Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Really Counts?: Happy National Poetry Month!

See more from Carmen Graber here this year. She teaches 8th grade English Language Arts, a grade whose students take part in a district-wide poetry slam each year. She wrote this poem while working with her students on their poetry slam poems. Is it really what's inside that counts?

On the Outside

It’s what is on the inside that matters.
How many times have you heard that?
How many times have you said that?
To a child, to a teen, to a friend.
Words of comfort
From well-meaning persons
To make someone feel better.
But what about the tears
Sliding down the cheeks
Of a young boy
Trying to hide the bruises.
Those are on the outside-
Does that mean they don’t matter?
What about the thin red lines
Appearing on the arm
Of a young girl
Trying to end the pain.
Those are on the outside-
Does that mean they don’t matter?
What about the anger and rage
Of a teenage boy swallowing steroids
So he can make the team.
The explosions are on the outside -
Does that mean they don’t matter?
What about the protruding ribs and bones
Of the teenage girl
Starving herself to become model thin.
Those are on the outside -
Does that mean they don’t matter?
What about the emptiness and despair
Prominently displayed on the faces
Of a young man or young woman
Whose forever after has suddenly ended.
Those are on the outside -
Does that mean they don’t matter?
What are we missing
By only looking to the inside?
Not everything on the outside
Is superficial.
Sometimes -
The outside provides a window
Into the soul of the people around us
And together that is what matters.

                                     ~cjgraber (c) 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Celebrating International Haiku Day with Amy Losak: Happy National Poetry Month!

by Amy Losak

Today is International Haiku Day, according to the Haiku Foundation. Celebrate with haiku lovers around the world with these by Amy and her mother, Sydell Rosenberg!

You met Amy last week when her mother's book for children, H is for Haiku: a Treasury of Haiku from A-Z by Sydell Rosenberg, came into the world.

Amy, why do you practice haiku?

The economic but endlessly evocative qualities of haiku -- saying a lot with few words and in few lines; leaving things out so readers can "fill in" their own meanings -- is what makes this poetic form challenging, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately rewarding. 

by Amy Losak

Amy adds: For me, a haiku poem rarely occurs in a flash of inspiration -- a "Eureka" moment that needs no revision. Haiku, despite (or perhaps because of) their brevity, can take a long time to polish. The poem may never be "perfect." I am rarely satisfied. I sometimes have several versions of a poem, and I go back and forth with changes and my preferences, even after submission or publication.

And I’m learning that this is okay. Haiku is about more than craft and the end product put down on the page. Haiku impels me to slow down, take a breath, be in the moment and deeply observe my surroundings. It is an act of both focus and flow. Writing haiku takes practice and discipline, but it shouldn’t be intimidating (though I admit I sometimes am intimidated!). As we observe and write, it’s fine to allow ourselves to “play” too. Still, I’m striving to hone my haiku.

Thanks for these insights into this deceptively simple poetic form, and thanks for sharing your haiku. Here are three from Sydell Rosenberg, (1929-1996):

(all images from pixabay)

If you want to learn more about haiku, a wealth of online and social media resources are at your fingertips. So Amy and I hope you will haiku, too. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How to Live "In Spite" of Hardship: Happy National Poetry Month!

Teacher, poet, friend Carmen Graber graced these pages last year herehere, and here. I'm pleased to have her back with this poem, which was inspired by a friend's daughter who was having health issues in high school and maintained such a positive attitude through it all. May you also be inspired, and if you are, please leave a comment for Carmen.

In Spite
In spite of my fears, I will be brave
In spite of my sorrow, I will laugh.
In spite of my hurt, I will love.
In spite of my pain, I will face each day.
In spite of all the world throws at me,
I will LIVE!
In spite of my faults, God loves me.
In spite of my weakness, God strengthens me.
In spite of my doubts, God encourages me.
In spite of my silence, God hears me.
In spite of hard
times,God blesses me.

                                    ~cjgraber © 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

First Bike: Happy National Poetry Month!

Remember learning to ride your bike? Minnesota poet Dave Healy has captured the experience with poignant precision.

First Bike

At Montgomery Wards the bikes and trikes
were segregated and arranged by size.
My father made a deal: I could have
the biggest trike or smallest bike—
no choice at all for any five-year-old.

When we got home he got a wrench 
and attached the training wheels. 
I rode that four-wheeler for a year
or so until one day my father said
“I think it’s time to take then off.”
He got a wrench and did the deed.

How did he know that it was time?
For when I climbed aboard the craft 
that had been shorn of its supports
I pedaled off as if I had been riding 
two-wheelers all my life.

Halfway down the block I stopped
and turned around. My father stood
there, wrench in hand, looking for 
the son who left him far behind.
                      ~ Dave Healy (c) 2018

See another of Dave's poems when he was featured last year here.

Monday, April 9, 2018

H is for Haiku: Happy National Poetry Month!

Happy Book Birthday tomorrow to Amy Losak and, posthumously, Sydell Rosenberg, Amy's mother. Amy has worked long and tirelessly to honor her mother's desire to publish a children's book of haiku--and now it's here! Penny Candy Books proudly releases H is for Haiku: a Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi on April 10!

I featured Amy last April here, and she offered an update below. 

Why haiku, Amy?

I started on this unusual journey several years ago, thanks to my mom, Sydell Rosenberg, a teacher and charter member of the Haiku Society of America and served as secretary in 1975. HSA was founded in New York in 1968. This year, it celebrates its 50th anniversary. I’m a member now, as well.

Mom wrote haiku and senryu for a long time – I think about 30 years. Mom also studied the art and craft of these forms. She published her first haiku in 1967, I believe, in a journal titled, American Haiku. Over the years, her work (not just poetry, but also short stories, word and literary puzzles, and more) was published in a variety of media, including journals and anthologies. Her senryu even was featured in a novel public art project called Haiku On 42nd Street in 1994. Short poems were displayed on the marquees of old movie houses in the heart of New York City.

Tell us how H is for Haiku came to be.

Despite her accomplishments as a writer, Syd very much wanted to publish a kids’ book: a haiku A-B-C reader. She started submitting at least one manuscript to publishers in the 1980s – perhaps even in the 1970s. Years after she passed away in 1996, I picked up where she left off.

Along the way, I did other things to bring her “city haiku” (as she called her work in the classic 1974 text, The Haiku Anthology) to the public, especially kids. Among several projects, I have partnered for several years with a New York nonprofit arts education organization, Arts For All. Mom's haiku have been used in a Bronx and Queens public school to teach the basics of painting, drawing and collage; music; and theater. I view mom’s haiku as miniature stories, in a way, with characters and plots – and many have a lively, appealing visual quality. They pair well with other art forms.

But the ultimate goal has been the book. 

          "This is a dream come true,
          at last – not only for my mom,
          but her family."

                             Syd Rosenberg and her daughter, Amy (photo submitted by Amy)

Wonderful haiku poetry is being written today around the world. It truly is a global, diverse – and very generous -- community.

If you want to learn more about haiku, there is a wealth of online and social media resources available. So I hope you will haiku, too. Enjoy!

Congratulations, Amy, on the release of H is for Haiku! Readers, I'm featuring some of Amy's and Syd's haiku on April 17, International Haiku Poetry Day. You'll want to stop by and enjoy! 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Swirl: Happy National Poetry Month!

photo from pixabay

This evocative poem by friend and artist Elizabeth Neubauer is fun to read aloud.


a swirl in the solution
an evolution

        ~Elizabeth Neubauer, 2018

Go ahead, read it again out loud. You know you want to!

And the word "swirl" reminded me of Joyce Sidman's marvelous award-winning book of nature poems, Swirl by Swirl. Check it out!

As my friend, children's author and librarian Jean Patrick says, "Stay in the swirl of life."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Letter to a Newborn: Happy National Poetry Month!

Photo by pixabay

What would you say to welcome a newborn? What would you want the baby to know about his or her life? Poet friend Nancy Keck, who wrote the previous post, also sent along this prose poem written for her new grandson. I especially like her descriptive phrases, such as "this world of wonder and of woe."

For Cillian Haven Rafferty

In a winter when Lake Superior was frozen over and Ireland deluged with record rain storms, you were born, baby Cillian.

We had been waiting for you for a long time.

Your big brother, Cian, was eager for a playmate, though not quite so certain about sharing his toys and his Mama.

Your Dad, Noel, home from his work in frozen North Dakota, far from the Dublin of his youth was eager and apprehensive about your birth. More responsibility, but another boy, how grand!

Your Grandma Margaret came all the way from County Wexford in Ireland to stay for three months helping your family care for you and your brother. What a calming presence she is.

Your Mama, Amy, born in February, the month of huge snowflakes, as was Cian, as are you, was the most ready for you to be here. At nine minutes before midnight on February 25, 2014, you were brought into this world of wonder and of woe. Though you needed breathing assistance for several days at the altitude of the high desert valley where you entered this life, you were a beautiful baby, so gentle and cuddly right from the start. You were born into a family extending from Western Colorado to Northern Minnesota to Ireland, an international, multi-generational family eager for you to be here.

Auntie Suzanne, a nurse, traveled over the Rocky Mountains with your cousins Mikayla and Kevin to assist in hospital communications. She even made a delicious turkey dinner, your Mom’s favorite, before returning to her home outside of Denver.

You have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, already, who are so glad you are here. The world you are joining is filled with all kinds animals (many of them living in your house!) amazing plants, discoveries to be made, communities to build and hope to share. In the peaceful valley where you were born fruit trees will blossom soon, bees will pollinate the orchards, and gardens will grow produce that is fresh and safe to eat. Wild places are close; the Colorado and the Grand Rivers meet here; and, bicycle trails are nearly everywhere.

Such a wonder-full life awaits you!

Welcome to this world and to all who love you, baby Cillian.

                                                                               ~Grammie Nancy Keck
                                                                                 March 12, 2014