Poetry Friday: “Catch”

As I mentioned a few days ago, Ed DeCaria’s Madness! Poetry competition is underway – and the number of “authletes” that began the competition (including Yours Truly) has already been whittled down.

Madness! Poetry is a bracketed-style competition; each authlete is given a particular word and has 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that word. Fellow writers, students, teachers, everyone is encouraged to vote for their favorite poems as the number of authletes drops from 64 to 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 2…and finally the winner s crowned.

Once again, I did not make it out of the first round, so I’ll be watching and voting from the sidelines…but I encourage you to follow it throughout the next couple of weeks! Today, I’m sharing the poem I wrote for the competition because – even though I only had 36 hours to write it – I like the way it came out and the message it conveys. Is it perfect? No…but it says what I wanted it to say.

The word my competitor, Savannah Rogers, and I had been given was “pelt”:


Each morning at school
it’s always the same:
they pitch me an insult,
toss me a name.

They hurl innuendo
with me in their sights.
They pelt me with slurs,
sling a few slights.

I’m taunted with words
they carelessly throw.
They want me to cry;
I don’t let it show.

They like to play games,
but starting today
they won’t have much fun.
I’m not going to play.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Interesting how poems form themselves. When I saw the word was “pelt,” my first thought was the fur of a raccoon or wolf. I immediately eschewed that definition, as I felt it would be too difficult to write a kid-friendly poem about dead, skinless animals. Just a hunch, of course.

So I then thought about being pelted with snow or sleet or something like that, but I figured that would be the obvious way to go – and I’m all about finding the unexpected angles. It didn’t take me long to recall my younger days (long before anti-bullying messages and hashtag campaigns) when I struggled with physical and mental abuse from other students on a near-daily basis.

I didn’t want the poem to be didactic, but I did want to say something meaningful. As I mentioned to some of the folks who were voting on my match-up with Savannah Rogers, it’s a lot easier to say “don’t play their game” than it is to actually not play it. Still, I felt it was an important message. I had no one with whom to talk when I was younger (my folks just figured kids were being kids and didn’t do much to help me), so having adults in a kid’s life who can help guide him/her can make a world of difference.

Congratulations to Savannah or winning the first round – she’s now gearing up for Round 2! And speaking of poetry, my friend Michelle H. Barnes is hosting Poetry Friday today at her blog, Today’s Little Ditty, so please stop by for the complete roundup AND a month-long poetry prompt from Nikki Grimes.


SCHOOL PEOPLE are here…and the DINOSAURS are on their way!

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR hits bookshelves April 17!

New dates continue to be added to the Dinosaur Tour! Don’t Ask a Dinosaur co-author Deborah Bruss and I have quite a busy schedule planned:

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur Dual National Launch Party!! (with Holly Thompson, One Wave at a Time reading/signing/discussion)
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH, Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People!
  • Sat., April 28, 10:30am: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Sat., April 28, 2pm: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing (with Sara Levine, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones reading/signing)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 10am: Barnes & Noble, Burlington, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Wed., May 16, 12pm: Concord Hospital Gift Shop, Concord, NH, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People signing
  • Sat., May 19, 11:30am-3pm: Barnes & Noble, Salem, NH, National Storytime at 11am, followed by Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • To be scheduled: Books-A-Million, Concord, NH
  • MORE DATES to be added!


Thank you so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 


Purchasing personalized signed copies ONLINE? Yes, it’s true!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new way to purchase personalized signed copies of not only Flashlight Night, but ANY of my books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

I’ve teamed up with the good folks MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH to present an option for people who would love to have a signed copy of one of my books but don’t live anywhere near me. MainStreet BookEnds has ALL but one of my books available for ordering…and the best part is, you can get them personalized!

Just log onto my website and click the cover of whichever book you want, and they will get it to me to sign and send it off to you. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)


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34 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Catch”

  1. lindabaie

    I loved your poem, too, Matt, have sent it to a former colleague to share with his middle-school students. You’re right, though, it isn’t easy not to play! March Madness, always interesting!


      1. I don’t think I realized that, Brenda – and am embarrassed to admit that! But yes, I’d love to have you feature one. I don’t know if I have your email, but feel free to email me at matt (at) mattforrest (dot) com and we can arrange something. And thank you so much for asking!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Now that challenge sounds positively MAD, but so fun! I think your poem is brilliant, Matt. I can definitely see sharing it with students. It’s incredibly powerful, and deserves to be shared. A wonderful conversation launcher.


  3. I love this poem, Matt, and am so glad you shared it here. I went to one match up and was so horrified by having to choose that I couldn’t return! Kudos to you for participating and for crafting this meaningful poem. Well done!


  4. I took part in the very first Madness competition – but I’ve just never got back for more. Mostly because March is somehow alway busy for me. This year would have been perfect – but since I was so busy BEFORE March… I completely missed the sign up!! 🙂 I think you’ve made beaut use of your word in this poem!


  5. “Pelt” is exactly the write image for hurtful words, Matt. Even if it didn’t move on to the next round, glad this poem could come to be! (I remember being matched with you early on – fun! – and, like Kat, I’ve skipped in recent years because the calendar got too crazy in March. Hats off to all the authletes!)


  6. Diane Mayr

    I like learning the thought processes that go into a writer’s decisions.

    Sorry you didn’t get to continue on to the next round…


    1. I’ve contacted a handful of bookstores in the Portland area and no one returns my messages! Although I do anticipate having ‘Flashlight Night’ available at the Beach Dog in York Beach…I’m hoping to sign them before Anne, the owner, puts them on sale.

      If you know of any bookstores that might be interested in me, let me know! 🙂


      1. Have you tried Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops in Portland, Damariscotta, Camden and Boothbay Harbor? In summer especially there are lots of people, and lots of foot traffic. These are very nice book stores. There are a few others. Let me think…


  7. Awwww, that poem really deserved to move on. I work in a middle school and this is such a great way of coping with name calling. I’m waaaaaaaay too scared to enter myself as an authlete in the March madness. So, I will sit on the sidelines with you and cheer on the writers as they advance. You already have won just be being willing to play ball!


  8. srebeccan

    Hooray for the 1st round-2nd placers (I went out in the 1st round too) 🙂 I really enjoyed your poem and I think you did a great job of having it be meaningful without being didactic.


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