Of Poets and Dogs (Where a Riff Might Take Us)


A dog poet flickr photo by Monika Kostera (urbanlegend) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Our beloved
poets and dogs
drag home
the damndest things:
bones,
mirrors
and seeds.

The bones
remind us
of what we’ve
chewed on endlessly
through the night.

The mirror
reflects back
on us the decisions
we’ve made,
and then regretted.

The seeds
hold out hope
for where the path
might lead us,
ever forward
into the unknown
possibilities.

Another version: https://notegraphy.com/dogtrax/note/3512461

Terry left a few comments in the margins of my post, about writing about the margins of an article about Digital Writing. His phrasing caught my attention.

As we often talk about extending notes and comments beyond the original source, I took a few of his words (of dogs and poets) and riffed a poem off the top of it. And then I shared it in Mastodon, where I often write #smallpoems with CLMOOC friends Terry, Algot and others.

So, from here to there, and there, to here, and then there again.

We wander.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

What Emerges from the Margins about the Future of Digital Writing

Troy Hicks digitalwriting3

I wasn’t sure if other people would follow me up on my invitation. But I knew I wanted to annotate with Hypothesis the opening article in the NCTE journal — Voices from the Middle — about the future of digital writing, by Troy Hicks. Then, I saw a tweet from a friend, Gail, commenting on the article, too, and I knew I had to go ahead and start up a crowd annotation project. I wasn’t the only one wanting to engage with the text.

So, I sent the link out a few times over the weekend, and got some folks to engage with me (including Troy, and I can’t say enough how important it is to a reader to the have writer engaged in the margins in a conversation about the text they wrote.) By midweek, there were nearly 40 annotations — a mix of words, image, sound and video.

You see, this was not just about reading about Digital Writing. It was also an act of using Digital Writing to make sense of the piece about Digital Writing. Sure, a bit recursive, but an important insight. We can talk and write in text all we want about what writing should be. But when the opportunity comes to write with media, to write in the margins of an online text, you need to take the invitation forward.

This is your invitation.

A few days in to the annotation activity, Terry asked this important question to me and others on Twitter:

I am enjoying the conversation. Intrinsically valuable. Have to ask the question implicit in every annotation mob? Of what use is the conversation going forward and beyond an intrinsic one? Is intrinsic value enough? What could be curated and shared out beyond mere response? — https://twitter.com/telliowkuwp/status/1003632172698361856

I responded:

I think curation/context of the margins should be next … It would be neat to have different people reflect/curate. I know that is prob unlikely. Still, surfacing ideas is important part of the process. Orphaned comments seem contrary to activity. — https://twitter.com/dogtrax/status/1003745466708832257

So, here I am, aiming to pull out some of the many threads from the conversation in the margins in a way that helps me make sense of it all, and maybe gain some reflective insights. If you do the same, please share your link. We can then be linked together.

Some distinct themes emerged from within the margins of Troy’s text. Here is my sense of the topics that resonated most clearly:

  • Defining Digital Writing continues to vex many of us in the field of teaching and writing, as we try to articulate what we mean and envision, and then put into practice in our classrooms;
  • It’s not just the defining of the term, but also whether we even should be using Digital Writing as a signifier. Or it is just … writing, with the digital element just part of how we write. Or, maybe, composition?
  • The technology itself is less important than helping to nurture student agency on how to best use the technology available at this moment in time to find clarity of thought and intent, and creativity. Joe riffs off Troy’s mention of Snapchat, to show how this social sharing tool has possibilities for sharing stories, not just gossip.
  • Some of us used the margins as a place to leave poems, inspired by the text. Thanks to Greg, for example, for his small piece. To use poetry to express understanding, or to ask questions, or to further the topic … this is another way the margins can become active and alive in interesting ways. It’s writing about the writing, attached directly to the text.
    And then, Terry took that poem and remixed it with image as a digital poem:
  • Mulling over what forms of media enhance writing, and which might distract, is part of what writers do, and Sheri notes, in a comment about Word Clouds, how she remembered a student using this visual representation of text, and then going much deeper with a reflection on design, colors, fonts and more. This pushing deeper into understanding through reflective practice is important.
  • The ability for us, as teachers, to expand access and opportunity, and choice, with digital tools for writing and expression remains a challenge for many of us, hemmed in by our current school structure (and funding woes). Terry makes a connection to both Ivan Illich (whose work on DeSchooling was recently annotated in CLMOOC — see that work here and note how one annotated text now connects to another annotated text) and sheep farming, as Terry mentions a certain stasis that many of  us find ourselves in. He suggests that words in the margins are not enough. Action and change is required, if we are to reach all our students in meaningful ways.
  • Greg makes note that the web and the ways we interact with it with our writing has changed, moving steadily away from “the open web” to a more corporate structure. He suggests, and he is working hard, to move us back to the Indieweb concept, including finding ways to give ownership of spaces to students to find their voice and their passion.
  • Troy shares various links to various sites and applications and platforms where one might explore further some of the potentials extensions of writing. I re-found Voyant through Troy’s piece. It is a writing analysis tool that has many bells and whistles as it creates a snapshot analysis of writing. Here, I took a paragraph from Troy’s piece and put it through Voyant. What does one do with this? I suspect one would dig in and then find ways to remix the analysis, to surface and uncover things below the writing itself.
    Using Voyant on Troy
    At the very least, this tool gives your writing a visual look. At worst, it makes your writing become a meaningless analysis, where you lose all context of theme. So, in an effort to play with the concepts of digital writing, I used Troy’s words, to make the visual, that became the basis of a poem about losing meaning when writing gets reduced to its parts:
    Troy's Words Inside Voyant Inspires Poem
  • And finally, Troy, in being part of this discussion about his own text, notes his appreciation for this kind of discourse. What this does is keep the text alive and out in the open. Which, I contend, is important for any consideration of the future of writing.

The beauty of Hypothesis is that the annotation doesn’t have to end now. It can restart anytime you arrive and make a comment. So, whether today is today (my time) or a year from now (your time), please do come in and add some thoughts. Reflect. Connect. Write about writing.

See you in the margins.

Peace (upon reflection),
Kevin

 

It’s a Student Haiku Celebration

Haiku Poetry Collection

My sixth grade students have just finished up the writing of a series of haiku poems, and using Google Slides to create visual representations of their poems. Each student then “donates” a poem to this collection. There are some wonderful poems in here.

Peace (in three lines),
Kevin

Teaching Design Elements: Problems of Text, Color, Image, Conflict

This is not the first lesson around design that I have done with my students, but our Haiku project has brought to the surface the need to remind and re-teach some basic Design Principles when it comes to merging text (in this case, poems) and images, via Google Slides.

This presentation is what I shared yesterday in class and used as a talking point as students got down to work. I tried to integrate three hints for them to use to make their project more design-friendly. Too many of my young digital poets find busy images to use or bury their text into the slide or don’t consider color combinations.

I want them to see the work as art, as much as writing. Design comes into play with that lens.

Peace (in the mess),
Kevin

 

 

Mentor Text Haiku: Notes from Japan

We’re still in our poetry unit (because who cares about April?) and my students are working on a series of haiku poems, and then using Google Slides to layer image with text. We’ll be pulling together one poem from each student to create a Sixth Grade Digital Haiku Book in the coming days.

I shared some of my haiku poems with them, as mentor texts, and explained that I wrote my poems while on a trip to Japan with my family, using haiku as my journal entries to capture memories from a likely once-in-a-lifetime trip to Asia.

Peace (in 5, in 7, in 5),
Kevin

Found Appreciation Poems for Teachers

Found Poem/Teacher Appreciation

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and the cover story in a recent edition of Time for Kids magazine were small vignettes written by famous people about their favorite teachers, and the impact those educators have had on their lives. I saw an opportunity to teach my sixth graders about Found Poems (and hope to do Blackout Poems some other day), of remixing words and phrases from a text to create a poem from inside the passages.

I created an appreciation poem myself as a mentor text, writing a poem about my sixth grade teacher — Mr. Dudak — who inspired me in many ways, and is one of the few teachers I still remember from elementary school. I even wrote about Mr. Dudak many years ago in The Boston Globe (but I’ll be darned if I can find a copy online … still looking, and I don’t even know where he is anymore to find him, but will keep trying.)

My students enjoyed the poem I wrote. I did, too.

Aside from making mustaches and other cosmetic choices on the magazine images with the Sharpies I gave them as I read the vignettes out loud, they dove in to find interesting phrases and words as they began to make a gift of a poem to a favorite teacher in our building as a token of appreciation.

They will be doing final versions of the poems today, and then decorating envelopes tomorrow, and I hope the found words help them express their feelings about former teachers. The few student poems that I saw being worked on yesterday were pretty powerful. I hope they send a message of appreciation from sixth graders, about to leave our elementary school, to their recipients, my colleagues in the building.

Peace (find it),
Kevin

 

Last Round of #NetNarr Daily Digital Alchemy Poems

I’ve shared out a few collections of small poetic responses that I have done for the past few months with Networked Narratives, and the Daily Alchemy, which now ends its semester run. This is the final collection, with a few odds and ends poems tossed into the mix, too.

I’m still thinking of how to bring all of the poems — literally, in the dozens and nearly 100 since January, but each poem is only six seconds long — together. Maybe I keep it simple, and just make a YouTube Playlist …

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life: April’s Daily Poems


Abandoned Hotel Fire flickr photo by darkday. shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Bud Hunt has been inspiring me to write poems all month with images at his blog site. I am grateful. Thank you, Bud. Midway through April, I wrote an update on the poems I had written for the first half of the month, and here is my second update on the second half of the collection.

I’ve been on a mission to write “small” on the Mastodon network, with small stories (a version, in my mind, of Slice of Life), small quotes (from books I am reading) and small poems, so I have been purposely trying to keep these daily poetry pieces with Bud short, to the point, evocative.

Writing a poem a day in April is a nice transition from writing a slice a day in March, with both the bit of anxiousness (do I have another poem/slice inside of me?) to success (I did have another poem/slice inside of me) to critique (that’s the best poem/slice you could do?). And while the quality of the writing varies in this kind of daily flow, the act of writing each day is powerful. I still like some of the poems I wrote this month, so that’s a good sign.

I think May will be a little bit slower …


The pianist, Washington Square flickr photo by NightFlightToVenus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

First, I start with the end, the last poem of the month.

So this is where
you say the words go
to rest.

We unwind
the time for
rhymes,

break loose
stanzas
from the lines,

put the poems back
into the pocket
for another
time.

The flow is
slowed but never
silent.

The writing, merely
the temporary act of
capturing the
heart, which never stops
beating.

This is by
design.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/30/npm2018-prompt-30/

 

I am not of this world,
and how strange is it
to realize the truth of that?

So much remains a mystery
of another’s existence,
stretched to the edge of imagination.

What is it we learn from each other
through the stories of images
is a sense of our shared humanity.

I am yet of this world.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/29/npm2018-prompt-29/

 

The child in me still puts
crayons between my fingers,
scratching out color clouds
until everything slowly, methodically,
dissolves into little more than
a soft and silent muddy gray.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/28/npm2018-prompt-28/

 

Turn me off;
I’m not on
today.

No amplification
necessary,
for what I have
to say

is said with the look
of my eyes, not the
words of my voice

I have no choice:
the power button
is now off.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/27/npm2018-prompt-27/

 

She delivered words
on a plate, with poem
as a fork, and a novel
as napkin, and told me,
Dig in.

I crunched some ideas,
rolling rhymes
on my tongue,
watching the landscape
push past me, the window
as refuge from memory.

Dig in, she said,
then left me to my
lunch.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/26/npm2018-prompt-26/

 

What will happen,
I wonder out loud,
when I lean my words
on an angle and
slide the story
down the slope
of the graph?

You laugh.

I’m long past the point
of knowing how to calculate
what you think
when I write,
so I spin a poem
upon this plate,
a problem solved just
for you.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/25/npm2018-prompt-25/

 

Mornings
in this house
become ever more quiet —
a soft solitude
of writers —
until the kettle whistle sings
its steam-song urgency,
the tea bag steeping movement
back into our day.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/24/npm2018-prompt-24/

 

Words and phrases,
discarded into plastic pails
by the back door.

Sometimes,
I’ll lean out my writing window,
let my fingers dangle,
as the poems drop.

I forgot
what it is
I meant to
write.

So much of life
gets away from us,
it’s amazing we even have
the courage

to save a bit
for the remembering

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/23/npm2018-prompt-23/

 

How does
one believe
in the impossible
when the reality
is what’s always
so visible?
Suspend yourself
in the imagination,
so that together,
we can experience
the unknown,
with hearts as wide open
as our eyes.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/22/npm2018-prompt-22/

 

I abandoned
all reason
on the street,
if only so I would
always remember
the day, the time,
the weather,
in which we’d be sure
to meet.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/21/npm2018-prompt-21/

 

Your fingers run lightly
over the keys, a Sonata
in C, I believe, as passersby
hear but don’t listen.
I sit, outside your frame,
watching your body
sway in time to the rhythm
of some long-ago memory,
a postcard wrapped up
in song.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/20/npm2018-prompt-20/

 

It’s the waiting
the wondering
the worrying about
arrival,
the listening
the distractions
the contraptions
of the world,
covering up the sound
I’ve found I’m always here
listening for.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/19/npm2018-prompt-19/

 

On the night
when the waves
were my audience,
and the moon,
my companion,
I danced until dawn
to the music of
the seas.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/18/npm2018-prompt-18/

 

I won’t
spin star-light
from lamp-light,
nor moon-light
from flash-light,
but when darkness
descends, I’ll hold
your hand, letting
the calm flicker inside
this gloom of this room,
as we move in the groove
of the dance-light.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/17/npm2018-prompt-17/

Peace (in poems and words and rhymes),
Kevin

That Poem In Your Pocket Should Be Shared

Yesterday was Poem in your Pocket Day. I love this annual celebration of carrying poems around to share.

All day long in school, I had a folded poem sticking up out of my shirt pocket, and during each of my writing classes, I would take it out with great fanfare and read it to my students.

Which poem?

Words are Birds by Francisco Alarcon.

words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they’re difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

Then, I gave each student a different poem, as a gift, from a collection of poems that I had downloaded last year from Poem In Your Pocket Day, and we spent part of the class just reading the poems out loud, letting the words dance in the air, sharing the writing.
Finally, all of my sixth graders folded up their poems and put them in their pocket for the day. They got a kick out of that.
“At recess,” a student in one of my later classes shared, just before I read out Words are Birds, “all my friends were pulling poems out of their pockets and reading me their poems.”
Another student knew of the Poem in the Pocket event, from home.
“My mom and my dad put poems in their pockets today,” he said, before folding up his own, too, which he intended to share with his parents later.

Peace (sharing poems),
Kevin

Riffing Off Poems with Echoes of Originals


Typewriter flickr photo by markus spiske shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

It started with a poem about not having a poem to write about. Or rather, a morning where Bud Hunt didn’t post an image to inspire poetry, as he has been doing all month. I am a creature of writing habit, so when the prompt wasn’t there, I still had to write a poem, and then shared it with Bud on Twitter.

From there, Bud wrote a poetic response, on Twitter, and I heard an echo of a famous poem in his opening lines, so I tweeted back with my own poem. Dave Cormier jumped in and before I knew it, we were doing some poetry ping pong.

You can nearly hear the works of Poe, Whitman, Angelou, Williams, Wordsworth, Dickens, and others, if you read carefully enough in our Twitter poems. Not that we were being true to the poems, only that we were building off the familiar.

I gathered them up into a Twitter Moment (my first stab at Twitter’s curation tool). Take a look. I think I got them all.

For all the talk we have of the worries and dangers about social media, a small experience like this — a poetry riff that emerges only from creativity and connections — is a gentle reminder of the possibilities that come when people and ideas flow together, with humor and humanity.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin