Category Archives: Poetry

Ditty Delirium



In response to Michelle Barnes’ DOM challenge, my “ditty” fun submission, which Michelle, whose consistent wit and sense of humor I greatly admire and enjoy, good-naturedly accepted. Thank you, Michelle!


DOM Ditty cbhanek

p.s. I’d love it if one of my PF comrades could compose a really challenging “ditty” tongue twister (compared with my string of “D” words. Delirious. Delirium.) Thank you!

A Little Girl’s Lament to Her Poppy

Amy VanDerwater is hosting the round-up:

Katya is hosting the round-up:

With a most grateful nod to last week’s round-up hostess Ms. Mac and her talented intermediate grade poet-students for inspiring thoughts of Veterans Day….  And with another most grateful nod to JoAnn Macken for modeling a tanka as part of the same Poetry Friday round-up…

Here, in honor of our Veterans and their families, is my first (deep breath) tanka.

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God bless our military families!

2 Beasties, Squeezed

Poetry Friday Tag

“Check It Out” is hosting this week’s round-up:

Since some of my elementary students really loved creating squeezed poems in response to Bob Raczka’s Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word, I couldn’t resist squeezing a poem of my own in response to Michelle Barnes’ 5-word Beastie poem challenge.

…Okay.  So I couldn’t resist squeezing two poems–one beast from land; one from sea. (Hmm… where’s the beast from air? … I guess that one flew away…)

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p.s.  In case “Squeezed Poems” are new to you, as they were to me, the quick gist, as I understand it, is this: Write a poem based on as many words as you wish that are derived (anagram, style), solely from one start word, which serves as the poem’s theme or title. Sequence the words, vertically (as if squeezed out of the start word), so that they relate to each other and the starting word (perhaps telling a story).

Concerning my squeezed poems, I might have cheated by adding punctuation. I’m a punctuation freak. Sorry.

Beware a Beastly ID

When a friend asked me to nominate his Godson for a nationwide high school leadership award, I was happy to accommodate.  Impressed by the young man’s community service record, as well as his academic and musical accomplishments, I set out to compose the recommendation letter. Easy.

When it came to the demographic application, my friend was able to supply the candidate’s birth date, home address and phone number, school name and address. No problem.

“What’s his email?” I asked. “I need that, too.”

Promising to check, my friend soon got back to me.  “Tuba Beast.”

“What?” I asked. “Is this a joke?”

My friend assured me it was not. I assured him there was no way I was submitting a nomination for a highly competitive national adolescent leadership award for someone who self-identified as a “Tuba Beast.”

“Please find out his mother’s email address. I’ll use hers. Surely it will be more dignified.”

Another quick check, and my friend supplied her handle: “Dragon Lady.”

“No problem,” I said. “I’ll stick with Tuba Beast.”

Ergo…the resulting… five-word-Beast-poem, in response to Michelle Barnes’ challenging invitation.

dragon beast (2)

p.s. Tuba Beast neither “won” nor “honorably mentioned.”

Moral: Beware a Beastly ID.

A Dandy Love-Response

Poetry Friday Tag

Jama’s Alphabet Soup is hosting this week’s round-up:

All month, I’ve noodled ideas for Michelle Barnes’ Ditty of the Month requited/unrequited love poem challenge. And though I’ve played with some ideas, they were too embarrassed to come outside for the whole world to see.

I respected that.

Then, quite unexpectedly, yesterday I saw a solitary Dandelion puff growing alongside the edge of the patio. Not remembering when I last had seen one of my childhood playmates, I rejoiced, and–I guess, in retrospect–I dreamed (of which childhood love I do not know:), awakening today with this poem:

A Dandy Love-Repsonse (2)

How much I counted on those floral love-meters. And how many times, unsatisfied with the first meter reading, I plucked another flower clean, floral sacrifice to my love-interest need-to-knowing.

As I thought about that childhood ritual and how, on the second try, after reversing the “loves me; loves me not” order, the conclusion was always more favorable, I sought to investigate the phenomenon. Dandelion to dandelion, was the sum of petals always an “even” number? If so, that would explain why reversing the order (starting, counter-intuitively, with “He loves me not”) produced the desired results.

A quick Internet search seemed to belie my supposition. At first disappointed, then I thought. How like grownups I have become, trying to spoil all the spontaneity, all the fun. If there really is a mathematical, sequence-pattern explanation for why the do-over worked, I prefer not to know. I prefer to believe now, as I did then, that the boy I had in mind as I plucked the flowers to the stem truly loved me very much!

What about you? Did you pick petals to find out if he loved you very much? Do little girls still engage in such rituals today? (I hope so;  petal-plucking may be transformed someday into a fondly remembered requited/unrequited love poem.)

Student Responses to Poetry

Amy VanDerwater is hosting the round-up:

Amy VanDerwater is hosting the round-up:

As an educator, I have a lot of frustration with the latest renditions of standardized testing. Since this is a poetry forum, I will confine my remarks to my frustration with the latest renditions of standardized testing relative to students’ poetry responses.

Just two years ago, students were required to make text-to-self connections within their open-ended responses to poetry. How a poem resonated with them, how it made them feel, how it reminded them of experiences they had—in these in other ways, students were expected to personalize their responses.

In a changed world, text-to-self connections are anathema. Explicate the meaning of the poem using evidence from the text—nothing more; nothing less. Denotation and figurative connotation are fair game. Personal interpretation: I think; I feel; In my opinion—forget it. No one cares about students’ thoughts, feelings, or opinions, as such. Just cite the evidence—objectively. Impersonally. “Just the facts, ma’am,” to quote an old television detective-icon.

For me, the essence of poetry goes beyond denotation and connotation of verbiage. That kind of explication might be appropriate for responding to prose selections but not to poetry. For me, the essence of poetry, the gift it is to humans, requires a personal reaction, albeit, such reactions are exceeding difficult to verbalize.

I read once, but cannot quote the source, that a response to a poem is best (as in most authentically) made with a poem. Surely, we do not expect students to respond in that way, and yet, why not break the exposition rules? Why not accept as an open-ended personal response to a poem a sketch, a poem, word maps, phrases, and so forth.

When it comes to substantive poems, the kind that leave audiences struggling to identify their reactions, and then groping for adequate words to express their reactions, how can words best describe a poetry encounter that touches the soul? What is the nature of the discourse it engenders?

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The first four words of the seventh verse of the New International Version of Psalm 42 epitomize for me the answers to these questions. “Deep calls to deep.” Some responses cannot be put into words…at least not without considerable thought, a time for pondering, for letting the meaning of the words resonate–fall— deeply within to the core of one’s being. The time needed for that kind of reflection likely exceeds the limits and constraints imposed by timed testing.

So, as poets, what do you think? Since personalized poem-responses are difficult to articulate, are testmakers doing students a favor by eliminating text-to-self responses? Or should poems be respected for the text form they are, and should a variety of personalized response-formats be required?

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Lily: Living up to Her Name-Acrostic

Poetry_Friday_Button_2-210 REDUCED

Laura P. Salas is hosting the round-up:

Creating an acrostic for a poetry assignment this week got me remembering another acrostic—one I composed this past April.

A first grader—daughter of a former student of my husband’s—was dying of a rare form of cancer. Besides the connection I felt through my husband, I felt my own connection with the child. As a kindergartner, she had won her school’s poetry contest. (Not that I ever won that distinction, but loving poetry from my youngest years—that would be something we had in common.)

Given the child’s tenacious response to her cancerous plight, the watchword for her fundraising campaign was fittingly based on the words of another poet:

shakes p for lily croopped (2)William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In response to the heart-wrenching news of the child’s Easter Monday “death” (Her family prefers to think of her release from the pain and infirmity that held her captive—free to be forever joyously alive with God.), I set about to write an acrostic in her honor.

The resultant poem “frightened” me—in an awe-struck way–in that the name-acrostic seemed larger than life—the life of hers that just had passed peacefully into eternity.

How poignantly the poem proclaimed what had been the child’s defining response in the face of adversity…As if her given name, the name she answered to for three months’ short of seven years, held the secret of who she truly was (in contradiction to the apparent namesake-connection with a delicate flower), as well as what was heart-breakingly, and equally inspiringly, to become her legacy in the ongoing fight against childhood cancer…

 lily screen grab (2)



If you feel inspired to learn more about this purple-loving little Shakespearean protégé, here are some links:


Anne Morrow Lindbergh—Acrostic Follow-up

Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Who are you?

Wife of Charles “Lucky Lindy,” hero aviator pioneer, who piloted the first solo flight across the Atlantic. Covered in confetti and accolades. Yes, long before I was born, wifely celebrity status embraced you.

Overshadowed aviatrix in your own right. This achievement of yours evaded my knowledge. Was I the only one who knew not you, too, flew?

Mother of the kidnapped firstborn toddler son, agonizing weeks later found murdered, lifeless body once full of life within your womb, with no private grieving allowed for you, it’s true.

That you went on to bear five more children, this I did not know; more children, who despite their numbers could not replace the one snatched from your heart—from his crib, as peacefully he slept not far from you– nonetheless, I am happy that your arms were able to enfold a handful more–of your very own–newborns, to feel their baby-soft skin pressed against your own maternal skin. How often, I wonder, did your eyes meet theirs with tears and sparkles?

That the single Miss Morrow was a kind of academically-adept debutante-daughter of an American ambassador to Mexico, the last piece of your biographical trilogy I did not know. How lucky of you!

How much your public life was a mixture of classic romance, comedy, and tragedy! Your private life filled with heights of joy and depths of sadness, gave you so much to ponder, so much to write about. That the fruit of your experiences, crystallized as you explored the twin depths of a handful of seashells, as well as your own soul, bore stories that have touched women’s lives for more than half a century.

These are the things I know and not about you. Ah, and there is one new thing, in reminding myself of your life today. Sorrowfully I see—sad irony. For a time before your death at ninety-four, the mind and lips and fingers of the lyricist- journalist-philosopher that was you had been creatively inactive. Silenced.

No matter. Death or not. As long as I ponder the Gift from the Sea, the gift that is yours to me–the wonder of your insights, the depth of your compassion and empathy, no death—nowhere, no how—can take your seaside, soulful woman-to-woman, sister-to-sister, kindred spirit-to-kindred spirit lifetime of knowing myself through knowing you away from me. Forever. You remain my mother, my mentor, my muse—my very own Gift from the Sea.

on being sea-riously gifted

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Private Screening

Ending #1

Ending #1

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Ending #2