Whoo-ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss

 

Once in a great while, we’ll hear a “hoo-hoo-HOOOOO-hoo” coming from our woods in the middle of the night. OWL!

We’re always delighted by this rare sound, since the hooting is our only indication that there really are owls out there. Unlike all the other birds we commonly see (robins, woodpeckers, nuthatches, crows, bluebirds, chickadees, cardinals, wrens), our owly friends, by virtue of being nocturnal and mysterious, like to keep us guessing.

Since it’s pitch black outside (no streetlights), I’ve never actually seen any of the great horned owls that we like to assume are calling to us. They seem to enjoy being elusive, thereby heightening their allure.

Reading Whoo-ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story, a new poetry picture book by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss (Putnam, 2020), gave me the perfect opportunity to learn more about these magnificent creatures.

I love the idea of a story told entirely in haiku, and Gianferrari brilliantly manages the challenging feat of creating an engaging, suspenseful narrative while imparting essential facts about the life cycle of the most common owl in North America.

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a peek inside marjorie maddox’s Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises

 

Clever is as clever does. Poetry lovers, are you hungry for some “mind-doodling, eye-dazzling, ear-bending, new-fangled, old-fashioned fun”?

Look no further than Marjorie Maddox’s fab new book, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems (Daffydowndilly Press/Kelsay Books, 2020)!

Whether you’re hoping to jump-start your own writing, or are looking for a unique tween or teen classroom resource, you’ll love how this book injects new meaning into the popular writing dictum, “show, don’t tell.”

The 27 upbeat, inventive poems offer “plenty of tips and tricks” by exemplifying the very forms and concepts they are trying to teach. Rather than analyze abstract definitions from afar, budding poets can step right inside each poem for a dynamic, interactive learning experience. What better way to get the lowdown on couplets, for example, than by reading this:

 

COUPLET

Poetic twins all dressed in rhyme
stroll side-by-side in two straight lines.

 

Made you smile, right?

The first five poems are lessons in summoning, appealing to, and heightening the five senses — fundamental advice on how to approach either reading or writing poetry. The practice of quieting the self to imagine and envision what’s “beyond the ordinary,” and listening for “the small sound between breaths that stirs when you inhale” are good places to begin.

When you “inhale deeply and equally,” know that “Your nose, noble and brave,/knows how to adjust to each form of aroma . . . Keep following the trail of scent to sniff out the meaning.” When it comes to touching a poem, we are warned against “an anemic wave” in favor of a forceful clasp, remembering that, “This is a hands-on operation — the more fingerprints, the better.”

This is my favorite of these sensory delights (no surprise):

 

 

HOW TO TASTE A POEM

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert —
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

 

Sheer pleasure to wrap your lips around the mouthwatering metaphors, to nibble on the nimbly crafted lines. Who would not delight at a meal served up with such wit and finesse, in a voice friendly and accessible, that seems to say, let me show you precisely what I am. Irresistible!

Maddox’s subsequent poems introduce such literary devices as pun, paradox, personification, onomatopoeia, and enjambment, even having simile explaining metaphor in sassy Valleyspeak (I’m, like, totally impressed). 🙂

Poetic forms given the marvelous Maddox treatment include the clerihew, triolet, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, and both the English and Italian sonnets. By the time we encounter “Getting Ready with Iambic,” we’re treated to a “marching, metered day,” with pentameter our “favorite game to play.”

Once readers have enjoyed the poems, they can move on to the Insider Exercises, for a chance to practice for themselves what they’ve just read about: using concrete details based on the senses, writing dramatic monologues or any of the fixed-forms using the instructions in the clerihew, sonnet, or sestina poems as guides. Writers are also able to experiment with line and stanza breaks, and knock themselves out with a bag of fun tricks (puns, paradox, onomatopoiea, acrostic).

Young writers will find Maddox’s ingenious poems entertaining as well as educational. In both poem and exercise, Maddox ultimately encourages readers to approach poems as friends, being open, “faithful and patient,” gently coaxing the muse to reveal her meaning.

She also emphasizes the importance of finding poems on subjects we like, poems we would like to spend time with and get to know better. I think this goes a long way towards dispelling the fear and hesitation many people have (regardless of age), about reading or writing poetry. Too many are turned off because they have been force-fed verses that are too abstract or obtuse, or they’ve been forced to “analyze” rather than experience a poem. When you think of poems as friends, those relationships will naturally engender human emotions, which constitute the beating heart of poetry.

 

 

BEFRIENDING A POEM

Invite him home for dinner
but don’t insist on rhyme;

he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.

Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.

Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,

be faithful and patient;
remember to listen.

Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.

Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.

 

Inside Out is the perfect way to celebrate National Poetry Month, at home or in the classroom. Do check out this writer and teacher friendly delight, which brims with clever wordplay, refreshing images, and evocative challenges, all presented from a novel vantage point. Turn these poems inside out and back again, and watch your writing flourish.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published twenty collections of poetry and prose, including the children’s books A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (Philip Huber, illustrator; WordSong, 2008; Wipf and Stock, 2019), Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (John Sandford, illustrator; WordSong, 2009; Wipf and Stock, 2019), and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (Philip Huber, illustrator; Wipf and Stock, 2020).

She also has poetry for children in many anthologies, including Paul Janeczko’s Hey, You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things (Robert Rayevsky, illustrator; HarperCollins, 2006) and The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems (Richard Jones, illustrator; Candlewick 2019). In 2002, she was one of five national judges for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Book of the Year Award. In 2019/2020, she chaired the jury of judges for the same prize.

In addition, Marjorie Maddox has a dozen collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize; WordTech, 2004; Wipf and Stock, 2018); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist; Poiema Poetry Series, Cascade Books, 2016); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock, 2013); Perpendicular As I (1994 Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press, 2017); Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor with Jerry Wemple; PSU Press, 2005); Presence (assistant editor); and over 550 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies.

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INSIDE OUT: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises
written by Marjorie Maddox
published by Daffydowndilly Press/Kelsay Books, April 2020
Poetry/Nonfiction for grades 7-12, 62 pp.
*Includes Glossary
**Available for pre-order now from the publisher

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♥️ 2020 NATIONAL POETRY MONTH KIDLITOSPHERE EVENTS ROUNDUP ♥️

Once again, I’m collecting links from any poetry-loving bloggers who are doing special projects for Poetry Month. Please send your info to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and I’ll happily add you to the Roundup. Also, please help spread the word via your social networks or any relevant listservs. Thanks so much!!

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The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup. She’s sharing some wonderful springtime poems from the 2017-2018 Today’s Little Ditty Anthology. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a good weekend, and stay safe and healthy.


*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

nine cool things on a tuesday

 

1. Since we’re definitely in a “spring is almost here!” mood, we’re starting off with some charming watercolors by Chicago-based artist, illustrator, educator, and writer Michelle Kogan.

I first saw Michelle’s work on the cover of the very first Today’s Little Ditty Anthology (2014-2015), edited by the indefatigable Michelle H. Barnes (there is definitely something magical about Michelles). Michelle K. then joined the Poetry Friday gang, and we’ve been treated to her delightful posts every week, where she shares both her poetry and art (doubly delish).

 

 

Michelle is a lifelong nature lover, and her paintings depict the interesting bits of flora and fauna she observes in her various ramblings. She likes to paint outdoors during the summer, either in her own garden or in other nature venues in the Chicago area.

 

 

 

Michelle also paints figures, some of whom appear in her children’s illustrations. A staunch advocate of preserving our natural environment, she hopes her work will continue to inspire more beauty.

 

 

 

Do check out Michelle’s Etsy shop, where you can purchase archival prints, mini-prints, cards, bookmarks, journals and postcards. And of course there’s more art at her Official Website, and poetry and art every week at her blog. Contact Michelle directly via her website for info about classes and workshops, or for poetry, children’s book, or painting commissions.

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[review + giveaway] On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman

 

On a chilly-dilly, boot-tapping, happy-making day, we’re delighted to share Buffy Silverman’s brand new picture book, On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring (Millbrook Press, 2020)!

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you buried under mounds of snow, down with a bit of cabin fever, or reveling in a February thaw?

Chances are good you’ve already been dreaming of spring, and if you live in our neck of the woods, have likely seen the first robins returning from their winter vacations.

All I know is it’s never too early to celebrate the arrival of warmer days as tiny buds appear, animals begin to stir, and slabs of ice slide down the roof. Let the great melt begin!

On a Snow-Melting Day is actually a cleverly crafted extended poem, with each line accompanied by a splendid color photo. Buffy has invited us on a fun, illuminating, multi-sensory lakeside amble featuring plants, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, and the star of the show — water — in all three of its forms.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

“Blue Skies” by Nathaniel Mather

 

1. Well, of course — must share something blue to kick off the first Cool Things Roundup of 2020. Memphis-based artist Nathaniel Mather is a recent discovery for me; another case of love at first sight.

I enjoy the playful spirit and child-like quality of his narrative pieces. Colors, textures, and simple renderings of flowers and animals evoke 19th century primitive folk art, but still feel contemporary.

 

 

His compositions have a wonderful “unstudied” quality about them — a brand of sophistication that’s difficult to pull off well.

 

 

 

 

As a typography freak, I swooned when I noticed text and numbers in some of his work. Letters floating around in paintings always make me happy, but alphabets in two blue trees? Have mercy!

 

 

He wants to produce work that is “true, beautiful, and restorative” . . . reflecting “God’s wonder and grace while wrestling with daily struggles and pain.” One can’t help but feel uplifted by his art.

Learn more about Mather’s work at his Official Website and Etsy Shop, NathanielMatherArt.

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