Thursday, September 10, 2015

Buffy Silverman– It Takes a Thief: Part 2

"Hail to the Thief" Bo Hughins

She's at it again.

Last January, Buffy Silverman shared insider tips on how to become an expert word thief.

Today our favorite TLD cat burglar is back on the prowl...

Laugh-Out-Loud Cats, #120 – Adam Koford

Please help me welcome Buffy back to Today's Little Delinquent Ditty with another lesson in *safe* snatching.

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In a previous guest post on Today’s Little Ditty, I wrote about one of my favorite tricks for writing poetry: being a word thief. Alas, my thievery is not limited to words. Sometimes I lift the entire rhythm and rhyme scheme from a poem that I admire. Other times I plunder a poet’s approach to her subject.

Here’s a poem that I burgled early in my poetry-robbing career, from Barbara Juster Esbensen’s fantastic collection of poems that celebrates the seasons, Swing around the Sun:


Wind swooping
And howling,
Blustering, yowling,
Caught in the branches
Of skeleton trees;

Rain dripping
On bumbershoots,
Splashing on rubber boots,
Filling the sidewalks
With miniature seas.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Can you hear that howling, yowling March storm when you read this poem? Do you feel the blustery, dripping day? When I read it aloud, the rhythm seems to echo the hat-blowing winds of March. (And how could anyone resist a poem that rhymes bumbershoots and rubber boots!)

Reading this poem made me want to write my own poem with spring sounds and sights. At the time that I wrote my March-inspired poem I did not know an iamb from a dactyl or a trochee from an anapest. But by using “March” as a model, I could borrow its rhythm and rhyming pattern.

Sapsucker Rap

Bill drumming
and tapping,
ripping and rapping,
peeling the bark
of paper birch trees.

Sap oozing
and flowing,
dripping then slowing,
luring an army
of beetles and bees.

Feast crawling
and jiggling,
writhing and wriggling,
no place to escape
no path to retreat.

Tongue licking
and lapping,
prodding and slapping
sap-covered ants--
a six-legged sweet.

– Buffy Silverman

I am especially drawn to poems that capture the wonder of the natural world, whether it’s the changing of the seasons, the transformation of youngsters to adults, or the drama between predator and prey.  In Mary Ann Hoberman's award-winning anthology, The Tree That Time Built, Alice Schertle masterfully conveys that sense of wonder with the questions she asks in "Dinosaur Bone":

Dinosaur Bone

Dinosaur bone
alone, alone,
keeping a secret
old as stone

deep in the mud
asleep in the mud
tell me, tell me,
dinosaur bone.

What was the world
when the seas were new
and ferns unfurled
and strange winds blew?

Read the rest of the poem here.

When I read this poem, I wonder what other treasures I might explore in the same way that Alice Schertle addresses her dinosaur bone.  Could I ask an empty nest about the eggs and chicks it once held? Maybe a fading flower would spill the secrets of the bees and butterflies it had lured all summer. Perhaps an old spider’s web would share the life-and-death struggles that it had witnessed. 

What relic might you address in a poem inspired by “Dinosaur Bone?” And what questions and wonders will it reveal?  Take a close look at your favorite poems, and see where a little plundering will lead.

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The verdict is in...
Buffy Silverman is guilty of another terrific blog post!

Be sure to check out Buffy's other nature-inspired posts on Today's Little Ditty:

Giving Nature Its Say
It Takes a Thief (part 1)

Buffy Silverman is the author of more than 60 nonfiction books for children, winning awards from Science Books and Films, the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College, and the Society of School Librarians International.  She's also written over 100 articles, stories, and poems published in popular children's magazines, poetry anthologies, and educational resources.

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The Ditty of the Month Club is off to a great start this month! Lee Bennett Hopkins has challenged us to write ME poems. What's a ME poem? Click HERE for details. So far I've featured poems by Lana Wayne Koehler, B.J. Lee, and Michelle Kogan. I hope you'll send me yours!
Robyn Hood Black is rounding up the usual suspects. You can find this week's poetry stash at Life on the Deckle Edge.


  1. I like a little lesson in larceny! Thank you Buffy and Michelle!

    I'm still looking for something in my youth that I can write about for the challenge. It's all ancient history...

    1. I'm sure something will come to you, Diane. Consult the vast tomes. ;)

  2. Oh my! I love this. This was like music reading through those sounds and how the words rolled off your tongue. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That dinosaur bone poem is one of my all time favorites! Love how art inspires art, and Buffy for sharing how poems can be teachers. Thanks, Michelle! xo

  4. I do this, too, although I'm not sure it's as artful as Buffy's 'Sapsucker Rap'. It does help tremendously to examine another poem's rhythm and rhyme scheme. Thanks Buffy and Michelle.

  5. I do this, too, Buffy.It's like training wheels for riding/writing poetry! I love your Sapsucker Rap.

    And SWING AROUND THE SUN is one of my top five favorite poetry collections of all time, AND I have the Schertle poem in one of my mini-photo album anthologies...We have very similar taste in poetry:>)

    1. Not surprising, Laura, since your online class a few years back was my first real introduction to children's poetry (and when I think I bought SWING AROUND THE SUN.)

      Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments.

  6. I have heard that artists learn from copying the masters. Well, here we go. Nothing wrong with that, especially when it inspires fun word play and a love of poetry.

  7. Wonderful post, Buffy. I love the mentor poems you shared and your Sapsucker Rap is really cute. Thanks.

  8. Fabulous post. Love your thieving ways, Buffy! And your rap. ;-) Mary Ann Hoberman is one of my favorites along with Alice Schertle. Thanks to you and Michelle.

  9. Borrowing and adapting... very teacher-like behaviors!
    I started reading the Sapsucker Rap and thought "Hey, I've heard that before!" and rounded up your poetry swap to me from last year! I'm NOT losing my memory! Yea! I love that rhythm and rhyme AND it's a great bit of thievery!
    You have me thinking with that dinosaur bone idea...
    Great post today!

  10. Like previous posts from the Ditty Crew, I'll share this concrete example of adapting a mentor text with my students! Thanks!

  11. Loved Buffy's first steal-thy post; love this one! Those poets are two of our most talented, all-time ever (Alice's Dinosaur Bone is one of my faves, too - always excited to see her work) - and Buffy, your poem here is terrific! :0)

  12. Again, so much goodness, Buffy and Michelle! I love this idea and your samples. Reminding me of Barbara Juster Esbensen and Alice Schertle's books! Thank you! =)

  13. Lovely thievery, Buffy. I endorse your approach!

  14. Thank you, Buffy & Michelle, for sharing this inspiring post! Love all those verbs in "March" and "Sapsucker Rap." Off to do a little poetic plundering!

  15. What a great post! I call this inspiration but thievery works too.