What if Poetry were a Planet …

I tried my hand at a shape poem this morning over at Bud the Teacher’s blog, where he has been generously sharing photos as inspiration for poetry this entire month (Thanks, Bud!). The image today was of a spinning galaxy, which got me thinking metaphorically, and then it made sense to try to create a spaceship out of my words.

Peace (aboard the poetry ship),

A Poem Podcast: Trying to Make My Writing Visible

Creative Commons License photo credit: Selma90

Many of us write in silence, with just our thoughts ringing out inside. This morning, as I was about to move into the 19th day of writing a daily poem with Bud Hunt and his image-inspiration concept (each day, Bud posts a picture and encourages us to write a poem), I thought I would try something a little different.

Before I even went to Bud’s site to see the picture of the day, I turned on my microphone and began to talk. My goal was to try to make visible my writing process with today’s poem. I did this because I have noticed how often my poems seem to have little relation to the photos that Bud shares, and yet, the photos are the spark of inspiration. And I write without stopping to reflect on what I am really doing. I go with the flow. But where does the flow come from? That’s sort of what I was after.

I realize that this podcast is a bit self-indulgent, but if you have time and interest, I would love for you to give it a listen and see what you think. I’d appreciate some feedback on this kind of on-the-spot reflection. And I wonder, is this kind of vocal writing feasible in the classroom? What if we gave out voice recorders and asked kids to talk as they wrote and edited? What would happen?

Walking Through a Poem: A Podcast Reflection

And then, here is the poem itself that I wrote that was inspired by the apple photograph that Bud shared today:

In the orchard, I climb trees
in places where the branches twist and turn
as if they are a road map to some forgotten place
and my eyes travel these roads to remember.

I swerve to avoid the humming bees,
and ignore the other travelers along the road
as I reach out my fingers to grasp the treasures
of time and space.

In the orchard, I remember the taste of memory
as sweetness and sour
and bite into life with my eyes closed,
thinking always that this moment may soon disappear.

I rest, weary, on the damp grass
and gaze up through the branches, again,
my vision zigzagging towards the blue sky above;
my world crunching in my mouth.

In the orchard, I climb trees
in places where the branches twist and turn …

Peace (in the podcast),

Writing (digital) Poems with Bud

I continue to enjoy the poetry adventures over at Bud the Teacher’s blog. Bud posts a picture, a few words and opens up his space for poems. I get up, wondering what I might write about today. I’ve been using Vocaroo to record as podcasts, and Bill has followed my lead. The other day, Kelly responded to a poem of mine with a poem of hers, and then I responded — a poetic conversation of sorts.
This morning, he posted an interesting picture and suggested a mixing up, which made me think of a remix of some sort, which led to wonder about elements within the photo.

So, I fashioned a short digital poem about listening to someone practicing music and wanting to join in. I made it in a few minutes with Photostory3.

Come write with us at Bud’s place. There a seat at the table for you.

Peace (in the poetry),

Get the Poetry Flowing

I  saw this note in a Twitter feed and decided to check it out. It’s an app for iPhone or iTouch or iPad(?) called Poem Flow, and it is a pretty cool system of presenting famous poems in a flowing, visual way. The basic app is free and comes with about a dozen poems, and then they charge you for extra downloads.

But here is the beauty: if you are an educator, you get the download upgrade FOR FREE. It’s definitely worth checking it out. I had nice time reading/watching some poems last night. And I noticed that on the form that teachers have to take to get the free code, there is a question of whether you might be interested in learning more about an upcoming application that allows you to create your own poetry flows. Heck yes!

You can find Poem Flow at the Apple App Store.

Peace (in the flow),

Being a writer in a room of writers

Last night, as part of the New England Writing Project Retreat down at University of Connecticut, a large group of us teacher-writers wandered down to an Open Mic that had been set up as part of the retreat. The room was filled with high school creative writers, undergraduate and graduate students, and us teachers in the National Writing Project. All too often, we teachers write with other teachers. It’s as isolating as being in your classroom (although the National Writing Project is a place that helps dispel that feeling). So, to be part of an Open Mic event with students reading their writing (and in one case, singing a song, and in another, performing a one-act play) was fascinating and interesting and invigorating, and my ears overflowed with amazing poems. We were all equal — writers in a room of writers.

One of the teachers with me out his poem and, looking out at the crowd of young and older faces, smiled, and said, “I thought I would be reading to a group of English teachers,” but the kids were receptive and open to all sorts of writing.

Jason, here at UConn Writing Project, helped organize the event and I appreciated this kind of mix of teachers and young writers, who were clearly as happy to have us as their audience as we were to have them. I read a poem that I wrote over at Bud the Teacher’s blog this week. The poem is still in revision  (I was scribbling on it in the seconds before I stood at the podium) but I felt like this was an audience that would accept whatever words flowed from my mouth.

Peace (in the poems),

More Poems with Budtheteacher

Lightning; My First Try
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuzeytac

Bud Hunt, aka Bud the Teacher (and Bud the Poet, and Bud the Daddy, and Bud the Bowler) has been posting some pretty interesting photographs at his blog site this month, and asking that folks be inspired and write poetry. I get up in the morning, wondering what he will have posted today, and somehow, I find a poem in the morning darkness. I like that kind of inspired writing. Some of my poems are disposable, but others could be worked on in the future. You’ll notice that I am using Vocaroo to podcast my poems, so if you want to hear me reading my writing, you can follow those links at the end of each poem.

Here are  few poems from this week that I wrote that have some potential:

My walls are crawling with sound;
echoes of the past seeping in
through the pores
of the duct tape repairs hastily made to photographs
falling to the floor as a result of the pounding
of small feet, up and down the stairs,
as if the treadmill here never ends and is always in motion.

We’ve placed our lives on top of the others who were here before us,
layering our laughter and sadness and kindness and cruelty
on top of their own: a symphony of living.

In early mornings, when no one is awake but the cat and I,
I clandestinely peel back the wood paneling to get a glimpse
of those who were here before us,
as if some secret to a long life is hidden there behind the facade —
a Chinese fortune inside the cookie shell —
yet all I ever find are uneven walls, unused nail hooks, paint splatters
and a few tattered remains of paper scratched with small indecipherable scribbles,
which I suppose is what we mostly leave behind anyway,
for those who will come after us.


Dear computer,
Oh, how you have served me well these long mornings
as I have tapped away in near silence to the musings
of my mind.
I forgive you the re-starts, the pauses, the endless rebooting and even the lost files:
everyone has their difficulties and my fingers often run too fast
even for me.
You did not panic when the little green XO came into the house,
nor did you bat an eyelash when the laptop arrived like some long-distant cousin.
The open source Netbook did not scare you
and you were silent as a star as I breathed out excitement
about the Macbook at school.
The iTouch no doubt sent a quiver down your motherboard,
but it, too, has its place, in another room,
docked and loaded with music and games and almost out of sight,
out of mind.
Here, with you, I still come to write.
Here, with you, I still navigate the world.
Here with you, I remain.
But I wonder …. will you still be here another year
or are you soon to be gone,
replaced with what the hipsters and hypersters all say will change the world?
I sense panic in your font, old friend, and can only say that we all adapt
when the price is low enough and the interest, great enough.
I remain, still stationary yours,


your movements
bewitch me:

the way you shift on your toes
when you walk down the hallway
makes me feel as if the entire world
has tilted on its axis

the way you hold your pen
as your write your notes
in swirling, romantic lines as if being played
to rhythmic salsa

the way you bend down to talk
to him with eyes wide open and full of interest
in all things Star Wars, Ninja Turtles and the distance
between Earth and Sun

the way you can sit so quietly
and just think

while my mind rumbles with love
over these small moments
that make up the day.


Why is it that every time you whisper,
I see lightning
flashing across the horizon
with sharp lines snapping and crackling;
but whenever I hear myself talk,
I only hear thunder
rumbling deep inside
on inaudible frequencies that shimmer and fade.


Come join us for writing poems over at Bud’s blog. Come on. You can do it, too.

Peace (in the poems),

Bud’s Picture Poetry Month

Radio Daze

Well, just as Slice of Life ends, so begins poetry with pictures over at Bud the Teacher’s blog. Each day, Bud posts an interesting photo, with a little bit of guided thoughts, and asks for folks to submit a poem.

Today the photo and idea around breaks inspired me to write this poem:

I’m breaking in
so you can break out
with those dance moves you’ve been working on
with the Wii.
I hear you down there at night,
with speakers on low,
your feet pound-pound-pounding to the beat
while I am deep in sleep,
dreaming of the microchips that carry the rhythm
of you.

And I am trying to use Vocaroo to record my poems with Bud.

Peace (in the night),

Me and Andrea and Billy Collins

Thanks to Aram for this quick video of me and my friend, Andrea, meeting Billy Collins in Philly. You can just make out me talking about the 30Poems in 30Days project.

Peace (in the connection),

Reflecting on Writing 30 Poems in 30 Days

I’m glad I did it — I’m glad I took the challenge of writing 30 new poems in 30 days and lining up “sponsors” who would donate a set amount of money per poem in order to help a local group that supports immigrant families in the Pioneer Valley (where I live). (See initial news story about the project)

But I do wonder about the quality of what I was writing. I felt like I barely had time to take a breath, never mind go as deep as I would have liked to have done in any other time. Don’t  mistake me — I write fast and let ideas bubble, not simmer. But a poem every day was still a challenge. I found myself looking at the small moments of my life, trying to see the world through the poetic lens, and then I tried to capture some of that with poetry.

I also made forays into technology — I wrote a poem with Wordle, with images, as a comic strip movie, in a Prezi presentation and with Voicethread. I wanted to explore some possibilities that aligned nicely with the short-form poems that I was writing. Most days, I podcasted my poems using the free Myna software from Aviary. It was a perfect platform for recording, downloading as MP3 files and then sharing out, too.

I also had this vision of my reader — my sponsors, who were stretched out across the United States (and into New Zealand). Every morning, I would send them off an email with a new poem. Sometimes, they would write back — sometimes, they wrote back with a poem of their own.

Aram, for one, decided early on that he liked the challenge so much that he began posting his own poems in response, sometimes, to mine. Or at least, in response to the challenge. (And it was thanks to Aram that I said hello to Billy Collins.) Another person in our iAnthology network, and a sponsor, took to writing her own 30 poems, too, but she has kept them private. I was grateful that my poetry inspired her to take the chance, too.

I began the month with a poem about “plunging into poetry” and ended it by letting my readers know that “Gratitude is the song I sing” for them being there every day. In between, I wrote about my family, about writing, about my classroom, about the digital world, and more.

Most of the poems were short — five to ten lines long, and I struggled to pack a punch into those lines. I didn’t want the words to just sound nice; I wanted the words to mean something. I hope they did.

So, what do you do with 30 fresh poems? I’m not sure. Right now, they sit in the bin with a previous venture of OnePoemEveryMonthforaYear, and poems written in response to photos posted by Bud the Teacher a few months back and other odds and ends of writing collecting dust.

If I can swing it, I am going to try to go to the poetry reading for the 30Poems in 30Days project at our local library this week (scheduling makes this difficult, so I don’t know …) I’m curious to hear what other folks have been doing and maybe, I’ll be able to share a poem or two of my own to a live, and not just virtual, audience.

Peace (in the poems),