Poetry Friday: A Sonnet for September

Earlier this week, Margaret got me thinking about sonnets. I knew I had written one, but had to dig hard at A Year of Reading to find it: Coffee House Sonnet. Turns out it’s from NPM 2010, and I haven’t archived that year’s project over at Poetrepository yet. (Adding that to my to-do list…)

We’ve been enjoying a few days of perfect September weather, and because it was clear this morning, I went for my walk before the sun came up and I got to say hello to my good friend, Orion, for the first time since he waved goodbye and marched over the western horizon last winter.

Tricia has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Three Little Engines
by Bob McKinnon
illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Grosset & Dunlap, 2021
review copy provided by the publisher (thanks!)


It’s graduation day, and three little engines (Little Blue Engine, Yellow Passenger Engine, and Red Freight Engine) are ready to take their final test and make a solo trip across the mountains. Little Blue Engine makes it across just fine with her traditional “I think I can”s. But the other two engines have obstacles in their paths that Little Blue did not have, and she realizes that sometimes no matter how much you think you can, you can’t make it over the mountain without some help. She changes her mantra into “I think WE can” and they all make it over the mountain supporting each other.

Sunday Morning did an interview with the author.


I’ve chosen a poem from WOKE: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice to pair with this picture book. The poems in WOKE help young readers to identify issues of inequity in our world, but it also gives them big and small ways to fight back or speak out. Just like Little Blue Engine learned — it’s not enough to SEE that there is inequity, we need to search our hearts and our resources and DO something about it.

What’s In My Toolbox
by Olivia Gatwood

We can’t choose the way we’re born.
Some of us are born with two parents, some one, some none.
Some of us are born with legs that we can walk with,
some of us need a little help. Some of us get to eat when
we are hungry, some of us still haven’t. When a person
has privilege, it is a toolbox they were born with,
hammers and nails that make it easier for them
to walk through the world because the world,
in all of its beauty and excitement and variety,
can still be a very hard place in which to live.

Read the rest of the poem in WOKE and discuss all the different kinds of privilege that give some people advantages over others.

Franki’s Weekly Text Set-Studying Font Across Genres

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

This week’s Text Set focuses on font changes across. This is a great quick study to do early in the school year as it creates access points into mentor texts for all readers and writers. The books shared this week have font changes that can be studies for readers (how the font change impacts meaning) as well as for writers as they find possibilities for their own writing.

I Can Make a Train Noise is the perfect book to begin a mini-unit on fonts and font changes. The same line repeats itself throughout the book (“I can make a train noise now.”) but the size and layout of the words change. The font tells the reader how they might read the words differently on each page. This is a book that readers of all ages will have fun with and then will be able to learn about font choices throughout.

Poetry is always important when looking at font. These two books give readers and writers so much to think about. In No Voice Too Small, the concrete poem about Mari Copeny: Little Miss Flint (Written by Carole Boston Weathorford) is worth studying when it comes to font. The choices in which words to enlarge is important for readers and writers. In Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter, each page is a work of art in the way the words are placed on the page, the size and color of words, etc.

Font changes in narrative can be fun and it doesn’t take a lot of font changes to give new meaning or emphasize dialogue, etc. One Word from Sophia is a book that plays a bit with font and the choices of each font change can be invitations for writers to try something new in their own narratives.

Curious Comparisons uses a variety of fonts and sizes in the way the book is formatted. Different information is given with different fonts and the layout/font choices on any individual page would make a great mini lesson. As our students write informational texts, font and layout are critical visual pieces and this is a great nonfiction book to invite those possibilities.

The picture book biography, Shirley Chisholm is a Verb, is an incredible story of Shirley Chisholm. The verbs in the book–that tell so much about the impact Shirley Chisholm has made are in different fonts and colors. Discussing the ways font is used to highlight important ideas throughout is the way I’d start this conversation and invitation for readers and writers. #TextSets #kitlit #BuildYourStack #MentorTexts

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. (Warning: You will want to create a bookmoji while you are there. This will be the highlight of your weekend I’m sure! Below is one of mine:-)

One of my 4 bookmojis on Bookelicious!

Poetry Friday: Ghazal for Your Cats

Jennyanydots (6 lbs) in her 21st and final year in 2008, and Hemingway (14 lbs) currently in his prime.

Margaret gave the Inklings quite a challenge this month! We wrote ghazals, (Hindi: ग़ज़ल, Arabic: غَزَل‎, Bengali: গজল, Urdu: غزَل, Persian: غزل‎, Azerbaijani: 
qəzəl, Turkish: gazel, Uzbek: gʻazal, Gujarati: ગઝલ) an ancient Arabic poetry form with five delightfully complicated rules.

I found Ravishing DisUnities by Agha Shahid Ali VERY helpful. This collection of ghazals by 100+ poets (including Diane Ackerman, W.S. Merwin, and Maxine Kumin, just to name a few of the poets whose names I recognized) helped me to suss out the form, AND provided all kinds of variations on the form.

Heidi has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe, and here are all the other Inklings’ ghazals:

(An aside, related to Bridget’s post about DuoLingo. I’m learning Spanish and Arabic and reviewing my rusty German with DuoLingo. Current status: 90 day streak. When I pasted in “ghazal” in all those different languages (thank you, Wikipedia), I was startled to realize that I can ALMOST read the Arabic! I haven’t learned the “gh” character yet, but I know the little accent mark above it means short a, I know z (with another short a), and I just learned l. WOW!)

Franki’s Weekly Text Set-Writing Mentors: How Do Different Writers Approach Similar Topics?

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

This week’s Text Set focuses on writing mentors. Often for writers, it is helpful to see the various ways different writers approach similar topics. Studying the possibilities is important in all genres and formats of writing. This week, we’ll focus mostly on narrative texts that would work well in a narrative unit of study.

(You’ll notice a few sets of these books were shared last spring with a reading focus. I am a big believer in using anchor mentor texts across the year for a variety of reasons. So even though some sets are the same or similar, the focus of this set is study as a writer, especially as part of a narrative unit of study.)

Family Get-Togethers

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant is a classic text used in many writing workshops in the study of narrative. To deepen the study, comparing different ways writers write about a family reunion–the word choice, the focus, the imagery, etc. can be done using this classic along with Family Reunion and Going Down Home with Daddy. Each of these has a very different writing style and young writers can learn a great deal from comparing these.

A Trip

Writing about a trip is something young writers like to do, especially within a narrative unit of study. Fatima’s Great Outdoors and The Camping Trip each focus on a camping trip and the experiences of that one trip. Writers can study the format and also the focus that each story has within the topic of a camping trip.

Learning Something New

Learning a new skill takes patience and practice and each of these characters’ stories shows that. The Electric Slide and Kai, The Most Magnificent Thing, Jabari Tries and Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao show the messiness of the learning process! Learning something new is a great topic for narratives and there are so many ways to approach the topic. This set shows writers the variety of things learned as well as a variety of ways to approach the topic as a writer.

Someone We Love

Writing about someone we love to spend time with or someone we miss is a common topic in narrative writing. When Lola Visits, Saturdays are for Stella, and I Dream of Popo explore the relationships as well as coping with missing a loved one in different ways.

The Current Pandemic

The current pandemic something on many children’s minds and these three books (Outside, Inside, And the People Stayed Home, and Keeping the City Going take that current issue and open conversations for children. These books can also be used as mentors because even though each is about the pandemic, the focus and the writer’s purpose of each is very different.

This week’s books were linked at Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous children’s bookstore to support, this is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio!

Poetry Friday — What Do You Know?

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for August was to write a What the ____ Knows poem either after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, rhyming poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th bookBear Outside, or after the style of Joyce Sidman’s “Higher Power” poems which she introduced in Michelle Barnes’ Today’s Little Ditty Spotlight.Jane’s poem has short lines that are complete sentences, and rhymes in lines 2&4, 6&8. Joyce’s poem has two stanzas with three lines each — a total of six truths. The line, “What do/does the ___ know?” is repeated at the beginning of each stanza, and rhyming the final word in line is optional.

For me, strict adherence to form can yield surprising results. But it’s just plain FUN to fiddle with form, and these What the ____ Knows poems were all kinds of fun!

Now that I have a little more free time, I have found my way back to embroidery, and I was inspired by the needle going in and out of the fabric. This one is Sidman-ish. It has six lines, but not in groups of three. It has rhyme, but in pairs. The question is not repeated. My biggest fun was with enjambment.

photo via Unsplash

These next two were inspired by my garden. Zinnias (hello again!) comes closest to following Sidman’s form. Crickets is similar to Needle, but its rhymes are 1/3/5 and 2/4/6. Like I said, the operative word this month was PLAY!

I’m still working on a pair that explores WHAT THE POOL KNOWS. One has long lines and is very conversational in tone; the variation is terse.

Check out what the other Poetry Sisters came up with, and join in if you want!


Elizabeth has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Unexpected Intersections.

photo via Unsplash

If you want to plan ahead for the Poetry Sisters’ September challenge, we’re each choosing a poem by another Poetry Sister and writing a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with that poem. You can choose a poem by someone in the Poetry Friday universe and write a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with their poem.

Slice of Life

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating a community of writers and a safe place to share.

Today’s prompt at the Ethical ELA Open Write is to create a one-sentence poem. Such an easy way in. I read back through my notebook until I found an entry that had a bit that seemed like it could be a poem.

photo via Unsplash

In that last year, I circled the lake,
investigating every cove along the shore
until I discovered the outfall --
a small stream that would carry me away, 
silently slipping into quiet waters
where a single paddle stroke would do,
where simply floating for an entire morning
would be an acceptable option.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

Writing in a community is such a pleasure, and I am blessed with so many different communities. Poetry Friday is a constant, as are my two new poetry groups — Sisters and Inklings. I like dipping into the Slice of Life and Ethical ELA communities. The best, though, is the community of one — just me and my notebook most every day after exercise and before reading.

Poetry Friday: Ode to the Hummingbird

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 (draft)

Happy Friday, Poetry Friends! In spite of but also because of all the dire and drastic news from around the world, I wish for you tiny moments of respite, such as the ones we’ve been blessed with recently when the hummingbird comes to the zinnias and sweet peas in our garden.

If you’re up for a challenge, here’s what the Poetry Peeps are working on for next Friday.

Carol has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at The Apples In My Orchard.

Edited to add Sharon Olds’ poem for reference:

Poetry Peeps August Challenge

Time to start working on the Poetry Peeps August challenge! The last Friday of August will be here before you know it! Here’s the challenge: We’re writing after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, rhyming poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th bookBear Outside. Our topic is What the ____ Knows. You might have written one of these for Michelle Barnes’ Today’s Little Ditty Spotlight on Joyce Sidman.

You’ve got a couple of weeks to craft your creation(s), then share your offering on August 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday

Ten Beautiful Things
by Molly Beth Griffin
illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Charlesbridge, 2020
review copy via the public library

Lily doesn’t want to live in Iowa with her grandmother, but as they drive, they play a game where they try to find ten beautiful things, which brings them home. I love that this book doesn’t explain why Lily needs to live with her grandmother, and it doesn’t even get them inside the front door at the end, so we don’t know for sure what her new life will be like in Iowa. This is very much a book about focusing on the present, and mindfully finding beauty around us, in spite of what might be going on inside us.

This book with its list of ten beautiful things seemed to want a list poem as its pair. An excellent mentor text for list poems is, of course, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A BOOK OF LIST POEMS, ed. Georgia Heard. This poem was inspired by our recent drive from OH to CO and back.

Things To Do If You Are A Road Trip

Perch hawks on fence posts.
Pinwheel the wind farms.
Create curiosity with road cuts.
When a trailer tire ahead shreds
     let all who follow dodge the pieces.
Conveniently space rest stops and gas stations.
And as for destinations,
     if they do not include the open arms of family or friends,
     make every traveler feel welcome.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

It’s important to remember that the privilege of a road trip has not been/is not now equally accessible. After spending some time enjoying this book, make sure to explore the history of The Green Book, or The Negro Motorist Green Book. This guide was published (starting in 1936) during the Jim Crow era until just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in 1967) to give African American travelers a list of safe places to get gas or service, eat a meal, or spend a night. Jim Crow was a system of open and often legal discrimination against African Americans, who were frequently refused by white-owned businesses the selling, servicing, or repairing of their cars (often bought to eliminate the segregation experienced on public transportation). African American travelers were denied food or accommodation, and their safety was at risk in “sundown towns” where there was a possibility of physical violence. The Green Book gave Black travelers the same kind of safe path through the United States (and later abroad) that earlier publications provided for Jewish travelers.

Christie has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering, along with a FANTASTIC crowd-sourced “Poetry Is” poem (facepalm…I forgot to submit a line).