Friday, November 1, 2013


Poetry is....
A moment frozen
in time and words
that I remember
and you recognize
as truth
and reality
a tiny slice
of every one
and all life

Poetry is...
for us to notice
a word in the air
a phrase turned
just right

Poetry is...
the wiggle
the shimmer
the iridescent light
on what was
always there.

Poetry is essential.


I collect poems.

I receive poems daily in my inbox from a variety of sources. Through these sources. I have discovered wonderful poems that I would not have otherwise encountered.
Poems from these sources that truly speak to me, poems that I think I can use later with a prompt, poems that I want to imitate, or explore or analyze further or just savor again, I save in an email folder and document file on my computer--both labeled POETRY.

Poems that I find in journals that I must have forever, I tear out and file, or take a picture of it with my iPad for future use.

My personal collections of poetry.
My personal anthologies.
You may want to begin your own collection
I collect poems.

 I am thankful that others collect poetry.

Collections of poetry---gathering various styles, topics,  forms---are essential.

Sometimes we need  to find just the right poem for that speech, that presentation, that lesson, that quiet moment, that gift to a loved one.

I am always delighted to find new collections of poems for teaching, for sharing,  for living.

When I need a poem for any occasion, the first collection to which I turn is always Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach. Gathered here are eighty-eight poems by our favorite poets--Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Rumi,  Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins Wislawa Symborska and more and more--poems that sustain us when we forget why we are teaching, when the duties and doldrums threaten to drown us, when we need a reason to get up in the morning, and when we want words to celebrate our passion.

Each poem is submitted by a teacher along with a brief essay or statement about  the poem's significance in their personal and teaching lives.

This collection is a must have for anyone who teaches, writes... or exists.

When Billy Collins was the US Poet Laureate (2001-2003), he instituted the  Poetry 180 program, designed to put poetry back in our high schools.  The program provided 180 poems online to be read daily during morning announcements or another designated time of each day. Many of my favorite poets and poets are among his selected 180, but I also met many new poems through his 180.

A must-have companion to the online program is the related print anthology, Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry.  So popular were both the program and the anthology that a second anthology,180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day was released so that we could continue to bring poetry into our schools and to others daily.


In Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons, Nancie Atwell gathers 200+ poems recommended for Grades 6 on up. ( I have found them useful for everyone.) Her collection allows students to examine the power of poetry and poetry forms, as well as their own lives and lives of others,  growing up, objects, animals,  nature, senses, metaphors,  gender, and the  world.

Not only has she gathered thought-provoking and delightful poems to introduce to our writers, but with each poem also presents a 5-10 minute lesson including background information,  features to notice, reading response possibilities, and of course, suggestions for writing their own related or similar poem.

In addition, a Teacher's Guide and  DVD are included to support teaching poetry in the classroom or writing groups.

For younger children (again, I use with everyone) I recommend  Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) (A Poetry Speaks Experience), a gathering of 95 poems that will bring the magic of language to our youngest writers.  This collection is accompanied by a CD which includes 52 performances of the poems included, some by the poet, others by friends of poetry.

This essential collection delighted my students.  Is that poem in your book?  Is it on the CD? Can we hear it?

A  companion collection to Poetry Speaks to Children edited by Nikki Giovanni, Hip Hop Speaks to Children with CD: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience),brings poetry's rhymes and rhythms to children in 50 poems--from old school Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, to Kanye West and Queen Latifah to  classic Martin Luther King. Thirty of these poems and songs are performed on the accompanying CD.


One of the things I have discovered about collections is that  if I like the poet doing the collecting or editing, I usually like the poems they like and appreciate what they gather.

Each year in the fall, the best poems are collected in The Best American Poetry Series (as are the best stories and essays and other writings).  Each year the anthology is edited by a well-known poet(s). This is a must-purchase for poetry lovers.

Check past years to see if there is one edited by your favorite poet.

Poetry is essential.

Find a collection that you love, one you can dip into often.

Begin your own collection.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Which poems would you include in your personal collection of poems?
Which 10 or 20 or 50 poems would comprise your perfect anthology?

Write a prospectus or proposal to a publisher for your anthology.

Include the following in your proposal:
  • Title
  • Theme or focus of your collection
  • Rationale for your selections
  • List of poems

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