Tag Archives: Poetry Friday

Tomie’s Little Book of Poems


I snapped a few “Caught Reading” pictures of Benny last night and decided I’d share the little gem of a book he was looking at for today’s Poetry Friday offering.  That’s sort of backwards to how it all came about, though, really:   I took this little book, which I guess we’ve had since Lulu was a baby, to the YMCA on Wednesday afternoon as one of only a few options to keep Benny and maybe even the DLM happy for the hour we’re there.   While I had the DLM in my lap reading to him for a few minutes, I came across a wonderful poem by Marci Ridlon in this little anthology.  The poem is entitled “Open Hydrant,” and while it’s not exactly the right season to appreciate the poem, summer hangs on through September in Alabama with enough hot and humid tenacity for the music of this poem to make me long for a run through the hydrant myself.  Here’s a snippet from the beginning:

Water rushes up

and gushes,

cooling summer’s sizzle.

This poem is replete with alliteration and one can positively hear the water spraying from the hydrant while reading it.  Lovely and oh, so cool!  I determined on Wednesday that this will be my first poem to share for this Friday’s poetry tea time.

DSC_0029This little board book anthology is (obviously) just right for little hands, and the poems have lots of kid-appeal.  The poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, Dorothy Aldis, Aileen Fisher, Judith Viorst, Nikki Giovanni, and others all make appearances in this little volume.  I’ve yet to meet a little kid who doesn’t appreciate Tomie DePaola’s illustrations, and the short poems plus the pictures make the ideal combination for a first poetry book.  Highly Recommended.  (Penguin, 2004)


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“A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poetry Friday ButtonFor our first six weeks school term (or more), we are memorizing “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  So far as I know, his works have passed into the public domain, so I’ll share it here in its entirety:

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real!    Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

I have fond memories of learning about Longfellow as a high school junior.  He was the subject of my first literary research paper.  I recognize the fact that his poetry has really fallen out of fashion these days, but I still like it a lot.  My girls and I were practicing it in the van the other day on the way to Bible study.  This week we’re supposed to know down through the fifth stanza:

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

What a wonderful four lines!  Of course, our recitation necessitated a discussion of the word bivouac, one of the few words I specifically remember learning the meaning of at some point during my education.  This, then, made me think of the Apostle Paul’s enduring words from 2 Corinthians 5:1:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

This passage of scripture has doubly special meaning for me because it is the passage a beloved pastor used at my papaw’s funeral.  Sharing it with my girls–the literary connection between bivouac and tent–and then the connection to the previous stanza–this encapsulates one of the things I love about homeschooling.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

I also love that Louise pointed out, after considering stanzas four and five together, that Randy Melendy from our current bedtime read-aloud, Then There Were Five, has a particular affinity for funeral marches.

How sweet it is when it all comes together.




Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art by Diane Siebert

I’ve been on a history and geography kick this National Poetry Month.  So far I’ve shared a poetry book about presidents and a poetry atlas of the United States.   Today’s pick just might be me favorite yet.  It’s actually one we’ve read before, and I thought I might’ve blogged about it before.  It turns out that I didn’t, so today’s the day.  :-)  Diane Siebert‘s author’s note at the beginning of Tour America explains that she and her husband set out on a summer tour of America that ended up lasting ten years, and these poems grew out of that experience.  The topics of the poems are iconic American sites–the Golden Grate Bridge, the Washington Monument, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, and so on.  The poems take various forms.  Some are short and some are long.  What they all have in common, though, is that each one paints a picture of something distinctively American.  Each two-page spread features a unique piece of artwork by Stephen T. Johnson, a poem, a little inset map of both the U.S. and the state in which the featured locale exists, and a rectangle of information about the place.  My personal favorite poem is the first one in the book, entitled “American Towns.”  In it, Siebert highlights some of the many interestingly named towns in America:

On open plains, in deserts dry,

Near ocean shores, on mountains high,

Beside the lakes and perched on hills

Are ‘burgs and ‘dales and ‘vales and ‘villes–

The towns across the USA

Whose names are fun to see and say:


Cocoan, Toast, Teaticket, Tea;

Justice, Hope, Equality.


And so it goes for forty-four more lines.  I love reading this one aloud.

If you have older children who appreciate and enjoy American history and geography–just Americana, really, this book is for you.  Highly Recommended.  (Chronicle Books, 2011)

1-IMG_3173-001Every Friday this month I’ve shared a poetry book we’ve enjoyed during our poetry tea times.  I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference.

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Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver

Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver is a new poetry book for the youngest listeners.  This is a collection of twenty-three poems on various baby-approved topics like body parts, noises, first words, playing peekaboo, taking a bath, etc.  Lin Oliver’s verse is mostly simple and sing-song, which is ideal for the target audience.   Some of the poems would make good ones to memorize and recite as mom or dad do that particular thing with baby–there’s one about being buckled into a carseat, for example, that would make a fun action rhyme.  It ends like this:

Buckle, click, I’m safely in–

Haul out, folks, let’s take a spin.

Cute, huh?

Tomie dePaola’s illustrations are easily-recognizable (dare I say iconic?).  This little book would make an excellent baby shower or birthday gift.  My only criticism of it is that, given the target audience, it would hold up much better as a board book.   This one’s lots of fun.  (Penguin, 2014)


I’m sharing a poetry book every Friday this month in honor of National Poetry Month.  I’m also linking this post up at Poetry Friday, hosted this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

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My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States

Last week I featured a poetry book that spotlights all of the American presidents, and this week I’m sharing another substantial poetry book.  My America:  A Poetry Atlas of the United States is compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn.  The book is divided into eight sections based on the regions of the U.S.: Northeast States, the Capital, Southeast States, Great Lakes States, Plains States, Mountain States, Southwest States, and Pacific Coast States.   Each section opens with a map and table of facts about each state in the region.  This is followed by six to eight poems for each region (excepting the one poem for D.C. in the Capital section).  Many of the poets whose works appear in this volume are unknown to me, but a few are readily recognizable:  Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, and our old friend, Anonymous.  :-)  Lee Bennett Hopkins (who even has an award named after him) has a couple of poems in here, as do a couple of older children’s poets I recognize.

Of course, my girls immediately looked up Alabama to see if our state is represented by a poem, and indeed it is:  “Alabama Earth (At Booker Washington’s Grave)” by Langston Hughes.   The fact that we actually visited Booker T. Washington’s gravesite and home a few years ago made this poem doubly meaningful to us.   The final lines of this poem are particularly compelling:

While over Alabama earth

These words are gently spoken:

Serve–and hate will die unborn.

Love–and chains are broken.

My personal favorite is from the Northeast section of the anthology, a poem entitled “Frost’s Farm Road” by James Hayford.   Robert Frost is my favorite poet, so I naturally love that this poem is so reminiscent of Frost’s style, from its beginning–

I pocketed a pebble

From Frost’s farm road at Ripton,

to its end–

In that high circle of his

In or just under the Great World.

Happy sigh.  

Stephen Alcorn’s illustrations are painted using casein on paper with no “preliminary pencil sketches” so as to “surrender to the magic of each poem,” with each illustration “reworked” over time to the lovely, textured illustration reproduced in the book.

This is an altogether lovely book, one that invites slow, thoughtful reading.  It, too, would make a great accompaniment to a history or geography study.  Highly Recommended.  (Simon & Schuster, 2000)


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I’m blogging about poetry every Friday this month, and I’m linking this post up to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Today’s Little Ditty.