Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Poetry Friday: Christmas Surprise

I'm sharing this rough draft of a poem-in-progress today because I think many of you fellow cat lovers can relate. I'm not happy with the first stanza so any suggestions are welcome. : )

Christmas Surprise

She didn't write a letter
she didn't make a list—
but that sneaky cat of mine
had a secret Christmas wish.

She curled herself up cozy
beneath the tinseled tree
waiting there for Santa
and presents brought for me.

When I woke up this morning
ready for a surprise—
it wasn't what I expected
I couldn't believe my eyes.

The bows were all chewed
ribbons torn and tattered
boxes emptied on the floor—
paper ripped and scattered.

Unashamed of what she'd done
I heard her start to purr—
I guess that silly cat believed
the gifts were meant for her.

May the season bring you
many delightful surprises!

Happy Holidays,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lee Bennett Hopkins and the NCTE Poetry Award

As many of you know, Lee Bennett Hopkins has been named the newest recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.

Ten years have passed since Lee published three of my poems in his Worlds of Poetry series. I'd used his anthologies in my classroom for many years but never expected to see my name in one of them.

I had sent Lee a poem called “Stars” that I wrote about my two sons. He wrote back to me saying he would hold on to it until he found a collection where it fit. I thought he was just being kind, and didn’t think I’d ever hear from him again.

A few months later, the phone rang and I heard, “Hi, Linda, this is Lee Bennett Hopkins.” I couldn’t believe my ears! Lee Bennett Hopkins was calling me to ask if he could use my poem in his new collection. He said, “See, I told you I believed in that poem and would find a place for it.” I can’t remember much more of our conversation, but I’ll never forget how thrilled I was. As soon as I got off the phone, I ran to tell my sons, then I called everyone else I knew to tell them the news. I was going to be a published poet!

It was almost a year before the series was published, and I got my first look at the books. Lee had included not one, but three of my poems. My name was in the same book as some of my favorite poets: J Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, among others. It was a dream come true!

But Lee had more surprises in store for me. Not only did he include my poems; he recommended me to speak at a teacher's conference in Long Island. I can't begin to describe that experience other than to say, I was treated like a celebrity. Thanks to Lee, I got to live the dream of being a guest poet for a day.

I finally got to meet Lee a few years ago. He greeted me with the warmth of a dear friend. He has a way of making you feel like the most special person on the planet. Once again, I was overwhelmed by the experience.

Over the years, there have been many times when I've stopped sending poems out because I didn’t believe in myself. Just about the time I’m ready to give up, an email or letter arrives from Lee with a call for poems for a new collection. I don't know how he does it, but he always seems to know when I need a boost to get going again.

I've been blessed to have poems in several of Lee's anthologies. There is nothing more exciting than the arrival of a new collection that I've contributed to. Seeing one of my poems in Lee’s books gives me hope that someday, if I work hard enough, I might have a collection of my own published. His encouragement and support has changed me as a writer. Knowing he believes in me, inspires me to write the best poems I can write.

Lee Bennett Hopkins has brought poetry into the lives of children and classroom teachers. He has given countless aspiring poets a chance to see their work published, and his generosity of spirit goes beyond words.

So, if you’re reading this Lee, congratulations for a job well done and a life well-lived.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


It's no secret that I love Japanese poetry forms. While tanka, haiku and renga have gained popularity in recent years, choka is relatively unknown. A choka is structured in the repeated pattern of 5-7-5-7-5-7-5......7-7. Many choka are more than 100 lines long. You can read more about the choka form here.

Here is my attempt at a choka.

calico kitten
in the woods behind our house
hungry, shivering—
bone thin, barely alive—
afraid she might die
I wrapped her in my jacket
carried her inside
gave her warm milk, my blanket
and a promise— to love her.

Although I tried to stick fairly close to the pattern in order to model the form for my students, I'm not happy with the last two lines. Following a structure too closely can detract from the meaning of the poem. I can't think of how I want to revise it right now, , so I'll let it rest a while.
photo: KatRya

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rock 'N' Roll Band

This is a fantastic poem to use for choral reading. When I taught elementary school, my students loved to wear wigs and tie die T-shirts and perform "Rock 'N' Roll Band" for their classmates. This poem is from Poems That Sing to You by Michael R. Strickland. Altough it was published by Boyd's Mill Press in 1993, it's still available through Amazon.

Poems That Sing to You is filled with great poems to teach poetic elements like Karla Kuskin's "Lewis Has a Trumpet." This is poem is so much fun to read aloud. It actually sounds like a trumpet when you read it. This collection would be a valued addition to any reading/language arts teacher's library.

If we were a rock 'n' roll band,
We'd travel all over the land.
We'd play and we'd sing and wear spangly things.
If we were a rock 'n' roll band.

If we were a rock 'n' roll band,
And we were up there on the stand,
The people would here us and love us and cheer us.
Hurray for that rock 'n' roll band.

If we were a rock 'n' roll band,
Then we'd have a million fans.
We'd giggle and laugh and sign autographs,
If we were a rock 'n' roll band.

If we were a rock 'n' roll band.
The people would all kiss our hands.
We'd be millionaires and have extra long hair,
If we were a rock 'n' roll band.

You can read the rest here.
This page has several of Silverstein's poems so you'll need to scroll down to the third poem.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Two Tanka

I live in an area where deer are plentiful. I love watching them. In spring and summer, does bring their fawns to graze in the backyard and eat from the cherry tree. In autumn, they run down my driveway and hide in twilight shadows. They come to dine on crabapples in winter. They are so tame, they come right up to my front door and watch me watching them through the window.

Here are two of the many tanka they've inspired.

crackle of dry leaves
in the shadows of twilight
still as a statue
a deer looks into my eyes
then suddenly— gone

hoping from limb to limb
fat robins quarrel
over crabapples

deer wait patiently below
for fallen leftovers

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Last night I used my extra "fall back" hour organizing the area where I keep all of my writing materials. I love collecting notebooks and have tons of them. People give them to me as gifts, and I can't resist buying them. Here's the problem, every time I get a new one, I fill a few pages and then move on to another. I have over a dozen partially filled notebooks that rotate through. I write in one for a while then move on to another one. I never seem to stay with one until it's filled up.

It's the same way with my writing projects. I have 3 or 4 poetry collections, two picture books, several essays, and a nonfiction series all in various stages. I dive into a project full of enthusiasm, then read something that tells me how "only 3 in 12,000 books submitted ever get published," and I give up. Since there are no deadlines and no one waiting to read what I've written, what does it matter if I don't finish? A critique group might help, but I haven't been able to find a group who write for children in my area. I'm not sure if I'm ready to share with a group online.

I used to think that maybe I didn't really want to write, and that was why I never finished. But, if I don't like to write, how'd I end up with a file full of poems and essays?

Last night as I read through my notebooks, I discovered many entries showed a lack of self-confidence. Even in journals I wrote twenty years ago, the same issues kept coming up: my failure to stick to a fitness program, to "fix" my personal life, and to accomplish my writing goals...unfinished projects. Only a few entries described my successes. I've had an early reader, twenty or so poems, a few essays, articles and book reviews published, but I don't write about those because I have convinced myself that it had to be due to luck, not my writing skills.

It occured to me that maybe I don't finish things because if I never finish, I won't have to worry about failing.

Do we all doubt ourselves, or are writers more susceptible because of constant rejection? I heard prolific songwriter, David Foster say that sometimes questioned his writing ability and worried that maybe he was a fraud. I was surprised by his confession because how can he not know how gifted he is? Everyone from Whitney Houston to Earth, Wind and Fire have performed his songs!

I guess another piece of my unfinished pie is that there is so much conflicting advice out there.
Eileen Spinelli wrote this about writing, "How can you love the work if you're already a mile down the road worrying about whether it's going to be published? The publication will take care of itself. I hate to see writers just cringing and skipping ahead, and worrying about publication."
That sounds wonderful, write what you love. Will this work if you want to make a living as a writer?

But another very accomplished writer told me, "Professional writers get a contract then write the book." To me this means treat writing like a business and don't focus so much on what you love to write. I'm not sure I'd like that.

There has to be a balance of both "writing for a paycheck and writing what you love." Some writers, like Laura Salas has certainly been able to do it.

Back to "unfinished" business, how do you keep yourself motivated to finish a project? Do you get a contract first and then have a deadline to motivate you? Do you have someone who keeps you accountable, or have you found a way to do that for yourself? I'd really love to hear from you. A new year is coming, and I want to make a resolution to finish what I start.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghost Villanelle

A poem to celebrate Halloween by Iowa poet Dan Lechay.

Ghost Villanelle

We never saw the ghost, though he was there--
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn't care.

Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,

if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn't care

to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there

in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn't care,

until at last we saw him everywhere.
We told nobody. Everyone believes
we never saw the ghost (if he was there),
we never saw him and we didn't care.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Renga Challenge

The renga challenge didn't go so well. Oh well, I know everyone is very busy at this time of year. Thanks to cloudscome for her two line stanza. There's still time if you want to play. The next person will write a 3-line stanza, the next 2 lines, and so on. Here's what we have so far. I can't wait to see what you will add!

crowded pumpkin patch
empty by mid-afternoon
autumn gone too soon

Earth's children all possess
thier own round orange space

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Come Renga With Me!

In the introduction of their new book, Birds on a Wire, J Patrick Lewis and Paul Janeczko (see last week's post) invite readers to "get together with a couple of your friends and see if you can create a renga of your own." Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I'm going to try the activity with my eighth graders, but I'd like them to have an example of a renga in progress.

Here's where you come in. It would be great fun if you could help me create a Poetry Friday Renga to show them. Here's how it works, I have written three lines about an experience I had last Saturday. The next person writes two lines, the next writes three, etc. Don't worry too much about strictly sticking to the rules of a renga. For me, poetry is more about getting your meaning across rather than being boxed in by too many rules. For example, my "starter" lines rhyme, most renga don't rhyme, but I kind of like the sound and couldn't think of anything I like as much so I'm going with it.

Here's a website I've found helpful in case you want to learn more about renga or other Japanese poetry forms:

Let's keep it going until next Thursday, that way my students can watch as new entries are made, and I'll post the complete poem for our next Poetry Friday. What do you think? Will you come renga with me?

crowded pumpkin patch
empty by mid afternoon

autumn gone too soon

Thursday, October 2, 2008

J Patrick Lewis

It's been almost twenty years since I bought a book of poetry by J Patrick Lewis called, Earth Verses and Water Rhymes. My students loved those poems. It instantly became one of the most popular books to read during D.E.A.R. time. I bought a second copy so that I'd have one for my personal collection.

Over the years I've added many of J Patrick Lewis' books to my collection including his latest, which I absolutely love, Birds on a Wire: A Renga 'Round Town written with the great Paul Janeczko.

You can imagine my excitement when I received an email from J Patrick Lewis! J Patrick Lewis! Wow!

The first thing I did was to print out that email for my memory book!

When I told Pat (I'm not sure I should be referring to someone so esteemed by his first name.) that my students are currently studying narrative poetry, he generously offered me one of his wonderful poems to share with my students and on my blog. The poem has appeared in several anthologies. After reading it, you'll see why it's been so popular.


Circling by the fire,
My dog, my rough champion,
Coaxes winter out of her fur.
She hears old stories
Leaping in the flames:
The hissing names of cats,
Neighbors' dogs snapping
Like these gone logs,
The cracking of ice . . .
Once, romping through the park,
We dared the creaking pond.
It took the dare and half
Of me into the dark below.
She never let go.

We watch orange tongues
Wagging in the fire
Hush to blue whispers.
Her tail buffs my shoe.
She has one winter left.

Maybe two.

If haven't visitied J Patrick Lewis' website, , you really should take a look at the terrific resources for kids, teachers and writers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumn Cinquain

I drive to work on a road lined on each side with cornfields . Yesterday, as I sat at a stop sign waiting my turn, I noticed a couple of deer standing in the cornfield to my left watching the cars go by. They stood very still and seemed to be in deep thought. I starting wondering what they were thinking. Where they just curious about the cars? Were they waiting at the stop sign for their turn to cross the road? Were they angry about the traffic cutting through their cornfield?

This little poem snapshot was inspired by them.


Two deer
in the cornfield
peek out between brown stalks.
Are they hoping to cross the road

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Almost Forever

I love books written in verse form and so do many of my students. I just finished reading Almost Forever by Maria Testa (, author of the award-winning novel Becoming Joe Dimaggio.

Almost Forever is a brief novel written in the voice of a young girl whose father is sent to Vietnam to serve as a military doctor for a year.

Although the girl worries about her father’s safety, she also worries that she might forget him. In this excerpt the girl explains that year is a long time for a child (something we adults often forget).

From “One Year (Not Such a Long Time)”

One year
is not
such a long time,

Daddy said,
kneeling on one knee
in front of me,
my shoulders.

In one year, Baby,
you’ll be in
second grade,
not first
and you’ll be
seven years old,
not six,
and then
I’ll be home.
One year
is not
such a long time.

I did not
tell Daddy
that he was wrong—
that second grade
was half a hallway
and a whole world
away from first,
that seven
was everything
six was not,
and that one year
was forever.

Everyday the girl goes with her mother and younger brother to the post office to get the letters from Vietnam. When the letters suddenly stop coming, the family fears the worst.

I teach near an army base. Several of my students have a parent in the military. Some of them have a parent stationed outside of the country. I think they will see themselves through the eyes of the main character and be able to relate to her emotions and experiences. My hope is that Almost Forever will also inspire them to keep a journal to record their own experiences while their parent is away.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fond Memory

Yesterday, the mailman delivered two poems my mother wrote many years ago. I had forgotten how beautifully she expressed her love for her father in each tiny package of a poem.

Now that Mom is very ill, she asked what I'd like to have to remember her by. I knew immediately that those two poems were what I wanted most. I hadn't seen them in years, but as I read each one, memories of her reciting them to us came flooding back. She told me that she loved her father so deeply, she wanted to give a special gift to him, and her poems were all she had.

My grandfather cried when he read "Daddy's Girl." My mother knew he was proud of her when he asked for the poem to be read at his funeral. The second poem, "Angel" was written after her father passed.

As I remember, Mom only finished those two poems. She was always so busy with children and housework; there was little time for writing. I posted a poem I wrote about her last Mother's Day.

She sent "Daddy's Girl" out to a publisher once. When it was rejected, she was sure no one would want to read anything she wrote and gave up on her dream of seeing the poem in print.

I think she always meant to write more; time just got away from her. I wish she had written more. My fondest memory of her won't be one of her cleaning the house. It's the image of her sitting at the kitchen table putting so much of her heart into every line of those special little poems that I'll remember.

(I didn't print her poems here, because I'm hoping to find a publisher who will love them as much as I do.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Once I Ate a Pie

Have you seen the new show The Greatest American Dog? When I first saw it advertised, being a cat person, I didn't plan on watching it. The TV was on that channel when I turned it on, and after a few minutes, I was hooked. Each dog on the show has its own distinct personality. Seeing the show reminded me of a collection of poems on my bookshelf, "Once I Ate a Pie."

The collection of mask poems is written by Newberry winner Patricia MacLachlan and her daughter, Emily MacLachlan Charest and beautifully illustrated by Katy Schneider. I've been a fan of Patricia MacLachlan for years and have many of her books. I knew the poems would be wonderful, and they are. The voice of each dog comes through as they tell their story in just a few short lines. Lucy is adopted and has claimed everything in her new home to be hers. Darla doesn't like other dogs, but she likes people and even the cat. Mr. Beefy steals tubs of butter off the table when no one is looking and says, "Once I ate a pie."

One cool thing about the poems is that not only do they remind me of dogs I've known, but they lovingly remind me of people I've known. I sure can relate to Mr. Beefy enjoying pigging out with a pie!

I'm glad I took a chance and watched "The Greatest American Dog" because of it, I rediscovered the poems in "Once I Ate a Pie."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer So Far...

The summer is quickly slipping away, and soon it will be back to school. I haven't accomplished nearly as much writing as I'd hoped to. There's always so much to do, and taking time to write just because I love to, seems like an indulgence.

My entire adult life, I've felt that a woman was successful if she could work a full-time job while raising happy, healthy kids, keeping a spotless house and homebaked goods on the shelf. Once, my mother said, "Your floor is so clean, I could eat off of it." Wow! Her comment made me feel like I had made it as a "good" wife and mother.

Now that my mother is ill, I've been wondering about what she might regret. She always worked so hard to keep her home clean. She worried about what others thought if it wasn't perfect. She enjoyed writing poems, but it took a backseat to housework. Cleaning was important to her, but it didn't bring her joy. Mention her poems, especially the one she wrote about her dad, and her eyes light up. Besides her children, her poems are her pride and joy. She asked me what of her belongings I want to remember her. The only thing I really want is her poems.

What will I regret? I doubt I'll regret not constantly having a sparkling floor. No one else really seems to care or notice anyway. I'm sure I will regret not doing more writing.

One thing I have done is to send introductory packets to several education publishers hoping to get an assignment. For some reason, it's much easier to justify spending time writing when there's a deadline an editor is expecting me to meet.

I've been working all summer writing curriculum, learning a new program for the upcoming school year, and getting household chores done. Now it's my time to write.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mother's Day Triplet

I enjoy the challenge of trying new poetry forms. According to the text Strong Measures by Philip Dacey, a triplet is "a three line stanza or poem rhyming aaa. Here's my attempt at writing a triplet in honor of Mother's Day.

A Vow

staring out the window it seems
my mother is lost somewhere between
us and her own private dreams

she once told me she’d like to see
Africa where lions live uncaged— free
just the way they were meant to be

and she wants to write a book someday
but she’s just too busy to start it today
with kids to raise and bills to pay

sometimes I think she secretly wishes
for freedom from housework, diapers, dishes
always the giver of bedtime kisses—

suddenly seeing me standing there,
she calls me over to her chair—
and points to a piece of sky where

the Evening Star waits with a vow— anything
is possible— her loving smile says everything
as she begins to sing—

copyright2008 Linda Kulp

Now it's your turn to try a triplet. Leave me a comment and I'll post your triplet next week. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Food Inspired Poetry

The Miss Rumphius Effect Monday Poetry Stretch this week was to write a food inspired poem.
I had planned to write a brand new poem, but it's interim time at school. My students have been keeping me very busy grading late assignments. (All of you teachers out there know what I'm talking about.) So I'm posting a poem inspired by my sons that I wrote a while back. I welcome your comments and suggestions for improvement.

The first poem is from Yummy, Eating Through a Day, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Table Manners

No burping
No slurping
No giggling
No wiggling
No hitting
No spitting
No jabbing
No grabbing
No groaning
No moaning
No kicking
No picking
or sticking
your food
on the floor.

Table manners
making eating a bore!

copyright 2000 Linda Kulp

Ants on a Log

My son spreads peanut butter thick
on crisp green celery sticks and grins—
slides the spoon to his mouth and licks

it clean— then carefully begins
sticking raisins in a neat row
into the creamy bark and chins

the counter top on tippytoe
looking for the perfect platter
to canvas his creation— his eyes glow

and tiny giggles scatter
as he samples one log, two—
knowing his efforts will matter,

then turns to me with pride brand new
and says, “Mommy, I saved the best— for you!”

copyright 2001 Linda Kulp

For more food poems written by some of today's most popular poets (including: J. Patrick Lewis, Bobbi Katz, Pat Mora, and Lee Bennett Hopkins) check out: food fight edited by Michael J. Rosen. Here are a few lines from my favorite poem, "Pineapple Upside Down Cake" by Nikki Grimes.

Grandma wasn't much for hugging.
She was entirely too frail
to give me piggyback rides
and moved too slow for hide-and seek.

The poem continues by describing the "honey-glazed pineapple rings, tooth-tingling tangy sweetness." After reading the poem to my students, I surprise them with a sample of my own homemade pineapple upside down cake. The combination of poem and cake is a delicious way to model using sensory language!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Review of Dogku

While browsing the picture book shelves at my local Borders, I came across a little book of haiku called Dogku by Andrew Clements. The haiku tell the story of a little dog, Mooch, who wants a permanent home. Here's an example:

Squirrel sits in tree.

Mooch sits below, looking up.

Who has more patience?

Copyright2008 Andrew Clements

I can just imagine the fun young children would have with this book. The warmth of the poems and expressive illustrations make the reader fall instantly in love with Mooch. I know it will inspire older students to write their own haiku stories.

I especially like the Author's Note at the end of the book where Mr. Clements explains what a haiku is and encourages kids to write their own. He compares writing haiku to choosing a small vase, a small container to place the perfect words to express what you most want to say. What a great way to think about haiku or any poetry.

After reading Mooch's story, I decided to try writing a dog haiku (dogku). I started thinking about friend who volunteers at an animal shelter telling me that older dogs are rarely adopted. This is what came to mind:

on adoption day
puppies beg, “Pick me, pick me!”
hoping- a new home

on adoption day
old dogs lay silent, sleeping
this their final home

Read more about Andrew Clements and his over fifty books for children:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Interview With Bobbi Katz

Bobbi Katz is the author of numerous books of poetry and professional books for teachers. Her collection of American history poems, We the People, was named an ALA Booklist Top Ten Poetry Pick. A prolific and versatile writer, her poems are widely

I met Bobbi about twelve years ago at a state reading conference. I was a big fan of her poetry and had used many of her poems in my elementary classroom. So naturally, I was thrilled when she graciously agreed to an interview with me. Recently, I contacted her to update the interview for National Poetry Month.

Linda: How did listening to jazz as a child influence your writing?

Bobbi: I think my love of rhythm and rhyme came from the delight I had as a very young child, certainly pre-K, to the syncopation and delightful lyrics of Fats Waller tunes. Opportunities for hearing music weren't frequent, but perhaps in an era before sensory overload was the rule hearing a song had a greater impact than it would now. I remember the delicious taste of words I didn't properly understand. I remember making those words my playmates.

Linda: How did you get started as a children's poet?

Bobbi: I started writing rhyming funny, quizzical verse for a friend's child, who simply was not "getting" reading. Suddenly things clicked! I totally lost touch with him when his family moved across the country soon after that. He came to visit me years later, when he had finished medical school at Stanford University.

Linda: When young writers say they have trouble finding topics to write about, what advice do you give them?

Bobbi: Ideas are everywhere, if we slow down enough to observe the world around us and within us. What am I seeing, hearing, feeling?

Linda: Do you keep a journal?

Bobbi: Yes. I think journal-keeping is one of the best things anyone can do! It's a great help for someone who wants to write, of course. I don't have any rules about what enters my journal. Sometimes there's an idea for a poem or essay & sometimes, especially now when my memory is less than wonderful, it's a place to jot down an appealing new word or the name of someone whose work I'd like to read or see/hear. A journal is a place for resting, for placing one's feelings. It can be very therapeutic.

Linda: What are some of your upcoming poetry projects?

Bobbi: I have three books coming out in 2009: THE MONSTEROLOGIST: A MEMOIR IN RHYME. An anthology of poems by various poets, including me titled MORE POCKET POEMS, and finally NOTHING BUT A DOG. The last title is actually a reissue of a picture book about my own daughter's yearning for a dog that was published by the Feminist Press in the 1970's. Dutton is having the text re-illustrated. The editorial assistant who computerized the text wondered what made it a feminist book. My daughter was an active girl, who played the trumpet, rode a bike, went fishing, climbed trees and did things that most publishers weren't comfortable having a girl do. Things have definitely changed!

Linda: Do you always write poetry?

Bobbi: While, I've been accumulating poems on three different subjects that are very content-research oriented, plus other poems that just say "Write me!" I have been wanting to write another biography rather than commit to an extensive collection of poems. I've been exploring several interesting people but the chemistry hasn't been right. I just did a reading from Trailblazers:Poems of Exploration. It goes from Adam and Eve to the Mars (robotic) Rovers, with well over 60 less mythic personalities in between. As with We the People, all of the poems are written in the first person. I tried to learn a lot about the explorers and the people with whom they interacted. I read journals, letters, and primary sources, whenever possible, so that each poem would have a distinctive voice or voices. To create the sense of individuality for the reading, I invited an adult man and a teenage boy and girl to read with me and I created a matrix of connecting material. I read one poem and suddenly I knew that I'd simply love to write about that person. Maybe it was the energy of reading for an audience that gave me that clear knowing. I don't think anyone has written more than a few paragraphs about her! And I know from experience that if I talk about it, the book won't get written!

Linda: I've used your teacher resource poetry books (Poems Just for Us, American History Poems, etc. for many years in my classroom. Do publishers assign you the topics, or do you write a proposal?

Bobbi: Most of the time, I write for Scholastic Professional Books. My editor asks me to write about a particular topic, but often the publisher knows my interests. I'm a grammar grouch, and so it was logical to ask me to write 25 Great Grammar Poems. I often write poems for more than one voice. My current book is Partner Poems for Building Fluency.

Linda: What advice can you give someone like me who dreams of having a collection of her own published someday?

Bobbi: Write, write, write, as often as you can. I am a great believer in letting poems marinate. I print them out and put them on a corkboard. And revise. And revise. Because getting published is so very difficult, try to write about what delights you, what interests you, what pleases your ear and tickles your tongue. When you've written a bunch of poems, see if a subject or an audience is emerging from them. Whom do you expect to hear or read your poems? Does a particular publisher seem open to poetry? Alas, the reality is that many publishers aren't accepting unagented manuscripts these days; however, some certainly are! The most important thing to remember is the joy of writing: the pleasure of the craft. That way no matter what happens as far as commercial publication; you'll have gained something very important. I used to turn my nose up at the idea of self-publishing. Although I've never done it, I think it's not such a bad idea. With illustrated books, an unfortunate choice of illustrator can knock the words right off the page. I've seen some writers for adults make a success of books they've paid to have published. If your dream is to write for kids, however, I think that the Society of of Children'sBook Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) can be very helpful. Try to get to one of their meetings in your state. It's a way to get feedback on your work & to meet editors as well.

Linda: Tell us a little about your writing day.

Bobbi: I usually start my day by doing yoga for a half an hour or more, which I started doing once a week as exercise about 25 years ago. It's become a great centering tool for me. Then I have a cup of tea and write for a few hours on my laptop. Sometimes the few hours stretch into more than that and I don't stop until I get a headache and realize I haven't eaten. After a hardy brunch/breakfast, I'll do a few chores; take a shower, or something to rest my eyes. If I'm doing a project that requires research, I usually do that in the afternoon.

Linda: Is writers' block a problem for you?

Bobbi: I find that the worst problem that I have is Email. It swallows up so much time.

Being a cat lover, a favorite poem of mine and my students (both elementary and middle school) is “Cat Kisses” posted with permission by Bobbi Katz.

Cat Kisses

Sandpaper kisses

on a cheek or a chin--

that is the way

for a day to begin!

Sandpaper kisses--

a cuddle, a purr.

I have an alarm clock

that's covered with fur.

Copyright c1974 by Bobbi Katz

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Daisy and Butterscotch

Daisy and Butterscotch are the best listeners. They like to sit beside me on the sofa and watch me write on my laptop. They're very patient as I read each new rewrite of my poems. They especially like the poems about them. Here's a tanka I wrote about Butterscotch.

my cat sits watching
waiting for me to come home
I open the door
to the sound of his purring—

unconditional love

Butterscotch is almost ten years old, but he still runs to the door every time I come home. I know he's happy to see me.

Poetry Month

It's been a busy month so far. I've been working hard to share poetry with my students and fellow teachers. This week I'm doing a workshop on writing poetry inspired by art. I found some great examples of artwork on the internet. I wrote a quick cinquain using a Mary Cassatt painting "Little Girl Sitting in Blue Arm Chair." I haven't thought of a tile yet, but I sure do remember hearing the words, "Wait til your father gets home!" Check out the painting. If it inspires you, I hope you'll share your poem with me.

waiting— wait ing
for Daddy to come home—
Mommy says I’m in big trouble


Middle schoolers are very creative so I can't wait to see what they come up with. I'll share some of their poems later in the week.
I just finished taking Laura Purdie Salas' wonderful Writing Nonfiction for the Educational Market class. Wow! She is a fantastic teacher! Laura gives each of her students one-on-one attention and is generous in sharing resources and information needed to get stared in educational writing. I learned a lot about the business. I plan to send out my first Introductory Packet by the end of the week.