Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “rhyme”

Poetry Friday: “It’s the Thought That Counts”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllNormally, I wrestle with which poems to share here each week. While I want to share everything, I have to hold myself back sometimes and not share a certain poem if I think it might be published at some point.

Today, I have no fear of that.

I wrote this quite a few years ago, when I was just beginning to get serious about my children’s writing…and had no idea how similar it was to another poem written by someone far more talented and far more famous than I will ever be. You might known who that person is and to which of his poems I’m referring; if so, you’ll understand why no editor will ever want to touch this. If you don’t know, I’ll keep quiet and let you enjoy the poem.

And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links – and a draft of a beautiful poem she’s writing – be sure to visit Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche!

It’s the Thought That Counts

I loaded up my backpack first,
So full of books, it’s set to burst;
Brushed my teeth and combed my hair,
Then put on something nice to wear.
While mom and dad were still in bed
I made some breakfast – jam and bread –
Then 7:30 on the clock,
Went out the door and down the block
To get to school on time, but wait –
I’m neither early nor too late;
I’m kind of sad, I have to say…
Apparently, it’s Saturday.

- © Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Book review: “S is for Sea Glass”

I write poetry in a variety of styles and forms – some rhyming, some free verse. Some structured, some not quite so.

You can therefore imagine how refreshing it was for me to see a children’s poetry collection that offered this same sort of variety – not the cut-and-paste sing-song of simple rhyming verse, nor the page-after-page of non-rhyming, uneven line-length free verse (which can sometimes get heavy for children’s poetry). In the case of Richard Michelson’s S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014), we’re talking about a smart, well-structured book that carries one theme – poems about the beach – but presents that theme in 26 different ways.

Sea Glass cover

Because a trip to the beach or ocean carries with it so many different moods, sights, and feelings for a child, this book makes good use of poetic forms to highlight those differences. One minute the reader is contemplating the ebb and flow of tides, and the next he or she is chuckling over the author’s query of what, precisely, a mosquito is good for.
…..

H is for Horizon

Where does the sea stop and the sky begin?
Where does the sun rise when the dawn slips in?
Where does the ship sail when its sails disappear?
Is it under the ocean? Is it up in the air?

If I travel the world or stay here on this beach,
The horizon will always be just beyond reach.
But its real as my dreams and it’s always nearby -
That magical line where the sea meets the sky.

- Richard Michelson, reprinted with permission, all rights reserved

.

Doris Ettlinger’s illustrations perfectly match the poems, as they are neither trite nor bold nor ornate…but are simultaneously happy and calm, fun and reflective, cool and warm. The fact that it’s an alphabet book is almost superfluous.

Which, I suppose, is a good thing, as I feel many of the poems – most, in fact, read above the level of a child who would need to learn the alphabet. As a collection of poetry, as a book about the beach, as a book that reflects the wonders, mysteries, and joy of being ocean side…S is for Sea Glass is beautiful. The fact that it’s an alphabet book seems unnecessary.

Here’s another one of my favourites:
…..

R is for Rain

Nobody’s  at the beach today. ‘Most everyone’s complaining.
…..The sky is dark. The clouds are thick. And I, the Rain, am raining.

…..…...Folks let waves splash them head to toe. Do you hear any whining?
……….……….No!
…..…..…..They think it’s fun to get wet when their friend, the sun, is shining.

…..…..…..…..I cool the breeze. And fill the seas. Who’s not a rainbow lover?
…..…..…..…..…..So why, when I come out to play, do they all run for cover?

- Richard Michelson, reprinted with permission, all rights reserved


Like I said, smart, beautiful, relatable  poetry. And it’s poetry that makes children think as much as smile. Hopefully, the next time they go to the beach, some of the images will be fresh in their heads. I know many of the images are fresh in my head – but then again, I’ve been spending all week here by the ocean.

And I think it’s time I did some more refreshing. I hear the surf calling my name…

York beach

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

RhyPiBoMo and the benefits of collaboration

You might think I’m here – but you’d be wrong!

RhyPiBoMo badgeI’m actually guest-blogging today at Angie Karcher’s blog, as part of a month-long celebration of National Poetry Month! Angie has created RhyPiBoMO (short for Rhyming Picture Book Month) as a way to get people motivated to write for children.

Earlier this year, I completed a collaboration project with a fellow picture book author, and the manuscript we’ve written would have never come to fruition without the two of us hammering things out, writing and editing, and sharing back-and-forth via Google Drive.

When two people with complimentary talents take an interest in something…awesome things can happen! Find out more HERE at Angie’s place, and be sure to check back here periodically throughout the month of April as the National Poetry Month celebration continues!

You can see the complete schedule for all of Angie’s guest bloggers on this calendar:

RhyPiBoMo calendar - updated

Click to enlarge, to see all of Angie’s guest bloggers this month!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

NPM-2005-White

 

Poetry Friday: “Mistaken Identity” and other Poetry Month happenings

NPM-2005-WhiteNational Poetry Month continues, and there’s so much going on in the Kidlitosphere it’s hard to keep track of it all. Blog posts come and blog posts go, and I try to read as many as I can…but there’s just no way I can get to all of them. One post I’m glad I didn’t miss helped me write today’s poem.

Earlier this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect, former National Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis shared a new poetic form he calls the “homophoem,” a poem designed with homophones in mind. (If you don’t know what a homophone is. it’s two or more words that share the same sound, like ate and eight or carrot and carat) The concept is that the last word in the poem is a homophone which acts as the ‘twist’ of the poem.

Kate Coombs and Charles Waters both wrote some incredible poems for the challenge, which they shared on the blog, and this is my contribution:

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMistaken Identity
(A conversation in two voices)

No bull,
I’m not a cow,
it’s true –
I don’t eat hay,
I have no moo.

But what about
your horns and hooves,
and all the grass
you like to chew?

My parents
have two horns –
they do!
They both
have hooves
and eat grass, too!

Are you an ox?
A yak? A ewe?
Please tell me!
Give me just a clue!

Who am I?
Why, I am zebu!

Zebu?
Zebu?!?

 I never gnu.
.

- © 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine

But wait, there’s more! Michelle Heindenrich Barnes is celebrating her blog’s FIRST birthday by hosting Poetry Friday today at Today’s Little Ditty, so head on over to get all the links and info – and maybe some cake and ice cream before it’s gone!

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2014kidlit_progpoem Have you been following Irene Latham’s 2014 Progressive Poem? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a different poet adds a line to the poem each day, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete, crowd-sourced poem!

This past Tuesday, I added my line, and today the poem heads to Linda Kulp at Write Time. You can follow along by checking in with each of the contributors, listed below!

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

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#MMPoetry – we have a winner!

MMPoetry2014_logo_full

If you haven’t checked out all the children’s poems that have been produced in just the past couple weeks, you can still log on and see all the incredible poetry that has been created this month.

Just last night, the polls closed on the final matchup between J.J. Close and Samuel “The Lunchbox Doodler” Kent – and congratulations to Samuel for winning the tournament! Click the graphic and you can read both poems!

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RhyPiBoMo banner

I’m very happy to be part of Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo event this month (Rhyming Picture Book Month). All month, she’s encouraging writers to create rhyming picture books (and she’s assembled a team so large and decorated, I have no idea what I’m doing amongst them!) I’ll be guest blogging on April 26, discussing the benefits of collaboration – so please be sure to join me then!

To see all the posts and learn more, click the calendar below for the daily schedule:
RhyPiBoMo calendar - updated

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The day after I guest-blog at Angie’s, I’ll be interviewing writer and poet Gerald So, the editor of the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly. (I know – quite a segue going from kidlit to poems about crime!)

30Days52-2014-128ltI interviewed Gerald last year as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and I thought it might be nice to check in with him a year later to see how things have been progressing. You may not think crime and poetry have much to do with each other…but read a few of the poems that Gerald has published on his site as well as in one of his eBooks, and you just might change your mind.

I’m also honored that Gerald has chosen a poem of mine to publish in May, so I’ll be sure to share that link once it is posted!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

National Poetry Month: The 2014 Progressive Poem!

2014kidlit_progpoemAs a blogger and children’s writer, it’s hard to celebrate National Poetry Month while laid up recuperating from ACL reconstruction. One might think that I have all the time in the world, since I can’t really do anything – but the fact of the matter is, the 4-year-old and 7-month-old take up almost ALL my time.

I’ve only just begun to feel comfortable enough sitting at my desk to be able to work, so running and managing the nuts and bolts of my voiceover business comes before blogging, unfortunately. Hopefully, once I’m off crutches next week and can start walking and exercising and rehabbing, I’ll have more time for the fun stuff.

Today, though, is definitely fun! It’s my turn to take part in Irene Latham’s 2014 Progressive Poem! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a different poet adds a line to the poem each day, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete poem written by 30 different people. Talk about crowd-sourcing!

Anyway, Pat Weaver, the Writer on a Horse, added her line to the poem yesterday, and today I get to add to this literary wonder. Here’s the poem, so far, with my line added at the end:

Sitting on a rock, airing out my feelings to the universe
Acting like a peacock, only making matters that much worse;
Should I trumpet like an elephant emoting to the moon,
Or just ignore the warnings written in the rune?
Those stars can’t seal my future; it’s not inscribed in stone.
The possibilities are endless! Who could have known?
Gathering courage, spiral like an eagle after prey

Then gird my wings for whirlwind gales in realms far, far away.

If I recall correctly, I think this is the first year the poem has rhymed – which makes for a tougher assignment, of course. A writer should want to maintain the integrity of the poem without falling into a singsong kind of rhythm or letting the rhyme take over the mood or emotion of the poem itself. Hopefully I fulfilled my duty. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes – you can follow along, too, by checking in with each of the contributors, listed below!

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

Best wishes to Diane Mayr, who will add her line tomorrow!

NPM-2005-White

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#MMPoetry – we have a winner!

MMPoetry2014_logo_full

If you haven’t checked out all the children’s poems that have been produced in just the past couple weeks, you can still log on and see all the incredible poetry that has been created this month. Just last night, the polls closed on the final matchup between J.J. Close and Samuel “The Lunchbox Doodler” Kent – and congratulations to Samuel for winning the tournament! Click the graphic and you can read both poems!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

National Poetry Month, a “Water Can Be” review, #MMPoetry…and I’m not even here!

Yes, that’s right…I’m not really here. I’m laid up, following my ACL surgery from last Friday. But I hope you’re enjoying it!

By the way, do you know what’s really weird? I’m writing this on Thursday, the day before my surgery, but I’m acting as if it’s Tuesday and I’ve already had the surgery. My brain is already confused and I’m not even on painkillers! Although, by the time you read this, I might be. Good grief, my head hurts…)

2014kidlit_progpoem

The inimitable Charles Waters kicks off this year’s Progressive Poem! Click the image to see how he’s starting things off!

Anyway, there is a lot going on this month:  I’ll be taking part in Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) project with a guest blog post on April 22; I’ll be again teaming up with Gerald So at the The 5-2 : Crime Poetry Weekly for a follow-up interview here, before he shares one of my poems at his place in May; and I’m also proud to again take part in Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem, where a different writer adds a line to a poem each day of the month, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete poem!

2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem Contributors (and the dates they’ll be taking part):

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

 

“Water Can Be”

Water Can Be coverTo kick off national Poetry Month, I’m sharing my thoughts on Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, Water Can Be (Millbrook, 2014) which is available TODAY!

Only a fellow writer can truly appreciate the difficulty of simple writing. In terms of writing, especially writing for children, the word ‘simple’ does not mean plain, boring, easy, or any of the other synonyms most people think of. Rather, simple writing is, in a word, uncomplicated. And by being uncomplicated, it can be beautiful, touching, and sincere.

It’s also very hard to do consistently well.

Fortunately, Laura Purdie Salas is up to the task, as she brings us a ‘follow-up’ to her book, A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook, 2012). Not that it’s a sequel of any kind…but Water Can Be just feels like the natural second book in a series of quiet, thought-provoking, and fun-to-read books about nature.

Kids as well as adults will be amused reading lines like, “Water can be a…tadpole catcher / picture catcher / otter feeder / downhill speeder…” and when these are combined with Violeta Dabija’s simple (there’s that word again) yet whimsical illustrations, all these metaphors and concepts come to life in a unique way.

Not every rhyming picture book is poetry. This one is.

Get a taste of what water can be by checking out the trailer:

If you love to read with your kids, if you love poetry, if you love wordplay…you’ll love this book. You can learn more about Laura at her website, and you can learn more about Violeta at hers!

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#MMPoetry continues!

MMPoetry2014_logo_full

If you haven’t checked out all the children’s poems that have been produced in just the past couple weeks, make sure you log on and vote for your favourites - by the time the dust settles, only one authlete will be left standing!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

Poetry Friday: “Cat Breath”

I was going through some of my old(er) poetry and stumbled upon a short poem I wrote almost exactly 13 years ago, in late Feb. 2001.

At the time, we had a cat my daughter had named Dozey – a black kitty poetryfridaybutton-fulllwho always looked like he was napping, even when he was awake! Anyway, he had come over to me and started rubbing his face in mine, as cats often do, and it was at that moment I was struck by how horrendously putrid his breath was – we’re talking eye-tearing, nose-numbing, knock-a-buzzard-off-a-manure-wagon bad.

When I finally regained consciousness, I set about writing my experience down in verse. This is what I came up with. And for more fun, Anasatasia Suen has the complete poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Poet!

Cat Breath (for Dozey)

A cross between some tuna fish
and salmon three days old;
perhaps some stinky cheddar cheese
that’s growing fuzzy mold.
A whiff of bird, a hint of mouse,
the sour milk he had…
what is that one ingredient
that makes cat breath so bad??

© 2001, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

Poetry Friday: “Beulah Buford”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI can’t believe this is my first Poetry Friday post of 2014! Since I’ve been on hiatus, it feels weird getting back into the swing o’ things.

By the way, if you haven’t yet checked out my interview with children’s poet David L. Harrison from this past Tuesday, please make sure you do – it’s very enlightening, plus I’d hate to have put in all that hard work for you to just skip past it. Just the mere thought of you ignoring it is almost too much to bear. Please don’t make me sad. Do the right thing and click that link.

CYBILS logoAlso: the CYBILS Award winners have been announced! I’m very proud and honored to have been a 2nd-round judge for the Poetry Book category. These awards are chosen by children’s literature bloggers, so the folks voting have read a few children’s books in their time. I can tell you, the judging was NOT easy, either. All of us had to come together from opposite ends of opinion – some of us loved books that others didn’t, and vice versa – so I think we have a solid winner.

As for today, I was going to write a new poem, since it’s Valentine’s Day, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the time to be able to nail down my idea – so I decided to share this with you, instead: another poem I’m including in my winter-themed collection! Hope you like it. And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, visit my friend Linda Baie at Teacher Dance!

Beulah Buford

Beulah Buford picks on me;
calls me names, kicks me in the knee,
makes fun of the clothes I wear,
sticks bubblegum in my books and hair.
I just got her Valentine card, and SURPRISE –
it says she wants to apologize!
For now, I think I’ll stay out of her way.

I hit her with a snowball at recess today.

© 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “After the Harvest”

Sometimes, you just need to quit while you’re ahead.

About a month ago, I wrote a poem, shared it with several folks who write & critique poetry all the time, and received all kinds of feedback. Some of it was good; some of it was contradictory.  The reactions varied from “incredible” to “confusing” – so I went back and completely rewrote it, paring it down by 50%, removing what I thought were the problem areas, and even going through a half-dozen different titles. After all, it’s a fine line between poetic ambiguity and utter befuddlement, and I wanted to make sure I was not engaging in the latter,

I then showed both poems to a completely different group of equally astute people, who resoundingly preferred the original.

>sigh<

That’s why I say, feedback is great, but ultimately it’s the poet’s poem – and eventually you need to just stand by your convictions and hope for the best. Having said that, I hope you like it! The first version is the original, which I prefer, and the second is the revision. I do thank ALL the folks who read it and provided their thoughts – even if I didn’t use their suggestions, their feedback was valuable to me.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts.  And for all of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, make sure you stop by Teacher Dance and say hi to Linda Baie!
.

“After the Harvest”

Past cornstalk stumps and pumpkin patch
and corners unexplored,
they plowed through hedges, crops, and grass
to reap a fine reward.
Tender treasures offered up
were quickly snatched away
‘til soon the field could yield no more
and night turned into day.

Then hastily, they disappeared
on fleeting, little feet
to feast upon the fortunes gained –
their plunder now complete.
The only things they left behind,
those swift and hungry souls,
were rows and rows where nothing grows
and empty candy bowls.
.

“Scavengers”

Past cornstalk stumps and pumpkin patch
they plowed through hedges door by door,
for tender treasures offered up
until the field could yield no more.
Then all at once they disappeared,
those swift and hungry little souls
who left behind a barren stretch
of rows of empty candy bowls.

.
- both poems © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Inspiration, education, celebration and percussion: A look back at a “Highlights” workshop

Since I first began this blog in August 2012, I’ve shared insights I’ve gleaned from various experiences such as SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)conferencesworking at a fair, and even picking berries.  It’s always fun to learn new things, meet new people, and find inspiration in unexpected places. That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about my trip to Highlights magazine’s poetry workshop last week!

Highlights - Honesdale

The Highlights office in Honesdale, PA

The Highlights Foundation, based in Honesdale, PA along with its magazine and book-publishing namesake, helps authors to hone their skills by providing workshops and scholarships throughout the year.

The workshops are held in a beautiful area in the rural, rolling Pennsylvania countryside of Boyd’s Mills (about 20 minutes north of Honesdale), where the original creators of Highlights lived, complete with individual cabins for the writers and a large gathering place called The Barn, where much of the activity takes place.

As wonderful as the facilities are, though, the real strength of the workshops is the people who both organize them and attend them.

Highlights - The Barn

The Barn!

During last week’s workshop, “Poetry for the Delight of It,” I was joined by 14 other children’s writers who all wanted to learn about improving our poetry writing – and the folks leading the workshops read more like a Who’s Who of children’s publishing than just a ‘staff’ list:

- David L. Harrison, who has written 80+ books for children and is the only person I know who has a school named after him. (And here I’d settle for just one publishing contract!)
- J. Patrick Lewis, former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and author of 70+ books for children, who joined us via Skype.
Rebecca Davis, senior editor for Boyds Mills Press (Highlights’ book publishing imprint) and WordSong, the only imprint in the U.S. that publishes poetry exclusively.
- Renée LaTulippe, writer, poet, editor, and performance artist living the good life in Italy, who also joined us via Skype. (You can learn more about Renée HERE)

When you spend four days of your life eating, breathing, and sleeping poetry – and I do mean that literally – you can’t help but gain a wealth of knowledge. Here are a few choice tidbits:

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Attendees Deborah Holt Williams, Kathy Doherty, and Heidi Bee Roemer – all of whom were recently published in Highlights – together with editor Kathleen Hayes (2nd from L)

1)  No matter how many times to submit, don’t stop.  One of the many staff members of Highlights with whom we had an opportunity to speak was Kathleen Hayes, the editor of Highlights’ two magazines geared to younger readers, “High Five” and “Hello.”  When I told her I’ve mailed 3 or 4 submissions over the past couple of years, she said some writers submit pieces every couple of months! (Duly noted Kathleen, duly noted!)

2) “Nothing succeeds like failure.” This is a direct quote from Pat Lewis, who reminded us that every rejection is an opportunity to learn, grow, revise, rewrite, and learn the value of perseverance and tenacity.  I think I knew that, but it’s hard to remember with all those rejection slips cluttering up the inside of my mailbox.

3) Everyone views poetry differently. This is something else I knew, but the point was driven home for me at the workshop.  While sharing some poetry with different attendees, two poems my critique group weren’t all that keen on were loved – while two poems that I had thought were strong received a lukewarm reception.  Were my feelings hurt? Not at all – any feedback is good feedback! Am I questioning whether I should continue beating myself up about when a poem can cease being revised? Oooh, yeah.

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photo courtesy of Pat Cooley

4) Even when surrounded by familiarity, inspiration might still be waiting for you. The workshops are promoted as a way for writers to ‘get away from it all’ and relax, surrounded by nature. Chipmunks and garter snakes darted here and there, geese flew overhead, and the colours of fall were abundant as trees turned from their summer greens to brilliant reds, pinks, and golds. A small creek following an old logging trail near the base of the property, and nights were filled with singing crickets and quiet stars.

All of which I experience every day, living here in New Hampshire!  So even though I was anticipating great fun and inspiration, I was not expecting “nature” to inspire me any more than it usually does.  I doubted living in the woods, staring at trees, or taking a walk along the creek would have much impact on my writing.  Five poems in four days proves how wrong I was.  Never anticipate where you think inspiration will come from, and never underestimate your own power to inspire yourself.

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David Harrison with attendee Michelle Schaub

5) Poetry can be a lot more fun with percussion. One of the attendees, Jeanne Poland, brought a trunkful of African percussion instruments, from bongos to shekeres to Y rattles, which we all shared one night while David recited some of his poetry. We then all took part in a drum circle , one of us starting a basic rhythm and then each one joining in until everyone was performing together. You could feel rhythm as much as the camaraderie.

6) Poetry can be even more fun with alcohol.  Not a lot, mind you – just enough to remove your inhibitions if you happen to have performance anxieties.

7) S’mores can be more fun with alcohol, too. OK, well, I knew this…that’s why I brought the alcohol. But here’s what you do:  before toasting marshmallow, dip it in a high-alcohol liqueur like Drambuie, Grand Marnier, or Rumple Minze. The thing will immediately flame up once it hits the heat, the alcohol will have burned off, and you’re left with one really tasty marshmallow!

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Just a few of the cabins!

8) Illustrators are in far higher demand than writers. This was a shock to me. When Ms. Davis recounted the story of how a recent book got published, she inferred that the publisher was, for all intents and purposes, at the mercy of an illustrator who was taking too long to complete the project.

She described some of the issues editors and agents have to deal with in working with certain illustrators – how illustrators often work at their own speed and can make or break a project – and all I could think was, “I’ve gotta start brushing up on my artwork!”

9) There’s a Giganotosaurus skull inside the Highlights office building. As in, a REAL dinosaur skull, the size of your refrigerator. If you want to see something cool next time you’re in Honesdale, put that on your list.

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Top, L-R: Linda Dryfhout. Cory Corrado, Joy Acey, Michelle Schaub, Linda Baie. Bottom, L-R: Pat Cooley, Julie Stiegmeyer, Heidi Bee Roemer

10) You can’t put a price on relationships. Of course, this is a given – but in the context of this poetry workshop, the attendees, workshop leaders, and support staff (from Highlights Foundation executive director Kent Brown to Chef Joe), everyone was a contributor to the success of the workshop. To a small or large degree, each of the 15 attendees had an impact on the other. In fact, many of them are allowing me to post their photos here! We’re all planning to keep in touch, and I hope we do.

Was the workshop worth the cost of tuition and travel? Yes and YES.

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Good ol’ Cabin #13

11) No matter who you are, you can always use some encouragement. Inside each of the cabins we stayed in were journals filled with stories and well-wishes from folks who had previously stayed there.  As I read through mine one night, I stopped and stared at the name; even someone like him, who writes all the time and has had much success, benefitted from the enlightenment and inspiration afforded by these workshops. It just goes to show, if you think there’s nothing else you can learn, you probably won’t.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES12) There’s not much cellphone service in Boyd’s Mills, PA. Not that that’s necessarily a problem, but you should be prepared!

A tremendous opportunity – and learning experience…

I can honestly say, with no hint of hyperbole, my experience at the workshop was life-changing. I was not only inspired but I gained some great insights into writing, publishing, and what I need to do to get these manuscripts that are piling up published.

Throughout the year, workshop topics cover everything from poetry and picture books to YA novels and interactive media, so if you’d like to find out more about the Highlights Foundation’s workshops, click HERE.

And if you have any questions about the one I attended, don’t hesitate to ask; hopefully I’ll see you there next year!

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If you’d like, you can see more photos HERE!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

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