Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019

July DMC Wrap-Up Celebration

"Found Treasure" by Thomas Hawk

“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
                    ― L. Frank Baum, from The Lost Princess of Oz

At the beginning of this month, Linda Mitchell sent us on a treasure hunt. We traveled far and wide . . .

Darren Flinders
Tom Gill
Retlaw Snellac Photography
Space Gamer

intrepid armchair explorers in search of knowledge and poetry.

"Bombus Enormous" by Apionid

Our quest was to read interesting articles and find the haiku that were hidden there. 

                    So how did we do?

"Found Treasure" by Paisley Prints

Scroll through the poems below, or CLICK HERE to open in a new tab.

Made with Padlet

I hope you enjoyed our first reader ditty challenge as much as I did!

I owe a debt of gratitude to Linda Mitchell for coming up with such a terrific idea (leave it to a teacher-librarian to make learning fun!) and to everyone who submitted poems in response.

Inspired to create your own "found haiku"? 

Visit Linda's spotlight interview for instructions and then click on the pink dot with the plus sign to add your poem to the padlet. While there aren't many days left in July, I'll be leaving this padlet open indefinitely, so feel free to add to it at any time.

Stay tuned for a new reader spotlight next Friday, August 2nd.

The Best of Today's Little Ditty, 2017-2018

Along with finding a haiku this month, I was lucky enough to find another treasure—time! Specifically, time to devote to our third Best of Today's Little Ditty anthology. This year's ditty committee spent the last several weeks reviewing 527 (!) poems submitted for challenges in 2017 and 2018. I'm still compiling the results, but expect to be sending out contracts next month.

Margaret Simon is "stealing like an artist" at Reflections on the Teche. She shares a beautiful original poem inspired by a borrowed title, and links to this week's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Joni Mitchell reprise: "in time I would learn" + more found haiku

Having been under the weather several days last week, I had the opportunity to dive into Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (Sarah Crighton Books/FSG, 2017)—376 densely packed pages of astute insights, sprawling connections, and unexpected revelations.

I'm always a bit cautious about reading biographies of artistic role models and being spoon fed secrets that will mar my rose-colored outlook. This one was no exception. On the other hand, I'm not as impressionable as I used to be. With more than a few years under my belt, I understand that our personality flaws are as important as our strengths—that the friction between the two is what makes us who we are. It has the potential to drive us to better ourselves, maybe even lend a hand to others, and, in some cases, make us... I hesitate to say "better," but at least more impactful as artists.

I've written about Joni Mitchell before (HERE). One thing I've always loved about her, aside from her musical genius, is that as a songwriter, she's a true poet. She wields metaphor with the best of them and wears her heart on her sleeve—not because she needs to confess, but because she wants to reveal. It's no wonder that her albums have kept fans hanging on every word. It's because they see themselves in her songs. That's what poets do. They open eyes and minds, they bring people together, they provide comfort and a sense of belonging, and they promote self-discovery.

Reading this biography has prompted a personal "roadtrip" of self-discovery.

Hejira means escape with honor.
It's one of Joni Mitchell's many songs about travel and self-discovery.
(Read the lyrics without playing the video HERE.)

Listening and reminiscing through all of her albums, from Song to a Seagull (1968) to Shine (2007), I've been filling in the gaps, making connections based on recent reading, and sharing as much as possible of her artistic legacy with my daughter who I hope will appreciate her role as an artistic trailblazer and a strong, independent woman as much as I did (and still do).

Not surprisingly, the biography has also prompted a found haiku in response to Linda Mitchell's DMC challenge.

in time, I would learn—
those tender cellophane years
when I was fifteen

found poem by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes from Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (Preface: Nothing Lasts for Long)

This little three-liner is like a house of mirrors. Found in the preface, the haiku reflects author David Yaffe's words and viewpoint, but it also reflects Joni, herself, since the cellophane reference is hers:
Years later Joni would tell me that when she made that album [Blue] she was totally without defenses, as vulnerable as "a cellophane wrapper on a packet of cigarettes," as she once put it.
          – David Yaffe, Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Michell
Beyond that, the poem casts an image of my own younger days (and the many lessons I learned in the interim between then and now) and catches a glimmer of my daughter who, at sixteen, is occasionally startled by the crackle of her own tender, cellophane years.

There are a few other haiku on this month's padlet that seem to reflect a similar sentiment, especially after I've picked them out and presented them in sequence. Based on the articles they originated from, the creators of these haiku may not have intended that result, but that's how I am choosing to interpret them. As reader, don't let me stop you from interpreting them otherwise.

in time, I would learn—
those tender cellophane years
when I was fifteen

found poem by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes from Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

knowing what to do
when unsettling feelings come
up is the next step

found haiku by Bridget Magee from "The Most Important Skills We Teach in the Early Years Aren't Academic" by Elizabeth Mulvahill
rise into wonder
life, reckless and opulent
bestows profound gifts

found haiku by Molly Hogan from "So Reckless and Opulent a Thing", a blog post by Marion Dane Bauer responding to a quote by Susan Glaspell

empowered women
no longer push anyone out
the moment of lift

found haiku by Sandie Vaisnoras
from The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

Thank you to Bridget, Molly, and Sandie for allowing me to take their haiku out of context and play with them in a new way!

There are many other wonderful haiku finding their way to our padlet, including new ones this week by Dianne Moritz, Linda Baie, Margaret Simon, Angelique Pacheco, Lana Wayne Koehler, Catherine Flynn, Mindy Gars Dolandis, and Mary Lee Hahn.

Fair warning: they are addictive!
I look forward to reading yours. :)

You'll find this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Carol's Corner. She's sharing a sweet poem about the puppy she's been raising paired with photos that will steal your heart.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

DMC: Found Haiku by Kathleen Mazurowski and Tabatha Yeatts

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 
          – Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

I've certainly been enjoying losing myself in the "found haiku" that folks have been submitting for Linda Mitchell's July ditty challenge! Read last week's interview with Linda HERE.

To give you a taste of what's been contributed so far, here's one by Kathleen Mazurowski that speaks to one of my favorite qualities in a person—being a good listener.

habits of the heart
chutzpah and humility
listen with respect

          found poem by Kathleen Mazurowski
          from Five Habits to Heal the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer

I'm also quite taken with this one by Tabatha Yeatts that weaves together science and story.

we beings whose brains
are memory and foresight
time is our story

          found poem by Tabatha Yeatts
          from "This physicist's ideas of time will blow your mind" by Ephrat Livni

As of the writing of this blog post, you'll also find haiku about children, learning, and pushing the limits by Dianne Moritz, Rebekah Hoeft, and Kay Jernigan McGriff, respectively. I think I'll try to add to our "found haiku" padlet this week. How about you?

Jone Rush MacCulloch is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Deowriter. She shares a trio of poems inspired by a poetry prompt fortune teller!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Reader Spotlight: Linda Mitchell + DMC Challenge


Linda Mitchell is a school librarian in a public middle school in Northern Virginia. She plans lessons, teaches, and makes sure books and reading material are available to the students and adults in her community. She also enjoys presenting at librarian conferences, discussing best practices with colleagues, swapping teaching ideas, and chatting about great reading. Outside of work, Linda spends most of her time taking care of her family—her husband, four high school and college aged children, a dog and a cat. One of the things she loves most is sitting around the kitchen table with all of them, eating something delicious and talking.

Linda is exhaustively curious. Her superpower is identifying feelings. A natural born networker, she is passionate about learning, sharing information, and making connections. She is also passionate about travel—going anywhere in the world with hiking shoes, a backpack, and a water bottle. She traveled a lot before children, and then, by way of international adoption, travel became a part of building her family. She loves writing about relationships and often starts out with a question. She also enjoys taking photos of words in places that she travels to and arranging snippets of the words into little poems.

When asked to recommend a book everyone should read, Linda responded that she has literally thousands of books that she could recommend, but she believes that any book that makes a person forget to stop reading for a while is the book every person should read. Browse Linda's featured poetry at Today's Little Ditty HERE or read much more of her work at her blog A Word Edgewise. She was a joy to interview and the perfect subject for our debut reader spotlight!

Courtesy Linda Mitchell
Linda's five favorites:

Favorite word:

Favorite color:

Favorite food:

Favorite sound:
          laughing children

Favorite vacation spot:
My uncle and aunt’s “land” where there is a cabin, pond and family memories. Every time I visit, I walk to the old campfire ring to visit my favorite ghosts.

What is poetry?

Poetry is life represented in words.

How did you come to poetry?

I think the first poem I wrote was in about fourth grade or so…after Mrs. Simon asked my class to find and copy poems into a collection. I loved writing the poems with my newly acquired cursive writing skill. After that I wrote poems about God. My parents were intrigued. When I was about thirteen I attended a poetry workshop at my tiny rural library. I remember the poet leading the workshop responded to my efforts with comment about me being a “tired old soul.” I would have loved studying more poetry as a child. This is what pleases me about Naomi Shihab Nye’s mission as Young People’s Poet Laureate—to take poetry to young people in rural areas.

Why do you write?

I feel good when I’m writing. I enjoy sharing my writing and trying to make it better. I enjoy being part of the Poetry Friday community of writers.

Describe three of your writing habits.

I write in the early mornings before the rest of my family is awake. On school days, I write from about 6-7 am. On weekends I write from about 6-9. In the summer, when I don’t have to get up for school, I like to write late at night too.

I meet with my online critique group every other week. They help me keep writing.

In the past several months I’ve been “paper crafting.” I make collages with different papers as a means of "creative cross-training." Somehow, the paper crafting helps my writing. I think it has to do with layering. It's also super fun and helps me create without overthinking what I'm doing.

Paper crafting images © Linda Mitchell

Other than Today's Little Ditty, where do you find your inspiration?

The Poem Farm, No Water River, The Opposite of Indifference, Laura Purdie Salas' 15 word challenge, and lots of verse novels.

What is the best advice you've ever gotten?

Trust the process. I tend to want to micromanage…even my own creative process. Whenever I remember to trust the process, things go smoother.

What is the best advice you can give?

Write every day that you can. If you cannot write, read. If you cannot write or read because of life events, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just start up again when you can.

What have you chosen as this month's ditty challenge?

Create a "found haiku."

Find an interesting article on a topic that fascinates you. As you read the article highlight phrases with the right syllable counts for traditional haiku (5-7-5). It’s true that haiku is not strictly 5-7-5. However, for this exercise, keep to the “rule.” Once you have found several phrases, place them into the form of a haiku. I’ve shared several of these on my blog A Word Edgewise. (See examples here, here, and here.)

What do you say, writers? This sounds like fun! The only thing I might add to Linda's instructions is don't forget to give credit to the article where you "find" your haiku.

For reader spotlights, I won't be sending you to an external link to post your poem. I've embedded the padlet below. Add your poem(s) at any point during the month, or scroll through to check out what others are contributing.


By posting on the padlet, you are also granting me permission to feature your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  I'm not sure how often I'll be featuring poems from reader challenges, but I want to keep my options open. :)

If you have not participated in a challenge before, please send me an email at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can contact you, if necessary.

In the lower right corner of the padlet you'll see a pink dot with a plus sign. Click on it to open a text box. I find it works best to type your title on the title line and paste the rest of your poem where it says "Write something...". Single click outside the text box when finished. This board is moderated to prevent spam. Once your poem is approved, it will appear publicly.

Remember to include your name as author of any work that you post!

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.

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.

If you prefer to open this padlet in a new tab, click HERE.

Made with Padlet

Thinking of Linda Mitchell, words that come to mind are creative, supportive, innovative, enthusiastic, and on-the-ball.  Turns out she's also brave! It takes guts to be the first reader spotlight, and I hope that you'll join me in thanking her for sharing herself with us today!

If you would like to be featured in a future reader spotlight, I invite you to complete this form.

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

Thanks once again to everyone who participated in last month's DMC challenge from Karen Boss! If you missed our collection of advice poems for children, you'll find it HERE.

Random.org has determined that the winner of a copy of I AM SOMEONE ELSE: POEMS ABOUT PRETENDING, collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Chris Hsu will go to . . .

Congratulations, Angelique!

Patricia Stohr-Hunt shares a wonderful triolet inspired by the memory of her grandmother and a letter she wrote during WWII. Please join her for this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Book Love: "Bellies, Bones, and Paws" from I AM SOMEONE ELSE

Thanks to Karen Boss I feel like I've been celebrating this book's arrival for the last month, but today's the day it finally hits bookstore shelves! To honor the occasion, I'm excited to share my own contribution to this charming collection of poems about pretending.

Bellies, Bones, and Paws
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

I button up my lab coat,
scrub my hands with soap,
check the day's appointments,
and grab my stethoscope.

Some patients will be nervous,
legs quivering like leaves.
I'll give them treats and cuddles
to make them feel at ease.

I'll look at teeth, eyes, and ears,
listen to their hearts,
examine bellies, bones, and paws,
write details on their charts.

When the workday's over,
and my lab coat's shedding fur,
I'll remember every thank you—
every nuzzle, kiss, and purr.

From I AM SOMEONE ELSE, collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Hsu (Charlesbridge, 2019).  Click to enlarge.

Isn't Chris Hsu's illustration adorable? I was touched when he told me that the girl is based on his daughter, so every time he's read the book for story time, she knows the page is coming up and says "next I'm going to be an animal doctor!"

Don't miss Matt Forrest Esenwine's wonderful interview with Chris Hsu and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. You'll find my interview with Karen Boss from Charlesbridge (who edited the book) HERE. And finally, a reminder that this is the last day to leave a comment on last Friday's post for a chance to win your very own copy. Just imagine the smiles on the faces of the children who are gifted this creative collection! The winner, selected randomly, will be announced on Friday.