Poem a Day, Monday

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)

How To Build a Butterfly

I’ll show you, Daddy,
how to build a butterfly
from crayon colors and blue sky moments.
Look here as the wings take shape on gossamer dreams
against a green backdrop of the fresh spring grass.
It’s delicate, Daddy,
and only for your eyes, not your fingers.
My butterfly dances on the moon
when the moon is hiding,
so that only the two of them dance together
in tap-step harmony.
That is how you build a butterfly, Daddy.
What wondrous thing will you create, he says,
as I think, you.

Listen to the poem as podcast

Peace (in poetry),

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
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),

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),

A mother’s poetry for a son’s war

I am not all that big on Anna Quindlen. I agree with many of her positions on politics and issues, but her writing doesn’t seem to draw me in (my wife is a big fan, though, so I know Anna Q must be on target).

But in the recent Newsweek, Anna Q uses her back page spotlight to shine a light on a mother’s relationship with her son in a way that gets at the heart of the personal conflicts associated with the ongoing war in Iraq and the need for a parent to remain connected to their children who have grown up to be warriors. The column shows how a mother’s poetry can get at something deep in a relationship.

This passage from the column struck me as particularly meaningful:

For Fran the poems were not political, except to the extent that all politics is personal. Sometimes everyone forgets that war is not a shout but a whisper: a folded flag, an empty bedroom, a woman who has lost that part of her life that made her feel most alive.

In this celebration of poetry, it is worth reading Anna Quindlen’s column and read into the emotion of the these two people, through the mother’s poems. It may not change your opinion of the war, but it may bring you deeper into the struggle that so many families are undergoing while the conflict rages.

It certainly touched my heart.

Peace (through the hidden power of writing),

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),

A Poem a Day

Bud the Teacher showed me this, via Twitter.


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),

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

Peace (in poems and podcasts),

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),