Poetry Friday: The 2015 Progressive Poem concludes here!

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)
I’m sharing my Poetry Friday post a day early this year, because I’m very happy to once again be part of Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem! Each day, a different person has added a line to a poem that has been growing and growing over the course of the month…and it culminates today, here!

2015ProgressivePoemI’ve been excited – and a bit anxious – about the fact that it’s up to me to write that last line. Honestly, there was only one way I felt I could go with it, so hopefully you’ll like it. I’ve been following the poem’s development, from a woman walking along the shoreline, to growing fins and sliding down into the water, to making a discovery, to — well, just read it, and you’ll see!

(I’ve also added a title, which it was lacking, but if anyone prefers something else, feel free to change it!)

Due to popular demand (well, ok…Irene was the only one who asked, but she IS popular), I recorded an audio version of the poem, so you can read along if you’d like:

“Ocean Dreams”
(The 2015 Poetry Friday Progressive Poem)

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind
as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
Born from the oyster, expect the pearl. 
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to 
determine—to decide.
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver,
his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks,
as his hand curls ’round her bracelet-clad wrist,
“Papa, just a little longer in the pool! One more time down the slide! Please!”
He nods; she won’t be his little mermaid much longer.

So there you go – a wrap-up to our heroine’s whirlwind adventure! You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem progressed from Day One at the following locations:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

There’s so much going on today!  I’m very honored that Jama Rattigan has conferred upon me and fellow writer Greg Pincus the title of HotTEA…and you can learn more about what that means at her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup! (I’ve never been a HotTEA before – or a hottie, or even haughty – so this is all quite new to me) I also share an original haiku about a specific type of tea…can you figure out which one?
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By the way, today is Poem in Your Pocket Day – AND Poetry Friday is at Mary Lee Hahn’s A Year of Reading this week, so you’ll find plenty of poetry there, starting bright & early Friday morning!
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poetryfridaybutton-fulllDid 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: “Poetry…Cubed!” poems & winners!

What a weekend! I spent three days in Springfield, Massachusetts with hundreds of fellow children’s writers and illustrators at the annual New England SCBWI conference – and with folks like Jane Yolen, Kwame Alexander, Jo Knowles, and Dan Santat in attendance it could not have been more inspiring or exciting. (I’ll be sharing details next Tue., when I post my annual list of the Top Things I Learned at the NESCBWI Conference!)

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

Right now, I need to focus on poetry! In just a few days, National Poetry Month 2015 will be but a memory…but first I need to thank all the folks who emailed me their poems for my National Poetry Month challenge…

Poetry Cubed logoIf you’ve ever watched The Food Network, you’re probably familiar with the show, “Chopped!

Four chefs battle each other by trying to create the best dishes they can, using specific (an often incongruous) ingredients given to them in a special basket. The dishes are critiqued by a panel of judges and after three elimination rounds, the last chef standing claims victory.

So for this contest, I took the basic premise of the TV show and applied it to poetry! I call it “Poetry…Cubed!” Instead of food, I gave you the following three “ingredients” for poems:

theatre seat (Katie)Flowers & BeeMonster Truck

Here’s what our challengers needed to do:

  • Use the 3 images (“cubed,” get it??) as inspiration to write a poem.
  • The poem could be any form, any number of lines, rhyming or not.
  • The only hitch was that there needed to be some sort of reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract.
  • I then asked readers to email me their poems, and out of all the submissions, two lucky writers would be chosen at random to receive their choice of the brand-new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books) or the self-help book Psychoetry: Lessons in Poetic Parenting by Brian P. Wohlmuth, whom I interviewed earlier this month.

PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Brian-Psychoetry cover

I was glad to see such a positive response…whenever a new challenge comes along, you never know what kind of reaction you’ll get! Lots of poems came in from seasoned writers as well as new folks – and what diverse paths they took!

Here, then, in no particular order, are the poems:

Honeycube

hot wheels of
yellow nectar

bee rumbles
rumblehums
along
a long low road

bee blazes a trail
towards one red center
in the distance

bee lights
lights up
lights upon it

tiny monster
stalking pollen
in the theater
of green

– © Heidi Mordhorst 2015, all rights reserved

 

Daddy’s Little Girl

It’s our first date,
He’ll just be bait!
My dad will eat him on a whim!
The movie show,
Is where we’ll go.
My dad will tear him limb from limb!
A monster truck?
It’s just my luck!
My dad, his sails is gonna trim!
He’s at the door,
I’m feeling poor!
My dad is looking pretty grim!
He has flowers
For more powers!
My dad is going to murder him!
The birds and bees –
We spoke of these.
My dad expects proper and prim!

– Donna JT Smith ©2015, all rights reserved

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Opening Night

The lights dim,
folding chairs creak.
Someone clears his throat.
Someone shuffles a program.
Someone shushes her child.

Anticipating actors
pace backstage.
The first booming sound
from the orchestra,
deep and ominous,
wakes up my soul
like a monster truck
riding muddy trails
dragging me along.

Just when my senses catch up,
silence again.
Thick red curtain becomes
a newly blossoming flower
fluttering under a bee’s wings.

I am one with the stage,
feeling, seeing, hearing
transported
transformed,
inspired.

– Margaret Simon

 

haiku

garden matinee–
honeybees hotwheel it
to the best seats
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– © 2015, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

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Fire

Always,
when he’d enter a theater
he’d notice, count the seats
in each row. Check for a center aisle.
15 with a center aisle, 26 without.
More than that he’d check the exits
one door for each three rows.
He knew the hazards
thought of the ladies
wearing flowered dresses
not attracting the bees.

He thought of the fire trucks rolling
like big monsters
the tires slick with rain
gushing down the gutters.

The panic bars locked
no one could exit
or enter and the fear
racing through
the dancers
who knew
the illegality
of yelling
FIRE

Ah, the Rhythm Club,
the Iroquois Theatre,
The Coconut Grove
changed so many lives
so many fire regulations
and broke the hearts
of so many families.

– Joy Acey

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Free the Poetry

I chopped and chopped to my dismay.
I sliced and diced some more.
When regal words had failed me, I knelt down to the floor.
On bended knee, said gallantly,
“Art thou, to be, or not to be?”
This is one wacky recipe!
A theatre with no emcee? A flower with a honey bee? A monster truck upon debris?
Come on. Are you kidding me?
With majestic indignation, I stood and solemnly swore,
a decree to free the poetry!
“In all the land, from shore to shore, poetry shall be cubed…no more!”

– Angie Karcher

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Minnesota, Theater of Seasons

April is here

The snow has melted

Soon the flowers

And a bee or two

Will appear

In the mean time

I’ll need to fill

A monster truck

With frozen dog turds

Before they thaw

And smear
.

Oh Minnesota, theater of seasons

How I love you when the snow is gone

But when you’re still freezing

– Kimmy Alan

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The Play is On

All the world’s a stage, it’s said
And it’s clear the play is on
Noon turns night in a single thread
Mourning doves coo at dawn

Spiders weave their flimsy traps
The heron stalks the frog
Rivers wind through muddy flats
Downstream floats the log

Myriad flowers bloom each spring
Armies of bees partake
Hoot owls hoot and bluebirds sing
As sure as aspens quake

Some will laugh and love and work
And teach their children well
Some will lie and steal and shirk
Their mortal souls to sell

Thus each role on the stage of life
Be it hero, monster, or pawn
May bring joy or may bring strife
And the play just trucks along

– Karen Eastlund, April 2015

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Resistance

This early adolescent spring,
this theater of boys,
shows one grown tall, grabs one more fling
with his old friends, his toys.

He plays and plays, barooms around,
hoping no one hears the sound.
The only other life around
are buzzing bees, like thoughts he found
that reach into the boy’s ears.
He sits and listens to his fears
that all the future coming days
won’t be like all the grown ups praise.

He only wants his monster truck,
a track of dirt, a time to play,
the growing up, another day

– Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

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Feel of Childhood

Look at my new Hot Wheels go
Through fields of flowers
Or over the snow

There’s nothing that can slow me down
I’m a busy bee
Barely touch the ground

Remember that wonder, remember that thrill
Or go to the theatre
and experience it still

– Cara Eisenberg

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And the winners are…by a completely impartial, totally random, utterly nondiscriminatory drawing…

Michelle and Karen!!

Congratulations to both of you! Just leave me a comment here or email me and let me know which of the two books you’d like to have, and I’ll send it on its way. (First come, first served – I only have one copy of Psychoetry.) Many thanks to everyone for their submissions – I was quite impressed – and I may do it again next month, with three new photos!

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2015ProgressivePoemIrene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is almost full-grown! Different writers have been adding new lines each day, adding to the epic journey our heroine is on, and today Amy at The Poem Farm will add the next-to-next-to-last line. Tomorrow, Donna at Mainely Write has her turn, then on April 30, Yours Truly will conclude the adventure with the final line. I’m still a bit nervous about that – but I’m very much looking forward to it!

You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem has grown at the following blog spots:


1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)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: Bantam, CT (July 1989)

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)It’s Poetry Friday once again, and today I’m not actually here! I’m spending three days in Springfield, MA for the annual New England SCBWI conference. This is the conference for which I won the NE-SCBWI’s Marguerite W. Davol Scholarship, and will be getting a chance to talk about one of my manuscripts with an agent from a well-known house (the name of which I cannot divulge).

So as I was looking through some of my past writing to share tonight during Open Mic, I came across the very first poem I ever had published following college graduation. I make this distinction because I actually had a few poems published in local independent collections prior to and during college, but it was at this point I felt I finally had the education behind me and the knowledge inside me to know what I was doing.

Of course, I was wrong; none of us ever has ‘enough’ knowledge. But I was proud of the fact that this was a poetry anthology being published half a country away, in Texas, and that the editor felt it made the grade. Looking back on it, there are many things I’d do differently. I’d have used more internal rhyme, used less obvious word choices, and would have definitely been less…oh, what’s the word…histrionic, perhaps?

I hope you like it, though. It was inspired by a tornado touching down in a small Connecticut town in 1989 and was published in a collection entitled Visions by Metamorphosis Publishing.

Bantam, CT (July 1989)

How little you suspected
……….the cold, dispassionate rage of force
………………..Nature showed you.

Two days ago, a quiet small town;
……….yesterday, a furious maelstrom
………………..of rain and wind and stones from the sky;

today, quiet; too suddenly
……….silent, for a once-thriving village swallowed
………………..by an impassive, swirling vortex.

No lives lost, they say – yet
……….what do you see? A broken window lies
………………..beside a shattered rooftop;

overturned sportscar, once sleek and new,
……….wears the remains of a neighbor’s fireplace
………………..like a penniless child’s rags;

and the church – only as strong as the aged
……….bricks with which it was built – vanished
………………..like faith, replaced by its own dust.

This was once a soul,
……….your town; now it lay still as a corpse:
………………..cold, unmoving, conscious of nothing.

Here, amid the hills and trees
……….Nature took you by surprise…
………………..…and how little you suspected.

– © 1989, Matt Forrest Esenwine

My friend and fellow Poet’s Garage critique group member Renee LaTulippe is hosting Poetry Friday today at her blog, No Water River, so please be sure to stop by and check out all the links and fun!

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Poetry Cubed logoWant to win a free book? A couple of weeks ago, I shared a new poetry challenge!

If you missed it, it’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” But instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you’ll use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Don’t worry if you don’t think you’re good enough…it’s just to have fun and stretch some brain-muscle. Winners will be determined by a random drawing, so no pressure! Get all the details HERE.)

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2015ProgressivePoemIrene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem continues to grow! Each day, a different person adds a line to the poem – and today, that person is Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Then on April 30, it’ll be my turn to add the final line!

You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem has been developing at the following blog spots:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Poetry_Friday logoDid 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: Interview with Margarita Engle

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

I’m very excited to share another interview today – not just because it’s National Poetry Month, but because it’s with a woman whose writing I truly admire: Margarita Engle.

MargaritaA Cuban-American living in central California, Margarita was the winner of the very first Newbery Honor awarded to a Latino. Her award-winning young adult novels in verse include The Surrender Tree, The Poet Slave of Cuba, and The Lightning Dreamer, winner of the prestigious PEN USA Award.

I first came to learn of Margarita’s work about 5 years ago, when I stumbled upon her historical novel-in-verse, Hurricane Dancers, about the first Caribbean pirate shipwreck. It was the first novel-in-verse I ever read, and I was captivated by the way she used poems from the perspective of each character to move the story.

I’m honored to have Margarita join me today:

First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Margarita – you’re so busy, I can’t imagine how you find any time to write! Three books published in just the past 2 months with more on the way is rather prolific! Seriously, how do you find the time??

Thank you for the invitation to explain that when three picture books are released within a few weeks of each other, it doesn’t mean they were written at the same time. Actually, they were started years apart, but some took longer to be accepted, edited, and illustrated. Release dates for Orangutanka, Drum Dream Girl, and The Sky Painter just happened to coincide, after following widely divergent publishing pathways! As far as finding the time to write, I try to stick to a calm, quiet routine of scribbling a few pages each day.

Well, certainly, publishing is an up-and-down, stop-and-go kind of industry – a book you write today might get picked up and released next year, while one you wrote 5 years ago may still in production! But finding the time to write is only part of the battle…how do you find your topics? Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you know if a potential story idea has what it takes to be publishable?

My historical verse novel topics generally emerge from a combination of reading, travel and daydreaming. Picture books are a bit different. They usually don’t require years of research. Orangutanka, for instance, was already writing itself in my mind even while I was standing in the rain forest, watching wild orangutans at a refuge in Borneo. Drum Dream Girl just danced right into my head after I read about Millo (Castro Zaldarriaga, see below) in a book by her sister.

The Sky Painter was more like a verse novel. I’m a botanist, agronomist, and birdwatcher, so I love writing about great Latino naturalists who have been forgotten by history. However, this one required a lot of research, and was difficult to find a publisher willing to accept a book about someone who was not already “famous enough.”

The problem with the industry’s general prejudice against biographies of people who aren’t famous is that women and minorities were left out of history books. If their accomplishments are ever going to be recognized, we have to start telling their stories now.

OrangutankaDD GirlSky Painter

The follow-up question then has to be, how do you decide what form the story should take – picture book, verse novel, picture book-in-verse, etc.?

Thankfully, that is rarely a struggle. It’s actually one of the truly satisfying stages in the process. I love to experiment, try it this way, try it that way, and ultimately allow the characters to decide. Their voices and the events in their lives offer a certain rhythm. When it feels natural, I proceed.

I need to ask a question that I think only fellow writers will truly understand: do you feel that winning the Newbery helped you gain more confidence in your writing…or did it have the opposite effect, by making you feel the pressure to maintain that level of writing? (If it was me, I think I’d be so nervous about writing my next book I’d never get it done!)

It’s a mixture.  I alternate between days of confidence and months of timidity. The truth is I write best when I’m convinced that my work is unpublishable, and no one will ever read or judge it.  That gives me complete freedom to experiment!

Good point. Nothing is more freeing than knowing you have nothing to lose.

We write well when we don’t worry about being judged. My creative writing professor, Tomás Rivera, told me to write in the moment, for myself, rather than thinking ahead toward publication, something that comes much later, if at all.

Speaking of publication, you’ve become well-known for your verse novels – Hurricane Dancers was the first of that genre I’d ever read, and I was blow away! – but you also apply that format to some of your picture books. Hurricane dancersHow do you go about finding those nuggets of gold you need to craft the individual poems, in order to tell the larger story?

Thank you! Hurricane Dancers is my most complex verse novel. For a simple picture book made of linked poems, I’m generally writing a biographical story. Each poem is a different stage in the character’s life. I don’t know any other way to carry him/her gracefully through time, without adding a lot of clunky facts and figures that I’d rather omit.

Orangutanka is a bit more lighthearted than some of your other books. What was your process for deciding its tone and structure?

I actually love lighthearted picture books, but most of them never find publishers. I have drawers filled with collections of poems on cheerful themes, but in the U.S., there seems to be an expectation that all my work has to be serious. (Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish is doing very well in Japan – maybe I should move!)

Orangutanka came out in the form of tanka because it’s the form I often use as a travel diary. Visiting a wildlife refuge in Borneo was so profoundly moving, I needed a sensitive form, but also playful, like young orangutans.

Your other new book that just came out is Drum Dream Girl, a biographical picture book about a real-life Chinese-African-Cuban girl, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who wanted to be a drummer at a time when that sot of thing was frowned upon. How is writing this type of book different from writing a verse novel? (Some people would say shorter means it’s easier – but anyone who writes for a living will tell you shorter is often much harder!)

Drum Dream Girl is more of an “inspired by” story than a true biography. I didn’t want to load it with facts and figures. I just wanted to evoke the spirit of Millo’s courage, as a ten-year-old girl defying Cuba’s taboo against female drummers. I wanted to avoid discussing the taboo itself in any detail, because it’s part of an extremely complex West African religious tradition that would be confusing for young children.

Many of my picture book manuscripts are extremely short, but sometimes an editor asks me to add detail, and then they have to grow. Fortunately, this one stayed in its original form, leaving plenty of room for Rafael López’ spectacular artwork!

Surrender TreeSilver peopleLightning DreamerPoet Slave

What would you say is the most important consideration a writer needs to make when crafting a verse novel, as opposed to another genre?

The heart is the most important consideration. The heart of the story, the heart of each poem, the heart of each character. I love the verse novel format because like a haiku, it has room for universal emotions, without all the clutter of too many facts and figures. However, I do need to research my subject thoroughly. I need to know those facts and figures, and then I need to choose which ones are truly important to me. The rest can be left out completely, or distilled into a brief prose historical note at the end.

Please tell us about your upcoming new book, The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. What drew you to this particular person?

I love writing about great Latinos who have been forgotten by history, and I love writing about people who are independent thinkers, willing to try something new. Fuertes pioneered the painting of living birds in flight, instead of killing them like Audubon. I think that’s a creative approach that will inspire children! Just because someone is taught to do something destructive, that doesn’t mean he/she can’t figure out a better way to accomplish the same goal.

Ornithologists consider Fuertes to be the best bird artist who ever lived, and he was also a great conservationist at a time when women still wore whole birds on their heads – hats were not just ornamented with feathers, entire specimens of rare and endangered species could be spotted on hats in fashion shows! He talked to women’s clubs, asking them to use ribbons or other decorations, instead of dead birds. It sounds absurd now, but that was the reality of the time. It makes me ask myself: what are we doing now that will seem horrifying in a few decades? How can we change?

Finally, I’d love to know more about your upcoming childhood memoir in verse, Enchanted Air. How different was writing an autobiography from writing the biography of someone else, and how does a writer find the objectivity needed to determine what works and what doesn’t?

Enchanted AirEnchanted Air is subtitled Two Cultures, Two Wings. It’s the story of my childhood summers in Cuba, where I bonded with my mother’s extended family, and fell in love with tropical nature.

It’s also the story of the Cold War, and the loss of travel rights. I know the Missile Crisis affected every child of my generation, but it affected Cuban-Americans in a unique way. Writing this book was excruciatingly painful. I won’t be able to read certain parts out loud without crying. I don’t claim to be objective about something so personal and emotional.

By the way, are there any subjects or even genres you haven’t tackled yet, that you would like to?

That’s a long list! My one great unfulfilled wish is a bilingual picture book. I keep writing them, but none are ever accepted. I also wrote a magic realistic middle grade book that has not found a publisher, but I enjoyed experimenting with fantasy. I’m also enjoying experimenting with a historical verse novel set in my home state of California. I would love to try a collection of natural history poems. I haven’t yet tackled the subject of contemporary Cuba.

Well, thank you so much, Margarita! I appreciate you taking the time to chat.

For more info on any of Margarita’s books, check out her website HERE or simply click any of the book covers above!

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Poetry Cubed logoBy the way, you have one week left to send me your “Poetry…Cubed!” entries for a chance to win one of two books! Last week I shared a new poetry challenge…and I’m looking forward to seeing what you can come up with! It’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” – but instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you need to use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Don’t worry, you won’t be graded…winners will be chosen at random. Get all the details HERE!)

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By the way, Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is…well, progressing – very nicely! A different writer adds a line each day, and today Tara at A Teaching Life adds her touch to the adventure. On April 30, we’ll see where it ends when Yours Truly caps it off with the final line.

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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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: My “Poetry…Cubed!” entry

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

It’s Poetry Friday, and today’s roundup can be found at Robyn Hood Black’s little corner of the web, Life on the Deckle Edge. Robyn shares a brief interview with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, the creative team behind The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations from Pomelo Books, of which Robyn and I are both contributors.

Poetry Cubed logoThis past Tuesday, I shared a new poetry challenge…and I’m looking forward to seeing what you can come up with! If you missed it, it’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” But instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you need to use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Get all the details HERE!)

Before we go any further…here are the three images (Feel free to click any of the images to enlarge them):

theatre seat (Katie)Flowers & BeeMonster Truck

So the challenge is to craft a poem utilizing all three of these images – either via imagery, reference, or even perhaps something abstract. Here’s a first draft of my poem, which I wrote Thursday afternoon:

Date Night

The movie had already started
when I walked in.
Opening credits were rolling
as cold sweat dropped
from a wax-paper cup and streamed
along the back of my hand,
onto the floor.
I found a seat
far in the back
near the door
so as not to bring attention to myself
as the one interrupting
The Monster Lies.

Alone in my row,
I groused about missing the previews
and first scene,
wishing I’d had the time
to settle in a little
closer
to the screen.
Below me, teens on first dates
and married couples out
for a night without kids
dotted the auditorium
in parallel lines
like so many flower heads
waiting to be picked.

Inches from the corner of my eye,
cold sweat dropped
from a wax-paper cup
onto the back of a hand.
As I looked up, she smiled
and found a seat
between the door
and me
so as not to bring attention
to herself. I offered
some popcorn, glad she hadn’t
had the time
to settle in a little
closer
to the screen.

– © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2015

.
Full disclosure: Now that I’m done editing this post, this is actually a second draft – writers of poetry just can’t stop tinkering! Think you can create an appetizing poem out of these three ingredients? I’ll bet you can.

Remember, the winners will be chosen at random – so don’t worry about whether you think the poem is good enough or not – the point is to just have fun and stretch your skills a little bit!

Email your poems to Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com, and I’ll share them all on Tue., April 28! (You can refresh your memory about the rules HERE)

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Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem continues to grow! Each day, a different person adds a line to the poem – and today, that person is my fellow Poet’s Garage member, Buffy Silverman. Then on April 30, it’ll be my turn to add the final line!

You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem has been developing at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Poetry_Friday logoDid 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: Poetry Cubed (Contest!)

Poetry Cubed logoWe’re almost halfway through National Poetry Month, so I thought it was time to get rolling with a 2-week contest I’m holding here in my little corner of the web. I’m hoping this will be fun for everyone who participates…and I have some special books to offer as prizes!

If you’ve ever spent more than 5 minutes watching The Food Network, chances are you have seen the hugely popular show, “Chopped!” In this reality-TV game show, four chefs battle each other by trying to create the best dishes they can using specific ingredients given to them in a special basket.

For example, for the first round, the chefs might have to create appetizers using pickled eggs, lemongrass, artichokes, and jelly beans. No, I’m not kidding; the ingredients are very often that bizarre. The dishes are critiqued by a panel of judges and the chef with the least appealing dish drops out; the three remaining chefs then move on to round two, the last two move on to round three, and the final chef gets to claim victory.

So for this contest, I’ve taken the basic premise of the TV show and applied it to poetry – but without the dejected countenances and broken dreams. I call it “Poetry…Cubed!” Here’s how it works:

  • Use the 3 images (“cubed,” get it??) below as inspiration to write a poem. (simple so far, yes?)
  • The poem can be any form, any number of lines, rhyming or not. (also simple, yes?)
  • The only hitch is that you need to include a reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract. (Heck, it’s poetry, so feel free to stretch the boundaries!)
  • Then email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and I’ll share them here on Tue., April 28. Out of all the poems entered, two lucky writers will be chosen at random to receive their choice of the brand-new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books) or the self-help book Psychoetry: Lessons in Poetic Parenting by Brian P. Wohlmuth, whom I interviewed last week.

PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Brian-Psychoetry coverKeep in mind, I can only format poems to a small degree – so if possible, try to refrain from lots of unusual breaks and text placement. I’ll do my best to format your poem per your wishes, but WordPress will only allow me to do so much; blogging platforms aren’t known for being particularly poetry-friendly!

Now…without any further ado…here are your three images:

theatre seat (Katie)Flowers & BeeMonster Truck

A theatre, a bee and flowers, and a toy monster truck. (Feel free to click any of the images to enlarge them) Think you can make something delicious out of these three ingredients? I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

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Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem continues to grow! A different writer adds a line each day, and today it’s Renee LaTulippe’s turn to lead our heroine on her journey. Then on April 30, Yours Truly will add the final line. No pressure at all…

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)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: “Broken”

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)Today’s Poetry Friday roundup is at Laura Purdie Salas’ Writing the World for Kids – so I do hope you’ll stop by and check out all the links as well as her many tips on how to encourage children to appreciate poetry when reading to them!

(And if you didn’t get a chance to read my post from this past Tuesday about “Psychoetry” – I encourage you to learn more!)

I’m taking a break from children’s poetry this time around and sharing something for the grown-ups…my newest poem, a senryu. Hope you like it!

Broken graphic REV
Click to enlarge (© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved)

By the way, Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is growing by leaps and bounds! A different writer adds a line each day, and on April 30 we’ll see where it ends when Yours Truly caps it off with the final line.

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllDid 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!