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.

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