Book Review: “When the Sun Shines on Antarctica”

Antarctica coverIrene Latham has done it again. A couple years ago, she was hanging out at a watering hole on the African savanna (and that’s not a metaphor – by “watering hole,” I mean a real watering hole) and this year she’s at the bottom of the world, on the largest continent – and largest desert – on the planet.

Irene follows up her 2014 children’s poetry collection, Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole (Millbrook Press) with the equally entertaining and insightful When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press).

In fifteen poems, Irene not only teaches readers a little bit about the wildlife and habitat of Antarctica, she imbues each of her subjects with a bit of magic here and a touch of tenderness there, so that each poem helps bring the reader a little closer to the truth. The book opens with the dawn of summer and concludes with the start of winter as the sun sets.

When the Sun Shines on Antarctica

Icebergs brighten
as the sky peels

itself of darkness
and stretches awake.

Glaciers murmur.
Penguins reunite

and seals rouse
from slumber

Whales breach
and blow;

waves rush
and slush

against shifting
ice shelves.

Welcome,
Summer.

We’ve been waiting
for you.

– © 2016 Irene Latham (Millbrook Press), all rights reserved

The poems are primarily free verse, so Irene makes great use of internal rhyme and enjambment to create touching scenes that are sometimes quiet, and other times full of energy.

One of the nice things about this book – and Wildebeest, as well – is that although there is plenty to learn via Irene’s poems, they never feel didactic; they are poetry for poetry’s sake, first and foremost. Sidebars on each page provide more information about each subject (from seals to krill to brinicles!), and the earthy blues and greens of Anna Wadham’s illustrations complement the icy, watery nature of Irene’s scenery – all adding up to a beautiful book to read as well as simply admire.

I had a chance to chat with Irene about the book, her life of writing, and what she has coming up in the near future!

Irene headSo tell us, how did a social work major from the University of Alabama end up with 5 books of poetry, 2 middle grade novels, and another poetry collection due out next month?

I took the scenic route, that’s for sure! While I didn’t attend a single writing class in college, all those courses on developmental psychology and family dynamics have certainly enriched my writing life.

Without any training, how did you end up learning your craft? And what was your first published piece? What do you think of it today – still good, not bad, or would you totally revise it?

I started honing my craft by entering contests sponsored by Alabama State Poetry Society. At first I didn’t place at all, then I started getting Honorable Mentions, and eventually prize money! My big break came when I won a chapbook contest — no cash, but publication and 100 copies of my chapbook NOW PLAYING (poems that used classic movie titles, but were often about something else entirely).

I kind of cringe when I read those poems now — as I’ve continued to grow and develop as a poet I can now see all sorts of flaws! But it was my best work at the time, and an essential, precious part of my journey. Those poems are exactly what they needed to be — and one or two of them I do still like.:)

How do you move between the children’s poetry thought process and an adult’s? Do you work exclusively on one or the other, or do you bounce back and forth, depending on your mood and inspiration?

My initial efforts are most often from my adult self. I was writing a poem last week about pears, and the image that came immediately to mind was Sylvia Plath’s “little Buddhas.” I love that! But of course a kid probably wouldn’t get that. I so admire those children’s poets among us who seem to so easily and naturally find those child-like comparisons. It’s a challenge for me. I am constantly having to coax my inner 8 year old out to play. She’s shy, but one thing I’m good at is persistence.

WildebeestTwo years ago, you were at an African watering hole; this year, you’re in Antarctica! How do you come up with the ideas for your collections, and how long does it usually take you to complete a manuscript?

I have an abundance of obsessions, so coming up with themes/ideas for collections is not my problem. Usually they arise when I read books or go to museums or attend local community events where a speaker might mention something, and I investigate further, and next thing I know, I’m neck-deep!

As for the second part of your question, “complete” is a very slippery word, isn’t it? I could keep tinkering with poems forever and more than once have had a great idea for a way to improve a manuscript after the book is already in print. It’s one of the things that attracts me to writing in the first place – the endless learning curve.

I can churn out a bunch of first-draft poems that will be the skeleton of a poetry book manuscript within a few weeks – I strive for a poem a day. But then it can take years for the individual poems to grow and develop and for me to figure out the point of it all. I’m constantly asking of the manuscript: what is your purpose? what are you trying to say to the world? what else?

Next month, you have ANOTHER collection for children, Fresh and Delicious! Tell us about that! How did it come about?

Fresh Delicious coverFRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers’ Market (Wordsong) is my first attempt at poems for a younger (K-2) audience. It started with a contest through my SCBWI region (Southern Breeze, which includes AL, GA, and the FL panhandle). Each June, for free, we can submit some pages for a contest that’s judged by editors. All entries receive a feedback sheet. I wanted to enter the contest, and I had just been to the farmers’ market. Voila! Poems from the farmers’ market!

I was so excited about the poems that I did NOT enter the contest – results aren’t announced until October – and sent them straight to my agent instead. She sent them to Rebecca Davis at WordSong, who had read (and rejected) at least three, perhaps four prior manuscripts (including Dear Wandering Wildebeest). She liked the poems, saw lots of promise, but didn’t feel they were quite ready. Instead, she gave me some brilliant feedback (seriously. BRILLIANT), and off I went, revising away! A couple of revisions later, she presented it at the editorial meeting and we got a green light on the project. O frabjous day!

I am always trying to explain to people that children’s poetry does not need to rhyme! (In fact, I’m hosting a workshop at an upcoming SCBWI conference about free verse) Why do you suppose you are drawn more towards free verse than rhyming poetry?

I am so happy you are teaching people that children’s poetry need not rhyme! Confession: for many years I thought all children’s poetry was Shel Silverstein! I really didn’t know there was a market for the kind of poems I write, which are by and large free verse, until I attended a poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich in 2011 (organized by the one and only Robyn Hood Black! I’m so so grateful!). That weekend was a turning point in my writing life.

Afterwards I went on a nearly sleepless writing jag for a week as I discovered I could write the way I write for adults – but for kids. I have a gypsy heart, and being hemmed in by form or rhyme makes me irritable and unhappy. Plus I love beautiful words and lyricism, and for me, writing is a spiritual practice. It’s a way for me to love the world. I am able to achieve all of those things with free verse.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate you on TWO OTHER manuscripts you just sold, Pop! Bam! Boom! and It’s Not Black and White. What are they about?

Thank you! Pop! Bam! Boom! started with Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884 I got to thinking about all the things that explode – seed pods and symphonies and dreams – and I started writing. It’s Not Black & White is a special project based on real-life experiences that I co-wrote with Charles Waters. Told in two voices, it’s about friendship, race, and understanding as it happens in a 5th grade classroom when a black boy and a white girl are forced to be partners on a writing project.

Final question! I have to ask…do you ever get a chance to chat with Father Goose -Charles Ghigna – who’s just south of you in Homewood, AL? And what’s the best advice you ever received – from anyone?

Chuck and I do, in fact, chat from time to time! He’s famous around these parts (more than a hundred books to his credit now!), and he’s been a lovely supporter of my work.

As for advice: When my first book of poems came out (2007), my husband gave me a small plaque that reads, “Live Your Poem.” That’s where my blog name comes from! For years I have shared in presentations that writers have a responsibility to “live a life worth writing about.”

But it’s more that that: we need to be present, open, and delight in our lives – really LIVE. That’s poetry! I also love how those words can mean whatever they need to mean to an individual – your poem-life will be different from mine. And every single incarnation is beautiful.

I think that concept is what draws most of us to poetry, Irene…so thank you for taking the time to chat!

Thank you, Matt, for having me, and for your great questions. I’m excited for YOUR forthcoming books. Yay!

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To my readers, I’m so glad YOU took the time to read today’s post, I’m going to give you an opportunity to win an autographed copy of Antarctica! Just leave a comment below, and I’ll draw a winner at the end of the month…so please let your friends know, so they can get in on it, as well. (and if you share this post via Twitter (using the Twitter button below), you’ll get an ADDITIONAL entry!)

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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:
.
Big Boy
.
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!
.
– © 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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Next, 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

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Donna Smith is “tasting the rainbow” – and a very delicious-sounding one it is!

One Slice of Rainbow

I’ll take a slice of rainbow, please
The red part
tender, curved, ripe –
So warm, sweet
and bursting
Rain down to my elbows.

– © 2016, Donna JT Smith, all rights reserved
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And finally, Charles Waters brings us back to my initial impression of the “moon” as the subject, as opposed to a tomato. The personification in this is intriguing!

What’s in a Blood Moon?
.
When sun and earth are spiritually aligned enough
to get together for a natter, then include the moon
on this get together by complimenting him on his
evening wear, he starts blushing with pride.

– © Charles Waters, 2016

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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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What I learned at the state fair, Vol. IV

IMG_1562It’s that time of year again! It’s fair season…and that means a wealth of knowledge and enlightenment for Yours Truly.

As you may know, I am the live announcer for one of the local state fairs, which means I spend 12+ hours each day wandering the fairgrounds, reminding attendees of all the events taking place: 4-H Sheep show is coming up at 10am in the Hood Arena! Be amazed by the Hypnosis and Magic of Marko, with 3 shows today at 5, 7, and 9pm! If you’re looking for the restrooms, they are easy to find…

Well, you get the idea. Anyway, each year I am amazed at all the things I learn and affirmations I encounter. The first year, I mourned the loss of patriotism. I have also written about giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe.

Last year, I shared the best time to smell the fair. (And yes, there IS a “best time!”)

This year’s fair, which took place Labor Day weekend, was no different in its ability to educate and enlighten. Here are my Top Ten tidbits:

1) There is STILL no better single food item at the fair than the loaded baked potato.

Heaven on a plate, folks. Heaven. On. A. Plate.

Yes, I love the deep-fried Oreos, giant glazed donuts, and steak ‘n cheese subs (the latter two of which you can get combined, by the way – steak ‘n cheese on a donut!?! Seriously!)…but there is nothing at all like this potato, which features chili, cheese, bacon, broccoli, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos all piled on top of one enormous spud.
It cost me $13 and every bite was worth it.

2) If you are good at doing one job, be prepared to do every job that is similar to that first job. I am a voice artist and have experience doing recorded voice work (commercials, narration, etc.) as well as live announcing, such as what I do for the fair. However, when the announcer for the tractor pull didn’t show up, guess who was pressed into service? And when there was no announcer for the super-modified tractor/truck pull, guess who got the call? And when the fair needed someone to announce the daily parade that meandered through the fairgrounds, guess who was tagged? After a 55-hour weekend, my voice was crying Uncle.

3) Environmentalists hate tractor pulls.

IMG_0474

IMG_9672 IMG_0117
I haven’t actually talked to any environmentalists about this because they’re still coughing, but it’s a good hunch.

4) Environmentalists also hate demolition derbies.

IMG_0392
Again, just a hunch.

5) A lot of people in this world do not walk straight. This probably seems like an odd sort of observation, but on more than one occasion I found myself in back of a person I started to walk past, only to have him/her veer in front of me. I would then attempt to cut over to the other side to pass them, only to have them veer back in the other direction. These were not drunk fair-goers, either – they were just drifters, sort of like that car in front of you on the interstate that you’re not quite sure if you should pass or just keep a safe distance behind.

6) Anything can be a breakfast food. One day I overheard a gentleman say to his wife, “Yes!! Turkey legs! Right over there!” at which point he quickened his pace in the direction of said turkey legs. Now, this scene wouldn’t be all that unusual except for the fact that this was at 9:30 in the morning. Not that I’m judging, by the way. I’ve eaten chili, lasagna, and General Tso’s Chicken for breakfast – so it’s nice to have the validation.

7) Hornets are bad-ass.

No. Fear.

8) Kids can have the most adult conversations if you let them. Two young boys, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, were walking among the animal exhibits, near the pigs and cattle. One said, “I could never kill an animal!” The other replied, “You EAT animals!” The first one retorted, “Yeah, but they should be allowed to live!” To which the second one responded, “Well, then, you’ll need to find something else to eat.” Right or wrong, carnivore or vegan, these two friends continued their conversation down the path as I turned and walked in another direction. I would love to have known how this little debate ended.

IMG_03739) Concepts like conservation and environmentalism are totally lost on some people. After watching a demonstration on wildlife conservation at the state Fish & Game Dept.’s building, the ground was littered with flyers from the demonstration. Irony at its worst.

10) The best new fair food item is not something you may be able to order at your local fair. That’s because this is a unique offering by one of our fair’s longtime vendors and supporters, Pat’s Apple Crisp & Cider Donuts. What did they do, and why is it better than anything you’ll taste all season long? Take a look:

IMG_1540
That’s a warm cider donut topped with French Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, cinnamon/apple streusel, and whipped cream. If the loaded baked potato is Heaven on a plate, this is your halo.

You’ll notice I started and ended my list with food. Because really, that’s the best way to enjoy a fair, isn’t it? I hope to eat consume devour learn more at some of the fairs I’ll be attending with my family.

Have you ever had an unusual learning experience at your local fair? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share your story in the comments, below.

And remember, when it comes to eating fair food…you can only eat so much. PACE YOURSELF!

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Poetry Friday: “Fata Cumulonimbus”

 

(click to enlarge)

Robyn Hood Black has today’s Poetry Friday roundup, so be sure to head on over and see what the poets are doing for today and specifically for 9/11!

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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: “Shoreline Sunrise”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllEver since the family spent a week at York Beach, Maine, I’ve had the ocean on my mind. Then again, I have the ocean on my mind every day of every summer! Which explains today’s poem.

(By the way, if you missed this past Tuesday’s post about why I’m glad I’m not “lucky”…I hope you’ll take a few moments to check it out HERE!)

Shoreline Sunrise”

Seaweed strands
dance in the tidewater,
following the lead
of the undertow, while into
……churning
………………surf
a hermit crab scurries
as if he knows
……something
is about to happen.

– © 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Catherine at Reading to the Core is hosting Poetry Friday today, so rest assured there’s lots more poetry to be found!

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Vacation quotation summarization

I’m back!

The family enjoyed a nice, relaxing, and predictably short week in York Beach, Maine and returned the weekend before the 4th of July – which meant spending most of this past week catching up on work (voiceovers to be done), writing (another children’s book manuscript  complete and a new one begun), and prepping for the long weekend (aka, cleaning the house).

Once the weekend finally arrived, we managed to find time to pick strawberries, can 10 jars of strawberry-rhubarb preserves, make a big batch of strawberry sauce, bake two pies and a fruit tart, catch the fireworks display Sat. night, and spend Sunday with my folks.

Needless to say, fitting a blog post into all this mayhem was a challenge I simply was not ready to accept! I value my family time – and as important as my blog is, there are other things more important.

Anyway, now that I’m back, I can relate to you my Maine experience. We go up to York Beach each summer, and although it’s just over an hour away, it feels like it’s another world; we live, breathe, and eat the beach, and for someone like me who loves the ocean, it’s hard to not want to stay!

York
This is about mid-tide; The Longsands area has a very low grade, so high tide comes up to the dark line in the middle, but low tide extends beyond what you see here.

With kids, it’s always a new experience. I shared our exploits from our trip last year, but this year was completely different: our 5-year-old son is now old enough to climb up to the loft bed, splash in the water without fear, and walk the shoreline without having to hold my hand. For her part, our 22-month-old daughter can sleep in a regular bed, interact with her world more, and vocalize precisely what she wants – an ability at which she excelled superbly and excessively, as you’ll see.

Rather than just list some of the things we did, though, I thought it might be more fun if I recapped our vacation via quotes. So I made an effort to write down things I heard that I thought captured the essence of our vacation. Here are my top 10!

“At first, I thought he was my friend – but he wasn’t, so I smacked him.” We were barely 5 minutes into our sojourn to the Land of Moxie when my son uttered these words from the back seat. He was responding to a question from my wife about a spider he thought was crawling on his leg. Turned out it was actually a tick, which is why he smacked it. Had it been spider, it would have no doubt found a home on his knee and taken a little nap, to his joy. But ticks are no friends of ours, so I pulled over and removed it – and then resumed our trip.

“I want Anna!!!” While all the world is in love with Queen Elsa of Arendelle from Disney’s “Frozen,” our daughter is a fan of Princess Anna. Granted, she’s only 22 months, but she is already one of the movie’s biggest fans and already has somehow managed to learn that insidious “Let it Go” song. Consequently, everywhere she goes, if she sees Anna, she wants Anna – and tells us, loudly. This was a quote that resurfaced throughout our entire 7 days.

“Eva!” Speaking of Disney, I have to wonder if the person who repeatedly called out this name one day along the beach realized the scene they were re-creating (click the link and jump to 1:07 to hear what I mean). I’m sure whoever it was, was looking for a daughter or wife – but their voice sounded remarkably like Wall-E!

“I just saw a bikini top!” Now, here’s where you have to realize not everything you hear means what you think it means. At a place like the beach, one is bound to see bikini tops. When one is married, it’s probably not a good idea to mention said bikini tops. In this case, I was telling my wife about some of the images our son and I had seen in the clouds – and I did, in fact, see a pair of triangle-shaped clouds connected in such a way that they looked exactly like a bikini top, complete with straps. Clouds or not, however, blurting out this particular phrase to one’s wife is not something I’d suggest anyone do.

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They love each other, for now.

“I want cweam. I want CWEAM!!!” On a short trek into downtown York (15 minutes walking distance), our Royal Highness Her Majesty overheard her mother and I talking about our plans: we’d stop by the park, then they could play at the little beach area, and maybe we’d get some ice cream before heading home for dinner. As soon as she heard the words “ice cream,” she announced her opinion of our plans in her sweetest yet LOUDEST voice possible.

“Is it dead?” This was the question a woman asked me after I waded into the shallow water to examine something floating like a log in the waves. It was dark brown with white blotches and at first I thought it might be a dog, until I realized it was a dead baby seal. Several people had seen it from the shore, but apparently no one had felt compelled to investigate until I came along. My reply to her question? “Well, it’s missing the upper third of its body, so I’m thinking that would be a “yes.” Don’t mess with sharks, folks.

“Curious George isn’t a monkey.” My son said this so matter-of-factly, I couldn’t help but be proud of him. We were at York’s Wild Kingdom, a zoo located right in downtown York, and were visiting some of the monkey cages when he told me his revelation. Monkeys, you see, have tails; apes do not. He and I both learned this fact courtesy of the folks at VeggieTales, and thanks to Bob & Larry, we’ll never forget it:
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“I want duck! I want duck! I want duck!” Once again, our daughter exhorting us to help her attain her goals. In this case, it was a seagull she saw along the shore – but telling her it was not a duck did not seem to matter. As far as she was concerned, it was a duck, and she wanted it.

“Is it 6:00 yet?” I can’t recall if it was me or my wife who said this, because we had been living at the cabin for four days already and had yet to get a good night’s sleep – not because of the accommodations, but because the 5-year-old would be in our room, jumping on us, every morning at 6am. On second thought, that’s not entirely true; one morning, it was almost 5:30. Oy…

“That was pretty awesome!” As we were walking along the main road that leads from our cabin to York Center, our son held up a wet, slimy little stone to a woman passing by. It surprised all of us – her, probably most of all – but we quickly learned what it was: his very first baby tooth! We had known his two front bottom teeth were loose, but didn’t realize how loose. We told him we were very proud of him for wiggling it around long enough to pop it out – and that must have given him the impetus to pop the other one out an hour and a half later! That evening at dinner, he sprung this quote on us…and we had to agree. It was pretty awesome.

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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)
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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: “Pirate Dreams”

This will be my last blog post of the month, as the family is packing up and heading off to my remote office starting tomorrow:

You can’t see my desk, chair, microphone, or reference books because they’re just out of frame, an hour away.

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we head off to York Beach, Maine – just over the border, but a million miles from home. In fact, I wasn’t able to post anything earlier this week because I’ve been so busy trying to get us ready for the trip while wrapping up a big radio commercial project I completed for the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters and simultaneously writing query letters and a new picture book manuscript.

Believe me, if anyone needs a vacation around here, it’s me!

Cleo - 17 years old
Happy birthday, Cleopatra. You’ve earned your spot on the bed.

But before I get to today’s Poetry Friday offering, first things first: I need to share a photo of the lovely lady about whom I wrote last week. She just turned 17 years old, and I surprised a lot of folks with that last line.

Cleo has enjoyed a long life of mousing, playing, and generally keeping us all in line…and I worry if she’ll make it to 18. If she doesn’t, we’ll probably find her either on the bed or in the bathtub – her two favourite spots. (What is it with cats and bathrooms??)

Now, then, for today’s poem: something I wrote last year, shortly after we got back from our first trip to York Beach. Interestingly, the poem has less to do with York Beach and more to do with my own memories of visiting the local shoreline as a child two or three times each summer.

Pirate Dreams

The first seashell
I ever found
on my own
still whispers to me
when I hold it to my ear.

The pinwheel
Mom bought
at that candy shop
where you could watch them
make salt water taffy
all day, still spins
like a shiny new motor.

And above my head,
atop my bed, The Jolly Roger –
that faded black plastic flag
I won at the arcade
down by the boardwalk –
flies proudly.

…….It’s been a long time
…….since we’ve been to the beach,
…….but Dad says
…….this year might be the year.

…….Already
…….I can taste the salty air,
…….smell seaweed drying
…….under hazy sun,
…….and feel hot sand
.. ….slipping between toes.

Until then,
I’ll let my seashell –
the first one I ever found
on my own –
lull me to sleep
while my pinwheel motor
spins and spins
with The Jolly Roger
flying high.

© 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYou’ll find all of today’s Poetry Friday links at A Year of Reading, so be sure to check out Mary Lee’s review of a new farm animal picture book, along with lots and lots of poetry! Enjoy the rest of your June…I’ll be back on Independence Day Eve, July 3rd!

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SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)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)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!