THE MERMAID
                                                                                                            by Angelique Pacheco

                                                                                                       My tail glistens in the sun
                                                                                                       I long to be free to run
                                                                                                       My transformation has begun
                                                                                                       And my parents begin to shun
                                                                                                       They don’t accept the human son
                                                                                                       My Love and I long to have fun
                                                                                                       The life I knew becomes undone

– Diane Mayr

     by Ellen Leventhal

My fur feels sticky
like when Jack dropped me
in his bath.
Everyone laughed then.
The bubbles tickled and warmed me.
But now I shiver and shake.
No Jack, no laughter.
Nana lifts me high, high, onto a shelf.
The noises over, under, and around me
are loud and scary.
Except for Nana’s sigh.
It’s soft and sad.
I look around from my high perch.
and wrinkle my nose.
No sweet soapy smell.
Something different.
The room fills with water
brown and cold.
Big hands covered in plastic
scoop me up.
Nana looks at the man
and shakes her head.
Sorrow spills from her eyes,
dotting the white mask covering her face.
With a whoosh, I am thrown outside.
I fly through the air,
touch down on a pile of memories,
and become one myself.

               by Janie Lazo

          My life is cumbered by this vine.
          I pray you'll take me- make me thine.
          To end my days of lonesome lust-
          My life - to you I do entrust.
          I pray you'll give my form a face
          And take me to my resting place.
          That special day is oh so near
          When ghost and goblins do appear.
          My light will guide them on their way
          My life work done, alas they'll  say..
          "Trick or treat!"

Clocktower, University of Sydney

by Kate O'Neil

Too right I am!
It’s a real bummer
being stuck up here
like a dag on a rock.
And why me?
I’m no culture vulture.
Why not
stone the crows
This is no place for me
to hang out—
heights make me crook.
Can’t cope.
I want to make tracks.
Half a chance and
I’d shoot through,
go bush
and join the mob.

                                                                                                                        by Brenda Davis Harsham

Photo by Brenda Davis Harsham
            We're overcrowded.
            we've no room,
            move over,
            shove over,
            That spot
            there is bare,
            lay your root
            in that stony crack,
            it’ll be fun
            it’ll have what we lack.
            And don’t come back.

     by Bridget Magee

I lie here
among the
dead grassesss,
crunchy leavesss,
withered ssscrub.
I am minding
my own
sssoaking up
the sssun,
basssking in
the heat.

Then I feel

thud, thud, thud

Texas Rat Snake, photo by Justin Jensen
- the legged onesss -

coming clossser...


I ssslip,
I ssslither,
I ssslink

But ssstill


Western Conifer Seed Bug,
photo by Kathleen Mazurowski

               by Kathleen Mazurowski

          I will not harm you.
          I do not bite or sting.
          I have been called a nuisance, but
          Being an insect in Chicago
          Is a precarious existence in November.
          Is that soup you are making?
          Won’t you let me inside?

Bobolink, photo by Jan Godown Annino

     by Jan Godown Annino

Dear bird watcher,

You saw a flash, pale yellow
I heard you – "What a pretty fellow"
Do not think me here for show
I face treacherous miles to go

While you watch me on this thistle
Think – he had to stop and wet his whistle
Think – what other creatures has he seen
Think – what is his perch when humans dream

I lift my wings – I’ve seen seeds
After drink and rest it’s food I need
While wings beat steady steady again
Go write a poem, be my friend

I must fly,
Bob, traveling bobolink

                                                           I DON'T
                                                           you have such
                                                           a hard
                                                           a first draft
                                                           when ALL you have to do
                                                           is march your fingers
                                                           across my keys.

                                                           – Kristi Dee Veitenheimer

Work Train, photo by Jessica Bigi
       by Jessica Bigi

  I with my gearing teeth
  Gobble up stones
  I whistle with a growling 
  Chug a chews
  Stones sliding down
  My saffron scales 
  I gobble up stones with iron teeth
  Then spit them out
  I am a Saffron dragon
  On metal wheels
  I steam engine roar


(After witnessing a strange sight in the French Alps, March 24, 2015)

Warbler (public domain)
Today one of those giant fowl
passed with the grandest roar
I watched with admiration
how this mighty bird could soar.

But then it did the oddest thing
a most peculiar sight
changed attitude from up to down
descended like a kite.

I chirped and called and warbled
to warn it of disaster
but that great monstrous creature
only descended faster.

It plowed into a mountain
crashed into the cliffs
split into a million tiny
shards and broken bits.

I admit my jealousy
of giant’s perfect beak
its angle eyes, symmetric wings
its feathers smooth and sleek

it’s eagle speed, its beeline flight
its course above the cloud
its noble bold intelligence
its call, steady and loud.

But that’s all in the past now
I’ll never more complain
that I’m a simple warbler
and not a fancy plane.

– Violet Nesdoly (2015)

– Diane Mayr

Mask and poem by Jacob, 2nd grade

Mask and poem by Madison

Call me watercat.
I am guard.
I am smart
and curious.
I run very quickly
through prickly vines.
I am big.
I am blue.
I am sneaky.
I am fluffy.
I am strong.
I am a watercat.

– Madison, 2nd grade

Mask and poem by Emily

by Emily, 5th grade

I am a disgrace.
I am a mess of an animal.
I am rainbow.
I have three sets of ears.
My mouth stays open.
My nose is green.
People come around me and say “whoo.”
They must hate me.
Then I hear people say, “That’s cool.”
Maybe I’m not a Dis-Grace after all.

Mask and poem by Jaci

I was born in a magic cloud.
Then I flew all day.
I made a lot of friends
and we played in the Milky Way.
Then we found a top hat,
black and a very light gray.
I put it on and then I had the power
to always save the day.

                      – Jaci, 5th grade

– Leane Gill (and Sadie's paw prints)

Inspired to write one of your own?

You have until Tuesday, May 31st, to send your persona 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 automatically be entered to win a personalized copy of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, by Laura Shovan (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2016). One entry per participant, not per poem.

Alternatively, you may enter the giveaway by commenting below. Comments must also be received no later than Tuesday, May 31st. If you contribute a poem and comment below, you will receive two entries in total.

The winner will be determined by and announced next Friday, June 3rd.

Julie Larios is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Drift Record.