Poetry Friday: “Stumpfield Pond, 1975”

Last 5th Grade coverI mentioned last week that poet and blogger Laura Shovan is celebrating the release of her debut middle grade novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books), which was just released a couple of weeks ago. I did NOT mention how excited I am to be a part of her celebration!

I just received my ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the book yesterday and am looking forward to reading it and providing a review here in the next couple weeks…but that’s not all Laura had in store for those of us taking part in her “ARC Blog Tour.”

Laura also included vintage postcards to each blogger who received the book, to provide some writing inspiration – and inspiration is exactly what hit me last night, as I was looking through the postcards. I came across one in particular that immediately reminded me of my early-morning fishing excursions with my father when I was a child:

(click to enlarge)

Growing up here in New Hampshire, a great fishing spot was never more than 10 or 15 minutes away, so dad & I would get up early, early on a Saturday morning and make our way to a number of different places; this is one of them.

Stumpfield Pond, 1975

His son at his side, Dad slips
the old pea-green fiberglass boat into mirror water,
skillfully slicing the sleeping surface;
ripples race from either side of the bow,
curling and folding upon themselves.
Sand-worn hull grinds on gravel
like thunder in sunshine, unexpected
and startling,
before it finds its buoyancy
10 feet out from shore.
Titmouse, thrush, persistent phoebe sing
from treetops;
the air smells of lilies and dew,
wild iris and fog.
I clamber into the boat first, staking
claim to my usual post
near the bow, small hands
holding gently-rocking sides.
Dad climbs in once I am seated, and grabbing
one wooden oar, pushes hard
against the sand and silt beneath,
heaving the weight of the boat
and himself
and me
into the cool, wet, morning.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBe sure to watch for my review of Laura’s book in the next few weeks, and for all of today’s Poetry Friday fun, please visit Violet Nesdoly’s blog for the complete roundup!

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National Poetry Month: Special 15-year-old Guest-poet!

national-poetry-month 2016As you may know, I’m keeping my posts shorter than normal this month, as I have a bunch of writing and submitting I’m trying to work on, as well as preparing for the upcoming New England SCBWI Conference at the end of the month.

So today, I simply wanted to share a poem written by the daughter of a friend of mine, who is under the autism spectrum.

When my friend and I first met, her daughter, Sara – who rarely spoke to anyone she didn’t know well – opened up quite a bit to me, as we traded cartoon quotes from Spongebob Squarepants and Catscratch (one of my favorites!). It’s amusing to recognize that a yellow sea sponge and three idiot feline brothers were able to start breaking down a wall.

Sara was very young at the time, not even in kindergarten, and her mother worried how school would affect Sara – and what effect Sara would have on the school.

Over the years, there has been joy, pain, elation, sadness, frustration, inspiration, and a million other things the two of them have dealt with. One day my friend would be arguing with school officials over how her daughter was being treated; the next, Sara would be amazing the family with miniature, intricately-detailed sculptures. Every day, every week, was a challenge and a revelation.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend shared the following poem, written by Sara, now 15:

Tears

They hide in everyone everyday.
They embarrass you if they stop hiding.
Mine are always out
Never joyful
They make you collapse
Tremble in your own failure
Nothing can make you better
People question you
What is wrong with you? Get back together
It is easy, they say
But I have tried for years
We want to help, they say
But they want me to shut up
Stop the tears, they say
We have our moments, they say
Well I always have my moment
And it never stops
The only time it stops is when I sleep
Then sleep, they say
If they want me to stay silent,
Then I will go to sleep
Night and day I shall sleep.

– by Sara 

When I read it, I asked my friend if she would mind me sharing it, to help provide a glimpse inside the mind of an incredible, blossoming young woman who happens to be under the spectrum. I encourage you to share this post, not for my sake, but for Sara’s and her mom’s.

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2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemDon’t forget: Irene Latham’s 2016 Progressive Poem continues today as Michelle H. Barnes adds her contribution, so be sure to stop by Michelle’s place and see how it’s coming along. (This Friday will be Yours Truly’s turn to add a line!)

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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!

Learning to be happy with disappointment

Well, now…that’s a cheery title for a blog post, isn’t it?

True, it’s not as exciting and peppy and others I’ve shared, but the good news for you is, this will be shorter than usual!

My little crazy-haired girl loves her brother’s Legos, trucks, and dinosaurs!

I have been trying and trying for months now to come to terms with a new lack of time available to work – either for my voiceover business or my writing – and having finally come to the conclusion of what I need to do, I’m finding it extremely difficult to put that conclusion into practice.

You see, my 2-year-old daughter has decided naps are no longer her ‘thing’…and it’s killing me that I have now lost 2 hours each afternoon in which I used to devote time to recording, writing or marketing myself. The only time I now have for my work is at night, once my daughter and 6-year-old son are asleep. And that doesn’t leave a lot of time for much of anything else.

The stress has been getting the better of me, I hate to say. I work late now, but still wake up at 5:30am when my wife gets up for work, at which time our son usually wakes up, as well. Consequently, I’m exhausted more and have less patience with the kids – and then add in the fact I have to drive nearly an hour away once or twice every week to help my parents who are in their 80’s and having a hard time getting around – and my time is no longer my own.

I’m racing here, racing there, forcing my son to hurry up and eat his breakfast and get dressed for school, then hurry my daughter so we can leave to run errands, then try to get her to be quiet for a little while in the afternoon so I can at least check emails, then hurry up and make dinner and hurry up and get them to bed so I can hurry up and try to write…it’s absolutely exhausting.

And not just for me; I’m sure it’s exhausting for the kids, as well.

Selfishness is hard to fight

I have to admit, I have selfish reasons for wanting to work: two-and-a-half years ago, I left full-time employment to develop my voiceover business, and had a hard time building it up because, as a stay-at-home dad, so much of my time was spent raising my son.

Fortunately, I was able to write quite a bit at night, and my children’s writing career took off even stronger than my voiceover business; I started selling poems as a Lullabye covercontributor to a number of different books, and even signed my very first contract for a full-length picture book just last year.

NG Book of Nature Poetry coverSo things were really growing for me, and I wanted to maintain that momentum. I wanted to be writing more, submitting more manuscripts to publishers, and hopefully sign another contract. But now, with almost no time left to myself, I feel I’ve hit a wall.

I squeeze my recording sessions in where I can and squeeze in my writing where I can, but feeling that heavy sense of urgency when trying to write poetry (or anything, really) is counter-productive. How does one “hurry up” and write anything that’s worth reading??

My conclusion

So, as I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve come to a conclusion that I’m having a difficult time putting into practice. And that is…

To put it in God’s hands.

You see, what we expect of ourselves is not always what God expects of us. What we expect of others is not always what God expects, either. In fact, as my wife and I were reminded this past Sunday at church, even Jesus was not the king that people were expecting at the time.

So I’m trying to remind myself that my daughter’s and son’s well-being are the most important things I should be concentrating on right now. I’ll continue to work on my voice career as time allows, and will write as time allows, but if I can’t capitalize on my publishing “momentum,” so be it. Perhaps I can capitalize on it next year.

Or perhaps I’ll manage to sell one of the 5 or 6 manuscripts I’m currently submitting.

Regardless, I need to change my way of thinking, and it’s not easy. Not easy, at all. I’d like to be a successful voice actor, a successful children’s writer, and a successful father/husband. But if it’s not possible to be all three, I know which one I need to pick.

I need to make an effort to be the person my kids, my wife, and God need me to be…not the person I want to be.

But come to think of it, that’s not entirely correct.

The person I should want to be…is the person my kids, my wife, and God need me to be. And if I can strive for that goal, all other goals can be secondary.

With that frame of mind, there’s no disappointment.

And I’m happy with that.

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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: practicing the Naani form

I’ve been doing some practicing lately.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllA couple of weeks ago, I came upon a relatively new form of poetry called Naani, which was created by one of India’s foremost poets, Dr. N Gopi, who hails from the Teluga region in southern India.

It’s a short form, and shares some similarities with haiku/senryu. Like the Japanese forms, Naani poetry has a set line- and syllable-count. It is a 4-line poem that usually contains a total 20-25 syllables, although I’ve come across many that are a few syllables short.

Unlike haiku, subject matter is not confined to nature, but is fairly wide open. From what I’ve read, the term ‘naani’ refers to an expression of one and all; most Naani poems touch upon emotions, relationships, and the human condition.

Like haiku/senryu, it is deceptively difficult!

As I often say, writing haiku is easy; writing good haiku is anything but. The same is true for Naani poems. The following three are my first attempts at this form, so when you read them, please keep in mind I’m a newbie! I don’t often post poems that I lack confidence in – but this is a learning exercise, so I want you to be able to see what’s happening and perhaps join in, yourself.

Naani #1

Temper, undisciplined,
sparks the forest-consuming fire;
from self-control,
green springs

.

Naani #2

Laugh when you can,
dance when you want to,
smile when you should, and everyday
swallow your heart

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Naani #3

Crimson-tinged sun drops,
life floods rimy ground; the grave
shines, as we
grieve the spectacle

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– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Taking a critical eye toward these, I feel the first one reads too much like a fortune cookie; the second is a bit too trite; the third I’m fairly happy with, especially because I felt I was able to use enjambment to my advantage. (By the way, if you’re wondering what “swallow your heart” means, I share that HERE) Oh, and one other characteristic about the Naani form is that the first line usually – but not always – states the subject of the poem…you’l notice I strayed from this on the second one.

I would love to see what you come up with, if you’d care to take a “Naani challenge! As I always say, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

Just leave your poems in the comments, or feel free to email them to my address in the upper right, and I’ll share them here over the next few weeks. (I’d also love to find out if you can discern what that 3rd poem is about…I deliberately kept it ambiguous to hopefully allow for more than one interpretation, so I hope it worked!)

Want  more poetry? Be sure to drop by Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Life on the Deckle Edge, for all of today’s Poetry Friday links!

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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: “The Situation”

What was happening in 1984? “Ghostbusters” was the top-grossing film, Prince released his groundbreaking album, “Purple Rain”…The Soviet Union withdrew from the Olympics in the United States…and Yours Truly was dancing on the ceiling…

Two reminders before we hop in the ol’ time machine and fly back to the ’80’s…

Antarctica coverFirst, you still have a few days left to enter to win a brand new, signed children’s book! Just check out my interview with Irene Latham and my review of her new book, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press), and leave a comment as your entry! You can also share the blog post on Twitter for an additional entry – but it all wraps up on Feb, 29. I’ll announce a winner, to be drawn at random, next week, so don’t wait!

Also, Laura Shovan’s February poetry prompt series, the 2016 Found Object Poem Project, continues all month long at her blog. You can view all the photos and the poems inspired by them – and you can also log on to Michael Ratcliffe’s blog for today’s prompt and poems.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllNow then…onward and upward!

…and backward…

I’m dusting off an old poem today – and by ‘dusting off’ I mean actually dusting off. And disinfecting, too. With gloves.

You see, I was talking to a fellow writer last week who asked me what my first published piece was, and I told him it was a free verse poem I wrote back when I was either a junior or senior in high school. I remembered what it was about and its general structure, but not much else; it got me wondering how it would hold up now, if I’d written it today.

So I started digging through my archives – and somehow found it! It was published in 1984 in a local college’s literary magazine called The Henniker Review. Published by New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, The Henniker Review began in 1979 and, to the best of my knowledge, is still being published today – and I’m grateful I made it into at least one edition!

How does it hold up? Meh…not sure. If I was writing the poem now, it would most certainly be different – it feels very amateurish to me, but I suppose that should be expected from 30 years of hindsight. Don’t get me wrong; I still like it, because it’s one of those high points in my life I can look back on and recognize as a motivating factor in my pursuit of publishing. But it’s definitely a younger, less-experienced me who wrote it:

The Situation (poem from Henniker Review)
(Click to enlarge)

– © 1984, The Henniker Review (New England College), all rights reserved

Note the yellowing of the page…the mold-induced smudges…the overwhelming mustiness…

Well, you may not be able to smell the mustiness from where you are, but trust me – it’s there. Hope you enjoyed this little excursion back to the ’80’s, and I hope you’ll swing by Elizabeth Steinglass’ blog 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: “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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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!

Parenting: an educational experience like none other

As a writer for children, I am fortunate to be blessed with a non-stop whirlwind of inspiration every day thanks to my two youngest kids.

My two older girls are 23 and 20 and off doing their own thing these days, so taking care of my 6-year-old son and his 2-year-old sister allows me to not only revisit some of the joy, pain, and utter ridiculousness that I enjoyed with the older ones, but to be able to view their development – and mine! – with a fresh perspective.

It’s like watching the video of your wedding and discovering all sorts of things you never realized happened, because you were in the eye of the storm the whole time, and everything was swirling about you. Only when you get a chance to relive it are you able to truly appreciate the event.

That being said, I thought I’d share a few nuggets of wisdom my kids and I have learned over the past few years. Some of these have already spawned poems or picture book ideas; others most likely will, at some point!
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What the kids have learned:

  • If you walk backward without watching where you are going long enough, tragedy is inevitable.
  • A penis is not an appropriate body part when singing the Hokey-Pokey.
  • The punishment for lying is always worse than the punishment for whatever it was you lied about.
  • The cat is not a bean bag, and does not appreciate being part of any game that involves tossing.
  • In addition to creating pretty pictures, magic markers can also be used to paint your nails. And your lips. And pretty much any exposed surface.
  • One must never like the same meal two days in a row. If I loved pizza yesterday, I must despise it today. If we have mac ‘n cheese tonight, I must throw it on the floor tomorrow.

What I have learned:

  • A little girl wearing a Queen Elsa dress with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shell on her back is a beautiful thing.
  • Unconsciousness can do wonders.  No matter how loud, rude, impolite, destructive, unruly, or otherwise improper your little hellion was during the day, as soon as he falls asleep…your sweet, angelic Gift from God returns.
  • I may not like loud, banshee-like screaming, but when it’s happy banshee-like screaming…it’s music to my ears.
  • Reading 8 books before bedtime is not as exhausting as reading the same book 8 times in a row. Or is the other way around? Dang, I can’t remember.
  • When your 2-year-old daughter runs through the house shouting, “I laugh in the face of danger!” followed by a psychotic laugh…be prepared for anything.
  • Two-year-olds have only two speeds: asleep and lightning.
  • When feeding a toddler who dumps half her food on the floor, the family dog is an invaluable resource.

Ah, parenting. I have to admit, being a stay-at-home dad has its advantages when it comes to writing! These two are a never-ending source of stress frustration insomnia joy and happiness!

And as I’ve told many folks, I probably wouldn’t be writing for kids right now if it wasn’t for these two young ones. I get to watch them grow, be inspired by them, and then write about it.

What a career!

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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)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!