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Are you following our Write it...! board on Pinterest? This images is all inspiration and puddles, perfect for February poetry.
Take a rainy day walk (imagine weather if climate does not permit) around your neck of the woods. Go people watching like this artist did. Write about a particular person or group you come across. What do you think that person’s backstory might be? Who are his/her friends? Where is he/she going? What does he/she hope for? What is he/she afraid of? Does that person call to mind certain memories, either childhood memories or recent experiences? Weave those memories into your narrative!
Bagpipes and Pajamas
Perhaps my craziest memory
is that of the man who sat in the quad
sometimes, playing bagpipes in his pajamas.
I don’t remember why he would do that—
perhaps I never knew. Perhaps
he was a transfer from Scotland,
and missed home while walking in the tangle
of graffitied metal of downtown warehouses.
Perhaps he always wanted to travel abroad,
and spent his nights drinking in the sound
of shafts of sunlight breaking through grey clouds
onto green hills: all I can recollect is his music
wafting around town at midnight some nights,
hearing those sweetly broken bagpipe
notes float out into the night,
starless with impenetrable smog.
“A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the unsolved ones.” -Abraham Lincoln
Celebrate a birthday this month as you begin your year in books.
on the first Langston Hughes and Jerry Spinelli
on the fourth Paul O. Zelinsky
on the fifth David Wiener
on the seventh Laura Ingalls Wilder
on the tenth E.L. Konisgsburg
on the eleventh Jane Yolen
on the twelfth Abraham Lincoln
on the fourteenth Frederick Douglass
on the twenty-seventh Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
and, this year bing leap year, on the twenty-nineth, poet Howard Nemerov
When Leonardo Da Vinci died he left the world more than 6,000 pages of ideas.
Think revolving bridge, winged glider, or self-propelled car, and you will begin thinking like Leonardo.
Now, think colossal horse, and you will most certainly be moving in the direction of the Renaissance man. Most of us have heard of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but, Il Cavallo? Not so much.
So this past week, we gathered to learn more of this marvelous dreamer, and to be inspired by his prolific idea making. And after reading Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz (and ogling over the illustrations by Hudson Talbott), we got to work.
As I tried to imagine the complex engineering of the inner scaffolding, what Leonardo had to consider to create the clay model, let alone the bronze cast, I decided to focus our art making on the bones of sculpting. So from pipe cleaners, pom pons, yarn, and a lump of air drying clay we fashioned our horse.
And what a horse. It's not Leonardo. No. But it is certainly an inspired idea. And I imagine, this would make Leonardo smile. For he knew, better than most: "Art is never finished, only abandoned."
So here's what Karen Hesse knew to be true:
Once upon a time, in the summer of 1768, Captain James Cook sailed from England on H.M.S Endeavour, beginning a three-year voyage around the world on a secret mission to discover an unknown continent at the bottom of the globe. What is less known is that a boy by the name of Nicholas Young was a real live stowaway on that ship. Yep, eleven year old Nicholas Young really did stow away on Captain Cook's voyage around the world! And what did Captain Cook do when he discovered the stowaway? Well, he commissioned Nick into the Royal Navy, made him assistant to the ship's surgeon aboard the Endeavour. And, as if this is not enough, Nick was the first person on Captain Cook's ship to spot New Zealand and later explored Antarctica.
Karen Hesse took this little bundle of history and spun a fictional journal filled with hurricanes, warring natives, and disease, as Nick discovers new lands, incredible creatures, and lifelong friends.
Be adventurous: read Stowaway!
Begin the year immersed in the wonder of impossibility.
"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Celebrate a birthday this month as you begin your year in books.
on the third J R R Tolkien
on the fourth Jacob Grimm
on the fifth Lynne Cherry
on the twelfth Jack London
on the eighteenth A A Milne
on the thirty-first Rosemary Wells
on the twenty-seventh Lewis Carroll
and on the twenty-eighth Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was first published
on the twenty-ninth Rosemary Wells
on the thirtieth Lloyd Alexander
Inspired by this Native Vermont image discovered while poking about on Pinterest, take inspiration from a food chain. Take inspiration from the “>”mathematical sign, from the chain of dominance in games such as rock-paper-scissors. Now, write a poem!
Rock Paper Scissors
Rock is greater than scissors,
Crushing is greater than slicing,
Stoic stone crumbles the sharp
Metal beaks of plastic cranes
Scissors are greater than paper,
Slicing is greater than folding,
Sharp metal beaks chew through
The crumpled skin of a dry lotus
Paper is greater than rock,
Folding is greater than crushing,
Long petals stretch their crumpled
Flesh over the face of stoic stone
I am the Martha Stewart generation—a young mom before the days of DIY, blogs, Handmade Nation, and Etsy (and email and cell phones for that matter). Crafting in those days was mostly the realm of groovy-hippie-types or country-calico-quilters. And although I had a certain appreciation for both asthetics, I didn't quite fit in anywhere on the maker's spectrum. All that changed when I first laid eyes on the premier issue of Living magazine. Everything about it ignited my graphic-designer-modernist tendencies; the sophisticated color palettes, the charmingly smart photo styling, the graphic play of patterns and materials, everything seemed perfect. And I wanted to make stuff like that!
I credit Martha for inspiring me to make things that I liked and that felt like "me". She brought both class and wit into handmade objects and she creating things with one's hands. making things with my hands is both a soul-nourishing and using my hands for more than just clicking and typing makes me feel human, creative, like I'm both giving and receiving. My daughter is now 17 and I'm not such a "young" mom any more but I still love to make things! I'v grown a lot and feel a lot less (self-imposed) pressure to make everything look so perfect and photoshoot ready.
So let's get to making:
These popsicle stick stars are my favorite—well suited for mass production, quick to put together, and infinitely customizable.
All you need are:
- popsicle sticks
- glue gun
The possibilities are limitless.
The Herdman kids lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant. Thanks to the Herdmans, the pageant is transformed into the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.
What do Man with a hoe, by Jean-François Millet and Starbucks have in common?
Being an avid follower of Van Gogh (who created a drawing inspired by Millet's Man with a Hoe), I recognized at once Starbuck's nod to these great artists. Brilliant.
Millet was a thoughtful artist who cared deeply about the dignity of the commoner. As I stood in line waiting for my pumpkin-spiced latte, I whipped out my phone to consider Millet's wisdom via Google and consider why in the world Starbucks would echo his painting (a painting that I've stood before on many a trip to the Getty). This is what I discovered:
This: "Sometimes, in places where the land is sterile, you see figures hoeing and digging." "From time to time one raises himself and straightens his back, ...wiping his forehead with the back of his hand." 'Thou shalt eat thy bread in the sweat of thy brow.'"
And this: "Is this the jovial work some people would have us believe in?" "But nevertheless, to me it is true humanity and great poetry."
And this: "To tell the truth, the peasant subjects suit my temperament best; for I must confess, that the human side of art is what touches me most."
And then Van Gogh's voice chimed in: "I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
And I thought: Persona Poem, yes, yes, yes!
Personae, in Latin, this form of poetry is a terrific opportunity for pretending on the page. Several years ago, when I was teaching the feudal system and medieval art, I had children pretend to be stationed in various social roles and to create persona poems to help them explore daily life in medieval times. The persona poems were brought to life in a collection of short films.
So, what do Man with a hoe, by Jean-François Millet and Starbucks have in common?
For me, two words come to mind: Important Work.
This year at the Guild our persona poems will be inspired by Millet, Van Gogh, and yes, by Starbucks.
During the summer of 1768, Captain James Cook sailed from England on H.M.S Endeavor's first voyage to explore the little known southern hemisphere. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Young was a stowaway on this voyage. True story.
Karen Hesse invites us to delve into this pocket of history alongside the stowaway and experience the astonishing adventure alongside Nick.
After reading, encourage your students to recreate the adventure in a meaningful and lasting way. Section 5 in our Literature and Writing Discovery Guide will present opportunities to move beyond mapping out the story details to identify the impact the story had on the heart.
My youngest son, Søren, spent significant time and effort researching the ship itself and committing his personal reflections to marks burned on wood. Creativity tied to a great story helps the reader retain and apply in ways where the essay falls short.
Captain Cook reminds us sky's the limit, "Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again."
Every time you finish reading a book, think tinker.
The word "tinker" comes from the middle English referring to people who engaged in the work of patching worn tin kettles. When I was young, tinkering was a crude, quick fix of any object regardless of the medium, be it tin, wood, brick, or fabric. My great-grandpa Ted was a tinker. I loved exploring the bits and bobble in his shop, creating assemblages of junk while he merrily tinkered. Back then tinkering was not considered an art form, it was something more akin to the household junk drawer. When I was young, tinkering was pretty much DIY before the acronym came to be.
Fast forward, I LOVE how the growing maker movement has brought a deeper meaning to this wonderful word. Nowadays, "to tinker" is recognized (rightfully so) as a significant step in the process of making, in the process of bringing shape to ideas.
What better way to deeply integrate and apply knowledge gleaned from great stories than to thinker an idea to shape?
So how to begin?
Think wire. Buttons. Tags. Cork. Think ric rac and ribbon. Paint Glue. Hooks and chain.
Think junk drawer and you are moving in the right direction for a tinker project.
After reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jac began her tinkering. She decided to explore the theme "overcoming weaknesses" with a self-portrait assemblage of objects on a turntable. She wanted to display her strengths anchored to the base and her weaknesses as distracting creatures tangling her momentum unless she exerted significant effort.
And so she did. Exceptionally well, I might add.
So the next time your child reads a book, think tinker.
Write a poem incorporating an interesting fact you’ve recently heard or read. It doesn’t necessarily have to be concerned with the physical sciences, although that is a great place to start. Andrea Gibson uses this device in her spoken-word poem, “Letter to A Playground Bully”, using lines such as “‘Cause it is a fact that our hearts stop for a millisecond every time we sneeze / And some people’s houses have too much dust” and “It is a fact that bumblebees have hair on their eyes / And humans, also, should comb through everything they see.”
This Isn’t Happiness
They say that the average person laughs 15 times per day… each time I hear that, I wonder whether that includes the people whose cats have just died or who just spilled coffee on their blouse… I wonder whether if it includes those people who don’t really laugh, but exhale through their noses in unusually quick succession with laughter in their eyes… and I wonder whether those good laughs, the kind that rips your stomach raw and warms your eyes with saltwater, count as two (or maybe fifteen) of the kind of laugh you measure out during irritatingly semi-casual events.
Now, visit our Pinterest to explore the poetic potential of spongy bone. Can you spring from here to your poem?
Picasso was a master of line. Check out his one-liner owl on our Pinterest. Try to make an owl of your own.
Now, think poetry. One of the significant ABCs of poetry is sound. Try to write a poem using only this one element. Try to repeat one sound throughout your poem, write a poem based on a singlular sound.
hoo of an owl
frosted stars twinkle
and the hoo of an owl whittles
a tune on shadowy branches
-Kim & Constance