Choosing a Favorite Poem


I don't know if I could ever choose my favorite poem of all time. There are too many. Some poems were my favorites duriing childhood like " Land of Counterpane", and "Little Orphan Annie". Why? I remember my mother reading them to me.  When I drew an illustration in sixth grade to go with "Barefoot Boy" I knew that poem would always stay with me. I still have the colored drawing and the poem copied in my neat cursive. How could I forget it?

I went through my Rod McKuen phase. I learned much from Poe. I discovered Judith Viorst's witty adult poems while finding poems students might like. I memorized "Oh Captain, My Captain." I collected humorous poems to entertain my students. I grew to appreciate cowboy poetry. I will always love Jane Kenyon and Mary Oliver.

When I reflect on poems that I return to often, "Kindness" is one of them. I had the privledge of hearing Naomi Shihab Nye read poetry in person as she paid tribute to another of my favorite poets, William Stafford at an English teacher conference shortly after his death.

I always searched out Nye's poems after that. My brother also chose this poem for one of our blog Sibling Assignments a few years ago. You can find his comments on the poem here.  I don't think this poem really found me until I experienced much loss in my life.  He reminded me that loss can be a good thing.

Now please share with me, what is your favorite poem and why?


Before you know what kindness really is 
you must lose things, 
feel the future dissolve in a moment 
like salt in a weakened broth. 
What you held in your hand, 
what you counted and carefully saved, 
all this must go so you know 
how desolate the landscape can be 
between the regions of kindness. 
How you ride and ride 
thinking the bus will never stop, 
the passengers eating maize and chicken 
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, 
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road. 
You must see how this could be you, 
how he too was someone 
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive. 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow. 
You must speak to it till your voice 
catches the thread of all sorrows 
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, 
only kindness that ties your shoes 
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, 
only kindness that raises its head 
from the crowd of the world to say 
It is I you have been looking for, 
and then goes with you everywhere 
like a shadow or a friend. 
—Naomi Shihab Nye


Woman Who Loves Gardening


Another of my original poems to bring National Poetry Month to a close.


Woman Who Loves Gardening

I have dirty nails

and rarely paint them, living out

my long growing season in the flower garden, trellises

giving view to clematis, climbing Peace

where aromatic flowers

grow in profusion.

I pull the weeds

in the early morning

gritting my teeth

wiping sweat from my brow

and listening

to footsteps of my husband

coming in range to help.

Sun makes my face red;

each sniff with my nose

leaves lily pollen behind.

When I rest it’s the beauty

that causes anxiety to shake loose

from a woman in need

of a quiet place to retreat.


Christy Woolum

This poem was inspired by Women Who Love Angels by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Digging For Keys

As National Poetry Month comes to an end I am going to repost some of my own original poems. This poem was inspired by an exercise at a writing retreat about those things we lose.

Digging for Keys

Faded cottage cheese tubs stuffed with rusty nails,

hooks on the wall overflowing with coats;

a ripped poncho, a manure covered barn coat, a too-small ski parka.

Hanging close are the hats;

hunting orange, hand-me-down tan, John Deere green,

The stained lavender lamp shade lingers in the corner.


Resting on the steps, plastic plant pots, trays, and saucers to catch the drips;

a leaky watering can, one silver slipper,  a dead lily discarded after Easter.

nozzles, washers, sprinklers for hoses;

five Mason jars, three canning rings, a Crockpot without a lid.


The drawer holds keys to doors that never open, cords to gadgets long thrown away;

Fasteners with a purpose fading from memory and doodads once with a use,

two knights from a chess set, wooden Scrabble tile, one toothpick,

pastel birthday candles, an outdated candy thermometer

resting before the next celebration.


Things of life are saved, arranged, hung, and displayed.

They join soft levis molded to our shape;

colored Avon bottles Aunt Pearl wrote into her will;

 birdfeeder presented as a wedding gift;

leaning mailbox with the chipped red flag.


Things remind us of everyday life;

 nails to repair the fence, crockpot Sunday soup,

batch of applesauce put up last fall, a marathon Scrabble game.

Digging for a key that frosty, winter night

Doors and windows were locked up tight.


Christy Woolum





Thank you Mary Oliver

Thank you Mary Oliver for reminding me of the simple things that surround me in morning.


By Mary Oliver

Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.

Let Evening Come


The month of April never gets by without at least one poem by Jane Kenyon. I can't think of a poem she has written that I haven't loved. Here is one of my favorites.

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles 
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come. 

Jane Kenyon

There Is a Place

There Is a Place


There is a place

 where the museum houses thousands of paintings

seen nowhere else in the world,

the colors so bright they grab your eyes

and hold you there, looking,


where the library is filled with brand new books

waiting for you to open them first,

to tell stories only you could know,


where fresh cherries have no pits,

where puppies never grow old.


There is such a place,

hidden deep

in me.


- Janet Wong

Memories of Second Grade


I was talking to my students the other day about their first memories. It is hard to know what you remember, what you have seen in a picture, or what someone has told you. Some remembered a time they were hurt, or being scared. I have a strong memory of getting my tonsils out at a very young age.

When I read this poem it took me right back to Sunnyside School, second grade, and a walk around the neighborhood in October. We went leaf collecting. What I think we did was iron them in wax paper, but maybe my memory is closer to the author's below.


Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,   

and some the shade of potatoes—   

some had been moth-eaten   

or spotted, the maples   

were starched, and crackled   

like campfire.   


We put them under tracing paper   

and rubbed our crayons   

over them, X-raying   

the spread of their bones   

and black, veined catacombs.   


We colored them green and brown   

and orange, and   

cut them out along the edges,   

labeling them deciduous   

or evergreen.   


All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,   

with its cockeyed globe,   

and nautical maps of ocean floors,   

I watched those leaves   


lost in their own worlds   

flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:   

without branches or roots,   

or even a sky to hold on to.

 Judith Harris

A Poem of Belief: Remembering the Holocaust


 Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. During the study of the Holocaust with my students I have been reminded over and over that we must not forget. I first heard this poem put to music, but it touches me more standing alone with words only:

A Poem of Belief

It was written on the wall of a cellar by a Jewish Prisoner in the Cologne concentration camp during World War II.

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.

I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….”

- Uknown

You Begin


I read poetry all year, but during April I read, reread, and revisit many favorite poems. I always return to this poem and enjoy it all over again each time I read it.

You Begin 

by Margaret Atwood

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.


Flower God

Flower God, God of Spring

Flower god, god of the spring, beautiful, bountiful,
Cold-dyed shield in the sky, lover of versicles,
Here I wander in April
Cold, grey-headed; and still to my
Heart, Spring comes with a bound, Spring the deliverer,
Spring, song-leader in woods, chorally resonant;
Spring, flower-planter in meadows,
Child-conductor in willowy
Fields deep dotted with bloom, daisies and crocuses:
Here that child from his heart drinks of eternity:
O child, happy are children!
She still smiles on their innocence,
She, dear mother in God, fostering violets,
Fills earth full of her scents, voices and violins:
Thus one cunning in music
Wakes old chords in the memory:
Thus fair earth in the Spring leads her performances.
One more touch of the bow, smell of the virginal
Green - one more, and my bosom
Feels new life with an ecstasy.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

National Poetry Month:Daffodils


I fell in love –
Taken by the innocence of 
Child-face daffodils: 

Their perky April fanfares – 
Clarion calls from yellow-ochre brass bands
Presaging, rejoicing, calling us: 

‘Here we are! Here we are! ’

Copyright © Mark R Slaughter 2010

Poetry and Friend from Childhood

I have known Trudi most of my life. Our brothers were born days apart and we were destined to know each other. I can't really remember if it was Sunday School, church, or Little League games that first brought us together. We shared many experiences and memories growing up in Kellogg. One of the biggest reasons I love Facebook is because I have reconnected with friends like Trudi. She has shared other poetry on her Facebook Notes and I was pleased to read this one the other day. She gave me permission to share it today. Yesterday I wrote about word choice. When I read this poem words that Trudi used reminded me so much of my childhood. Also her arrangement of the words just works so well. Thank you Trudi for allowing me to add your poem to my collection for National Poetry Month.


fingerpainting in the sky

  with blades of grass for fingers

    and Lifesavers for paints.

a canvas stretches from 'over yonder'

  to the 'other side of the tracks',

 touches butterscotch toadstools

   and wintergreen lillypads,

surrounds the Smiths, the Jones' and the Kennedy's,

   challenges Alice in Wonderland

     from the smile on the Cheshire Cat.

sculpting in the backyard

   with flower petals for tools

     and Hershey bars for clay.

Plymouth Rock as the base

   includes New York and Hawaii.

 Grass skirts sway in the breeze,

   and hide the bronze beauty and the leopard.

figurines of the Lone Ranger,

    Clark Kent and Captain America,

mesmerize lemon meteorites

   and licorice planets.

sketching in the night

   with wheat stalks for charcoal

     and vanilla ice cream for paper.

an Irish Setter as the subject,

   a cinnamon roll of beauty,

 races with sunshine

    and trolley cars,

wags his tail for apricot butterflies

    and maybe for sugar lumps.

worshipped by Mickey Mouse

   and Porky Pig.

and the artist puts away

    his watercolors.

 holds his breath,

   and steps into dusk

     with his jawbreakers.

by Trudi Brown

Poetry Primer Part 2: Counting Words

For some reason many students come into my class thinking more writing is better writing. They will be proud of all the words they have written on a page. They love to count their words. Many young writers think a poem is well-written if it is long (and of course, rhymes).

After students have had time to work on the fluency of writing and have a folder full of pieces written during writing workshop, I begin lessons on word choice. With word choice I rely on poetry as one effective writing model.  If a theme or image can be conveyed effectively in few words to a reader, a poet has done their job. When teaching word choice I alway return to William Carlos Williams. This poem carries a punch with few words.

The Red Wheelbarrow 
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

After reading poems like this I then allow students to reexaine their word choice. What words are the most 

important to the reader. Which words carry a punch? Which words can be replaced with another stronger words? 

This poem is an example of how word choice, sound, and arrangment of lines can help convey a strong image.


 A mouthful of language to swallow:

stretches of beach, sweet clinches,

breaches in walls, pleached branches;

britches hauled over haunches;

hunched leeches, wrenched teachers.

What English can do: ransack

the warmth that chuckles beneath

fuzzed surfaces, smooth velvet

richness, plashy juices.

I beseech you, peach,

clench me into the sweetness

of your reaches.

-Peter Davison



Autumn's Loft: Honoring Creativity and Trees


Last week I made a stop at Autumn's Loft on Highway 57  by Priest Lake. I found a woman with passion for photography, a love for her roots in north Idaho, and an appreciation for the fine woodworking creations her parents have built and have on display (and for sale) in the shop. The loft was also filled with the beautiful work of other artisans from the area. 

 Arriving at the shop I was greeted by Autumn and was immediately struck by the beauty of the loft itself. With sun streaming in through the windows I took in the rustic shelves loaded with local wares and was drawn to Autumn's many photographs displayed artfully on the walls. Being near Priest Lake, there was a lovely collection of huckleberry products also. 


Whether a buyer wants candles, a wood easel, photo greeting cards, or rustic signs for the cabin all of this plus much more can be found here. It is worth the stop. You can enjoy espresso and free WiFi also.

 Autumn's Loft is at 204 Rosemary Loop Priest Lake, Idaho. All the products and her photography can be found at or If you are in the area, visiting her store is a must. Check out her website also. 

Autumn returned to her roots in the Priest Lake area and has a deep appreciation for the scenic beauty, the northern Idaho trees, and the lake. The poem I am found today seemed fitting as I also celebrate the beauty of trees.


Trees Need Not Walk the Earth 
by David Rosenthal

Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them
Where they stand.
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry:
A birch may wear no less the morning
Than an oak.
Here are no heirlooms
Save those of loveliness,
In which each tree
Is kingly in its heritage of grace.
Here is but beauty’s wisdom
In which all trees are wise.
Trees need not walk the earth
For beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them
In the rainbow—
The sunlight—
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them
As beauty came:
In the rainbow—
In the sunlight—
In the rain.

Thank you Autumn for your hospitality, photography tips, and tour. I look forward to returning. 

thank you e.e.cummings

priest lake, northern idaho


My week of rest was also a week of beauty. I was surrounded by nature's beauty and lifes' blessings. I am so thankful it ended with Easter so I could praise all the is good in the world. Thank you e.e. cummings. This poem was a perfect end to a perfect week.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


One Art

One Art 
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Just Now

Tonight I was reading Good Poems for Hard Times, an anthology selected by Garrison Keillor. This poem supports my idea of looking for beauty in simple things. Because of where my house is located I don't see many sunsets.  Traveling on Highway 57 in the north reaches of Idaho last evening I followed the sunset above. Nothing has been simpler or more beautiful.

Just Now


In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting no more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks


~ W.S. Merwin ~


Idaho Great Lakes

I didn't post yesterday so this would have been my National Poetry Month post for Tuesday. In the far north land Idaho lies Priest Lake. This time of year it is quiet, cold, beautiful, and without many people. My kind of time to visit the lake. I discovered a poem written by an Idaho Stateman writer and I hope I have the name of the poem right. She just called it a poem about

Great Lakes in Idaho

Up here, you hear
Or maybe
The gentle lapping of waves like a lullaby.

Fog breezes in, spreading across the lake 
Like whipped frosting.
The water, so pure. 
You can drink it.

People are scarce. And fierce.
About their land, their water.
This is their legacy.
Because here, you can dream forever.

Forests fringe these lakes like eyelashes,
While water,
Holds its breath. 
Never moving a muscle.

by Jeanne Huff


She Walks In Beauty

Caroline Kennedy is a champion in promoting poetry in the United States. She has created numerous anthologies of poetry that have honored her own memories, remembered her mother's love for poetry, and helped us celebrate holidays we hold dear to our hearts. Her most recent anthology "She Walks In Beauty" is an amazing collection of poems selected by Caroline to honor a woman's journey. There are so many poems I love in this volume I may have to post a few. When I read this anthology I was touched by how many poems that have moved me in some way were ones she chose to use also.  Tonight I want to share "You Begin".  It reminds me of how much we hold in our hands are we live life. Enjoy.


You Begin

by Margaret Atwood

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.


Poetry: A Prayer for Spring

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; 
And give us not to think so far away 
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here 
All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 
And make us happy in the happy bees, 
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 

And make us happy in the darting bird 
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 
And off a blossom in mid air stands still. 

For this is love and nothing else is love, 
The which it is reserved for God above 
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. 

Robert Frost