Poetry Friday: “The Old Woman in the Yard”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBefore we get into today’s poem, I need to repeat the news, in case you missed it: the incredibly talented Fred Koehler has signed on to illustrate my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), which is due out in Fall 2017!

This is a “first” of sorts for both of us – and if you read my post from this past Tuesday, you can find out why!

Now then…onto today’s poetry! Laura Shovan’s February poetry prompt series, the “Found Poem Project,” is in full swing (I hosted the project last Friday!), and today I have another poem to share that was inspired by one of her ‘found’ objects.

I don’t normally share poems that haven’t had time to sit and marinate for a while and be revised – this poem only took me about 45 minutes to conceive, write, and edit slightly – but I thought posting a rough draft of a poem for a change might not be a bad thing:

The Old Woman in the Yard

We’d walked this way for years.
Each time, we’d see her there
in burlap dress and bonnet,
hands clenched, as if in prayer.
Her back was always turned,
head bowed in silent thought;
we wondered (rather, worried)
should we bother her, or not?
So every time we passed,
we never said a word,
we never slowed our pace;
the woman never stirred.
And then one day we came upon
an empty, hollow space…
we’d never known her name.
We never saw her face.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

If you’d like to see the photo of the unusual object that spurred me to write this, along with all the other poems that Laura’s readers have contributed, please visit her blog today! And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, head on over to Kimberly Moran’s blog, Written Reflections.

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Exciting news! And more exciting news!

What’s it like to lead a writer’s conference workshop on writing? I’m about to find out!

nescbwi16_conf logoRegistration for the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) gets underway at noon EST today, and it is one of those things we writers look forward to all year. The third-biggest SCBWI conference – behind the two big ones in New York and LA – is three days of learning, networking, and enjoying life…but this year, I have some extra reasons to look forward to it:

  • I will be taking part in the #AskAMentor program on Friday afternoon, where conference faculty hang out and meet others who are just starting to write or who are looking for advice. It is described as ‘speed dating but without the cheesy pickup lines’…and as far as I know, Yours Truly will be the only person there who writes poetry. So I hope you’ll say hi, if you happen to attend!
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  • I also agreed to co-chair the Open Mic nights Fri. and Sat. evenings with fellow poetry writer Sharon Abra Hanen. This is an opportunity to share your children’s poetry or a manuscript with the crowd. This year, we’re adding a special feature we call “Whose Rhyme is it, Anyway?”- a quick, improvisational game where two writers (or teams) are given random words and subjects and need to create a minimum 2-line children’s poem within the allotted time!
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  • The hands-down MOST exciting part of this weekend for me will be on Sunday, when I host my first workshop for industry professionals, “Free yourself with Free Verse Poetry.” This is for all the poor folks who think children’s poetry needs to rhyme and be perfectly metrical. Attendees will be taught the basics of free verse (use of internal rhyme, enjambment, shape of text, etc.) and will be challenged with some on-the-spot writing exercises. This, I hope, will be a nice complement to Holly Thompson’s and Padma Venkatraman’s verse novel workshop taking place earlier the same day.

From plotting to illustrating to character development to marketing…there’s a workshop for just about everything kidlit-related at this conference. If you do attend, please be sure to find me and say hi! Registration begins at noon today, so don’t wait – workshops get filled up very quickly!

But wait…I said there’s MORE exciting news, didn’t I??

I can now finally (and proudly) announce that illustrator extraordinaire Fred Koehler has signed on to illustrate my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), which is due out in Fall 2017!

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - One DayFred has illustrated numerous picture books including, most recently, Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day…The End (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2015). His own book, Super Jumbo (Dial Books) comes out exactly one week from today, so be sure to check it out! He also illustrates Shelley Moore Thomas’ book, This Book is Not About Dragons (Boyd’s Mills Press), which is due to be released this September. Like I said, busy guy.

I’m especially thrilled about Fred’s decision to illustrate my book because mine will be his first using traditional media (i.e., pen and ink, pencil, etc.). These days, everything is digital – but Fred wanted to capture a classic sort of feeling with this particular project, and I have to admit I’m honored that he liked it enough to do that!

I’ll be sharing some more details about this book as we get closer to the release date. Until then, I’m continuing to send out other manuscripts in search of a publisher! I think I have 8 or 9 different manuscripts all searching for a home right now…fingers crossed, as they say!

I also have some news about two new anthologies that will be coming out (one next year; the other, the year after that!) but I need to keep quiet for now. Once I can make the news public, you’ll be the first to know!

Or maybe I’ll spill a bean or two at the conference…hope to see you there!

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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!
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Poetry Friday: The Found Object Poem Project, Day 5!

Poetry_Friday logoPoet and blogger Laura Shovan is once again inspiring writers with her annual February poetry prompt, and this year she’s using “found objects” – random, unusual, or even everyday items that various friends and fellow bloggers have come across and shared.

You can see all of this week’s objects (and the poems written so far) HERE at her blog, and today, I’m pleased to host Day 5 of the series!

Now, normally I’d share the photo of the object with my poem, along with all the poems that readers have contributed – and please DO contribute, in the comments section! – but I feel a need to do things just slightly differently, for good reason.

This time around, I need to share the poem first…and I’ll explain why after you read it.

Heirloom Moon

On sun-toughened vines
they hang, young
and glowing beneath
dark August sky;
midnight shines
against dewy skin, smooth
and glossy as Brandywines
while flesh swells
with thirst
and yearning.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

The reason I wanted to share the poem first is because of the ridiculous nature of the photo. Once you see it, you’ll sense a huge disconnect between the object and the poem. Ready?

Here it is:

Tomato-Moon
(click to enlarge)

When I first shared this online, I stated that I’d never been mooned by a vegetable before!

I’m not sure if this tomato was one big one that split into two, or started off as two little baby tomatoes that fused into one – but at a good pound or so in weight, it was one of the strangest-looking tomatoes I’d ever seen.

Two days ago when I started thinking about a poem to write, my mind kept wandering back to a tomato ‘mooning’ me – but I wanted something more serious. Once the title of the poem, “Heirloom Moon,” hit me, the poem wrote itself.

I was concerned that by seeing the photo, then reading the poem, there might be a bit of a disconnect. Switching from a goofy picture to mature free verse – and switching from very different definitions of ‘moon’ – was a challenge!

Now then, without any further ado, allow me to present YOUR poems…all the responses to this photo that are being sent in. And please, if you’d like to contribute, just post your poem in the comments below and I’ll add it here as soon as I can!

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We’ll begin with something from the Haiku Queen, Diane Mayr, who said, “When I gave up the idea of writing a tomato haiku, this one appeared!” Some great imagery here, too – skin stretching, mouths waiting – so enjoy:

Listen to a Tomato

Not even a whisper
accompanies the splitting
of its seed coat when
touched by the warmth
of a sunny April day.

Nor is there a sound
when a seedling snakes
upward shaking off
humus and loam as
its true leaves unfurl.

You won’t hear skin
stretching to its limits
as the fruit imbibes
summer rains, growing
round and pendant.

The only sound you can
hear, is the POP of a ripe
tomato and the EXPLOSION
of juice as it’s delivered
to your waiting mouth.

– © 2016, Diane Mayr

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Next up is a delicious poem from Jessica Bigi…you’ll be ready for dinner with these warm, homey images:

Garden Tomatoes Memories

Salt
Black pepper
Tangy vinaigrette
Drizzling oil
Beefsteak tomatoes
Our garden’s prize
Halves in a bowl
They’re best as
Dad told his story
Mouth-watering
Tomato juice smile
Italian bread baking
In grandmother’s oven
Slices of garden tomatoes
Thick slices of onions
Water my eyes
How the hobos left the Trains
knocking on her door
For homemade bread and
Tomato sandwiches
Dad’s mouth watered he
Loved his with onions
How I long to hear his voice
Whistle his story to me
How I love my dad and a bowl
Of garden tomatoes

– Jessica Bigi

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Margaret Simon says she was attracted not to the tomato but to the quilted cloth beneath, which was reminiscent of her grandmother’s quilts. This touching poem is proof that inspiration can come from anywhere!

Grandmother’s Quilt

Grandmother
quilted for hours
taking tiny stitches in and out
while gossiping
with the girls.

“Jesse harvested tomatoes today.
The largest we’ve had in years.”

“Whatcha’gonna make, Mary Glo?
Tomato soup or corn maque choux?”

Around that circle of friends,
patches from Granddad’s ties,
a piece of Margaret’s Sunday dress,
stories were told
and sewn into time,
feathered with fingers of love.

Margaret Simon

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Although summer won’t be here for another 5 months, Molly Hogan brightens up our winter with thoughts of sunshine and dirt and summertime smells:

One Plump Tomato

In the midst of winter
one plump tomato
stirs memories of
the sun’s caressing warmth
on berry-brown bare arms
and flush freckle-dusted cheeks
of toes dipping into rich earth
and of the enticing tangled scent
of robust green vines
and sweet spicy basil

In the midst of winter
one plump tomato
sings a silent song
of summer

– Molly Hogan

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Linda Baie is feeling the love – with an early-morning rendezvous:

Early Valentine’s Day

I rose early to go to the garden
for a breakfast harvest,
without the distraction of the kids.
Pants quickly wet from the dew,
I leaned into ripening tomatoes,
inhaling that tangy, piney scent,
the only one they know. Perhaps
it protects their sweeter taste?
They were falling over,
heavy red-ripened jewels.

There, among that rich roundness, this love apple.
The mist had blown off with the sun,
and I returned to the house,
lay my heart upon the bed,
pursed my lips for a kiss.

Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

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Laura Shovan herself stopped by to share her contribution – a fun little ode to my tasty monstrosity:
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Big Boy
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Hello, tomato!
You’re the Wonder Twins
of the vegetable garden,
Miracle-Gro… activate!
Hello, tomato!
The slugs came out
last night and slathered you
in lip plumper.
Hello, tomato!
I love you best
cut into chunks
and served with salt.
Goodbye, tomato!
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– © 2016, Laura Shovan
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Carol Varsalona jumped into the fray with the following poem that she titled after my picture!

Tomato Moon

Not two peas in a pod.
Not two beans on a pad
but
two simple valentines
linked
creating
one tomato moon,
filling the spaces of
my February heart-
peacefully co-joined,
artfully sculptured,
waiting for a receiver.

– ©CVarsalona, 2016

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Last but not least, Mary Lee Hahn brings us a short but sweet love poem!

Double Tomato

We budded together and together we bloomed;
it just seemed natural that together we grew.
Together we look…unusual,
but together we’re unified — one outranks two!

– ©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

NEXT UP, DAY 6!

Wondering what’s in store for tomorrow? Here’s the found object poem prompt for Sat., Feb. 6, courtesy of Laura, herself!

Many thanks again to Laura Shovan for the series of prompts this month, and for all of today’s poetry fun and links, please visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday roundup!

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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!
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Autumn haiku

I know, we’re in the middle of winter…so what am I doing, you ask?

This poem originally appeared on Carol Varsalona’s blog, Beyond Literacy, a few days after Christmas – and although I hope you had a chance to check out all the contributors’ works, I wanted to showcase the poem here, as well. The photo has been going around the internet for awhile, so I wish I knew to whom it should be attributed; I must thank them for the inspiration!

(click to enlarge)

Again, you can view all the poems and photos in Carol’s gallery HERE, and please leave a comment so she knows you visited. And for more poetry and links, please visit Keri at Keri Recommends for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

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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!
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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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: winter haiku

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMy friend and fellow writer/blogger Buffy Silverman shared a photo on her Facebook page the other day. It was a beautiful shot of individual snowflakes that had just fallen during the early evening, and she titled the post, “snowflakes at dusk.”

I told her that was a darned good title for a poem!

As it turned out, she ended up posting a couple of poems with that title on her blog shortly before I posted this following poem on MY blog…which is great, because I can encourage you to check out her blog and see the photo and poems for yourself! (I’m actually working on a second poem, but it just has not come together the way I want it, so I can’t share it yet)

Hope you like it!

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stars fall, cold, dead,
lit by living room window
snowflakes at dusk

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, please visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference!

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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!
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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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A busy 2016 – and it’s barely begun!

If that old saying is true – that “idleness is the devil’s playground” – then I suspect Satan has probably left the building.

Although I had some enjoyable downtime with the family over the holidays, I can’t say I was relishing in any sort of ‘idleness’…and with the new year upon us, things are just getting busier!

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgCYBILS Awards finalists

The 10th annual CYBILS Awards (aka, the Children’s and Young Adult Literary Bloggers Awards) are underway, and as a first-round panelist for the graphic novels category, I had my work cut out for me. My fellow panelists and I had to pore over 102 nominated books to nail down the 14 that we felt were the best!

The graphic novels category is an interesting one, because of a number of reasons. First, it’s divided into two sub-categories: Young Adult and Elementary/Middle Grade – which means we are reading for different age levels. Second, it’s not just fiction; there was non-fiction, historical fiction, even memoirs!

It was tough to sort through them all, but a lot of fun, and quite a learning NG Book of Nature Poetry coverexperience. In past years, I’ve been a judge for the Poetry category – but since I was a contributor to three of the nominated anthologies, I had to step aside. I am extremely proud of the fact that one of those anthologies, the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Kids, 2015) is a 2nd-round finalist, so my fingers are crossed!

You can see the list of all the finalists for all of the categories HERE.

Anthologies ahead!

In addition to the children’s poetry anthologies I contributed to this past year, I will also have a poem included in former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt’s new anthology, One Minute Til Bedtime (Little, Brown Book for Young Readers, Spring 2016).

I’m also thrilled to announce that I will have two poems in two separate anthologies yet to be announced! I wish I could tell you more about them, but cannot…at least, not yet, anyway. In fact, one isn’t due to come out until 2018 (tentatively), so you’ll be hearing plenty more about it in the months (and years!) ahead!

Children’s manuscripts, anyone? Anyone??

I’ve been busy cranking out manuscripts this past year and am now sending them out in hopes of finding an editor or agent interested in acquiring them.

If my numbers are right, I wrote or revised 13 manuscripts over the course of 2015 – some brand-new, others revised – and they are all looking for homes. Most are picture books, but two are children’s poetry collections.

One was a rhyming picture book collaboration with one of the nicest and most talented and prolific children’s poets in the country, for which I’m honored. It’s my sincere hope that the manuscript gets picked up – not simply because I am a children’s writer looking for a contract, but more importantly because I want our collaborative effort to be validated as a worthwhile effort for my partner, who took a chance on me.

Three magic words: New. Voiceover. Studio!

We recently wrapped up $20,000 worth of construction work on our house (most of which insurance paid for, thankfully!), but one of the things that came out of this was a rearranging of our rooms.

My wife and my master bedroom had to be vacated and will soon become our 2-year-old daughter’s new room, while we had to move downstairs to what had been a playroom/storage room for the kids. The benefit of this is that the nursery in which our daughter sleeps now – a fairly small room, by any standard – will become my new studio!

I’m looking forward to treating the room for acoustics, sound-dampening, organizing, etc. – but first we need to get walls painted and beds situated before any of that can happen. Oh, 2016 is going to be a good year, indeed.

Last but not least, the 2016 NE-SCBWI Conference!

nescbwi16 logo

The New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is hosting its annual spring conference at the end of April, and I’m already packing!

Why? Well, because it’s always packed with insightful panels, intriguing keynotes (Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaola, and Kwame Alexander, to name a few), educational workshops, and tremendous networking opportunities. But beyond all of that, this year is special to me because I’ll be involved in two new ways: as a volunteer and as faculty!

On Sunday, May 1, I’ll be hosting a workshop entitled “Free Yourself with Free Verse Poetry.” During this 55-minute session, I’ll teach the basics of free verse for children’s writers and poets who may want to learn more about poetry, but are afraid of rhyme schemes and scary terms like “iambic pentameter” and “dactylic hexameter.”

After a brief overview of what free verse is and how to utilize it, attendees will be able to practice with some on-the-spot writing and ask questions. My desire is that this workshop will be beneficial for writers who just want to be more creative as well as for those who wish to write in a more poetic or lyrical style…and it could be a great primer for writing verse novels, which are often written in free verse.

I’m also helping to coordinate our Open Mic programs Fri. and Sat. nights, together with fellow writer Sharon Abra Hanen. Attendees are encouraged to share what they’re working on – children’s poetry, a picture book manuscript, even a few sample pages from a book – with the crowd. And new this year, a special feature called “Whose Rhyme Is It, Anyway?”- a quick, improvisational flash-poetry game where two writers (or teams) will be given random words and subjects and will need to create a children’s poem within the allotted time.

Get more details about the conference HERE, and if you’re a member of NE-SCBWI, I hope to see you there!

Is that enough?

Well, for now, it is. I need to write two more poems, but they will have to wait. One is for Penny Parker Klosterman’s blog (my kids and I will be featured on January 29), and one is for my chiropractor, Dr. Stephanie Foisy Mills, D.C., C.C.W.P., who asked if I’d mind writing something for her blog.

I also have two more picture book manuscripts and three children’s poetry collections I need to work on…but one can only do so much. Please stay in touch – either through this blog or via any of my social media homes listed below – and I wish you health, happiness, and all wonderful things for this brand-new year!

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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!
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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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “New Year”

New Year

Another new year’s eve,
hope and promise drawing near.
Celebration bittersweet;
I mourn
another year.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMary Lee & Frankie at A Year of Reading have today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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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!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
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)