Poetry Friday: “Work”-ing with a 2-year-old artist

Last week I shared a poem I wrote for my wife as part of our wedding vows 13 years ago – a post I traditionally re-share annually. So this week, I thought I’d let my daughter have the spotlight.

As a born artist, she has always been a creative soul, drawing, painting, sculpting and creating art in every possible manner everywhere she goes. Lunch crumbs, recyclables, anything she finds all have potential to become art in her hands.

Several years ago when she was barely 2 years old, she drew this picture:

I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “A hand picking up stones.”

Given her age and cognitive abilities at the time (she was barely 2, remember), I assumed that was simply a random answer. But when her mom saw it and asked her what it was, she said the same thing: I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “It’s a hand picking up stones.”

I thought it interesting that she said the same thing, so I decided to wait a week or so and ask again. This time, she actually sighed and said, “I told you, it’s a hand picking up stones!”

I guess she knew exactly what she was drawing.

So I thought it might be fun to write a poem to go along with her picture. (This is a form of “ekphrastic poetry”; that is, poetry written to accompany a picture. You can learn more about how much fun ekphrastic poetry is to write – and learn a little more about this poem – HERE.)

.

Work

One by one
I set the stones
neatly in a pile.
Though labor’s long
and aches my bones,
its beauty makes me smile.

© (2015) Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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This poem and picture were first featured together on Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog, as part of a series of posts she shared featuring collaborations between writers and child family members. For more poetry, head over to The Apples in My Orchard, where Carol is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Art & Poetry collide for a homeschooling project

Never in my widest dreams did I ever think I’d be homeschooling my children…yet, here we are.

Going to live classes in school wasn’t really an option, and remote learning was becoming increasingly frustrating for both kids. So my wife and I decided our only choice was to go the homeschooling route.

It’s not easy, and we’re doing as much research and prep work as we can, but fortunately our state has no requirements or standards for homeschooling; as long as the kids learn what the need to learn to be able to move up to the next grade next year, what we do and how we do it between now and then is completely up to us.

So we’ve ordered Saxon Math and a couple of other programs to make sure we cover the vital subjects, and the rest we’re doing ourselves. Take today, for example, where I combined an ELA lesson with Art to create a two-plus hour project the kids enjoyed so much, they didn’t want to stop:

Ah, yes, one of the many things you can do when homeschooling: hold art class at the local coffee house! After we shared a smoothie and a whoopie pie, I had them practice unguided line drawings, whereby you draw an object without looking at the paper. It’s great practice for budding artists to become familiar with their subjects and develop spatial awareness.

You probably can’t tell, but there’s a coffeehouse in there, a war monument, and a giant blue gnu figurine that stands near the coffeehouse lawn. (Yes, a gnu, aka wildebeest) The fact that the kids were free to draw without fear of getting something wrong or somehow making a mistake was liberating and exciting for them. I had anticipated them each doing a couple of drawings, but after about 4 or 5 each I told them we really needed to get going!

Back home, after lunch and some playtime, I had each child write a poem about one of the pictures drawn by the other. I described how to write a list poem and told them to just have at it and write whatever came to mind. My son, a very creative yet literal-minded fellow who is more at ease reading nonfiction than anything else, followed my guidance and came up with this:

(It took me a few minutes before I realized he spelled “gnu” incorrectly in the first line!)

I probably should have been more explicit in my instructions, as he took them to heart and literally created a bulleted list – but it was a worthy effort, nonetheless. His 7-year-old little sister, on the other hand – the artiste of the family and one of the most creative, inventive souls I’ve ever met – went the rhyming route. I can’t say she didn’t knock it out of the park:

You don’t need to be a homeschooling parent to offer this as an activity for kids – it hardly seemed like a lesson at all to these two! The secret is, in both exercises, perfection was not required – nor even considered. This was all about letting one’s mind open and be free to feel the art and words being created. There’s a time and place for proper sentence structure, grammar, and spelling…and my kids loved the fact that this was not one of those times.

NIGHT WISHES” Winner!

In celebration of the new children’s poetry anthology, Night Wishes, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is allowing me to give away one free copy! A number of folks commented on the blog post or shared links to help spread the word, and everyone who did so earned an entry in the drawing. After plugging all the entries into the ol’ Random Number Generator, the winner is…

MARIA MARSHALL!

I’m so happy for Maria, because she went out of her way to publish a 7-poet interview on her blog to help promote the book! It’s by sheer coincidence

her name was chosen at random, and I’m very happy for her. (If you’d care to pick up a copy, just click on the cover, below!) For more poetry, head over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a guest post by Carole Boston Weatherford about Carole’s new YA verse novel about Marilyn Monroe, “Beauty Mark.”

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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Did you know that Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme is one of the TOP 20 children’s poetry blogs, according to FEEDSPOT? That’s right – I’m scratching my head, too! FEEDSPOT is an app that allows you to combine all your favorite news feeds, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc. into ONE newsletter. Be sure to check it out!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

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Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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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 once or twice a week – usually 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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “The Artist”

(click to enlarge)

As I mentioned last week when I shared my cherita about Quechee Gorge, VT, I had a feeling at least a few poems were going to spring out of our trip. Sure enough, I have another one – this time, inspired by my 5-year-old daughter who finds art everywhere she goes:

That’s right, whether it’s stones in a river or the crumbs on her plate, anything can become art in her hands. And I couldn’t be more proud.

For more poetry, please visit Carol Wilcox over at Carol’s Corner for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, where she’s sharing some ‘puppy poetry!’

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AVAILABLE NOW!

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Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. 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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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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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 once or twice a week – usually 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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

A Flashlight Night at the Museum

Well, now…this was unexpected:

Photo courtesy Fred Koehler (click to enlarge)

This is a photo from a new display at the Polk Museum of Art in Florida – and is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far pertaining to Flashlight Night! Each original piece of artwork for the book is displayed with the text beneath it; viewers are guided along so they can “read” the book as they marvel at illustrator Fred Koehler‘s work.

If someone had told me 5 years ago that my words would end up on a museum wall, I’d have told them they were nuts. The bathroom wall, maybe – but not the actual museum’s wall. But what do you know.

By the way, if you’re wondering where to get a copy of Flashlight Night and when you might be able to get it signed, here’s my schedule so far:

  • Oct. 11, 6pm :  Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH (TOMORROW  NIGHT!)
  • Oct. 14, 2pm:  Books-A-Million, Concord, NH (THIS SAT. AFTERNOON!)
  • Oct. 27, 6pm:  Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH
  • Nov. 1, 12pm:  Concord Hospital Early Childhood Learning Center / Gift Shop, Concord, NH
  • (soon-to-be-confirmed: Toadstool Bookshop, Keene/Peterborough/Milford, NH

I’ll continue updating this as dates are added…and thank you again for your support!

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Thank you so much to all who have enjoyed “Flashlight Night” enough to write about it:

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist

“Favorably recalls Where the Wild Things Are” – Shelf Awareness

“Begs to be read over and over” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

“A poetic and engaging journey” – Cynthia Alaniz, Librarian In Cute Shoes

“Illuminates the power of imagination” – Kellee Moye, Unleashing Readers

“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy

“Beautiful words and stunning illustrations” – Jason Lewis, 5th grade teacher at Tyngsboro Elementary School, Tyngsboro, MA

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

Poetry Friday: “OMTB” Blog Tour AND a father-daughter collaboration!

omtb-blog-tour-graphicBy now, you’ve probably heard about Kenn Nesbitt’s new children’s poetry anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers). It has received numerous positive reviews like THIS ONE and THIS ONE and THIS ONE and was also selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the best children’s books of 2016!

I’m very proud to be one of more than 130 poets included in the book, and today, many of the contributors are taking part in a blog tour! (That’s why, in case you’re wondering, I’m sharing my Poetry Friday post a day early!)

But this blog tour is a little different; rather than sharing the poem(s) we have included in the book, we are sharing poems that were submitted, but not selected! You see, when Kenn asked us to send him our poems, we had no idea which ones he’d chooses and which ones he’d pass on…so it seemed like a waste not to give those poems that didn’t make the cut their own opportunity to shine.

Back on Nov. 4, I shared one of my poems that didn’t make it – and today I have another. This one is a lullaby of sorts that I wrote back in the mid-’90’s, before I was even making an effort to become published, but which I have sung for each of my 4 kids, right before bed. The rhyming isn’t perfect, but they all love it – so to me, it’s perfect the way it is.

Little Lullaby

Time to go to sleep,
time to go to sleep.
No more time to play,
no more time to eat.

Time to let your dreams
carry you away,
so rest your weary eyes –
tomorrow’s another day.

– © 1994, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

If you’d like to check out all the other poems from all the other folks taking part in this blog tour, head on over to Jackie Hosking’s blog and you’ll find several poems and all the links to the other blog posts.

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As for Friday itself, that is the day I get to share a new poem with the readers of Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog, as part of her ongoing series, “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt” – an opportunity for two family members to collaborate on a picture and an accompanying poem.

I’ve already had the pleasure of writing poems based on drawings by my two youngest children, and now I get to share a poem I wrote based on something by one of their two older sisters!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI hope you’ll take a trip over to Penny’s blog to see it…and be sure to also visit Bridget Magee’s Wee Words for Wee Ones for 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)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Instant Art: A case for memorization

I originally posted this on Oct. 9, 2012, but since people are still discovering the post – and because poetry & memorization in schools have been in the news of late – I thought I’d repost, it in case you hadn’t seen it…

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could wave a magic wand, and somehow “Poof!” call into existence a classic work of art?

Moreover, you could decide how that art would suit your mood – perhaps happy, or dark, or funny, or melancholy.

You already can.

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Keeping those words in mind, consider this:

One may view a beautiful painting and later recall its basic image in their mind, but many of its details – the brushstrokes, the hues, etc. – will be lost.  One might be mesmerized by the taste and aroma of a magnificent meal, yet once it is eaten, only the memory of that meal remains.  However, when one reads a poem and then commits it to memory, the beautiful experience of reading and hearing those words can be immediately recalled and enjoyed in all its splendor at any time, anywhere, for as long as one can remember the words.

It’s like instant art!

If what Poe said is true, why would we not want to encourage more people, young and old, to develop their ability to bring forth this beauty, at will?

What has happened to memorization?

In high school, I had to memorize poetry from time to time in my various English classes.  My wife, who went to a private school, was required to memorize a different poem each week while in middle school.

Conversely, my daughters went through 12 years of schooling each and were rarely required to memorize anything by rote other than basic academics like multiplication tables, the Periodic Chart, and US history timeline.  Memorization of poetry was sadly deficient.  Fortunately, they loved reading, writing, and music – and had a father who obviously wrote a great deal of poetry – so they all ended up memorizing a few poems outside of their classes’ syllabi.

Now that I have a two-year-old, though, I wonder what he will be taught – or not taught.

It seems like memorization has been slowly disappearing in schools over the past half-century, and I’m not sure why.  Long before they enter school, children like my little dude learn the joy of putting sounds together, whether those sounds are from favourite songs, TV shows, or nursery rhymes.  Although a toddler may not know whether Black Sheep has any wool, or how much wool can fit inside three bags, or even how many ‘three’ is, he or she can fell the cadence and enjoy the sounds the words make when put together.  If you then read William Blake’s “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright…” to that same child, he or she might subconsciously notice both poems utilize the same rhythm, before you do.

(Although I just told you, so you might not be able to test that.  Dang.)

My point is, memorization has its benefits, and it’s a shame we don’t use this form of teaching more often.  Say what you will about learning things by rote, but if we’re going to place as much emphasis on language and visual arts as we do on social studies and mathematics, there should be a place for memorization…and not just memorizing the words but, when age-appropriate, what they mean and how to read them.

Learning leads to memorization.  Or is it the other way around?

I know many educators who feel that as a student learns something, he or she will remember what they learn.  That may be true, but the reciprocal is also true; memorize, and you will also learn.  Rhythm, rhyme, tense, order, and myriad other concepts are difficult to teach adults, much less kids…but the more one memorizes poetry, from “I am Sam / Sam I am” to “How shall I compare thee,” the more one starts to appreciate and understand these things.  This helps not just in writing poetry, but any type of creative writing.

Poetry is immensely diverse when it comes to subject matter, too; one can find dozens if not hundreds of poems on nearly any subject.  Given the opportunity, students can learn about poetic forms and devices on their own terms, to a degree.

For example, one of the few times my now 20-year-old was asked to memorize something was when she was in middle school, and was given the task of memorizing a favourite poem.  She loved cats, so she looked through a few books and decided upon the modern classic, “Fog,” by Carl Sandburg:

FOG

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

But in her search for a poem to memorize, she also fell in love with several other poems, including Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat” (one of my favourites).  In this case, a memorization assignment served to teach her lessons before she even began memorizing anything.  Plus, she had now experienced two very different approaches to the same subject: one was a free verse poem about fog using the cat as a metaphor, while the other was structured rhyming verse about a human experience involving a member of the family.

What to do??

Kids love music, and when they hear something that catches their ear, their mind is like the proverbial steel trap.  It gets stuck in there, and they won’t let go of it.  Heck, my two-year-old sings a couple of Eric Church songs all the way through, without music!  There is a rhythm and repetition that he enjoys, and even though he doesn’t understand the lyrics, he is learning how to put words together in a rhythmic pattern.

Likewise, one of the great things about poetry – especially classic poetry, with its proper meter and structured rhyme schemes – is that it is structured and can be almost musical.  Tying together the musicality and lyricism of poetry with art, history, language, and social studies seems obvious.  The more connections we can help our children make between these things the more apt they are to remember what they learn.

Twenty years after Paul Revere made his famous ride in 1775, Samuel Taylor Coleridge met William Wordsworth, in 1795.  Five years later, in 1800, Napoleon conquered Italy.  At the same time, the Romantic period of visual art was just beginning in Europe.  And of course, how can one imagine England in the early 1800’s without Dickens or Austen?  Personally, I can’t imagine it without Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” published in London in 1819.

And you know who was an 11-year-old schoolboy living in London at that very time?

Edgar Allan Poe.