{waiting wednesdays: book birthday countdown…!}

HAPPY DECEMBER!

It’s hard to believe that in just one month, Henri Weldon will be out in the world! This is a book that I feel so good about… that I sat down and read it cover to cover last weekend in one sitting. (No joke; you can do that with your own books sometimes because it takes a while for them to come to publication, and you can actually kind of forget what they’re about. It’s a little weird to laugh at your own jokes, though… which I did. Anyway.) If you’d like a sneak peak copy of the book, stay tuned Wednesdays this month for a giveaway. I’ll be giving away an ARC each week, and we’ll also be talking about middle grade math, sisters, frenemies and school survival strategies. It’ll be fun!

Genuinely nice things people are saying about Figure It Out, Henri Weldon:

“Skillfully realized, this is an affirming and inspiring tale for readers who are only ever told what they can’t accomplish. Uplifting and amusing, this book will leave readers with valuable lessons.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An involving middle-grade narrative with a very likable protagonist.” – Booklist

“…a complex character who is not singularly defined by her personal challenges. In this hopeful, well-paced volume, Davis (Partly Cloudy) centers accommodation, community, and understanding.” – Publishers’ Weekly

“Davis successfully drives home the importance of finding one’s own path and accepting the journeys of others.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

{pf: poetry peeps serve up…something}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of December! Here’s the scoop: we’re thinking outside of the BOX. Or, maybe into the BOX? Freely indulge in any kind of poem, but our theme is a box, boxes, or even boxing. Maybe you’ll try a 4×4 poem, creating another kind of box? Whatever your desire, let BOX inspire! You have a month to craft your creation and box it up on December 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


This is one of those fun poetry assignments that I wish I had more time to do, but — as I write this, it’s Tuesday, kids, and I volunteered to make something complicated for Family Thursday, so I need to get started, AND we’re supposed to take actual with-a-tripod family pictures and I have to dig out the requisite color theme (navy and white this year) AND I said I’d write a mini reader’s theater and bring games I have yet to unearth, I, who moved house five weeks ago, AND I still haven’t done my Actual, Real Work this week, and who was it that who cheerfully got me into all this extra busyness? Oh, right. …Me.

::sigh::

Well, writing to you from the future, I know you managed to get all you wanted to completed – including a poem to add to our roundup. These turned out to be a little harder than many of us expected, but I’m excited to see how Sara’s turned out, and Laura’s, as well as Mary Lee’s poem here. Kelly’s cooking up poetry here. Tricia’s poem is here. Liz’s poem has recipe is here, and Linda M. joins us here. Jone’s poem(s) are here. Margaret’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poem is here. As their food comas wear off and their families and guests ebb and flow, more Peeps will check-in throughout the course of the weekend, so stay tuned for the roundup. If you’d like even more Poetry Friday goodness, join the gathering at Ruth’s beautiful table @ There Is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town.

And, past me eventually found my recipe… and I was pleased that it didn’t turn out as saccharine and twee as I feared it would. Here’s to the footlight flutters, the little singers practicing their dreidel songs and the ones who just go on stage and freeze. Here’s to the older ones who wished they had practiced that one tricky measure just a little longer, and to the ones who can’t wait for the curtains to rise. Winter concert season is upon us all! As my days and evenings are now filled with music, I wish the same for you. Wear a mask as I do, and get out to at least hear an outdoor brass ensemble, okay? It’ll do your heart good…

Recipe for a Winter Concert

Prep time 3 months ♦ Concert Time 2 hours ♦ Serves the Soul

AUTHOR’S NOTES:
For best results, prepare.

DIRECTIONS:
Take one set of singers, seasoned.
Hydrate.
Stir lightly into a stew of scales –
Do – Re – Mi- Faaaa – ahem – aaaa
Gently stretch vocal chords until pliable.
Hydrate singers. (Drain.)
In listed order, add airs, ballads, and madrigals.
(For spice, a single shanty is more than sufficient.)
Layer in lieder and carols. Add a pinch of recitative.
Repeat.

Gather six part strings to four parts horns
add two parts timpani. Reduce to a symphonic syrup,
And measured notes into voices, sprinkle in beats
Until the mixture gels. Repeat.

As soon as music caramelizes, then
Combine the sound of twenty-one strings –
Lightly – against a single oboe’s song.
Simmer until sour notes shimmer, sweeten.

Add a prepared chorus, steeped in song
And stir fully.

For Topping:
Fold individual human beings
Into an audience –
Scatter applause until covered.
Whisk up the curtain,
And slice the baton
Through the waiting air –
And serve it forth.

Nutrition Information:
Makes one concert.
Serves the heart,
Feeds the soul.
100% fat free! Contains endorphins.

Best enjoyed with open ears
(and well-fitted masks.)


Happy Days of Deliciousness in whatever form they arrive for you.

{pf: poetry peeps dansa the day away}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of November! Here’s the scoop: we’re creating recipe poems! Your choice of form, length, topic, or meter, but each poem will be an assemblage of elements, using recipe text/cooking instructions to create …something. From a recipe for disaster, to your favorite aperitif, you have a month to craft your creation and Serve It Forth on November 25th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

This was my first time ever hearing about an Occitan Dansa, or the Balete (Old French), or the Ballata (Italian), as it was known in the Middle Ages. The dansa was the basic structure of poetry which troubadours set to lively music for dancing and singing, and was first introduced to modern audiences in THE SHAPES OF OUR SINGING by Robin Skelton in 2001. I always enjoy hearing a bit more about a new form during our In-Person chat, and reflected on what Tricia’s research deep dive had revealed, mainly how a dansa was meant to be a joyful dance. Unfortunately, the first several poems I was able to pull out using the rhyme and repeated refrain structure were all… pretty sharp. Not really dance-y topics, social lies and a lament on a multiplicity of possessions. (Those are possibly even weird topics for non-dance-y poems, but that’s where I live, in the intersection of Weird and Obviously Going There.) Desdansa, we learned, is the name of the non-joyful poems, but they’re meant to be sad and depressing – the sorts of tales of battlefields and lost kingdoms meant to elicit tears! Not what I wanted to write either. So, I kept scribbling…

During my many attempts at making something fun and dance-y, the rules imprinted themselves on my subconscious. It was freezing Monday morning, and I as I watched my husband bouncing as he looked for his flannel-lined wool cardigan, I teased, “Is shivering your new dance?” The next thing I knew, I was muttering:

Is shivering a dance?
As hairs on my arms stand
Tightening every strand
I look at them askance.
What caused this happenstance?
Is shivering a dance?

Occasionally, this poetry thing is contagious.


Quite a few of us have caught dansa fever – Laura’s post is here. Mary Lee’s is here. Sara’s is here. Liz’s poem is here. Tricia’s is here. Michelle K’s dansa-ing today, as is Carol V. Margaret’s dansa is here. Even more Peeps will sashay on through during the course of the dansa-line, so stay tuned for the roundup. If you want even more poetry goodness, check in at Jone Rush MacCulloch’s blog for the big Poetry Friday roundup.


I did determine that there’s a topic many of us can be happy about naturally – sweetness. A friend mentioned she’d had her first cider doughnut of the season, and I immediately thought, “Yes.” While I’ve never actually had a cider doughnut before (I know, but a.) we don’t do as much cider on the West Coast, in the same ways, and b.) apples good enough to eat are, to me, to be eaten out of hand or with a bit of caramel as an autumn treat, not …cooked unless it’s end of season. Maybe I’ll get there this year. Don’t judge me), I suspect they’re something I’d approve of wholeheartedly.

Middle grade author and librarian Mike Jung always comes to mind when I think of doughnuts, as his social media is mostly a lament when he’s not eating them, dreamy distraction when he is eating them, imagining when next he can eat them, and some library science, cute cat/offspring pictures, aikido, and I’m-revising-this-chapter-WHY-is-writing-so-HARD progress thrown in just for personal balance. Anything about doughnuts must, ergo, be for Mike… so this one’s for you, Mr. J.


I hope you find something to dance about this weekend. Lacking that, I hope you enjoy a doughnut (in whatever way “enjoy” works for you. I see my sugar intolerant folx. Just looking at the pretty frosting can be enough). If you’re creating mid-mess like I am (I. Hate. Moving. House.), keep the idea of a doughnut at the forefront of your mind… at least when you’re done wading through the mess you can give yourself a break and a treat of some sort. Take care, poets!

{welcome, poetry peeps! the roundup is here!}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re drawing a form from within our community and doing a Definito. Created by poet Heidi Mordhorst, the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on September 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Welcome, Poets, to the liminal season, where we are on the threshold of seasons, standing between the last gasp of summer, and the first breath of autumn. The Poetry Sisters’ challenge this month was a good one for a moment of transition, as it was a new-to-us form called the Bop. Created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of poetic argument, with the first stanza setting up a complaint, the second expanding on it, and the third either providing resolution or a narrative of a failed resolution. You can read Laura‘s poem, Mary Lee’s, Tricia and Liz’s poems here. Michelle K. joins us here. A few more Bops might pop up throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.

For more Poetry Friday offerings, and to share your own click here. Thanks for stopping by.


With my affection for the villanelle and the sestina, you’d think I’d be at ease working with a refrain, but perhaps it was something about a group-sourced refrain (hat tip to Poetry Sister Sara) that tripped me up. For whatever reason, the refrain in the Bop seems wholly separate from the stanzas… so much so, that I ended up hitting a wall at the end of my first stanza. Suddenly the fourteen-syllable lines seemed clunky, and the beats fell oddly. I started over, trimming my lines, but then the rhyme felt forced. Another draft, now completely unrhymed, but the internal rhythm and more polished language of my lines felt off when faced with that casually worded refrain. Isn’t that just the way it goes when you have a poetic form you’re certain will be simple? Eventually I got it to where I was …just done messing with it. I left the rhyme imperfect, with an off-meter step near the end of each stanza to signal that repeated refrain coming to pause the discussion again. Reminding myself these poems are meant to be exercise and not perfection, I stumbled and limped into my imperfectly perfect topic… housekeeping.


Click to enlarge

(Ashes to Ashes, and) Nuts to Dust

Disorder settles like the dust
Drifts into velvet piles
In quiet corners. Laundry Lurks,
disheveled. All the while
Freedom peers in through glass panes
Begrimed by birds. It waves hello….

Let’s kick that can down the road.

“Filthy” is not the kind of word
That tells the tale. There’s no mildew.
The difference between “clean” and “neat”
is miles apart. The follow-through,
Is that perfection never lasts:
A moment’s lapse, and things explode.
Chaos comes roaring, moving fast,
disrupts, dismays, and discommodes…

Let’s kick that can down the road.

Through window streaks you’ll see sunrise
And sunbeams dancing on the air.
A wrinkle will not scandalize
A meadow when you’re walking there.
That cabbage moth’s not judging you,
So, take today, get out and go.

…And kick that can down the road.


Just now, we all have so much to do – classes to start, books to buy, odd socks and lunch dishes to find, dust bunnies to rout, and water bills to pay. I hope we can find a moment to take stock and figure out which cans can be kicked down the road indefinitely – and which cans are absolutely only for right now, and must be cracked open immediately to let the full fizz of life bubble out. Carpe diem, poets. Don’t let that just be a catch phrase, life is way too short. Grab all the joy that you can – and splash it out. Happy Weekend.


(Commenting snafus: Commenting issues are an artifact of a sometimes aggressive spam filter. If your comment seems to vanish, it likely got caught. No worries, I’ll fish it out shortly!)

{npm22: 29~ bloom!}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! After such a big month for National Poetry Month, we’re taking it easy for now. Our simple task is to write a poem with the theme of string, thread, rope, or chain. Any poetic form, rhymed or unrhymed, but we’re including one of those four items. Plotting? Good! You’ve got a month to string your line(s), then share your offering on May 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


This month the Poetry Peeps wrote poems in imitation of Taylor Mali. For Laura, that meant this poem – short(ish) and sweet. Tricia explored her ideas here. Sara’s meta poem ON the poet is here, Cousin Mary Lee enfolded climate greening into her poem, Liz’s project, plus a bonus poem is here, and Andi’s popped in here. More Poetry Peeps may pop in with more words and thoughts as the weekend continues, so stay tuned. I may be very slow doing the roundup (as in finishing it next week), since I’m away from my usual haunts (and time zones) so bear with me.


I started out with the best of intentions to flatter poet Taylor Mali by imitating “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?” Alas, the longer I spent with it, the less I found flattering to say. Published in 2002, soon after the 1998 “Ebonics” conversation the talk show circuit, this poem is reflective of the social critics of that time, which is to say it hasn’t aged well. Mali’s mocking contempt echoes still of American society’s knee-jerk tendencies to mock and belittle the young, especially young girls, for the way that they speak, act, the media they consume, the bands they love, and the clothes they wear. When devaluing fully 51.1% of the population becomes automatic, misogyny persists, and follows girls into adulthood. More importantly, it leaves a mark. And men aren’t the only people who belittle and begrudge the young; it’s an American past time, which is why this poem so needled me.

I remember running into my 8th grade English teacher as a college student. She quizzed me on my activities and my GPA, and then, as I was proudly telling her my news, she interrupted. Reaching forward, she fiddled with my collar, smoothing it. “You know,” she said in a low, confiding voice like she was revealing a secret, “You’d sound so much smarter if you didn’t say ‘um, okay’ quite so often.” Well, that was me told that I wasn’t up to her level! Rather than enjoying my weekend home, I spent the rest of the time listening to myself, wincing at each “um” and “okay” and wondering desperately how people ever learned to change their speech.

I look back on that incident and seethe.*

My NPM project this year was sticky-note proverb poems. They are proverb-based and SHORT, but Taylor Mali doesn’t lend himself to short, so today I’ve creating two poems, first, the freestyle, unrhymed imitation (not my favorite style; feel free to suggest revisions in the comments), using the words of consent and consensus which are so often dismissed, and second, a sticky-note sized distillation. Additionally, today’s poem calls for a new proverb, one I’ve just made up. It is:

“Wisdom celebrates variation; not every difference suggests flaws.”

um, okay

Okay, but have you noticed
how it is somehow A-okay fine
for them to get right in your face
straighten up your collar and say
“right, if you would just -” and
okay, you knew you weren’t up to par –
yeah, you couldn’t pass as perfect
or more than okay, but who is?

Okay, so, have you noticed
the ground between us
is like potholes and mountains,
it’s that uneven, which is like,
fine, whatever
but what makes them think
the place they’re standing is
always the high ground, right?

Okay, but had you noticed
how they steal your words when they
crush your voice, grind words into pulp,
when they smother your spark
had you noticed why? they silence you –
like you’re just a piece of work
right, but if they would just,
back off, you could work out
making the pieces
whole, right?

Okay, so you had noticed
that consensus creates strength, that two heads
are better than one? so, okay you seek approval –
yeah, sometimes you ask permission –
So? you don’t know if you’re allowed
to take up space, to speak
aloud, so you rehearse
your sounds, right?
and you check your strengths
’til you know them
by heart.

Okay, so had you noticed
your flex, your stretch, how strong
you’ve grown? they did not, which is like,
fine, whatever –
you’ve blown past their
okay


bloom
okay
so, it’s your space
send roots into the earth
shout “I’ve arrived! make here the place
you grow


Want more poetry? Poetry Friday is hosted today at Jone’s place.. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

*I taught school, too. I recognize that for some, the job is changing the world through their students. But, I’d really rather leave the world unchanged than be remembered for the kind of casual cruelty that implies someone sounds/is stupid.

{npm22: 28 ~ the heat}

One of the Poetry Princess the other day mentioned how she likes that I sometimes write about things I don’t like. I kind of laughed – there are a LOT of things I don’t like, and honestly, I need to write poems about them so no one else has to hear my rants. Today I’m writing about an American proverb I don’t particularly enjoy. It was yet another of those often repeated during my childhood. It’s one which seems to imply incompetence needing to step aside for those who are better equipped to carry things out. It’s just… irritating.

And this one’s not just home grown, its origin is the American political arena, and is credited to the celebrated “plain speaker” Harry S. (did you know the middle initial doesn’t stand for anything?) Truman as far back as 1942 when he was a senator, and evolved into the phrase we know today during his presidency in 1949. It’s a bit of a snarky one:

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
– Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States


downfall
“Stand back –
Let the experts
Show you how it’s done, kids.”
(Pride has arrived. Now we await
the fall.)

In a world plagued with experts, I’m happy to get out of the kitchen and let somebody else’s goose cook. Happy Almost Weekend.

{npm22: 25~ a start}

Today’s proverb is both ancient and Chinese, and though it might be cliché’s first assumption, it’s not written by Confucius. Surprise, there are hundreds more sages and creators of proverbs from this ancient culture! Today’s proverb is from the Tao Te Ching. Though this book isn’t found on B&N’s website in its entirety, it exists in various copies and dialects and is a widely studied, widely argued over classical Chinese text. The Tao Te Ching is usually credited to Lao Tzu, though others argue it was written by someone else, and is probably something from between the 4th and 6th century BC. It’s ancient. So, we have a genuine Chinese proverb, though the wording isn’t the same as we use now. Originally it said, “A journey of a thousand li (a traditional Chinese unit of measure, approx. 0.3 mile/0.5 km.) starts beneath one’s feet.” No one knows how or when, but as the quotation came West (probably because no one could figure out what a li was), the phrase turned into:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”


Go
Packing
Empty suitcases
Filled up with memories
Of “Once Upon A Time, Boldly.”
Ready?

Nope, I’m not actually ready… but I’m going anyway.

PS – yes, I know I can’t really draw an airplane.

{npm22: 16~dark}

Okay: quick question – when is it full night? After sundown, right? The weather guide on my phone has all of these handy little bits of information based on latitude and longitude and standard time zones… there’s Twilight Starting and Twilight ending, there’s Solar Noon and then the usual Sunrise and Sunset. There’s this whole thing about solar declination and ACTUAL Sunset vs. Apparent Sunset. It’s great – and way overdone for our uses today. All we need is …Dawn.

Thomas Fuller, an English theologian, in the year 1650, is actually who we believe coined this phrase. It appeared in his work titled A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof. (Yet another guy who really needed to work on his titles.) Possibly because it fit his sermon, he seemed to imply that this phrase was literal — that it’s utter pitch black dark right before sunrise — ergo, it’s always darkest just before dawn, since just before then is the darkest time.

Dear Rev. Fuller,

We regretfully inform you that a whole ball of solar fire doesn’t just pop up and the world is flooded with light like a switch… As the Earth turns, the light of that solar ball rises gradually. So, it’s actually darkest? Probably just after midnight. But, good job for getting us thinking about metaphors and such.

Love, Random People on the Internet.

“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” – Rev. Fuller


before dawn
tick: the clock’s hand jerks
closing the circle of day
today, tomorrow
and round again it takes you
another day won’t break you.

{npm22: 15~ prove me now}

I love how the various bits of language I’m studying line up: in Spanish, commanding someone to produce proof (Prove it!) is pruébalo. That’s also the same word that’s used when you want someone to TRY something. (As a matter of fact there’s a very colorful travelogue/cooking show on YouTube by the same name.) In Dutch, the meanings don’t overlap; to try is probeer, and the old Latin word is probare, which has a bit in common with the English word “probation.” From Merriam-Webster:

“Proof is an alteration of Middle English prove, which itself is from Anglo-French preove, meaning “evidence,” based on an Old French word meaning “test.” … In Middle English, proof had meanings relating to both the presenting of evidence that demonstrates a truth and the establishment of fact or truth through testing.

As you’ll recall, pudding in history has been savory – think haggis. Minced meat, spices, cereals and blood stuffed into guts and boiled. And whether or not that minced, spiced meat the cook used was spoiled, or any good? Well, you had to prove it.

(Americans use a shortened version, simply “the proof is in the pudding,” which author Henry Dircks first used in his 1863 novel Joseph Anstey, and which appeared again in an 1867 issue of The Farmer’s Magazine. No one knows when it arrived on these shores).

The proof of the pudding is in the eating


hatching
life’s greatest card trick
now we see it, now we don’t
breath held with applause.

Poetry Friday today is hosted today at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

{npm22: 9 ~we fall down}

I’m having a good time tracing the path of non-English proverbs, so here’s one from the East (and I’ve seen the words spaced multiple ways, so apologies if the one I chose is wrong): Nanakorobi yaoki (七転び八起き) –

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” – a Japanese proverb


stand
we stand by falling –
stagger likes leaves in a breeze.
We lurch toward walking
while every bruise reminds us:
life keeps us on our toes.

This quote is the title of a recent picture book biography of Patsy Takemoto Mink, the woman who started Title IX in schools. Today its message of perseverance reminds me also of Ketanji Brown Jackson. Happy Weekend.