Friday, January 30, 2009

Bad Poetry! Oh, Noetry!

Last week, we had a pantoum; this week, we have the paradelle. A paradelle is a very strict form, but what makes it especially interesting is that it was invented by Billy Collins as a joke.

He says: "What I set out to do was write an intentionally bad formal poem. Auden said there was nothing funnier than bad poetry, and I thought a horribly mangled attempt at a formal poem might have humorous results...Because the humor would arise from observing the performance of an unskilled poet as he dealt with a poetic form well beyond his reach, I had to make up a form whose rules were ridiculously exacting.

(Who drew this? Anyone know?)

Here are the rules:

"The paradelle is one of the more demanding French fixed forms, first appearing in the langue d'oc love poetry of the eleventh century. It is a poem of four six-line stanzas in which the first and second lines, as well as the third and fourth lines of the first three stanzas, must be identical. The fifth and sixth lines, which traditionally resolve these stanzas, must use all the words from the preceding lines and only those words. Similarly, the final stanza must use every word from all the preceding stanzas and only these words."

Billy Collins again: "While the level of difficulty in most verse forms remains fairly consistent throughout, the paradelle accelerates from kindergarten to college and back to kindergarten several times and ends in a think-tank called the Institute for Advanced Word Play."

"I imagined a reader gradually becoming aware of the pile-up of remainder words at the ends of the stanzas as if the poet hoped no one would notice."

When his paradelle (parody + villanelle) was published, many people missed the joke and thought he'd just written a bad poem. Others thought that it was an interesting challenge to write in the paradelle form, especially to create something good! There was a book of paradelles published in 2005 by Redhen Press. (The above quotes from Billy Collins are from the introduction of that book)

Ode to a Paradelle
By Cody Mace

This task is very hard to do.
This task is very hard to do.
But I know I will succeed.
But I know I will succeed.
To but succeed I will do this task,
I know is very hard.

How could you be so cruel?
How could you be so cruel?
I just wanted something simple.
I just wanted something simple.
Something so cruel, how could you?
Just be simple, wanted I.

At least I will get you back.
At least I will get you back.
With a task extremely hard.
With a task extremely hard.

Back extremely, at least,
With a hard task I will get you.

So I just wanted to do,
A hard but simple task at least.
This is something I will succeed.
Know I could be cruel, very hard back.
You get, with how extremely
I will task you!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Caldecott Awards

A bunch of awards were announced by the American Library Association this week, including the young adult book awards and the Caldecott book illustration award for most distinguished American picture book for children. This year's Caldecott winner was Beth Krommes for The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The House in the Night

On the Moon's Face

Another book illustrated by Ms. Krommes.
Grandmother Winter

While I'm at it, I'd like to include the cover of this book of art from children's illustrators. Love this picture!
Under the Spell of the Moon

An illustration by Randolph Caldecott (the person the award is named after). He lived from 1846-1886.

from The Queen of Hearts

Friday, January 23, 2009

Huddled Masses

This week we have a pantoum by teacher-poet Victoria Rivas to keep us warm. What's a pantoum? It's a poem in which the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. It doesn't have a certain length, but it usually ends with the first line of the poem repeated as the last line of the poem. Also, the third line of the first stanza is usually the second line of the last stanza. Do you think you could do it? Ms. Rivas does a wonderful job with this one:

Huddled Masses
By Victoria Rivas

a pantoum

A fire drill at 8 below zero
must not be a drill. Those are announced.
We are in shirtsleeves, sweaters at best.
Kids can’t go to lockers. Straight outside.

Must not be a drill, those are announced,
I hear another teacher saying.
Kids can’t go to lockers, straight outside,
but this teacher is wearing a coat.

I hear another teacher saying.
Good thing my coat was in the room.
But this teacher is wearing a coat
while her students shiver in the cold.

Good thing my coat was in the room
I share, not here with me. I call kids,
while her students shiver in the cold,
suggest we huddle close together.

I share. Not here with me, I call kids,
the ones wandering away from the group,
suggest we huddle close together,
get cold looks, disgust, in response from

the ones wandering away from the group.
The ones closest move closer still, touch;
get cold looks, disgust, in response from
others at first. It is warmer, so

the ones closest move closer still, touch.
Jason, in shirtsleeves, skinny arms shake
others at first. It is warmer, so
everyone calms down, huddles closer.

Jason, in shirtsleeves, skinny arms shake,
encircled by classmates, gets warmer.
Everyone calms down, huddles closer.
We laugh, complain we can’t feel our ears.

Encircled by classmates, gets warmer.
We are in shirtsleeves, sweaters at best.
We laugh, complain we can’t feel our ears.
A fire drill at 8 below zero.


I also like Ms. Rivas's Three Girls in Three Sonnets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Movable Books

This week, pop-up art! (There are more terms, such as movable books, paper engineering, and paper architecture, so if you want to look it up yourself, you might want to try those.) There are quite a few links below the images if you'd like to learn about them and how to make your own pop-ups.

Fort Mifflin
by Colette Fu
Ms. Fu says, "Fort Mifflin is inspired by photographs of a supposedly haunted casemate at Fort Mifflin where a Civil War prisoner, Billy Howe was held (and executed)." Ms. Fu combined the casemate with a brain responding to stimuli, such as fear, to show how the brain's primal reaction can make rational thought difficult.

Academy of Music
by Colette Fu
Ms. Fu explains that this pop-up was influenced by descriptions of "imaginary audiences," both unseen observers that people, particularly women, imagine are judging them and ghostly audience members.

Golden Doorway
By Ingrid Siliakus

Inner-Outer Space
By Ingrid Siliakus

~An amazing high schooler's work.
~There's been a lot of love for David Carter's bugs at my house. David and Noelle Carter's site has a lot of "make it yourself" pdfs (my favorite: the noisemaker) in their "Surprise" section. They also have videos you can watch to see how to use the pdfs.
~Making Pop-up Art/A Tunnel Book.
~How to Make a Pop-up Pyramid.
~Birds and Bees from The Pop-Up World of Ann Moranaro. Ms. Moranaro is a wonderful resource about pop-ups. The Birds and Bees page just happens to be my favorite, but feel free to look around!
~The Pop-up Lady, who created an Inaugural Pop-Up.
~Visit NPR's piece on Robert Sabuda's Alice in Wonderland to see some great photos of the book actually being made (in the factory).
~If you want to delve deeper, you could join the Movable Book Society.
~OK, I thought I was done, but I have to add just one more (a book): Pop-Up Paper Engineering Cross-Curricular Activities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

But You Can Have This...

Author Jeff Anderson describes a good writing assignment he had in a class with poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Nye read them You Can't Have It All by Barbara Ras and then asked them to write their own "you can’t have it all, but you can have this..." poem. Read these excerpts of Ras's poem and you'll see:

from You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands gloved with green...

you can be ...grateful for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels sucking up the drops on your clean skin...

You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise...

There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

I think winter weather makes introspective poems particularly appeal to me. But I'm going to include an old favorite that is a little less deep.

By Shel Silverstein

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff...

Shel's site has some great activities for kids. There's stuff for teachers/parents, too.

You can hear The Chenille Sisters sing Boa Constrictor here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


More animals this week, but of a different sort. Do you know what distinguishes gargoyles from chimera? In Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head and a goat's body and a serpent's tail. But architecturally-speaking, a chimera is a fantastic, mythical, or grotesque figure used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles, technically, are carvings which serve as water spouts on buildings. (I heard that the word comes from "gargouille," meaning throat, so I suppose they are the throats of the building?) People commonly refer to non-water spouts as "gargoyles," though.

So this week, we have chimera/gargoyles. (Chimera are also sometimes called "grotesques," but it feels funny to call them that...)

An icy gargoyle in Prague (St. Vitus Cathedral)
taken by Mat and Trace Ward

In Valencia, Spain

A lion in Florence, Italy

from the University of Chicago gate

~ Notre Dame has some of the world's most famous gargoyles. New York Carver has a very attractive page about them.
~ A gargoyle tour of Princeton University.
~ One way to make a clay gargoyle is posted here.
~ Here's another description of how to make one from Art Attack.
~ Archives from a Gargoyle art contest for fans of the cartoon show, Gargoyles.
~ A gargoyle P.E. lesson plan.
~ Darth Vader gargoyle


One more thing...AbeBooks has put together a page about unusual book covers. Not the pictures on the cover themselves, necessarily, but what the covers are made of...such as burlap or python skin. (Note to self: I should have a "book cover" theme some week.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Verse Novels for Teens, Plus W.B.

Libraries can be wonderful resources! The Sacramento Public Library has a list of novels for teens which are written in verse:

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes:
After studying the Harlem Renaissance, eighteen high school students begin to share their own poetry aloud, revealing hidden truths and showing that each one of the classmates is not who he or she seems to be. Through "open mike" poetry and journal-like entries, the teens start to share their real lives and to form true bonds.

CrashBoomLove: a novel in verse by Juan Felipe Herrera:
"Don't know how it all started. The frozen feeling, / this fender inside me wanting to crash against everything." This is how Cesar Garcia begins describing his struggle to fit in at a new California high school and to deal with the fact that his dad has left to live with a new family.

Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems by Mel Glenn:
The voices of players, fans, coach and teachers tell the story of the Tower High Tigers in their championship season, from its glorious beginnings through all of the real-life issues that come up along the way.

Keesha's House by Helen Frost:
For six high school classmates, this house where Keesha stays becomes a safe place to weather the storms of their lives: unexpected teen parenthood, foster families, coming out to unsupportive parents, and abuse. Their stories are told in the traditional poetic forms of sonnets and sestinas, defined by the author at the end of the book.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff:
When LaVaughn finds a sign on the school bulletin board announcing "BABYSITTER NEEDED BAD," she takes the job to save some money for college. But as she gets to know her employer, who is a struggling single teen mom with two young children, LaVaughn ends up giving (and getting) more than she bargained for.

Witness by Karen Hesse:
When the Ku Klux Klan comes to a small Vermont town in the 1920s, people of all creeds, races and ages become involved - as onlookers, victims, participants and opponents. This story, told through the voices of eleven townspeople, explores love and hate and the effects of both.

excerpt of VII
by Wendell Berry

I would not have been a poet
except that I have been in love
alive in this mortal world,
or an essayist except that I
have been bewildered and afraid,
or a storyteller had I not heard
stories passing to me through the air,
or a writer at all except
I have been wakeful at night
and words have come to me
out of their deep caves
needing to be remembered.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

'Round and 'Round We Go

Carousels this week! Aren't they fantastic?

Armored Carousel Horse
By Joe Leonard

Dentzel Hippocampus
By Joe Leonard

Lead Carousel Horse, EuroDisney
By Joe Leonard

The non-profit Albany Carousel Carving and Painting Studio is working on a terrific long-term volunteer project (no experience necessary!). Here are some of their animals, in various stages of completion:

Quagga, an extinct type of zebra once found in Southern Africa.

Chinook the Salmon

The scales, prior to painting

A drawing of Harriette the frog
This is a 1907 carousel painting by Boris Kustodiev. If anyone has a larger version, I would love to see it.

Visit the IMCA College of Carousel Knowledge to learn about carousels.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What Made The Rose Open

What Was Told, That
by Jalalu'l-din Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

From The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, translated by Coleman Barks, published by HarperCollins.

Did you happen to hear about Agrippa, the self-destructive poem from 1992? It came back in the news last month because, for its 16th anniversary, a group at the University of Maryland re-released the poem. How did it self-destruct the first time around? It was originally released on a disk that was programmed to erase itself after a single use. It was also published in a book whose pages were treated with chemicals that made the words fade after exposure to light. You can find more about Agrippa, A book of the dead, here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

American Impressionists

The first day of a new year! Hope you have a creative 2009. Today, we have American Impressionists.

Drifting with the Tide
By Ralph Wormeley Curtis
Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park
By William Merritt Chase
Chase did a number of wonderful paintings of his wife, Alice Gerson, including Tamborine Girl, Reflections, and Blue Kimono (I'm not sure that last one is of his wife, but she looks like the same person to me. What do you think?).

El Jaleo
By John Singer Sargent
I had the urge to post this or this by Sargent, but then I realized I was going for all the paintings with boats in them.

By Mary Cassatt

Allies Day, May 1917
By Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

Take a look at the Metropolitan Museum exhibit about Hassam.