Wings Wide Open

 

Ruth Ayres recently encouraged me to think about what it means to live with arms wide open.  Even though I’m an introvert at heart, I love to take quiet risks.  I was born curious and that curiosity hasn’t subsided in my sixth decade of living.  I guess that’s why I also love teaching.  I am always looking for the new — looking to learn.

Last week, I found a new poetry form.  I never had heard of it before.  A new children’s poetry book, Nine:  A Book of Nonet Poems written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Amy Huntington, will be published in June. Nonets are poems with 9 lines and 45 syllables. Nonets can go in descending or ascending order (9-1 or 1-9 lines).  

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Nine+a+book+of+nonet+poems&i=instant-video&ref=nb_sb_noss

Line 1: 9 syllables                                                                                                                                  Line 2: 8 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 3: 7 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 4: 6 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 5: 5 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 6: 4 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 7: 3 syllables                                                                                                                            Line 8: 2 syllables                                                                                                                                Line 9: 1 syllable

I decided to have a go at writing nonets. I actually like the challenge of having to stay within a form.  It is somehow comforting to have parameters, boundaries – a garden border, a frame for my thoughts.

Nine Song Birds

In my yard, under the great green pine,

The songbirds gather in the shade

Pecking and chirping along:

Robin, jays, chickadees

With one joyous voice,

While woodpecker

Keeps the beat:

Rhythm – – –

Rhyme.

 

 

Buds

Buds

Blossom

Purple, white,

The crocus first,

In row upon row,

Then Yellow daffodils,

Golden guardians stand watch.

Sunshine in the form of flowers,

Long awaited spring returns and blooms.

As I continued to reflect on the idea of “arms wide open,” it made me think of the poem by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is a Thing with Feathers.”  I had repeated that poem over and over again when my mother was gravely ill six years ago. On a crisp, blue early November day when she was cremated, I walked out into the cemetery and suddenly a flock of Canadian geese took flight.  They honked and flapped, creating a “V” as they lifted into the air. I smiled and took in this as a final good-bye from my mother whose name was Vivian.  She was a teacher too and an artist.  It was Vivian who taught me to live life with arms wide open.

Invitations to Wonder…

Last week, Ruth Ayers invited her online writing group (SOS: Sharing Our Stories) to write about 7 small things.  Instead, I chose to write about anger.  Anger is not a small thing.  Anger is a big thing, an explosive thing.  It starts small and then grows.

As I read some members’ blog posts this week, I was reminded about the importance of simple joys.  All week, I  kept turning lists of small things over and over in my mind.  I have always been attracted to the small seemingly insignificant things: stop to notice the dandelion blooming between the cracks in concrete.  I’m a photographer, and so as I make my way through a mountain pass or a city street, my eye is always on the small things that most people would miss.  Those small things aren’t always aesthetic or beautiful, they were just common, ordinary things.  In their ordinariness lies their unique importance.

Poet, Valerie Worth, wrote a book for children called All Small.  I’ve used her poems to teach children to notice the wonders of small things.  Small IS beautiful.  The world consists of countless small things and those small things are what what makes the world an incredible place of wonderment.

As I made those lists in my mind of small things, as I reflected on a selection of small items, I thought about the work of Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet who was a master of haiku – the 3 line poem of 5-7-5 syllables.

                                                  The old pond.                                                                                                                                           A frog leaps in.                                                                                                                                        Sound of the water.

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

                                              Their own fire                                                                                                                                          Are on the trees,                                                                                             the fireflies Around the house with flowers.

 

I decided to try my hand at some haiku for this last week of April, focusing on the small all around me.  I offer these seven small things to you now.

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Apple blossoms pink                                                        Branches tap on my window                                        A burst of bright spring

 

 

 

 

 

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Here pinecones scatter                                   

Among the gray-green bracken                     

Thorny and silent

 

 

 

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Petals on petals

Circular meditation

Center holds beauty

 

 

 

 

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Salt, sand, surf meets shore

Shells in pink light perfect                                         

Curves – one to another

                                                                                                             

 

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Perfect sculpted fur                                            Squirrel’s not camera shy                                   Swishes his puffed tail

 

 

 

 

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Egret stands alone

Graceful curved neck – peaceful

Alert – swish of fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anger

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. 

– Marcus Aurelius

Anger is hard for me to write about.  It is probably hard for most people to write or talk about.  I most certainly would rather write about children, art, or cupcakes.  However, the whole point of beginning again in writing this blog is to take risks. I have always encouraged the people in my life to take risks: my husband, my friends, and my students.  I have been very brave having others put themselves out in front, diving into the deep water, taking a chance. All the while, I remain in the shadows not talking about anger.  And so… I begin.

Talking about anger means talking about my family.  I grew up in a very angry household.  Not everyone was angry.  Just one.  It only takes one. One can cloud everything.  That one for me was my father.  My father could be a very generous and amicable man, and then for no apparent reason, he would become intensely angry.  I was a witness to his anger countless times, and it made me into a reticent child.  It has taken my whole adult life to come to terms with this and to heal.  I am still healing.  And my father, at the age of 94, is still changing and growing.  Now, when he gets angry, he catches himself and gains self-control.

My father is a World War II veteran.  He was 18 years old when he enlisted into the Marines, served in Guam, and took part in the bloodiest of fighting – the Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill.  My father survived the war, but most certainly had PTSD that went untreated for decades.  His trauma was carried from the battlefield and into our little, suburban Cape Cod. From the outside, our home was distinctly neat and quiet. Inside, there was always a storm brewing.

I became very adept at detecting storms, as did my sister and mother. They would run for cover.  I, on the other hand, would run straight for the storm, trying to tame it.  Not a good idea when you are four and six and ten and fifteen. Not a good idea at any age.  I was tenacious and resilient, but I was left in a wake of anger that it took me years to understand and overcome.  When my father was in his eighties, he self-published a book about his war experiences called The Timid Marine.  It was while reading his book that I began to fully understand where his anger had originated.

As I grew, though shy and reticent, I also had a great deal of hidden anger.  I kept it locked tightly in a box.  I was determined NOT to be my father.  And I wasn’t, but that didn’t mean I had a handle on my anger.  It was only  when I started to write a novel-in- verse a number of years ago that I began to delve into my relationship to anger and how deeply my father’s behavior affected me.

Water Cycle

In the morning before setting out

We go to Falls Park,

Watching the water cascade

I think about my father and me.

We are two rocks,

Rock against rock,

Striking and striking back,

Sparks fly – air ignites –

Chips of stone – pieces of each of us

Lay broken on the ground.

Aunt Connie tells me –

Water is stronger than stone.

I need to learn to be the water:

Blue, cold, crystal clear,

Flowing past the stone,

Carving an open space,

Leaving the stone smooth

Rounded – ready to listen –

Washing up the pieces

And carrying them away with me

Out to the ocean’s edge.

Recently, I heard Dr. Marc Brackett talk about his new book, Permission to Feel at the Bright & Quirky Summit.  Dr. Brackett is the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.  He developed a system called RULER, which helps children and. young adults manage and regulate their moods and emotions.  This type of work has always intrigued me, because I feel that in order to create a productive and happy life, one needs to develop social/emotional skills, but that has not always been a well-understood science. As Dr. Brackett writes, “First, emotion skills must be acquired.  Nobody is born with them all in place and ready to work.  Emotion skills amplify our strengths and help us through challenges.”  Last week, a former colleague of mine, Deborah Kris, wrote about  Dr. Brackett’s work in her article,  “When a Child’s Emotions Spike, How Can a Parent Find Their Best Self?” These studies on Emotional Intelligence are so important and give me hope that families may be able to better understand, manage, and build relationships, even if it takes decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin again…

 

Sometimes, to begin again feels like a long hike in the summer sun up a steep slope. Sometimes, to begin again is like swimming in honey.  Today, I received an invitation from Ruth Ayres to begin again, and I accept it as a gift.

Now, I don’t know Ruth personally, but I subscribe to her website and have read her blogs for years.  I never had children, so I loved reading Ruth’s family stories.  They gave me a glimpse of the joys and pain of being a mom.  Ruth’s children have had dark beginnings, and they struggle. I loved hearing about their triumphs and was saddened when they struggled. Struggling is something I know a lot about.  

When I read one of Ruth’s recent blogs and her decision to start writing again, I knew I had to leave her a comment to tell her how much her writing meant to me.  I never expected a response, but I should have, because Ruth is all about connection.

Ruth sent me an invitation to begin to write again.  And it is that nudge I so desperately needed.  Thank you, Ruth. And so on my sixty-fourth birthday I begin again…

What should I write about?  What should I write about?  And then suddenly I know. A poem comes into my head. I wrote it several years ago as part a coming-of-age novel in verse I have yet to finish about a twelve-year-old girl who is struggling.

A Gift

When we are alone,

Aunt Connie hands me a present

Wrapped in brilliant blue.

I rip it open to reveal

A brand-new journal.

It’s suede, the color of new earth,

It smells of earth too, comforting,

Tied together with strong leather strings

And small brass beads.

I look up at my aunt to thank her,

She puts one arm around my shoulder,

Holds me close and whispers,

“Just keep writing – 

Just keep writing,” she says.

But she does not say it 

Like my teachers would,

Not just keep writing because I have to,

It’s an assignment– I will be graded.

Punctuation counts, spelling counts,

Not jut keep writing – like it’s good for me,

Like it’s medicine or spinach – 

But just keep writing because it’s part of me,

Like breathing in air and exhaling,

Because it keeps me alive,

Because it connects me to the world,

Because it keeps me sane

It is my life – I need to live it,

My feelings count, memories count.

The Art of Cookies

For our 30th anniversary five years ago, my husband and I returned to our honeymoon site – Montreal. Since that time, we make sure we return to Montreal every summer, sometimes twice a summer.  My husband found a wonderful boutique hotel in Old Montreal – Georges Marciano’s L’Hotel. Marciano, the founder and designer of Guess? Jeans, created this lovely hotel, which houses some of his vast collection of Modern art.

The first time we arrived at L’Hotel, to our delight, we noticed a cafe right next door – Cookies Stefanie. Since I am a foodie with Celiac, Cookie Stefanie was an amazing find for me because it is an exclusively Gluten Free bakery and cafe. In the past five years, I think I have sampled almost every item they have to offer: cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, all kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches, savory soups, tartines, and fresh salads.  There are also biscotti ice cream sandwiches, pan chocolate, and carrot cake. Each are so delicious that I cannot tell you what is my favorite one.  However, they do make a tiny treat, which I favored this summer.  It’s a chocolate covered cherry.  The cherry is surrounded in a moist chocolate cake and then wrapped in a creamy chocolate ganache.  It is small, so I don’t feel too guilty, and it is so rich that it definitely satisfies my sweet tooth.  Many an afternoon I could be found retreating to Cookie Stefanie for a cup of tea and a delectable treat.  I cannot describe well enough the happiness I feel when I enter this gleaming white and pretty pink cafe.  My eyes feast on all the glorious desserts and because they are gluten free.  I can have my pick!

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Here are some other wonderful eateries in Montreal, which I have enjoyed.  I cannot wait to return next summer to seek out more sumptuous treasures!

Gluten Free Dining Options in Montreal:

I am so happy that Stefanie created this wonderful place!  I wish she’d bring her talent to New York City!
This cafe is located in the open-air market – Marche Jean Talon in Little Italy.  They make buckwheat crepes, which are gluten-free in all imaginable flavors both sweet and savory.
Great gluten free croissants and eclairs!  Really!
Amazing sweet potato gnocchi, quinoa fritters, and other wonderful delights. It is a Vegan cafe too.
Fresh and creative salads in a pretty light-filled cafe.
Love this teahouse!  A respite of CALM!
The BEST gluten-free pizza crust I have every eaten and I’ve eaten lots of pizza!  Their pasta is also perfect!
Great risotto!

 

Ming Tao Xuan or How to Relax in Old Montreal

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”          – C.S. Lewis

This summer I was fortunate to spend a week in Old Montreal, one of the most beautiful places in the northern hemisphere: cobblestone streets, majestic Notre Dame Cathedral, quaint shops and restaurants nestled on the St. Lawrence harbor.  It is really a delight for the senses.  My husband and I walked all over the city exploring all the different neighborhoods in Montreal. For me, Old Montreal is a respite from the world, a solace for my busy soul.   We’ve taken many trips to Montreal in the past five year, and so I’ve come to know this historic part of the city well.  I love exploring all the shops, tasting culinary specialties at the various restaurants and cafe, but the place I go to treat myself, to take a mindful breath in my day is Ming Tao Xuan Tea House on the corner of Rue de Brésoles and Rue Saint Sulpice in the shadow of Notre Dame Basilica.

Pushing open the heavy glass door, I am immediately transported to a realm of beauty and quietude.  It is a small space filled with wood and glass.  There are floor to ceiling cabinets filled with teapots of all shapes and sizes: iron, clay, and porcelain. Huge colorful porcelain urns sit atop the cabinets like peaceful, sleeping sentinels. There are only four tables in the tea house.  They are study, square, and ornately carved. I take a seat at one table in the back of the room near the small marble fountain. I look out the window at the crowds and city traffic, but cannot hear a sound.  This is truly a sanctuary.

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The proprietor comes to greet me,  a distinguished gentleman with dark-rimmed glasses.  He hands me a thick, celadon-colored menu.  The food offerings take up one page while the next twenty pages are filled with teas of every color, aroma, and taste imaginable.  I become a bit overwhelmed by the choices, but finally choose one that I think will sooth my stress away.  After sipping and savoring, I meditate on this beautiful place and write a poem to commemorate this moment.

 

Ming Tao Xuan

Glass and dark wood,

The sound of trickling water,

People whispering tales

Around heavy square tables

Carved with flowers and serpents.

I take a respite here –

Set down my bones, and books,

and heavy backpack.

A tall, old man in dark-rimmed glasses

Brings me a thick, celadon-colored menu,

Six items: mango salad, tofu envelope, steamed buns,

Chicken skewers, cookies, and cheese cake.

And pages and pages and pages of tea:

Black, green, red, yellow –

There is such a thing as yellow tea?

Yes – aromatic buckwheat.

I choose the tofu envelope

And the Jasmine Pearl tea,

Because if I had had a daughter

Jasmine Pearl would have been

A beautiful name for her –

Jasmine Pearl – lavender and green,

Delicate and sweet.

 

The waiter returns unrolling

A red rattan mat,

Places the teak tray on top,

Arranges the tiny porcelain tea set:

The tiny teapot with a lid

Etched with a bamboo design,

The rounded pitcher with the graceful handle,

And a small white bowl from which to sip.

He prepares the tea,

Allowing the buds to open,

Pouring the first cup

And emptying the water through

The slats of the teak tray.

Now it is ready,

Now it is time for me

To sample and savor,

Relieve my mind,

Release my imagination,

Among the iron, clay, and porcelain teapots

of the Ming Tao Xuan Tea House.

 

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Something Beautiful

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I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty lately.  This spring and summer I was tasked with finding an assisted living facility for my mother-in-law.  It has proved to be an arduous journey fraught with near-hysteria, even with expert advice from A Place for Mom, which I cannot recommend more highly!

But I digress.  I want to stick with beauty. Concentrating on beauty has helped me get through some really difficult moments.  Beauty has been the balm to heal some really ugly images.  Beauty is God’s grace.  Beauty in this mortal world should not be taken lightly, it should be revered.

My mother, Vivian, died almost six years ago now, at the age of 91.  She was a teacher, artist, and clothing designer.  She had a great sense of style and aesthetic.  She imparted those gifts to me, however, I cannot sew on a zipper to save my life!  I did not inherit her sewing skills, that’s for sure, but I can admire them. And I can make curtains, quilts, and pillows – anything with a simple straight line.

My friend, Melissa, loves fashion too.  Her blog, Turing Fashion Inside Out, details all her fashion adventures. She has a great sense of the aesthetic, and I love how she thinks about how she puts her wardrobe together.  Honestly,  I never thought about the creativity that goes into dressing oneself before I began talking with Melissa.  Now, I revel in being aware of patterns and color, texture and form.

In between investigating assisted living places, rescuing my ninety-three-year old father from a rehab hospital where he was recovering from hip surgery, witnessing the gauntlet of gray figures in wheelchairs, I’ve been pursuing beauty in anyplace I can think of:  stopping by the grocery store’s floral section a little longer, noticing the perfect rise of a white moon, and the cloud-pink sunset over the mountains.  I remind myself that beauty is one of the things that keeps me alive. Without beauty there would be no hope, no hint of heaven.

Something Beautiful                                                                                                                            by Joanne L. Emery

I’ve been thinking of patterns lately,

A little geometry of flowers and delight:

The red dress my mother made me

When I was six,

The one with the yellow chicks

And the smooth, round buttons.

 

In the fabric store last month,

I caught a glimpse of a pattern:

A yellow dress with bright red buttons

And big patch pockets

On a skinny six-year-old

With lopsided braids,

Nodding her head to my question:

Did your mother make that for you?

 

Yesterday, in the discount store,

Walking the rows of clothing,

Not looking for style,

But searching for pattern

Something familiar,

Something that would catch

My mother’s eye:

Aqua flowers –

The shape of which is a cross between

Artichokes and lotus blossoms –

Floating on a cream background

In soft chiffon,

Over my head it goes

Flowing

Making me feel like

Something beautiful.

 

Poet Found: Ross Gay

Back in February, I bought a slim volume of poetry because I loved the cover – a bright floral abstract and the title, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay.  I flipped to the first page – a poem about figs.  Figs – my Grandpa Charlie’s favorite and my favorite too.  I often splurge and buy a basket of them when they are in season, slice them in half and enjoy them twice as long, not sharing a single one of them with anyone!  All to myself – those figs are my treasure.  So yes, I knew I would love this book.  But of course, in my true inconsistent fashion, I forgot about the book before I read all of it, and it became wedged between my countless notebooks on my my bookshelf.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Last week, as I was ready to go off on vacation, I was looking for a sweet summer read. I pulled out the book, returned to the figs and was mesmerized. I read on and on trying to uncover the rhythm, welcoming the repetition, wondering how this young, gay, Black professor from Youngstown, Ohio composed words in lines I wished were my own. I invite you to dip into the nectar of his words.

Gay takes mundane things: buttoning his shirt, sleeping in his clothes, drinking water from his hands and creates a cadence you can’t help but read aloud and wonder: “How does he do that?” Something about the arrangement of his words and the sounds he created encouraged me to read his words aloud.  There is something so powerful – not just in the images, but in the sounds in composed. I read the book cover to cover, and over and over, trying to get his genius to repeat in my brain. Rereading his words opened the floodgates of sorrow and beauty, and I began to write poetry again. For this, I am grateful.

Room 109                                                                                                                                                by Joanne L. Emery

The hotel used to be a sturdy and elegant bank,

On a street corner in Old Montreal:

A historic landmark, a fortress now for art:

Warhol, Indiana, Hirst, Magritte, Miro –

And there in the gilded frame

Against the pale yellow wall,

Monet’s garden peaks out:

Corner of Garden at Montgeron

Peaceful greens and blues,

Speckled pinks and dappled yellows –

Century-old paint

Brushed into being

To soothe me as I sit

In the yellow chair by the window

Anticipating sunlight.

 

 

 

 

 

Write the Poem

I used to take long walks in the woods and a poem would pop into my head effortlessly.  The flow of my steps would jog something in my brain and images and ideas would come to me almost like magic.  Lately, my life has been filled up with mundane things: weddings, newborn babies, elderly relatives going into assisted living, trying to exercise more and eat less – you know – Life!

However, I know when I’m away from writing too long, my spirit crumples and my imagination dulls.  So earlier this summer, I was wandering the aisles of my favorite discount store.  I came across the book counter, which was stacked neatly with volumes of inspirational books: try a craft, learn to make beer, knit a sweater, arrange flowers, lose weight in 10 day diets, sudoku, word searches… And there in a neat blue stack was Write the Poem. I picked it up and immediately thought, “This is just what I need: some structure! Usually, with my art and poetry, I like to dabble and play, but my recent drought of artistic endeavors forced me into drastic measures. (Ah the rhyme and rhythm!)

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Now seriously, I bought this little book thinking I would try to write poems with words supplied by someone else.  It was a new experience for me, and I was up for the challenge.  I was doubtful that anything would come of it, but the first poem I wrote, I actually liked.  Here it is:

The Ocean

Tide rises with the new moon:

Waves,

Billowing foam

Laces the sand in briny bubbles,

Crashes in, then recedes.

I wait out in the depths,

Keep my head above the surface,

Tread the dark waters,

Feel the push and pull of the ever-undulating current.

New moon rises,

Casts a luminous path

Across the surface of the ocean,

Leading the way.

I follow and float,

Carried by her salty power.

 

I want to fill this little book up with my poems over the next 12 months.  I think it will give me the structure I need and give my imagination a kick-start.  I am looking forward to having a book filled with my poems, poems I can rewrite and re-imagine.  It is amazing that the same words can become so many different poems.  It would be fun to get a group together and share poems written using the same words.  I challenge everyone to give it a try!

The Ocean: billows, deep, brine, offing, wave, flux tide current

 

Write What You Notice

I recently attended a teacher’s workshop presented by Penny Kittle at Rutgers University sponsored by Rutgers Center for Literacy Development.  I’ve seen Penny many times. Usually, she talks to teachers about creating reading and writing workshop spaces in high school classes.  Penny was a high school English teacher in New Hampshire and her mentor was the late, great Donald Graves.  I was looking forward to Penny’s presentation because she is always inspiring and gives my teaching doldrums a spark.   This time, I was especially looking forward to hearing her because she would be talking about one of my favorite subjects – Poetry.   However, in the back of my mind, I thought there was very little new that I’d learn ,since I was a student of Adrienne Rich, have published some poetry, and have taught poetry to children for the last 40 years.  What could Penny teach me that I could bring back to the faculty at my school?  Probably not much, but I’d have a great day listening to and writing poetry.  That is a noble undertaking in cold and dreary January.

And of course, Penny had much to share.  She talked about exposing students to a lot of poetry, reading it aloud and re-reading it.  Then lifting a favorite line and using that line to spark one’s own poetry.  I’ve done this many times before both as a student and as a teacher, but practicing it again with unfamiliar poems made it all brand-new again to me.  One of Penny’s creative admonitions also rang true:  Don’t write what you know – Write what you noticeAs a little child, I was always noticing everything in my environment.  In fact, I was such a slow reader, because I was absorbing and dissecting the author’s craft.  I didn’t want anything to escape my notice.  I was also a notorious eavesdropper, using everything little tidbit in different poems, stories, and drawings. Helping students develop a keen eye for noticing is a essential in having them grow to be more curious and deliberate writers.

Then came a space in Penny’s presentation in which she showed a video clip of a poem by Patrick Roche, “21 Cups.”  I could not keep up with the rest of the workshop activities after that.  I became entranced by Patrick’s poem both the way in which he constructed it – counting back from 21 years to one year old – and the compelling way he described the dysfunctional relationship he had with his father.  Patrick’s poem completely held my attention; completely made me sit up and take notice.  Now, this is the true power of a poem. I immediately had to share it with someone.  Who could I share this poem with?  I knew almost immediately – Mike Rosen!  Mike is a former student of mine, and now he is an amazing, accomplished spoken word poet.  I would share Patrick’s poem with Mike; he would understand.  And of course, the world being what it is – small and round – Mike knew Patrick’s poem and had organized a poetry slam in which Patrick was one of the participants.  Small world, indeed.  And that is the other power of poetry – it connects.

I strive to write poems that will make people sit up and notice and connect.  I want to help students writers to notice, connect, and share.  One of the 3rd grade classes in the the school where I am the ELA Curriculum Coordinator, introduces children to philosophical ideas through literature.  This past week, the 3rd grade teacher shared with me her students’ reaction to the question: “Is art and poetry necessary for a community?” after reading Leo Lionni’s book, Frederick This teacher was a bit dismayed that her young students all agreed that poetry and art were indeed NOT necessary.  She wanted to jump into the discussion and tell them that they were wrong, but that is not allowed in philosophical discussions.  My reaction to her was that she needed to provide her students with more art, music, and poetry and have them wonder what life would be without the arts.  This is what happens when we separate the arts from academic instruction, but that is a topic at another time!

Penny ended her presentation by sharing the work she has been doing as a board member of the non-profit group, Poetic Justice, which helps incarcerated women in Oklahoma express their feelings and ideas through poetry and writing classes.  Here, Penny illustrates the immense need for community to forgive and heal through poetry.  Here, she shows  pathways between the outside and inside world.  Here, there is a place for inmates to  explore the depths of right and wrong and redemption.  And it is here where readers sit up, take notice and are transformed.