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Nikki Grimes’ Golden Shovel

6 Aug

Poet Terrance Hayes is credited with inventing Golden Shovel poetry. When you write a Golden shovel poem, you take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire, and, maintaining their order, use each word as an end word in your poem.

Poet Nikki Grimes has taken this strategy and written a beautiful homage to the Harlem Renaissance in One Last Word. 

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Publisher’s Summary: In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today’s most exciting African-American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki’s original poems. Featuring art by: Cozbi Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Books of poetry rarely win Newbery medals, but this one is certainly in the running, although I wonder of the presence of the Harlem Renaissance poems disqualifies it. regardless, Grimes’ book bring artists and writers of the period to a new audience and addresses tough issues that persist.

The Classroom Cold…A Haiku Series

10 Mar

Last week…

I laughed out loud at

the face the girl made when her

neighbor sneezed on her

Monday…

The classroom, normally

so full of chatter, is now

full of coughs and sneezes

Wednesday…

Pain in my cheeks, right

above my back teeth tells me

I’m the next victim

Thursday…

Digging through the cupboard

for prescription decongestants

life is good again

Friday…

Medicine coursing

through my veins – Who put this

goldfish bowl on my head?

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Lucy’s Guardian Angel

5 Mar

There is a rumor in the basset hound world that every basset has a heart-shaped spot somewhere on their body. Basset slaves proudly post pictures of these hearts on the Daily Drool Facebook page and get lots of reactions.

I set out one day to find Lucy’s heart. For those of you who haven’t met her yet, this is Lucy:

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She is now 10 and I have had her for 7 years. In fact, we just celebrated her 7th Gotcha Day on January 16th. (A Gotcha Day, in case you didn’t know, is the day a rescue dog is adopted.)

In any case, I set out to find her heart, but was having no luck. I was feeling rather glum and took a seat on the sofa to contemplate the deeper meaning of her lack of a heart-shaped spot, when I saw it. it wasn’t a heart. It was something even better.

lucys-angel

Lucy had an angel!

Billy Collins wrote a poem entitled “Questions About Angels“. Here is a poem, inspired by that poem, about Lucy’s angel

Lucy’s Angel (with apologies to Billy Colllins) 

Of all the questions you might want to ask
an angel, the only one you ever hear
a basset ask is about his furever home.
Like babies, dogs see angels
and know better than to rush in
where angels fear to tread.
God might have made man
a little lower than the angels
but Lucy’s angel hovers at her side.
Human metaphysics might question
the existence of angels, and philosophers
debate how many dance on the head of a pin,
But Lucy knows her angel is with her
both now and forever,
and to the ages of ages. Arooo!

Clearing the bookshelves

25 Jan

I picked up more advanced readers copies of books than I’d planned. I thought I was being choosy, but I had to ship a lot home.  I actually shipped them to school and I will get to revisit them today. Because of this, I want to read all the library books I have checked out so I can start in on the ARCs.

Growing up where I did, The Oregon Trail and Westward expansion weren’t really part of my formal education. I knew about them tangentially, but only heard about the Donner Party when it was mentioned by Robin Williams in Patch Adams.

Skila Brown is back with a novel in verse about that tragic event.

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Publisher’s Summary:The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.

Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.
Brown effectively imagines what the journey might have been like and captures the emotions Mary Ann and the others on the journey might have experienced.  Although there is nothing inappropriate for younger readers, the book would be more appropriate for middle and high school aged readers.

Another snowy day

11 Jan

I started kindergarten in 1969. I have few memories about it, but this I have are very clear. One of those memories is encountering Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.

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The book spoke to introverted little me, who loved making snow angels.

So, here I am, almost 50 years later, sitting at home after a huge snowfall in Portland, enjoying our 6th snow day of the school year. And I read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s  A Poem for Peter,  which tells the  Ezra Jack Keats biography, focusing on how he created The Snowy Day.

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It is a beautiful, poetic tribute to a man and a book. And the perfect thing to read on this snowy day. Pinkney’s poetry fits Portland today:

But when it snowed,

oh, when it snowed!

Nature’s glittery hand

painted the world’s walls a brighter shade.

She connects snow to equality.

Snow made opportunity and equality

seem right around the corner.

Snow doesn’t know who’s needy or dirty

or greedy or nice.

Snow doesn’t choose where to fall.

Snow doesn’t pick a wealthy man’s doorstep

over a poor lady’s stoop.

That’s Snow’s magic.

Snow is magical and it is especially so for children. I hope kids of all ages  in Portland get out and enjoy the snow today. Play, throw snowballs, make snow angels.

But be a snow angel in another way, if you can. Four homeless people have died of exposure in Portland in the last 10 days. Think about them, too. Act if you can. Donate if you can’t act. But do something to help the homeless feel that the snow brings Magic to them, too.

The Power of Poetry

14 Oct

I’m still basking in the joy of yesterday’s Nobel Prize for Literature announcement. Although the Nobel committee awarded it “”for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, I think it was because it was his for the inspiration his poetry inspired in others.

Which gets me to today’s book, Patricia MacLachlan’s The Poet’s Dog.

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Publisher’s Summary:From Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan comes a poignant story about two children, a poet, and a dog and how they help one another survive loss and recapture love.

Teddy is a gifted dog. Raised in a cabin by a poet named Sylvan, he grew up listening to sonnets read aloud and the comforting clicking of a keyboard. Although Teddy understands words, Sylvan always told him there are only two kinds of people in the world who can hear Teddy speak: poets and children.

Then one day Teddy learns that Sylvan was right. When Teddy finds Nickel and Flora trapped in a snowstorm, he tells them that he will bring them home—and they understand him. The children are afraid of the howling wind, but not of Teddy’s words. They follow him to a cabin in the woods, where the dog used to live with Sylvan . . . only now his owner is gone.

As they hole up in the cabin for shelter, Teddy is flooded with memories of Sylvan. What will Teddy do when his new friends go home? Can they help one another find what they have lost?

This is a short book, a mere 96 pages, but it speaks to the power of poetry.

 

October: A heat pump poem

4 Oct

 unknown

The temperature

has been

d

r

o

p

p

i

n

g.

Before too long

I will have to turn on

THE HEAT.

But not yet.

Bundled in socks

and a flannel shirt

I challenge myself:

one more day.

Monitoring the temperature

inside the house,

I think:

one more degree.

But this year is different.

August’s heat pump

brought AC

and will soon bring

Autumn’s heat.

Though I am not ready

to turn it on,

I sit here,

in socks and a flannel shirt,

awaiting the moment

when I

turn

on

the

HEAT.

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