Hear the Monster’s Call

When I did study abroad in England, I discovered Poems on the Underground, a project created to share poetry with Londoners on the Tube. One poem I came across was The Loch Ness Monster’s Song by Edwin Morgan. You can read and hear it here. Most poetry is meant to be heard, but The Loch Ness Monster’s Song practically demands it.

I think it would be a great poem to use in the classroom, since it shows how poetry doesn’t need to be stuffy and use impressive language. In fact, it doesn’t even need to use real language at all.

Also, it’s just the kind of poem I need on this gray, damp day.

(H/T bookshelves of doom)(image: Wikipedia)

Sincerely, Fondest, All My Love, and Other Sign-Offs

At the Paris Review, Sadie Stein talks about sign-offs and how she settled on “As ever.” She writes:

“Immediately, it seemed to me that rare thing, an all-purpose valediction: versatile, graceful, elliptical. If I was writing to a loved one, the sign-off implied my affection was going strong. If I hated someone, well, it didn’t rule that out, either. It could be cool or warm, friendly or formal. Or it could be literal: I was still Sadie Stein, and there was very little arguing with that.”

I might not be as charmed as Sadie by “as ever” but I can certainly relate to the importance of a sign-off. For more professional/formal correspondence, I tend to go with either “Thanks” or “Best,” which feel very safe. They keep a distance but express good feelings. Even more formal writing gets a “Sincerely.” Recently I’ve settled on “Cheers,” which feels friendly but isn’t too cutesy.

How do you end letters or emails? Do you feel a particular kinship with any sign-offs?

(image: Smithsonian Institution)

New Voices in YA Reading Recap

The last week has been filled with writerly goodness. This weekend I was at the annual NESCBWI conference (more on that later); before that, I was part of the Brookline Public Library’s New Voices in YA and Children’s Literature series. It was awesome!

Confession: readings (or any kind of public speaking) make me nervous. I’ve never had a terrible experience, but I always get anxious a few hours before the actual event. Fortunately, the vibe at the reading was so enthusiastic and low-key that I quickly forgot about nerves.

I read with three other YA writers, two of whom (Beth Brenner and Mike Dwyer) are good friends. We all have fairly different styles, so it was cool getting to hear everyone’s readings. A few topics covered: girl detectives, reincarnated guards, magical families, and drivers ed. I’m sure it’s hard to plan for different styles in advance, but it worked out really well. Fellow New Voices writers, I need to hear more of your work, immediately.

Series organizer Dorrie was wonderful to work with. She made sure we had necessary info and felt taken care of beforehand, and she kept things interesting during the reading. Usually I stress about Q&A sessions, but Dorrie came up with fun questions that we all got into answering. Dorrie also included a drawing of a bird Amelia Earhart in the program handout. How cool is that?!

Many thanks to everyone who came out to hear us read. It made a huge difference to have so many friendly faces in the audience. And thanks to the wonderful librarians and staff at the Brookline Public Library for putting together such a cool event.

Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

The next time someone tells you that the road less traveled by makes all the difference, you can tell them that Robert Frost didn’t really care what path you took:

“Frost is actually using an old technique known as the “unreliable narrator,” and he isn’t even being all that subtle about it: in spite of the famous quote’s insistence that one road is “less traveled by,” the second stanza of the poem clarifies that both roads are “worn… really about the same.”  Oh, and also, Frost himself admitted that he was actually mocking the idea that single decisions would change your life, and specifically making fun of a friend of his who had a tendency to over-think things that really weren’t that big a deal.”

Click through for more misunderstood lines in famous poems/plays/books. And heckle the next graduation speaker to use them incorrectly.

Write Your Own STEM Haiku

What happens when you combine the sciences and the arts? STEM haiku at STEM Friday! The idea, in celebration of National Poetry Month:

  1. Select a STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) topic.
  2. Brainstorm a list of words about your topic.
  3. Count the syllables in each word.
  4. Use the words to share a short STEM thought using the haiku format.

What a cool way to combine poetry and science. My example:

A siren wails.
It approaches, wavelength shifts–
Wave farewell, Doppler.

Try out your own science haiku and share below or in the comments at STEM Friday.

Poetry as Play for Young Readers

From PBS Parents, US Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis shares his thoughts on why poetry is important for young readers and how you can share the power of poetry. He says:

“The rhythm and rhymes can help children develop a love a language—and a love of reading. Once kids begin flexing their writing muscles, poetry can spark their creativity and let their imaginations soar!

You can read newspapers and magazines all you want, but nowhere else are you going to find words taken to such beautiful and sometimes absurd extremes as in poetry.”

Although I’m always a supporter of prose, I like the idea that poetry lets kids explore sounds and play with language. Because of the short form and having to take such care with each word, I think picture books are pretty close to poetry already. Expanding into poetry shouldn’t be that much of a leap for kids.

Click through to check out suggestions for reading and more PBS Parents resources related to poetry (like Martha Speaks: Martha’s Rhyme Time game).

(image: State Library of Queensland, Australia)

Tracking Waldo

I would call it cheating, but it’s just too awesome: a computer programmer wrote an algorithm to find the elusive Waldo:

“Heike’s algorithm narrows down the places Waldo could be hiding by searching for the colors of his signature shirt.

First, it filters out all colors but red. Next, it identifies parts of the image with alternating lines of red and white. Finally, it puts a white circle around the part of the image that most closely matches the famous sweater.”

Very clever, Heike! Your next challenge: find Carmen Sandiego.

(image: Indiebound)