Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Unexpected Surprise

Lovely summer day,
I behold your beauty.

Blue skies and sunshine-

Family around me-

Mussels and sangria-
Boats passing by.

And me recounting 42 years.

42 Years and County.

Summer day,
As you folded into evening
An unexpected surprise
Bobbed up and down
Waiting for me.

Summer day then-
Summer day now-
I will never forget.
Today, is Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetic Explorations of the Bayou

Welcome to the 8th stop on poet Margaret Simon's Blog Tour for her beautifully designed book, Bayou Song, Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape. Presented like a naturalist's field guide, this book is filled with informational text, poetry, and follow-up creative ideas for both students and teachers

It is not often that I become immersed in the geography, landscape, and wildlife of an unfamiliar region but thanks to the voluminous research and poetic voice of Margaret Simon, the Louisiana Bayou has become more than just a geographic location or a song, "Blue Bayou", by Linda Rondstadt. I invite you to join me as I showcase a gem of a poetry book that provides an in-depth study of the Louisiana Bayou Teche environment. Margaret Simon's poetic voice fills the pages with sights and sounds from the Bayou. Different poetry formats are introduced throughout the book, creating a guide for students and poetry lovers. In addition, Anna Cantrall's artwork and Henry Cancienne's photographs encourage the reader to create their own artistic expressions in the Write It and Sketch It sections. 

Poetry by Margaret Simon
Photography by Henry Cancienne
Illustrations by Anna Cantrell
Published by University of Louisana at Lafayette Press (June 2018)

I am featuring two sections of Margaret's book: "Wisteria" and "Bayou Teche" that flow from informational text to poetry to hands-on activities for writing and sketching. These samples illustrate what the book offers: an engaging and creative entry into the writing of poetry, even for beginners. 

While knowing that Margaret is a lover of language and a believer in the power of the poetic word, I was deeply moved by the depth of her project. Below are three questions I posed to Margaret to provide insight into her writing journey.

Margaret, how do your natural surroundings impact your writing?
The natural environment completely informs my writing.  As I write this response, I can hear birds calling.  I heard the "Who cooks for you" owl early this morning.  Living in nature makes me more curious, so I did research on all the animals and plants that I featured in the book.  The research was fun and not only helped me write but also helped me see my environment more clearly.
How did you decide which poetic forms/craft moves you would use?
I learn and take inspiration from other poets. Practically each poem has its origin in another poet's idea.  I steal like an artist. You will recognize forms from Emily Dickinson to J. Patrick Lewis.  Some are not as recognizable.  "There is Always" is a repeated line that I borrowed from Jane Yolen.  "I am a Beckoning Brown Bayou" came from an exercise on Allan Wolf's website.  In my experience, the poem will tell me the form it needs to be.  Form comes naturally and helps make a poem say what it wants to say. 
The quote from George Sand, "The whole secret of the study of natures lies in learning how to use one's eyes...," speaks to me about your process of observation and attention to detail. Do you feel that this statement aligns itself with your beliefs about the writing process?
Mary Oliver said, "Instruction for living a life. / Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it." Poetry tells about that astonishment. I hope with Bayou Song to take others on a journey through the bayou, to notice, to see, and to appreciate the natural world we live in."
Bayou Song is one of those books worthy of many reads and afterthought reflections. Margaret Simon has provided a window into her world of the Bayou Teche to help others become more aware of their natural surroundings. As Shakespeare said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Margaret's mission lives up to Shakespeare's quote.

I'm ready to draft some poems using formats from the book to illustrate my Long Island beach world. I hope you join me by using Margaret's book as a mentor text to connect your environment to the South Louisiana landscape.

One of today's readers will be offered a free give away by poet author, Margaret Simon. Those who live in the continental USA and respond to this blog via the comment box will be included in the raffle. The deadline for responding is Sunday, July  29, 2018.


To read more exciting posts about Margaret Simon’s debut children’s poetry book, Bayou Song, follow the blog tour. 

Friday, June 22: Michelle Kogan
Tuesday, June 28: Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Friday, June 29: Ruth Hersey at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town
Friday,  July 6: Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes
Friday, July 13: Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Tuesday, July 17: Laura Shovan
Tuesday, July 24: Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy
Friday, July 27: Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink
Monday, July 30 Linda Baie at  Teacher Dance
Friday, Aug. 3 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters 


Now it is time for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Please stop over at my fellow poet, Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core who is showcasing Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's newly published book, Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. Like Catherine, I am excited and honored to have a poem included in this new addition to the Poetry Friday Anthology® Series.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Summer Golden Shovel

It is summertime and who doesn't love to see the summer beaming forth with its natural beauty. In honor of summertime joy, I found a beautiful poem by John Clare to read, reread, and to create a Golden Shovel poem from one line of Clare's poem.

I Love to See the Summer Beaming Forth

I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wildf lowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lilies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o'er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insect happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play
Lifting the line, "I love to see the summer beaming forth," I created a Golden Shovel poem where the ending word of each line represents each word of the quote.

In days of heated stillness, I
Breathe in earth's summertime love,
Gaze at azure skies with hope to
View the world with wide eyes that see
The natural beauty of life this summer,
That savor life-living moments beaming 
With peace so I may joyfully go forth.
©CV, 2018 


Today is Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. Travel with me there and add a Golden Shovel poem if you would like to create one with the line I lifted from Clares' poem.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Celebrate Zen Moments

Did it really take a car accident, to slow me down, encourage me to keep an even keel, and remind me to celebrate life living moments in a zen-like way? 

In trying to release the negative tension, I found a poem to ponder.

My Legacy
by Ryokan, Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf

My legacy —
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples
Of autumn...

With hope as my one word to guide my year, I opened my mind, heart, and being to be filled with zen moments of inner peace, happiness, joy, gratitude, awareness for living in the present. 

Some of my zen moments this week:
~ using a bit of humor in writing a blog post, It's Hot!
~ a leisurely drive with my husband to the Long Island Sound in Connecticut to attend a Scholastic Book Summit and while on the overnight trip, photographing a still moment 
~ observing nature 
~ virtually enjoying my grandbaby's first steps via a video

These simple life living moments allowed me to slow down to enjoy the present.
Happiness and peace were the rewards for savoring life's precious moments.

My legacy -
capturing nature-driven,
life living moments
to savor, write on the wind,
and let soar
so voice can rise
and fill life spaces with peace.
©CVarsalona, 2018

With this hopeful, reimagined life plan, I celebrate this week with Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu writing community. 

Please share your concept of the art of summering with me at #TheArtofSummering
for a summer gallery of artistic expressions. 
Below are recent nature photographs sent to me.

These delightful life living moment stills invite you express yourself poetically.
Are you interested in penning a poem to accompany one of these photos?

Friday, July 20, 2018

One Afternoon: Then and Now

As I looked out over the Long Island Sound from the Connecticut shore a few days ago, I noticed how still it appeared. The sky had an azure tint with soft clouds floating like cotton balls. The water surrounding the sleek sailboats rippled ever so slightly. It was if nature had taken a paint brush to enhance the scene. Through the magic of digital tools, I was able to transform the marina scene into one that an artist might envision.

Intrigued by the area, I researched poetry written about the Long Island Sound and found the following, beautifully-crafted poem by Emma Lazarus. It may have been written from her family's summer cottage where poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lazarus' mentor, was a visitor. Through Lazarus' words, I was able to see Long Island Sound from her 19th century perspective.

Long Island Sound
by Emma Lazarus

I see it as it looked one afternoon 
In August,—by a fresh soft breeze o’erblown. 
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon, 
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon. 
The shining waters with pale currents strewn, 
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove, 
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove. 
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.
I shall study Lazarus' format in the days to come to write a poem about the Long Island Sound as a comparison to what Lazarus saw.  If anyone of my poet friends can shed light on the format, other than enjambment, that Lazarus used for this poem, I would be interested. While the poem looks like it is a sonnet, it has a different type of rhyme scheme.
In the meantime, I will travel to my poet friend, Heidi Mordhorst's blog site, "my juicy little universe," where she is describing her week-long professional development in Chicago at the Summer Poetry Teachers' Institute.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It's Hot!

Summer heat lays heavily this morning. 
Instead of an energetic beginning of the day, there was a lethargic feeling. 


Long dog days,
   Marked by record heat, come as

Early-arrival weather,
   Scorching and sizzling.

Todders run with  glee,
   Shouting, "It's hot."

Heat continues all day,
   Slowing down life's pace but

Ants continue to scurry-
   Heat resistant critters.

Riled by the heat wave,
   Residents up their air conditioning,

Gauge their temperament 
   By the thermometer, and 

Yearn for cooling rain
   To regain energy levels.


Tips to Beat the Heat!

Not only stay hydrated and cool, eat lots of greens, but give yourself a treat.
It's National Ice Cream Month!


The above poem is a modification of an acrostic poem. 
The first letter of each stanza spells out the poem's subject.

It's Slice of Life Tuesday. Join me at Two Writing Teachers.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Expecting the Good

Life is fragile and uncertain and it only takes a few seconds to have it turned upside down. Two days ago, on an ordinary summer day, I felt the wind knocked out of me as I faced a surrealistic experience that left me shaken and in flux. 


There was not a single sound in my neighborhood as I started the car to pick up my son at work. It was just an ordinary summer day, the kind in which I should have been in slow down mode. Distracted, I reached for a cherry, unaware that this would be the catalyst for a chain of events that turned a sunny day into a nightmarish experience. 


It was quick. I watched in horror as I was hurled forward and quickly thrown back. A loud sound shocked me into reality - I hit a tree! In a stupor, I grasped for my phone to call my husband. Neighbors came rushing out. Tears streamed. Disbelief! In a few minutes, my husband was by my side along with police medics and firemen. Pain shot out from different parts of my body as I was immobilized and whisked away. 


Upon arrival at the medical center, I was quickly transported from the ambulance to the hospital trauma center. A team of specialists, similar to what you see on a medical TV show, hovered over me trying to ascertain what I felt and how best to handle the situation. 

"What happened?  What do you remember?"

It was then that I realized it was Friday the 13th and voiced it to make light of the situation. The lead doctor comforted me as the team spoke about the number of car accidents that happened. I paused to remain strong in faith and expect the good! 


It only takes seconds to turn your life around. This thought kept running through my head as panic started to swell. Remember your breath, fight through the disbelief, expect the good played over and over in my mind as my stretcher moved from the trauma center to the catscan and into xray. I held onto my faith, thankful for the team of diligent and caring medical professionals. Facing all of this was difficult but feeling supported eased the sting of the pain.


Day 2: 
I lay here reflecting on yesterday's chain of event. 
I think of the life lessons I learned: 
-Be mindful. 
-Remain in the present at all times.
-Do not be distracted by other thoughts. 
-Remain calm-remember my yoga breath. 
-Continue to be faith-filled and hopeful.
-Always wear a seat-belt (it was the belt that protected me)

Next, I read July 13's inspiration from my "God Calling" book and realize how serendipitous and comforting the thought, "Expect the Good,"  is. 

"Can you get the expectant attitude of faith? Not waiting for the next evil to befall you but awaiting with a child's joyful trust the next good in store." - A.J. Russell 

I walked away from yesterday's a horrible experience understanding that faith carried me through a nightmarish Friday the 13th and that I need to make some life changes


With an Important Message

"Happy Be Careful for the Rest of Your Life Day"


Day 3:
Today, I am thankful that I have no broken bones and no negative prognosis. My body is sore as to be expected but Ibuprofen helps. What doesn't help is that I keep replaying the accident to the point of having continuous nightmares. What I need to do is to not dwell on the accident and find peace with what happened. That is difficult but I must remember to always expect the good with a hopeful heart and a positive attitude. This is an important step on the road to change.  


At the end of this unexpected series of weekend events, I celebrate the act of expecting the good in life with Ruth Ayres' community of writers, Celebrate This Week

Friday, July 13, 2018

Giving and Receiving

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”

Mark Twain's inspirational quote above is one that applies to how I feel about the Poetry Friday community. Among the poets, there are joyful conversations and rich poetry; there are poetry swaps that extend friendship and encourage creativity, and there are digital inspirations, image poems offered for my galleries of artistic expressions. Joy abounds at Poetry Friday every Friday and is exchanged in the process of giving and receiving.

As a curator of artistic expressions, I continually promote the uplifting of voice around the globe in hopes of spreading poetry love. I encourage others to take gallery walks into serenity each season through the galleries I create. This week with passion and pride I unveiled my Sense-sational Spring Gallery with one hundred and ten voices that included bloggers, poets, writers, artists, photographers, and students. 

The Poetry Friday community was the biggest supporter of this gallery so I am grateful to all my fellow poets who with grace, resolve, and creativity provided their poetic thoughts. Many thanks are extended to the following poets for their individual image poems and/or their contributions to the 2018 Progressive Poem.


2018 Summer Poetry Swap
Created and facilitated by Tabatha Yeatts

Image result for 2018 summer poetry swap yeatts

I am the lucky recipient of a wonderfully hand-crafted, paper crafting gift from my poet pal, Linda Mitchell (whom I have been eagerly awaiting a meet-up when I visit my grandbaby in Virginia). She included four poems, one for each season, under each delicate paper collage that she created. The summer poem will grace The Art of Summering Gallery and the others will be shown throughout the year. 

Being a fan of hand-crafted products, I have to say Linda outdid herself with this poetry swap. Each one of her poems was equally beautiful in their design and sentiment and all followed the format that is shown above. 

Beside this packet of four Etsy-like, paper craft, poem surprises, there was a glossy poetry postcard with a poem titled "Flight Plan" and a hand-written note on the back: 
Carol, I'm so enjoying some paper crafting for our poetry exchange. I just had to write about the seasons for you. Linda Mitchell

Linda captured the spirit of giving and I enjoyed the fruits of her labor. Referring back to the Twain quote, I received the full value of joy of this week by providing a gallery walk into serenity at Sense-sational Spring Gallery and receiving an amazing poetry swap gift. 


To round off joyful thoughts this Friday, you can join me at Sylvia Vardell's blog, Poetry for Children, where she is beaming with pride over the release of the book she and Janet Wong have published.

I am eager to read through this book because I believe it is going to change the concept of principals' morning announcements. With this book in hand, principals will be able to provide a poetic lens into the people and places in schools that contribute to joyful education. I am proud and honored to be included as one of the 50+ poets who contributed to this book and will be one of the bloggers on the Great Morning Blog Tour. 

Beyond the poems that were written, Janet and Sylvia have added "Did You Know" and "Follow Up" paragraphs so that principals can easily prep for the Poetry Friday announcement. There is even a sample read aloud by Principal Steven Wilfing of Stony Brook Elementary School in Pennington, New Jersey included in the form of a short video. What can be more fun than to arrive at school this fall and listen to Great Morning poems read by the principal who is the lead modeler in the school? Thank you Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.