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

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Poetry Friday

I joined Spark for the first time. Spark 46, the last round for 2020. A creativity challenged seemed like good way to end this wackadoodle year. 

Here is a poem I'm NOT submitting for the piece of art I can't show you yet:

MEANDER (an “In One Word” poem)

your dream
of reaching that destination. Rename
this aspiration “journey.” Endear
yourself to this dare.
When you find yourself near
fulfillment, read
the landscape, know what you need,
veer toward a new end.

Wandering is a pleasure earned.
Ramble your amen.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

Here are some celebrations from #NCTE2020 last weekend, not the least of which is the recipient of the Excellence in Poetry for Children Award, Janet Wong!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NCTE 2020 -- So Much to Celebrate!


Janet Wong, recipient of the 2021 Excellence in Poetry for Children Award

I Am Every Good Thing, winner of the 2021 Charlotte Huck Award 
for Outstanding Fiction for Children (along with all of the honor and recommended books)

Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball, winner of the 2021 Orbis Pictus Award
for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (along with all of the honor and recommended books)

Good thing conference attendees have 60 days to continue to access the archives! What are some sessions that were too fabulous to miss?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Messages From the Universe

 This morning, between this page (which I've already seen) in my Everyday Offerings book...

...and this page (which I've already seen)...

I found this new message for the day:

And I flipped over the next card in my meditation deck...

I looked up, and the vase of flowers on my table said this:

Wednesday night, listening to the Scholastic Independent Reading Panel, I heard Peter H. Reynolds say this:

a gentle rebel
leans outside the box
as far as they can

(without being fired)

Earlier on Wednesday, one of my students shot an observation straight into my heart: "This is so hard. This way of learning." What she was missing the most were the times of collaboration and conversation students have while working side by side in a physical classroom. Our remote learning independent work times are solitary, and my learners have been isolated during these work times.

The words of Peter H. Reynolds nudged me to reconsider our daily schedule. Could I make time for my students to virtually sit side by side, working together, helping each other (and certainly chatting a bit)? 

Yes. And when I previewed our new schedule with the class, they were SO appreciative that I'd listened and responded. 

The Scholastic Independent Reading Panel speakers helped me to reimagine my daily message to my students about their 30 minute independent reading time:
  • How are the books you’re choosing helping you to become the person you want to be?
  • How are the books you’re choosing helping you to understand the lives and feelings of others?
  • How are the books you’re reading bringing you joy?
  • How are the books you’re reading helping you to understand your own identity?
  • How are the books you’re reading helping you to understand the way the world works so that you can make it a better place for everyone?
And those first messages in my Everyday Offerings book? They have helped me lean further out of my box than I ever thought possible as I plan for a study of what happens in a democracy AFTER an election. About the work regular citizens do to keep our nation running.

we make some noise
we split open and sparkle
then put the pieces together
become a magnet for miracles
and bloom with wild abandon

Thank you, Universe.

Happy Friday, friends! Happy Poetry Friday!

Linda B. has graciously rescued this week's Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance. 2020 strikes again!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Everyday Advocacy: Teachers Who Change the Literacy Narrative

Today, the book Everyday Advocacy: Teachers Who Change the Literacy Narrative by Cathy Fleischer and Antero Garcia is available! This is an important book for all educators who want to work to change the narrative about literacy and education. This is a must-read for educators. It would be a great book to read with a group of colleagues--local or beyond--to think about how you can make a difference as part of your everyday work.

We had the chance to ask Cathy and Antero some questions about their book and the ideas behind it. We hope you learn from all they have to say and the resources they share. 

Franki: Why do you think it is important for teachers to have advocacy skills?

Cathy and Antero: The public narrative surrounding teachers is too often dismissive, demeaning, and just plain wrong--based on “what it was like when I went to school” or on years of one-dimensional media depictions of either the hero teacher (who works 80 hours a week to save kids) or the uncaring teacher who doesn’t take the work seriously. Neither of these depictions fit the teachers we know, the teachers who are committed to professional learning and thoughtful curriculum development, who care deeply about students, who continually work to improve their own teaching, and who make meaningful decisions about what to teach and what not to teach.

But sadly, so many decisions about how and what we teach have been taken away from teachers and placed in the hands of people who are not regularly in schools and who quite simply don’t have the knowledge or expertise to decide how and what we should teach.

This is why teachers need advocacy skills--to share their voices, their stories, their expertise in order to shift the public narrative around teaching in order to help others (colleagues, administrators, legislators and community members) see teachers and teaching differently.

Franki: You’ve really worked to redefine advocacy for educators and to broaden the ways in which we, as teachers can see ourselves doing this work. I imagine that has been very intentional. Can you talk about that journey?

Cathy: For me it began twenty years ago when my husband (an environmental advocate) and I would talk over the dinner table about our work, and I learned how he uses advocacy measures to create campaigns on specific environmental issues. His super-smart thinking on things like cutting an issue, identifying decision-makers, and finding allies led me to start studying community organizing and advocacy, interviewing organizers in multiple fields, and thinking hard about how what they do could be adapted for teachers. I began writing about what I was learning and then offering workshops for teachers so I see how they thought advocacy might work for them, how it could be a part of their already overly busy lives rather than an add-on. This led to co-creating the Everyday Advocacy website with former NCTE Communications Director Jenna Fournel, which features hands-on approaches to advocacy and teacher stories from these workshops. Truly, every single day I learn more and more from the amazing teachers who do this work: how they continue to advocate for ways of teaching and learning they know are important in their specific contexts.

Antero: Before learning about Everyday Advocacy from Cathy and her work with Jenna, my work with teachers tended to focus on what we refer to in the book as “big A” Advocacy. My scholarship and my experiences in classrooms often emphasized activist stances toward justice that, admittedly, can get in the way of some teachers seeing themselves as advocates. Part of what’s appealed to me about the work that Cathy leads is that every teacher can see themselves in this work, it builds on what they know, it encourages them to center student learning needs, and it is focused on results for the here and now. I think getting every teacher to see themselves as an advocate and building capacity with this skill set is an imperative for classroom teachers right now; that it still connects to bigger issues around democracy, labor, and freedom is an added bonus.

Franki: Can you talk about the importance of the word “everyday” in your title and idea about advocacy?

Cathy and Antero: Advocacy seems like a big scary word—it’s what those paid community organizers or lobbyists do to get bills passed or to organize marches with thousands of people in the street. But there are a ton of examples in the world of folks who use their voices and tell their stories as part of their day to day lives—and that’s what we mean when we use the term everyday advocacy--part-of rather than add-on.

The word also reminds us that the regularity of advocacy in the lives of teachers makes it feel less scary. Like going to the gym (in the times when it was safe to do so!), advocacy is a muscle that develops or atrophies through everyday use.

Franki: Everyone has ideas about education and it seems that teachers are no longer the people trusted when it comes to decision-making. But you have a strong belief in teachers and you have ideas about how we can change the narrative. What can teachers do locally and beyond to change that?

Cathy and Antero: It’s true--we do believe in teachers! As we say in the introduction to the book, “We believe in their power to inspire, challenge, support, and care for the students with whom they work--day-in and day-out, in often challenging circumstances, and with intelligence and grace. Teachers, we know, are contemporary superheroes, and we believe they should be honored as such, each and every day.”

But teachers are not always trusted to make decisions about curriculum and pedagogy and assessment and a host of other issues. And the narrative that we mentioned above--one that is too often dismissive and demeaning--has become even stronger during this pandemic. We’ve been amazed at the ways some people are dismissing the herculean effort that teachers are putting forth and disheartened that teacher voices were too often absent from discussions of how to do school this year.

We believe that teachers can change that narrative and bring their voices into the discussion--and the book is filled with ideas about how to do that. Specifically, teachers can focus on a particular issue that impacts them in their local setting, learn as much as they can about that issue (by carefully observing students in their own classrooms, working to understand the context of their own communities, and immersing themselves in what others have written and said about the issue); seek like-minded colleagues and community members to become allies; and set out a plan to help others understand the issue differently. It’s not always easy, but as the examples in the book show, teachers are doing this work in all kinds of ways.

Franki: With limited time, what are some quick tips for how teachers might do move advocacy work?

Cathy and Antero: We think working proactively is the first big step. What can you do as a teacher to help other teachers, administrators, parents, and community members understand why you teach in the ways you do? You can host a parent night in which you ask these adults to share memories of reading and writing in their lives and then connect their memories to why you use choice reading and writing workshops. Or you might begin a children’s or young adult book club for students and parents that focuses on diverse books so parents can both up their own knowledge and watch how their students respond. Or you might share student work regularly with your families and administrators so they can see the great work that emerges when you teach in a particular way.

This proactive advocacy leads to you developing more allies as others understand your thinking and your teaching. And once they understand, we’ve found they are more willing to have your back if questions or concerns arise down the road.

Franki: Who are some people (other than the authors in your book) who educators can follow as models for their own advocacy work?

Cathy and Antero: We love the blog Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care as an example of how you can write for the public. Check out their Tips for Writing for Parents as one resource.

We also love Jessyca Matthew’s articles for Teaching Tolerance and her interview for NEA’s Social Justice Advocate of the Year.

The ELATE Commission on Social Justice has a ton of useful resources on their easy to remember site:

As a professional learning community, the Marginal Syllabus project has been a years-running effort to bridge the theories described in NCTE journals into dialogue and practice; the ideas and connections here are useful and rejuvenating.

Lastly, getting to read about the big and small forms of advocacy happening in the lives of teachers and teacher educators is always illuminating. Literacy scholar Betina Hsieh and math teacher Jose Vilson’s blogs are both wonderful.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poetry Friday: Haiku Diary

 I got way behind posting my daily haiku on Twitter with #haikudiary and #poeticdiversion, but I kept at it in my notebook. Here are the week's snippets:

Friday, 11/6

Poetry Friday
digital, virtual
still magical

Saturday, 11/7

everywhere I look
red and blue harmonize

Sunday, 11/8

unseasonable heat
restacking the woodpile

Monday, 11/9

midday walk at the farm
no blue birds, but a monarch
don't dawdle

Tuesday, 11/10

almost tears at lunchtime

Wednesday, 11/11

Oh, to go fishing --
rippling water, leaping trout --
instead...more work.

Thursday, 11/12

Where do you want to visit?
Dreaming our futures.

Robyn Hood Black (Queen of the Haiku) has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Life on the Deckle Edge

Friday, November 06, 2020

Poetry Friday: "A Portable Paradise"


On Wednesday, I received the best gift of all -- the right poem at the right time.

I'm still grieving the loss of The Slowdown podcast, and haven't brought myself to listen to the final episode. Maybe today.

Luckily, I have a backlog of Poetry Unbound episodes, and luckily, I picked the one from Monday. Pádraig Ó Tuama reads and comments on Roger Robinson's poem "A Portable Paradise."

"And if I speak of Paradise,
then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath."

What a lovely thought -- keeping my Paradise close at hand to give me comfort in times of stress. Yes.
But without Pádraig Ó Tuama's commentary, I would have missed the shift of the pronouns in the sixth line. Before that, the pronouns are "I." In line six comes "they." After line six, the pronouns are "you" and "your."

Ó Tuama suggests that this shift allows us to read "ethically," moving from a self-centered reading to a consideration of all the times when we've been the ones to steal another's paradise. 

Oof. I had to sit with that idea for the rest of the drive to school. Yet another example of all the ways we need to do our own internal work before we'll be ready to fully engage in the big work that the world is giving us right now.

Big work, indeed. As I've been saying to myself and my students all week, no matter what the outcome of the election, we need to stay focused on the three metaphors I chose for me/us: the big umbrella that welcomes all into its shelter, the lightbulb of truth and learning, and the bridge that spans divides. Our focus is on positive activism -- using our voices and our actions to lead the world in a positive direction.

Happy Poetry Friday! Thanks to the technological marvel of breakout rooms in Google Meet and the great good gift of Amy LV's online poetry archives, today we will attempt Poetry Friday they way I did it when we were in the classroom together and I could send students to my poetry shelves for a book: pick a poem, practice reading it aloud, perform it for the whole class. 

Susan has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Soul Blossom Living.