Friday, January 22, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Just This One Thing


Amanda Gorman

That is all, because she is all that.

Laura Shovan has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Laura Shovan.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Poetry Friday -- A Poem for The Week After


A List of Things That Will Set You Free

– Joyce Sidman







A voice.

A touch.


Not caring.

Saying to yourself:

I am too old to do this.

I am too young to do this.

I am too smart to do this.

It’s not my fault.

It is my fault, and I will fix it.

I can do this.

(poem used in its entirety with Joyce Sidman's permission)

This is the poem I chose for our weekly poem this week. It was a poem that I needed in The Week After (which turned out to be another Week Of), and I was curious to see what my students would take from it.

On the first day, we dug into reactions and noticings, and they were stumped initially by the two halves of the poem. They noticed that the pairs in the first half seem to go together (except for caring/not caring), while the second half tells how to react to things. 

On the next day, when we read for meaning and craft, one student argued that the pairs of words in the first half in fact don't go together. I suggested that perhaps we could let the title of the poem help us think about the pairs, and that unlocked their thinking. Feet/wheels set us free by letting us go places; wind/sun set us free with happiness; words/music set us free with the ability to create; voice/touch set us free by making us feel better; caring/not caring set us free by giving us the choice to help. In the second half, each of the statements also set us free to choose, and that last one..."accepting that it's your fault frees you from guilt, and when you fix it, you are truly free."

As for Joyce Sidman's craft moves, they noticed the uniqueness of the spacing and the pairs of single words ("there are no unnecessary words"), and "the way it looks forces you to read it in a certain way."

For myself, I keep going back to those last three lines. Everything that's happened in our country a white liberal woman, what is my fault (or complicity)? How will I help to fix this rift in our country? And oh that last line, which exudes the confidence I don't really have, but into which I must lean.

Margaret has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Reality of Living in Historic Moments

Last Thursday, my students weren't ready to talk about the takeover of the Capitol. So we got on with our day.

Truth be told, I wasn't ready either. I had too many big emotions and I wasn't sure how to keep myself objective. I didn't want to cause more harm. (Plus lots of other head-in-the-sand excuses. I won't list them all.)

But, as a trusted and valued colleague pointed out to me, I hadn't explored exactly WHY my students were reluctant to talk. So on Friday, I asked them, and between their answers and the information I've been gathering, I'm ready. 

It's my responsibility to help my students develop the skills to understand and process whatever Historic Moments come their way in the next weeks or years, and I'm ready.

Here's my plan for now:

I made time for these conversations. I found 15 minutes each day I could label "Reading the World." Now that there's a small chunk of time ready, we can take on these Big Ideas a little at a time. I don't feel pressured to do everything all at once.

Using a three-column chart, we'll explore the variety of Historic Moments in which we've been living (BLM, police brutality, the election, the take-over of the Capitol, pandemic, online learning, etc.), what makes it easier/safe to talk/think about these moments (based on their comments last Friday, a strong classroom community), and what makes it harder/scarier to talk/think about these moments (my family supports the other candidate, personal connections to the moments).

Dig into fact vs. opinion, objective vs. biased.

Look at kid-appropriate sources for current events: 
DOGO news
Time for Kids

Consider this question deeply: Why is history important? (Understanding the response of white police to white rioters vs. white police to peaceful Black protesters, understanding the implications behind the Confederate flag in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, etc.)

Think about: What can we do?

Here are a couple of helpful resources I've found:

Educator's Playbook from University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

What is your plan moving forward in discussing the reality of living in historic moments?

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Poetry Saturday -- The Week in Poetry

What a week. But also -- what a week in poetry.

On Tuesday, as I drove towards the beginning of the second half of the grand experiment known as Remote Learning Academy, I listened to Pádraig Ó Tuama on Poetry Unbound. I had finished listening to King and the Dragonflies that morning while I exercised and I hadn't chosen my next audiobook. Podcast time! I was a little behind on Poetry Unbound episodes. I chose Ellen Bass -- Bone of My Bones and Flesh of My Flesh. I'll wait while you go listen, if you haven't already.

At the end of his commentary, Ó Tuama says,
"I think this poem invites us to think about the power of language and how language can serve to silence or to eradicate or to erase or deny, or to elevate and acknowledge. And even within those denials, people survive with defiance, and they can raise language to an even better level of acknowledgement and public celebration about what love looks like, especially when that love and that dignity has been denied."
The words in bold/italics are what lifted me up on that drive to school, and as I wrote my welcome back message on Google Classroom, I referred to my students as "my lovelies."

In the comments to that post, AP expressed delight at being referred to as "my lovelies." So on Wednesday, I addressed them as an "Amazing Rainbow of Awesomeness." AP was nearly giddy. Would I do it again on Thursday? she asked. How could I not? On Thursday, they were "my sweet babboos" and on Friday, "Dear Ones." 

Thank you, Pádraig Ó Tuama, for inspiring me to find and create terms of endearment that infuse more expressions of love into my classroom. This is another one of those seeds that I plant, having no way of knowing if/how it will later sprout in these children's lives. But it's a seed worth planting.

Also this week, I started my Poem-A-Week project. After realizing that there are 20 weeks left in the school year, and therefore the opportunity for the close study of (just!) 20 poems, I asked the world (via Twitter) for suggestions of poems I might include. I made my choices, but then promptly chose something for the first week that wasn't part of the original plan. And it turned out perfectly. As we began a new routine of choosing reading goals and logging reading and evidence for our goals in a new and simplified digital reader's notebook (aka BOB, which stands for Book of Books, hat tip to Monica Edinger for the original idea of BOB and Maria Caplin for the digital BOB), and as I reminded myself to START SLOWLY, I chose Lee Bennett Hopkins' "Good Books, Good Times!" 

Each day we read the poem (I encourage them to read along behind their muted microphones) and then do just a little bit of unpacking together (hat tip to Tara Smith for the idea of unpacking poems). I have created a slide show for the poems and for documentation of the unpacking work. Here's the plan: on the first day, I just read the poem (projected so they can read along); day two, after reading the poem, I invite reactions/noticing; day three is meaning/craft; day four is respond/connect; day five (I haven't had one yet) might be a guest reader who will also give their thoughts about the poem. I'm making this a routine, but keeping the poem choice flexible on my end so I can be responsive to my learners and the events of the world. 

In light of 1/6/21, my choice for next week's poem might be " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson, or "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry. (I think "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes is too much for fifth grade, but it's the poem in MY heart right now.) Whatever I choose, it will be a way in for us to talk about the events of 1/6/21. My students weren't ready to talk on Thursday, and yesterday I invited them to give me feedback on why they were hesitant to talk about the news. I got some valuable insight. But that's another post for another day...or week. Stay tuned.

Poetry. Another seed worth planting.

Sorry to be a day late for Poetry Friday. This may be my new normal moving forward. Sylvia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Poetry for Children

(If you've had trouble with your comments disappearing from our blog, I think it's because the site takes a LONG time to load. That's what happens when you have 15 years worth of content (happy belated blog anniversary to A Year of Reading)! Here's the hack: stop the page from loading before you type/submit your comment.)

Friday, January 01, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Inspired By

The poem of the day today from is Day 29 (2020) by Jamila Woods. Her poem was inspired by Things I Didn't Know I Loved by Nazim Hikmet.

My poem-draft is inspired by both of them.

image via Unsplash

Things I Didn't Know I Loved

it's January 1st 2021
i'm sitting at the kitchen table
my hands are cold
but the space heater warms my feet
i never knew i liked
being warm and cold at the same time
it's like
winter lap swimming
the steamy heat of the natatorium
the shocking cold of the water
the satisfaction of having swum

it's also like sweet and salty
i've always known i liked
sweet and salty
pancakes with bacon
chocolate pretzels
icing on crackers

it's nothing like clutter and order
or is it
i used to hate the clutter in my mother's house
my apartment was clean and empty
i was young
now i'm sitting at the kitchen table
my hands are cold
i'm crowded by books lists mugs 
pencil case glasses case stacks of mail
pens in a cup headphones cat toys and
only the words on this page
have any semblance of order

at least my feet are warm

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 (draft)

Ruth has the first Poetry Friday Roundup of 2021 at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Wistful

photo via Unsplash

It's the Poetry Sisters' last challenge for 2020: to write to the theme of "Wish I'd Been There," or to an historical event that incites wistfulness. Here's my draft.


We live at the corner of Lincoln and Forest.
What I wouldn't give to stand here
and turn the dial of time backward,
rewind the threads of now
onto the spool of eternity,
pavement evaporating,
divisive moments in human history blurring, retreating, disappearing
as the beech-oak-hickory canopy
closes in
concealing a sky that has never known contrails.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020 (draft)

Irene has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Live Your Poem

Friday, December 18, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Live Your Poem

Irene Latham's blog name is my inspiration this week: Live Your Poem.

This week's poem began by planting seeds for my students' "If Kids Ran the World" projects in 2021. On Monday, our guest speaker was Imran Nuri, my former student who is the founder and CEO of the charity nonprofit The 52 Million Project. Then, on Tuesday, we heard from Dash Yeatts-Lonske, son of Tabatha/The Opposite of Indifference, and co-founder of the advocacy nonprofit Schools Not Jails.

On the home front, I was baking cookies and preparing boxes for delivery. On Wednesday, hubby and I delivered 25 boxes containing 2 big gingerbread cookies, a "pastry bag" of icing, and three little containers of decorations to my Remote Learning Academy students. The boxes were tied with red ribbon and labeled "Do not open until the 9:00 meeting on Thursday!" Yesterday, the boxes were opened and year 37 of my cookie decorating tradition took place through the screen. 

Now I need to go iron my PJs and gather my pillows and blankets for my fort. Today we'll do all of our learning/teaching in our PJs inside our pillow forts (or, in my case, my under-the-standing-table fort).

This is my poem, and I'm living it to the fullest.

Happy Friday! Happy Poetry! Happy LIFE!

Michelle Kogan has the Poetry Friday Roundup, and it's dusted in stardust!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Spark!

In the podcast Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama always begins with something like "One of the things I love most about poetry is..." and that thing he loves leads to the encapsulation of the poem he's featuring. With that small bit in mind, we listen to the poem, then he zooms in and deconstructs the meanings and the craft moves in the poem. After he takes you deep inside a poem, you get to hear him read it one more time, and it's almost like hearing a new poem.

Let's try it.

One of the things I love most about poetry is the way it sometimes works like postcards or snapshots from another time. With just a few words, the poet moves us through time and space with their words and images.



After the first job,
before the second degree.

Blue Highways
South -- tobacco fields
West -- Navajo Nation
North -- regal mountains

box of cassette tapes
meadowlark on a fencepost
AM radio

single finger wave
small town hospitality
sense of direction

The longer I've written poetry and read poetry, I realize how often poems are about journeys of one kind or another. One thing that stands out for me about this poem is the stanza titles, which seem almost like notes scrawled on the backs of photos that have been tucked in an album. They also give each stanza a particular job within the poem, first letting the reader know the setting in time and place, then giving sensory details, and ending with a list.

In each of the stanzas, the details are concrete and vivid. Each of the places in the second stanza are iconic to the region, yet one can imagine that experienced from the "Blue Highways" of the stanza's title, they were more than simply stereotypical. The cassette tapes are a reminder that this is 1985, and the meadowlark and AM radio give a sense of the isolation of the journey. In the last stanza, the alliteration serves to stitch the three images together.

The title of the poem, "Six Weeks One Summer," gives one version of the time frame for the poem, while the first stanza pans out to the big picture of the speaker's life trajectory. The second stanza gives a sense of the scope of the journey in the poem. The final stanza brings the reader and the speaker back full circle with the list of souvenirs from the trip. The last line returns the reader's attention to the beginning, where the speaker is in a place "between," and lets the reader know that after six weeks of circling the country, the speaker has gained perspective and a sense of direction.



After the first job,
before the second degree.

Blue Highways
South -- tobacco fields
West -- Navajo Nation
North -- regal mountains

box of cassette tapes
meadowlark on a fencepost
AM radio

single finger wave
small town hospitality
sense of direction

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

Thank you for "listening" to my Pádraig Ó Tuama-style "podcast" about my poem. Here is the inspiration piece via Amy Souza's Spark project that I was provided for my writing:

"Finding Your Way" by Victoria Nessen

Buffy has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog Buffy Silverman, and there's ONE spot left on the roundup schedule for the next 6 months.

Happy Poetry! Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Roundup and D-39 Cover Reveal

Novelist and poet Irene Latham has never shied away from hard topics. With Charles Waters, she has tackled race and racism head on (pun intended), and given readers definitions that will pave the way into a brighter future. She has introduced us to heroic characters who lived through difficult times in the past.

And now she's turning her attention to the future.

Arriving in bookstores on May 18, 2021 is D-39: A Robodog's Journey (Charlesbridge). This middle grade dystopian future verse novel is told in tidy rectangular prose poems that are strung together like beads, with the last word or phrase of one becoming the title of the next. The language is rich and innovative, with a glossary full of newly-minted compound words.

For a taste of the look and sound of the poems, here is the very first poem in the book, to whet your appetite:

And yes, you read that description of the book correctly: D-39: A Robodog's Journey is a middle grade dystopian future verse novel.

I asked Irene why she chose to write a dystopian novel for middle grade readers: 
"When circumstances are dire, all the stuff that doesn't matter kind of falls away, and you discover what's most important to you— and maybe even who you really are. As a reader and as a writer, I enjoy exploring that white-hot space."
Although D-39 is a dystopian future novel based loosely on the timeline of diminishing freedoms the Syrians experienced during the Syrian War, it is primarily the story of a child and a dog, a journey, family relationships, home, heroism, and self-determination.

Irene knows the love of a dog. Her Rosie, a 2 year-old Australian shepherd, loves socks as much as D-39 loves gloves.

The landscape of D-39 is similar to that of North Dakota. Here's Irene on a research trip for the book:

Jamie Green is the artist who created the cover for D-39. Jamie is an illustrator/curious person based in Greenville, SC and recent graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design. When they aren't working they can be found climbing rocks, venturing through the woods or scouring the ground for mushrooms to study and catalogue.

This is what they had to say about creating the cover image for D-39:
As an artist, or in this case I will say "visual communicator," it is something special when you read through the manuscript and have the desire to do fanart of the characters. That's essentially what creating the cover for D-39 felt like to me. I was taking the Klynt and D-39 that I had been imagining in this cluttered shed and presenting them outward--how fun for me! My goal was to portray a sense of connection and determination in our main duo, while engulfed in a smattering of items that are seen in their journey together.

And now...


Here is the cover reveal of D-39: A Robodog's Journey

Join me in congratulating Irene on this newest amazing project! If you'd like to read a galley of the book, contact her at with your request.

And now, on to the Poetry Friday Roundup! Let's see what other wonders the Poetry Friday community has to share today! Leave your link with Mr. Linky.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
While we're on the subject of the roundup, we're gathering roundup hosts for January-June 2020. Check out the calendar and pick your date here.

Happy Poetry! Happy Friday!

Monday, November 30, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Call for Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between January and June 2021, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape, or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in, but perhaps choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? You can grab the list from the sidebar here at A Year of Reading, or I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. 

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!

And now for the where and when:

8    Sylvia at Poetry for Children
15  Margaret at Reflections on the Teche 
22  Laura at Laura Shovan
29  Jan at Bookseedstudio Optional theme: Sing!

5    Jone at Jone Rush MacCulloch
12  Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
26  Karen at Karen Edmisten*

5   Kat at Kathryn Apel
19 Linda at TeacherDance

2  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
23 Catherine at Reading to the Core

7   Bridget at wee words for wee ones
14 Irene at Live Your Poem
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan

4   Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
11 Carol at Carol's Corner
18 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
25 Linda at A Word Edgewise