Wednesday, March 28, 2012


by Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void

I subscribe to a free daily dose of these cartoons by Hugh MacLeod. (Sign up here.) It's creepy but wonderful how often they "talk" to me by giving me just the message I need to hear at the moment they land in my inbox.

I used one in a post a week ago, when I was shaking my head at getting the word SCUTTLE in Ed DeCaria's Madness! 2012 Poetry Writing Tournament, and at the crazy improbability that I could even hope to win against the amazing children's poet Julie Larios.

Well, win I did, and the word I got on Sunday night, for a competition against Greg Pincus, master of wit, rhyme and puns is...


I spent 6 straight hours Monday night after school working on a poem that uses the word stigma in it. 

The way I looked at it, I had two options: a poem about social disgrace, or a poem about one of the reproductive parts of a plant.

I was totally stuck because I was trying to write a poem about the word. I needed to write a poem that just used that word in passing. That's when I decided to write a poem about saffron.

What do I know about saffron and saffron harvesting? I have a bottle of it in my spice cupboard. I've cooked with it maybe once or twice in my life. Thank goodness for the internet. I Googled "Saffron Harvest," and through the pictures, video, and websites, I created a virtual experience for myself, and boiled it down into a poem I could be proud of.

As agonizing and frustrating as it was to work for SIX hours on this poem, the moment when I realized I was on the right track was an amazing and addictive kind of high. Because of this contest, I am learning that I really do LOVE to write poetry.

I am not that good at writing funny poems, or poems with a regular rhythm and spot-on rhymes. But I am finding out, through this contest, that I am good at near-rhyme, flow, titles, and nailing down endings.

Voting is still live throughout today for the "Elite Eight" poems in the Madness! 2012 Poetry Contest. My poem is here.  It lost by a couple of votes, but I'm still feeling lika a big winner.

Thank you Ed DeCaria at Think Kid, Think for a fun game.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this!!! You are a poet and you did not even know it~~~Your poems are AWESOME just like YOU!!!

  2. I've really enjoyed your poetry, and am excited for you that you are doing so well with this challenge (and loving it!). Your "Swim" poem from a couple of years ago has stuck with me. Beautiful writing there, too. Good luck!

  3. I love this. Gonna write about it tomorrow for Poetry Friday. Your story, your experience is why these kind of things are important. How it can change you, teach you... loved your poems so much. I look forward to more from you in the future!

  4. I enjoyed reading your poetry. Isn't it amazing all the things we learn that we never intended to learn when we try something new? I'm looking forward to your April blog posts. :)

  5. This is really amazing. You're right, there's nothing like that moment when you realize that what you're writing is going to work. It totally IS a high. I love it too. Thanks for writing about it!

  6. Hi Mary Lee,
    I am new here in the kidlitosphere, but I have to tell you how much I loved MMPoety. I voted for your Stigma poem. And actually have been surprised at how I have reacted when "my poems" have not won the vote!!!!

    I am a recently retired teacher (40 happy years) and it was discovering POETRY for literacy that kept me alive and eager after the "real" retirement age. I am eagerly reading and catching up on some wonderful ideas, poems and more on so many sites that are being shared in this community.

    Don't you love Ed? Can't wait for next year and congratulations for your efforts. Also I love the "Ode to Mary Lee" on Irene's blog. During our school's author day, Gail Carson Levine visited my classroom last spring to see what I was doing with poetry and she has a new book of false apology poems based on "This is Just to Say" but there is NOTHING false in your work or Irene's ode to you! (Also Joyce Sidman has a book of apology poetry, too, which I am reading and enjoying.)

    Are you coming to IRA in Chicago? I will be sharing there again about my poetry approach with elementary kids.....


    1. Janet,
      Welcome to the Kidlitosphere and Poetry Friday! Thank you for your kind comments about my MM Poems! I love Gail Carson Levine's new book of false apologies, and I love Joyce Sidman's, too!

      Unfortunately, I won't be at IRA this year -- it is during our testing week, and I need to be with my students. Maybe NCTE in November?


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