Poetry Friday: “What the Snow Clouds Know” / Rod McKuen / PFA

Before I get to today’s poem, first let me take a moment to offer my condolences for the family of Rod McKuen, poet, songwriter, and “accidental hipster,” as he was sometimes referred to.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMcKuen came to prominence in the ’60’s and ’70’s, and although critics generally had a negative view of his work, the populace had a different opinion. An honest, earnest writer, he captured the attention of many folks who didn’t even think they liked poetry – and that popularity helped him become one of the top-selling poets of our time.

In addition to releasing many poetry collections, he also had a hand in writing hit songs for Frank Sinatra (“Love’s Been Good to Me” and Terry Jacks (“Seasons in the Sun,” a reworking of a French song) and was nominated for two Academy Awards for his musical work on the film, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and the animated feature, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”

In his poem, “Age is Better,” McKuen compares his life as a young man to his life as an older fellow – and touches a few nerves:

I have been young,
…………..a fresh faced sprout,
with agile legs, a muscled arm and smile
to charm the world I went through
……..in a rush to get a little older, sooner.

Catching my reflection while passing past
………………….a looking glass not long ago
I discovered I was older, even old. There was
no sudden melancholy or regret, and yet
some sadness in the wonder that it happened
…………………………..while I wasn’t watching…

(read the poem in its entirety HERE)

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PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030

115 poets, 156 poems – in English AND Spanish – and somehow I was selected to be a part of it: it’s the latest Poetry Friday Anthology! Writers and educators Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell have once again put together an amazing collection of poems for students, teachers, and anyone who appreciates children’s poetry. Be watching for it in late March-early April! (for more info, just click the graphic)

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Cybils-Logo-2014I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks – revising a picture book manuscript, completing a new picture book manuscript, working on poems for yet another manuscript, and reading all the poetry collections nominated for this year’s CYBILS Awards.

As a 2nd-round judge, it’s a joy to be able to catch up on all the tremendous writing that has been published over the past year – but it’s a lot of work!  I’ll be updating you on the status of the awards as we get closer to making the final announcement.

Somehow, in the midst of all this – and while taking care of my wife, who’s getting over the flu – I managed to accept Michelle H. Barnes’ poetry challenge to write a “Deeper Wisdom” poem at her blog, Today’s Little Ditty. Being the shrewd kind of multi-tasker that I am, I used her challenge as an opportunity to write another poem for the collection I’m working on! (Kill two birds, right?)

So I invite you to head on over to her blog and check out TODAY’S POST, where she wraps up the challenge! You can see my take on Joyce Sidman’s “Deeper Wisdom” form along with many others. And for all of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, check out Paul W. Hankins’ blog, These 4 Corners!

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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: “Night Beacon”

Poetry_Friday logoThere may not be much snow on the ground, but it’s cold and icy – and definitely winter! This poem came to me while driving home one evening, looking at the houses in the area. I may include it in my winter collection, as I’m still in the process of revising it and I could use a couple more.

By the way, Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Tara Smith at A Teaching Life – so head on over and check out all the links! And if you missed my post from this past Tuesday, I would love to share with you the details on how my 5-year-old son saved me from the tragedy of becoming a grown-up…it was a close call!

Night Beacon

The old farmhouse
porch light
reflects off fresh ice,
a lighthouse
on motionless sea.

© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!

The day I almost became a grown-up

One of the many ways my wife – and many others – describe me is that I’m like a big kid. When I play with my kids outside, they roll on top of me – then I roll on top of them. When I rake leaves, I make extra-big piles to jump in. I love science fiction and comic book movies and dinosaur movies and – well, frankly, any movie that involves explosions, special effects, and machines and creatures not currently existing on our planet.

(Yes, I cried at the end of “The Notebook,” but everyone does that, so it doesn’t count.)

So imagine my shock when I realized I was acting like a grown-up today.

…and to think it happened at Chuck E. Cheese

Grey - Chuck E Cheese
Saving the world from undead pirate zombies is a team effort.

We had been invited to meet some friends at the local kid-centric pizza/arcade/house of adrenaline, and since our son had never been my wife and I decided to go.

Now, the last time I was there (at least 12 years ago), my older daughters were not even in their teens and half the place was a giant jungle gym, with big hanging tubes and all kinds of fun things to climb on. The other half was an arcade and food area, along with a small stage featuring an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese that, fortunately, has never been turned on when I’ve been there.

Today, though, it was about 75-percent arcade, 20-percent food, and maybe 5-percent (at best) involved any kind of physical activity. What had happened?

Times change, I suppose. So we bought some tokens and looked around for some games to play. Many were boring; the exciting ones, of course, involved driving cars as fast as possible or saving the world from Decepticons or dinosaurs or undead pirates. My son spent nearly the entire time learning to drive courtesy of the fine folks at the Fast & the Furious driving academy.

The Dodge Viper and the moment of truth

These racing games require far more skill that a 5-year-old possesses – or at least, more than MY 5-year-old possesses. We have no game system at the house, so he’s never played a video game before. Controlling a joystick was a totally new experience for him; trying to drive was – well, it was a wild ride, let’s say that.

I had to help him choose his location (Maui), his vehicle (Dodge Viper SRT-10), its color (cherry red), and an upgrade (nitrous oxide – yeah, baby!)…but I also had to push the gas pedal since he couldn’t reach it. And I had to help him steer.

That last part was where I went wrong.

As I stood there beside him, straining to reach the accelerator with my foot from a standing position, I found myself trying to keep him on the road. He’d steer wildly from left to right and right to left and left to right – then stay there on the far right and nail just about every tree, rock, guardrail, bridge abutment, and convenience store he could.

I’d pull him back onto the road only to watch him go ricocheting from one car to another, flipping over, doing 360s in the middle of tunnels and careening off mountainsides then winding up back on the side of the road, picking off telephone poles like he was mowing a lawn.

“Stop, Daddy! Let me do it!” he kept saying.

“But you keep hitting all these things on the side, bub!” I’d explain.

“You’re not letting me steer!”

“I’m trying to, but you keep hitting things and knocking things over!”

I was starting to get frustrated when he finally replied,

“I know!!”

Oh…you mean, you meant to do that…

Just like a few years ago, when he was nearly 3 and I was walking with him along the dirt road near our house, and he kept deliberately pushing his baby stroller into the ruts – I had completely misunderstood the objective.

Back then, he wasn’t trying to get the stroller from point A to point B in the smoothest, most effective way; he was having fun driving it through the ruts. Today, the point of the racing game wasn’t to pass all the other cars; it was to have fun, effectively driving through ruts again.

When I realized this, I immediately took my hand from the steering wheel and pushed the accelerator to the floor.

“You go ahead, buddy,” I said. “You’re doing a great job of knocking down everything in sight.”

He smiled, never taking his eyes off the screen. “Yes, I am!” he beamed.

I may be an adult, but fortunately, my son saved me once again from becoming an all-too-serious, no-fun grown-up. As I write this, it occurs to me he has also taught me a valuable life lesson: You don’t always need to pass all the other cars; sometimes you just need to drive through some ruts and mow down a few road signs.

And push the accelerator to the floor when you do it.

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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: Wry-ku? What’s a wry-ku?

Poetry_Friday logo

Once again, I find myself too busy writing to write! I was unable to get this past Tuesday’s post up in time – partly due to my schedule and partly due to a major computer issue the folks at McAfee have spent two days trying to fix, to no avail – but I hope to share that post next week.

Until then, allow me to share with you something I call a “wry-ku”: my attempt at breathing a little humour into a traditionally serious and very un-funny poetic form. It’s a silly name for a poem that is structured like a haiku, but contains a bit of a wry or ironic twist.

Will it become as popular as some of J. Patrick Lewis’ unique poetic creations, like careerhymes and zenos? Who knows…but I hope you like them! And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links and hi-jinx, be sure to visit the lovely and talented Irene Latham at Live Your Poem!

it’s not as cold now
as she was two weeks ago
January thaw
.

no circumference
of this heavy, orange gourd
we need pumpkin pi
.

if jealousy stings,
best keep a safe distance, son…
she’s a beekeeper
 .

all poems © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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: “Dog Clown”

I’ve been quite busy this week – and if you can’t comprehend just how busy, I invite you to take a peek inside the mind of a writer! This past Tuesday’s post can fill you in…but it doesn’t fill you in on everything.

You see, since I shared that post, I’ve become wrapped up in another project! I had poems I wanted to write, a book to organize…but no. My brain had other plans.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMonday night, without warning, I was smacked in the cerebrum with an idea for another picture book. While I love coming up with ideas like this, they can be rather bothersome when one already has other plans. I had no choice but to scrap those plans and get to work writing this new picture book.

As with all my picture book concepts, I do a fair amount of research to determine if anything like it is already in the marketplace – and I haven’t come across anything quite like this. That’s a good sign! So now that I’ve completed the first few drafts, I need to work on polishing it.

And then I hope to get back to the manuscript I was working on in the first place!

So for today, I’m sharing something I don’t ordinarily share:  a poem that has only seen one draft. It came about as I was thinking about this new picture book – and even though it has no business being in the book, it still ended up being written, anyway. Poems are funny like that. So I figured I’d share it here, since it may not show up anywhere else, and may never even get a second draft, for all I know. It’s simply a few lines about the “clowns of the dog world,” but it’s my first poem of 2015 so I’m going to post here whether you like it or not!

Last night the thing was stuck in my head; now it’s out and I can move on. Speaking of moving on, if you want to find more poetry, head on over to Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday roundup!

Dog Clown

In ancient times, dogs guarded castles and kings.
Protected their masters from all sorts of things.
They hunted. They battled.
Today, they might frown
upon seeing my shih tzu – on the bed, upside down.

© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!

A peek inside the mind of a writer

Ever wonder what it’s like inside the mind of a writer? Here’s a glimpse into mine:

The Secret Place
The book that started me on the path of poetry back when I was 6 or 7 years old…I loved this book! (Still do!)

I write a random poem.

I like it, but soon realize there’s a serious error, so I rewrite it.

In the course of rewriting it, I write another.

Once these are done, it occurs to me I could send them to a magazine, although submitting a third poem to go with the first two would be ideal.

I write a third poem, but it’s not about the subject I thought it was going to be.

It occurs to me that these three poems, all of the same theme, might be more appropriate if collected together with some previously-written poems in a picture book collection. I wonder if I can write a fourth poem about the same theme.

I write a fourth poem.

Once I organize all the poems – these and the previously-written ones – into a thematic manuscript, I realize I need more poems to fill it out.

I write a fifth poem.

Upon adding it to the manuscript, I realize the theme is wrong and have to pull poems out and put new ones in, basically completely revising an previously-compiled, unpublished collection.

Satisfied with the theme, I decide to try writing a sixth poem about that theme.

I write the sixth poem.

At this moment in time, I only need to write three more poems to complete the manuscript. I’m working on one now.

Whew!

The amazing thing to me is that all of this has taken place over the past 4 weeks…so considering the volume of my output this month, either I’m getting much better at writing or I’ve completely lost my ability to self-criticize. I’m hoping it’s the former, as I still feel I’m my own worst critic!

But let this be a lesson: Never, ever, ever, lock yourself into the frame of mind that you can’t edit, revise, or rewrite something. Honestly, I’m not a fan of rewriting, as I like the happy, content feeling one gets from lifting up the pen; who doesn’t, right? However, if there is something about the poem or story I’ve written that just doesn’t feel right, I cannot live with myself until I’ve fixed the problem.

It might take walking away and coming back to it in a few minutes. Or hours. Or days.

Or even weeks.

One poem literally took me a year and a half to write – but it got written, and written the way it was supposed to be written. Unfortunately for me, it’s one of those types of poems that everyone seems to love but no one knows what to do with. But that’s my problem, not the poem’s. It needed to be written the way it needed to be written.

Exciting news in the year ahead

I have a number things I’m very excited to share with you – and all these things are bouncing around inside my head, as well. I’ll have poems in five different anthologies being published this year, and one will be in an upcoming edition of Highlights magazine. Three of the books are due out this spring and one is due this fall.

I also have high hopes for a picture book manuscript I wrote this past year. It’s one of those types of things that just came to me; I wrote it over the course of a week, revised the following week, and I do believe it might be the best manuscript I’ve written to date, so we’ll see if it gets picked up!

Speaking of said manuscript, it’s the same one that helped me receive the New England SCBWI’s inaugural Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors! For details on what that is, feel free to check out this past Friday’s post, where I explain it in greater detail.

Cybils-Logo-2014I’m also excited to be a Second Round Judge in The annual CYBILS Awards, where the finalists have been announced! I’ll be working with fellow judges Renee LaTulippe, Linda Baie, Laura Shovan, and Diane Mayr to trim our list of seven fantastic children’s books of poetry down to one winner – and this year it’s going to be a tough one, there are so many great books!

Whatever your goals, stick to ’em!

I wish you great success for 2015, whether it’s professional or personal. Remember, the act of setting goals, while necessary, is not as important as following through with those goals. It’s the difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it.

Whatever it is you want to accomplish, take action and do something each day to move you toward the end result. Some days I don’t get a chance to write, sad to say. I’m a stay-at-home dad with a voiceover business and my hours are precious and few. But there’s not a day that goes by that does not include me either emailing someone about writing, reviewing my own writing, reading an article about writing, or even simply reading a book to my kids.

I’ve been writing for what seems like forever, but did not get serious about becoming a children’s writer until 2009. Since then, I have slowly gained traction – improving my skills, networking, and learning the craft. I have met wonderful people, befriended nationally-acclaimed writers and editors, and developed a base of friends and supporters like you through this blog.

I appreciate you helping me attain my goal. I hope, by reading this, I can help you attain yours. Success requires both talent and tenacity – one of those in a much higher quantity than the other.

Have a Happy New Year, and thank you for being a part of mine!

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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: “Night Light”

poetryfridaybutton-fulll2015 is getting off to a simultaneously wonderful and frustrating start. After everything my wife and I have been through the past couple months – with boilers blowing and electrical panels needing replacement – I’ve finally gotten some great news!

…and some not-so-great news.

The good news that I’m thrilled to share is that I have received the New England SCBWI’s inaugural Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors! I will receive a critique from author Mary Brigid Barrett and will have an opportunity to revise it prior to submitting it for critique by an agent or editor at the 2015 New England SCBWI conference.

(Many thanks to the judges, Jeannine Atkins, Jo Knowles, and Brian Lies…I’m so glad you liked the manuscript! Congratulations also to Mary Morton Cowan, winner of the same scholarship for published authors, who receives a manuscript critique from author/poet Jane Yolen.)

I’m also excited to be a Second Round Judge in the CYBILS Awards, where the Poetry Book finalists have been announced! I’ll be working with fellow judges Renee LaTulippe, Linda Baie, Laura Shovan, and Diane Mayr to pick one winner out of seven fantastic children’s books of poetry.

Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2And now, the bad news…

…is that we woke up to no heat downstairs on New Year’s Day after one of the pipes burst. Alas, if that was the only issue, it wouldn’t have been that bad; the problem is why it burst.

You see, we live in a 100-year-old house that has been added onto and added onto over the years…and apparently, underneath the newest section of the house, there’s no insulation. None. There’s isn’t any barrier of any kind preventing the wind and cold from blowing underneath the house and freezing every pipe it happens upon. The only reason we’ve learned this just now is because usually there’s so much snow up against the house, IT acts as a barricade. But this year, no snow – no barricade.

And yes, you read that correctly – the newest part of the house is the part that needs the most work. The older part of the house is in pretty good shape, ironically.

So, while my wife & I try to figure out how to pay for yet another extraordinary home expense, I thought I’d work on a new book idea. It’s a revision to a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a couple years, and I think I’ve finally found the “theme” I need to make this manuscript marketable. I’ll tell you more in this coming Tuesday’s post – but for now, here’s my latest poem, which I plan on including in the book.

If you have the time, please consider taking a moment and checking out this past Tuesday’s short post about my blog in review – there are some surprising things I learned about what was happening with my blog in 2014! And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links and hijinks, head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect!
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Night Light

The sun’s reflection on the moon
reflects upon the ground below.

But are we sure that this is so?

Could it be, the gleaming snow
is what gives moon its midnight glow?

© 2014, 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!