Saturday, April 30, 2011

National Poetry Month/Sharing the Seasons

Here's a wonderful book of poetry about the seasons edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by David Diaz. I was browsing the poetry section in the children's room of the library and this book was on display on top of the shelves. The cover was like a magnet and I took the book home. There are twelve poems for each season and the illustrations are vibrant celebrations. A great way to mark the movement of the year.

Friday, April 29, 2011

National Poetry Month/Poetry 180

Poetry 180 is a site developed by the Library of Congress to bring poetry to high school students with a poem for each day of the school year along with suggestions for reading aloud. Here is what Billy Collins says about the program and the poems he selected:

Welcome to Poetry 180. Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race. By just spending a few minutes reading a poem each day, new worlds can be revealed.

Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. I have selected the poems you will find here with high school students in mind. They are intended to be listened to, and I suggest that all members of the school community be included as readers. A great time for the readings would be following the end of daily announcements over the public address system.

Listening to poetry can encourage students and other learners to become members of the circle of readers for whom poetry is a vital source of pleasure. I hope Poetry 180 becomes an important and enriching part of the school day.

And here is one of his poems featured in Poetry 180:

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

National Poetry Month/Langston Hughes

I used a green pentel brush marker to write out the beginning of Langston Hughes' poem, "In Time of Silver Rain" because Alice Walker talks about the encouraging notes Langston Hughes wrote her in green ink.

Here are three excellent picture books by or about Langston Hughes.

Alice Walker's biography of Langston Hughes for children has extra meaning because she knew him and he was encouraging to her as a young writer. His life story is beautifully told through text and illustrations.

The next two are picture books of poems. Each is an example of the highest order of illustrations in its media—watercolor and photography.

Charles R. Smith Jr. has created such a complete experience with a short poem (33 words), elegant type, and eloquent photographs. I appreciate it for the poem and for the beauty of the book design—a perfect merging of type and illustration that enhances the meaning of the words.

E. B. Lewis's The watercolors are so fluid, so rich, and so deep. To me this book feels like a poem set to music.

Hear Langston Hughes reading A Negro Speaks of Rivers.

Watch a video of images set to Langston Hughes reading April Rain from Classical Baby. Both readings are from the Poetry Foundation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Poetry Month/Diamante Poem

Diamante poems are favorites at many of the schools I go to. There are many versions but at its most basic, it is a noun/2 adjectives/3 verbs ending in ing/2 adjectives/a noun. The words are centered on the page forming a diamond. This four page accordion with yarn threaded through provides a perfect home for two diamante poems.

Fold a four page accordion (written directions with links to video and pdfs)

Homes for Poems, my ebook of books for poetry including the diamante poem available at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

National Poetry Month/Haiku Stick & Elastic Book

This simple book form is perfect for haiku. I chose to use poems by haiku master Issa rather than write my own. My book was made from recycled paper with writing on one side only, a stick, and an elastic from vegetables. The illustrations are a combination of drawing and collage. I used glue for the letters on the cover but didn't need it on the inside because the illustrations were made from adhesive backed designs left over from postage stamps and drawing.

Written Directions

In Spanish


See all the pages on flickr

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Poetry Month/The Haiku Apprentice

I just read this wonderful book, The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan by Abigail Friedman for the second time and I remember why I loved it so much the first time. Abigail is a US diplomat. When she was in Japan, she took up writing poetry after a chance encounter with Traveling Man Tree (his haiku name) and joined a haiku group.

When they first met, Traveling Man Tree described why writing haiku is different from golf. Golf is his hobby, but he does haiku.

Haiku is different. For me, haiku is a question of feeling, of sensibility. I can't just work sixteen-hour days and then say to myself, "Okay, if I concentrate hard, if I work at finding just the right word, I will compose a good haiku." I need to change how I approach the world. I need to look at the flowers and the grass beside the road. I've got to try to write poetry about what I see around me. I believe that the more I approach haiku in this way and the more I understand the essence of haiku, the better my poetry will be.

The spirit of haiku described here is inspiring whether you are or want to be a writer of haiku or not. The people she meets are full of wisdom and humility and I loved being in their presence. I found much to guide me in my work as an artist. The haiku group offered a respectful environment for learning and sharing and as a teacher I found lessons there as well.

At Abigail's first haiku group meeting, the haiku master Kurado Momoko said:

My job is not to judge whether you have written well or poorly, but to help you write a haiku that is true to yourself.

We can each write haiku because we each have a soul. Every soul is equal in a haiku group, and there is room in a haiku group for every soul.

A conversation with Abigail Friedman in Water Bridge Review

Saturday, April 16, 2011

National Poetry Month/William Carlos Williams

Here's a wonderful biography of William Carlos Williams for children. It focuses on his love of poetry and his decision to make a life of being both a poet and a doctor. Many of Williams' poems are integrated into the book.

The evocative illustrations by Melissa Sweet are a combination of watercolor, collage, and mixed media. She gives us a welcome window on her creative process in the Illustrator's Note.

The artwork for every book calls for a different interpretation. These pictures needed to convey his era and the modern art of his time that was so influential to Williams. There were a lot of false starts—nothing I did seemed powerful enough to match his poems. Then I looked to a big box of discarded books I had from a library sale. One of the books had beautiful endpapers and I did a small painting on it. Then I took a book cover, ripped it off, and painted more. The book covers became my canvas, and any ephemera I had been saving for one day became fodder for the collages.

Every project furthers an artists, but this book was a true gift.

You can view the poem The Uses of Poetry at with text flow. I love watching the words slowly appear and disappear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Poetry Month/Humor and Poetry

April is National Humor Month as well as National Poetry Month. There are lots of ideas for combining the two at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Poetry Month/John Greenleaf Whittier

I am thinking today of poet John Greenleaf Whittier as we mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. While I focused on his nature poetry when I did this installation at Maudslay State Park, much of his poetry was in support of the abolitionist movement.

Read Whittier's poetry at Project Gutenberg

Whittier's home in Amesbury, MA

Whittier's birthplace in Haverhill, MA

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month/Poem by Pooh

For the spring is really springing

After a busy day of workshops, something short and sweet for today's poetry month post. And perfect for such a warm spring day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

National Poetry Month/Poetry for Children

Poetry for Children: About finding and sharing poetry with young people is a wonderful blog with posts focusing on books of poetry for children that include a book review, a poem from the book, and ideas for accompanying activities and connections. It is created by Sylvia Vardell, Professor at Texas Woman's University, author, and co-editor of Bookbird, the journal of international children's literature.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Poetry Month/Sijo

Here is a sijo poem (often described as the Korean haiku), by Linda Sue Park from her book, Tap Dancing on the Floor. I love what is says about poetry. I'm trying to take some time to write out poems I like during poetry month. And to keep it easy and loose and not a big deal. So I grabbed the closest blank surface (the back side of an envelope) and a marker (Y & C Calligraphy 2.0) and wrote. I took a deep breath, decided not to let it bother me that there should have been more space between the second and third stanzas and that there are two dots over one of the i's, and took this photo to share it.

Here's a link to a previous post with information on writing sijo, a simple book project, and more information about Linda Sue Park's book.

Friday, April 8, 2011

National Poetry Month/Aprille

Of all the poetry I was required to memorize in school, this short bit from the Prologue of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is only thing I still remember. I always think of it when April comes and I see the scilla blooming in the garden. I had never seen, or at least noticed, the small blue flowers until we moved into our house. The image was made by scanning in the lettering, placing it in a layer over a photo of scilla, and then making it a screen. You can hear the Middle English being read by Thomas Rau here and read a translation into contemporary English here.

And here is an old piece of calligraphy from a faded slide where I combined the words of Chaucer and Eliot on the month of April.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Poetry Month/Mass Poetry

Mass Poetry has a Poetry Festival scheduled for May 13-14 in Salem, MA. You can find out information about the festival at and download Common Threads: Seven Poets and a Wealth of Readers. Common Threads is a program of MassPoetry that seeks to have 10,000 people in the state read these seven poems in the month of April, National Poetry Month. All the poets have strong connections to the state but of course Common Threads is by no means limited to those of us who live in Mass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Poetry Month/Bright Hill Literary Center

Today's poetry month post is a salute to Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell, NY. Founded by Bertha Rogers, it is a thriving literary center in upstate New York. It is the home of Bright Hill Press which published poetry books and chapbooks, a community library, and the Word and Image Gallery where I will showing the Emily Dickinson series in October. Programming includes monthly readings (Word Thursdays) and workshops for children and adults. Tomorrow's reading (April 7) is by translator and critic Philip Mosley and poet Deborah Bernhardt. Bertha is a writer and an artist and has been a long-time member of the Book Arts List. Bright Hill Press also created the The New York State Literary Web Site & New York State & NY City Online Maps in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

National Poetry Month/Color Poems

Mary O'Neill's color poems were among my favorites in The Random House Book of Poetry that I used to read to my kids. They led me to the complete collection on her book, Hailstones and Halibut Bones, which in turn inspired me to make an accordion book of color poems.

The first was made with torn colored tissue. The second book was made after my conversion to recycled materials. I used a piece of copy paper with writing on one side folded in half with the writing on the inside for the pages and cereal boxes for the covers. The colored papers came from the collage box. When I was in conversation with a museum about using recycled materials for a family workshop, they questioned if the books would be of an appropriate quality for their audience. I made this sample to show that they would indeed be charming and beautiful.

Red is a ruby
Set in a ring.
Red is the color
That makes my heart sing.

Green are the leaves
Sprouting in the spring,
Green is the color
Of a luna moth's wing.

Orange is a pumpkin,
Orange is a cat,
Sleeping in the sun
On an orange mat.

Purple is a grape,
One of a bunch,
Purple is the jelly
In the sandwich
I ate for lunch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

National Poetry Month/Getting Started

April is National Poetry Month in the US. I'll be making a poetry related post each day. Celebrate the month by reading poems, writing your own, making books, and rejoicing in the wonderful gift that is poetry.

Feel free to copy and share the above image (credit is always appreciated). It's also available as a pdf.

For today, there is a link to a past post—a Sticker Poem made with recycled materials and an annotated list of poetry anthologies for children.