Sunday, May 29, 2016

childhood memory poem lessons at the i-lead charter school.

here are eye-scenes of childhood memory poem lessons we focused on last week in a creative writing class which is a part of the wednesday mentoring program at the i-lead charter school in the city of reading in berks county. and this served as the last day of the year where learners studied at the hands of visiting mentors from the community. this particular class had the wonderful word-loving fortune of working with marian wolbers who does such delicious food writing for berks county living magazine that you could almost grow so desperate as to eat the page of one of her restaurant reviews. if you don't know marian in real life, this might seem like an exaggeration, but if you read her food writing, you'll suddenly understand in a quick brain-click.

the best way to explore childhood memories is to start sharing stories via some good old talking, so that's what we did with some sample poems by good friends i've interviewed about what they remember from when they were kids in the 1940s. and those poems thankfully nudged old memories to the surface of classroom time. relating is everything, in life.

some poems from the learners are shown below. be sure to check them out before you scour the internet elsewhere. =) their poems may whisk some of your own childhood memories into thinking-minutes.

photography credits: jennifer hetrick & marian wolbers


building forts at home
with blankets & couches
By Ashley R.

being 6 years old,
I remember building
forts with my older
sister. I loved building
huge forts with just
blankets, pillows, & 
the sofa.


this next poem took its inspiration from a similar story in a poem by sam traten in my class called "the pull of poems." here is a quick scene of the words in sam's poem before this new poem by an i-lead charter school learner named angelina.

angelina's poem, whirled to life by the childhood memory poem pictured above, incorporates an example of neologism, which we discussed in class last week. neologism tends to be something students across all ages seem to become fascinated with for its beautiful creative freedom, from my experience. above, sam's poem of inspiration uses the neologism of "bobber-fling" in writing about action in fishing. several of the people i've mentioned this new word to get all excited about its sound while donning eyes of glee mixed with fresh love. that means it's good poetry in just two smushed together words.

angelina, who once lived in utah, came up with the new word of "mountain-thrill" to give meaning to a more specific concept which wouldn't have been in typical vocabulary and is a great way to express a more unique, particular idea and feeling while being anywhere but near flat land.


Rivers Rush
By Angelina C.

A summer's weekend reunion
with cousins I never met
and aunts who last saw my baby face
with adventure on my mind
and the mountain-thrill on my back
I followed my closest uncles
behind them on a hike
the sound of a river danced into my ears
and the child of curiosity came out to play
with my uncle calling up fish
they hopped to the surface
daring for a closer look
I leaned over too far and with a splash
the current forces to take me away
but the arms of my uncle pull me first
and the horror of rivers now tense
that curious child


i am hoping a few more poems from learners may be available to post and supplement soon, too. a sample poem we went over from the life of gloria sands, about her pet chicken named mary, reminded a student named darlin of a pet turkey he had during his childhood at a time when he lived in mexico. the turkey goes MIA, unfortunately, temporarily. and in talks of blanket forts, he mentioned constructing forts on the beach in his early days. beach forts just naturally sound like oodles of fun and seem like they'd lead to hug-worthy poetry.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

a poem about a pet chicken named mary.

yesterday, i taught a creative writing class in the wednesday mentoring program at the i-lead charter school in the city of reading. i visited the same class in march and taught identity-exploring poetry. i'll share scenes and poems from yesterday in the classroom soon, but for now, i am posting a glimmer from one of the stories which inspired a sample poem we practiced reading in the beginning of class. i read the poem first, and then we went around the room having one learner (what those enrolled are called instead of student) after another speak the words of the next stanza, until we made our way to the end. mentor marian wolbers who also teaches at albright college read a few stanzas, too, along with the learners.

this picture below is courtesy of gloria sands who lives in new berlinville and first started her young life in berks county in 1938. the story of her pet chicken named mary is below in poem-form, and you can glimpse mary in this picture, although her dark feathers make it a little difficult to see her clearly. but one of her itty bitty chicken legs is evident during these picnic-minutes she and gloria enjoyed one day in the 1940s.

this story inspired the recollections of one learner who had a pet turkey when he lived in mexico as a child. hopefully they'll be a chance to post his eventual poem about that on the blog, too. the turkey had final days much like mary's, unfortunately.

and here is the poem all about mary the pet chicken. i love this story for many reasons and get the most balking, squawk-like (pun-city, i know) responses from people when they learn the tail-end of it. and some people almost seem like they will cry as they absorb the details. it stirs compassion easily and deeply in a short set of moments. but this poem is also an illustration of how poetry can an outlet for storytelling and preserving history, in addition to riling laughter and the sad face syndrome. we are lucky to have language as a resource to capture the specifics of what happens to us while we're here on earth.


it is easy to love a pet chicken
by jennifer hetrick

my pet chicken named mary
let me dress her up in doll clothes.

just five-years-old, i pushed her
around in the wicker baby carriage

that my three aunts had laid in as
infants—mildred, erma, and helen.

after pappy poured fresh cement,
a new sidewalk from our home

to the outhouse, i set mary down
into the wet of it. i wanted to see

the footprints she’d leave. pappy
only discovered the little indents

after the cement had hardened.
i think that sidewalk is still there,

next to gramia’s restaurant.
a rhode island red hen, mary

wore pink doll clothes often,
the only color i can remember

of the fabric that kept close
to her feathers. mammy gave

me hand-crocheted doll
clothes, and my aunts gave

me ones they’d bought in town—
they lived at home, not yet married,

and loved to spoil me with gifts.
i tied a pink doll bonnet around

mary’s neck, lace gracing its edges.
i’d had mary since she was a peep,

her feathers the color of rust.
after a year, i couldn’t find her

one morning, called around all
over for her. when i asked if

anyone had seen her, my family
just laughed. we’d had chicken

for dinner the night before, yet i
called out for her for at least a week,

searching the house and the yard
for her. only at age 12 did i realize

why mary disappeared. and even
to this day, i don’t eat chicken. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

poetry in pictures.

a young eight-year-old who calls herself kallyn recently went on some escapades around town with me, testing out my canon rebel xs with a 50 mm lens so she could learn to enjoy the treasures of capturing scenes with her eyes.

here are some samples of her eye-scooping moments from up and down east philadelphia avenue in the boyertown borough. remember that there is often poetry in a picture.

and you often miss a lot when you're in transit in a car, but when you're walking, you get fresh air, exercise, and you see a lot more. you also have a very different experience then. these are lots of nice pluses to ensure a good bit of authentic living.

shadow, light, curling wrought-iron railing, sandy grit, brick, & sun.

a watermelon carved out in wood, painted to match the real thing.

crave-worthy minutes rolled around here at the peppermint stick candy store at 9 south washington street in boyertown. yes, yummm. the penny candy section in chalked prices is a favorite little spot of ours.

and then we headed back to the brick castle to plant heirloom tomatoes in the garden after loving up the feel of purple allium petals and a baseball we found while creek-trudging behind the unicast park a few weeks ago. 

some sky-views with intersecting stretches of power-lines. when we photograph the sun, we do it with our eyelids pressed downward, inching the viewfinder slowly closer toward the brightness without letting our irises chance direct-staring.

we did a little bit of poetry in between the photography-hugging moments, and there may be more to share later once we've both had time to process all this sensory goodness. these bits of poems are not necessarily tied to these scenes above, but they were a part of our talks throughout the day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

river poems workshop @ nolde forest state park -- saturday, may 28 @ 10 a.m.

i'll be teaching a river poems workshop for nolde forest state park in cumru township, berks county, on saturday, may 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

( a painting of the schuylkill river in douglassville by frank kelso wolfe ) 

the cost is $15, payable by cash or check the morning of the event at mcconnell educational hall across from the main parking lot. pre-registration for the workshop is required by calling environmental educator rachel baur at 610.796.3699 or emailing her at the park's main entrance can be located via GPS through this address: 2910 new holland road, reading, pa 19607.

the workshop is open to the public, but it's also eligible for two hours of act 48 credits for pennsylvania public school teachers who are looking to gain credits for their professional development requirements.

( the schuylkill river in douglassville ) 

( the schuylkill river in hamburg )

those who sign up for the workshop will explore river language, talks of how we are connected with our water supply, the creatures who live under and near these wet surfaces, and more ideas stemming from this topic. then we'll work on our own inspirations of poetry while sitting next to running creek water.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

an animals poems workshop with all fourth graders at tilden elementary center.

recently studying animals in science and poetry as a genre in english served all of the fourth graders at tilden elementary center in the hamburg area school district well. 

this is because during my visit to their school on tuesday, we practiced tying together the subjects of animals and poetry, one class at a time. the day involved more than 100 students sharing their own stories of memories about scenes involving animals, followed by minutes spent allowing their craft to take shape on the page, one freshly written poem after another.

alliteration, excerpts, metaphors, similes, stanzas, couplets, line breaks, and neologism were some of the topics we went over in the form of examples across sample poems which students read in between story-sharing.

fur kids usually known as pets but also bears, elephants, hummingbirds, squirrels, cows, wild turkeys, deer, and red-bearded dragons were a part of exciting talks throughout the day. a hamster running off of a bed at high speed made for a story kicking up some good laughs, too, since we learned that it wasn't badly hurt, in the end.

mrs. sherry fuhrmann is the teacher who helped to organize this animal poems workshop day on behalf of all fourth grade teachers and students. she is also the name behind nostalgia-hugging bottled mint tea known as pure wild tea based in berks county. and many thanks to the hamburg-tilden PTO for helping this especially fun, poetry-filled day to be possible.

several students worked up the well-deserved confidence to read their poems in front of their classmates, too, and in some cases, i read the poem-words for these young authors so others would still hear the new language throwings they wrote.

some of the many poems written by these fourth graders are below.


The Dog
By Shannon C.

My little dog jumped on the couch, but someone
was sitting there, and he fell off. So he tried again,
but he kept hitting the floor. To me, it looked
like an alligator trying to climb a ladder.
Or an elephant trying to climb a truck.


Dead Bird
By Dylan B.

I saw a dead bird on my porch.
I picked it up and showed
it to my mom, and she said, Get
it out of my house, Dylan!


Mayo Cat
By Chris B.

One early morning, a cat
came out of Bus 4's engine.
To my surprise, it had
a mayo jar on its head.
I almost fell backwards.


My Cat
By Cadence J.

My cat Moby
can jump 3 feet.

She eats hot dogs
and ramen noodles.

She loves to talk
to birds from an open window.


The Cow
By Kayden S.

The cow wanted to run free,
but the wires blocked the cow in.
The cow was so tired of trying to

get out. One day, the cow bursted
out of the pen and broke the wires,
and the cow was so happy that the
cow ran far away.


Wrench-Throwing Monkey
By Michael W.

The monkey got out all the
time and threw and threw
wrenches at my pappy.

Every day, it would 
happen, and I was not
even thought of at the

(The last line here means Michael was not born yet and learned this story years later. =)


My Bull
By Selena H.

My bull was rubbing his
head back and forth on
the dirt pile. It was
hilarious, back-forth,
up-down, all around,
to keep the flies
off his back. At the beginning,
his head was black. At 
the end, it was brown. 
He looked like he was
in an explosion of 


By Braden T.

My hamster jumped off my bed and hit the
floor, trying to climb back up the bed. It kept falling
and falling, trying to get back up again, kind of like
a kangaroo hopping up and down.


Bear Fight
By Alex B.

A bear was feeding
in the trough. Another
came and chased it.
The one was limping.


Poor Squirrel (sadface)
By Briana E.

A long time ago,
on a Sunday morning,
my grandma went to the auction.
A squirrel climbed into her engine [of her car].
But when she tried to start her engine,
it didn't work. 

She called a garage to see what happened,
and they pulled out the squirrel's body.


The Big Fat Cat!
By Bradley S.

Once, my fat cat
was trying to jump
from my couch to the
kitchen table. But
he failed. He thought
he was soaring in the
air, but he flopped
on the ground. I
thought he was hurt,
but he kept trying
over and over again.


The Deer
By Danielle H.

I was driving home from
practice, and I saw a

deer. It ran right in front of
the car, into the marsh.

When we drove by, it ran
into the woods,

and that's when we saw it--
a baby deer in the trees.


African Elephant
By LeeAnn M.

A day of warmth
on an African Elephant

spraying itself with
mud, running down

the savannah land.


Dancing Cow
By Ava P.

One day, me
and my mom
were driving

by a farm.
We saw a
black cow
jumping up-down,

and he looked
like he was
dancing. And

the guy in front
of us started
taking a video
of the cow.