Thursday, March 30, 2017

My 2017 National Poetry Month Project

Last week, I wrote about keeping a gratitude journal.  Most of my entries have been just a few quick sentences about things that bring me joy. something that amazes me, or an unexpected act of kindness.

                                                              my gratitude journal

Writing these short passages helps me pay closer attention to the goodness in my life.

When I started thinking about a project for National Poetry Month,  I knew I wanted to do something connected with my gratitude journal. So, I'm going to try to write a short "gratitude" poem each day and post it along with a quote or  photograph.   I don't post many of my own poems, so writing and posting a daily poem is way out of my comfort zone, but my one little word for 2017 is CHANGE, so here I go!

I'll be joining in with the talented Laura Purdie Salas who will write a daily poem about a small wonder and post it using the hashtag of #wonderbreak.   Since my project is similar to Laura's, I'll use the same hashtag. (I've never used a hashtag, so this will be another change for me. 😊 )    You can read more about Laura's plans and invitation to join her for NPM here.   

Be sure to stop by The Poem Farm and check out Amy's amazing NPM project. I'm really looking forward to this week's roundup and all the great projects our Poetry Friday friends are planning for National Poetry Month!

Thursday, March 23, 2017


My one little word for 2017 is CHANGE so I've been doing a lot of thinking about my life, the things that work and things I want to change. 

I've always been grateful for the goodness in my life, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all negative voices on the nightly news, social media, and even overheard in grocery store conversations.
By the end of 2016, I felt like all that noise was distracting me from the things are really important. 

This was something I needed to change.  So on January 1,  I started a gratitude journal.  Every evening, I write about one event that happened that day and why it brought me joy. Maybe it was hearing my favorite song on the radio, a phone call from my son, or my cat purring on the bed beside me. For me, the key is the "why" piece because it causes me to do some reflection.

It's a small thing to do, just a few sentences, but it has made a positive difference in my life.  My focus has changed, and I find myself looking for the goodness in each day.  An added benefit is that recording life's joys gives me a chance to relive them again and again. When I'm having a bad day, I read through my gratitude journal and always find something to smile about. 

In the beginning, I worried it might end up being another chore to add to my day.  That didn't happen because most entries are very brief. Of course there are times when there are too many wonderful events to choose just one. On those days, I go ahead and fill the page with joy!

When I decided to start a gratitude journal, I remembered this poem.  Maybe it was there in the back of my mind inspiring me all along. 

                     -Barbara Crooker

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
Read the rest of the poem here.

Here are two good articles, if you'd like to learn more about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.

10 Reasons Why Keeping a Gratitude Journal Could Be Your Best Idea Ever!

The Benefits of a Gratitude Journal and How to Maintain One

I am thankful I got to meet my friend Catherine in person last fall at a Highlights workshop.  She is hosting Poetry Friday at Reading to the Core.

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.