Poetry Friday: “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2016” AND a new way to purchase my children’s books!

You know how sometimes you get caught up doing one thing, and your focus prevents you from paying attention to everything else going on around you? Well, that happened to me a few weeks ago.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, friend and fellow children’s writer/blogger Michelle H. Barnes officially released her new poetry anthology, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2016! And even though I helped select some of the poems (and even had two poems of my own included), I completely neglected to tell anyone! How much of a  schmuck does that make me, huh?

You see, I was in the middle of our #PoetryCubed challenge which we wrapped up last week, and it was only after I had announced our winner, Patty Richardson, that I realized my oversight. So let’s make amends right now, shall we?

Congratulations, Michelle!

Michelle’s latest collection features 75 “Ditty of the Month Challenge” poems – that is, poems which were written in response to various prompts by such highly regarded children’s poets as Jane Yolen, David Harrison, Kenn Nesbitt, and many others, all of whom had been guests on her blog.

Her first anthology of blog-inspired poems, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty 2014-2015, came out last year, so the fact that she had enough quality poems in just one year for another full-length book shows the level (as well as volume!) of writing one can find on her blog.

So the two poems I’m going to share today are one of mine that you can find in the book, and the other is one of my favorites from the book, written by Michelle herself. First, my response to the challenge of writing about something “small.” While some folks opted to write about insects, sand, and that sort of thing, I went…smaller:
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Little(r) Things

Atoms, photons, bosons, quarks
have baffled many a scholar;
the more we see, the more we learn
there’s always something smaller.

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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The other poem I wanted to spotlight today is this, which was Michelle’s response to a challenge to write about unlikely heroes – and a pigeon named Cher Ami definitely fit that description:

Cher Ami

If you were exchanged
for an ordinary pigeon
who fattens on white bread
and small bits of French fry,
if your iridescence was hidden
in the shade of an easy life,
then no one would know
your name, Cher Ami.

And somewhere in the world,
soldiers’ lives would be lost
because you were not there
to carry their hopes—
the weight dangling
on a bullet-shattered leg.

No one would know
your name, Cher Ami,
the burden you carried,
the pain that you bore,
as you rose like a Phoenix
though this wasn’t your war,
because you, like them,
just wanted to go home.

– © 2017, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, all rights reserved

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Congratulations to Michelle and everyone who had poems included! If you’re a fan of poetry – and not just children’s poetry, but poetry in general – I encourage you to pick up a copy. It’s truly amazing to see the vastly different reactions and responses writers had to each of these challenges.

I also encourage you to visit Steps & Staircases, where you’ll find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, which includes a touching, powerful poem about grief which was inspired, in part, by…a Monopoly game piece. And of course, you’ll also find all of today’s poetry links, so please stop in!

 (ALSO: Please make a note to remind yourself to stop by here on Friday, Dec. 15, as I’ll be hosting a little online holiday party for everyone who loves children’s poetry!

This is a little shindig that David L. Harrison, Joy Acey, and I started at David’s blog a few years ago, and we decided that perhaps it might be fun to move the party around from venue to venue…so this year, it’s moving from David’s place to my little home on the web right here. We’ll have lots of food and conversation, possibly a game or two, and hopefully plenty of poetry! I look forward to welcoming you. That’s Dec. 15 – all day long! – right here at the ol’ Triple-R.)

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

In other news:  there’s a new way to purchase personalized signed copies of not only Flashlight Night, but ANY of my books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

My good friends at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH, a local, well-loved independent book store, have teamed up to present a very cool option for folks who don’t live anywhere near me, but still would like to have a signed copy of one of my books. They have ALL but one of my books available for ordering…and the best part is, you can get them personally signed!

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

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WHAT ARE FOLKS SAYING ABOUT “FLASHLIGHT NIGHT”?

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

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“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

“Readers, you must share ‘Flashlight Night’…as often as you can” – Margie Myers-Culver, Librarian’s Quest

“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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Poetry Friday: “The Snow Clouds Know,” part of ‘The Best of Today’s Little Ditty!’

best-of-tld-coverA few weeks ago, friend and fellow writer Michelle H. Barnes published a collection of 75 poems by 55 different folks who have visited her blog and contributed poetry over the past 2 years. The book, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2014-2015, is available now, and showcases a vast array of styles, forms, and voices.

Today, I’m sharing another one of my poems you’ll find inside…this one from a challenge from the one and only Joyce Sidman, who encouraged readers to write a “deeper wisdom” poem, modeled after her poem What the Trees Know, from her book, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

If you just clicked the link to read Joyce’s poem, you’ll see what the form looks like. As I often do, though, I tried to put my own spin on the challenge:

The Snow Clouds Know

What’s born above will soon be gone
to comfort what it falls upon.
Beauty blooms before the dawn;
this the snow clouds know.

Limbs are weak; snow is strong.
Days are short; nights are long.
Coyote sings a lonesome song;
this the snow clouds know.

– © 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Congratulations again, Michelle! I encourage everyone to visit her website today and find out more about the book and how to get a copy.

And speaking of poetry, be sure to ‘check out’ Jone MacCulloch’s little home on the web, “Check It Out,” for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, as well as info about her New Year Poetry Exchange!

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllDid 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: “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty!”

If you have spent any amount of time enjoying Poetry Friday, you have probably poetryfridaybutton-fulllcome across the blog of my friend and fellow writer, Michelle H. Barnes, Today’s Little Ditty. What started out as a forum to share her work soon turned into a showcase of interviews, repository of writing advice, and a community of folks sharing their own work.

And today, it becomes a book!

I’m very happy to announce the publication of Michelle’s The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2014-2015 – a collection of 75 poems by 55 different folks who have visited her site and contributed poetry over the past 2 years.

I encourage you to visit her website today and find out more about the book and how to get a copy! And in the meantime, I’ll share one of my poems you’ll find inside…this one from a challenge from the inimitable Lee Bennett Hopkins to write a poem about a formative moment in my younger life:

…I write her name in my notebook.

I’m not sure why.
What is it about her eyes,
her lips,
that makes me think
she’s smiling at me
even when she’s turned away?
I write her name in my notebook.
I’m not sure why.
What is it about violets and – is that vanilla? –
that make a girl smell so nice?
I don’t even like vanilla, but still…
I write her name in my notebook.
I’m not sure why.
Why do I crane my neck to watch
as she walks away, yet hide
my face
when she sees me
watching?
What would she say,
what would she do,
if only she knew…

– © 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

(And by the way, HUGE congratulations to Lee for being the newest inductee into the Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame! This was just announced yesterday, and all of us in the children’s poetry community are thrilled!)

Congratulations again, Michelle…on the book, of course, as well as on your blog’s huge success! And speaking of poetry blogs, please stop by Brenda Davis Harsham’s little home on the web, Friendly Fairy Tales, for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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Poetry Friday: a dog-gone septercet challenge

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWay back at the beginning of the month, Jane Yolen visited the blog of my friend and fellow poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes, Today’s Little Ditty to discuss her writing, her inspiration, and a poetic form she created called the septercet.

A septercet is a poem consisting of any number of 3-line stanzas (or tercets, as we call them), each with 7 syllables (hence, the “sept” in septercet). Michelle’s blog readers were challenged to write their own septercets, and they met the challenge head-on…submitting FIFTY different poems in one month!

Now, just because each line is seven syllables doesn’t mean a nice rhythm cannot be achieved. And just because it doesn’t need to rhyme doesn’t mean I was going to let the opportunity for an even harder challenge slip by! Here’s what I came up with:

Home

Give me room to be your friend;
give me space to stretch and run,
a place to sleep, time to mend.

Yes, I owe so much to you.
I am not ungrateful, no –
though I’m tired, and starving, too.

My whole world has been a cage,
cold and cramped. I should not ask
for anything, at my age,

nor should I expect concern,
love, or care – yet, here I am,
a new home, rules, words to learn.

Neither knows how this will end,
but I am loyal. Trust me, please.
Give me time; I’ll be your friend.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Aside from the rhyme and rhythm I wanted to create, I tried hard to steer clear of “filler” words, like “the,” “just,” “quite,” and any other words that might be accused of padding the syllable count or aiding the rhythm. Granted, sometimes those words are absolutely necessary – but often, they serve no purpose in moving a narrative forward or developing a scene, which is why it is one of the first pieces of writing advice I share with budding poets. (Haiku, in particular, requires extreme word economy and has no room for any word that does not contribute to the power of the imagery)

In the mood for more poetry? Karen Edmisten is hosting Poetry Friday today! And again, be sure to check out all the septercets at Michelle’s blog HERE.

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Mishka, one of our recent foster dogs who found a forever home just two days after she arrived! One of the sweetest, most mellow dogs I’ve ever known.

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How I saved a butterfly, told the story in 10 words, and ended up on a blog

Just goes to show, one never knows from whence inspiration might come…

DMC_ColorMichelle H. Barnes over at Today’s Little Ditty is holding her “Ditty of the Month Challenge” writing prompt, and this month’s challenge follows her interview with children’s poet/author Diana Murray. Diana challenged blog readers to write poems based on unlikely heroes, and it took me nearly all month long to discover I was the hero I would eventually write about.

Our family was at a local farm over the weekend, and while inside the gardener’s shed I discovered my subject, having a very difficult time trying to get out of a plastic-sheeted window. When I got home, I wrote a haiku about it -and today, Michelle is featuring it on her blog! I hope you’ll stop by and check out my poem along with all the others…there are some very good poems there, written by many talented folks.

And by the way, I’ll be wrapping up my Throwback Summer series this coming Friday, with another one of my early free verse poems, that I wrote in my college Creative Writing class. It’s verbose and overdone, but not half-bad – so please come back  and let me know what you think!

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Poetry Friday: Accepting a challenge to go back in time

Poetry_Friday logoEarlier this month, friend and fellow poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes spotlighted the illustrious Lee Bennett Hopkins and his latest children’s anthology, Jumping Off Library Shelves (WordSong, 2015).

As she does each month, Michelle asked her celebrity guest to issue a “Ditty of the Month Club Challenge” – that is, a poetry prompt to encourage readers to submit their own original poems. In this case, Lee asked readers to take a look back at their own life’s history and write a “ME” poem, a poem about one specific moment in their life that changed them in some way.

Always up for a challenge, I submitted mine and it is now posted on her blog! The poem is titled “…I write her name in my notebook.” and it captures a scene that is apparently reminiscent to many other folks besides myself – I had no idea there were others feeling and doing the same things I was! So please check it out HERE and let me know if you, too, were one of those hopeless romantics.

And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, head over to the one and only Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children!

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Poetry Friday: Student poetry inspired by mine!

Poetry_Friday logoYou’ve got to love how inspiration breeds inspiration.

Back in February, my friend and fellow Poet’s Garage member Michelle H. Barnes interviewed children’s author/poet David Elliott and shared his poem, “Dear Orangutan” from his book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2013). Following the interview, David challenged Michelle’s readers to write a “letter poem;” that is, a poem written like a letter to someone (or something).

Several such poems were submitted, including this one by Yours Truly:

Dear Dad,

I’m having trouble fitting in.
I feel unhappy in my skin.
The kids at school all call me names;
they carry torches bright with flames.
Teachers chase me through the rooms
with pitchforks, clubs, and wooden brooms.
When I say, “Hi,” the parents flee.
It’s almost like they’re scared of me.
Sorry, I don’t mean to whine.

Love,
your son,
Jack Frankenstein

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Well…imagine my surprise when I received an email from fellow writer/blogger Tabatha Yeatts, who informed me that students at her daughter’s middle school had a National Poetry Month project where kids could “respond” to poems that were posted in the halls (my poem being one of them). She shared with me two of the poems she thought were the best, and so – with parental permission – I’m sharing them here!

Dear Jack
by Emily Sologuren, 8th grade
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Dear Jack,
You’re not the only one who knows that feeling
when everyone sees you as unappealing —
I too went through that, you know
Other kids pointing at me wherever I go
Because I was different with an outlandish plan
When they saw my experiment, they just snickered and ran
Yet I continued my experiment, while also being shunned
And created you, Jack, my wonderful son
So be who you are and don’t be so sad.
With all my love, your scientist Dad
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Dear Son
by Emily F., 8th grade
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Dear Son,
Don’t let those mean kids get you down,
Don’t let them chase you through the town.
The fact that you don’t look the same,
Serves them no right to call you names.
If you just embrace who you really are,
Then trust me kid, you will go far.
There will be someone who loves your persona,
After all, Shrek found his Fiona.
And if kids make fun, I recommend
That they don’t deserve to be your friend.
So if the times get real bad,
And you’re feeling real sad,
Just remember that you are beautiful no matter what they say,
Because baby, you were born that way.
After all, you are my son, and you are mine.
Your creator, your father, your friend,
Dr. Frankenstein
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Pretty darned good, I’d say! Wow, these kids have some talent. I’m so honoured and humbled that something I wrote provided inspiration for someone. It is my sincere hope that someone reading these students’ poems will likewise be inspired, and keep the circle intact!

By the way, Poetry Friday is being hosted by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling this week, so make sure you head on over for all the poetry, links and…inspiration, of course!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!