welcoming spring with joann early macken!

#4 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

  Mill Creek MetroParks/flickr

Ah, Sweet Spring!

I’m not sure the daffodils have appeared yet on the shore of Lake Michigan where JoAnn Early Macken lives, but I do know she’s been in the “Spring state of mind” since March 4th, her favorite day of the year.

This is the day she feels is the true beginning of Spring, a day to “take the bull by the horns and take care of business. Blaze a trail and follow it. Harness the horses and plow ahead.” For JoAnn, Spring is more than a season; it’s an attitude. March forth, embrace all the possibilities, and celebrate this time of renewal with promise twinkling over the horizon.


JoAnn: Any day now, we’ll all surrender to one of those glorious afternoons when everyone rejoices in the world and we all leave our jackets on the playground. Troubles seem trivial, problems feel petty, and all we want to do is drop everything, run outdoors, and soak up the sunshine.

I think we should designate JoAnn as our official Spring Ambassador! Before I share her poem, please replace your beret with this:

Lookin’ good! ☺ ☺ ☺

Back to JoAnn:

My father was a construction worker, and he was always working on a project around the house. He often corralled my sisters and me to fetch tools and hold things while he nailed them in place or sawed them into pieces. In Spring, my favorite time of year, I watch for warblers, hummingbirds, orioles and other migrating birds to return and daffodils, hepatica, crocuses and other flowers to pop up. Memories and anticipation came together in this little poem.


by JoAnn Early Macken

Daffodils bulldoze last year’s leaves.
Chickadees haul twigs and straw.
Woodpeckers hammer on trembling trees,
and crows call out, “Saw! Saw!”
Their annual project’s a glorious thing —
They’re building a brand-new spring!

© 2011 JoAnn Early Macken. All rights reserved.

Wolfgang Wander/flickr

I’m happy to report our backyard construction crew has been very busy doing exactly what JoAnn mentions in her poem — all except the woodpeckers, who prefer the cedar siding on our house to the trees. Just this morning, I saw a cardinal, nuthatch, several robins, a bluejay, chickadee and Carolina wren. Watching others work always makes me hungry. Hey, I think I smell chocolate!


JoAnn: Seven or eight years ago, when I worked as a managing editor for a publisher of educational children’s books, I edited a series of cookbooks for kids. At the time, our kids kept rushing out the door on their way to middle school without stopping to eat breakfast. I modified a recipe I found in one of the cookbooks and started making batches of muffins so our boys would not miss the most important meal of the day.

JoAnn made these recently and delivered them to her sons in college.



2 -1/2 c. flour (I use part unbleached white & part whole wheat.)

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 egg

1 c. sugar

1 c. milk

1 c. chocolate chips*

optional: rainbow sprinkles 


1.     Preheat oven to 375°.

2.     Put 12 baking cups in a muffin pan.

3.     Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

4.     Mix peanut butter in with a fork or electric mixer.

5.     Lightly beat the egg & stir it in.

6.     Stir in sugar, milk, & chocolate chips. For extra festivity or consolation, add rainbow sprinkles.

7.     Spoon the mixture into baking cups (about 1/3 c./muffin)

8.     Bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. 

Makes one dozen muffins. I usually double this recipe. 

*You can substitute raisins or other dried fruit, peanut butter chips, or butterscotch chips.

JoAnn Early Macken writes poetry, nonfiction, picture books and novels for children and young adults. A graduate of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program at Vermont College, she teaches at a Milwaukee college and speaks about poetry and writing to both children and adults at schools, libraries and conferences. Her recent picture books include Baby Says ‘Moo!’ (Disney-Hyperion, 2011), Waiting Out the Storm (Candlewick, 2010), and Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move (Holiday House, 2008). A recipient of the 2000 Barbara Juster Esbensen Poetry Teaching Award, JoAnn has published poems in Highlights for Children, Cricket and Ladybug. She also contributes to the Teaching Authors blog, and her official website can be found here.

Did you know JoAnn is a twin? She has 6 sisters in all, and some of them used to sing together in a band. How cool is that?

Baby Couplet: Coo Coo, Moo moo! (Which one is JoAnn?)

Copyright © 2011 jama rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


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