Thursday, March 23, 2017

DMC: "Ode to an Object" by Heidi Mordhorst




It's taken some effort to keep up with the blog while I've been out of town this week. So for Poetry Friday, enjoy this extra little ditty from Helen Frost's ode poem challenge:


ODE TO AN OBJECT

I see you squatting solidly on the far side of the verb.
You wait patiently for action:  will it be bringing,
singing, ringing?  You might be licked, lifted, lit.
I may pronounce you struck, sipped or sifted.
   Oh—perhaps that is not patience,
   but resignation, even fear?  Object, do not fear.
There’s not much I can do without you.


© 2017 Heidi Mordhorst. All rights reserved.


Other featured poems this week were "Ode to Wind" by Linda Baie, "Ode to One Knitting Needle" by Laura Purdie Salas, "Ode to a Tissue" by Donna JT Smith, and "Ode to a Hyacinth Glass" by Diane Mayr. Only one week left to submit your poem in response to Helen Frost's challenge!
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration next Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Join Catherine Flynn for a wonder-filled Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core.







DMC: "Ode to a Hyacinth Glass" by Diane Mayr




ODE TO A HYACINTH GLASS

Once crystalline now coated
with the grime of rotted sheaths
and root hairs shed, your new bulb's 
nascent roots tickle the water
silently absorbing all it needs
to flower. Jewel tones and heady
fragrance, winter consolation.

© 2017 Diane Mayr. All rights reserved.



Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:  
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DMC: "Ode to a Tissue" by Donna JT Smith




ODE TO A TISSUE
                      (and an acrostic)


The faintest whiff of clean, starched sheets
In white, you lie flat, stiff, well pressed, waiting as
Shaking fingertips flounder, feeling for your straight, thin edge
Silently you caress my face, no, you are quietly humming
Unduly seasoned with salt from my tears.
Eternally crumpled, rolled up in a ball, do you have any regrets?
Shush, so happy to help.

© 2017 Donna JT Smith. All rights reserved.



Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions: 
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DMC: "Ode to One Knitting Needle" by Laura Purdie Salas




ODE TO ONE KNITTING NEEDLE

You taste sharp and tangy, some metal weapon,
but you dissolve to chimney smoke coziness
Your sleek, pearlescent point
tap dances with your twin,
turns your rhythm into fuzzy ribbons of warmth

Needle, why do you never rest?
Are you afraid to be alone?

© 2017 Laura Purdie Salas. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions: 
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:





Monday, March 20, 2017

DMC: "Ode to Wind" by Linda Baie





ODE TO WIND

I feel your power when fireplace ashes stir;
smoke puffed in stings my nose.
Window-tapping of the tree branches
accompanies dog growls and cat yowls.
I shiver-run for the news, taste snow in the wind.
Why not the breeze of yesterday?
Winter conceit.

© 2017 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.



Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions: 
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Thursday, March 16, 2017

Carrie Clickard: Limerick Writers Anonymous




Happy St. Paddy's Day! 

I'm afraid you won't find a single pint of beer (green or otherwise) at Today's Little Ditty, but raise your glass if you know what you will find . . .


Photo: Sean an Scuab


Yeah, y'ar right!  With a touch of Leprechaun magic, you can be transported to the 16 posts that live at Limerick Alley.

It's been over a year since we've entertained any new ones, but as luck would have it, Carrie Clickard is here to satisfy your thirst for this looks-easy-but-isn't poetry form. She's filled her paddy wagon with a ditty-load of 'em, so let's join her for the ride, shall we?  It'll be grand!


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Welcome to another Rhyme Crime Investigation

... and the first official meeting of Limerick Writers Anonymous.


There’s a rustle of shuffling feet and a surreptitious slurping of coffee as the meeting comes to order.  Stepping up to a rickety podium in front of the thicket of folding chairs, a determined but ill at ease woman clears her throat and says: “Hi, my name is Carrie, and I’m a limerick writer.”

What? No chorus of comradely hello’s back?  Sigh.  It’s hard to find anyone who’ll stand up and proudly declare themselves a limerick writer—which is a pity for a poetic form that can count Elizabeth I, Thomas Aquinas, Aristophanes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Rudyard Kipling and Shakespeare among its practitioners. A swift search of YouTube will also offer up limericks recited by Garrison Keillor, Michael Palin, Christopher Hitchens and even a NASA astronaut.

No, really—one of the questions on the NASA application asked astronaut candidates to describe their selection process in a tweet, a haiku or a limerick.  If you watch the video you'll discover his limerick is a bit of a metrical shambles, but as a poet, how cool is it knowing that there’s one part of the astronaut’s application process we could ACE? I’m trading in my comfy sweats for a spacesuit.



So why has this once-proud five line AABBA form ended up in the doggerel house?  It might have just a bit to do with content.  Morris Bishop expressed the problem wittily in a limerick of his own:
The limerick is furtive and mean;
You must keep her in close quarantine,
Or she sneaks to the slums
And promptly becomes
Disorderly, drunk, and obscene.

It’s true.  The limericks everyone seems to remember have lines that end in Nantucket. (No, no, I’m not going to repeat it. Look it up if you must.)  But it’s not just bad behavior that gets limerick writers sneered at, it’s bad SCANSION. Time and again you find limericks limping along with scraggly line length, verb inversions, forced meter a regular rogue’s gallery of Rhyme Crime perpetrators.  You’d think with only five lines it would be easy-peasy to keep rhyme crisp, clean and correct. But like a certain bishop in Hong Kong, you’d be wrong.

Researching for this post I found a surprising number of clunkers from poets whose pen I’m not worthy to touch. Like:
There is a poor sneak called Rossetti

As a painter with many kicks met he

With more as a man

But sometimes he ran

And that saved the rear of Rossetti.

                                                       Dante Gabriel Rossetti
and
There was a professor named Chesterton
Who went for a walk with his best shirt on
Being hungry he ate it
but lived to regret it
and ruined his life for his digestion.

                                                       W S Gilbert

Ouch.  I could add a dozen more examples, but if you’ve been following along with the Rhyme Crime posts, you’re probably already diagnosing the problems and fixing them in your head.  “Ate it” and “regret it” don’t rhyme, even in a Cockney accent.  “Kicks met he” is an inversion you wouldn’t get away with today.  The lines aren’t consistent in syllable length.  And whether “best shirt on” and digestion rhyme is debatable.  So if two such noted poets can slip up, can we hope to do better?  We can but try, as my English teacher used to say.




Don't miss a beat

Back in the day, limericks most often used anapestic meter  – two short syllables followed by a long one – three feet in lines 1, 2 and 5, and only two  feet in lines 3 and 4. So:
(A)     Da da dum  da da dum  da da dum

(A)     Da da dum  da da dum  da da dum

(B)     Da da dum  da da dum

(B)     Da da dum  da da dum

(A)     Da da dum  da da dum  da da dum
Anapestic verse was a favorite of Dr. Seuss, and thus holds a special place in my heart, but if it isn’t your cup of tea, that’s ok.  Modern limericks can be written in your meter-of-choice but the rules still apply.  Rhythm must be consistent, unforced and you need to have a uniform number of beats in rhyming lines. If you have to put the em-PHAS-is on the wrong syl-LA-ble, or swallow a syllable to make things fit, go back and rewrite. You can do better.

Now before you throw out the baby with the bathwater, remember we’re ruling out weak word choices, not the joy of wordplay. The fun Ogden Nash has in this verse is enough to make any critic overlook the one extra beat.
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill can hold more than his beli-can.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the heli-can.

The same can be said for Mark Twain’s clever abbreviated verse.  Be sure you read  “Co.” as “company” and do the same at the end of lines 2 and 5 or you’ll miss the joke.
A man hired by John Smith and Co.
Loudly declared that he’d tho.
Men that he saw
Dumping dirt by the door
The drivers, therefore, didn’t do.  *
Funny enough to forgive those clunky lines 3 and 4? You decide.

* Michelle here: for Twain-challenged folk like myself, read company/thump any/dump any.


Wait, is it form or funny that’s more important?

Excellent question.
This limerick is simply sublime
It’s flawless in meter and rhyme.
As for wit, pun or thought?
It expresses but naught

and to write it took acres of time.

                                                       Anonymous

Like any poem, a good limerick will communicate with the reader, expressing a meaning, a feeling, or both.  Whether your intent is jovial, snide, silly, bawdy, romantic or educational, if you don’t get your point across, all the reader ends up with is a collection of syllables.  You’ve got five lines and a handful of syllables to do it in. Use them wisely.


Scare your readers:
Each night father fills me with dread

when he sits on the foot of my bed;

I’d not mind that he speaks

in vile gibbers and squeaks

but for seventeen years he's been dead.

                                                       Edward Gorey
Teach them something:
It filled Galileo with mirth

To watch his two rocks fall to Earth.
He gladly proclaimed,

"Their rates are the same,
And quite independent of girth!

                                                       American Physical Society contest entry
Break their hearts:
My life has become a motif

of daily compassion and grief,

of watching the ends

of lovers and friends

whose candles have been far too brief.

                         Lawrence Schimel 
                         From … Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Metres,
                         edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver:

Leave them laughing:
A young girl at college, Miss Breeze,

Weighted down by B.A.s and Lit.D's,

Collapsed from the strain,

Said her doctor, "It's plain

You are killing yourself — by degrees!"

                                                       Anonymous

And we’re doing all this, why?

Clearly some good hard work and poetry chops go into limerick writing, when you’re doing it right. What are you going to do with them now that you’ve got those little witty jewels polished to perfection?  Send them out into the world to earn a living, naturally.

Try the Saturday Evening Post Limerick Contest.  Six times a year the Saturday Evening Post holds a limerick contest based on one of their iconic cover illustrations.  Winners are published in the print magazine, online and win a small cash prize.  A select few talented runners up get published on the website too, like someone we all know and love here at Today’s Little Ditty, Ms. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes.  You can read her fabulous limerick on the Saturday Evening Post site here and learn about how to enter the contest yourself here.

What about The Washington Post’s Style Invitational weekly contest that rotates between headlines, punkus (haikus with puns), limericks and other fun forms?

And, drumroll please, if you happen to be both a limerick fan and a word nerd like me, here’s an irresistible opportunity: The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form.  Uh huh, you heard that right.  Their goal is to “write at least one limerick for each meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.”  They’re currently working on Aa through Ge, and expect to be completed in 2076.



I am so going to do this.  Maybe I’ll start with E for “Equations” like the brainiac who turned this mathematical equation into a limerick:


It’s not a trick.  There IS a limerick in all those number.  Here’s a little clue: Think of words we might use in place of numbers, for example people often say a “dozen” eggs instead of twelve.

Give up? (I certainly did.) So, here's the answer:

A dozen, a gross, and a score

Plus three times the square root of four

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven

Is nine squared and not a bit more.

                                                       Jon Saxton

That’s some wicked clever thinking and some pretty mad limerick skills as well.  Feeling inspired? What are you still doing here?  Go on, get out there and WRITE.

Maestro? A little St. Patrick’s Day exit music please …




Cheers, Carrie!  I had a whale of a good time!

Read Carrie's other Rhyme Crime posts on Today's Little Ditty:


Carrie L. Clickard is an internationally published author and poet.  Her first picture book, VICTRICIA MALICIA, debuted in 2012 from Flashlight Press. Forthcoming books include MAGIC FOR SALE (Holiday House, 2017), DUMPLING DREAMS (Simon and Schuster 2017) and THOMAS JEFFERSON & THE MAMMOTH HUNT (Simon and Schuster, 2018). Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals including Spider, Muse, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Havok, Myriad Lands, Clubhouse, Spellbound, Penumbra, Haiku of the Dead, Underneath the Juniper Tree, Inchoate Echoes, and The Brisling Tide.  


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I sure have been enjoying all the ode poems inspired by Helen Frost's DMC challenge! Featured poems this week included "Ode to a Dewdrop" by LeeAnn Blankenship, "Ode to My Coffee Cup" by Rebekah Hoeft, "Ode to Grapefruit!" by Cindy Breedlove, and "Ode to My Mother's Popcorn Pan" by Doraine Bennett. You can read Kat Apel's and Carol Varsalona's odes at their blogs today, and enjoy student odes by Jone MacCulloch's Poetry Rocks group at Check It Out. View all of the ode poems contributed so far (and add your own) on our March 2017 padlet. 



Robyn Hood Black has her own St. Patrick's/Poetry Friday party going at Life on the Deckle Edge. See you there for this week's roundup!






DMC: "Ode to My Mother's Popcorn Pan" by Doraine Bennett




ODE TO MY MOTHER'S POPCORN PAN

As you warm to the flame,
she holds your tented lid against your heavy frame
and scrapes your weight back and forth
until tender, sweet corn bursts inside.
The scent of butter calls us to the kitchen.
Do you remember the salty pleasure

of popcorn on Saturday night?

© 2017 Doraine Bennett. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:  
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

DMC: "Ode to Grapefruit!" by Cindy Breedlove




ODE TO GRAPEFRUIT!
 


I picked you for your pinkish tone
but pucker at your taste, and groan,
wiping juice off of my face,
inhaling tartness, but embrace
the whispered promise in my ear:
two sizes smaller in a year.

© 2017 Cindy Breedlove. All rights reserved.



Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions: 
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both. 
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Tuesday, March 14, 2017

DMC: "Ode to My Coffee Cup" by Rebekah Hoeft




ODE TO MY COFFEE CUP

In half-light, readied, steaming, pink perfect cup,
I held you, warming my palms, a balm.
Relaxed morning breath brought your waking scent;
then first soft sip, familiar to my ears—
our ritual ending in my bittersweet waking.
Why now, Coffee Cup, are you empty? Coffee Cup,
It’s because I am greedy and day is dawned;
it’s time to get up.


© 2017 Rebekah Hoeft. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions: 
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Monday, March 13, 2017

DMC: "Ode to a Dewdrop" by LeeAnn Blankenship




ODE TO A DEWDROP

A crystal gem on fragile web,
You speak to early dawn
With misty hope, a fragrance clean,
And sparkles on my lawn.
You taste of freshness, cool to touch –
I wonder – must you go?
“Oh, yes! The sun is calling me –
I’ll be back tomorrow though!”


© 2017 LeeAnn Blankenship. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Thursday, March 9, 2017

Poetry in Action: Lily Yeh + the Poetry Friday Roundup


Lily Yeh speaking at the 2017 Convening Culture Conference


 
Hello and welcome to the Poetry Friday roundup!




 
My intention for today was to share my takeaways from the 2017 Convening Culture conference on February 22-23, sponsored by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. But as I reviewed my notes and composed my thoughts, I realized that I had too much material for just one blog post. If you have time, I hope you'll visit yesterday's post— the first part of my two-day review. I feature Dr. Elif Akçali, a professor of engineering at the University of Florida whose decision to embark upon a year of saying yes led to a creative journey that profoundly changed the way she approaches her life and work. We'll call today's post "Inspiration from the Convening Culture Conference, Part II."

I love the photo at the top of the page. It brings to mind the glowing impression of Lily Yeh I was left with after her keynote presentation on day two of the conference. The conference was not one I expected to attend, nor was it a conference that I would have thought to seek out, yet it made a profound impact thanks to this slight, yet remarkable woman.

Lily Yeh
Lily Yeh is an internationally celebrated artist whose work has taken her to communities throughout the world. As founder of Barefoot Artists, Inc, she brings the transformative power of art to impoverished communities around the globe through participatory, multifaceted projects that foster community empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote economic development, and preserve indigenous art and culture.

As you might have guessed, that description came straight from her bio. Impressive, right? But let me tell you, those words are nothing compared to the impression I was left with after seeing her in person. She's a soft spoken woman, kindly, unassuming, takes up very little space... until you hear the passion behind her words, witness the reach of her healing, and see the results of her life's calling—then her aura fills the entire room. Imagine a Mother Teresa of the art world. That's Lily Yeh.


Beauty is intimately engaged with darkness, with chaos, with destruction. You need to walk into the darkness and hold it in your arms. Broken places are my canvases, people's stories are my pigments, and people's talents and imagination are the instruments.
                                                                     – Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh's calling began in 1986 with an abandoned lot in North Philadelphia that she was invited to turn into a park.

Ile Ife Park, 1986 (before...)

She was scared. She didn't have much money and was warned that the kids would destroy everything she built. But then "the call" came, so fragile and clear:
If you don't rise to the occasion, the best of you will die and the rest will not amount to anything.

After that, she was scared to be a coward! So she responded, "Yes, at least I can do something with the children." With a group of residents, mostly children, she transformed the lot into an art park with mosaic sculptures, murals, and landscaping.

Ile Ife Park, 1990 (...and after)

From there, the projects grew and multiplied. More parks were born from other vacant lots, and in 1989, The Village of the Arts and Humanities was incorporated as a non-profit organization that began offering year-round arts and educational programs. Talk about a success story!

Yet the project she talked about that touched my heart most was not so close to home. It was her transformation of a rough mass grave in Rwanda into the Rugerero 1994 Genocide Memorial.

Genocide Memorial Park, Gisenyi, Rwanda (2004 – Present)

In 1994, during a period of only 100 days from April 6 through mid-July, approximately one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu sympathizers were killed in Rwanda—the largest organized killing of human beings in the shortest period of time in modern history. Rugerero was one of the villages that was struck hardest by the brutality. By example, an extended family of 134 was reduced to only four survivors. She describes what she saw when she looked at the mass graves:
There was no poetry. There was no beauty. . . . to truly honor the dead, we have to bring beauty and to remember them in that light. . . . it has to be better.

Rather than me describing what she did, I will leave the storytelling to this eight minute movie of the Rwanda Healing Project. Poetry in action, as I like to call it.



If you missed last week's interview with Helen Frost, she's challenged us to write her version of an ode poem—a 6-7 line poem with specific instructions about structure and content:
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.

I confess, I've broken the rules. My object of choice is most definitely symbolic, but I was so moved by this video, I wanted to pay tribute to what Lily Yeh accomplished. Perhaps you'll give me a pass... just this once.

Ode to a Genocide Memorial

The hammer sings the story
of ten thousand broken shards—
the stench of old bones
and hope's gritty aftertaste,
scrubbed clean by twenty thousand tears.
What question hasn't been asked 
that has an answer?

© 2017 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

At risk of completely overwhelming you, if you are interested in hearing more about Lily Yeh, in her own voice, I found this video which covers some of what she discussed in the keynote presentation I attended.

Please accept my gift of this final quote as I send you off on your Poetry Friday rounds:
My role is to light other people's pilot lights so we shine together and we light up the horizon. 
                                                                        – Lily Yeh






Helen Frost's challenge to write her version of an ode poem is off to a great start! Three poems were featured this week in addition to my own: Brenda Davis Harsham's Ode to Wrapping Paper, Michelle Kogan's Ode to Spring Soil, and Lana Wayne Kohler's Ode to a Piano. Linda Mitchell is featuring her ode poem today at A Word Edgewise and Catherine Flynn is featuring hers at Reading to the Core. I hope you'll post your ode poem on our March 2017 padlet!





Convening Culture 2017: Dr. Elif Akçali on Divergent Thinking and Collaboration




On February 22-23, I attended the 2017 Convening Culture Conference sponsored by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. It's an annual conference that brings together artists and individuals working in arts and culture across Florida. To be honest, I had never heard of the conference before. It was brought to my attention because Lee Bennett Hopkins was to be inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame during its closing reception.

2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductees
Don Felder, Billy Dean, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Jim Stafford
with Secretary of State, Ken Detzner.


Hosted by the University of Florida, a mere 20 minutes from home, I decided to attend and see what I could learn. I suspected that the conference would probably have more to do with visual arts than poetry, but sometimes trying something new—stepping out of the box—is, by itself, worth the price of admission. What I discovered is that it was worth a whole lot more than that.

The theme of the conference was "Exploring Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Arts and Culture." Facilitated discussions and informative sessions touched on different ways to approach innovation on a variety of levels, including divergent thinking, cross-community and multi-discipline collaborations. It also highlighted the work of artists whose work exemplifies that spirit of innovative creativity and entrepreneurship. 

It shouldn't come as a surprise that artists (including writers) are natural entrepreneurs. The problem is:

Artists are small businesses with terrible bosses. 

So says Colleen Keegan, strategic planner and arts activist with Creative Capital Professional Development. According to Keegan, the biggest obstacle for artists is working too much. "You cannot create from a state of stress . . . don't should all over yourself."  (Sound familiar?)

Reading over my notes from two weeks ago, there are a number of things you probably aren't all that interested in—the 57 pages of support materials from the Florida Grants Intensive I attended, for example. (Anyone have $25K they want to give me so I can apply to have the State of Florida match it?)

What I would like to share with you are a few inspirational tidbits (besides the ones quoted above). For that, I'll be turning to two of the invited speakers: Dr. Elif Akçali (featured in today's post) and Lily Yeh (featured in tomorrow's post).

Dr. Elif Akçali
The plenary session on Wednesday morning with Dr. Elif Akçali was titled "The story of a collaboration: What did engineering learn from dance?" An Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida, Dr. Akçali spoke about the year she turned 40 years old—the year she decided to say yes to everything. One of those yeses was in response to a faculty member in the dance department who asked if anyone was interested in collaborating. You can probably imagine how uncomfortable an engineer might feel in the creative arena, but she followed through, found a connection, and the experience was transformative. 

It was fascinating to discover how these two individuals from such different experiences of thinking and doing came together collaboratively. What they ended up with was something that could not truly be evaluated under the umbrella of engineering or under the umbrella of dance. It was a field unto its own. Two of the outcomes from their partnership were:
1) a process engineering tool to edit dance works, and

2) a curriculum change to teach choreography and storytelling to industrial and systems engineering students so that they can understand and communicate "the story" of their senior design on a deeper level.

As it turns out, Dr. Akçali also encourages her students to write poetry on engineering topics. Why? Because to think differently you need to act differently. 

I encourage you to watch this ten minute video where Dr. Akçali makes the case for divergent thinking. (It includes some of the same material she shared at the conference.)




Some takeaways on collaboration:
  • Don't hold on too tightly in a collaboration—let go of the ego.
  • Realize that one partner will always be ahead of the other, so you need to be a patient teacher in those situations.
  • Be ready to transform, change views, approaches, and opinions.

And finally, a quote from Isaac Asimov, from The Roving Mind (1983):
Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise—even in their own field.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

DMC: "Ode to a Piano" by Lana Wayne Koehler




ODE TO A PIANO

It was love at first sight: Watching fingers tickle the ivories as
the sound tickles my ears;
Tasting joy,
While the fragrance of the music
Lingers, waiting to embrace 
Me. 

© 2017 Lana Wayne Koehler. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Tuesday, March 7, 2017

DMC: "Ode to Spring Soil" by Michelle Kogan




ODE TO SPRING SOIL

You feel soft and squishy, as her
shoes ooze over with clumps of your midnight mix.
Your earthy scent magnifies, as she moves toward you.
Swish, her foot slips and she sloshes down,
sliding to the ground; savoring your richness between her wet lips.
Why have you softened so early? Spring Soil,
for centering and slowing her, before the rush of summer.
 
© 2017 Michelle Kogan. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Monday, March 6, 2017

DMC: "Ode to Wrapping Paper" by Brenda Davis Harsham




ODE TO WRAPPING PAPER

You sigh as you unroll, your stars
cartwheel and your candy clouds cluster.
The scent of paper newness and
an unwrinkled curl hold back my wrist
as I trim your party music into a square.
Do you know you conceal dreams?
One tear reveals, peels, unseals.


© 2017 Brenda Davis Harsham. All rights reserved.


Helen Frost has challenged us to write an ode poem this month, following these instructions:
Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.
Click HERE to read her sample poem, "Ode to a River."

Post your poem on our March 2017 padlet. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, March 31st, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan:






Thursday, March 2, 2017

Spotlight on Helen Frost + DMC Challenge


HELEN FROST
Photo: James D. Gabbard

Helen Frost is the author of numerous novels-in-poems for upper elementary and teens, non-fiction for younger readers, plays, poetry for adults, and resource books for teachers.  Her body of work reflects an adventurous life, an enduring sense of curiosity, a love of children, and an ardent appreciation for her craft. She was born in South Dakota, the fifth of ten children and the product of a supportive environment that instilled a can-do attitude and a desire to live life to its fullest. Along the way to that full life, Helen has lived in several places, writing and teaching in a variety of settings, including a progressive boarding school in Scotland and a one-teacher school in Alaska! She now lives her intrepid life from a home base in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Read more about Helen's life and works at her website.

Have you seen Sylvia Vardell's sneak peek list of poetry-related books for 2017?  The number of verse novels on that list is impressive. But while novels-in-verse have clearly been gaining momentum in recent years, there are some verse novelists who have been writing narrative poetry well before it became trendy to do so. These are the verse novelists I will return to again and again, and Helen Frost is among them.




Helen's first novel-in-poems, Keesha's House, was awarded the 2004 Printz Honor Award. Subsequent verse novels have also received honors, including the 2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Diamond Willow; a 2007, 2010, and 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor for The Braid, Crossing Stones, and Hidden respectively; and the Children's History Book Prize in 2015 by the New York Historical Society for Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War.





Watch book trailers for this and other
Frost/Lieder collaborations HERE.
As luck would have it, Helen has two books coming out this month, both on March 14th, and both with starred reviews.

Wake Up! (Candlewick Press, 2017) is her most recent in a series of collaborations with photographer Rick Lieder that explore the natural world through lyrical and captivating portraits for beginning readers.



WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), March 14, 2017
ISBN: 978-0374303037
Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or via Indiebound.org.


Her other March release is the heartwarming novel-in-poems When My Sister Started Kissing (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2017). As the title suggests, it's a coming of age story involving two sisters—Claire (10) and Abigail (13).

Having lost their mother at a very young age, Claire and Abigail have always been close, and until now, they've always enjoyed their summers together at the family lake house. But this year things are different. Mom's belongings have been replaced by a new stepmom and a baby on the way. Also, Abigail is exploring her identity, her independence, and her budding interest in boys, while Claire is not quite sure what to make of any of it. The novel is insightful and sensitive to the complex nature of family relationships in transition, and sympathetic to the trials of becoming a teenager and the personal growth entailed.

If you're familiar with any of Helen's distinctive novels-in-poems, you already know the importance she places on using language and structured form to help convey story. For her, the structure of poetry and the sound of language is a "precise paintbrush" used to illustrate the essence of different characters. For example, in When My Sister Started Kissing, Claire's rhyming quatrains are set against Abi's free verse poems that resemble lightning; Claire's kayak poems show movement through water; and then there's my favorite—the voice of the lake. Lake poems are centered on the page to appear lake-like, but they are also acrostics. Reading down the first letters of each line spells out lines from other poems by William Blake, Gwendolyn Brooks, Pablo Neruda, William Stafford, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, and others. According to the "Notes on Form" at the back of the book, they represent the current running through the lake.

You'll read an example of a lake poem later on in our interview, but for now, let's explore the current that runs through Helen Frost. We'll begin as we always do, with a few favorites.


A favorite color:  Turquoise

A favorite smell:  My husband cooking dinner

A favorite children's book:
Shadrach, by Meindert DeJong

A favorite childhood memory: 
Sharing a room with sisters: squabbling over boundaries within the room, talking in the dark, figuring out each others secrets, climbing out our window onto the roof on a starry night, sharing clothes, lighting candles and playing with a Ouija board—no end to these memories, each leading to another.


A favorite place:
Mingulay, an uninhabited island off the coast of Barra, in the Western Isles of Scotland (The Braid is partly set there.)

Mingulay Cliffs West

A favorite country you'd like to visit:
I’ll mention where I will be visiting on the day this interview is published: the beautiful country of Burma/Myanmar, in the city of Mawlamyine, a Sister City to my city of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

ZeiGyi Market, Mawlamyine, Myanmar


From a young age you showed signs of being a poet (a keen observer, crossing the line between imagination and reality, discovering the power of words), yet writing wasn’t always your topmost priority. Correct me if I’m wrong, but even while you found community with other creative writers throughout your life, there were many years it seemed like you were not in a huge hurry to get published. Writing took a back seat to other life choices—you followed your intuition, lived at your own pace, and amassed a wealth of experience to draw on later. What role did writing play for you during the time when you were teaching and exploring the world? Did you keep a journal? Write poems? Stories?

Such an interesting question. Yes, I think you are somewhat wrong, but I’m intrigued by the perception. It may be true that I wasn’t in a hurry to get published (people often are in too much of a hurry, and I encourage new authors to have patience with the process), but I was always writing, and I was sending things out for publication for many years before my first books were published. I spent almost twenty years honing the craft of poetry—attending workshops and writers conferences, learning from, and nurturing friendships with, other writers, etc.—before my first collection of poems was published. (I was sending out individual poems and many were published during that time.) Then it took another ten years or so to learn the craft of writing for children before my first book for young readers was published. During all those years I was also making a living, mostly as a teacher, and I got married and had children—but always, writing was at the core of whatever I was doing.

It’s true about amassing a wealth of experience, though of course at the time you are living it, it doesn’t feel like that—you’re just living, and then the years go by and you find that you have experienced a lot!

Helen Frost on an Alaskan adventure (with friends Agnes and Magoo the dog).


With such a fascinating personal background, I find the connections between your novels and your real life intriguing. Where did you find the inspiration for When My Sister Started Kissing?

I do have a lot of sisters, four older and three younger (as well as two younger brothers), and like most kids would, I found their love lives interesting—more interesting than my own, I must admit, especially in my pre-and-early-teen years. And we did have a summer cabin on a lake that we went to. And there were neighbors there, and some were boys. But I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to call all that an inspiration for the book, because when I first started writing it, the setting was a school, the characters’ online lives were important, some of the characters were more villainous than I eventually allowed them to be; so, all in all, looking back on the process, it is hard to separate inspiration from evolution.

The family summer cabin on Lake Kabekona in northern Minnesota.
Woodcut print by Helen's cousin, Ann Kronlokken (1981).


You describe your work as “novels-in-poems” rather than “novels-in-verse.” Is that because of the more structured verse forms you use, or is there another reason you make that distinction?

It’s probably a somewhat snobby holdover from the years I was focused on poetry for adult readers. In that world, “verse” is usually used to describe Hallmark greetings, or other less substantive kinds of poems. I always try to bring some elements of “real poetry” into my novels; formal structure is the most easily recognized, but that’s just what’s on the surface. Poetry is, for me, more about a way of seeing the world, a depth of perception and precision of language. But once I’ve said that, it sounds self-aggrandizing to call my novels poetry, so I’m actually fine with either term these days—novels-in-verse or novels-in-poems.


One thing I love about your novels-in-poems is the visual impact. Each of the narrators in When My Sister Started Kissing (including non-human ones) has a different poetry form that serves as a unique “voice” to help tell the story. 


You Make Me Happy
     Heartstone Lake remembers



The baby, Claire, in a sunsuit and
yellow hat, sat on her father's shoulders, the
great wide world spread out before them. Two
egrets flew home to their nest, as thunder
rumbled, far off in the distance.

The mother, Cari, lifted Abigail—
You are my sunshine, they sang together,
gently rocking. Cari waded in up to her ankles.
Everyone was smiling then, held close by the
rhythm of the song: You make me happy.

Blue sky, one cloud, an open beach
umbrella shading their red blanket. Did the
raindrops fall from the sun itself? I remember 
no cold wind, no whitecaps, just a few small
indentations on my glassy surface,
not enough to make them pack up and 
go home. Cari smiled at her husband, Andrew, and at

Baby Claire, who whimpered. I did not know why. Did she
realize, before the others did, what was coming, what it meant?
It seemed to happen all at once: Claire cried out, the sky
grew dark, lightning sent its dazzle through me. Cari
held Abigail tight in her arms for a split second,
then fell, her face in mine.

From When My Sister Started Kissing
Used with permission by Margaret Ferguson Books, an imprint of
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Macmillan, 2017


What aspects do you consider when matching a character with a poetry form?

I think about voice and personality, and what is going on in the story. It’s different in each book, and I usually give notes at the end of the book to describe what I’m doing. Finding the form is part of the exploration of my writing, so sometimes I only see what I’m doing after I’ve done it!


Please share a favorite poem from When My Sister Started Kissing and tell us why it’s meaningful to you.

Pointers
     Claire



At times, it seems like Abigail is still the same
as she’s always been. When we got back
from the beach today, we came into our room
and stretched out on our beds to relax.
 


Pam has this blog called “Pointers from Pam.”
Little tips about how to get extra use out of all
the things normal people throw away, like
the cardboard tube inside a toilet paper roll:
 


“Cut one up and paint it to make napkin rings!
Use them to keep your socks in pairs!” Umm…
really? Would anyone actually do that? Abigail
and I try not to laugh at something that dumb,
 


but sometimes in private we make up pointers
of our own: “If your parents won’t let you do
something you want to do, try asking when they’re
too busy to say no.” And: “They might believe you
 


if you tell one of them the other one said yes.”
Even though I’m not a teenager, we call ours “Tips
for Teens.” But today when I say, I have a tip for teens,
Abigail walks over to the mirror to gloss her lips,

kisses a piece of Kleenex, then kisses the air and
announces, I’m not going to make fun of Pam anymore.
What? One trip to the mall, a haircut, a new swimsuit,
and now she’s on Pam’s side? Wow, Abigail, I say, how mature.

From When My Sister Started Kissing
Used with permission by Margaret Ferguson Books, an imprint of
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Macmillan, 2017

I love “Hints from Heloise” (now called simply “Heloise”)—the ideas people have that they write down and send to her can be so funny. I love to think of the people writing them and getting excited about seeing them in print or online. They make me laugh, and then every so often one is really useful, and that makes me laugh at myself. So I had fun writing this poem, and I enjoy seeing the girls’ relationship, with each other and with their new stepmother, Pam, come into focus in this scene between the two sisters.


Just for fun, imagine your next book is a memoir. What poetry form might you use to represent yourself?

I’m not sure—maybe some kind of spiral form that circles back on itself like a crown of sonnets, but more experimental than that.


What’s coming up next for you?

Look! I’m Standing. is scheduled for Spring, 2019 (Candlewick). It’s a picture book collaboration with Rick Lieder about a Sandhill Crane family. I’m working on some other things that aren’t under contract yet, but I’m not quite ready to talk about them.


Helen Frost in her tricycle days.
If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

You are so beautiful. 
So smart. So good. 
The world is lucky to have you.

     
Finally, what have you chosen as this month’s ditty challenge?

 





I call this an “Ode Poem” and the title can be, if you wish, “Ode to…(your object)”.


Choose an object (a seashell, a hairbrush, a bird nest, a rolling pin). It should not be anything symbolic (such as a doll, a wedding ring, or a flag). Write five lines about the object, using a different sense in each line (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then ask the object a question, listen for its answer, and write the question, the answer, or both.

Here's an example:

Ode to a River

You smell like rain today,
as you wash her feet with splashing light.
She leans in to caress you
and you whisper something
she can almost understand: a taste, a memory
a question. Why did you leave me? River,
she needed stillness. You could not stop.

                                 Helen Frost


Wow. Go ahead, folks, reread it—I've read it at least 23 times already.

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to soak in Helen's poem to better understand the form, then find a voice that's all your own. I know you can do it!


But before diving in, would you please join me in thanking Helen for this fantastic interview today? 

Not only that—Helen has also offered a personalized copy of When My Sister Started Kissing to one lucky DMC participant!  
(Winner to be selected randomly at the end of the month.)


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Post your ode poem (be sure to follow Helen Frost's instructions) on our March 2017 padlet. Stop by any time during the month to add your work or to check out what others are contributing.

By posting on the padlet, you are granting me permission to share your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  Some poems will be featured as daily ditties, though authors may not be given advanced notice. Subscribe to the blog if you'd like to keep tabs. You can do that in the sidebar to the right where it says "Follow TLD by Email." As always, all of the poems will be included in a wrap-up celebration on the last Friday of the month—March 31st for our current challenge.

TEACHERS, it's great when students get involved! Ditty of the Month Club challenges are wonderful opportunities to learn about working poets and authors while having fun with poetry prompts. Thank you for spreading the word! For children under 13, please read my COPPA compliance statement in the sidebar to the right.

FIRST-TIMERS (those who have never contributed to a ditty challenge before), in addition to posting your work on the padlet, please send your name and email address to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com. That way I'll be able to contact you for possible inclusion in future Best of Today's Little Ditty anthologies.

BLOGGERS, thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please let me know about it, so I can share your post! Also remember to include your poem (or a direct link to your post) on the padlet in order to be included in the wrap-up celebration and end-of-month giveaway.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Thank you to everyone who contributed personified feeling poems for last month's ditty challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed such lively dialog! We received three latecomers to last week's wrap-up—poems by Buffy Silverman, Sandie Vaisnoras, and Matt Forrest Esenwine. You can find them HERE.

Random.org has determined that a personalized copy of Stone Mirrrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins will go to . . .

BRENDA HARSHAM 
Congratulations, Brenda!



Finally, I know reading these Spotlight posts are a workout all by themselves, but I couldn't resist taking part in Heidi Mordhorst's "All-Billy" celebration of poems by Billy Collins. Here's one of my favorites, "Budapest":



Join Heidi at my juicy little universe for Billy, Billy, and more Billy Collins (plus a few other goodies) at this week's Poetry Friday roundup.