Thursday, October 29, 2020

A Halloween Hootenanny


Greetings, Friends!
           Welcome to my humble, haunted abode—
     by Valerie Worth
Its echoes,
Its aching stairs,
Its doors gone stiff
At the hinges,
Remind us of its
Owners, who
Grew old, who
Died, but
Who are still
Here: leaning . . .
                   Read the rest HERE.
We're all feeling a bit exhausted these days, aren't we? 
So, please, rest your weary bones at Today's Little Ditty's Halloween Hootenanny!
There will be singing,
there will be dancing,

and there will be storytelling— oh yes, there will be storytelling!
Today I'm serving up a selection of Halloween-flavored treats from the last seven years. Think of it as a haunted open house—spend as much time as you like sampling what's on offer. There's something for everyone (you never know what you'll die for), but rest assured, it's all good, light-hearted, spooky fun.
  •  a pas de deux performed by a zombie ballerina and her mummy dance partner.
  • a song for voice and piano, based on a poem by the French poet Henri Cazalis.  Also a cartoon aired by PBS in 1980.

  • an unfolding story in limericks
  •  a poem about an unlikely friendship
  •  a zombie zeno (Read more Halloween-themed zenos HERE.)

Magic For Sale, by Carrie Clickard (Spotlight ON interview)

And now, an extra special treat for five lucky TLD trick-or-treaters! The winners of last week's giveaway for one copy each of HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving (Pomelo Books), courtesy of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, are:

Linda Baie
Shannon Gebhart  
Mary Lee Hahn
Kathleen Mazurowski, and
Carol Varsalona
 Please email your postal addresses to me at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com.

For more Halloween fun and an extra large grab bag of bite-sized poetry goodies, join Linda Baie for this week's Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Home Run for HOP TO IT (Giveaway!)

No one was sure it would happen this year, but here we are, two games into the 116th World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tamba Bay Rays, tied one game a piece. While I don't have an allegiance to either team, I do love the excitement of it all!
It's a great opportunity to share a baseball poem, don't you think? Not any ol' baseball poem, mind you—my baseball poem, published in HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2020).

When it comes to children's poetry anthologies, one of the things Pomelo Books does best is meet the needs of educators and home schooling parents by giving them exactly what they need, exactly when they need it. HOP TO IT was originally intended as a book to get students out of their seats and moving because, let's be honest, we all have become way too sedentary. When the pandemic struck, the need for this book became even greater with the onset of remote learning. Who doesn't need occasional "brain breaks" after being stuck to a computer screen for too long? Poetry to the rescue! 
But COVID-19 introduced new real-world concerns, as well. Never ones to duck from a challenge, Sylvia and Janet decided to expand their anthology to include poems about life during a pandemic, wearing masks, virtual learning, staying connected with friends, and social justice issues like standing up for what you believe in. In true Vardell-Wong style, the fun, kid-friendly poems (all 100 of them) are matched with practical tips, connections across learning areas—science, social studies, language arts, etc—and supplemented with extensive back matter. For just-in-time learning or just-for-fun reading, HOP TO IT is a home run!

"Home Run at Yankee Stadium"

Which brings me back to baseball. :)
Are you wearing your favorite team jersey or cap? Snacks at the ready? You shouldn't need sunscreen since we'll be indoors, but here's some music from 1908 to help you get in the mood:

Now, maybe just a few arm stretches and knee bends to warm up. I wouldn't want anyone in this bookish poetry crowd to overdo it! Your role is the home team crowd.
Play ball!
Click on image to enlarge or read below.

          by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
The crowd is hyped. 
They do the wave.
Next batter up is looking brave.
But I'm brave too.
I stare him down
from here, atop my pitcher's mound.
He swings—a miss!
Strike one! Crowd cheers.
The roar is music to my ears.

Fast ball. He swings—
and hits a foul.
Clapping, stomping home fans howl!

Can I do this 
one more time?
He wants a hit—pride's on the line.

I throw a curve, 
then start to doubt.
He swings—
          (can't watch)

                    Strike three! YOU'RE OUT!

Nice job, y'all—I heard you howling from here! It was sure fun to write this poem with all the actions of the players and crowd. It's easy to imagine a whole classroom getting into the act. (Who doesn't like clapping, stomping, cheering, and doing the wave?) As it turns out, I will be reading my poem aloud this afternoon (Friday, 10/23) at a Pomelo Books Zoom Poetry Party and would LOVE some folks to take on the roles of the adoring home team fans. If you're available, please join us at 4 pm Eastern Time. Email me at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com for the zoom link.
HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving is available at QEP Books (currently at a discount), at, or . . .
(Is that cheering I hear again?)
Janet and Sylvia have generously offered to send a copy of HOP TO IT to *FIVE* lucky Today's Little Ditty readers! (Domestic U.S. addresses only, please.) To enter, leave a comment on this blog post or send an email to the same address above with the subject "HOP TO IT giveaway." Comments and emails must be received by the end of the day on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Winners will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, October 30th. Good luck!

Before I shuffle off to the locker room, since I haven't been around much, I'd like to take a moment to mention two other recent anthologies that I'm honored to have poems in. 
A World Full of Poems, also released this month, is a gorgeously illustrated introduction to children's poetry featuring a diverse selection of contemporary and historical poets. The poems, selected by Sylvia Vardell (busy lady!), are about everything from science, sports, and space, to friendship, family, and feelings. They are complemented by interesting, topical facts; prompts and activities that inspire children to create their own poetry; and introductions to poetic devices which are fun and accessible. Published by DK Children, A World Full of Poems is available for purchase at or an independent bookstore near you.

Behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19, edited by Margaret Dornaus, is a collection of more than 250 pandemic-themed haiku from more than 140 internationally acclaimed haiku poets. Published last July by Singing Moon Press, at the present time it is only available for purchase at
Jama Rattigan is known for her excellent batters—in the kitchen, that is, not on the baseball field. ;) Give a cheer for Jama and this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Monday Musing: Indigenous Peoples' Day

Invisible Fish
     by Joy Harjo
Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now described by waves of sand, by water-worn rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk. . . .
          Read the rest HERE.


To date, 14 states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawai'i, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the District of Columbia, more than 130 cities, and growing numbers of school districts celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day. Here are five ideas for celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Monday Musing: World Teachers' Day

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
I never teach my pupils; 
I only attempt to provide the conditions 
in which they can learn.
                                        – Albert Einstein (unsourced)
According to the UNESCO website, World Teachers’ Day has been held annually since 1994 "to commemorate the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions. . . In 2020, World Teachers’ Day will celebrate teachers with the theme Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future. The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, take stock of achievements, and draw attention to the voices of teachers, who are at the heart of efforts to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind."

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Spoken Word Goes Prime Time

On my Poetry Friday rounds last week, I didn't notice that anyone mentioned Brandon Leake. If the name's not ringing a bell, let me fill you in. Brandon recently won this year's million dollar prize on America's Got Talent, so let's just say he is our newly-crowned (unofficial) spoken word poetry ambassador. 

The fact that I'm even aware of this is a bit of a mystery. I'm not a big TV watcher. We don't have cable, and for most of our time in Florida we didn't get NBC because that channel never tuned in for us. When suddenly (after 12 years) it did, I felt compelled to explore what was on offer. I had never seen America's Got Talent before, and though it's not really my cup of tea, I happened to see spoken word poet Brandon Leake's audition. I was gobsmacked. Not by his performance so much as the fact that spoken word had made it to the national main stage. 
Is Brandon Leake the best spoken word poet I've ever seen? No. There's no question he has talent, but he isn't what I would consider top tier. Not that I'm an expert, mind you, but I am more familiar with the art form than the AGT judges—Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. They were blown away. Never saw anything like it. Howie Mandel even gave Brandon a golden buzzer, which, if you're not familiar with the show, is a gold-confetti-falling-from-the-ceiling big deal. Long story short, I was hooked. I needed to see how far he would go. And wouldn't you know, he went all the way to last week's final and then won the whole dang thing! Spoken word poetry has been around for decades, but thanks to Brandon Leake, America just got the memo.

The following video is a compilation of all of Brandon Leake's performances on America's Got Talent. 
My favorite piece is the second one (starting at 2 minutes in). It's masterful how Brandon invites the audience into his life experience through humor, love, and something as relatable as a silly pet name—his mama calls him Pookie. Once we are comfortable, we are introduced to his mother's fears. Through her eyes we see the fears of black mothers everywhere. Brandon imagines himself in the shoes of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and countless others destined to become "America's next most popular hashtag," and before we know what hit us, our eyes have been opened.   

Another spoken word poet I wanted to share with you came to my attention last March. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, I attended a spoken word event for young people in my own community called ARTSPEAKS: Courageous Young Voices.
ARTSPEAKS: Courageous Young Voices, Gainesville, Florida, March 9, 2020


There, I was introduced to a talented guest poet by the name of Grim Jackson. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Grim is a Youth Grand Slam Champion who has been speaking his mind and spreading his passion for spoken word poetry since 2013. He offers his own perspective on the black experience in this powerful performance of "No More Heroes."
In the somewhat more restrained (though no less effective) video below, he was invited to open Day 1 of the 2017 National Education Association's Representative Assembly in Boston. I have a feeling that the teachers among you will especially appreciate what he has to say. 

And while we're on the subject of teaching, the last performance I want to share with you is "If I should have a daughter" by Sarah Kay. I've mentioned this video before, but it's worth revisiting. Sarah's piece opens a TED Talk from 2011 where she defines spoken word poetry, talks about the role it has played in her own life, and describes its profound benefits as as a teaching tool, especially for teenagers. If you can spare 18 minutes and haven't seen it, I highly recommend that you watch the whole thing. You will be rewarded at the end with a second performance called "Hiroshima."
If you'd like to explore more, Louder than a Bomb is a terrific documentary from 2010 about four high-school teams from Chicago who compete in the world's largest youth poetry slam. For more recent videos, Button Poetry on YouTube is a wonderful place to peruse many more performances at your leisure. You can also visit the Button Poetry website.

Do you have a favorite spoken word poet or video? If so, please share in the comments!
Join Tabatha Yeatts for this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. She's got a special guest post by Carole Boston Weatherford today featuring Beauty Mark, a new verse novel about Marilyn Monroe. (Read Carole Boston Weatherford's Spotlight ON interview at Today's Little Ditty HERE.)
While the Ditty of the Month Club is on an extended hiatus, this is a great time to peruse the TLD archives. You'll find an alphabetical listing of spotlight interviews HERE and links to all 50 of our ditty challenges HERE. You'll also find The Best of Today's Little Ditty (2014-2015, 2016, and 2017-2018) available in paperback and ebook versions on