Digitally Interpreting Wendell Berry and Billy Collins

Thanks to posts at the always wonderfully illuminating Brain Pickings the other day, I read and enjoyed (again) a poem by Billy Collins about the art of writing and then discovered a Wendell Berry poem about writing poetry. (I then donated a small amount to support Brain Pickings, because if Maria inspires me, as she does, I should support her, right?)

I decided to close read the poems with the new Lumen5 tool,  which creates interesting digital pieces from found text on the web, choosing poetic lines from the larger poem (neither of my versions is the entire poem) and revamping them as a sort of digital story. I like the way each piece came out, and how I had to adapt the imagery of the poem to the imagery of the, well, images I chose to go with phrases of the poem.

Was I writing? Is this writing? Did the ants follow me home?

Peace (and advice),
Kevin

Poetry Book Review: Swimming Upstream

I am afraid I can’t remember who in the Slice of Life community wrote about this book of poems, but I am thankful. Swimming Upstream by Kristine O’Connell George was the perfect way to end our recent poetry unit. My sixth graders are in the final days of their elementary school lives, soon to shift to the huge regional middle and high school building.

They have a lot of anxiety about friendships, lockers, finding classrooms, new teachers, and the social pressures that come from being a middle school student. This book of poems – small verses for the most part — was a perfect way to address some of those anxieties and also, provide a way to talk about what comes next for them. With themes built around the narrator’s own navigation of middle school, George’s poems felt authentic in feeling and emotion.

The book does what good poetry should do: it brought to the surface much of what goes unsaid in the mind of the reader. I read this book out loud, letting the words and stanzas sink in, and the classes were quiet and thoughtful.

Swimming Upstream was a nice bookend text, too, as we began our poetry unit with a Poem for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman (from the book Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices) entitled Seventh Grade Soap Opera, which has a neat twist to its weaving voices, and brought to the surface some of the same social navigation waters as does George’s book.

Perhaps poems will help get them ready.

Peace (the next step forward),
Kevin

Using Comics to Interpret Poetry

Poetry Comics

I hope it’s no surprise that I like to give my sixth graders opportunities to make comics, and to use art as well as words in their writing and analysis. We’ve done visual notetaking and added art to many writing pieces, and used a basic comic model for a variety of writing activities.

Poetry Comics

Last week, as we were examining the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem — Paul Revere’s Ride or sometimes entitled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere — I had them create a comic by pulling important lines from the poem and illustrating them to help tell the narrative story.

Poetry Comics

What I like is it allows me to see what grabbed their attention in a piece of poetry, and provides entry into analysis, and hopefully understanding, for those students who struggle with traditional writing but could use an artistic anchor into a text.

Poetry Comics

I should note that our conversation about the poem also dipped into what (and whose) stories are left out of the American Myth, thanks to the power and reach of Longfellow’s poem.

Peace (and all that history),
Kevin

This is (still) the Truth (Zeega Multimedia Version)

Five Voices in Search of a Poem

I’ve been wanting to take a poem for five voices that I wrote last month, and invited four friends to virtually perform with me, into Zeega for some multimedia interpretation, and finally found the time this week to do so. The poem is a response to both the media landscape and the political turmoil (made even more tumultuous yesterday by the firing of the lead investigator by the president being investigated).

First, here is just the audio, with help from Terry, Sheri, Melvina and Scott. We recorded it all remotely using a site called Soundtrap.

Now, here is the Zeega version (You might need to tell your browser in the url bar to allow it to play unsafe scripts, which comes as a result of Terry hosting Zeega at his own space, I believe). Also, it is best to view the Zeega in full screen, to get the entire effect of image layering and viewing. Here it is:

What’s always so interesting about this process is trying to match the visual experience, with limited text anchors, to the audio, even knowing that every viewer will process through the project at a different pace. With Zeega, the viewer/reader/listener chooses when to advance the visuals, even as the audio plays on.

I’m happy with how it came out. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in many voices),
Kevin

Following the Poetic Muse

Gallery of Poems

It may be the last gasp of April, and therefore the end of Poetry Month, but I’ll be writing poems long after April has waved farewell to us all. I hope you, too, won’t be shackled by the rather arbitrary calendar. Still, it’s nice to have a continued and vibrant focus on poetry.

For the last three Sundays, I’ve been sharing out the poems that I have written this April, using (for the most part) the prompts at Global Poetry Writing Month/National Poetry Writing Month each morning before I do much else. You can read my first week here, the second week here, and the third week here.

You’re here at the fourth week of writing. I’ve been composing my poems over at Notegraphy, and my gallery is here. I’ve enjoyed using Notegraphy instead of my blog because it allowed me to keep the poetry writing separate from other writing, at least until I curate the poems, like now. There’s also the interesting design element of Notegraphy.

It hasn’t felt much of a burden to write 30 poems, one each day, but maybe that is because of my system of writing early in the day, fueled by morning coffee, and just going with the flow of whatever the prompt has sparked. I always say this when I do a bunch of writing, but I hope to someday go back and edit/revise the poems and pull them together in a more cohesive fashion. Someday. Maybe.

Here are some opening lines from this past week’s writing, with links to the full poem, if you are interested, from the week behind us.

I can always fit
inside the twisting bell
of the saxophone,
the tenor’s long shape
as dark as some cavern
of sound.

read full poem

 

Rabbits running wild
along the edges
of the book,
a sinkhole of words
opens up, forcing
a closer look.

read full poem

 

They’ll discover it
three feet down,
covered in rock
and dust, a little white
tail sticking up
from a rabbit hole.

read full poem

 

Bitter ashes;
That’s what we remember.
Bitter ashes on the tongue.
When we were young,
building fires
without abandon ..

read full poem

 

It’s coffee, not tea,
that fuels me;
Night’s disappeared.
Now, I can hear
the sounds of you

read full poem

 

Sand spills out,
time running through
my fingers, collecting
at my feet.

read full poem

 

Every day
I watch these same words
fall onto the digital page,
constellation stars dipping in
from above, dancing
along my fingertips.

read full poem

I hope you wrote, and that you write, too.

Peace (and poetry make the world shine),
Kevin

 

 

My Sunday Morning Cup of Weekly Poems


poetry flickr photo by Felixe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The world’s still asleep (mostly) and I am writing poems in the dark of the morning, fueled by some coffee. Every day, I have been writing some form of poetry suggested by the fine folks at Global Poetry Writing Month/National Poetry Writing Month, and each Sunday, I have been curating the poems from the week. So you can read Week One’s poems here and Week Two’s poems here, and now we are into Week Three.

I have been sharing the first lines of the poems here, and then giving a link to the full poem over in Notegraphy, which has been my primary writing space for poetry this April.

The first poem’s theme was invented words, and working them into poetic form. I love wordplay, so this poem flowed rather quickly for me that morning.

I am staring off into
spaceytime, reaching for
vaikie fallenwords, the black hole
of wondering.

read more

The second poem was to be written in the form of a letter. I took the approach of a father to child, with some creative license. While it is inspired by my own family, some of the facts might not quite be true. Such is the freedom of the poet, right?

I am writing, dear child,
in hopes you’ll remember
the dishes, the clothes,
your mother’s birthday
in November

read more

This poem had the theme of a myth, so I imagined some God or Goddess reaching down to knit the Network.

Giant hands
knit
small nodes
for
strong connections

read more

A prompt about childhood games as a point for inspiration brought me back to a game we used to play on pavement called Skully. One summer, that’s all we did, as I remember it.

It happened one lone summer —
consumed us like crazy —
kids on the street with chalk
and wax-filled bottle caps,
sliding our pieces along the ragged board
on rough pavement.

read more

An overheard conversation became the focal point of this poem, as I tried to leave what was being discussed unsaid, and instead, I tried to show the verbal dance these two were doing.

“Did you ask her?” he asks her,
juggling books by the lockers
between writing and science.
“No,” she tells him, eyes down,
watching his feet dance on the floor,
a nervous two-step.

read more

An environmental theme emerged on Earth Day, and although the form of the poem was one I did not know — a georgic — I sort of ignored that and kept my eye on the soil.

Flowers bloom,
beckoning;
My knees are now soggy with dew,
knotted with the pressure of
of this winter-weary Earth

read more

And finally, this morning, there was a call for something known as an elevenie – a sort of cinquain variation with 11 words and four lines — so I combined three verses together, on the topic of creating and living an invented persona in Networked Narratives.

Hiding
Veiled existence
Wearing another’s voice
I slip inside their skin,
Wandering

read more

And one more week or so of poems every day, and then … I will miss it, no doubt.

Peace (sounds like poems),
Kevin

Writing Before the Morning Begins

Half Awake from a Dream

I am an early morning writer, so all this month, as part of National Poetry Writing Month, I have been concentrating on using the prompts at the NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo site first thing (after walking the dog and brewing some coffee) to write a poem each day. I shared out the first week’s batch last weekend, and here is another round of poems. Given the nature of the quick writing, some are more refined and inspired than others.

Here are the first lines of the poems from the week (some have contextual elements for form and substance, as part of each day’s poetry prompt), and a link to read them over at Notegraphy, which is where I have been writing and hosting my poems this month, this year.

I’m awake
from a dream of
a poem …

more here

The camera dances in his hands;
the stories still unfolding ..

more here

The folded note in the cookie
promised good fortune …

more here

Perfect —
Another poem
about alliteration …

more here

13 Ways to Forget a Prompt

1. Don’t even look …

more here

Saxophonist John Coltrane
blew the world through his horn …

more here

I am writing, dear child,
in hopes you’ll remember

more here

I hope you’re getting to write some poems, too.

Peace (doesn’t have to rhyme),
Kevin

Five Voices in Search of a Poem: This is the Truth

This is the Truth in Soundtrap

Inspired by my friend, Sheri, and her Poem for Three Voices about a young writer that she, and I and Melvina recorded and shared last week, I wondered if I could expand that notion a bit and write a Poem for Five Voices, and get four other people from different geographic locations to use Soundtrap to record.

I did, and we did, and it sounds like this:

My aim in writing the poem was to offer up a critique of the media/news landscape, and try to discern some central point about the elusive nature of Truth. I am a former journalist, a writer of news, and an avid reader of news now. I am both disheartened by the declining State of Media, and heartened (in a very strange way) that Trump’s imperial presidency and Bannon-led attacks on Media have actually galvanized and strengthened the major news operations, and attracted readers.

The use of multiple voices in the poem is designed to show all of us, together, sorting out what is real and what is not, and what is spin and what is not, and calling out media and political leaders to account for the information flow. Yes, we all have a responsibility. That doesn’t mean we can’t do this together, and find a way to make the world a better place for all. THAT is the truth, from my perspective.

You can view my poem here and feel free to remix it, use it or ignore it. This screenshot is the first of two pages.

This is the Truth poem

Process Notes: We used the online site, Soundtrap, as a way to coordinate our voices. It would have been a whole long easier if we had been in the same room, same space, with poem in front of us. That wasn’t physically possible.

So, what you hear is some vocal dissonance, as our phrasing weaves in and out of each other. Recording a poem like this is complicated, we quickly found, and I edited audio tracks to fit as best as I could. We began with Melvina doing a master track, which we then worked off individually, and then I edited to make it sound like a whole.

Notice the different sounds of voices. Quality of microphones becomes a potentially technical hurdle, and I used compression and other effects to try to align them as best as I could. In the end, maybe that flattening didn’t matter. Maybe, in fact, the different sound qualities are part of the composition — showing different views through sound. I might be stretching here.

I want to warmly thank Sheri, Scott, Melvina and Terry for patiently following me on this collaborative adventure. We organized ourselves on Twitter, and then had our voices meet in Soundtrap. It was a grand adventure.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

Oh Poems, You Write Me

We’re into Day Nine of Global Poetry Writing Month/National Poetry Writing Month, and I have been very diligent each morning with my poetry writing. I’ve been using the prompts put up every day at the NaNoWriMo website, riffing off the suggestions. I have ten poems because I wrote the day-before-April poem, too. For the most part, I’ve been satisfied with the poetic results of my musings.

Here are the first lines to my first ten poems, and a link to my Notegraphy gallery where I am writing and curating the poems (and other writing) throughout April:

Twelve doors. Past; Present.
I stand on the precipice:
Mother Nature’s Clock

read more

 

His tail wags
when even the happy
has disappeared –
when the walk has gone on
too long, and the talk
has turned from whispers
to something gone wrong.

read more

 

There was a Wood
when I was a child
where we went
to escape our lives.

read more

 

There would always be Irish tea
for me, as she shuffled
around the cramped apartment,
filled with knick knacks.

read more

 

Add in:
One teaspoon of smoke-filled lights
Three cups of harmonic riffs at night
a hint of popular music songs

read more

 

The muse remains hidden,
playfully buried beneath notes,
breathing in tandem
with my pen.

read more

 

The eraser’s been bit and chewed,
the seat’s been shifted,
words scribbled on and off
and on again as the start
is as elusive as the end,
and the middle remains
a complete mystery.

read more

 

The folded note in the cookie
promised good fortune
and bad luck

read more

 

She dangled off the riff —
Minor chords
Major chords
Unexpected modulation —
all swirling around her,
their accompaniment, a blanket
meant for warmth.

read more

 

NINE LINES ABOUT
NOTHING

read more

I am going to my best to keep writing every day. How about you? Any poems brewing in you? If you want, you can join the rag-tag poetry group in this version of Diigo’s Paper (sort of like Google Docs) and toss some poems against the wall. We’ll see what sticks.

Why is April Poetry? A collaborative space

Peace (writes like the wind),
Kevin

Tinkering with Voices/Playing with Poems

Soundtrap Poetry Collab

The other day, my friend, Sheri, posted a blog piece that included a Poem for Three Voices about the struggle to start a piece of writing, from the viewpoint of a student writer.

I immediately thought: that poem should be recorded and heard, with three voices. Over the following days, Sheri recruited Melvina, and the three of us used Soundtrap, an online recording platform, to make a version of Sheri’s poem.

It was sort of a recording experiment, and I am now myself working on writing a Poem for Five Voices, with Sheri, Melvina and hopefully two others. Now that I know for certain that Soundtrap works well for this poetry collaboration (as I thought it might), it opens up some doors.

The difficulty with performing these multiple voice poems is the logistics, of leaving space in the tracks for other voices to fill. But Soundtrap at least solves one main and significant issue: we don’t have to be in the same room at the same time, and we don’t need to be sending audio files back and forth.

I’ve done these Poems for Multiple Voices in the classroom with students (last year, we did math poems), using Garageband and other recording platforms, and they really enjoyed the ways in which the voices come and go, and how words weave in and out of each other. It’s challenging to write and construct these poems, and they are challenging to read.

More to come in the days ahead …

Peace (like poems),
Kevin

PS — I once wrote this poem for my math colleague and I to read to the whole school over morning announcements. I still like it for the way it merges math and writing. We need to record it again, I think (our old version was at an old site that is now defunct).

TheWriter and the Mathematician- A Poem for 2 Voices by KevinHodgson on Scribd