Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks for Pumpkin Butterfly

It was lovely to catch up with poet Heidi Mordhorst at last week's Poetry Party and NCTE conference. Not only did she have a wonderful poem in our Dear One collection for Lee Bennett Hopkins, but she came to the session and spoke briefly, too, representing so many of the "new" poets whom Lee has mentored in recent years. (If you'd like to be eligible to receive a free copy of Dear One, just post a comment here about your favorite NCTE Award poet or poetry collection. Two winners will be chosen at random each day. Today’s winners are Jo Ann Macken and Tricia Stohr-Hunt. Please email me at svardell at twu dot edu with your mailing information.)

Heidi has a new collection of her own poetry out this fall and I'd like to toot her horn a bit, because it's one of my favorites out this year. It's Pumpkin Butterfly; Poems from the Other Side of Nature, a collection of "nature" poems that begin with fall, so it's perfect to buy and share right now and to follow the ongoing rhythm of the school year for kids. There are 23 poems in a variety of poetic forms and structures, many in free verse that is lilting and rhythmic. Her poems celebrate fall leaves and compost, squirrels and raccoons, ice and snow, sore throats and jumping shadows, fresh fruit and cherry blossoms, thunderous skies and nighttime dark. There's even a terrific tribute to Charles Darwin's "guest list" for a "garden party."

Her use of language is lovely, full of metaphor and sensory moments. Kids will surely respond to the specificity of her examples and details-- evoking vivid images and emotions. Watercolor illustrations by Jenny Reynish create an inviting backdrop for the poetry, suggesting a tiny bit of action without overwhelming or derailing the poem.

Here's just one example, a poem that turns the tables on children's usual fears of the dark and personifies night in interesting ways.

Night Luck

by Heidi Mordhorst

Night is deep in a dark box

deep in a cushion of down

nestled in tissue

tied with ribbons

Night is asleep in the dark

Night wakes with curious paws

wakes in a furry fog

wrestles the tissue

nibbles the ribbons

Night is awake in the dark

Night tumbles in velvet directions

tumbles along to your bed

sniffing your wishes

wagging your worries

Night is a friend in the dark

Mordhorst, Heidi. 2009. Pumpkin Butterfly; Poems from the Other Side of Nature. Honesdale PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, p. 20.

The poem has a gentle repetition of key words-- especially in the last line of each stanza. Invite kids to join in on those lines (in bold) and talk with them about how they might personify "night" or draw a picture together with chalk on black paper to illustrate the poem.

For more poetry thoughts, join the Poetry Friday gathering hosted by my TWU-bud, Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell c 2009. All rights reserved.

Image credit:


Jeannine said...

This sounds so great. I am very intrigued by the idea of the Charles Darwin garden party. Thanks for letting us know about it.

And happy post-Thanksgiving. Jeannine Atkins

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Nature and poetry go together so very well. I'm looking forward to picking up Heidi's book.

Love the poem you chose to share, especially the image as the night as a special friend.

Joyce said...

Love that language! Will have to find this book. And Sylvia, I got my copy of Dear One and am treasuring it!

Linda said...

I love nature books. I'm putting her book on my wish list. : )

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for stopping by, friends. Heidi's book is a gem, I agree.

So glad you like DEAR ONE, too, Joyce!


Dianne White said...

It's hard to settle on just *one* favorite NCTE poet, but one of my favorites and a favorite with my classes every year is David McCord. His collection, Every Time I Climb A Tree, stays on the chalk rail in my classroom all year long, and we're never too far into the year before the students have memorized "The Pickety Fence" and the title poem.

Mary Lee said...

Eve Merriam is one of my favorite NCTE poets. I adore the way she plays with words and her "How to Eat a Poem" lives in my mind in contrast to Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry". (fingers are crossed that I'll be chosen for a copy of Dear One!!)

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

After hearing Heidi read her poem at Lee's party, I ordered Pumpkin Butterfly right away. I can't wait to pick it up at the bookstore! I love the way she sees and describes the night...

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oh, my...I'm blushing (not least for having missed this post until today). Thank you, Sylvia, for spending so much time with "Pumpkin Butt," as he's known at home. I always love hearing which poems stand out for different readers, and the two-page illustration of this is one of my favorites. I've been reading it to children with the dog covered with a post-it note, so that they can develop their own images of Night before they see Jenny's.
In other news, I've received an email from Lee and I am now officially mentored! : )
Thanks for all the wonderful opportunities, Sylvia.