Poetry Friday: “Birthday (for my son)”

birthday-graphic
(click to enlarge)

My son is one of those folks whose birthday comes shortly after Christmas, so it takes some effort on his mom’s and my part to make sure he doesn’t get short-changed. (You know, the “Well, you just got a bunch of stuff for Christmas, so here are some new socks” kind of thing) So in addition to a few more cool toys and a nice cake, I wrote him a little something.

Hopefully he’ll appreciate it once he’s old enough to be able to appreciate it! Hard to believe he’s already 7 – so that day is probably rapidly approaching.

My neighbor to the north, Donna Smith at Mainely Write, is hosting Poetry Friday today, while we all dig out from a big pile of snow that got dumped on us yesterday and overnight. So please stop by and say hi, and check out all the poetry links and fun!

And please have a very safe, healthy, and success-filled New Year!

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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!
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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)
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Poetry Friday: “Sunday afternoon, 1975”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWell, I hope you enjoyed that little excursion into the past with my Throwback Summer series…many of you commented that you couldn’t believe I was willing to share poetry I’d written in high school and college, and my response is, “Hey, we all had to start somewhere!”

Granted, “Ode to a Dishrag,” “Ode to Lint,” and “Ode to a Poem I’m Writing Only Because I Couldn’t Think of Anything Else to Write About” were never Pushcart contenders…but I wanted to show readers how far one can develop through hard work, practice, and sheer determination.

As I always say, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

Today we get back to my present-day writing, and the following is one of those poems I wrote specifically to submit to a journal. I’ve previously shared my thoughts about the value of submission requests as inspiration to write, and this was one of those cases; the journal was looking for poems about ice cream, so I put this together.

It was just a few weeks later that I went to the journal’s website and all references to this particular issue were removed, and even the contact person’s name was nowhere to be found. Sigh. Oh, well…no reason to let the poem go unread, right?

Sunday afternoon, 1975

Ice cream, again. One of them said
something wrong, I think, something the other
didn’t like;
I don’t know what. I don’t know why
they’re even here in front of the grocery store
instead of at home – one of our homes –
but we’re here, and people
I don’t know are looking
and all I can do is fight
a shiver in my chest. I try not
to make them mad, but it always happens
around this time
every second weekend.

Without warning,
mom snatches my hand and turns, walking
so quickly I can barely keep up; I turn my head
to look behind
and see dad, standing on the pavement
watching, arms
by his sides, right hand
angled in a half-wave
as if to say
he’s sorry
it’s ice cream again.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the one and only Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm, so head on over for all of today’s poetry links, and learn more about a brand new book being published by the folks responsible for the Poetry Friday Anthology series, Pomelo Books!

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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)
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Throwback Summer 2016: My very “first” children’s book

Last week, I told you about the discovery I made while cleaning out my parents’ attic: assorted school papers, projects, journals, etc. It really has been both fun and enlightening to look back on all this material and see how it all worked together to help develop my writing style, my sense of humour, and my very personality.

Today, I’m sharing what is probably the most astounding treasure in the entire trove: the very first children’s book I ever wrote!

(Feel free to click on any to enlarge)

Davy BF 1
(If the sun is behind a cloud behind that wall, where the heck did that shadow come from??)

Titled Davy’s Best Friend, it’s a story about a lonely boy whose shadow comes to life and takes him to the land (or rather, cloud) where shadows are created.

I particularly like the part where he goes up…

Davy BF 2
Omigosh, all the shadows have disappeared!! Oh, wait – no…it’s just poorly illustrated.

…and up!

Davy BF 3
That’s right – page 25, and we’re only halfway through the book! At 60 pages in length, it’s a bit…long)

While I don’t recall much about the specifics of the project – indeed, I had forgotten I had even written it in the first place – I do remember that it was a significant part of my high school senior year Creative Writing class, which would put this circa Spring 1985.

Professionally speaking, the text is bland and wordy, and although my teacher loved the originality, I view the story and imagery as an amalgam of Peter Pan, Where the Wild Things Are, and every lonely-boy-as-hero book ever imagined. Ironically, the illustrations, while admittedly amateurish (rendered well before my college art classes), are probably one of the strongest aspects of this thing -and it wasn’t an art class project!

But I got a 100 for it, so I can’t complain. Oh, by the way, Davy does return home at the end…

Davy BF 4
(What happened to the buildings’ shadows? Are they on holiday??)

Someone had asked me if I was concerned about sharing this online, in case someone might take the idea for their own. I said, if someone wants to try publishing a book based on this…good luck to them! Their manuscript would need so much work and revision I’m not sure anyone would be able to tell where the original idea came from.

Now, this all causes me to wonder what would have happened to my life, had I decided to study children’s writing in college instead of the ‘lucrative’ world of radio broadcasting. (“Lucrative” is a rather sarcastic word, I admit…by the time I had left full-time employment in radio in 2012, with a BS and 25+ years experience, I was making less than a first-year teacher at the local elementary school, in a town of 3000 people).

Would I have failed extraordinarily and ended up in radio, anyway? Would I be doing something else entirely? Or would I already have 400 books to my name, a school named after me like my friend David Harrison, and Jane Yolen scratching her head, wondering, “How does that guy DO it?”

Ah, well…who knows. At least I’m writing now, and getting published now. It may be amusing to look back on our younger days and wish we could have had just an ounce or two of the wisdom we have now, but all we can do is move forward starting with today.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript I need to work on…

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Amazing new discovery: My childhood!

Well, ok – I admit, that headline is a bit misleading. As someone who spent 25 years in radio and now writes for children, one could make a case that I never really left my childhood.

Matt lunchbox
The only lunchbox I ever owned. Alas, it’s missing the special “silo”-themed Thermos! Ahhh, memories of lukewarm milk and room-temperature Beefaroni. It’s a miracle I lived through all the potential food poisoning.

However, as I mentioned this past Friday, I recently came upon a huge stash of papers and memorabilia from my school days, while cleaning out my parents’ house. Their attic has been a treasure trove of nostalgia, where I have discovered old school tests and projects, several of my old journals, and even my elementary school lunchbox!

The journals – portions of which I’ll be sharing throughout the summer – were only part of the story.

The folks saved darned near everything

If the strength of a mother and father’s pride in their only child can be measured in the number of school papers and knick knacks they save, my parents are superhuman. Among the additional artifacts unearthed:

  • Poems by Emily Dickenson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and others that I was required to memorize in high school.
  • A printout of my senior-year computer class project:  a program I designed using BASIC (any geeks remember that??) to keep track of a basketball team’s stats. I actually went back to school the Monday AFTER I graduated to try to fix a bug in the program. I wasn’t going to get any extra credit for it, but it was one of those things that kept annoying me and I had to fix. Never did. >sigh<typewriter 1
  • The first typewriter I ever owned! Yes, we all have to start somewhere.
  • Copies of the high school newspaper, of which I was a staff member and editor-in-chief my senior year. (see below!)
  • A big, pink, construction-paper heart envelope filled with 2 or 3 years’ worth of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. You know those cheap, dozen-for-a-dollar cards they sell every year? Mom kept them all.
IMG_1259
My mug shows up twice on these front pages…score extra points if you can find me! (click to enlarge)

I still have wonderful memories of working on the student newspaper:  spending days after school typing stories on the old word-processors; cutting and pasting the stories, artwork, and photos together; and being embarrassed during journalism class when our teacher, Mrs. Jencks, told everyone her two younger daughters liked visiting us after school because they thought I looked like Remington Steele.

Not sure why Pierce Brosnan gets to keep his hair these days and I don’t…but I suppose that’s just more proof that life really is not fair.

IMG_1260  IMG_1263

When I first joined the newspaper staff, I started out entering news stories on our clunky Apple II computers. (MS DOS, anyone?)  I also created word puzzles, which I absolutely loved to do. During my senior year, I was not only editor, but also provided some of the cartoons. The school faced serious overcrowding issues; hence, the cover art on the left! (click to enlarge)

When you suddenly realize none of the kids you knew…are kids

A very sobering aspect of these discoveries is that I look at names and faces and need to come to grips with the fact that none of these children knew what was in store for them.

The kids whose names fill that Valentine heart, in particular – barely older than my 6-year-old son – give me pause to reflect on life, death, and fate. April, who went on to marry her childhood sweetheart. Karen, who became our senior class Salutatorian when I became Valedictorian. Chris, who committed suicide before he had a chance to graduate. Eric, who, a mere 2 months after high school graduation, died in a terrible car crash that should never have happened.

I think about Chris and Eric, and I so desperately wish I could somehow go back in time and wrap my arms around them, these little 7-year-old boys, and protect them the same way I would protect my own little dude.

Hold them. Shield them.

Warn them.

But they grew up, as we all do, and made choices they should not have made…and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.

typewriter 2So I’ll continue sifting through my memories, sharing them here, and hopefully creating new ones, as long as God or Fate allow me to do so. And as I watch my son tap excitedly on my old typewriter, making up stories in much the same way I did – albeit with a dry, 40-year-old ribbon – I pray that he, and all my children, and everyone’s children, may live to see their dreams come true.

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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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Book review: “The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary” ARC Tour concludes here!

Last 5th Grade coverJust 2 months ago, on April 12, author and poet Laura Shovan celebrated a book birthday: her debut middle grade novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Random House Children’s Books) was officially released, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

In advance of the release, Laura began a blog tour of her ARC (Advance Review Copy), in which children’s lit bloggers across the country could read the book, share their thoughts on it, and pass it along to the next blogger.

Well, it all wraps up today, as I’m the final blogger on the tour – and I’m so happy for Laura!

It’s an engrossing book, detailing the lives of 18 students in Ms. Hill’s class and their personal struggles and joys with themselves, each other, and the fact that the school board has announced that the school will be closing at the end of the year to be turned into a mall.

Each poem is told from a particular student’s point of view, which allows the reader to get to know the characters intimately well. George Furst, for example (whose middle name is Washington thanks to his history-loving parents), is running for class president but wishes his mother and father had not divorced.

Hannah Wiles is the Type-A, in-charge, know-it-all who, aside from also running for class president, is also struggling with parental issues. Brianna Holmes, meanwhile, is creative and proud – and homeless. Newt Matthews has Asperger’s.

Last 5th grade poem

Through each of their poems, the individual students’ personalities develop over the course of the book, and it’s nice to see their progress and level of maturity by the time the last poem ends. Both funny and poignant in turn, The Last Fifth Grade is a touching book that is as easy to read as it is as easy to get lost in. I do have to admit, the students seem far more worldly and mature than my fifth grade class!

In fairness and honesty, the only disappointment I have to note (and I hate to even mention this, as we’re talking about my friend, Laura’s, book!) is that three of the eighteen students are dealing with the lack of a father in their lives: George Furst, whose dad left the family earlier in his life; Hannah Wiles, who has to live with her dad while her mom is stationed overseas, and Mark Fernandez, whose father passed away.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a stay-at-home dad who works out of the house – hence, I’m a bit touchy on this subject – but no one seems to bemoan living with their mother. Yes, there are some very commendable dads in the book, and I appreciate Laura’s implication of the importance of fathers; I just think it would have been more balanced had there been at least one home that was happy with their dad, even though mom was absent.

But that’s a minor quibble. The importance, of course, is the interaction of the students and their growth throughout this transformative year. Through rich yet kid-friendly language, well-crafted characters, and a wide array of poetic forms (from free verse and haiku to sonnets and limericks), Laura tells a tale that kids will want to follow from first page to last!

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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)
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The Poetry of Mylee!

Who in the world is Mylee, you ask?

She’s a budding young poet who just sent me a poetry postcard!

You see, Mylee is a student at Silver Star Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington, where Jone MacCulloch (aka, Ms. Mac!) is a library media specialist,  in addition to being a great cheerleader of literacy and children’s poetry.

Each year, Jone’s students write poems that they illustrate and then place on postcards, to be mailed out to any and all in the kidlitosphere who wish to receive one. I’m very honored to have received Mylee’s this year:

(Click to enlarge)

Thank you, Jone and Mylee! I keep coming back to that line, “I am at all as a book”…very thought-provoking.

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I’m still trying to get caught up on emails, work, and sleep, following my long, 3-day weekend in Springfield, Mass. at the New England SCBWI’s huge spring conference, where I co-hosted the Open Mic nights Fri. & Sat. with Sharon Abra Hanen and also presented a workshop on free verse poetry Sun. afternoon.

2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemBecause of this, I missed seeing how Irene Latham‘s 2016 Progressive Poem ended on Sat.! A different writer added a line each day throughout the month of April, and it all concluded with Donna at Mainely Write…I finally had a chance to see how she wrapped it up and I thought she did so very nicely!

You can hear (and read) the Progressive Poem in its entirety right here this Friday, as I’ll be recording it and sharing it everyone for Poetry Friday. Meanwhile, you can see how the Progressive Poem progressed at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

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