Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poetry Friday: Featuring Heidi Mordhorst

And not just Poetry Friday, but Day 2 of National Poetry Month! Welcome to April, a place where people care about metaphors and line breaks and the peculiar singing magic that is a poem.

Let me also remind you to visit Gottabook, where every day this month you will find a poem as fresh and new as a spring blossom, each by a different poet. In addition, Greg provides us with a nice list of some of the other poetry events taking place in the blogosphere in honor of poetry in April. Thank you, Greg!

But wait--there's more! Here's another National Poetry Month events list, this one from Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect. And Tricia's glorious endeavor is an interview a day with 30 prominent poets, plus 3 bonus poets. The perfect celebration! (Hmm. Where else will anyone ever use the phrase "bonus poets" again, I ask you?)


If there's one thing a poem is supposed to accomplish, it's to show you the world in a new way. Happily, that's just what Heidi Mordhorst does in her two books, Squeeze: Poems from a Juicy Universe (2005), illustrated by photographer JesseTorrey, and Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature (2009), illustrated by Jenny Reynish.

Mordhorst is not-so-secretly a philosopher as well as a poet, the kind of person who looks at orange butterflies and sees the ghosts of pumpkins. In a culture where imagination is increasingly dictated, where Legos are sold in prescribed kits instead of a "Build some crazy thing, kid" hodgepodge, it's a relief to come across someone who looks at "the other side of nature."

Take, for instance, the author's poem, "Birdseed" (from Squeeze). Because obviously, when you plant birdseed, you will raise a crop of birds. Mordhorst describes the birds emerging from the soil in these lines:

First the bony feet
clawed out
digging down like roots
then the legs began
to sprout and soon
round bodies budded
leafy wings
unfurled and then

while I watched
the heads
sleek or crested
dull or shocking bright
blinked eyes
like rainshined fruit.
You'll find that Heidi Mordhorst writes in free verse, with rhyme occasionally added like the trills in a flute song.

This poet observes everyday things, and sometimes she even gives advice. In "How to Run Away," another poem from Squeeze, you will learn how to absent yourself for an afternoon. You are told to take a bike, a snack, and a book to a hidden spot beneath a tree:

Stay. Eat. Read your book.
Stay until you know they're worried.
Stay until you miss your brother.
Stay until the shadows cool your mood.

Heidi tells us things we didn't know were true until she said them, like what it feels like to take a trip to the bottom of a swimming pool and back, or what purple is really like. Here's the beginning of "A Purple Place" from Squeeze:

Purple is an inside color,
like the lining of a cape—
like the dusky
like the musky
inside of a hiding place.

Then there's her take on the moon, which has been written about ad nauseum. Yet Mordhorst gives us something new in the poem "The Moon Moves" (Squeeze):

I move:
the moon moves.

She meets me over by the shed,
glowing, knowing, hushly rolling
past the dozing vegetable bed.

I move:
the moon moves.

I ride the streets—make any choice
of left or right—and she's still there,
keening in her oyster voice.
Um, wow! Which in fancy English major speak means: What strange, lovely language and metaphors! (And to think that I haven't even told you about "The Skin Giver," who is like the Tooth Fairy, only not!)

Another mark of a good poet is the ability to write a little twist at the end of a poem. So, to give one such ending away, in Pumpkin Butterfly we get a description of kids making snow angels in the poem "Frozen Angels":

Arms drag and legs plow
high and open
shut and low
Doing slowly jumping jacks
flat on our backs in
heavy snow
Which is great, but the kicker is in the last stanza, where Mordhorst slaps down the assumption that children's poems must be relentlessly cute.

There they are: our angels frozen
on their backs
in a row
Where the cheerful field should lie
an angel graveyard
in the snow.

The author also offers us a poem about being hot and tired after lunch in the classroom, a poem about spitting cherries, a poem about bookended fireflies and mosquitoes, a poem about raccoons drunk on garbage and one about icy winter linens, among others in Pumpkin Butterfly. At first Mordhorst's poems just seem like fun, but then they make you think and maybe even give a little shiver as you look around with a new appreciation for just about everything you see.

Celebrate National Poetry Month, letting yourself see the neighbor's dog, the front gate, the beetle skittering along the curb, all the small details of the world, with poetic eyes. My thanks to Heidi Mordhorst and so many other wonderful poets for teaching us how it's done!

Note: I am not such a master of Blogger that I can get all of the indents and extra spaces in a poem to show. My apologies to Heidi for leaving them out. Please see her books for the correct layout of the poems excerpted above.


What have you got, O Poetry People? Leave your links in the comments, and I'll post them throughout the day!

--Laura of Teach Poetry K-12 gives us a poem and a prose piece by Edward Lear.

--Greg's Gottabook 30 Poets/30 Days extravaganza features a poem by Joseph Bruchac, "Bear Path."

--Susan Taylor Brown has written the first in a series of poems about her absent father, "Will Blood Tell?"

--Laura Shovan of Author Amok is touring the 50 states and introducing their poet laureates this month, another terrific NPM event. Today's Pennsylvania poet is Samuel Hazo, with a poem called "To Wait Is a Way of Life."

--Author Tanita S. Davis of Fiction Instead of Lies offers up the perfect poem for a spring morning, "How Can I Keep from Singing?" She is also a book aunt--hooray!

--At Live Love Explore, Irene Latham is writing a poem a day and giving away a poetry book each Friday this month, starting with Good Poems, edited by Garrision Keillor. Today she shares "A Secret Life" by Stephen Dunn from Keillor's collection.

--Random Noodling's Diane Mayr has an original Easter poem based on an antique photograph. Then at Kurious Kitty, she recommends books with poems about dragons. Last but not least, she posts a magically poetic quote at Kurious K's Kwotes.

--Author Debbie Diesen gives us an original poem called "Overheard" at her site, Jumping the Candlestick.

--Andy Murphy of The Write Sisters has an April Fools vibe going with Jack Spicer's poem, "Any Fool Can Get into an Ocean."

--Allison Stevens introduces us to Darren Sardelli's funny poems for kids at Wistful Wanderings with a link and his poem, "Little Boy Blue."

--Ruth of There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, whose husband is doing earthquake relief in Haiti after she and the kids were evacuated, expresses how much she misses him with a poem by the wonderful Will. The bard's sonnet begins "From you I have been absent in the spring."

--Laura Salas shares a triolet called "Lonely Day" from Pat Mora's new collection, Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love. She also gives us the results from her weekly poetry post, 15 Words or Less. Laura will be posting a favorite poem each day this month at her site in honor of National Poetry Month.

--Author Sara Lewis Holmes of Read Write Believe lets us know that Francisco X. Stork, writer of the acclaimed YA Marcelo in the Real World, is also a poet. Read his thoughts and poem about rain, "The Song."

--At A Wrung Sponge, Andromeda Jazmon has posted an original haiku--she plans to write one every day this poetic month. She also reviews Muu, Moo! a bilingual collection of animal nursery rhymes selected by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.

--In honor of Good Friday, Megan of Homeschooling on the Run offers us Christina Rossetti's solemn and lovely poem, "A Better Resurrection."

--At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine Magliaro has "The Great List Poem Post and an Invitation," where you can not only read list poems by Magliaro and other poets, but write your own. Plus there's a book giveaway! In addition, Elaine has posted a list poem called "Full Of..." at Blue Rose Girls.

--Poetry and food, who could ask for more? It's another great NPM event at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup, where she will be hosting a poet each day all month. And these poets will bring recipes as well as poems! To top it off, Jama is participating in a book giveaway.

--Over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, AKA 7-Imp, Jules has posted an interview with Joyce Sidman, featuring her gorgeous new book, Ubiquitous, illustrated by Beckie Prange. (What a great shark!) Sidman also shares a never-before-seen poem called "How to Find a Poem."

--Stacy of Some Novel Ideas gives us some thoughts on Passover and a Passover poem called "Gabriel, Age 2, Opens the Door for Elijah" by Sanford Pinsker.

--Sylvia Vardell has another terrific NPM event for us at Poetry for Children. It's a month-long game of Poetry Tag, in which a poet posts a poem, then challenges another poet to work off of thoughts raised by that poem to write another poem. And so on. Today's poem is "Just the Right Word" by X.J. Kennedy.

--At Paper Tigers, Salli talks about Good Friday and Easter poems, sharing poetry from Spanish poet Antonio Machado and X.J. Kennedy.

--Jone MacCulloch is celebrating National Poetry Month at Check It Out by posting 30 poems by students, one per day. Today's poem is "Ella Fitzgerald" by 4th grader Emily. Ms. Mac will also be posting an original poem each day at her site, Deo Writer. Today's poem is a haiku inspired by the word "avatar."

--Mary Anne Sheuer reviews Poetry Speaks Who I Am at Great Kid Books today. It's a collection of poetry just for teens that comes with a CD.

--Poet Jeannine Atkins talks about National Poetry Month, the process of writing poems, and Borrowed Names, her recently published book of poems, providing a link to an interview and book giveaway.

--David Elzey is writing haikus this month on Twitter, or Twitku. The Fomagrams blogger has posted three haiku and a limerick for good measure.

--Amy Ludvig VanDerwater at Poem Farm offers us "Word Blanket" and an invitation to post your own poem on the topic of words for a post next Poetry Friday.

--Danika Brubaker of TeachingBooks suggests an audiovisual approach to poetry, using as an example The Palm of My Heart, a collection of poems by African American children selected by Davida Adedjouma. She provides an audio link to artist R. Gregory Christie discussing how he went about illustrating the poems and includes an art sample.

--In celebration of Good Friday, Brimful Curiosities shares a book called The Easter Stranger that recounts a story from the New Testament in rhyme.

--Suzanne has posted a poem by Mary Elizabeth Coolridge called "Good Friday in My Heart" at Adventures in Daily Living.

--Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading is celebrating National Poetry Month by writing a poem a day, all on the topics of learning and teaching. Today's poem is called "Learning Curve: Spinning Class."

--At Newport2Newport, Melodye gives us a poem by Dmitri Shostakovich that speaks of spring and alludes to resurrection and renewal.

--Priya shares an original poem called "Ocean" at Book Crumbs, where she plans to post a poem a day all month. At 14, Priya is part of the new generation of Poetry People!

--Dianne White has posted a Robert Frost poem, "A Prayer in Spring."

--Cazzy of The Cazzy Files created one of those cool book spine poems, inspired by Cindy at BookEnds.

--Charles Gigna (AKA Father Goose) at Bald Ego shares some thoughts and quotes about nursery rhymes, as well as notes on "How to Write a Poem," including an original poem about poetry called "A Poem Is a Little Path."

--Lee Wind of I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? joins us with a poem by a transgender teen, Alex Davis, called "Man Of The Year" (actually song lyrics). The poem is part of Lee's seven days of GLBTQ poetry by and for teens to celebrate National Poetry Month, and a video of the song being performed is also posted.

--Poet Julie Larios discusses using questions in poems and shares a poem called "Mermaid" from her book Imaginary Menagerie over at The Drift Record.

--And last, but certainly not least, Heidi Mordhorst herself (Juicy Little Universe) joins us with "The First Book" by Rita Dove and "While Writing," a poem by a 10-year-old named Daisy, inspired by Langston Hughes's poem, "April Rain Song."

--Hmm. Okay, I will post one more, but that's it, truly! Nicole Marie Schreiber thinks you should all see this poem, "Working Is in Progress," by children's book writer Jaqui Robbins at her site, Jaqui's Room. It's a great mommy rant about priorities and creativity, very funny.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. What a great way to help launch National Poetry Month!


all things poetry said...

Hi Kate,

Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday.

I'm offering a poem and a prose piece by Edward Lear.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Laura Evans
all things poetry

Greg Pincus said...

How fun to see Heidi Mordhorst here, as she'll be part of 30 Poets/30 Days later this month at GottaBook!

For today, I have the remarkable Joseph Bruchac's contribution to 30 Poets - Bear Path

Thanks for hosting, Kate!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate, Thanks so much for hosting this week. Analyzing poems is not a strength of mine so I love it when people take a poem and/or poet and really help us understand them better.

I especially love when you say:

"Heidi tells us things we didn't know were true until she said them."

Isn't that just the best gift a poet can give us?

I'm in for Poetry Friday with an original poem, day 2 of poems exploring my relationship with the father I've never known.


Author Amok said...

Yay for Heidi!

For National Poetry Month, I'm making a 50 state tour of the poets laureate. Today, Pennsylvania is up.

Thanks for hosting.

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, wow. Can *I* run away?? I love that poem.

Thanks for hosting, and I'm so pleased to meet another Book Aunt! Although my niece/nephews didn't previously appreciate my gifts ("...but I wanted an iPod!") they're learning to love books by sheer force of Auntiness.

I'm up with the poem-turned-folksong Always Rejoicing, or, as most people know it, How Can I Keep From Singing?

Irene Latham said...

Oh I am a huge Heidi fan! Thanks for sharing!
I've got one of my most fave poems by Stephen Dunn... and I am giving away the most excellent anthology it appears in: GOOD POEMS edited by Garrison Keillor.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Kate. 2nd attempt at a comment -- sorry if it's a duplicate.

Kudos to Heidi. She's a wonderful member of our local SCBWI Region!

For National Poetry Month, I'm visiting poets laureate from all 50 States. (States with no P.L. are going on my wall of shame.) Today is Pennsylvania.

Diane Mayr said...

I loved "Birdseed"! Thanks for the introduction to Squeeze.

At Random Noodling I have an Easter greeting.

Kurious Kitty looks for dragon poems at the library, and at Kurious K's Kwotes I have a magical quote by A.E. Stallings.

Happy Poetry Month!

Debbie Diesen said...

Thanks for hosting, and happy National Poetry Month!

I've got an original this week, "Overheard."

Debbie Diesen

Andrea Murphy said...

I'm going with a foolish theme (go figure) over at The Write Sisters this week. Check out Jack Spicer's ANY FOOL CAN GET INTO AN OCEAN.

Thanks for hosting, Kate. I loved your Heidi post!


Alison Pearce Stevens said...

The poems by Heidi Mordhorst are terrific!

I have some funny poems for children by Darren Sardelli today:

Thanks for hosting!

Ruth said...

I'm in with a Shakespeare sonnet today.

laurasalas said...

Thank you for sharing Heidi's work! I have seen Pumpkin Butterfly, but only briefly. Now I see the error of my ways:>) I clearly must own both these books! Thanks for these beautiful poems to start my busy day with.

On my blog, I have Lonely Day, from Pat Mora's newest, Dizzy in Your Eyes:

And the 15 Words or Less poems are up, inviting everyone to join in and write their own:

Thanks for hosting, Kate!

Sara said...

Oh, I love "purple is an inside color." How gorgeous. Thank you so much for hosting and for featuring Heidi Mordhorst.

I'm in today with a poem by novelist Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors) His poetry is as generous as his novels.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Kate, Thanks for doing the round up today! Heidi Mordhorst is one of my new favorite poets. This is a great post!

I am posting an original haiku + photo every day for NaPoMo. Today's is here. And for Friday Poetry this week I have a review of Ada & Campoy's iMuu Moo! Happy Passover and/or Happy Easter!!

Evelyn said...

Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday! I am in with a Christina Rossetti poem:

Megan @ Homeschooling on the Run

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks for doing the roudup this week!

At Wild Rose Reader, I have "The Great List Poem Post & An Invitation." I have four original list poems, three list poems written by a friend, and excerpts from Georgia Heard's "Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems."

P.S. I'm also inviting folks to write their own list poems.

Happy Poetry Month!!!

Tricia said...

Lovely post! I love both of these books.

And if you're interested, here's how to get those indentations.

Click Edit HTML tab.
Here's the code for a single space.

String 6 or more together and you have the indents you need.

There is one caveat, however. Do NOT go back to compose or you will lose the changes. You must publish while still in HTML.

jama said...

Thanks for featuring Heidi's poems, today, Kate, and for hosting!

I'm sharing two poems from The Poet's Cookbook as appetizers for my month-long Poetry Potluck, and providing details of my book giveaway.

Have a nice weekend!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Thanks for hosting and for introducing us to Heidi.

I'm in with an interview with Joyce Sidman---and a new poem from her---at

Mrs. Nockowitz said...

Thanks for hosting this week!
I'm in at Some Novel Ideas with a poem from Sanford Pinsker about Passover. Here's the link:


Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for hosting. Great to connect with another fan of Heidi's work. I'm featuring a month-long game of Poetry Tag at my blog. Today, J. Patrick Lewis tags X. J. Kennedy.

Sally said...

Sally here from PaperTigers. We're in with a post about Good Friday:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for starting us off for National Poetry Month! I am featuring the poems of thirty students over thirty days. It can be found here:
I am also writing a poem a day or NaPoWriMo at
Looking forward to reading all the great poetry.

Mary Ann Scheuer said...

Thanks for hosting, Kate. I've reviewed Poetry Speaks Who I Am, an inspiring collection for young teens.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Kate, thank you for hosting this busy, exciting roundup! At I wrote about the process of writing my book of poems based in history, Borrowed Names, which was just published by Holt, and about starting a new collection.

david elzey said...

it's been a while since i've participated in a poetry friday, but i always get roped back in come april. i'm posting original haiku on twitter this month and these are the first three (plus a limerick) for the week.

thanks for hosting!

Amy L V said...

What a delightful way to begin the morning - I love how Heidi's poems both haunt and comfort. At I have an invitation to share poems about words. I'm also giving NaPoWriMo a whirl!

Kate Coombs said...

You're welcome, everyone, and thanks to all of YOU for your great posts and for linking to Poetry Friday!

Tanita, I love "sheer force of Auntiness." Sounds like a superpower--I should have known book aunts would have one!

Tricia, no luck with the code, but thanks.

Nick said...

Thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful post! I'm really impressed with Heidi's work and can't wait to share it with others. Thanks for hosting this week, too!

I'm in with a post about illustrating poems and an original audio clip of illustrator R. Gregory Christie speaking about his approach to illustrating poetry:

Danika from

Brimful Curiosities said...

My post today includes passages from a Concordia Arch Book.

Mary Lee said...

Great piece on Heidi Mordhorst! She's definitely a favorite!

I'm in with my second poem-a-day of National Poetry Month. Poem #1 was about teaching, #2 is about learning, and the other 28 will be about either teaching, or learning, or both!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for hosting. I'm sharing "Good Friday in my Heart" along with the coding for the Friday Poetry button with a link embedded back to your round-up.

Melodye said...

Since this Poetry Friday coincides with high holy days for religious celebrants, I've posted a poem by Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich, "Even as the Earth Turns into Spring," which is ultimately about resurrection and renewal:

Elaine Magliaro said...

At Blue Rose Girls, I have another original list poem titled FULL OF...

Priya said...

Thanks for doing the roundup today! I've posted up an original poem titled "ocean."

Charles Ghigna said...

We're celebrating National Poetry Month with nursery rhymes and a short article "How to Write a Poem" at the BALD EGO blog

diannewrites said...

Hi, Kate. Thanks for hosting the roundup! My post for today is a spring offering from Robert Frost. You can find it here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hosting today! I posted an original "spine poem" inspired by Cindy at BookEnds Book Blog.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi! Thanks for hosting poetry friday! I'm in with a beautiful Transgender Teen Poem "Man Of The Year" (actually song lyrics) by Alex Davis - it's part of my seven days of GLBTQ poetry by and for Teens to celebrate National Poetry Month. And as part of the celebrations all over the Kidlitosphere, it's a heady thing - April gives us so many great poems to enjoy!

Julie said...

Thanks for hosting, Kate. I love your post today! Over at The Drift Record I have a poem of mine called MERMAID and a few thoughts about questions in poems.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

As you'll see from my post this morning, I'm late for poetry month. But oh what a lovely surprise, Kate! Thank you.

Kate Coombs said...

Heidi--You're welcome! Of course, the rest of us thank you for the poems you've written!