Friday, May 19, 2017

A Home Song by Henry Van Dyke

This morning, my son-in-law drove by my old home. He took a picture with his cell phone and sent it to me. I loved that house--and my old neighborhood. Mike and I lived there for nearly forty years. I was sad to leave the home where my husband and I raised our daughter...and had spent most of our adult lives. I WAS happy to see that the new owners are taking good care of the place.

Last week, I posted a poem that I had written years ago about the home of my maternal grandparents. I didn't have time to write a poem about my old home this morning. Instead, I'm posting the following poem, which expresses my feelings better than I could at the moment:

A Home Song
by Henry Van Dyke

I read within a poet's book
A word that starred the page:
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage!"

Yes, that is true; and something more
You'll find, where'er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.

But every house where Love abides,
And Friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home-sweet-home:
For there the heart can rest.

Although I miss my old home, I am content now living next door to my daughter...and so happy that I can see my "grandgirls" every day!

Keisha has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Whispers from the Ridge.


Friday, May 12, 2017

For My Beloved Mother

This coming Sunday will be the first Mother's Day that I have celebrated without my beloved mother who passed away in January. My mother (Mary Stella Koziski Drabik) was the most selfless individual that I have ever known. She was devoted to her family.

As her dementia advanced, my mother would often tell me that she "wanted to go home." She wasn't talking about the house where my sister and I grew up. She was referring to the home where she was raised--along with her three younger siblings. That house was the place where my mother spent many of the happiest days of her life. It's also where my sister and I and our four first cousins spent many happy hours--celebrating holidays, visiting with each other, playing in the yard, picking vegetables and fruit in my grandparents' garden.

Many years ago I wrote a collection of poems about my Babci and Dzidzi--my maternal grandparents--and their place titled A Home for the Seasons. In memory of my mother, I'm sharing the first poem from the collection. I know the poem would touch her heart.


My grandparents’ house seems to hug their shady street.
A white duplex, its twin front doors
stand side by side
just three steps up from the sidewalk.
We always enter their house through the side door.
Stepping into the kitchen,
we find Babci sitting at the far end of the table
spooning filling onto circles of homemade dough
and making pierogis, crocheting afghans,
or snipping lacy designs from paper—
a traditional folk art she learned in Poland.
Sometimes we see her painting flowers on the cupboard doors
or hanging starched curtains she embroidered by hand.
The aroma of stuffed cabbage or babka baking in the oven
often greets us at the door.
Most days, Dzidzi spends outdoors tending to his garden
or painting the shutters green
or mending the picket fence
or building a backyard fireplace for summertime barbecues.
My grandparents always busy themselves
making their place a special place
for the family to gather throughout the year,
making it a home for all the seasons.


 Mom with Her Cousin Julia
 My Grandmother, Her Sister, and My Grandfather
 Cousin Julia, My Mother's Sister Helen, My Mother, and Her brother Benny
 Julia, Helen, and My Mother
 Helen and My Mother
 My Sister, My Mother, and I One Easter
 My Grandmother with her Four Children--Benny, Stanley, Helen, and My Mother
 My Maternal Grandparents
 My Mother with My Sister Virginia
 My Mother and My Father

I want to thank my grandnephew George Blaney for going to the trouble of putting our family photos on compact disks and sharing them with us. Love you, George!!!
My Mother's Last Mother's Day (2016)
Tara has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Teaching Life.


Thursday, April 27, 2017


I have mentioned many times at Wild Rose Reader that I love writing mask poems! I enjoy taking on the "personality" of an animal...or plant...or inanimate object and expressing my thoughts in a "voice" other than my own.

The riddle rhyme is a type of mask poem in which the writer provides clues to the reader about who/what is speaking in the poem. I used to read riddle rhymes aloud to my students. They had fun trying to guess/deduce who was talking in the poems.
Last year, I began working on a collection of riddle rhymes--but never wrote more than a half dozen rhymes. Here is one of the riddle rhymes that I finished:

I’m a sucker for crumbs that fall on the floor.
I gobble them up and go looking for more—
Dead house flies and dog hair and sand from shore.
Your dust and your dirt are foods I adore!
I’m a ravenous, cavernous, hungry machine—
I’m a great greedy beast who keeps your house clean.


Unfortunately, the books of riddle rhymes that I used in my classroom are now out of print: Myra Cohn Livingston's My Head Is Red and Other Riddle Rhymes and J. Patrick Lewis's Riddle-Icious and Riddle-Lightful.  Fortunately, there are mask poems that can serve as examples of riddle rhymes. Some good ones can be found in Paul Janeczko's book Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices (HarperCollins, 2001.)
You have to remember not to tell children the titles of the poems before reading the rhymes to them.
Here are excerpts from a few of my favorites:
by Tony Johnston

I am the trusted consort
of floors, accomplice
of water and swash,
confidant of corners
where skulks shifty, fugitive

by Patricia Hubbell

I munch. I crunch.
I zoom. I roar.

I clatter-clack
Across the floor.

I swallow twigs.
I slurp dead bugs.

I suck cat hair
From the rugs...

by Douglas Florian

Big as a street--
with fins not feet--
I'm full of blubber,
with skin like rubber.

You can also find some fine mask poems that could be read as riddle rhymes in Douglas Florian's book Insectlopedia:
·         The Dragonfly
·         The Inchworm
·         The Praying Mantis
·         The Black Widow Spider

Writing Workshop for Kids
Chappaqua Library, Chappaqua, New York
Saturday, May 6th at 2:00 pm

I'll be at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, New York, on Saturday, May 6th. I will be leading a writing workshop for children in Grades 1-3. I'll be talking about "things to do" and mask poems. Cati Chien, the illustrator of THINGS TO DO, will join me for a Q & A session and a book signing following the workshop, which begins at 2:00 pm.
JoAnn has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Teachings Authors.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Great Big Sky: An Original Poem

I have been "reworking" a collection of nighttime poems. I'm taking a new approach suggested by my editor. I'm hoping it will give the collection a better focus. Here is one of the poems that I decided to cut from the manuscript:


This great big sky,
this starry dome,

this universe that we call home—
it’s a vast and endless place

filled with space
      and space

          and space.


In other news: Catia Chien, the illustrator of my book THINGS TO DO, was on PBS NEWSHOUR last night on a Brief but Spectacular segment!

I thought some people might be interested in a guest post that Catia wrote for All the Wonders titled ON FAILING.
In her piece, Catia shares her relationship with failures and setbacks she encountered during the process of discovering the voice of a story's illustrations.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday Roundup over at The Opposite of Indifference.



Friday, April 14, 2017

THINGS TO DO: Creative Writing, Language Arts, and Art Activities to do with a Poetry Picture Book

I had hoped to post more often during National Poetry Month--but I have been busy writing up posts about my book THINGS TO DO and on how to write "things to do" poems for All the Wonders, Book Source, and Two Writing Teachers. Two of my posts are already online. One is due today.

For Poetry Friday this week, I am providing a link to my Booksource article...and to three links at All the Wonders.


In this article, I share the peaks and valleys that I encountered while creating my poems for THINGS TO DO. It includes some poems that were cut from my original manuscript and the revisions that I made to a few poems in the collection.
In this article, Matthew talks about the poetry and art of THINGS TO DO. It includes six of the beautiful spreads that Catia Chien created for the book.

Katey Howes: "One of my favorite aspects of the book Things To Do is the energy contained in the words and layout. These poems are anything but static! The placement, font, size and color of the words move the reader up, down, and all around the page. As I read, I get the urge to jump, glide, buzz and twirl along—which makes me want to create a very kinetic craft."


In this article, I provide suggestions for some language arts discussion and creative writing activities that teachers can do with their students in the classroom using my book THINGS TO DO.


You'll find this week's Poetry Friday Roundup over at Dori Reads.