Slice of Life: The Unexpected Poem

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

You may not believe me on this but it’s true. I was at our local library, and I often kill time there by looking at the rack of “recently returned” books to see what other people are reading. Sort of a like a literary voyuer. I was scanning the far side of the rack when I saw a small book of poetry and art about the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, which is where I live.

I sat down, flipped through the pages, perusing some of the writing and enjoying the art of where I live when I landed on page 82. And I saw my own name and one of my poems. And that’s when I remembered — in one of those odd “oh yeah” moments — submitting a poem to a local anthology about ten years ago. Publication took time, and I guess I sort of forgot all about it. This book was published nearly four years ago, I see.

Ghost Train poem in Anthology

But there I was, a poet in the collection. Of course, I checked out the book from the library, and showed my family the poem with a mysterious ‘turn to page 82.’ (My middle son then flipped to the bios, and saw his own name referenced, which gave him some excitement). The piece is all about the train tracks that have been transformed into bike and hiking trails in our neighborhood, and the ghosts of the past that ride with the present.

Interesting, right? Serendipity. Or something.

Peace (you never know),
Kevin

On the Cartographer’s Map (A Digital Poem)

We’re diving into maps and mapping in CLMOOC this month for a Pop-Up Make Cycle, and I was remembering a poem I had written about mapping. I had to dig around for it, and then read my own reflections that I had written the poem after taking care of my son who was sick with fever, and watching him push and pull at his blankets. The blanket was a map, I had imagined, and this poem came from there. To be honest, I now have trouble connecting the poem to that memory. But I think the poem stands on its own, particularly in this digital format, with images and text and music.

Peace (beyond the lines),
Kevin

A Poem Emerges from Collaboration

Emergent Poem Collaboration

One of my participatory ideas from my presentation last week on “Emergence: Expecting the Unexpected” for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing was to invite those in the presentation to write an acrostic poem with me. Over the course of a few days, I invited others, too, and the result is pretty nifty. I used an open source writing space called Board.Net (built off elements of the old Etherpad), and used the timelapse element to capture the poem being written.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

PS — Terry Elliott is also using Board as an invitation to play with a poem.

Transmitting A Small Poem

In another media space (Mastodon), I have been writing “small poems” most days, little wanderings of tiny verse. Yesterday, this one — called Transmitting — stuck with me, so I decided to walk it out of that social media space and remake it as a digital poem with Lumen5.

This is the original (I have never tried the embed of Mastodon):

Meanwhile, my friend, Terry, shared with me two remixed of a small story I had written in that same space. The story was about watching a student overcome her fears and take on a high ropes course.

Terry re-interpreted the story as a video poem called Falling Up …

and then as a sound-ful Haiku Deck.


Falling Up – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Thanks, Terry.

Peace (in the mix),
Kevin

Animating Text for Kinetic Poetry

I’ve long been fascinated by Kinetic Text or Kinetic Typography (I’m never quite sure what to call it) in which words and/or letters of words are animated. In the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) this week, we are exploring animation and GIFs, so animated text has come to mind for me.

You can read about my explorations a bit here, at the new National Writing Project/Educator Innovator site The Current (formerly Digital Is) and in there are some of my reflections on creating the following poem with Powerpoint and its animation features that are built within. (Note: the resource is a few years old now and not every link to resource might be working). You basically have to use a single slide, and make every word you want to animate a different “object” so you can move it independently from the rest.

A Warning: An Illuminated Poem from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

And there is one, done in similar fashion in Keynote as part of another exploration of technology and poetry:

And last year, during CLMOOC, we kept an open document as a slow chat, and I took the comments in the margins to make this poem in Keynote:

Lately, I have been using an app that Terry Elliott showed me called Legend, which allows for short textural animations.

You can’t get as detailed as some of the above with individual words, so you lose some of the emphasis. But I like the app for what it is and how the limited text and features forces you to focus on the words.

By the way, in Flickr, the way you host and share out animated GIFS (which is not immediately obvious because the site seems to flatten the animated gifs) is to upload your file and then go into the Download/View All Sizes button, and find the “original” and that location will allow you to right-click and grab the link of the animated GIF (that might be another lesson learned from Terry).

Peace (moves in strange ways),
Kevin

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