Wednesday, March 30, 2011

National Poetry Month: Announcement

April is National Poetry Month!

For you, that means you have a reason to make extra time for reading poetry and maybe writing some of your own. For the Thought Orchard, it means I'll be posting something every day through the month of April. I will try to include a mix of my own material and works by other poets.

This will be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are too!

While we wait for April to roll in, take a look at these creative poem ideas. I'm sure to try at least some of them this month. To find out what poetry month events are happening where you live, check out the map over at

Book Spine Poems
Magnetic Poetry: Homework Excuses (among others)
Poetry Idea Engine

This is the official poster for NPM 2011:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Meeting of Hearts

Written on the occasion of my sister's wedding, March 26, 2011.(If the type is too small, click for a larger image.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Skin Deep

My grandfather carried a pocket mirror
so that he could comb his hair when the clouds rained,
or the wind blew. Between houses he would check,
just to be sure he looked his best.
Pencils, encyclopedias, brooms, radios, soap.
Didn't matter what he sold, he kept his hair set right.

Even when I knew him he kept that mirror
right there in his breast pocket.
Between grandchildren, between meals,
he would slick a hand over his bald skin,
smooth his eyebrows, check his teeth.
One time his dark hands held it up for me to see myself.
"You look just like the princess you're named for."
And I made him tell me again
how his grandmother's mother's grandmother
found the watering hole that saved her village.

Is it true, what they say about beauty?
I hope so; I hope my whole life can be
as many generations deep as my skin.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sham Rock

The gift o' gab, they say, will be given
to the man who kisses the cloch
that is set in the tower o' the castle na blarnan
an hour or two out of Cork.

This kiss will confer on his lips and his tongue
such a marvelous bright eloquence
that men wise and old, girls pretty and young,
will bow to his excellent sense.

Well I've been to the castle and bent o'er the wall,
kissed the rock and made my way home.
But a blush from my lass and a glare from her pa
were all I got from that blarney stone!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A side note related to the title, but not the poem:
Do you remember when Ms. Frizzle assigned her students to bring rocks to school? Arnold brought muddy styrofoam, and someone else brought a chunk of concrete. That dismal showing precipitated a Magic School Bus trip to the center of the earth to see what real rocks are.

It turns out that if they'd combined their forces, they might have fooled her. (Okay, nobody can trick Ms. Frizzle, but another teacher maybe.) Many decorative rocks on movie sets and in fish tanks are not rocks at all but styrofoam covered with a thin layer of concrete. Need a faux rock? A quick google search will net hundreds of how-to instructions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


grey immobile cinderblocks
shifting nothing but their eyes
looking sideways to ensure
no one else is out of place

this preserves the smooth flat face
otherwise the wall itself
might come crashing down

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Quite the Character

I was thinking about some of the books I've read and loved in the past year. Some stuck with be because of the story or the wordcraft, but a few made an impression because of an amazing character. Here are my gold, silver, and bronze medal winners in order:
  1. Jenny Next (First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde) - Jenny is the daughter of heroine Thursday Next, and she is by far the most compelling character of the year. Jenny is the one who shows the reader just how vulnerable the Next family is and how very much they love each other. I can hardly wait for the next book in the series (#6)
  2. ---------- (The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson) - I'm not going to tell you the character's name. This person appears repeatedly in the book, but it isn't until very late in the story that you discover they are a chilling and frightening villain. Reading that reveal gave me shivers, and I could only stare at the page. Then I had to go back and look for everywhere their influence appeared.
  3. Charlie Chaplin (Sunnyside by Glen David Gold) - Charlie and his fellow protagonists in this masterpiece of historical fiction are intensely human. I cared about Charlie because I saw what it cost him to try to be better. When he was down I cheered him on, even when he had brought it all on himself.
Who were your most powerful characters this year?