Poetry Friday: Traces


Poetry can put me in that place of “huh?”

Like the student who hid
in a corner because she
didn’t want her friend to know,
I edged into poetry.
Until I found

lots of
white space
to take in

Now I give my students poems.
And I worry.
Will they love this?
Does it push their ten-year-old selves gently?
Can they feel and see the words?

From behind a picture book, I hear, “that’s beautiful language.”
The one that hid reads a poem and
says, “hey that’s what I did!” .

Traces of absorption
enough to sustain.


Thank you, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater @ The Poem Farm for hosting this week and always providing beautiful poetry for kids.

Poetry Friday: Skunks and Alleys

It’s Poetry Friday! Thank you, Heidi, @ My Juicy Little Universe for hosting.


The second week of school has come to an end, and for the past two Thursdays, poetry has had the spotlight.

The first week of this work was shaky. Students didn’t see as much as I had hoped. Perhaps I wasn’t doing it right. Then, later during the next week, I heard murmurs of “that’s figurative language” during read aloud. The sound of beautiful words echoed in picture books.

This week, I wanted the perfect poem. One that had many entry points.

Thursday morning students held their copies of  Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Valentine for Ernest Mann. As I read it aloud, the connection between this poem and our read aloud hit me. I finished and asked, “What do you notice?”

This part is funny the part about ordering tacos.

That’s kinda figurative tacos and poems!

I love the words shiny and spirit.

There’s a story inside this poem. It says, “once”.

It’s about poems and beauty.

The man is serious so he means this. Weird.

He has a different point of view, it’s his perspective.

This line is the one I like: “Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so.”
I had to share my thinking. “Guys, you know this poem reminds me of The Last Stop on Market Street.”
They looked blank at first but then someone said it.”The skunk is the alley!”
Then, ohhh yeahhh echoed around the room.
Ohhh, yeah!




Poetry Friday: Sara Berkeley

It’s Poetry Friday hosted by Tara Smith at A Teaching Life.


I am living in the transition time between summer living and school beginning. My pace has become less leisurely. The must dos have become more adamant about themselves. And because of this, I’ve tried to revel in the extras that will disappear soon. The time after breakfast that allows for the conversation to find a natural ending. The late into the night reading that has no fear of an early morning.

I have a list of things to do, yet I’m not rushing. Today, I am going to find that last bit of summer. Knowing it feeds me. Nourishes me to approach each school year with purpose and passion.

This morning I read Georgia Heard’s collection, The Women in this Poem, and found Sara Berkeley. I’ve been gathering courage you could say over the summer months. Now I’m close to ready, with arms full of “fresh on the morning” hope, for the school year.

The Courage Gatherer

by Sara Berkeley

With the sun too close
a loose wind catches me off guard,
dreams flock to my skirts
and cling there like a litter
I’d steal sleep to feed.
Asked exactly how I feel
I answer from the fields and summer lanes
where I have come
gathering courage.
A wing shadow strobes the lane
from time to time the future sinks
with the black doubt of people leaving me —
but hope comes out in her lovely shimmer,
her hair behind, untied,
fresh on the morning, never fully woken,
never still,
I follow with my arms full
of the songs she leaves,
all of the same brave tune.


Poetry Friday: Lost in Books

Poetry Friday is hosted by Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

Right now, the house is quiet. Daylight goes on and on. The pressures of day-to-day teaching are still a few weeks away, so I feel justified in devouring books, beginning to end in one sitting.

Yesterday, I finished Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story  by Nora Raleigh Baskin and got two-thirds through Towers Falling  by Jewell Parker Rhodes. What an emotional duo. I’m feeling lost in that time.

For Poetry Friday, I offer two poems that celebrate my summer reading life. The first from Donald Graves’ book  Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash. I wonder, how many of my students are having this experience. The second poem from Wallace Stevens speaks to my more adult self, calming and justifying my reader’s heart.

Lost in a Book

by Donald Graves

We get up from the table
after a full lunch.
Dad says,
“Got a book here
you can have.
‘Bout a kid lost on a mountain in Maine.
True story.
Author signed it.”

I reach for the book,
picture of a boy
on the cover
lying in a sack
thin and pale.

I opened to the first page
and read standing;
Dad has disappeared,
leaving myself, the boy,
and the book.

I finally sit down,
and travel with the boy
up Mr. Katahdin, lost
in the clouds,
and I am the boy,
terrified, cold from the clouds,
bitten by blackflies,
mosquitos, following a brook, while I
eat blueberries.

I turn on
the living room lamp;
a bear moves from cover
and the boy watches
from the other
side of a blueberry bush.

“Time to set the table
for supper, Donald.”
I hear the voice
but the boy trudges on and
loses his sneakers
in the rocky stream.
I want the voice
to tire, to go away.
The boy falls
in a heap
across the stream
from a cabin
where a man spots him.

“Will you put
that book away?

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

by Wallace Stevens

 The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Poetry Friday: The Magic of Three

Dear Kimberley, Margaret, and Tara,

This week you’ve given the magic of three.
A mystical combination of nature, words, and peace.
I’ve soaked up daily gifts of food, laugher, and kindness.
Thank you, dear teacher writer friends.


Bedlam Bounty

Light climbs and cuts
the mountain mist.
Dew coats my feet
and I wait for warmth.

High above
wildflower bouquets sprinkle
the tall grass.
Coveting the color
I reach and pull to the table
dignified Queen Anne beauties
the daylilies seize up protesting their importation
from the field to the vase.

 Afternoon sounds soothe.
The fans whir, chimes join the trees’ rustle,
an intermittent tree frog
punctuates a soft breeze
and shadows lengthen memories I take home.


Thank you, Chelanne for hosting Poetry Friday. Find more offerings at Books4Learning.


Poetry Friday: A Brief Visit

Writers try new things.

Writers embrace imperfection.

Use your writer’s eye and tell me what you see.

Sometimes you see ideas coming from the side.

What does it remind you of?

What surprises you?

These are quotes from an NCTE session with Cynthia Lord, Erin Dionne, Linda Urban and Melissa Guerrette. As they shared, I thought of my students.

Today, I think of Poetry Friday. I’ve tried before. Posted once or twice. But failed to continue. No inspiration. No time.

The truth. I think poetry digs to a place that’s personal and uncomfortable. Today, I’m taking the advice I plan to dish up to my students. Embrace imperfection and try. Use my writer’s eye and look out for something that might be coming from the side.

Thank you to Carol at Carol’s Corner, who hosts this week’s Poetry Friday roundup. Thank you to the brave teacher poets that share and wait patiently for me to try again.

A Brief Visit

Woken in darkness I hear drip, drip.

Water has come home?

We’d given up green and fruit for sunbleached rock and barren soil.

I walk into cool, dark, waterless air

and touch a tiny pool that clusters

at the base

of a gutter.

Nearby leaves cling to damp remains

as sun breaks

the grey sky.

©Julieanne Harmatz


Poetry Friday: Uncomfortable Spaces

I’ve been wondering,

and to say this is difficult,


in fact,

you may not want to read on.

You might want to go on with the business at hand.


the “implicit bias” created by historical patterns,

making our brains assume,

affecting our think-do-say

keeping the walls in place.

and you away from me.

Because of my whiteness.

(There I said it.)

And here’s my wondering,

can we connect by

redefining our belonging?

poetry friday logo

Our racial divide has been on my mind for a long time. We need to talk about it, notice it. This morning I listened.

First to an On Being podcast that featured john a powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Professor of Law, African American and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley.  What a brilliant man. He speaks of identity and communication. That we are all one and that we need to acknowledge it. Talk about it.

“We are connected. What we need to do is become aware of it, to express it….The human condition is about belonging. We can’t thrive unless we are in a relationship. (we need to) reframe our relationships with each other.”

And he brought up questions that offer some entry points.  Space to have discussions.

How do we acknowledge that connection?

How can we make belonging infectious?

How do we learn to care for each other?

And this:  “We must reflect on our deepest values to find our way of connecting.”

We are a nation defined by race. To ignore it is to ignore who we are. Proximity, contact and relationships; listening and valuing others. Noticing and naming and celebrating the connections that are being created.

The fastest growing demographic in the United States is not Latinos. It’s actually interracial couples and interethnic couples. That’s people themselves right now, not tomorrow, trying to imagine a different America, trying to say, “I can love anyone. I can be with anyone.” So I think we start looking for it, we see expressions all around it. Oftentimes, they’re not celebrated. They’re not talked about. There are no structures for them. So we have to embrace them and lift them up.

Absolutely. Lift them up and acknowledge the change that will lessen the divide.

Then, I listened to the podcast titled “Words that Shimmer” with Dr. Elizabeth Alexander.  In it she speaks of her growing up in a very educated, political family and her road to poetry.  This poem was written during her years at Harvard.

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

— Elizabeth Alexander

Poetry is us. It’s noticing, listening. And that can create caring about and for each other.

Because I believe yes, we are of interest to each other.

Poetry Friday: Just Watch Teacher Poets

poetry friday logoLast week I was honored with comments on my first Poetry Friday post. So of course I had to come back. Thank you, thank you!  A whole new world has opened up for me. And thank you  Katya Czaja. at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for hosting this week’s posts.

I have been participating on the periphery of Chris Lehman’s Teacher Poets workshop. His lessons, the poets, the poems, and the workshopping has been wonderful. This week’s “assignment” can be found here. Hop over and check it out.teacher-poets-1

The  lesson is “Concrete the Concept” which works for what I’ve been mucking around with. It’s something that (Chris’ prompt) “I have been thinking a lot about…”.

I”m sitting on the other side of my children’s childhood. A place that I have been struggling to figure out, and probably will continue to as it keeps changing.


Just Watch

When will I get it right?
Every child, starts out so frightening, exciting, overwhelming
and then momentarily I think, yes…
Sounds fill the kitchen, the house, and I orchestrate the action, all is in my control
until it’s not.
And the Gods laugh at my audacity, “You think you got this?” Just watch.

I’m left wondering, what’s next?
I sit up close, a front row seat involved in the goings on, then
my presence is unwanted,
so I stand back and just watch.

Shifts from may I, to notification
I hold in judgement, hoping for a subtle impact
feeling divorced from the proceedings
choices are no longer mine to make. Just watch.

They’re out the door, a photo flash resides in their place.
Vulnerable, smiling in those hallway pictures,
no history of a toy strewn living room
of willful moments of two-year old selves.

All of a sudden
the phone call with success
the “what do you think?”
the “I just wanted to tell you”
Still vulnerable  packed in their near-grown up selves.
And I’m left wondering, what’s next?
Just watch.





My One Little Word…And Where It Might Take Me

After much thought about all the possible words to be my one little word I’ve finally found one.  It needed to…

  • be actionable and visible
  • promote collaboration, questioning and creation
  • foster a love of reading and writing
  • strengthen the classroom community
  • ignite passionate and meaningful work

I choose wonder to be my one little word.

  •  because that’s what readers really do
  •  because it leads to exploration and learning
  •  because it can be seen as amazement or engagement
  •  because it gives permission to go places we otherwise might not go
  •  because that is the name of a book we love


Inquiry Work in Reading – I’ve just begun to look at how students process read aloud. I wonder can students identify their thinking processes during read aloud and then transfer some of that thinking towards independent work. I’m wondering what could bring the read aloud’s high level of engagement and deep level of thinking to their individual reading lives.

Poetry Connections –  Inspired by Mary Lee Hahn, Steve Peterson, and Vicki Vinton’s call for poetry, I am pushed to a place I’ve avoided. I wonder why I have overlooked poetry, particularly when I think about all of the potential it offerers in terms of language, craft and engagement.

But I’m working on it.  I’m looking for the those poems that resonate in my heart. Peeking at Poetry Friday posts and commenting on a few. My antennae are up. While I’m embarrassed to discover this hole in my literary world, I’m excited to learn alongside my students.

Deepening Student Blogging – I have learned so much from blogging and  I want my students to experience that same growth.  I’m wondering if we could connect student blogs out there for a student Tuesday slice in preparation for the March monthly challenge. Any takers for January and February?

Students Blog, Why Not Teachers – I’m wondering about blogging with my colleagues. Just to start, perhaps one day a week teachers could investigate one blog. We could gather around our laptops in room 5 and read a few blogs. Talk a bit and maybe a post a comment. I wonder if they’d catch the bug.

Wonder Across Grade Levels — As the new year starts, I wonder what is going on in other classrooms at my school. I wonder if my colleagues would want to enter my classroom and observe with wondering hearts and find at least one little thing to help to help me grow and one little thing that could help them grow. I’m wondering if I open up my classroom, inviting wonder, will others do the same.

Here’s to a year of wonder.