Poem a Day, Sunday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

Older Brothers

They stand
hands in pockets
watching
themselves as younger boys
when baseball was fun
and not just another mark on the calendar
with the coach mad
at some missed catch
and the game on the line
and all that stress
that follows you right up to the pitcher’s mound
night after night after night
and you can see it in their crooked stance
how they are pretending to run the bases in their minds
with high-five celebrations all around
and nothing but time on their hands.
The older they are,
the more they think how great it would be
to be young again
while the younger ones
hold close to aspirations of beating their brothers
at baseball.

listen to the Poem as a Podcast

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

ps — and to keep things on the lighter side, how about this classic Abbott and Costello skit about baseball.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8342445135331678445" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Reflecting on Composing Hyperlinked Poetry

Yesterday, I shared out a poem cycle called Capturing Myself in Hyperlink:A Poem of Connections.

A few people have asked me how I created the piece and what are the possibilities for the classroom. I appreciate all the friends on Twitter and others (Bonnie, Paul, etc) who gave me feedback as I was putting the poem cycle together.

So, here goes:

The Composition:

I wrote the main arc of the poem, knowing it would be a launching pad for smaller poems. I did not go into the piece knowing how many trunks it would have and I didn’t worry about it. Although I thought the piece should reflect the concept of identity and writing in the Web 2.0 world, I wasn’t sure how the piece would develop as a poem. So, I just wrote. It was a flurry of words and I just let it come out of me. Later, I looked at the piece and began to imagine where the connections to other poems might originate. These became parts of the links beyond the central poem.

So I moved to the smaller poems, keeping in the back of my mind the words from the main piece and then imagining how it might all come together, like some poetic puzzle. I worked in keywords that I knew could branch off later and tried like heck to keep it from sounding to false when doing that. I worried that the construction of the larger project would take away from the emotional center of the smaller poems. I really wanted each poem to be able to stand on its own and jettisoned a few that did not. Again, I tried to move around the singular theme of the main piece — how we see ourselves as writers in this changing world.

The Construction:

Once I had the words, I had to figure out how to put it together. This was tricky. I tried a wiki. Didn’t work as I wanted it. I tried Google Docs. Didn’t like it either. I went into Dreamweaver (an html builder program) and started building a webpage. I copied the code from Dreamweaver and tried to make it a page on this blog. Didn’t work. I considered Google Page Creator but it was too limiting. In the end, I decided to keep using Dreamweaver and then host the page at my band’s website. This was not ideal but it works.

I used anchors (designated points on the page), so that I could keep everything on one single page, with the links floating up and down the page. I realized early on that I needed something that brought readers back to the main poem and decided that the word “I” would be the link.

My goal all along was to create something with words, sound, image and video, and so my first attempt had podcasts built into the texts. But some friends found that all the audio started automatically (even though my html code said otherwise) on their browsers (seemed mostly with Flock). I wanted the poem to work on any browser, so I scratched that, and created little video-podcast clips that are hosted at YouTube. The images came from Flickr, with Creative Commons licenses, and I made sure to cite where they were originally located.

I used my little Flip flash video camera to record myself reading a few of the poems, for variety and some emotional impact. It was difficult to keep eye contact with the camera, since I was reading the poems. And there is a little black dot on the camera lens (inside) that annoys me. The podcasts were done using my Olympus voice recorder.

I thought it would be interesting to show all the connections among the poems, since every single one links to at least one other. So I turned to Bubble.Us to create a concept map, with arrows showing the connections. I’m still trying to figure out if the poem should stand on its own or use the map as an entry point, and I am now leaning towards stand-alone. I think the map, while a nice ancillary object, may be too distracting.

The Implications:

I already have my students doing a variation of this hyperlinked project. It is much less complex than mine, obviously, and I struggled with a publishing platform. I don’t expect to teach my kids Dreamweaver (heck, I barely know it myself) and I am not ready for a week of html lessons, either (is that on standardizes testing?).

I know you can do this type of embedded links even in Word (using a folder with multiple documents) but putting it on the Net from Word is tricky, particularly when you consider I have 80 students. In the end, I decided upon MS PowerPoint, as you can set up a project and then do internal linking within the show itself. Plus, for my students, the platform is familiar and we be using it again later this year for digital picture books.

Last week, I had my students write four short poems on a single theme and then they started to create their PowerPoints. We’ll do some finishing up later this week. They were quite intrigued with the concept of linking. My hope is to find a few that we can publish as part of the new Space student publishing project now underway. (See sneak preview of Space)

As usual, I also created a sample of a project (I always try to do the assignments I give my students) and my theme was (surprise) writing. Here is what it looks like in Slideshare (although the internal links won’t work). But you can also view the Writing: A Linked Poem Powerpoint here as a download.

SlideShare | View | Upload your ownI am open to ideas that you may have on how to extend this into the classroom.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

Capturing Myself in Hyperlink: A Poem of Connections

I’ve been thinking about hyper-linked writing for some time. I love the idea of associative thinking and in particular, how poetry might fit into that concept. But I haven’t dipped my toes into that water until now. First, Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim at Teachers Teaching Teachers did a recent show on composing with hyperlink that was quite interesting. The show featured a site called Hypertextopia, which is being developed by a graduate student. Paul thinks it has echoes of StorySpace.

Also recently, George Mayo launched the student publication site called Space, with the intent of allowing students to become more creative in how they use the Web 2.0 canvas for composition.

And, of course, it is Poetry Month, and over at Two Writing Teachers, there is a one-week poetry marathon of sorts going on. A One Week Poetry Challenge

All of these events moved me towards composing something a little bit different and results of that effort is a poem cycle for Web 2.o that I am calling: Capturing Myself in Hyperlink: A Poem of Connections .

In spare moments here and there during the course of a few days, I wrote this entire poem cycle. I really got into how the smaller poems informed the larger one and how the pieces could connect, if you took a wide enough angle. However, I also wanted each poem to work on its own, too. It’s like wedges into the mind.

Here is the main branch of the poem:

Capturing Myself in Hyperlink

Is this the way in
or the way out
of this wireless space of thoughts
and shouts that echo beyond the screen.
In-between is the reality.
There is movement among the letters:
nothing is stagnant;
nothing is still; nothing is shattered until the cursor moves
and then the path is forged fast-forward
into parallel words of perpendicular thoughts.
I write from inside out, not from left to right,
as if this composition were a new language being invented
by turning the world upside down,
with meaning embedded deep down below the surface.
What you see is not what you get.
What you see is what you should forget
when meaning is captured in html.
Perhaps you’ll dance with me here
and follow my movements on this virtual stage,
even as you most likely reach for the curtains
and turn down the lights for the night.
My act lives on in space.

There are two full versions of the poem cycle right now.

First, you can go to the first version I did as a free-standing website. This was the original version that I continue to tinker with. That can be accessed here.

Or, you can go follow a concept map that I created in Bubble.Us and click on the parts of the poem. This map gives another entry into a second version of the poem cycle — including a background image of the concept map — and shows the connections of the parts to the whole. (I also embedded the map down below).

I will be doing a longer reflection on the process of composing the poem and the construction of the entire piece tomorrow, and I hope to get into some possibilities for bringing this idea into the classroom, too.I would love to get some comments or suggestions on the poem cycle.In particular, does either version stand out as better than the other? Does the concept map make the poem more associative in thinking or just plain confusing? Which version gives you, the reader, more freedom to follow your own path?Peace (in poems),
Kevin

A Poem a Day

Bud the Teacher showed me this, via Twitter.

Poem-A-Day

You can sign up for a poem to be delivered to your email inbox every day for the month, and I already have two wonderful gems come my way. This is just one way to celebrate the art of poetry, which hopefully extends across the year.

You can sign up here.

Peace (in poetic delivery),
Kevin

I Dream in Twitter: A Podcast Poem

I’ve been thinking about Twitter a lot lately, about the pros and cons, and I woke this morning with the lines of this poem dancing in my head. (Twitter is a network that connects people by asking them to write about what they are doing right at that moment) So I worked on it and recorded it as a podcast, sharing it out.

I would love to know what the Twitter friends think about it.

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
right
at
this
moment.

Peace (in poems and podcasts),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter 14

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

I was so much more of a writer than a teacher yesterday. What a great feeling.

After my students finished up presenting their expository paragraphs on “how to do … something” (ranging from how to play Guitar Hero to how to start a zoo to how to draw a cow to how to avoid joining a gang), we entered into freewrite time. The instructions? Just write. Write whatever you want, in whatever genre you want, on whatever topic you want. Just write.

The room was so quiet. And I was right there with them, sitting amidst their desks with my notebook open and pen in hand, scribbling away. Gosh, I wish every day could be like that. We didn’t share (OK. I miss that doorway into their private universe but I am willing to give that up once in a while in exchange for what was happening right then and there). We didn’t revise. We didn’t talk. All we did was write.

And so, I present the poems that I wrote over the course of the day. They are still sort of rough, but they can go into my bin of poems that were formed during my OnePoemEveryMonthforaYear project.

First, I wrote a serious poem as I watched my students in the act and I thought about the quiet revolution going on in my classroom.

Entering into Freewrite
Listen to the poem as podcast
I’m listening to pens – the words have no sound –
It’s all thoughts on the page.
These quiet moments are delicate pockets of complete freedom,
encouraging composition of poems, stories, plays, songs
and even comics –
They write with heads bowed and eyes focused;
Some move lips to mouth the words;
A silent incantation springing forth from mind to paper and back again.
I move among them as a ghost – a spiritual companion –
writing my own poem about them, writing,
in a sort of tacit recognition that what they do here has meaning,
even if the only eyes ever to read their words are their own,
and only their own.
We move on this journey, together,
as writers.

Then, I wrote these haikus. I am calling them, ahem, Haikus Inside the Classroom. I was really thinking about some of my individual students as I wrote and also about the classroom atmosphere.

Haikus Inside the Classroom
Listen to the poem as podcast

Ink never runs dry
when dipped in wonder and joy
…the silent boy dreams

She’s thinking of home;
A family of cold winter
That shivers her bones

Outside noise comes in
on a wave of disruption
and they ride it hard

Syllables slip by
eluding capture, escape
beyond my fingers

If I could sing songs
I’d sing in celebration
0f every writer

Finally, I wrote this poem about Quidditch (see yesterday’s post) in a humorous mood. I was thinking along the lines of James Prelutsky, I think. Just a version of the couplet.

This Game We Play
Listen to the poem as podcast

If every day was Quidditch, this place would be a mess
There’d be kids up on the ceilings and we’d have no need for desks
There’d be quaffles in the kitchen; There’d be snitches in the air
There’d be bludgers in the hallways and we really wouldn’t care
‘cause the game we play called Quidditch is all about the team
It’s a bevy of excitement (just listen to them scream)
You could say we might go crazy; you could say we’ll lose our minds
But I tell you, ever truthful, it’s an exhilarating time.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

PS — I stumbled on this fantastic poetry site called Poetry Archive, where famous and not-so-famous poets are reading their own poems. Here, for example, is one from the wonderful Billy Collins, reading his poem to his reader called “You, Reader.”

A Second Place Poem

I found out last week that a poem I wrote during my OnPoEvMo project last year (one poem every month) garnered second place in a writing contest hosted by our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The poem is about race and prejudice, and trying to investigate why our skin makes us feel so different from others.

Here is the poem and here is the podcast:

Like Birds in Flight

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding

and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.

Your black would fit with my white.
We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (in understanding),
Kevin

What Students Say

The folks over at the Digital Ethnography site (who do some fascinating work) created this video about what college students are really saying and experiencing in their lives in this digital age. They used a Google Docs to have more than 200 students edit a document and create surveys of each other.

Interesting.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dGCJ46vyR9o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (with information),
Kevin

Blink (again) with Google Creator

As I prepare for moving away from my Manila blog sites (the NWP will be shutting things down later this summer, I believe), I am migrating towards other tools and platforms. I will write more about Edublogs Premium in a few days for our Writing Project site, but for now, I am realizing how much I used various Manila/NWP sites for storage, etc.

Here is one example: My Blink-Blink-Blink Multimedia Poem.

So I went over to Google Web Creator (allows you to make simple web pages and hosts them for you) and recreated my poem. I need to tinker with it some more, but here it is again. It has been some time since I have gone back to it, but I am still fascinated by what I did here.

Peace (from inside the eye),
Kevin

How’d I do Three Voices Poem?

A number of blogging friends have asked about the process I went through to create and produce my podcasted The Creator: A Poem for Three Voices and One Person and so I wrote this in an email to Bonnie and figured I might as well share it through the blog.

I heard the voices in my head, quite literally. I was working with my
students on Poems for Two Voices (see this link) and figured they were having fun and so should I. Two years ago, I wrote a very cool Poem for Two Voices about Math and Writing, and then the math teacher and I read it aloud for the entire school one morning. But can I find the poem? No. Can he? No. (I am very frustrated).
So I decided to write a new one about a few of the views that I have of myself as a writer (short story writer/music composer/poet), and then thought, I might as well be all the voices, too, since I am all of the writers in the poem. I used Audacity (free open source mixing software) for the sound layering and it seemed easier in my head than it was in reality.
First, I had to read the first voice part and leave enough time and gaps for the other voices. What I was doing was reading and listening to the ghost voices in my head as I read. The second voice had its own difficulties. I had to make sure the words fit the gaps that I left AND that when words were to be in unison, that I phrased my words as close to the first “me” as possible. Turns out that first “me” wasn’t so thoughtful about how words were articulated and I found myself cursing myself at my imprecision. Darn it!
The third voice was just as tricky, except now I had two other “me”s to be impatient with, and neither one of those other “me”s seemed to know what they were doing. It was quite a quiet argument brewing in my head. My original intent had been to mess with the voices with some effects to differentiate the “sounds” of me, but I didn’t have the time nor inclination at that point. So I am relatively happy with the final result but not completely happy.
And maybe I should have added playwright and made it a perfect square of four voices. 🙂

If YOU have a poem for multiple voices that YOU want to share, I would love to learn from you, too. Or maybe you should give it a try. I can also imagine (in the back of my head) how people could do multiple voice poems from across the Net, by sending Audacity files to one another … hmmmm.

Peace (with a process),
Kevin