Thursday, October 6, 2016

Poetry Friday: Celebrating Poetry Camp at WWU

Head over to Violet Nesdoly/poems
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness.  
Thanks, Violet, for hosting and thanks for
all the wonderful photos from Poetry Camp!

Last Saturday's Celebrate This Week post was a quick celebration of Irene Latham's visit and Poetry Camp.  Tuesday's Slice of Life was the longer version of Irene's visit to our school and community.  And today for Poetry Friday, I'm bringing you the longer, detailed version of Poetry Camp.  Feel free to skim.  I love using this space to reflect about conferences that I attend.

Take an ordinary Saturday in October...
Wait, nothing is ordinary about October.
October is brilliant, it's magical, it's enchanting!
Add thirty-eight poets and multiply by five
for a roomful of enthusiastic devotees.
Kick off the day with book sales and signing
and an informal session with Brod Bagert
crooning songs and reciting poems.

Cut to the opening session with
Sylvia Tag and Nancy Johnson's
delightful poem for two voices,
debating the necessary devices and gizmos
required for a day at Poetry Camp.
Stir in a keynote address Poetry for Fridays
and Every Day by Sylvia Vardell
and Janet Wong encouraging us to share
poetry, not just in the high and low point
moments of our lives, but in
ALL the moments of our lives.
Shake in a generous sharing of poems
from the poets scattered around the room.

Dismiss to workshop sessions 1 and 2.
Oh, the agony, when I want to attend
all five classes held during the first session.

Since I adore Verse Novels, I cannot resist the allure of a session with four verse novelists.  Jeannine Atkins explains her process of introducing readers to history by focusing on what we share in common.  She quotes Ezra Pound:  "Find the luminous detail."  Holly Thompson brings her years of living in Japan to her verse novels.  She has written mostly YA, but I'm interested in her MG verse novel, Falling into the Dragon's Mouth.  Stephanie Hemphill points out that writing novels in verse gives you space to share internal dialogue and allows the reader to connect not only to what is happening, but also to what the character is thinking.  Nikki Grimes believes that what separates a novel in verse from a collection of poems is story.  She is most interested in making an emotional connection with the reader.  "I want to find the crack that will let me slip into the reader's heart."

Speak for Change:  Writing and Performing Poetry with a Purpose is my second workshop session.  Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger explain that they will show us how to write from the outside in. We worked in small groups to research a topic and then followed this formula for our first version of a summary from a nonfiction narrative:

Topic sentence 
Another sentence - these first two sentences create the premise
Unfortunately - shows the conflict
Fortunately - points out the resolution/hope
Finally - conclusion

Then we looked at our words with an eye to going from story to poem utilizing the strategies of slash and burn (eliminate unnecessary words) and pick and choose (create a grocery list of important words, look for the power words in order to find the poem).  In this 2nd version, the helper words (fortunately, unfortunately) drop away.  Because we were working at such a rapid pace, I don't have all the drafts we created in our group.  We were asked to choose a point of view and in another draft to add two poetic elements.  We chose to use rhyme and alliteration.  Our assigned topic was the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  Here's our draft from a very compressed opportunity to use this process:

11 million flee
Seekers of acceptance, opportunity
250,00 dead
Soldiers and civilians silenced
Asking the world for help
Will you answer?

Several times during our drafting process, we read our poem aloud . . . simultaneously, as in every group in the room (best way ever to get rid of performance anxiety, huh?).  And then, an invitation to see if anyone wanted to share with the group.

After lunch in the reading room and book signing, it was time for another keynote with Sylvia and Janet, Poetry Across the Curriculum.  Once again, we were privileged to hear poets share poems, this time with a focus on a variety of curriculum areas.  Leonie, my carpool companion to Poetry Camp, mentioned that hearing poets read their poems was one of her favorite parts of the conference.

Workshop Session 3 focused on Teaching Poetry.  I selected the session Poetry + Art & Music with Cynthia Grady, Eric Ode, and Lorie Ann Grover.  Eric Ode advised us to "allow whatever sparks you to guide your writing."  He shared that Myra Cohn Livingston used to say, " It needs more music.  Can you bring more music into this?"  Lorie Grover spoke of her journey to becoming a writer and how she continues to utilize art in her writing.  She creates a collage when she begins a new book.    She spoke of using three dimensional objects to show one's life story.  Check out her unique images at her blog On Point for inspiration.  Cynthia Grady walked us through a guided lesson that uses art as a springboard to poetry.   I was happy to receive a copy of her lesson for connecting the museum and the classroom.

As I returned to the Wilson Library Reading Room for the conference closing, I managed to say hello to Tod Marshall, our Washington State Poet Laureate.  (Tod visited our community last spring and I wrote a grant for his visit to Islander Middle School where I used to teach.)  He asked Nikki Grimes to inscribe a book for him, but neither of them had an available pen.  I offered mine, with one caveat, if she would then sign my book Words with Wings.  We were completing this with 30 seconds to spare as Nancy Johnson was trying to get everyone to take a seat and gather around the poetry campfire one more time.

After a quick conference closing that celebrated our day spent sharing poetry love,  I headed for the exit.  We weren't staying for the closing performance and celebration with Jack Prelutsky because I'm not fond of driving at night.  I glanced back at the room one last time and walked over to April Halprin Wayland.  We exchanged a few words and a quick hug.  As we left the building, Irene Latham asked how I knew April.  "Oh, that's the first time we've met.  I was just thanking her for her poem,  'How to Read a Poem Aloud' which I loved sharing with my students."  (BTW, I was introduced to that poem through  Sylvia Vardell's book,  Poetry Aloud Here.)  And that quick exchange exemplifies what I love about this community, a place where I know my fellow writers and poets because of the words we  share.


  1. What a wonderful write up. I've read several today and I love that each participant's report is slightly different so I'm building a real sense of being there.

  2. Ramona, you captured the event that I could only dream about. BTW the poem your group wrote was concise and hit the format beautifully. I have eagerly followed your journey and now wait for you to create something wonderful for fall with all of your photo ops.

  3. LOVED meeting you, Ramona, and reliving Poetry Camp through your post. It was so very special, wasn't it? I also love that it was so uplifting and bonding for us all. And your friend's comment, "hearing poets read their poems" was one of her favorite parts-- me, too-- ALWAYS! Hope our paths cross again soon! (And thanks so much for taking good care of Irene, too!)

  4. It was a wonderful weekend and you captured it well!

  5. "Wait, nothing is ordinary about October." -- That seems to sum it up! Sounds like a vibrantly exciting time, Ramona.

  6. You wrote this so beautifully, captured with a hug, Ramona. What a weekend with your mentors and now friends! Thanks for sharing the words of advice. I will keep this & return again!

  7. I know that agony all too well - when every session sounds inspiring and amazing, and you wish you could clone yourself or hop about in time so you could take it all in! :)

  8. Wonderful, Ramona. I love that you shared the other workshops you attended. (Now I know a little of what I missed.) You captured the joy and camaraderie of the day so well!

  9. Another great account of the day. So wonderful to be reading all these tips and insights - and poems.

  10. I am breathing "in the goodness" and being inspired by this post! What an amazing day! You have packed so much into this post. I love your opening poem and completely agree that "nothing is ordinary about October." Sara Holbrook & Michael Salinger's "Poetry with a Purpose" session sound incredible. I'll be sharing that idea with our teachers. Hugs to you, Ramona, and thank you for bringing us along to Poetry Camp!

  11. Thank you for letting me experience the day vicariously, Ramona!

  12. I love everything about this post, especially the part where you meet someone you "know" through their words! I've had that magical experience several times. Wish I could have been there!

  13. Ramona, it was so good to meet you. We'll have to meet up again. I loved reading your post.

  14. I am wrestling down my jealousy to say woo-hoo for you! Sounds like a great experience all around.