Thursday, September 25, 2014

September DMC Wrap-Up + Giveaway



At the beginning of this month, Irene Latham challenged us to "go wild" writing a poem of address– animal to animal, animal to some other part of the natural world (moon, tree, lake...), or natural world to animal.

Well, it happened again.  The difficulty of this monthly challenge took me by surprise.
Write a poem of address, how hard can that be?  I talk to animals and inanimate objects all the time! 
Hmm... maybe you didn't need to know that.
Somehow I missed that Irene was not asking me to do the talking at all.  What Irene was challenging us to do was actually a three step process:

      1. Get into the head of an animal or some other part of the natural world.  
What is it like?  What would it say?  How does it think or feel? 
If you wrote a poem at this stage, from the perspective of your chosen subject, it would be a mask poem.  But Irene asked us to go further.
      2. Who does that animal or part of the natural world have a relationship with 
           (ie, another animal or aspect of nature)? 
What is the relationship? How do the two interact? What are the dynamics of the relationship like?
      3. Now you can write a poem where your chosen animal or part of the natural 
           world speaks to the other in the relationship.

I heartily congratulate everyone who found their way through this process and thank you for sharing your creative results! (And thanks again to Irene for such a thought-provoking challenge!)





It's time I let the poems do the talking.

Here are September's poems of address:



 

DOG PARK TREE APOSTROPHE

Hello, Tree.
Thank you for your upright trunk—
it’s fabulous to sniff.

I love that I don’t have to beg,
when I line you up against my leg
…..and lift.

© 2014 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.


                                        ROBIN AND KAT

                                        Robin, oh robin how sweetly you sing,
                                        A lyric of springtime
                                        Awakens the morn.
                                        Robin, oh robin enticing, your beauty,
                                        Enlighten the Earth
                                        As sunlight is born.
                                        Robin, oh robin you preen and you wallow,
                                        As you bathe in the water
                                        By the wood at the pond.
                                        Robin, oh robin preparing for flight,
                                        Through  meadows and valleys
                                        And pastures beyond.
                                        Robin, oh robin come set in the garden,
                                        And tantalize nature
                                        With plumage so rare.
                                        Robin, oh robin gaze into my eyes,
                                        As we lose our self-conscious
                                        In hypnotic stare.
                                        Robin, oh robin you captivate senses,
                                        With feathers of satin
                                        And breast plump and red.
                                        Robin, oh robin a statue you stand,
                                        As Queen Aphrodite
                                        With muse in your head.

                                                                                    Hmmmm…

                                                                                    GULP

                                                                                    You’re tasty too!

                                        © 2014 Jan Gars. All rights reserved.


OAK FLYER FOUND IN NEARBY WOODS

The summer has flown with your babies.
You’re wondering where you will go.
If you aren’t flying south for the winter,
then visit my open house show.

Come make your home in my branches.
You’ll find splendid places for nests.
I’ve crooks in the limbs for construction.
Please consider moving in as my guests.

I don’t drop my leaves in the autumn;
you’ll keep warm through wintertime chills.
I’m the best boarding house in the forest.
Opening arms to the chirps, cheeps and trills.

© 2014 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.


                                        DR. PLOVER, DDS

                                        Crocodile,
                                        open wide:
                                        it’s check up time!
                                        I’ll come inside
                                        to see if you have
                                        tooth decay—
                                        bits of flesh
                                        I’ll eat away.
                                        It seems you haven’t
                                        flossed of late.
                                        That’s good news—
                                        you’re doing great!
                                        Okay, my friend,
                                        they’re good to crunch.
                                        See you next time—
                                        thanks for lunch!

                                        © 2014 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.


                                                                                  BLEEP BEEP, ANDROID DOG

                                                                                  Bleep beep, android dog
                                                                                  can you fetch a bone?
                                                                                  Yes sir, yes sir
                                                                                  before it’s even thrown!
                                                                                  Bleep beep, android dog
                                                                                  will you heel and speak?
                                                                                  Yes sir, yes sir
                                                                                  in Martian, French and Greek
                                                                                  Bleep beep, android dog
                                                                                  will you be my pet?                                                                                    No sir, no sir
                                                                                  I’m not invented yet!

                                                                                  © Carrie L. Clickard. All rights reserved.


PEPPERMINT'S GRATITUDE

My scent is sent
to salute you --

a clear cloud
of praise,

a tribute to you
for my roots,

stem,
and veins.

I push out --

my rough edges
reach for your rays,

striving to be
closer to you

all my days.

© 2014 Tabatha Yeatts. All rights reserved.


                                                             O’ NIGHTINGALE

                                                             O’ nightingale how sweetly doth thee sing
                                                             As weeping fragile limbs submit to old
                                                             Thoust warm my blood as porridge staving cold
                                                             Alas thou shalt depart on winter’s wing
                                                             Left hanging life a puppet on a string
                                                             Another moment not besieged by gold
                                                             Nor flight of fate sails sun to devil’s hold
                                                             As death approaching now to whit I cling
                                                             With springtime folly thence ye shall return
                                                             Thoust melody temps cure on deafened ears
                                                             Refreshing Earth from slumber with thy song
                                                             The pungent sound of harmony I yearn
                                                             Await rebirth enlightened by clouds’ tears
                                                             Withstanding just the icy winter long

                                                             © 2014 Jan Gars. All rights reserved.


THE VANE ROOSTER

A leghorn named Manley
The farmer Brown’s pride,
Looked up at the roof
And a rooster he spied.

Ahoy up there, mate,
Are you new to the farm?
I need a vacation,
Would you be the alarm?


The rooster was silent
But swayed back and forth.
This signal to Manley,
His cue to fly north.

Thank you, my friend
I promise you that
I’ll be back very soon.
And, watch out for the cat!


To New York I’m going
To play in the snow.
Please give farmer Brown
A five o’clock crow.


For three days and nights
Not a sound from his beak.
The farmer lay sleeping
The outlook was bleak.

Then Manley returned
To waken the day.
Why haven’t you crowed?
Have you nothing to say?


The rooster just stared                              
And did not make a sound.
He spun in the wind
Knocking Manley around.

Whether vane or a mute
I don’t understand,
But I must wake the farm.

My job is at hand.

Manley strutted and crowed
To raise them from sleep,
The farmer, the horses,
The cows, and the sheep.

The farmer exclaimed,
“What a rest we have had!
But Manley you’re back
And of this we are glad.”

© 2014 Jan Gars. All rights reserved.


Feeling inspired?  You have until Tuesday, 
September 30th, to write your poem of address.

Send it to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com 
or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.


Everyone who participates in this month's challenge will automatically be entered to win a personalized copy of Irene's new picture book, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST And Other Poems from the Water Hole. (One entry per participant, not per poem.)


Alternatively, you may earn an entry into the giveaway by commenting below.  If you contribute a poem and comment below you will earn two entries in total.  Comments must also be received no later than Tuesday, September 30th, 2014.

The winner will be determined by Random.org and announced next Friday, October 3rd, when we feature our new Spotlight ON interview and ditty challenge.

 Good luck!


Laura Purdie Salas is our host at the Poetry Friday water hole today.  Head over to Writing the World for Kids for this week's roundup.





DMC: "Peppermint's Gratitude" by Tabatha Yeatts




Peppermint's Gratitude

My scent is sent
to salute you --

a clear cloud
of praise,

a tribute to you
for my roots,

stem,
and veins.

I push out --

my rough edges
reach for your rays,

striving to be
closer to you

all my days.


© 2014 Tabatha Yeatts. All rights reserved.

Photo: Suzie's Farm


Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be accepted until September 30th, but stay tuned for the end-of-month wrap-up TOMORROW!  All participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DMC: "Bleep Beep, Android Dog" by Carrie Clickard



 
Bleep beep, android dog
can you fetch a bone?
Yes sir, yes sir
before it’s even thrown!
Bleep beep, android dog
will you heel and speak?
Yes sir, yes sir
in Martian, French and Greek
Bleep beep, android dog
will you be my pet?
No sir, no sir
I’m not invented yet!


© Carrie L. Clickard. All rights reserved.


Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be included in an end-of-month wrap-up on September 26th and all participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:





Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DMC: "Dr. Plover, DDS" by M. H. Barnes




Dr. Plover, DDS

Crocodile,
open wide:
it’s check up time!
I’ll come inside
to see if you have
tooth decay—
bits of flesh
I’ll eat away.
It seems you haven’t
flossed of late.
That’s good news—
you’re doing great!
Okay, my friend,
they’re good to crunch.
See you next time—
thanks for lunch!

© 2014 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.




Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be included in an end-of-month wrap-up on September 26th and all participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:





Monday, September 22, 2014

DMC: "Oak Flyer Found In Nearby Woods" by Linda Baie




Oak Flyer Found In Nearby Woods

The summer has flown with your babies.
You’re wondering where you will go.
If you aren’t flying south for the winter,
then visit my open house show.

Come make your home in my branches.
You’ll find splendid places for nests.
I’ve crooks in the limbs for construction.
Please consider moving in as my guests.

I don’t drop my leaves in the autumn;
you’ll keep warm through wintertime chills.
I’m the best boarding house in the forest.
Opening arms to the chirps, cheeps and trills.
 

© 2014 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.


Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be included in an end-of-month wrap-up on September 26th and all participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:





Thursday, September 18, 2014

Limerick Alley: Liana Mahoney



So happy to welcome Liana Mahoney to Limerick Alley!  Especially since she has some wonderful news that I'll share with you in just a bit. 

The limerick she's brought with her today is based on a true story:

                         I once found a toad (gentle creature!)
                         that was cursed with a sad, sickly feature:
                         his armpits were stowing
                         blood-suckers, and unknowing,
                         that guy was a poor double-leecher.

                         © 2014 Liana Mahoney. All rights reserved.

Photo: Katie Fuller

In case you didn't entirely catch the plot, I'll let Liana fill in the details:
My son found a toad that had a full leech under each of its armpits, and we rescued it. (Used a match to remove the leeches.) We do this sort of thing here all the time: rescue turtles from the road, save caterpillars, relocate salamanders....  We are a nature-loving family who values the idea of looking at nature up close, and that was the basic premise for my picture book FOREST GREEN.

What's that you say?  A new picture book? 


Isn't it a thing of beauty!  Just look at that gorgeous cover by illustrator, Maggie Henry.  Not that I have anything against toads with leeches under their armpits, mind you.  They can be beautiful too... if you look at them the right way.  But I think you'll agree that toads don't have that same lovely, new book smell.

From Amazon.com:
At first glance, the Adirondack forest is lush with green leaves. But look closer and you will see forest green in the wings of luna moths and the songs of the katydids. What else is there to see on a walk through the woods? Splashes of color paint the forest's canvas through the seasons. Take a walk through the pages of this book, where the true colors of the Adirondack woodlands show themselves in beautiful and surprising ways.

Liana's appreciation for the beauty of the forest and all of its creatures is rivaled only by her skills as a patient observer, a poet, and an elementary teacher.  Who better to take all of those observations and bundle them together in a rhyming, circular story for children.

Oh, and did I mention that Liana is patient?  Well, it's worth mentioning again.  Released by North Country Books this past July 30th, FOREST GREEN: A WALK THROUGH THE ADIRONDACK SEASONS was a long time coming.  You can read the whole crazy story about how this book finally came to fruition (after six!! years) on Laura Sassi Tales

Congratulations, Liana!  And thank you for bringing your gentle, nature-loving ways to Limerick Alley.

One last reminder before you go hopping about today's Poetry Friday offerings: please send me your poem of address in response to Irene Latham's September DMC challenge. With just one week to go before the end-of-month wrap-up, I'd love to see (and feature) more of your wonderful poems!  (I will be sharing mine this coming Tuesday.)  DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST is a truly magical collection of children's poetry.  Wouldn't it be great if you could win yourself a personalized copy?  All participants will be entered into a random drawing at the end of this month. 

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm.







Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DMC: "Robin and Kat" by Jan Gars




Robin and Kat


Robin, oh robin how sweetly you sing,
A lyric of springtime
Awakens the morn.
Robin, oh robin enticing, your beauty,
Enlighten the Earth
As sunlight is born.
Robin, oh robin you preen and you wallow,
As you bathe in the water
By the wood at the pond.
Robin, oh robin preparing for flight,
Through  meadows and valleys
And pastures beyond.
Robin, oh robin come set in the garden,
And tantalize nature
With plumage so rare.
Robin, oh robin gaze into my eyes,
As we lose our self-conscious
In hypnotic stare.
Robin, oh robin you captivate senses,
With feathers of satin
And breast plump and red.
Robin, oh robin a statue you stand,
As Queen Aphrodite
With muse in your head.

                                              Hmmmm…

                                              GULP

                                              You’re tasty too!


© 2014 Jan Gars. All rights reserved.


Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be included in an end-of-month wrap-up on September 26th and all participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Laura Shovan: Why I Hate Rhyme


http://theawkwardyeti.com/about/


I'm delighted to offer another entertaining and informative post from TLD Contributor, Laura Shovan.  Thank you, Laura, for sharing your insight and experience with us again today!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I hate rhyme.

Rhymes are pleasing to the ear, so when we first think one up our reaction is: “Wow! That sounds great!” We are so chuffed with our rhyme, we want to keep going. Which is the problem.

Those who write poetry or picture books for the children’s market know that many editors and agents specify “no rhyming text.” At writing conferences, editors and agents warn would-be poets that rhyme is extremely hard to sustain.

Why all the fuss? Creating rhymes is natural. It’s part of how we learn to speak, read, and write—matching words that have a similar sound. Rhyme is featured not only in poetry, but in the songs we hear on the radio, advertising jingles, even in common sayings like “He’s the man with the plan.”

For today, I’d like to focus on the elementary school writing workshop, where I encourage students to skip the rhyme and just write.

Let’s think about the task of rhyming in a poem. What exactly is involved?  I’m going to make up a silly poem about my dog to demonstrate.
Sam the big bow-wowzer

Sam is a Schnauzer,
a big bow-wowzer.

My opening rhyme sounds good and I think it’s pretty funny. Plus, Sam does bark a lot (we’re working on it), so the poem is true to my experience.

Now I have to make a decision. Am I going to go with an AABA rhyme scheme or AABB?

Attempt 1 (AABA):
Sam is a Schnauzer,
a big bow-wowzer.
When it comes to dogs
there’s no one louder. (near rhyme, but pretty lame)

Attempt 2 (AABB):
Sam is a Schnauzer,
a big bow-wowzer.
His eyebrows are fluffy
and his nose is stuffy.

Sam’s nose isn’t really stuffy. But it’s a great rhyme, isn’t it!?

This is the beginning of my poem’s downfall. Where an experienced poet might work come up with a better line (“And his beard is scruffy,” e.g.), an emerging writer will plow ahead, valuing the rhyme itself above the poem’s logic and meaning.

Of my two attempts, I like the second best. Let’s go for another couplet.
Sam is a Schnauzer,
A great big bow-wowzer.
His eyebrows are fluffy
And his nose is stuffy.
He’s scared of the thunder
and so he hides under (Uh oh. I have an incomplete thought. Is that okay?)
my bed or a table (Good save. Phew. Yikes! What rhymes with “table?”)
or my big Aunt Mabel (I don’t have an Aunt Mabel, but it rhymes!)

I started out great, but now I’m struggling with ideas. And I’ve thrown meaning under the bus as long as I can keep up my rhyme.

There’s a reason why this is happening.

We are not just asking emerging writers to rhyme when we ask them to rhyme. Since a rhyme typically falls at the end of a line, we are asking students to aim for a specific sound—kind of like aiming at a target. Just as in archery, a young writer will become so focused on reaching that target at the end of the line that everything else will dissolve to the periphery. What gets lost in the process? Meaning, logic, and his or her naturally creative ideas.

That’s what happened in my second couplet. It began:
His eyebrows are fluffy

Then my brain focused on a good rhyme for “fluffy.” My first thought was “stuffy.”
His eyebrows are fluffy
…………………. stuffy

Now I have to go back and fill in whatever will get me to that target word. “And his nose is stuffy” isn’t true. Sam’s a really healthy dog. But it works for the rhyme.

The same thing happened with my fourth couplet. Starting with the idea that Sam hides underneath things when there is a thunder storm, I have:
My bed or a table

Again, my mind becomes focused on that target word, a rhyme for “table.” Instead of thinking about what actually happens when Sam is frightened, my first thought is the name “Mabel.” How can I hit that target?
My bed or a table
………………… Mabel.

Which becomes the line, “or my big Aunt Mabel.”

In reality, I don’t hate rhyme. Instead, I recognize that using rhyme in a poem is a complex task.

When I set out to write a poem this morning, my goal was to describe my dog. I have so many stories about his cute quirks.

If I’d given myself time to think about Sam’s fear of thunderstorms, my freewriting might have looked like this:
He shakes a lot and sometimes he runs down to the basement. Oh! I just remembered! He’s also afraid of fireworks, which my neighbors light whenever the Baltimore Ravens score a touchdown. In fact, Sam now runs downstairs when he notices we are watching a football game on TV. Smart fella!

Unfortunately, I didn’t include any of these great ideas, which give a real sense of Sam’s personality. My mind was so focused on rhyming, I never even thought about sharing these details.

When I’m visiting an elementary school classroom, I encourage students to write down all of their creative thoughts and forget about rhyming (at least in a first draft). Young writers aren’t experienced enough to realize that rhyme should serve the tone and meaning of a poem. It’s not the poem’s job to be a scaffold for a series of rhymes. The result will be something sing-songy, often with forced rhymes and lines that don’t make sense. (An example: the current pop song “Dark Horse.” Rapper Juicy J compares Katy Perry to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Not exactly romantic, but hey, it rhymes!)

If your students are really gung-ho about rhyming, encourage them to use a word bank. They will still be working hard to reach their target rhymes, but a word bank will give them options.

Let’s close with a poem that I use as a classroom model. Notice how rhyme works as an element of the poem, adding to the rhythm and tone, without taking precedence over the imagery or meaning.

Swift Things are Beautiful
     By Elizabeth Coatsworth

Swift things are beautiful:
Swallows and deer,
And lightning that falls
Bright-veined and clear,
Rivers and meteors,
Wind in the wheat,
The strong-withered horse,
The runner's sure feet.

And slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.



Laura Shovan is poetry editor for the literary journal Little Patuxent Review and of two poetry anthologies. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She works with young poets as a Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence. Her debut novel-in-verse for children, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, will be published in spring of 2016 (Wendy Lamb Books). Laura blogs about arts education at AuthorAmok.

Click HERE to read Laura's first post on Today's Little Ditty, "In Defense of Great Writers," where she challenges the presumption that a first grader's literary techniques are accidental.

If you read last week's spotlight interview with Irene Latham, you know that she's challenged us to write poems of address this month.  Did you see April Halprin Wayland's adorable doggie ditty earlier this week?  I hope you'll join in this month's challenge too!

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by the ever-effervescent Renée LaTulippe... although she's feeling a tad wistful today.  Please join her over at No Water River.





Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DMC: "Dog Park Tree Apostrophe" by April Halprin Wayland




Before I share today's little ditty by April Halprin Wayland, I should mention that poems of address are also known as apostrophe poems.  Clearly, April had fun with this one!


DOG PARK TREE APOSTROPHE

Hello, Tree.
Thank you for your upright trunk—
it’s fabulous to sniff.

I love that I don’t have to beg,
when I line you up against my leg
…..and lift.


© 2014 April Halprin Wayland, published with permission of the author, who controls all rights.


Irene Latham has challenged us to write a poem of address this month (click HERE for details). We'd love for you to join in! Send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Submissions will be included in an end-of-month wrap-up on September 26th and all participants will be entered to win a copy of Irene's beautiful new children's poetry collection:






Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spotlight on Irene Latham + DMC Challenge


IRENE LATHAM

Irene Latham is a Birmingham poet and novelist who writes heart-touching tales of unexpected adventure. Her debut historical novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND (Putnam/Penguin, 2010) is set in Alabama during the Great Depression and was awarded Alabama Library Association's 2011 Children's Book Award. Her second novel DON’T FEED THE BOY (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012) is about a boy who wants to escape his life at the zoo. Poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal, Irene has also authored several poetry collections, including her latest adult collection THE SKY BETWEEN US (Blue Rooster Press, 2014) and her debut poetry collection for children, hot off the press: DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST (Millbrook Press, 2014).

DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST
And Other Poems from the Water Hole
Millbrook Press, September 2014
ISBN: 978-1467712323
Find at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble,
or at your local independent bookstore.
Welcome wildebeest / and beetle, / Oxpecker and lion. / This water hole is yours. / It offers you oasis / beside its shrinking shores.

DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST AND OTHER POEMS FROM THE WATER HOLE introduces a variety of grassland creatures who frequent this life-sustaining water source.  Hesitating just long enough to satisfy their needs, Irene expertly captures them in poetry while Anna Wadham reflects them onto the page with a lush and inviting color palette.

The fifteen poems in this collection are as diverse as the animal life they represent.  Spare and evocative, serious and humorous,  rhyming and free verse, enlightening and engaging– all of these aspects come together to portray an accurate and vivid account of survival on the savannah. Each two-page spread also includes a brief prose description with just enough factual information to intrigue, without disrupting the the book's flow.

With starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus to whet our appetites last July, many of us Poetry Friday regulars have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST. I'm delighted to take part in this month's book launch festivities and proud to feature Irene as September's spotlight author!

As always, we'll start off the interview with a few favorites – a quick and dirty way to get to know Irene better. (Though not as dirty as, say, submerging oneself in a Kenyan water hole.)

Favorite color:
Purple. I have a February birthday, so I was born into the color. :)
Favorite vacation spot:
For many years my husband and I traveled to New York City every year. We love theater and art and good food and history. But we also love exploring the theater, art, good food, and history in small towns, so these days we take a lot of weekend trips. We also love National Parks! Obviously, it would never make sense for us to have a vacation home– we are explorers. :)
Favorite childhood memory:
For 5 years our family lived in Folsom, Louisiana, in a ranch-style house on a country road. The five of us kids spent whole days outside following the creek, exploring neighboring barns, and creating a wonderland out of the cow pasture on the farm across the street. We loved the movie THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and created our own Egypt by naming a giant oak Nefertari and a rocky knoll Ramesses. We caught crawdads and watched tadpoles grow to frogs and attached blankets to the ponies and rode them like chariots. I am so grateful for my siblings and those years on Willie Road.
Favorite teacher:
Mrs. Fattig, my third grade teacher. Her husband was a plumber, and she had a bathtub in her classroom. It was filled with pillows, and students were allowed to earn time in the bathtub. I loved reading in there!
Favorite writing quote:
“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something worth living for.” 
- Ray Bradbury
    
What inspires you to write for children, and how does it compare to your inspiration to write for adults?
Irene the Excavator
Writing, for me, is about discovery. My life and heart and mind become an excavation site, and what I am searching for is language and connection. When I write for children, I chip away at my younger self, the 2 and 7 and 9 year old that still lives inside me. I am inspired by my own childhood, my memories, and also by whatever I am experiencing in my current life – books, music, nature, art. The same things inspire my writing for adults, but the language and connections I find are different.

Can you give us a peek into your writing process? 
I used to think I needed big chunks of time to write – when I started out, my kids were small, and I only had 15 minute snatches. I used Dorothea Brande's BECOMING A WRITER to help train myself out of that limitation and other obstacles to the creative process. Now I can pretty much just sit down and instantly start writing. It's about trusting yourself – trusting the words are there, that your subconscious has been working away even as you've been doing laundry or driving kids to school or working a budget. We create a lot of our own hurdles. And I don't have time for hurdles. :)

Is your process the same whether you are writing poetry or prose, for children or for adults?
I find working in different genres for different audiences is like brain ballet. Lots of stretching, some amazing leaps and turns – sometimes a stumble and fall. I've developed a general habit of prose in the mornings, and poems in the afternoon. Of course I will drop anything when a poem calls... and poems are brilliant for helping get me unstuck when writing prose. On the flip side, I am constantly jotting ideas for poems in my Idea Notebook while working on novels. It works for me!

Where did the idea to write DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST come from and what do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I come from a family of photographers and have long loved the art form. So, when I discovered Greg du Toit's amazing photographs taken while he was submerged inside a Kenyan water hole, I just had to sit with them awhile and marvel. I hope my book leads others to those photographs – and to du Toit's story! He took risks for his art, and the results are stunning. THAT inspires me.
©Greg du Toit/Barcroft Media

Do you have a favorite spread from DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST?
I knew I wanted to include one of the many species of African antelope in the book, so I wrote poems on impala, springbok and Thomson's gazelle. I eventually settled on “Impala Explosion,” and I have loved that spread since Anna's earliest sketches. I spent some serious time gazing lovingly at that page. However, as we were proofing the book – after copyedits, just before press time – one of the readers at Millbrook Press questioned something in the nonfiction note. When I checked it, I found that the note still included information about a Thomson's gazelle! (Thomson's gazelles have a black side stripe; Impalas do not... and are most easily identified by the “m” shape on their bums.) Eeek! Talk about a last-minute correction. Thank goodness for editors!
It is a gorgeous spread! Jama Rattigan included "Impala Explosion" in her review of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST on Alphabet Soup last week. If you haven't already, make sure to leap over there and have a look.

Of all the animals that visit the water hole, which one do you identify with most? 
Lioness, After the Hunt. I am devoted to my pride and also hard-working – and I love naps! (Love how Anna's illustration shows the lioness sleeping with one eye open... I can relate to that, too. My eye is always open for new poems to write.)
DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, text ©Irene Latham, illustration ©Anna Wadham

            Lioness, After the Hunt

                    After the choosing,
                    after the chase,

                    after     rip
                                       claw
                                             tear–

                    after first taste.

                    Lioness lifts,
                    lopes

                    past rhino,
                    past antelope.

                    She crouches,
                    slouches,

                    savors favorite flavors,

                    and finally,
                                     finally
                                              dozes.

                    ©2014 Irene Latham. All rights reserved.


Can you tell us what’s coming up next for you?
I have two poetry books coming in 2016: FRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmer's Market (WordSong), will illustrations by Mique Miorichi; and my follow-up to WILDEBEEST is a collection set in Antarctica during the annual sunrise, with illustrations by Anna Wadham.
How exciting!  Looking forward to both of them!

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?
Love yourself.

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.
 
DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST contains several poems of address, like “Dear Wandering Wildebeest” and “Says Nightjar to the Stars.”

DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, text ©Irene Latham, illustration ©Anna Wadham

             Says Nightjar to the Stars

                    Yes, I claim ground
                    and you call sky.

                    Your signature is a twinkle,
                    while mine is a tititititit sigh.

                    You peer down
                    while I'm looking up.

                    When I hear a stampede,
                    you call it a hiccup.

                    I'm the preacher
                    in a plain, somber suit;

                    you're the robed choir
                    wearing shiny black boots.

                    Come, let's join the beasts
                    in thanks and in praise–

                    sing a song for the water hole
                    that sustains us night and day.

                    ©2014 Irene Latham. All rights reserved.       

Write your own poem of address... animal to animal (“Dear Wandering Wildebeest” is wildebeest to wildebeest), animal to some other part of the natural world (moon, tree, lake...), or natural world to animal. Unleash your imagination and go wild! :)
Thank you, Michelle, for having me, and for being such a positive force for poetry in the world. So happy to know you! xo
Aw shucks, Irene... the pleasure's all mine!

Okay, folks, you heard the nice lady.  Get your thinking caps on (and your galoshes, if necessary) and send your poems of address to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. Some contributions may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will be collected in one wrap-up post on Friday, September 26, 2014.  And how's this for a little extra incentive: Irene has graciously offered a personalized copy of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST to one lucky participant! A random drawing will take place at the end of the month.

I would also like to ask a favor of all my teacher friends and friends who know teachers.  Ditty of the Month Club challenges are wonderful opportunities for students to interact with some fabulous contemporary children's poets and authors while having fun trying out different poetry forms.  Please help me spread the word!  Even if it's not a classroom activity, please encourage interested students to give these challenges a go at home.

For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form.

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Before I announce the winner of August's Ditty of the Month Club giveaway, there were a couple of last minute entries you might want to check out.  Thanks again to Lori Degman for dishing up such a fun challenge, and, of course, to all of the DMC participants who stretched their punny, rhyming muscles!  Farmer McPeeper would be proud (if only he knew).

Random.org has determined that the winner of a personalized copy of COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! by Lori Degman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke is:

 COREY SCHWARTZ – congratulations Corey!


TLD contributor, Laura Shovan, has today's Poetry Friday roundup along with another terrific "Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse" pairing: the YA suspense novel, WE WERE LIARS, with a spooky, surreal poem by Margaret Atwood.  You can find her at Author Amok.