Of Dogs and Writing – The End of a Chapter

I have been trying to write this post for several days. Many of you, over 250 of you, have already read about this over on Facebook but because Cassie was responsible for the start of my Of Dogs and Writing posts, I wanted to write about her here on the blog at least one more time. Last week, at the all-too-young age of [...]
Wednesday, December 19, 2012|Of Dogs and Writing|50 Comments|

Start Close in by David Whyte

I recently organized all my digital folders and finally gathered the poems that were scattered all over the computer into one place.  When I did, it was fun to see how many poems of certain poets I had saved in my favorites file. There were a lot of them by David Whyte. This is one of my favorites because it reminds me that to be a poet, to [...]
Thursday, December 6, 2012|Poetry Friday|22 Comments|

Learning to See

Many readers here will remember the story of Lily, the hummingbird who built a nest in my backyard this past spring and set me off on a new life journey with my camera. I wrote some poetry about her at the time but then, after the tragedy with her eggs, I found it hard to go back and revisit the story. Now enough time has passed [...]

Begin by Rumi & More!

One of the nicest things about being a part of the Poetry Friday community is that it doesn't matter if you drop out of the loop for a while and then step back in with a fresh post weeks or even months later. Poetry lovers are always welcome. But that mean getting back into the habit is easy. This poem from Rumi reminds me that the first step to [...]
Friday, November 16, 2012|Poetry Friday|19 Comments|

Of Dogs and Writing – When Things Have to Change

I am watching Cassie dream. She is in her chair, her head hanging off the side at such a funny angle that it looks like it should hurt, except she does it on purpose all the time. First she thumps her tail, slowly then with more force. Then she whimpers and yips and her feet start to run in place.  Her entire body shakes and shivers in her sleep the same way it does [...]
Tuesday, October 9, 2012|Of Dogs and Writing|7 Comments|

The Poetry Friday Anthology

First my confession. It's been a long time goal of mine to be in a poetry anthology. And now, at last, I am! I have a poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology. This beautiful book is the brainchild of poetry champions Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong with a nod to Kelly Herold who started the internet sensation of Poetry [...]
Friday, August 17, 2012|Susan's Books|18 Comments|

Dear Teen Me

I wrote a letter for the Dear Teen Me website. It was both harder and then easier than I thought it would be. By the time I was done writing the letter (and staying within the word counts) and then sorting through the photos, I had ideas for at least another dozen letters. I think it's a great exercise for writers trying to bring up some youthful memories. You can read the letter here and [...]
Wednesday, May 30, 2012|Writing Life|8 Comments|

By the Light of a Hummingbird

I am reading Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. I do not know why I haven’t read it before unless it was because I knew that it would hurt me in the way that some beautiful writing does. Beautiful writing coupled with a powerful story that just happens to be true can bring me to my knees. Each reading excursion with this book leaves me feeling less than everything I want to be while, [...]
Wednesday, May 2, 2012|Essays|13 Comments|

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #30

Well we've made it though the month with daily poetry exercises that I hope will take some of the intimidation factor out of playing with poetry. For this last day, I'd like to share another poem modeling exercise that never fails to surprise me when I use it with a class. Take a moment to go read this poem IF by Rudyard Kipling. In the classroom we dissect this poem line by [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #29

Another great poem to use as a model for a poem of your own it This Is Just To Say  by William Carlos Williams. It has also inspired a few books including the wonderful, This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman  and the equally fun, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine. Here's one I wrote. I HAVE TO TELL YOU I have [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #28

I usually introduce this form early on in my teaching sessions and I just realized I missed it. It's called a cinquain, which like haiku, is a counted syllable form of poetry. A cinquain is 5 lines long and the syllable counts are as follows: Line 1 = 2 Line 2 = 4 Line 3 = 6 Line 4 = 8 Line 5 = 2 Sometimes a cinquain helps me develop an idea further and it turns into a longer [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #27

It's Poetry Friday and I decided this was a good day to introduce the concept of using a more well-known poem as model for a poem of your own. I have a selection of them that I like to use with my students and one of my favorites is Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens. I like this because really, it is just another list. Make a list [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #26

It's been a hard day today. If you've been following my posts on Facebook or on my garden blog about Lily, the hummingbird who built a nest in our backyard, you know what I mean. If not, here's So I'm pulling out an easy card and am suggesting that we do a five senses poem, like we did on Kick the Poetry Can'ts #1 The word I'm choosing for [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #25

Ancient poets wrote many odes to celebrate great events in their lives and to pay homage to magnificent people. Many of the students I teach have difficulty believing that they are worthy of having an ode sung to them. So we write our own. While there are traditional forms of writing an ode, with specific patterns and rhyme forms to follow, for this exercise I don't worry about that. The key here is to write [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #24

When I work with incarcerated teens they are always talking about their girlfriends or boyfriends who are usually on the outside and who they usually don't get to see very often. This inevitably leads to them wanting to write love poems. So this is a fun exercise to do because it makes them think about the various ways we can show our love for people. I ask the students to give me ways they know [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #23

Last year, Laura Salas and I worked our way through the book WRITING THE LIFE POETIC by Sage Cohen. We took turns hosting the conversation on our blog and we shared some insights from a chapter we chose to read that week. Then we ended it with doing one of the exercises from the book.  One of them was about using song lyrics as models for poems. This works great because we all know [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #22

It's the weekend and I'm going easy on you today. I decided to go a little retro so this might look familiar to a few of you from last year. You already know I love saving phrases and words from magazine and then taping them on index cards to use as prompts. Another thing I do, because I love to doodle, is glue phrase prompts to a card and then create some doodle art [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #21

When I am teaching poetry I often start off with an acrostic poem. We do easy ones that begin with the students names and allow them to tell me things about themselves. It's a good ice breaker and it gets them familiar with the poetic form right off the bat. An acrostic is a poem that spells one word vertically and then uses the first letter on each line for a line in the [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #20, My Poem How to Be a Good Dog

  How to poems are a fun way to share your knowledge (if you are writing a truthful poem) or have some fun if you are playing with your imagination. You can write a how-to-do-it poem about making a sandwich, dancing with your great Aunt Agatha, climbing a tremendous mountain, learning how to drive, or anything else you can dream up. As usual, I start with a brainstorming list. Sometimes these poems stay as list and sometimes [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #19

I started with an article from the newspaper. (click on the photo to see it larger.) newspaper poem2 And then I looked for the poem inside the article. I think the official name for this kind of poem is a black-out poem, though there might be other names for it as well. What you do is take a marker and cross out all the words that don't belong until you [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #18

Writing letters is another great way to find the poem within a certain situation. For today's Kick in the Poetry Can'ts, write a letter to someone who is dead, it can be someone you knew or a total stranger, and then turn it into a poem. I find this easiest to just write out the long prose version first and then go back and revise it with a poetic eye. Here's my letter poem to [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #17

This next exercise is similar to the spine poem we did the other day. It's easy peasy. It's a horoscope poem. All you need is a horoscope, for either one day or a few days. Here I have included a picture of two days worth of a horoscope. (Click on the picture to see it larger and be able to choose your words/phrases.) If you don't get the newspaper with horoscopes in them you [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #16

I realized today that while I have posted a few haiku of my own I haven't yet mentioned that haiku is a great kick in the poetry can'ts. They are short which translates to easy for a lot of people. They can be as simple or as complex as you might like, depending on what set of rules you want to follow. For this exercise let's stick with simple rules that it must be [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #15

This is another one of my favorite prompts to try. Sometimes it confuses people because there's no easy answer. As usual, I start with a list but you can brainstorm in whatever way works best for you. If you're using the list to brainstorm, try starting off each sentence with the same phrase and then go back and revise it to make it more interesting. Or not. Either way works. Write about what you don't [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #14

This is so easy and so much fun. It's called a Spine Poem. And just like Kick the Poetry Can'ts #12 the idea is to use complete phrases and not add in any extra words. For this poem I limited myself to just books I had on my young adult novel shelves but wander around your house and grab some books and make a spine poem of your own. If you don't [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #13

In the classroom we'd do the first part of this next exercise on the board. You'll have to brainstorm on your own or use my lists that I come up with. First, make a list of at least 5 things that are yellow. butter sun corn lemon school bus daisy pepper pencil canary squash Now make a list of at least 5 things that fly. plane butterfly dragonfly mosquito kite helicopter bird bat hot air balloon bee Now the first two lists we could all probably agree on. The last list will be different for each person. [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #12

One of the things I think my students and new poets find most difficult about writing poetry is that they want a set of rules to follow: start each sentence with a capital, use complete sentences, make things rhyme, and make everything make sense. What I try to teach them is that some of the best poems or at least the seed of a good poem, can often be found more easily if you [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #11

Some of the best poems come from places where we feel things deeply and know well. Often that is a relationship with a member of our family. The feelings might be good or bad but they are almost always there, holding nuggets to make a poem. I ask my students to write a poem about someone in their family but to not tell me how they are related until the very last line. Let [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #10

One of the things that makes a poem, and any piece of writing, come alive is the use of specific details. Often my students will write in generalities, my dog, my car, my room. Once we've been writing together for a while I try to teach them to go a bit deeper with their poems and use the specific details that will show me the difference between a German Shepherd and a Poodle, between [...]

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #9

I love to play with words which comes in handy as a poet. I'm forever jotting down favorite phases, bits of dialogue I overhear or words that seem interesting to me for some reason or another. It's important to play with your writing because sometimes poems hide in the act of play. There are days I  forget that and I sit down with my notebook determined that right now I will write a poem. [...]