Found Poetry: Fascinating...and a Invitation (for Poetry Friday)

Rhymes with Fascinating


Aggravating, calculating, carbon dating,

figure skating,

in-line skating,

maid-in-waiting, nauseating, open dating,

operating, penetrating, suffocating, titillating.


Source: Merriam-Webster Online. Website accessed 12.15.12.

I am seeing poems all over these days. (Uh, oh.) Last week it was in a nonfiction YA book; today the poetry comes via the Merriam-Webster online dictionary entry on the word "fascinating." I cracked up when I read the above. It struck me as a delightfully weird collection of rhyming words. If someone were writing a poem, would she really like to rhyme "fascinating" with "carbon dating"?

Heck, yeah.

So, of course, I had to try my hand at it.


Rhymes with Fascinating II

Overrating, understating, mammal mating,

Silver plating, shark baiting, beagle crating,

Syncopating, procrastinating, cheese grating,

Enervating, table waiting, double dating,

Seven eighting, railroad freighting, irritating.


Other children's book bloggers are also talking about poetry on Friday. (I am posting a little early). See the Poetry Friday roundup tomorrow at Kate Coombs' blog, Book Aunt.

And go ahead. Take a shot at your own "Rhymes With Fascinating" in the comments.

Poetry Friday: Bootleg (Found Poem)

Bootleg: A Found Poem


Blind tiger, bootlegger, booze
Flapper, hooch, moonshine

Rumrunner, speakeasy, teetotaler

The days
of outright prohibition
and likely will
will never return.

Source: Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, by Karen Blumenthal (Roaring Brook, 2011)

9781596434493I'm just starting Bootleg, which is popping up on year-end best-kids-books lists, including those from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, as well as the YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists.

I'm curious about the subject since saloon keeping and home brewing were activities enjoyed by a number of my kinfolks during the same era. Well, the saloon keeping (of one Bismarck Saloon on the town square in Waco, Texas) was just prior to Prohibition, for obvious reasons...

The glossary words in Blumenthal's book read like poetry to me, and I liked her conclusion at the end. That's where I concocted the poem above. The nonfiction book is geared toward readers 12 and older.

Other children's books bloggers are writing about poetry (and not moonshine) today; see the Poetry Friday roundup at Read, Write, Howl for more selections.

From "The Anti-Romantic Child"

"One day that winter, as [5 year old] Benjamin and [his father] Richard were standing in the parking lot of his nursery school listening to the fire alarm from a distance, Benj cried, 'Daddy, I am not afraid! Just like Frog and Toad!'—a reference to a story called 'Dragons and Giants,' in which Frog and Toad face down some scary experiences by telling themselves that 'they are not afraid.' "

from The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman (Harper, 2011)

This is a moving book written by a literary agent and former English professor and Wordsworth scholar. Gilman's older son, Benj, read early. By the time he was two and a half, he could fluently read a page from her dissertation. The precocity was unusual, but accepted as evidence of the boy's intelligence and the family's devotion to the written word; Gilman's husband, mother, and father also had careers concerned with literature. But Benj's sensitivities and intolerance to other stimuli worried Gilman, and eventually he was diagnosed with hyperlexia, defined by Merriam-Webster as "precocious reading ability accompanied by difficulties in acquiring language and social skills" and sometimes associated with autism.

I was curious if Gilman's work on The Anti-Romantic Child affected her interactions with her son's various schools and teachers over the years. She doesn't say. No matter. Her hopeful and well-written story, about Benj's struggles and triumphs—and the gradual shift of her own expectations—ought to appeal to parents and teachers of children of all abilities, not to mention anyone interested in reading. A number of poems by Wordsworth, to which Gilman turns for solace, are woven into the fabric of the book.

September 10-11, 2011

Remembering ten years ago, I want to highlight a prose poem I love, Linsey Abrams' "The New Century," which can be found online here.

An excerpt from "The New Century":

Not that a human chain is the best metaphor for a policeman leading a whole floor of people by
hand down 95 flights of a pitch black stairwell, albeit with a better than average flashlight. 
Maybe picture DNA, so unfathomable as to be beautiful.  Or something ordinary but almost
crazy, like a conga line.

Meanwhile, I read an excellent book recently: The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. It's about art, architecture, family history, great sorrow, and survival. De Waal's descriptions of the Nazi takeover of Vienna, where his wealthy Jewish grandparents lived, broke my heart, leaving me with an echo of the why? why? why? feeling of 9/11.

Tomorrow my family plans to be out and about, savoring the end of summer. There's an Internet nature project happening—International Rock Flipping Day—and we're hoping to participate. The blog Wanderin' Weeta has the details. Check it out and join in if you'd like! I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a kids' book that fits the theme well:  Compost Critters, a picture-book photo-essay by National Geographic photographer Bianca Lavies (Dutton, 1993).

  Rockflipping b



Poetry Friday: Poets' Letters and Memoirs

Over the years I've enjoyed many poets' autobiographies and books of letters. So why not make a list of favorites! The following titles are for adults, but some teenagers might like them, too, particularly the ones by Eileen Simpson, Jackie Kay, Mary Karr, and Natasha Trethewey.

Poets in Their Youth, by Eileen B. Simpson (Random House, 1982) Berryman, Lowell, Schwartz, et al.

Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey, by Jackie Kay (Atlas, 2010). Kay's search for her biological parents, one in Scotland, the other in Nigeria.

Lit, by Mary Karr (Harper, 2009). Karr's road to sobriety.

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Natasha Trethewey (University of Georgia Press, 2010) Trethewey returns to her hometown, where her mother was killed and her brother incarcerated.

The Virgin of Bennington (Riverhead, 2001) and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Ticknor & Fields, 1993), by Kathleen Norris

Randall Jarrell's Letters (Houghton Mifflin, 1982). Mary Jarrell, editor.

One Art: Letters, by Elizabeth Bishop. Robert Giroux, editor. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994)

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)

Heaven's Coast, by Mark Doty (Harper Collins, 1996)

The Triggering Town: Letters and Essays on Poetry and Writing, by Richard Hugo (Norton, 1979)

A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright. Anne Wright and Saundra Rose Maley, editors. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). I read half of this one and got overwhelmed several years ago, but want to return to this book and finish it. 

I may have to revise as I remember more. What are your favorites?

Today is Poetry Friday on many of the children's literature blogs. Karen Edmisten is rounding up the posts at Karen Edmisten: The Blog With The Shockingly Clever Title. For an explanation of Poetry Friday, check here

New Poet Laureate: Philip Levine

Today the Library of Congress names a new poet laureate: Philip Levine, an eighty-three-year-old Detroit native who has written extensively about blue-collar work. Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin.

Book critic Dwight Garner writes an appreciation of Levine's work over at this morning's New York Times. "It is a plainspoken poetry ready-made, it seems, for a time of S&P downgrades, a double-dip recession and debts left unpaid," Garner says.

Readers will find poems by Levine online at the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. From the latter, here's an excerpt from "Belle Isle, 1949". Sentimental it is not.

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow.[...] 

J. Patrick Lewis, Laureate

Congratulations to J. Patrick Lewis on being named the new Children's Poet Laureate. We've been fans for years!

See Chicken Spaghetti posts "An Original Poem by J. Patrick Lewis!""Poetry Friday: The Snowflake Sisters";  and "Poetry Friday: Pirate Book." I mentioned Lewis's poem "Mosquito" in an entry about Paul B. Janeczko's anthology The Place My Words Are Looking For, and listed the picture book Once Upon a Tomb among our favorite reads when Junior was a second grader. 

Lewis has a great sense of humor. Here's an excerpt from an interview by Sylvia Vardell, at the Poetry Foundation, sponsors of the children's poet laureateship.

SV: How did you come to the writing of poetry for children when you’re also a scholar of economics and Russian history?

JPL:  My usual answer (a joke) is that an economist can become a children’s poet only after a very delicate operation. Actually, I wanted to be a writer first, and so I wrote for nearly 30 years in economics. But very few people read economics unless they are roped to a chair. Happily, when I was still a pup (but almost 40!), I discovered poetry— “the road not taken . . . and that has made all the difference.”

Reading to the Second Grade

I'm a volunteer reader for a second-grade class in a nearby city, and our latest read was Keep Your Ear on the Ball, written by Genevieve Petrillo and illustrated by Lea Lyon (Tilbury House, 2007). The book is about a class (my group guessed third or fourth grade) who deal with a difficult situation: one of the classmates, a very independent boy who's blind, has a lot of trouble playing kickball. The children themselves figure out a solution that everyone is happy with. 

The author had left me a note here on the blog, saying that she thought my young friends would enjoy the book. They did! Reading it led to a good discussion about blindness and sight impairment, and being kickball players themselves, the second graders could understand the dilemmas faced by Davey, the boy who's blind, and his pals. I especially appreciated the fact that Keep Your Ear on the Ball's multicultural class, as painted by Lea Lyon, looked a lot like mine. (Well, mine for a half hour each week.)

Next up are Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, by Kelly Bennett, with art by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick, 2005), and a poem or two from Douglas Florian's Handsprings (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2006). The second-grade class is not big on poetry. I don't know exactly why. Sometimes poets pack in too many new (and incomprehensible) words, and I end up translating English into English. (B-o-r-i-n-g.) That's not the case with Handsprings. I'm thinking the kids will appreciate the joy expressed by Florian and the cool way the lines in the concrete poem "Rain Reign" are printed: vertically, like rain drops coming down.

From the Poetry Friday Archives: Updike's "Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children"

The following post is a revised version of one that ran in 2009. You'll find more links to poems at the Poetry Friday roundup, hosted by Great Kid Books today.

John Updike died two years ago at the age of 76. All of the obituaries and tributes mentioned that he was a true man of letters, writing novels, short stories, criticism, essays, and poetry. The New Yorker's February 9 & 16, 2009, issue featured excerpts from his wide-ranging work. Plus, the magazine made his classic sports story "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" (about Ted Williams' retirement) available online.

In another instance of a farewell, Updike's short, wistful "Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children" is online at the Poetry Foundation. The poem begins, "They will not be the same next time. The sayings/ so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected." It ends with a reflection on "how this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye."

From the Poetry Friday Archives: Tempest


Take trip to Ireland. Read Edna O'Brien. Drink lots of tea. Return home. Think of nothing but tea. Make tea with tea bags. Terrible. Not it. Unable to read Edna O'Brien. Lunch with friend who spent year in Australia drinking tea. Friend says bought teapot after similar tea experience. Friend also recommends English Breakfast. Resolve to purchase teapot. Find two-cup teapot for eight dollars. Bargain. Realize loose tea is key. Milk and sugar cubes, too. Buy loose tea in tin at fancy deli. Have never in life made tea without tea bags. Have never made much tea, period. Cast yearning glance at unresponsive Mr. Coffee. Panic. Australian adventurer unavailable for counsel. Remember not knowing how to bake potatoes. Who knew? Fannie knew. Consult Fannie Farmer Cookbook on tea. Fannie knows. Fannie tells. Love Fannie. Boil fresh water. Warm teapot with boiling water. Pour out. Add big spoon of tea, more water. Strategy involved but do okay. Let pot, tea leaves, water sit. Five minutes later—tea. Breathe sigh of relief. Read Edna O'Brien.

by Susan Thomsen

During this snowy, icy winter, I've re-discovered the habit of afternoon tea, so I dug the prose poem "Tempest" out of the archives. (I ran it here back in 2006.) It was originally printed some years ago in Tea: A Magazine (the only poem I've ever had published!).

For more poems today, see the Poetry Friday roundup at the blog Rasco from RIF. Carol H. Rasco is the CEO of Reading Is Fundamental, "America’s oldest and largest nonprofit children’s and family literacy organization." Carol is a huge supporter of the children's book blogs. Go say howdy, and stay for the poetry.