Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 4 National Poetry Month: My World

My World 

Racing out the door
I bark
again and again
trying to sound bigger
than I am.

My eyes do not see
like they once did.
My ears no longer
hear the danger
that surrounds me.

Moving around
my favorite spaces
to circle the tree,
to smell grass,
I bark louder.

My world is smaller now
than it once was.
I no longer see
the deer taunting me,
the rabbits
wanting to play.

I no longer hear
the birds in the trees
or my family
calling me
to come back in.

So I will bark
long and loud,
to protect
the space that remains
in my world.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2016

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Day 3 National Poetry Month 2016: Country Living

Country Living
When I moved
to this country home
I knew I did
just the right thing.

Yes, I miss the power lines,
the ability to skitter
from tree to tree
along city streets.

Yes, I miss my cousins
who nested in the trees
near my old home
and would stop by to visit.

But it was noisy there
in the city,
and the cars
were too frequent.  

When I arrived 
at my country home
I knew this would be
the place I'd live forever.

Yes, I have to watch for the dog 
that races out of the house
from time to time
wanting to play chase.

Yes, I have to watch for the coyote
who saunters through the fields
every now and then
looking for his next meal.  

But, there are no squirrels
that live nearby,
when oak drops her acorns
they are all mine.

Cars are rarely seen 
near my new home,
and the quiet is something
I have learned to love.

Today I found the best treasure:
stuffing for my new nest.
It's fluffy white
like the clouds in the sky.

When I moved
to this country home
I knew I did
just the right thing.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2016

The Idea
Ha!  Today's poem came walking up to my patio - literally.  

We moved into our country home over twenty years ago.  One of the first things we noticed was that we didn't have any squirrels.  It was strange.  We had trees.  We had food, but we didn't have squirrels.  We had moved to our country home from the city where squirrels were abundant.  They'd race from tree to tree, across power lines, and into the roads a drop of a nut.  

Last year we noticed our first squirrel.  It was a red tailed squirrel who seemed to own our back acreage.  This spring we've noticed a gray squirrel.  Hmmm.  Yesterday morning as I wrote my poem I looked out on the patio to see the gray squirrel grabbing the stuffing from one of our patio chair pillows.  I had been blaming the birds, but it was the thief of a squirrel who was doing it.  

It's National Poetry Month!  I will be joining others across the blogosphere to attempt to write a poem every day during the month of April.  You'll find other great poetry stops in my sidebar.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Day 2 National Poetry Month: The Poet

The Poet

I wonder where she finds the words
that flow from her pen
into her leather bound notebook
where pages once blank
bounce with lilting lines.

She wanders the world
with eyes wide open
searching for something
the rest of us
do not yet see.

Though poems try to escape her
she captures them,
piece by piece,
in tiny details,
in words sculpted with care.

Like the photographer
she sees with different eyes,
holds the image still,
for others to see,
just as she sees it.

Like the musician
she finds a rhythm,
speaks the truth,
in ways
we do not understand.

Like the artist
she captures color,
creates mood;
helping others to know
the beauty overlooked.

I want to walk beside her
as she spends her day
pursuing her poem,
words wandering through her world,
arranging and rearranging themselves.

It must be some kind of magic
as she waves her wand pen,
turning the ordinary
into something
never seen before.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2016

The Idea
Today's poem was inspired by a collision between a stop by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog and a book I am reading by Mary Oliver.  If you haven't stopped by Amy's blog to see her wanderings and wonderings for April you should go there now.  In Amy's recent post she was shared:

"I am looking to surprise myself with new inspiration daily.  This year, such inspiration will show up in my inbox each morning.  I will print it and carry each Wonderopolis Wonder around all day...and in the afternoon or evening, I will write and post the poem for the next day."  -Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
As I read her lines, I thought about the power of what she was saying.  It seems often a poem isn't just right there waiting to be written, but if we take an idea and wrestle with the words as we wander through the day the words eventually find their way to paper.  I had to smile at the image of Amy and poets around the world doing this very thing.

In A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver reminds us,
"A poem must have a necessary quality of detail - enough to sustain the reader's passage into the imagined world of the poem"  Mary Oliver, p. 93.  
It was the collision of this quote and the way Amy talked about finding her poem across her day that made me wonder about poets.  How do they find the magic in their words?   How do we find the "necessary quality of detail" in our poems?

Thinking About
I've been thinking about the chapters in Oliver's book, The Poetry Handbook, titled "Sound," "More Devices of Sound," and "The Line."  To oversimplify Oliver's advice, when writing poetry (so I'm thinking especially free verse and narrative poetry) we have think about the way words work together.  How do they propel readers forward and slow them down?  How do we make lines dance and create rhythm in our poem?  Consonants, vowels, syllables, and sounds do change the way a poem is read by others.  I've been trying to think about considering her advice to help readers move with ease across parts of the poem, and slow down in other parts of the poem.

It's National Poetry Month!  I will be joining others across the blogosphere to attempt to write a poem every day during the month of April.  You'll find other great poetry stops in my sidebar.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Day 1 National Poetry Month: Each New Day

I don't know
how many sunrises I have seen
pinks, purples, and white-yellows
blending in the morning sky;
the day calling with possibility.

I don't know
how many times I have
looked up at the afternoon sky,
bright blue with clouds dancing,
settling into the rhythm of the day.

I don't know
how many sunsets have painted the earth
the sun resting on the horizon
hues of red, purple, and orange;
as the day begins to close.

I don't know
how many times I've looked up
at the ebony sky at night,
constellations dot the canvas;
as dreams replace reality.

I don't know
how many skies I have seen
in this wonderful lifetime
or how many more will follow
in moments yet to come.

I only know
I am grateful for each.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2016

It's Poetry Friday!  Stop by The Poem Farm where Amy VanDerwater hosts today's parade of wondrous words.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Day 31 SOL 16: Shifting to Poetry

"One learns by thinking and writing, and by talking about writing - but primarily through writing."      ---Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook (p. 17)

Today one door closes another one opens, as today I step from the month long Slice of Life Writing Challenge with Two Writing Teachers into a month of writing poetry for April's National Poetry Month celebration.  I'm looking forward to spending some time writing poetry.  This is my third year to join poetry bloggers in a month of writing (thanks, Mary Lee, for the nudge and inspiration).

Many moons ago I was talking about poetry with a friend and poet.  We were discussing poetry and I was lamenting that poets seemed to have a style.  I'm always trying to figure out my style.  Do I write for children or adults?  Do I write about small things or moments?  What type of poetry feels right when I sit down to put words on paper?  Without skipping a beat, my friend commented, "You're a narrative poet."  She said it so quickly that I had to pause to consider her words.  In a sense she was right.  I'm not sure I've found my place in poetry yet, but I'm going to use this month to try it out a bit.  As Mary Oliver says, "One learns...primarily by writing."

I considered a theme.  I'm looking forward to Mary Lee's writing around old photographs and Amy VanDerwater's quest to Wallow in Wonder.  There will be a myriad of other poets choosing a lens for celebration.  I can't wait to see what the month has in store for me ---- and kicking off Poetry Month on a Friday is more cause for celebration.  I did consider a theme, but I've decided I'm going to spend the month working on the craft of poetry and see where it takes me.  While I don't plan to have a theme (of course, who knows what will happen), I do plan to focus on narrative poetry and improving my craft in free verse poetry.  I've gathered my mentors:

I'm looking forward to the switch to writing poetry.  I know it will focus my attention on smaller moments, on word selection, on the rhythms of a poem, and on the significance of a line.  There's something comfortable about poetry.  On the days when I struggled to find something to write about during March's challenge, I could ease the stress by thinking about poem.  So here we go....another crazy month of writing.  Who's in??

For the month of March I will be participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted at Two Writing Teachers.  It has been a busy month of writing, commenting, and learning with this community.  THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!!  Stop by today's link up to join the conversation or find some great reading.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Day 30 SOL 16: Lessons Learned

Yesterday I met with our Slice of Life group, a mix of first through fifth graders, for our last meeting before the challenge ends.  The students gathered around the carpet as we talked about what we've loved about the challenge.  One student shared that she has written every day for two years of the challenge.  "I'm not sure what I will do next year when I'm in the sixth grade building," she bemoaned.

"No worries," I assured her, "you just track me down.  I'll help you figure it out."

The group started to rumble as they considered the end of our challenge.  Our conversation turned to what they'd learned in their month of writing.  Several students had written every day, or nearly every day, since the challenge began.  Others had maintained some consistency in posting for the month.  Everyone had learned lessons of one kind or another.  We started a Padlet for students to share what they had learned with the group (you can view their responses here).

Like my students, and like other participants, I've learned a few things along the way myself:

  1. I'm a morning writer.  (Well, I already knew this, but it was very apparent as I don't have "morning time" during the school week.)
  2. My writing is best when I decide what I'm writing about early, and then work the piece in my head across the day.  
  3. PUBLISHING a piece of writing everyday isn't easy.
  4. I'm not comfortable pushing the publish button before I feel a piece is ready.  
  5. If I don't write down an idea when it comes to me, it can be will be lost.
  6. Taking time for a quick write when the idea comes to me makes writing my piece much easier.  Just five minutes now can be quite powerful later.
  7. Working at this pace makes it hard to keep up with my reading...and reading inspires my writing. 
  8. Having a writing community matters for so many reasons!  I'm not sure where I'd be without my student writers, my friends participating, and the Slice of Life community.
  9. There are stories everywhere.
  10. I'm happier writing poetry.  (Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more about this.)  
Sometimes I've wished this challenge was in the summer when I really had the time to devote to the writing, but honestly I think I would miss the point that if you write every day you're bound to come up with a piece or two of writing that might have the potential to become something better with a little bit of sculpting.   Thank you to the group at Two Writing Teachers and all of you that have stopped by to comment.  I couldn't have finished without you!

For the month of March I will be participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted at Two Writing Teachers.  It will be a busy month of writing, commenting, and learning with this community.  Stop by today's link up to join the conversation or find some great reading.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Day 29 SOL 16: Happy Birthday, Mom

"I keep going back to your blog, but I haven't seen any new posts in awhile," my mom comments nonchalantly one evening as we chat on the phone.

I chuckle.  Saying you haven't seen any posts in "awhile" was a huge understatement.  I knew it had been weeks since my last post.  Actually, it was quite likely, the time could be measured in months.  "You know how I am.  When life gets busy, the blog seems to be the first thing to go," I reply.

I had to smile.  My mom is probably the only person in the world that has noticed I haven't posted from my blog in awhile.  My mom constantly stops by to check out what I have been writing, and always leaves a comment.

It makes me smile.  It's one thing to be in first grade and have your work hung on the refrigerator, but it's quite another to be as old as I am and still have a mom who is rooting for your every move.

In life moms come in many packages, but I lucked out for sure.  When life gets challenging, I call Mom.  When there's exciting news, I call Mom.  Need advice about the kids?  Call Mom.  Trying to figure out how to substitute ingredients?  Call Mom.  Hoping someone will just listen?  Call Mom.  My mom has always had the keen ability to listen and say just the right thing.

Today my mom celebrates her birthday, but I am surely the one who should be celebrating.  I count my blessings every day.

Happy birthday, Mom.

For the month of March I will be participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted at Two Writing Teachers.  It will be a busy month of writing, commenting, and learning with this community.  Stop by today's link up to join the conversation or find some great reading.