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The Writer’s Guide to Poetry

The Writer’s Guide to Poetry features essays from 11 award-winning poets such as Anne Lamott, Dorothea Lasky, Iain Thomas, Susan Wooldridge, and others who share insights into the art and craft of poetry.

***Free to Download***

The guide also contains artist Nathan Gelgud’s illustrations of poems by Margaret Atwood, Allen Ginsberg, and Madeleine L’Engle. Highlights from the guide include:

  • Insights from 11 award-winning poets.
  • Advice on how to overcome imposter syndrome.
  • 3 classic poems illustrated by artist Nathan Gelgud.
  • Anne Lamott on the devils of perfectionism.
  • Important tips on “telling it slant.”

Check out this illustration by Nathan Gelgud below:

Nathan Gelgud’s illustration of “This Is a Photograph of Me” by Margaret Atwood

Feel free to click on the image and visit Nathan’s website.

Anyone who reads or writes poetry knows that it is a fickle beast, and if there’s anything that gets the muse talking, it’s essays from some great poets and the poems they’ve written.

Also, Signature has a list of 28 books of poetry that you should read this month.  I’ve read Citizen and When My Brother Was an Aztec, and both were very good for different reasons.  If you read any from this list, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander and Joe Sartore

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is a gorgeous book for kids — a photographic ark with poems. The images bring forth the magic of Alexander’s poetry from the silly game playing primates to the large rumbling feet of elephants. These short haiku eek out elements of each animal, helping kids identify some of their behaviors and qualities, while engaging their eyes in a play of color.

In “Chorus of Creatures” near the center of the book, Alexander draws parallels between the animals in this ark and humans, calling on all of us to show respect for the world around us, or we might just share its end. At the end of the book is a key with all of the animals listed that appeared in earlier pages, and near the bottom is a key where readers can find out which animals in this ark are critically endangered, vulnerable, and more.

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is an ark you need in your home to teach children and adults about the animals on our planet and how we are connected to them.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE; the picture books, ANIMAL ARK, OUT OF WONDER and SURF’S UP; and novels BOOKED, HE SAID SHE SAID, and the forthcoming SOLO.

About the Photographer:

Joel Sartore has produced more than 30 stories from around the world as a freelance photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. He is an author, speaker and teacher who captivates audiences with his funny and inspiring adventures.

Guest Post: Flanders Field of Grey by Ginger Monette

In 2015, Ginger Monette, author of the Darcy’s Hope series, entered a flash fiction contest, Picture This! Writing Contest, in which she wrote a short story based on a photograph. So was born, “A Flanders Field of Grey,” which she shares with us today in honor of National Poetry Month.

We hope you enjoy it.

Roger stepped away from his companions and swallowed hard as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The musty smell of damp earth and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. The moment was nearly upon them. He returned his sister’s picture to his pocket and glanced down the trench into the sea of soldiers. Who would death call today? Artillery shells screeched and boomed over No-Man’s land rocketing fountains of sludge into the air. He raked trembling fingers through his red hair and secured his tin helmet. The roiling grey clouds overhead mirrored the churning in his stomach.

The shrill of the signalling whistle pierced the air. The trench erupted in a primal war cry. He added his voice and vigour to the wave of khaki scaling the ladders and pouring over the earthen wall. The staccato of machine-gun fire joined the percussion of artillery and roar of men’s voices. Defying every instinct, he lowered his head and plunged into the firestorm.

As far as he could see, his comrades slogged across the pocked wasteland of Passchendaele. Green-scummed water filled hellholes deep enough to swallow a dozen men. He gagged on a whiff of wet soil mingled with the stench of decaying bodies. Shells bursting on his left and right catapulted men and mud into the air.

Gunfire mowed down the men in front of him. Shuddering with fear, he stepped over two groaning bodies and pressed on. He ignored the grey hand reaching from a murky pool like a tentacle of death lapping at his heels. Flying lead swept over them again.

His legs failed him.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Tom thrust his hands into his coat pockets as his gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. A barking dog and the grey sky instantly transported him back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. A choir of moaning men mingled with the orchestra of artillery. He quickened his pace, splinting, sewing, sawing. An explosion rocked the underground lair, rattling his surgical instruments and raining dirt from the low earthen ceiling.

The company sheepdog sauntered over and nuzzled his leg. “Not now, girl, I’ve got boys to mend.”

Soldier and after soldier came and went from his makeshift theatre. Late in the afternoon he heaved a sigh of relief as he emerged above ground. He squinted upwards; the grey clouds overhead mirrored the tenor of the day. He could only recall laughing once—with a private who’d caught a round in the leg. In spite of his pain, they’d laughed and joked as he prepped the boy for the hospital train.

A sudden boom sent him reeling backwards.

Little did he know that day
His life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

~~*~~

Sarah brushed aside a tear as her gaze swept over the Flanders field on the dreary November day. The mud caked on her shoes and the grey sky instantly transported her back to that fateful day fifteen years before.

November 6, 1917. Open and shut; open and shut. The door of the Nissen hut swung back and forth admitting stretcher after stretcher of broken, bloodied soldiers plastered in mud.

What had she been thinking when she volunteered? That it would be amusing to camp in a six-foot bell tent and nurse men gasping for breath with gas poisoning or writhing in pain with a limb blown off?

She hastened across the duckboards under an ominous grey sky that mirrored the fear every woman carried. Fear that a beau or brother would appear. And then it happened to her. A boy moaning on a stretcher stopped her—dead. Her brother.

Her head flew back with an anguished wail.

Little did she know that day
Her life would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.

But the sun broke through the clouds on the November day over the Flanders field of grey. The light glistened off the red hair of her brother Roger walking with his cane beside the doctor. She smiled as the best friends joked about their long-ago ride on the hospital train.

Sarah quickened her pace to join the two and slipped her arm around the wounded surgeon she’d nursed so many years ago. She couldn’t ask for a more wonderful husband.

Indeed all their lives had been changed that day on a Flanders field of grey.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments about the piece and what inspires you to read about WWI or poetry.

National Poetry Month 2017

National Poetry Month 2017 is here.

If you’re posting about poetry this month, I’d love to know about it. I love to cross-promote poetry posts in April on Facebook and elsewhere.

Leave you full post links below:

Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month 2017 Blog Tour Sign-Up

National Poetry Month 2017 is around the corner.

I’m looking for some great bloggers to join the annual National Poetry Month blog tour.

Some posts we’ve seen in the past include:

  • original poetry
  • reviews of poetry books
  • sharing of favorite poems
  • activities where we add one line to a poem in the comments to create a community poem
  • blackout poetry activities
  • interviews and guest post from poets
  • information about local poetry events
  • sharing local poetry event experiences, and more.

If you’d like to participate, leave a comment below with a valid email and date you’d like to post about poetry in April.

Grab the image above for your own blog, and let’s get the poetry party started!

Happy National Poetry Month!

Readathon fun

I never officially signed up, but my daughter and I found plans were canceled for the day, so we did a bit of reading while we were home.

Reading during read-a-thon with a 5 year old can be daunting, so you have to just go with the flow.

In this case, we read 2 kids books, did some crafts, and I read about 79 pages of my own book.

For her, we read Pizza and Other Stinky Poems and Stuck on Fun, which is also where the fun crafts came from.

I was reading The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatriz Williams.

All in all, between the crafts, laundry, and her swim team practice, I’ll count this as our first successful read-a-thon together.

I mostly participated this year on Twitter, which is unusual for me. However, I found it easier than working on the blog while trying to read with my daughter.

How did you do?

The Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 416 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is an epic debut in the historical fiction genre in which both strong women — Lady Katherine Trenowyth and Anna Trenowyth — are challenged. Katherine, a budding artist, bucks societal expectations to follow her heart, but her actions have ramifications. Nurse Anna closes herself off from others following a tragic sinking of a ship and deaths that rock her world. These women choose hard, lonely paths, but their strength carries them through the good and bad. While Katherine knows when to accept help, Anna must learn this lesson on her own, which can be tough during a WWII when many things are uncertain and tragedy can strike at any moment.

Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp. (pg. 293 ARC)

As Rickloff shifts between the points of view and the time periods, readers may expect to lose their place in these stories, but she does such a wonderful job integrating them, readers are bound to fall in love with both characters. Although we may want the best for them, the realities of war and circumstance will intervene. When Anna shows up to tend to the patients at Nanreath Hall, an ancestral home she’s never seen, her curiosity takes over, forcing her to uncover the secrets of her mother, where she comes from, and the family she never knew as a child.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is a carefully woven tapestry of generations of Trenowyths, whose lives are upended by the decisions they make, the passions they follow, and the wars they cannot control. This is historical fiction at its best with elements of romance, artistry, romance, and mystery. Get swept away by the mysterious ruins of lives past and learn to make a new path from the old.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.  Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

 

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is a stunning mystery that unravels piece by piece, and readers will first meet Mary Browning, an elderly woman in a writer’s group.  She believes she sees an apparition of her sister, Sarah, as a young lady walks into their public writing group.  This vision prompts her memories to resurface, and with the help of this young transcriptionist, she begins again on her memoir.  Leffler deftly weaves between the past and present, creating a multi-layered story that will capture not only the nostalgia of a former airplane pilot during WWII but also the immediacy of a young woman’s search for herself among the detritus of family drama.  Her characters resonate off of one another, like echoes of the past pushing forward the lives of the present into the future.  This ripple effect builds throughout the novel, until the final mystery is revealed.

“But my greatest fear of all was not having a voice of my own.” (pg. 5 ARC)

We all fear losing ourselves and not having a voice.  We are individuals in search of ourselves, but we also are sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends, among other roles that we play.  These connections can help us breathe life into our passions and desires, or they can stifle them.  The trick is to balance the needs and expectations of others with our own without hurting ourselves or those we care most about.

“… I learned how to squeeze my face closed and let myself soundlessly shudder, imagining my tears deep inside, dripping off my organs.” (pg. 31 ARC)

Mary has lived her life, much of it on her own terms, and while she has had a hard time compromising, she was able to do it for love, even to her own detriment.  When WWII was in full swing, she left home to do what she loved even as many told her she shouldn’t, and when she fell in love, she made a sacrifice that many would now see as unnecessary without having lived with the fear of persecution.

Very rarely is there a book that can equally make emotions soar and crash, taking readers on a complete journey wrought with obstacles and choices that you can only imagine facing.  For Mary Browning to have survived them and to have created a satisfying, but not ideal life, is nothing short of miraculous — much like when a heavy metal plane takes to the air with the birds and clouds.  The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is equal parts coming of age story, WWII historical romance, and mystery, and it is so well balanced and amazing, readers will be left spent at the end of the runway.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Delaware and volunteered with AmeriCorps before attending St. George’s University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons. The Secrets of Flight is her third novel.

Find out more about Maggie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.

355th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 355th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Naomi Shihab Nye:

Blood

A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one. 
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page. 
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air: 
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

What do you think?

Create a Cento

Today, we’re all going to create a cento poem, also known as a collage poem, which is made of lines from the poems of other poets.

This requires very little creativity on your part, so if you have never written a poem, do not fear! You can select your favorite lines from poets you love, or even select lines that you hate. It’s up to you.

I’m going to start you off with this simple line and let you take it from there:

unaware our shadows have untied (Yusef Komunyakaa’s “A Greenness Taller Than Gods”)

What’s your line?

MadLib Poems

Remember those little books that as kids we inserted nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives to create funny stories and anecdotes?  Of course you remember Mad Libs.

Today (Anna helped generate this little idea), I’ve taken a poem and eliminated some key words, but you’ll input the missing noun, adverb, adjective, etc. and create a new Frankenstein creation.  I can’t wait to see them all.

Here’s the first one:

More Nonsense Limerick 87 by Edward Lear

There was an old   (Noun)  of Stroud,
Who (verb) horribly jammed in a crowd;
Some she slew with a (noun),
Some (noun) scrunched with a stick,
That (adjective) old person of Stroud.

Here’s the second one:

The Thrush by Fay Inchfawn

Across the land came a (adjective) word
When the earth (verb) bare and lonely,
And I sit and (verb) of the joyous (noun),
For ’twas I who heard, I only!
Then (noun) came by, of the gladsome days,
Of (amount) a wayside posy;
For a (noun) (verb) where the wild (noun) sleeps,
And the willow wands are (adjective)!

Oh! the time to be! When the (noun) are (adjective),
When the primrose-gold is lying
‘Neath the hazel (noun), where the catkins sway,
And the dear south (noun) comes sighing.

My (noun) and I, we shall (verb) a (noun),
So snug and warm and cosy,
When the kingcups gleam on the meadow (noun),
Where the (noun plural) are rosy!

Please leave your madlibs in the comments below.

You can also generate a random Madlib poem at Language is a Virus.

Book Spine Poetry

Book Spine Poetry is fun and easy, and you can even get your kids involved with their own books.  It’s like a game of “I Spy” in which you look at the books on your shelves or at the library, and you arrange them in some kind of order that pleases you to make a poem out of the titles listed on their spines.

Here’s great little step-by-step instructions for kids on how to create their own.

I’d love to see what poems you create, feel free to post them on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook.  Use the tag #bookspinepoetry and #NPM2016.

It will be fun to see what you create. It can be addictive, if you’re not too careful.

Check out the one’s created in 2014.

Here’s an example of two I created: (not very good)

IMG_2227

This Is How I’d Love You
The Lost Art of Mixing
Never
Hunted
Falling Under
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

 

 

IMG_2228

This Is the Story of You
Untamed
The Voice I Just Heard
The Italian Lover
First Impressions
Gone

 

 

 

What does your poem look like?