Friday, July 5, 2019


Summer is when I catch up on all the reading I meant to do during the school year. It's not that I don't read during the school year, I just don't get through novels nearly as fast, and by summer, I have a huge TBR stack. BREAKOUT has been in my stack for awhile, and when uber reader Tamara Jaimes gave it five stars, I moved it to the top of the pile. I totally agree with her evaluation, I loved this book! And I'm reviewing it on Poetry Friday because it's a novel with a main character that writes a whole lot of poetry.

Nora Tucker and Lizzie Bruno have lived in Wolf Creek, New York, their entire lives. Wolf Creek is a small town, only 3,261 people. Two thirds of the population are inmates at the prison. Many of the Wolf Creek's inhabitants work at the prison, Nora's dad is the warden there, and Lizzie's grandmother is the cook. Most of the townspeople are Anglo, with the exception being 53% of the prison population, who is African American.

At the beginning of the book, Elidee Jones and her mother, LaTanya, move to Wolf Creek, to be closer to Elidee's brother, who is an inmate at the prison. Shortly after the Jones family moves to the town, there is a prison break, and two inmates, both convicted murderers, escape and are on the run for about two weeks. The book uses a variety of mediums- journal entries, text messages, pie charts, signs, etc, to tell the story of those two weeks. I think my sixth graders, huge fans of graphic novels, will love this format.

And, as you have probably guessed, one of those mediums is poetry. Elidee's English teacher guides her to the work of William Carlos Williams; Elidee goes the library and seeks out poets like Nikki Giovanni, Nikki Grimes and Jacqueline Woodson. Elidee uses these poets' work as mentors for her own poems. Here are a couple I loved:

August 24, 2004
by Elidee Jones

(Inspired by February 12, 1963 in BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson)

I am born on a Tuesday at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital
New York,

While the rest of the country was still gushing over
Michael Phelps, and all his gold medals,
Mama was in labor,
watching the TV over her round belly and
cheering the Kenyans in the steeplechase
(They swept all three medals, oh yeah).
Then I showed up
And there was even more to celebrate,
six pounds, 15 ounces,

Daughter of LaTanya and Joe,
They're leaning into one another in a blurry photo
With me all wrinkle-faced and hungry in the middle,
Troy squeezed into the corner by the nightstand,
Daddy's arm around him.

Daddy's cancer is there, too--
Growing quietly in his belly
Couldn't see it in the picture
But it was already bigger than all of us.
Took him eleven months later
Right after I learned to walk.

I was too little to understand,
Too new to have a hole left in my heart.
I didn't remember the hospice bed in our apartment
Or the weeks of saying goodbye,
But Troy did.
Mama always said that messed him up.
When you've lived seven years with a
Big strong hand on your shoulder,
You sure must miss it when it's gone.

Another Story
by Elidee Jones
(inspired by "Through the Eyes of Artists" in ONE LAST WORD by Nikki Grimes. Her poem was already a golden shovel poem, based on a line from, "To a Dark Girl" by Gwendolyn Bennett. So I guess mine is a double golden shovel poem.)

Striking line: Your life's story is a tale worth telling."

Mama used to tell Troy and me, "Follow your 
Dreams and you can be anything. Anything at all." But life's
Not fair sometimes. Sometimes your story
changes. Your plot twists and whirls and the wind
Blowing you in five different directions. That dream gets lost and its a
wonder you're even still here to tell the tale.
But you are. So you find a new dream worth 
Following.  Another hope. Another story worth telling. 

Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, June 21, 2019


Photo from New York Daily News

It seems only right to honor our new Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, this week. You can read the New York Times article about Joy here.

"The Eagle"
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon,
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear;
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
circles of motion.

Read the rest of the poem here

"Perhaps the World Ends Here"

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at  the corners.  They scrape their knees on it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it. We make women.

At this table, we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Linda Mitchell is hosting today's Poetry Friday Roundup. 

Friday, May 31, 2019


Image from Creative Commons
I wasn't planning on participating this week. It's the last week of school, and it's been a doozy. But then when I went to Mary Lee's blog, I discovered that this week is a tribute to Naomi Shihab Nye. And Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. A million years ago, ok, actually in the early 1990's, I was in San Antonio for the International Reading Association's annual conference. My friend, Lisa, who is a poet and actually did her dissertation the role of poetry in the elementary classroom, saw a sign for a poetry reading and wanted to go. I tagged along with her. 

And as you can probably guess, the poet who was reading was Naomi Shihab Nye. She read in a little tiny bookstore close to the Riverwalk. Probably twenty or so people attended the reading. Her son played with trucks on the floor in the back of the room. I fell in love with Naomi's work that night and have loved it ever since. Here are the last two stanzas of a poem I love. You can read the whole thing here

"Different Ways to Pray"

...There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.   
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
      Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.   
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,   
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,   
and was famous for his laugh.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Visit Year of Reading for the Roundup. 

Friday, May 3, 2019


Some random yellow lab puppies I found on the internet
My National Poetry month series was "Dog Days," in which I wrote thirty poems, all about dogs. At the end of the month, I announced that soon, sometime in the next month or so, I will become a puppy mom for Canine Partners of the Rockies. The yellow lab I will be raising was born in California, and will be coming to Colorado sometime after May 22nd. I'm excited and more than a little nervous, I haven't had a puppy in my life for about ten years, and this will be a very special puppy, that will take lots of extra time and energy. I came across the Linda Pastan poem, which seems perfect for the occasion.

"The New Dog"

Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper
and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense
of my old simplicities--

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

Linda Pastan

Jama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today. Stop over there and read two delicious Spring poems.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Poem #30/30- "Dog Days"

Poetry Month is over,  but I couldn't stand that I had written 29 poems instead of 30, 
so I wrote two poems today.  I'm ending with a tanka.

"Dog Days Are Ending"

every dog has his day
but I am dog gone happy,
Poetry Month's done, 
writer's notebook is dog-eared
and this poet's dog tired.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2019

Dog Days #29/30- "You Won't Be Mine"

This is just a yellow lab I found on line, not the puppy I will actually be raising. 
The end of the month seems like a perfect time to announce some big news. For a couple of years, I have been volunteering with Canine Partners of the Rockies, an organization that raises mobility dogs for people with physical challenges. I've decided to take the plunge, and sometime after May 22, I'm going to become a puppy mom. For the next two years, I'll be raising a yellow lab, who was born in California, and will be arriving in Denver whenever they can get him here. I'm excited, and more than a little nervous, about this new adventure. This poem is for him.

"You Won't Be Mine"

I'll potty train you,
wake up when you whimper,
teach you to walk on a leash.

I will love you,
but you won't be mine.

I'll teach you sit and down and stay,
buy toys and treats,
take you to the vet.

I will love you,
but you won't be mine.

I'll cuddle with you,
know where you like to be scratched,
let you give me doggy kisses.

I will love you,
but you won't be mine.

And then someday,
I will hand your leash
to someone else.

I will love you,
but you won't be mine.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dog Days- 28/30

April, and National Poetry Month, are almost over. My theme this year has been "Dog Days." I'm writing thirty poems about dogs, and I missed a day, so if I'm actually going to pull it off, I have to write two poems tomorrow. Not sure that will happen. Anyway, this week I have been writing poems about dog tails, and dog teeth, today is about a dog's sense of smell. I found two really interesting articles, here,  and here. At first I was going to try to embed more facts into the poem, but yesterday's effort was pretty much a disaster, and so I decided  to keep it simple tonight

"Splendidly Stinky"


(C) Carol Wilcox, 2019