Thursday, March 2, 2017

Inspiring Poetry

The more poetry I read, the more I'm inspired to write my own. 
Bobbi Katz has been one of my poetry heroes since I  read her "Things to Do if You are a Subway."  Many years ago, when I taught fifth grade, it was one of my favorite mentor poems.  My students loved the language and imagery, and they were eager to write their own "Things to Do" poems.  Bobbi's poems are extremely popular with teachers.  Once you read them, you'll see why.

Things to Do If You Are a Subway

Pretend you are a dragon.
Live in underground caves.
Roar about underneath the city.
Swallow piles of people.
Spit them out at the next station.
Zoom through the darkness.
Be an express.
Go fast.
Make as much noise as you please.

-Bobbi Katz, all rights reserved

Things to do if you are the Sun

Let planets loop around you.
Be Earth’s very own star.
Keep things warm enough for people.
Keep things cool enough for penguins.
Slip away to end the day.
Light the moon at night.
Let people and animals sleep.
And at the crack of dawn,
wake up the world!

     -Bobbi Katz, all rights reserved

Don't you just love imagining subways as dragons "swallowing piles of people"? My fifth graders sure did!  I still remember their giggles when we read those lines. I wonder if Bobbi had any idea when she wrote her "Things to Do" poems that they would inspire so many of us.

Elaine Magliaro said that Bobbi's poems were the inspiration for her THINGS TO DO collection.  It's a book I wish I had when I was teaching elementary school. The poems are so much fun to read and excellent for teaching figurative language!   Imagine the poems this book would have inspired my students to write!  If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing a good one.

Laura Purdie Salas also has a brand new picture book, IF YOU WERE THE MOON, that is also based on the "Things to Do" poetry form. Laura's book reads like a lullaby combined with nonfiction passages to help young readers learn facts about the moon.   My favorite line is: "Spin like a twilight ballerina."  Isn't that gorgeous?  I can't wait to read it to my grandchildren.

Laura wrote a lovely blog post here explaining how she was inspired by Elaine's poems. You can also read a poem from Elaine's book "Things To Do If You Are RAIN."

My Writing Life Update:  It's been a month since I retired and started writing full-time.  I've settled into a daily routine that works for me.  I usually write 4-6 hours every day depending on doctor's appointments, and other responsibilities.  I have been revising a collection of picture book poems, writing stand-alone poems for a special project, and planning the two writing classes I'm teaching this spring.  I'm so grateful for this time in my life!

Looking for more inspiration, head over to Heidi's place at My Juicy Little Universe.


  1. I remember reading Stephen King's book on writing years ago, and one of his top recommendations to writers was to read, read, read! I definitely feel the same way about reading and writing - the more I read, the more inspired I am to write! Good luck with your writing projects - I don't know if I would have to personal drive and dedication to be able to be a full-time writer, I'm too easily distracted! ;-)

    1. Hi Jane, it does take a lot of discipline, but I'm finding that making a daily plan and sticking to it has been really helpful. Distractions are hard for me too. They throw me off sometimes. I just try to get back to my plan, but it doesn't always happen. : )

  2. Wow! You write four to six hours a DAY? You are amazing!

    1. Hi Ruth, it helps that my husband is still working. Once he retires, I think it will be harder for me to stick to my schedule. I usually write in chunks of about 1-2 hours, then take a break, and start again.

  3. Ruth wrote exactly what I was about to write--I am inspired by you!

    1. Hi Buffy, YOU are an inspiration to me! You are a professional writer, I'm just beginning this new "career." : )

  4. Hi Linda, thanks for all the inspiring books here. It's wonderful that you get to write in chunks of time!

  5. These are wonderful, as are Elaine's and Laura's new books. That "things to do" idea makes one's imagination light up, doesn't it? Glad you are getting into a routine, Linda. Best wishes!

  6. Linda, my friend, I could actually have written this post! Ditto "Subway," ditto "Sun," from my teaching life since the 80's, and this week I sat with both the books you feature and thought how they connected to Bobbi's Big Idea. So powerful for kids, to take the perspective of the other.

    Excited for your new life and adventures as a writer--congratulations!

  7. I love this, Linda. I am constantly inspired by other writers (I always worry when writers are inspired because "I can write something better than the crap that's out there"), both published and pre-published. I JUST got Bobbi's book, UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT. I knew her Things to Do if You Are the Sun poem, but not the others! Inspiration is a circle, and aren't we lucky to be stops along the way. Thanks for sharing both my book and Elaine's gorgeous book! The circle goes on...:>) And congrats on your writing time!

  8. I love that subway poem. I wish you lots of fun in your full-time writing. I love working on my blog, but I don't spend enough time on realizing a collection. I'm too all over the place. You sound like you have focus, an important ingredient.

  9. I know what you mean about being inspired to write poetry the more you read. I hope to be more disciplined in my own writing.