January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. This year, if you’re working from home, your sphere of inspiration is nearly limitless. Whether your thoughts on what you see and hear tend toward poignancy, inspiration, or humor, take a moment to jot them down. Then share your poem or poems with your family or friends!  

This Poem is a Nest

Written by Irene Latham | Illustrated by Johanna Wright

 

In the introduction to her astonishing poems, Irene Latham explains the concept of “nestling poems,” which provides the structure to her collection. Similar to “found” poems, that can use the words from any source text to create other poems, nestling poems use words discovered within another poem. In the case of This Poem is a Nest, Latham first penned four poems about a single nest surviving through a year of season and then found 161 other poems inside them. These other poems—some small, even tiny snippets—pack a powerful ability to wow, just like a single candy in a large assorted box.

First, readers are introduced to the nest in Spring, where “safe in its crook, it’s a cradle that sways across day and dark.” There are “fragile eggs,” but soon “the happy nest overflows with flap-flapping and endless feast.” In Summer after the robins have flown away, the “empty nest becomes nothing more than a morning house of light.” Below, the tree hosts other creatures who call it home or use it as a resting place.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Autumn, readers are invited to climb the “branches like a ladder— / up and up—where the crispcool world turns both smaller and bigger.” From here one can see “distant woodsmoke” and quiet creatures going about their day. Winter brings a new resident to the nest, a tiny mouse who “makes needed repairs” and lays in stores of food for the snowy days ahead.

After reading these four three-stanza poems, readers enter Part II, where Latham’s nestling poems are divided into seven categories. The first explores the idea of time, and Latham begins by marking the passing of a day. With Dawn, “day rustles open / overflows / morning boat” while at Dusk “sky weaves / gold-dust / world / turns.” But Latham knows there are those other hours, the hours when a profound Middle-of-the-Night Question may come: “wing away, / or take / the stage?” Latham next reveals truths about the months of the year, the seasons, and—in clever “Before & After Poems”—the emotions that lead up to and follow an announcement, a storm, and a game (one that is won and one that is lost).

The next chapter titled “Color My World” gives physical shape to nature’s hues from Red (“autumn leaves / puddle / beneath roof / of sky”) to Black (“dark splash / whispers / ancient glimmersong”). In the following chapter—”Animals Among Us”—Latham describes a menagerie of animals, including the beauty of a Papa Emperor Penguin with Egg: “feet stitched / together, / both anchor / and dream.” She also shares lessons that wildlife can teach us about meeting life’s challenges, such as how to hang in there and how to combat boredom, how to find the power in imagination, and what to do if something is wrong or you’re feeling down.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Chapter Four—”Only Human”—Latham looks at our emotions with observations that are weighty, thrilling, hopeful, and joyous. Of course, we are not alone in life, and Latham finds poems within her nest to describe relationships with friends, parents, and teachers and others. As a poet Latham knows a thing or two about a Love of Words, and in a short chapter she has fun creating poems that will surprise and delight.

From their nest, birds look out on a vast landscape. Likewise Latham presents readers with poetic “Views and Vistas.” Children can roam from the Desert to a Meadow; and explore a Cave, a Fox Den, and an Iceberg. Expanding out into the world, kids visit the African Serengeti, the Australian Outback, Tahiti, and the Amazon River, among other spots. Pan out even farther and readers contemplate space, the sun, the constellations, and all of the planets—including Pluto, despite its demotion.

At last, Latham includes a few final verses about poems and poets themselves and leaves readers with My Wish for You: blue adventure / in seaglass morning— / green buzz, / gold thrumming— / life / a poem” Backmatter consists of detailed tips on how poets or would-be-poets can write their own nestling poems.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

Lovely, deep, and awe-inspiring, Irene Latham’s poems allow readers to discover the world with microscopic precision and a broad view from as far away as outer space. As you read the poems, it’s intriguing to go back to the first four poems and find the individual words in their original context. As meaningful is to let the small verses float in your mind and take root in your heart. Many will make you look at and consider objects, places, time periods, and emotions in ways that bring new insight and understanding, hope, joy and peace.

Johanna Wright’s lovely black-and-white line drawings, shaded with a gray scale offer whimsical interpretations of Latham’s poems and introduce each chapter with thoughtful, creative, and happy children interacting with each other and their world. A few sweet, individual drawings include a mother and child snuggling under a warm quilt for December; a snail whose shell contains true contentment in All You Need, According to a Snail; two children painting the sky with stars in Painting; and a little girl sleeping in the crook of a crescent moon while her dreams become poems in While You Sleep.

For any poetry lover—whether adult or child—or anyone looking to experience the world afresh, This Poem is a Nest is a must. Original, creative, and beautiful, the book would enhance any home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 7 – 14 and up

Wordsong, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373635

Discover more about Irene Latham, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Johanna Wright, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Poetry at Work Day Activity

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Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find This Poem is a Nest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 17 – International Haiku Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

We all know about the 5-7-5 rule of haiku poetry: the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line consists of 7 syllables, and the third line follows with 5 syllables. It seems easy as we count off the sounds on our fingers while we compose and say them. But haiku poems are so much more than the sum of their syllables. In those tiny nuggets of language are poignant emotions, unique observations of nature, and life’s wisdom. To celebrate today, read some haiku from the masters—or try your hand at this beautiful form of poetry.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons

By Jon J Muth

 

Jon J Muth’s beloved Zen panda, Koo, tumbles into a year of poignant, funny, and surprising kid-inspired moments in this lighthearted and spirited collections of haiku. As Hi, Koo opens, the gentle panda reaches for a golden, falling leaf that seems to be racing others as they softly plummet to earth. With his paw stretched into the air, Koo wonders, “Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

As autumn turns blustery and rainy, Koo strolls outside with his umbrella, taking time to spin and twirl and recreate an iconic pose of joy on a lamp post before returning home. Koo licks his lips remembering his day: “Dance through cold rain / then go home / to hot soup.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

With winter come snow and mysteries and irresistible impishness. Rising from the piles of white fluff, a traffic sign is a tempting target: “snowball hits the stop sign / Heart beats faster / are we in trouble?” The storm leaves snowbanks hip-high on Koo—but smaller creatures? “In the snow / this cat vanishes / Just ears…and twitching tail.”

Winter’s early nightfalls and dusting snow showers invite quiet play and contemplation as “shadows getting Long / snowfall flutters around / the outside lamps.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Finally, warm weather soothes the sky, bringing “New leaves / new grass new sky! / spring.” The reawaking world inspires long walks in the lush forest, complete with food for the mind and little friends: “Reading aloud / a favorite book / an audience of sparrows.” But sometimes a step goes wrong, triggering a twinge of remorse that sensitive readers will recognize: “killing a bug / afterward / feeling alone and Sad.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Summer ousts all remnants of the coolness of spring, offering gleeful freedom both day and night. The deep,  inky skies provide a backdrop to “Tiny lights / garden full of blinking stars / fireflies.” On a trip to the shore, even the sea becomes a playmate: “Water catches / every thrown stone / skip-skip splash!”

As autumn promises to roll around again, it is time to ponder another year. Just you “becoming so quiet / Zero sound / only breath.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

In his introductory Author’s Note, Jon J Muth discusses the haiku form, which originated in Japan and “was made up of seventeen sound parts called on—divided into three lines with five, then seven, then five on. He reveals that English syllables and on are not equal and that haiku directly translated into English are often shorter than the 5-7-5 lines we are used to. In Hi, Koo! Muth employs this looser structure, capturing an instant in time “using sensory images.”

Muth’s verses will delight readers with their wisdom, wit, and winks to fleeting childhood ideas and actions that tend to be remembered long afterward—even into adulthood. Muth’s lovely watercolors—snapshots in various perspectives—tenderly depict the magical moments that make up a child’s year.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0545166683

International Haiku Poetry Day Activity

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Friendly Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love to read and write, you might think of yourself as a bookworm! Here’s a printable Friendly Bookworm Bookmark to keep you company while you read and mark your page when you have to be away.

Picture Book Review