All Agog, or “how we didn’t forget”

I first saw the phrase “I’m all agog” in an old children’s book, in a poem about a man named John Gilpin.  I was eight and fell in love Asian Elephant and Babywith the word the way only an eight year old can – I even loved the way the word “agog” looked like a pair of starting, staring, amazed eyes. In my teens, “agog” got tangled up in my mind with a term of affectionate mockery used in Scotland centuries ago to describe an oversized mountain of a man: “Tha’ great lumping Gog,” they would exclaim. “You elephant.” In my mental web of meanings and ideas, to be agog became the experience of a great, huge gallump of anticipation – to stare up at a great mountain of excitement .

Many of you, like me, have been all agog to hear the results of the Brighter Light challenge of January. Every poem posted is pretty amazing, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be for Andrea  to decide between  all these bright lights.

Andrea was very much hoping that she would have the results of the contest for us by now, but it’s taking more time than she thought. I’m not surprised – too many amazing pieces of work here. She wanted to let you know that we haven’t forgotten and the results will be posted as soon as ever we can along with the prizes. Just like the storybook elephants, InOurBooks didn’t forget.

This evening, my child (and Brighter Light co-author) and I finally looked up “agog” in the dictionary. To be agog is to be: highly excited by eagerness, curiosity and anticipation. It turns out that my labyrinth of meaning wasn’t that far off. So really…we’re all agog, and I’ll post more about the challenge when we are closer to the results ~ InaGo Elephants, The YMCA is Not a White Elephant - geograph.org.uk - 940795

Friday Surprise: Here We Are!

Here we are!

The 1st of February.

Sunshine and moon

An overwhelming number of wonderful poems and in my case also several new words. Sharon taught me, Andrea, all about a Lazy Boy, so now I know precisely what a Lazy Boy is.

And it explains a lot because years ago someone called themselves Lazyboy and displayed a video with someone who kind of view the life from a Lazy Boy and it’s called the Facts of Life. Lazyboy continued though and sent out this impressive something in around 2004 and it has been one of my favorites ever since. I’d call this poetry – only I’m not quite sure who’d agree. Only this is what I thought of when Sharon writes Lazy Boy:

Lazy Boy!

About Our Brighter Light Challenge – yes, the light is so much brighter now. Ina and I already said that there will be prizes for the best poem and the best collection. Well, in fact the best number one, number two and number three single poems and one prize for the best collection.

During this week-end I’ll go through all the poems and I will likely post something more on Sunday.

Brighter Light Participants : a technical note

Hi, it’s Ina. Several people have run into issues with our Notice Board. I’m currently trying figure out what can be fixed and what is just a problem, so I wanted to pass on the information I do have (this reminds me of a joke my programmer husband says used to make the rounds at a company he once worked for: if a program has an unfixable  bug, just call it a “feature” and sell the program anyhow).Calopteryx virgo male

So here is what I have so far:

1) If the Notice Board suddenly started asking you to register before you can post anything, I think I’ve fixed it. It should let you post/comment again without registering. If you see any comments from a “Felicity Test” that’s me, testing out the fix.

2) Charmingly, it looks like you can edit your posts/poems right up until someone comments. So if, for example, someone posts a comment about your poem that suggests an interesting or useful change, the Notice Board promptly stops letting you do anything to your post – like input that interesting or useful change. Sigh. (It’s not a bug! It’s a feature!). I have been banging my head against the walls of any forum I can find about how to fix this problem with no success. So…as a work-around, Andrea has graciously offered to use your latest version of a poem, even if you can’t delete the earlier one. If you post a re-written poem and your earlier version can’t be deleted, please:

  1.  indicate which poem is the latest version (the version you want to enter in the contest)
  2. indicate the prompt to which it is a response

That way Andrea will consider the poem you want her to.

Steelblue Ladybird (Halmus chalybeus) on leafIf I make any further changes, I’ll keep you-all posted. I will also make sure that we don’t make any changes that will prevent you from accessing your poems and comments. If you run into any more technical problems, please drop me a line through the “Contact Us” link and I’ll do my best to fix it fast!
~ Ina

Friday Surprise: How To Be A Young Writer

2013-01-25 00 11 48 (3)

This is my desk. I blame the elves.

This year,  I gave myself a birthday present: the time to read all I want this month. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get mad if the dishes are not “done” every evening or the tax forms languish. Admittedly, it looks like my desk was attacked by demented elves, but I refuse to worry about it until February.

I have read all the poems that have been posted in the Brighter Light contest so far. And then I started thinking about other poems by writers under the age of 20 – young writers. I read through copies of “Stone Soup” and Highlights for Children.” I found more kids’ poetry in collections from the library and our books at home.

What struck me was the originality of these poems. I found myself saying, Wow I would never have thought of that, over and over. Take this poem:

Cheetah

A cheetah has metal girder teeth
it goes hurling down through the jungle
throwing out its fear*

Panthera leo -zoo -yawning-8aNow, I have heard cat’s teeth compared to many things: lions teeth to daggers, tigers’ to sabers, kittens’ teeth to needles. But cheetahs’ teeth and metal building girders! How wonderful to think of that!

Or take this stanza from Sylviya’s poem (she’s the young writer in the Yellow Ninja team) about hair:

Black is shiny like the blouse
my mommy never wears.
Shiny, glossy, smooth
like our kitten’s fur
when I squeeze her
to get some kisses.

I have all the usual associations with black: knights, stallions, nighttime, sadness. Sylvi on the other hand thinks of an unworn blouse – this says so much, so specifically, about how she feels about her mother, and their relationship, and beauty, that feel as if I am standing with her as she sees her mother’s hair.

5984380533_2816ee14a5_bAdult writers spend a lot of time trying to peek around the edges of all the rules we’ve learned and ways we’ve been taught to think. We have heard the overused metaphors, memorized the tens of thousands of rules of plotting, and tried every poetic form…until we have forgotten what the world looks like to us.  Adults envy young writers, I think; we are so used to comparing happiness to a warm puppy that we forget that happiness can also be a new Band-Aid, or a herd of manta rays, or a battered leather jacket with a broken zipper.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that poets shouldn’t read other poets, that essayists should never read novels, or that fiction writers should live in huts in the woods with no windows or visitors. We can learn a lot about how language works, how form works, what structures can work for stories, by reading and experiencing many things. But how do we do this and still keep our fresh perspective – our own voices?

What we can do is…write. A lot.

Ggb in soap bubble 1If you’re a younger writer, writing now means that you’ve started a thread that will connect you to the writer you will be as an adult. For an adult, writing a lot gets the “junk” out of our systems, so we can uncover the pure shimmering connections to our former selves. We can write ourselves into to the world in which it’s fun to pop glass bubbles, where spiders’s legs are as fine as spun glass and tap dance skitter-skatter, where there’s beauty in wearing our helmets and where bicycles have invisible wings, where birdhouses are farms or fairy homes or as safe as warmth, and where dragons love rocks and pebbles make our planet, where we are both ourselves and baby turtles,and where adults and children are connected by words, and birds, and love.**

So, I say, go to it.  Go, you yourself, and write ~ ina

*by Darren Coyles, aged 7, first published in Children as Writers:21st Year 1979, republished in Beauty of the Beast, ed. Jack Prelutsky, Knopf, 1997

**All of these images came from the Brighter Light challenge entries. There are many more than I could list and each one is as wonderful.

Friday surprise: Music Made Of Words

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This blog post started out as something for our younger readers and writers. But then I had a conversation with my “DS” (darling son), while we were sitting at the kitchen table having a snack.

Me [ina]: I’m kind of freaking out trying to write a blog post for the kids who read In Our Books. I don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. I don’t even remember how I learned about poetry. I don’t remember anything these days! I hate getting old! Argh!

DS [looking toward ceiling]: Hm. You don’t remember what it’s like.

Me: I don’t. And I don’t even know how to introduce people to poetry. I mean, what is  a poem? Argh!

DS : You want to be helpful. [closes eyes and hums thoughtfully for several moments] Kids like what grown ups like [wanders to the sink to get a glass of water]. By the way, Mommy, a poem is just music made of words.

So now, this is  not a post for kids. This is  a post for everyone.

Calliope, the wonderful operonicon or steam car of the muses, advertising poster, 1874Every place and culture has music. Different people like different kinds of music; some people make music, others listen to it. Like poems – they are everywhere, and each of us hears them differently.

Some poems, like some music, have constant, repeated “meter” and “rhyme.” The meter is the rhythm of the poetry; rhymes are words that sound the same. Many poems in English have a repeated, steady rhythm:

de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM//
de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM

Kenyan dancers

These poems sometimes have end-rhymes at the end of lines. End-rhymes are when later parts of the words sound the same. Those same-sounding words come at the ends of lines. For example:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

[by Ogden Nash, “The Cow,” Free Wheeling, 1931]
If this is a kind of poetry you like, there are many poets who wrote poems like this:

  • Jack Prelutsky (he writes lots of books of poems, but one of my favorites is My Dog May Be A Genius)
  • Shel Silverstein (many people love Where The Sidewalk Ends)
  • For more old-fashioned poems (though with a lower silliness quotient), the author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote the first set of poems I happened to memorize as a child myself, A Child’s Garden of Verses
  • Spot, our Bustopher Jones

    Spot, our Bustopher Jones

    My DS’s favorite book of poems is by a poet who wrote almost nothing for children. TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is so well-loved that it has been made into a musical play called “Cats.” One of my favorite poems is about a cat named Bustopher Jones, mostly because we have a cat just like him

There are other poets who wrote rhymed and metered poems for kids but who are loved by people of all ages; look for Dr. Seuss, Charlotte Zolotow, Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling.

Hamakoi Dance Festival 2009 at the Yokohama Sogo department storeSome poems are more “free-form” – people call this “less structured.” Many poems “for adults” and many poems written by poets who usually write for adults are poems that just need a listening ear – whether that ear is young or old, big or small, for the flow of the song to become obvious.

Some places to start might be:

    • The great American poet William Carlos Williams, who was also a doctor and wrote many of his best poems on the pads in which he could give medicine prescriptions for his patients. A favorite: The Red Wheelbarrow. When you read this, how does it sound? What does it remind you of? How does it make you feel inside?
    • Valerie Worth’s Animal Poems are for everyone. She writes about little things like crickets in a way that makes us understand how big those little things are
    • Ted Hughes was known as a poet for adults, but he did write many poems for children which have been made into a book, Collected Poems for Children

Here’s another lovely poem by Hughes:

If you’d like to try reading several different poets, to find out what sorts of poems you like, there are some wonderful English-language collections to try:

800px-Childart11Slovakia5Why am I spending so much time talking about poems to read? Perhaps it is because I learned to write – to find my own songs – by reading the songs of others. But I will stop here, and I hope that all our fellow writers, young and old, will tell us : what poems would you want to share with other writers? which poets would you recommend for people starting out their poem-ing life?

A directory of our teams

ChildAdultSunWe’re having a lovely time here with Andrea’s Brighter Light challenge. For those of you on a team or who have been following along, we’ve created a directory of all the teams (I’ve added links that teams have suggested that show something about where they’re from; if you’ve given me a link to your team’s blog, I’ve posted that as well). You can search this directory at any time to remind yourself about who is on a given team and where they hail from.

Oh, and challenge participants: if there’s a link I missed or you’d like to add, just let me know. Also, there’s a copy pinned to the Notice Board so you can remind yourself about any of the teams at any time ~ ina

Brighter Light teams

1. The Seasons
Ina and son Kash
San Francisco Area, California, US
http://baytrail.abag.ca.gov/vtour/map3/access/Btpalto/Btpalto.htm

2. Sunshine Elves
Amanda and daughter
Queensland, Australia
http://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/

3. The Yellow Ninjas
Mariya and daughter Silviya
Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria

http://bulgariatravel.org/en/official_tourism_portal/

4. The Brothers Dragonosaurus
Sharon and her two grandsons (J-JAR 1.5 and J-JAR 3.5)
Alberta, Canada
http://dragonsareus.blogspot.ca/

5. The Awesome Earworms.
Linda H and her daughter
the Rems-Murr-Kreis in Germany
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rems-Murr-Kreis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabia

6. The Erie Dearies
Marie Elena and her granddaughter Sophie
Lake Erie area, Toledo, OH

7. Icicles
Guðríður and her son Þorlákur
From Akureyri in northern Iceland
http://www.iceland.is/
http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/akureyri/

8. The Sparkly Snowflakes
Pearl and her grand girls (!) Halle Lynn and Rori Cate
Lido Beach, New York and Newton, Massachusetts, US

http://sparklysnowflakes.blogspot.com/

9. The Chain Letters
JLynn, her son and many other helper-elves!
Chain O’Lakes area, Illinois, US
http://www.pbase.com/gerdakettner/chain_olakes_state_park

10. Alabama Tarheels
Nancy and Alyssea
Hickory, North Carolina and Florence, Alabama; USA

11. The Vikings
Søs and Ingrid
From Denmark

http://bronshojbasket.dk/cms/ShowContentPage.aspx?ContentPageID=25

12. Pragon
Claudette and Sidse
Northern Rocky Mountains, US and Sejer Island, Denmark

http://trailinginspirations.wordpress.com/

http://www.sejeroeskole.skoleintra.dk/Infoweb/Designskabelon7/Rammeside.asp?Action=&Side=&Klasse=&Id=&Startside=&ForumID=

13. The Northstar Wolves
Michele and her daughters Mikayla and Samantha
Minnesota, US
http://www.exploreminnesota.com/index.aspx

14. Queen Flower and the Princesses Sugar
Jacqueline and her two daughters
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

http://maccandace.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/enchanted-by-encanto/

http://www.go-arizona.com/Phoenix/Photos-Videos/
http://www.phxtaco.com/

15. The Poetry Writers

Barbara and her student Raybert

Stamford, CT, US

Beautiful Stamford (Google Image Search)

Parent and child of elephas namadicus

A little Friday surprise: Talk to me

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Confidences

Last month  I was looking for a particular ee cummings poem. And in the middle of the search, I ran across an archive of cummings reading his own work. Like this: love is thicker than forget. Since then, I’ve searched all over for poets reading their own works. I particularly love Fishouse Poems, which archives recordings of emerging poets. There’s an amazing poem by Amaud Johnson which you have to hear. Turns out there are archives all over the net of people reading amazing works. Of their own. Wow.

A poet we’ve interviewed on this very blog, Jay Sizemore, has posted some recordings of his poems on youtube. It’s an amazing experience listening to them – it’s not that the poems are better spoken, but different. I get different things out of using my ears than my eyes. I think we all do. I want to do a search sometime soon for youtube videos of people signing poems in ASL (which I don’t know much of, but a tiny bit) – I think I will learn a lot.

Charles Dickens, public reading, 1867It is good to read one’s draft poems aloud. It’s like getting several months away from them, it’s that fresh. All the slightly wrong notes are obvious; all the truly “on” moments stand out in great beauty.

If you find that you like reading your poems, there are not only open mics where you can speak your word in public but there are journals that will publish your works…in audio. These venues range from the multicultural spoken word standard, Visions With Voices, to the multi-media-friendly new magazines like shuf that include audio works. I’m thinking sometime that IOBs might want to try publishing audio works too.

So my thought for Friday? Let’s talk. 

A little “tech info” for Brighter Light teams!

Hi Everyone,

If you’re in one of Brighter Light January challenge teams, I thought I’d pass a little info on to you about how our Notice Board works, so those of us (and I include myself here – I’m totally winging this) who are less tech-savvy can navigate the board easily.

1) I’ve started a thread for each team. A “thread” is just a fancy way of saying that it’s a discussion or set of posts with a particular theme. In this case, your thread is the place where you can post your finalized poems and where others can go to read your poems and cheer you on!

2) To post a poem, just reply to the first post in the thread (the one I put up; its subject is “Brighter Light: [your team name] “. You can leave the subject as is, or you can change it to the title of your poem, or what prompt you’re referring to; please make sure though that it’s in reply to your team’s first post so that Andrea can know whose team wrote it!

3) To post a comment on someone else’s poem (we all like to cheer one another on, I know!), you can hit the reply button on the posted poem so it will indicate which poem you’re commenting on.

4) If you’re joining us late (I know some people are and we can’t wait to have you come on in!), just drop me an email or comment with your team title and so on, so we can get you started!

If you have a technical issue while we’re going through all this please just drop me a comment or a note through the Contact Us page. I should mention that I’m actually typing this while “under medical care” (read: don’t even ask) – I’m FINE but I’m moving a bit slowly and getting interrupted a lot, so it might take me a bit to get back to you; I apologize for any delays
Have fun, everyone! And VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Don’t forget: Sign up for the Brighter Light poeming challenge!

Cibiel courtHello, Dear Readers,

Andrea has created a wonderful challenge for us in the new year – find your favorite kid and sign up through the blog post at this link for our Brighter Light poeming month. A great chance to get a young person involved with writing, creative expression and poetry and to develop your relationship in a new way.
Johann Georg Trautmann (attr) Alte Frau mit Knaben bei Kerzenlicht
We hope you’ll join us for a wonderful month of creating poems and community and adding light to the winter days ~ ina

Monday coffee: In which I celebrate many things

My family celebrates a lot of winter holidays.We’re pretty muchPopof in celebratory mode from November 1st until January 2nd. After which, I spend the next few weeks putting away candles, sweeping up the confetti and  trying to remember where I’ve put the spare keys.

We celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving, Diwali, Chanukah,Christmas and the New Year. I used to celebrate both Kwanzaa and Yule, but the loved ones for whom these were special holidays now live far away so I can’t celebrate with them except in thought.

Today I have something new to celebrate. Remember the Burning the Midnight Oil contest which Andrea helped so many of us enter? While people were submitting their poems, Andrea showed me a poem she’d written and was thinking about submitting. I cried a little when I read it – poems about the realities of war always make me sad and this poem is vivid, short, and ends with – well, a short line that just tried to tear my heart right out of my chest.

I am so delighted that her poem “The Grass is Green” won*.

This also delights me: the top 10 poems and the hon. mentions included a lot of people who hang out with us at this blog, including (but not limited to, and please forgive me if I missed your name) Linda Hofke, Sara McNulty, SE Ingraham, and Mariya Koleva.

To celebrate the gift of others’ voices is something I find myself wanting to do more and more often. I wonder if, as one writes more and more, one appreciates the good writing (the good reading!)  of others more. Regardless, congratulations to Andrea and to the others in the contest : what a  lovely way to head toward a new year ~ ina
Cone and holly

*I am waiting to hear if Andrea’s poem will be posted at Write Helper. If not, I will certainly ask her if i can share it here.