Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Christmas Wish


Dear Santa,



We don’t have money for a Christmas tree.

We can’t buy presents for Mommy or me.



But—

I’ve heard of the magic you can do,

so I’m writing this secret note to you.


(Mommy would worry if she knew.)


Sometimes,

when she thinks I'm sleeping, I

hear my Mommy sit alone and cry.



Please help her find a job and then

maybe she will smile again.


And Santa, 

if you could bring me just one thing, 

this is what I would choose


one pair of not-too-tight

fit me just right 


shoes.


I know you have a lot of letters to read,

and there are things that other kids need.


So if you can’t make my wishes come true—

it's okay.


I'll still believe

in you.



©Linda Kulp Trout


Well, the poem still needs work, but I wanted to share it today because the topic is important to me.

Years ago, I overheard a conversation in my fifth-grade classroom that broke my heart.  A group of girls were talking about making their wish list for Christmas. One little girl just sat there listening. When her friend asked what was on her Christmas list, “J” lowered her eyes and said, “I don’t make a list anymore.”  Of course, the other girls wanted to know why.  “J” whispered, “We don’t have any money for presents.”  The bell rang, and the conversation ended, but “J’s” words stayed with me.


I knew “J’s” family and the hard times they’d been through.  Each year our faculty adopted several families in our school community for Christmas. That year, “J’s” family was one of them.  I’m sure there were many families like hers that we didn’t know about.


According to the Children’s Defense Fund, “about 1 in 6 children in America live in poverty.”  Those of us who are teachers don’t need statistics because these children are in our classrooms, and we see their struggle every day. Many of them are too afraid or too ashamed to ask for help.  I know I was. 


Growing up, I never wanted anyone to know how poor we were.  But I was one of the lucky ones. We were a big family, but no matter how tight money was, my mother somehow found a way to put presents of some sort under the tree.  


I’m grateful for the work of groups like The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots that help ensure millions of children have a gift to open Christmas morning. Still, I can’t help thinking about all the children who will wake up on Christmas without a single gift to unwrap.


A big thank you to my very talented friend, Buffy for hosting this week's Poetry Friday-The Almost Solstice Edition!


I wish all of you a joyous holiday and a happy, healthy new year!















Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thinking About Dreams



Dreams

                 

It’s hard to dream

with an eviction notice

on my front door.



It’s hard to dream

when I sleep on

a living room floor.



It’s hard to dream

when I’m still hungry,

but there isn’t any more



It’s hard to dream—



But one thing I know

for sure,



when I grow up

I don’t want to be poor!





©Linda Kulp Trout




Today's poem comes from a combination of my own childhood experience and that of my former students.  


As a child, I was a dreamer.  But, like many children born into poverty, I didn’t think my dreams were possible. So, I pushed my them aside and did what I needed to in order to get through each day.   I started babysitting for money when I was eleven and by twelve, I was employed at my first job.  I didn’t mind working because I was determined to live a different life than I had.  Dreams would have to wait.


Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams and why we push them to the bottom of our to-do list.  For most of my life, my dream has been to write books that make a difference in the lives of kids. Now that I'm retired from teaching, I'm going to give my dream my best shot. I used to think about my childhood and resent the things I didn’t have.  Now, I choose to be grateful for what I did have. That has made all the difference.  I want to give a voice to the child I once was and the children I used to teach.


What I’ve learned is that no matter how busy our lives are, even taking the tiniest steps toward our dreams makes life so much richer.  This blog post, "Where Have You Been?" inspires me to make time for my dream.


If you have time to leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your dreams and what you’re doing to achieve them.

A big thank you to Jama's Alphabet Soup for hosting this week’s Poetry Friday.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would have been my mother's 83rd. birthday. She has been gone for more than six years, but I still think of her every day.  Although the scene in the poem I'm sharing today never actually happened, it is a love poem to my mother, part true, part the way I wish things would have been.

Mom was often lost in her thoughts.  I regret never asking her about her dreams. I'm sure she had some. She liked to write. She enjoyed music and dancing. She loved animals. One time she told me that she wanted to go to Africa to see the lions in the wild.  It never happened.

By the time Mom was in her early seventies, she had dementia. She was only 76 (just twelve years older than me) when she passed away. I think about that a lot. It both motivates and scares me, and it's one of the reasons I keep working toward my writing dreams.  Mom inspired me more than she ever knew.  She did the best she knew how, and I'm grateful for the good times we shared.
 This poem is for her.

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 to 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 goodnight 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 beings to sing--

-Linda Kulp Trout


A big thank you to Cheriee for hosting today's Poetry Friday at Library Matters. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Harvest Moon

When I was a little girl, I loved riding in the backseat of the car watching the moon follow us home. There's something spiritual and magical about the moon.

It's been cloudy here the past few nights, so I'm hoping the sky will be clear enough to see the harvest moon (my favorite!) tonight.  In anticipation, I wrote a quick little poem.  I not sure if the meter works but here goes.



Too Shy 



Tonight

I watched

a harvest moon

tiptoe

across the sky.

It hid behind

a wisp of clouds,

looking very

shy.



I said,

Don’t worry

Harvest Moon,

for I’m a lot

like you.



When I’m  feeling 

shaky, shy—

    

I try

to hide it

too.


-Linda Kulp Trout





Here are two beautifully written  and illustrated moon-themed books you'll want to check out:  HELLO, HARVEST MOON by Ralph Fletcher and IF YOU WERE the MOON by Laura Purdie Salas.






A big thank you to Laura for hosting this week at Writing the World for Kids.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Dreamers



Several years ago, I had an idea for a novel-in-verse inspired by the experiences and dreams of some of my students. I wrote a bunch of poems, but I had no idea how to weave them together into a novel.  (It’s so much harder than it looks!)  I saved them in a file and almost forgot about them. Today I'm sharing a poem from the collection.  The title comes from my belief that we should all be dreamers!  (Please forgive white background behind some of the words in the poem.) 


Dreamers

In El Salvador,
my parents
worked and saved
to come to the U.S.
Thieves stole
their money,
they walked
nearly 2,000 miles
on blistered feet
carrying baby me
and a backpack
full of dreams.

Today
I carry
a backpack
full of books.
My dream:
first in my family
to go to college.
Will I be
a doctor,
scientist,
teacher...

It’s up to me!

Papi says
the best thing
about dreams is
no one
can take them
away.

-Linda Kulp Trout


Last year, I discovered a beautiful picture book titled DREAMERS by Yuri Morales.  Yay!



After reading this description on Amazon, I had to have it.

Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It's a story about family. And it's a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.

Both the text and the illustrations are gorgeous. I wish I had DREAMERS when I was teaching.  Yuri's story is similar to the ones I heard my students tell. This book gives their stories a voice.

Here's a video I think you will enjoy.






A special thank you to Sylvia and Janet for hosting this week's Poetry Friday at Poetry for Children.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

ALL THE COLORS OF THE RAIN


I read a lot of novels in verse.  My favorites are character-driven stories with a lot of emotion like the one I just finished reading,  THE COLORS OF THE RAIN by R.L.Toalson.  It is everything I hoped it would be, heartbreaking, hopeful, and unforgettable. I didn’t want the story to end because I felt so connected to the main character's authentic and powerful voice. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I’ll just share just a bit of the blurb inside the book jacket.  






Ten-year-old Paulie Sanders hates his name because it also belonged to his daddy, who killed a man and crashed a car. With Mama unable to cope, Paulie and his sister, Charlie, move in with Aunt Bee and try to make a fresh start.  But it's 1972 and their new school puts them right in the middle of the Houston School District's war on desegregation. 

Here is an excerpt from the first poem:

RAIN

Most nights
I sleep just fine
because most nights
it doesn't rain.

The last time it rained like this
we drove past that curve
Gran always called dangerous
and saw lights flashing red and blue
and people walking around
and a body covered
with a white sheet
that glowed in the dark.

Mama didn't slow down long enough
to look at the twisted car.
It was too dark to see, anyhow.
We didn't know who was
under the sheet, but Mama said
a prayer for their family
as we drove on by.

-R.L Toalson

Doesn't that just grab your heart and make you want to know more?  You can read a few more poems from the beginning of the book here.

Go here to read an interview with R.L.Toalson, and be sure to watch this inspiring video where the author shares her writing process.




I'm already looking forward to reading more from this very talented writer.  I really hope she writes a sequel to THE COLORS OF THE RAIN because I want to know more about the next chapter in Paulie's life.

A special thank you to Kat for hosting this week's Poetry Friday on her blog Kathryn Apel.

Friday, August 23, 2019

#DearOneLBH


It has been such a sad summer around here. Within five weeks, we lost a beloved family member, our sweet kitty and now Lee.  So many good-byes.  So much grief.

Lately,  I've been doing a lot of wondering about why things happen the way they do.  I haven't written much lately except in my journal, but when I heard about the Poetry Friday tribute to Lee Bennett Hopkins, I knew I wanted to be part of it. Lee played a huge role in my writing life through his anthologies, his poems, and encouragement.

Just imagine my excitement when way back in 1995 Lee called me to discuss using my poems in one of his anthologies.  Lee Bennett Hopkins on the phone with me!  I remember the two of us laughing a lot, but other than that, I don’t remember much about the conversation. I was in a daze and felt like I was dreaming. 

Not long after that, I started getting little handwritten notes from Lee about upcoming projects.  I kept every one of those notes. They are treasures! Years later,  we corresponded by email.  I kept those too and read them whenever I need a boost of encouragement.  Not all of the poems I submitted to Lee ended up in his books, but when one did, what a thrill!  


The last email I received from Lee said,  “Dear One:  I’m sorry that your poem had to be dropped from the collection. Please don’t fret too much over this. There will be other times I’ll get you into a collection. I have always loved working with you, Linda, and I look forward to new things coming up in the future. I write with love-ness, Lee”


Those were his last words to me. Lee always knew how to make someone feel like the most special person on the planet. He will forever live on in my heart.

For my tribute poem, I chose the lines ”I sit/alone/on the edge of the bed/wondering” from Lee’s poem “Once More” published in AMERICA AT WAR.  It's a poem I have loved since I first read it.




I wrote this poem not only for Lee, but also for all the loved ones I've lost. My poem is very simple, and but it comes from my heart.


Without You

     for Lee Bennett Hopkins

I sit
alone
on the edge of the bed

wondering—

How does the world
keep going
without you?

I see your face.
I hear your voice.
Your laughter—
fills the air.

So how can it be
that you are not here?

I sit
alone

wondering...

           Linda Kulp Trout


Amy is hosting today's Poetry Friday at The Poem Farm with more tributes to the amazing Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Bittersweet Mother's Day Poem


When you reach for my hand,
I pull it away.

I shrug my shoulders,
when you ask about my day. 

I refuse your hugs
when my friends might see,

and I won’t let you walk
too close to me.

But no matter where I am,
or how tall I grow,
I will always love you—

Even though
I don’t let it show.

-Linda Kulp Trout


I hadn't planned to post anything today, but something has been on my mind.  A couple of weeks ago, while crossing a parking lot, I reached for my seven year old grandson's hand.  For the first time, he pushed my hand away.  A clear sign he's becoming more independent.

It brought back memories of my own sons.  I still remember standing outside my son's first grade classroom.  I reached to hug him, and he pulled away. I tried to hide the sting in my heart as he walked through the door.

Watching my sons grow up was bittersweet. I was proud of their independence, and yet, it was so hard to let them go. My sons are grown, and although I miss my little boys, I love the men they have become.  And I've come to realize that they have never really let go. They just hold on in a different way now.

My grandchildren are becoming more and more independent. I know how hard this is for my daughter-in-law so this poem is for her.

Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass for this week's Roundup.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Progressive Poem is Here! - Day 26

There's a lot of personal stuff that can go into songwriting, but there's also a lot of dramatization and fictionalization. You have to do that to make a good song.  - Nora Jones

As our poem moves from blog to blog, I've been enjoying reading the backstory of how contributors chose their line. Songs are very personal. They not only connect us to our past but also to each other. Song lyrics have the power to speak to all of us no matter who we are or where we come from. 

Growing up, we had maybe one or two book (Little Golden Books) in our house. The stories I grew up on came from songs. Every afternoon, my mother would put a big stack of 45s on the stereo.  She loved all types of popular music: The Supremes, Elvis, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, and many others.  We would sing along and dance across the living room floor.  We didn't have a lot of material possessions, but our house was always filled with music.  

Songs have always been a huge part of my life.  They bring back happy memories and sometimes sad ones too. They remind that I'm not alone and keep me singing even in hard times.

For my line today, I wanted to honor one of my teenage crushes, David Cassidy.  I never missed an episode of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY.  David was not only dreamy, he was very talented.  It breaks my heart that his life was so tragic.  He brought so much joy to lonely young girls like me while he struggled to find happiness in his own life.  I chose a line from "Summer Days".

Hold my hand and we'll be free




Endless summer; I can see for miles…
Fun, fun, fun – and the whole world smiles.
No time for school- just time to play,
we swim the laughin’ sea each and every day.

You had only to rise, lean from your window,
the curtain opens on a portrait of today.
Kodachrome greens, dazzling blue,
it’s the chance of a lifetime,

make it last forever–ready? Set? Let’s Go!
Come, we’ll take a walk, the sun is shining down
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
Tomorrow’s here. It’s called today.

Gonna get me a piece o’ the sky.
I wanna fly like an eagle, to the sea
and there’s a tiger in my veins Oh,
won’t you come with me waltzing the waves, diving the deep?
It’s not easy to know
less than one minute old
we’re closer now than light years to go
To the land where the honey runs
…we can be anyone we want to be…
There’s no stopping curiosity.
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing
Looking for a sign of life
You’re simply the best
Hold my hand and we’ll be free
Up next,  our poem moves on to Sheila@Sheila Renfro
Here is a list of line sources:

L1 The Who, 'I Can See for Miles'/The Beach Boys, 'Endless Summer'
L2 The Beach Boys, 'Fun, Fun, Fun'/Dean Martin, 'When You're Smiling'
L3 The Jamies, 'Summertime, Summertime'
L4 The Doors, Summer's Almost Gone'/Led Zeppelin 'Good Times, Bad Times'
L5 Ray Bradbury, "Dandelion Wine"
L6 Joni Mitchell, "Chelsea Morning"
L7 Paul Simon, "Kodachrome," "Dazzling Blue"
L8 Dan Fogelberg, "Run for the Roses"
L9 Spice Girls, "Wannabe"/Will Smith, "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
L10 The Beatles, "Good Day Sunshine"
L11 The Carpenters, "Top of the World"
L12 Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Underneath the Lovely London Sky" from Mary Poppins Returns
L13 Carole King, "Hi-de-ho (That Old Sweet Roll)"
L14 Steve Miller, "Fly Like An Eagle"
L15 Don Felder, "Wild Life"L16 Nowleen Leeroy, "Song of the Sea" (lullaby)
L 16 Nowleen Leeroy, "Song of the Sea" (lullaby)
L17 Sara Bareilles, "She Used to Be Mine" from WAITRESS
L18 Stevie Wonder, "Isn't She Lovely"
L19 R.E.M., "Find the River"
L20 Carole King, "Way Over Yonder"
L21 Mint Juleps, "Groovin" by the Young Rascals
L22 Jack Johnson, "Upside Down"
L23 Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) "Rainbow Connection" from the Muppet Movie
L24 The Foo Fighters, "Learning to Fly"
L25 Tina Turner, "The Best"
L26 The Partridge Family "Summer Days"



A big thank you to Carol for hosting today's Poetry Friday!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

NPM: Hello, Spring!

It's finally beginning to look like spring around here!  Today, as I walked around our neighborhood, I noticed tiny buds dotting the trees. They looked so happy reaching for the sun.  I wrote this haiku a while ago, but it seemed right to share it today.



A big thank you to Karen for hosting today's Poetry Friday. Be sure to stop by her place and check out all the wonderful offerings for this first week of National Poetry Month!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New Books to Love!

I buy a lot of picture books, especially those written by poet friends.  Today, I want to share three new books and why I love them.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Angela Matteson is gorgeous! The poems are imaginative and full of wonder.  The illustrations of the characters are adorable. I especially love the expression on the faces of the objects and the cute little dog.  Laura's poems will inspire young readers to look around their bedrooms and create their own "night' poems!




TEENSY MEENSY MICE written by Donna Marie Merritt and illustrated by Ed Heck will have young readers laughing out loud. From tying up the cat to playing tricks and hiding things, you never know what mischief these teensy mice will do!  The playful rhyming text and cute illustrations will make this book a favorite bedtime story.

YOU AND ME written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Susan Reagan is the perfect gift for a sibling of a new baby.  In just a few lines, the rhyming text captures the need for each child to feel special and have his/her own "you and me" time.  My grand-nephew just became a big brother, and I can't wait to give him a copy of YOU AND ME. 


If you've read any new books by our Poetry Friday friends, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.  

A big thank you to Rebecca at Sloth Reads for hosting today's Poetry Friday.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED AND MORE by Janet Wong- And the Winner is...

Laura Purdie Salas!

Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who left comments about Janet's new book.  

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED AND MORE by Janet Wong

I have been a fan of Janet's poetry since 1994 when I bought my first copy of GOOD LUCK GOLD. I loved it. My students loved it.  The voice of each poem was so warm and real, it felt like we were sitting around a kitchen table listening to the Janet tell us stories. Some writers are like that. Even though you've never spoken in person, you are connected by their words. They feel like friends, and you want to know more.
(1994 cover and 2012 cover )

Two years later, browsing in a bookstore, I was excited to find  A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED.  I couldn't wait to share it with my fifth graders.  The next day, I brought in a jar of kimchi (which I had to go to three different grocery stores to find), and read aloud "Burial" which tells the story of burying kimchi in the ground until spring. Then we all had a taste of the kimchi. All I can say is that I'm glad I had a water fountain in my classroom! We read poem after poem.  Their favorite poem was "Leeches."  I can still hear their , "Ewww! Read it again!"  A few days later, a boy who usually avoided writing, shared his own "leech" poem.


Over the years, I watched for Janet's new books and added each collection and picture book to my school library.  They made wonderful mentor texts for teaching (and learning about) voice, writing about family experiences, and using sensory language. Check out Janet's website to learn more about her books.

So even though I'm retired from teaching, when I read about A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED AND MORE, I ordered it right away!  Here is the description from Janet's website:

The entire text of the original book is presented here in A Suitcase of Seaweed & More, along with 50 brand new pages—where you’ll find snippets of story about the inspiration behind the poems, extensions of the themes, and writing prompts to get teens thinking, talking, and writing about their own identities. Wong’s “Advice for Writers” might even inspire them to write their own books, too.

My copy arrived yesterday. Of course I love the poems, and now I know the inspiration behind the poems. This book demonstrates how writers can use their own memories to write memoir, poetry, and stories. Janet not only provides writing prompts, she gives lots of encouragement and permission to "just try." Writers will also discover how one memory or topic can be written about in different forms. I wish I had this book when I was teaching, but I'm grateful to have it now to inspire my own writing.


Back in 1994, I never thought that I would someday meet the poet I had admired for so many years, but twenty years later, I did.  Janet is every bit as warm and real as my students and I imagined her to be.  Teachers, writers, and poetry lovers,  A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED AND MORE is a resource you'll turn to often. If I were still teaching, I'd want to have multiple copies to use in my writer's workshop. It's that good!

A special thank you to Catherine for hosting this week's Poetry Friday at Reading to the Core.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The poem I'm sharing today is one I wrote last February when I participated in Laura Shovan's poetry and art challenge. We took turns posting pictures of a piece of art for the group to write about.  When it was my turn, I knew right away that I wanted to share the rock art gift my sister made for me. The picture below inspired many wonderful poems including one by my very talented friend, Buffy Silverman that will appear in a forthcoming children's magazine!  Yay!


I haven't looked at my poem since last year. I still need to think of a title and do a bit more revising, but I thought I'd share what I have so far.



                                                             My friends have gone.
                                                             No one is home.
                                                             A perfect time
                                                             to spend alone.
                                                             To think.
                                                             To dream.
                                                             Beneath this tree—
                                                             to read a book
                                                             of poetry.

                                                              
                                                             ©Linda Kulp Trout


The beautiful, multi-talent, Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week. Be sure to stop by her place and check out her three gorgeous new books!  I'm excited to add all three of these gems to my collection!