Poems with Bud and Mary Lee: Where It Ends, It Begins

I want to do a shout out to Bud Hunt and Mary Lee Hahn for posting images and media files all month at their blogs to inspire readers to write poetry. I’ll write more about my experience, but here are my final two poems.

Mary Lee posted this intriguing animaged GIF file.
Zipper animated

Which led to this poem:

Where it ends is where it begins,
our words entwined like wires
moving with electricity through the world
from our fingers to our ears
to the universe beyond.

Where it ends is where it begins,
a spark of creativity and connectedness
and shadows of worlds unfolding on the page
from our fingers to our eyes
to our thoughts settled inside.

Where it ends is where it begins,
poems as stories as memories
as thinking, as sharing in this space
where time and distance are immeasurable
and where our words collide

And this is the podcast:

Audio and voice recording >>

At Bud the Teacher, Bud shared this image:
RAK #17

Which led me to this poem:

I pretend to walk with perfect symmetry,
ambling slowly beneath nature’s beautiful arc
of flower petals, honeycombs, ice crystals,
and all of the invisible magic of geometry
so that all my own imperfections

And the podcast:

Voice Recorder >>
Peace (in the poems),


Poems with Mary Lee: Building the Skyline

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-09409, Potsdam, Frühstückspause der Gerüstbauer
Mary Lee posted an interesting image of some scaffolders taking a break from work. She’s been kindly posting images from the Wikimedia Commons all month, inspiring poetry. Here’s what I wrote:

My grandfather worked this place,
with brothers and cousins
and fellow blue-collar heroes,
riveting steel into the skyline
as dreamed by those down below …

I listen to Springsteen –
with chords and lyrics
and stories of working-class men –
driving this steel on wheels
to spend hours in those towers …

At lunch, I study the skyline,
watch the clouds,
imagine the dangerous balancing act
my grandfather’s crew performed
each day, every day,
as they built this city,
from the bottom up.

And the podcast:

Audio recording software >>
Peace (in the skyline),



Poems with Bud: Plastic People and Other Poems

More furniture
I’ve been catching up a bit with Bud Hunt and his posts of images to inspire poetry. This morning, he posted a Lego-inspired theme, and that got me writing this poem:

plastic worlds;
faces, spaces,
creating places
where we smile
the same, look
the same,
the same,
until little fingers
snap us back into reality,
and we break.

And the podcast:

Audio and voice recording >>

The other day, Bud caught up with some posts and I wrote these two as well:

Your shadow self
follows me –
I feel it –
the breath of you in my ear
as darkness.

(from this image post)


As far as our eyes can see,
nothing but distance;
The slow narrowing of lines
on which our stories may never collide.
Instead, we run parallel to each other,
calling out from across the tracks
with words echoing in the distance.

(from this image post)

Nurturing “Close Listening” Skills with Poetry

I’ve been doing more work this year around the idea of “close reading” with my students, focusing in on how to read carefully and critically, and I have definitely seen growth in their analytical skills as a result. We’ve been in the midst of a poetry unit, and I have been trying to take some of those “close reading” concepts and use them for “close listening.” I am working on this because there is a sizeable number of kids who seem to drift off a little too easily at times when I am doing read aloud. And while I want them to be enjoying the text, I also want them to be learning about the text, too.

Poetry seems a perfect way to get at this idea of active and close listening. Yesterday, for example, we studied The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and focused on mood. My students were digging into this poem, which was unfamiliar to all but a few of them, and considering the question of  “mood and tone” from listening to the poem. We went about identifying words and phrases, and poetic techniques (symbolism and repetition), to get at the heart of Poe’s classic tale. The we watched The Simpson’s spoof of The Raven, and brought that idea of satire into the discussion (How did The Simpson’s version alter the mood?)

I also used a wonderful book called My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States. This is a collection of poems that center on a “place” with great imagery. The way this lesson unfolds is that they don’t know what part of the country the poem I read aloud is from, and using evidence from the text they are listening to (the poem), they have to place it on a geographic map of the United States. We use a simple chart, so that they have to pull out “evidence” from the poems to support their guesses, and then another part of the chart has them listening for figurative language devices.

The use of the chart really does focus their listening skills, and the conversations about the evidence they have heard and why it signifies a certain place in the country is wonderful, as the poems connect not only to certain spaces but also sparks memories and poetry about their own vision of places they have been.

Peace (in the share),


The Haiku Podcasts: Student Voice Collage

We’ve now moving from reading and listening to poetry to writing and publishing poetry, and yesterday, we explored haikus as a form and structure of poetry. Some kids really love haiku; others, not so much. But volunteers from my four classes shared their poems for a podcast collage, and here it is:

I also brought them into Google Translate, and we converted a few of their haikus into Japanese symbols, and then used the audio button to translate their poems. This was one of those activities that I thought of in the last moment but which turned out to be the most engaging part of the lesson. They were amazed to see their poems in Japanese and had a blast listening to the “voice” read their poems to the class (over the speakers).
haiku translate

Peace (in the voices),

Poems with Mary Lee: Be Gentle With Me

Reflection in a soap bubble edit

Mary Lee has yet another great image this morning, to spark poetry. It is of a bubble.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hold me gently:
fingertips touching tender skin;
for inside,
I remain invisible
and vulnerable to the way things have been.
I float above this world,
in a cloak of color
but my rainbow drains easily,
so be gentle.

And the podcast:

Voice Recorder >>

Peace (in the poems),


Poems with Mary Lee: Burn This Castle Down

Mary Lee posted an image this morning of a castle, and I imagined it a flat place, full of stereotypes.
Broadway tower edit
And so began my poem …

I light a match
to this cardboard castle
and burn the story to the ground,
finally free after so many years
of the roles into which we have been thrust:
the hero in shining armor
the damsel in distress
the fool juggling lives before the fickle king.
So now begins the new adventure,
free from the shackles of past
riding hard and fast
into the fading sun.

Listen to the podcast:

Record and upload audio >>
Peace (in the restart),


Poems with Mary Lee: Choices at the Sushi Bar

Mary Lee had an interesting video up this morning to inspire poetry as part of her month of sharing resources from Wikimedia Commons. The video (above) is of a revolving sushi bar, and that got me thinking a bit about how the range of choices might actually be limiting.
Here’s what I wrote:

The predator hunts,
biding his time,
as his dinner cavorts
with others in line.

One might think
there were hours to wait,
as dinner flows by
on a small blue plate.

Another night
with too many choices,
the predator slinks home
in his stomach, the voices

call out for some meat,
some rice, some fish,
something of substance
from the small moving dish.

But, alas, that won’t be
so he takes out his bread
spreads peanut butter and jelly
and slinks off to bed.

And the podcast:

Record music with Vocaroo >>

Peace (in the poem),


Poems with Bud: The Deep End and Silence

Bud posted a few new images this week to inspire poetry. The first is of an abandoned shopping cart at the edge of the ocean. Here’s what I wrote:

I’m not sure what’s taking him so long
to get the groceries:
the list was simple enough –
a gallon of milk,
a dozen bananas,
a little bit of orange juice …
I wonder if he has gone off the deep end

And the second is a quiet scene — just two people holding hands, walking down the street. Here’s what I wrote:

She’d like to think
the silence,
a blanket;
She’d like to think
the fingers,
a thread;
She’s like to think
their dreams,
a quilt;
She’d like to think all that
but she’s just not sure,
and he’s not talking as they continue walking
into the quiet.

Peace (in the poems),


Poems with Mary Lee: The Rubik Cube

Mary Lee has been posting some nifty images and media files over A Year of Reading, and asking us to write poems inspired by the work. It is part of her push to share more about Wikimedia Commons. Yesterday, she posted this animated image:
PocketCube (small)
By Silver Spoon (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
It reminded me of a conversation I inadvertently eavesdropped on the other day between a boy and his father. Which led to this poem:

“It only takes 20 moves,”
the boy whispered, as his father stared
at the young fingers
quickly swiveling and twisting the color tiles,
remixing the cube back towards its original and perfect state,
“and I can do it in less,” the boy boasted,
barely looking at his hands in movement,
matching up colors in a blur of speed
and confidence.

Instead, the boy gazed intently at his father,
seeking a compliment, or comment,
or an acknowledgement at the very least,
but all he got was that dead-eyed look of an adult
suddenly realizing just how difficult it would be
to put his own fractured world back together in just
20 moves or less.

Peace (in the cube),