Poetry Friday: The Mortimer Minute – with apples!


You may have seen a furry little critter bouncing around various kid lit blogs lately…well today, he’s visiting mine!  He’s Mortimer, a buck-toothed troubadour for children’s poetry, and he’s the mascot for a Poetry Blog Hop started by fellow writer/poet April Halprin Wayland.

Here’s how it works:
1) Answer one of the previous questions asked by the blogger who tagged you, and answer two other questions you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview about children’s poetry;
2) Invite one, two or three other bloggers who write children’s poetry to answer three questions that they make up on their own blogs (again, using one of the pervious questions);
3) In the post, let readers know who your invitees are and when they’re are going to be posting their Mortimer Minute questions and answers.

Well, that sounds simple enough!


1) What project(s) are you working on now?

Upon completing the manuscript for my winter-themed children’s poetry collection last year, I began working on an autumn-themed collection. (I figure, if an editor likes the first one, they’ll know there’s more where that came from!) I still need another 8 or so poems to complete that, but I also wrote and co-wrote two picture book manuscripts this  year and I have two other picture book ideas I’m trying to work on, too!  Is there any way to cram more than 24 hours into a standard ‘day?’

2) How do you come up with the ideas for your poetry?

Ideas are where you find them. I don’t have to look hard to come up with subject matter, but figuring out a unique angle in which to present it or twist it does require a fair amount of brain work. As I mentioned on this blog earlier this week, I try to find the angle that is least expected. For instance, at the Highlights poetry workshop I’ve been telling you about, one of the exercises David Harrison had us do was brainstorm words that had anything to do with a word he would give us. When he said the word was “jar,” everyone in the room was offering up words like “jelly,” “pickles,” and that sort of thing. One person said “sudden stopping movement,” as in the verb, “jar.”

Me? My first thought was Jar Jar Binks, that annoying character from Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I didn’t say anything, though. Even I thought it was a pretty far stretch. But my point is, dare to be different!

3) What poem do you wish you had written? 

None. There is not a single poem anywhere that I wish I’d written. There are some terrific ones out there, like Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” Silverstein’s “The Little Boy and the Old Man,” Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the death of a favorite cat,” Poe’s “To My Mother,” and just about anything Robert Frost ever wrote. But I write my own poetry, and am perfectly content with that – whether it’s any good or not.

I’ve invited two people to join the blog hop:

Violet mug-2Violet Nesdoly is a poet and regular contributor to Poetry Friday.  She’ll post her Mortimer Minute next Friday, Oct. 25.

papa j funk logoPapa-J Funk, meanwhile, never claimed to be a poet – although he is quite adept at creating fun and unusual rhymes in his picture book manuscripts. He’ll have his ‘Minute’ Friday, Oct. 25, as well!

Speaking of poetry…

Highlights - tree

…here’s another poem I wrote while at that Highlights poetry workshop.  Ironically, even though the workshop was geared to children’s poetry, this is definitely not a children’s poem! I was inspired to write it the first day I was there because a) it was situated in the field right across from all of our cabins and could not be missed, and b) fellow children’s writer/blogger Joy Acey prompted me to write a ‘nature’-themed poem, which is something I’ve had plenty of practice doing before!

“The Apple Tree”

An old tree
in the field across the road
stood in solitude amidst the sawgrass
and goldenrod
and a few errant wildflowers,
so full of precious fruit
I surmised it must be
in wont of a visitor
with whom to share
its treasures.

Desirous of the beauty
I beheld, I journeyed
through green-amber weeds
high to my waist, urgent
soft steps growing
quicker, quicker
and more deliberate.

The tree beckoned, lifting each coy leaf
to expose
sweet bounty beneath.
Soon, I saw boughs heavy
as the Milky Way, bearing
stars upon stars
that outnumbered
and outshone the very leaves
that held them
in the sky.

Faster and faster I trod, consumed
by a fervent lust
for sustenance;
such succulence I’d never seen!
Closer, closer, I came,
heart and eyes wide and longing
breaths away…

I stopped.

Under shade of canopy,
I saw clearly only now
blessed fruit blushed
with blight.

Mold-speckled faces frowned
through borers’ brown holes
while wind-wrinkled skin hung
criss-crossed with blemishes
of age and neglect.
I stared
for only a moment,
then sat close to its trunk,
where low-hanging corpses
mocked my desire…

I would not leave this spot,
for I knew my hunger
was insatiable, and my thirst
unquenched. Here
I would remain
yearning, never satisfied,
but content
with what could have been.

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and info, be sure to visit Cathy at Merely Day By Day!

Highlights - tree close-up


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33 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The Mortimer Minute – with apples!

  1. margaretsmn

    You are a busy fellow. I enjoyed following you to the apple tree but was most disappointed not to get a bite. What distinguishes a children’s poem from an adult one? I’ve been grappling with that question because I am just a poet. I don’t write for one or the other. Some poems come out more child-like, but does that mean no adult will want to read it? This may not have an answer. Recently, I read (and printed out) an article from Poetry magazine written by Lemony Snicket about adult poems that kids would like. Did you see it?
    Thanks for hooping along with Mortimer. It’s fun to learn more about you.


    1. I did see that article, Margaret! It seems to me Lemony knows more about poetry than he lets on. As for adult v. children’s poetry, I tend to write just ‘poetry’ – then let the audience figure itself out. But by & large, most of what I write I try to make accessible to all…although poems like this one and next week’s tend to veer more toward adult themes.


  2. Thanks, Laura! When I sent the first draft to my wife, she jokingly said, “You’re away for four days with a bunch of women, and the first thing you write is a poem about adultery??” We laughed, but the connection didn’t occur to me at first! That’s why I love poetry – people can read all sorts of things into what you write, and one can hide all sorts of little things in their poetry for readers to find.


  3. I, too, love reading about your process, Matt. Oh, to have been at that workshop with all of you guys! And this apple poem shares my experience from this week too. I picked the apples anyway, and I’m going to peel them and use them. 😉 We have some trees just like yours.

    “boughs heavy/as the Milky Way” – so perfect!

    Happy Poetry Friday…


      1. Thanks, Amy! Glad you liked it. These apples didn’t even look like they were worth peeling, to be honest – although there were a couple of Mac trees elsewhere on the grounds that had some decent fruit. Now that I think about it, though, I suppose that peeling off the top layer of the bad apples to yield good flesh underneath is ALSO rather poetic…wouldn’t you say??


  4. haitiruth

    I liked your poem and it was nice to see Mortimer again. (Hi, Mortimer!) Interesting conversation on what makes a children’s poem. My guess is that any poem with “lust” and “succulence” in close proximity is probably for adults. 🙂


  5. Janet F.

    Hi Matt,
    Poem update as requested:

    Well, I finally went back into the 3rd grade where I do poetry. I knew I wanted to get their reactions and thoughts on “First Time for Everything” your delightful poem about autumn leaves covering you while you napped beneath the maple tree. So, before I could even begin a girl raised her hand to tell me that she had learned a poem by heart. Hmmmm, learned a poem by heart on her own this early in the year? Really a first. She said it was “First Time For Everything” and sorry but the title had slipped my mind even though I was going to bring your poem out and project it…..so I asked her if she wanted to share it with the class and she did. At first I thought it must be some short little ditty she had found at home, but no, it was YOUR poem and she knew it almost exactly word for word. The class was happy and impressed as was I. I asked her why she learned it and how she did it. Told me she simply liked the poem, wanted to learn it and it came to her quite easily just reading it over a time or two. Made more of an impression than anything I could tell them. I will be interested to see how many have poems learned by next week and want to share! We were too short on time to do more with the poem, but I will keep you posted on their reactions. If this follows the past 9 years, they will take “ownership” of the poem and want to learn it and say it. Not being my own classroom, I only get in about once a week. So far they know 15 poems, though can’t yet say them all on their own. It is like I am fishing. I have them hooked and I am reeling them in. This group has beautiful singing voices, too. I am going to learn a lot from them, I can tell! More next time and more on your Bunny Hop in a bit.


    1. That’s great to hear, Janet! I’m thrilled and humbled that she liked it enough to memorize it on her own…I’m speechless. I wish you & all the kids the best, and look forward to hearing what happens next!


  6. Matthew,
    Your post is like a treasure chest – full of so many wonderful gems. Your interview was interesting to read. You have many new things in the works and I can’t wait to find out more about them. I loved your thoughts about finding ideas:

    “Ideas are where you find them. I don’t have to look hard to come up with subject matter, but figuring out a unique angle in which to present it or twist it does require a fair amount of brain work.”

    Oh, this is something I’d love to get the young writers in my classroom to understand.

    Your poem was full of wonderful words. Sadly, I think I’ve seen that very tree in my backyard.



    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Cathy – it was certainly fun putting it together. And hopefully a few folks were able to glean something from my earlier post about stand-up comedy writing, because that really is key for me being able to come up with unusual perspectives. Have a great weekend!


  7. So many wonderful things in store for you, Matt. You must be very excited with all those projects. I especially loved these lines from your poem:

    I would not leave this spot,
    for I knew my hunger
    was insatiable, and my thirst
    unquenched. Here
    I would remain
    yearning, never satisfied,
    but content
    with what could have been.

    The paradox is lovely. 🙂 The yearning and contentment with what could have been spoke to me like no other. 🙂


  8. Your life is poetry-rich, Matt. Thanks for sharing that intriguing apple poem, and all the best in your season-themed collections. I have a stash of carrots in the fridge for Mortimer when he comes by next week 🙂


  9. I too love that “boughs heavy as the milky way”, Matt, but indeed, like others, I enjoyed your talking about poetry, and you brought me right back to the workshop, such a lovely time. Too soon gone! Hope your autumn is also full of the good apples!


  10. So glad Mortimer hopped your way this week, Matt! And it would be impossible not to be inspired to write at one of those glorious Founders workshops. wouldn’t it? You’ll keep mining that experience, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I honestly got more out of that one workshop than I ever anticipated. And a cool little coincidence was that I ended up in the same cabin Charles Waters had been in 2 years prior! Thanks for stopping by, Robyn…and be prepared – in addition to last week’s and this week’s poems, I’ll share one more next week!


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