Poetry Friday: Astrologically Speaking

Astrologically Speaking
By Anna E. Jordan

He charts lives.
Interprets transits.
Clarifies uncertainties.

She is astrologically

Scorpio rising,
Aries moon.

Virgo rising,
Sun in 5th house.

He sees a future
in opposition.
Nodes out of place
He needs space.

She struggles to understand.
Searches for translation.
Grasps at what is already

He finds truth
the language of

She in her own

-November 14, 2014


poetry friday

March Madness Poetry 2014 Gets Real. No Foolin’!

Perhaps you were one of the kind people who voted for me in the first round of the #MMPoetry 2014 competition. If so, you were one of a minority. The majority voted for Queen of Children’s Literature, Jane Yolen. Her humorous poem had to include the word svelte (Which I thought was Yiddish in derivation and so the bacon reference especially funny… actually the word has an Italian derivation.)

My word was bemoan. I always try to write two or more poems in the time we’re given (under 36 hours). Some of the drafted poems end up being very bad. For bemoan, I wrote three, two of them decent. Because it would be published on the first day of spring, I went with the more serious. Perhaps that was a mistake.

You can read both poems from the competition here.

A huge thank you to Ed Decaria for organizing and mediating the logistical beast that is the March Madness Poetry competition. He puts in a ton of time and energy all to fulfill the honorable mission of getting kids excited about poetry.

Here for your viewing pleasure are all three of the poems I wrote in advance of the competition.  These are the first drafts. Feel free to make comments below and while you’re feeling critical, head over to the Think Kid Think website to judge the #MMPoetry 2014′s “Elite Eight”!

The Sub

John plays music while we work
he lets me change my seat.
His stories make us gasp and cringe
we email, chat, and tweet.

We sang Bohemian Rhapsody
he’s epitome of cool,
We all bemoan tomorrow
when Miss Phlegm returns to school.

Poet’s Note: The concern here was, would people know that the named John was the sub in question.

First Day of Spring (this poem appeared in the competition.)

I never though the day would come
when I’d bemoan the snow.
Instead, my nose against the glass
I’d watch the white stuff grow.

But now I crave some color
some warmth, and sun, and rain.
The calendar says springtime
but the snow has come again.

Poet’s Note: Here I was concerned that the poem was too quiet and serious for my audience but I liked the rhythm and the wording. In the comments of the competition, many people connected to the imagery in the line “nose against the glass” which made me happy.

Brotherly Love (a limerick)

There once was a boy who played flute
His brother preferred drums and lute
He’d often bemoan
The flute’s squeaky tone
So he rendered the instrument mute.

Poet’s Note: Because there were two boys, the second he is difficult to understand. Plus, I didn’t have enough lines or syllables to be explicit about what happened to the poor flute.

Get Excited for March Madness Children’s Poetry Competition #MMPoetry

Yes, folks. While some of you were on the couch watching the Oscars (and others were just asleep and drooling on your remote control) Ed DeCaria over at Think Kid Think posted the Sunday Selection video (below) for the 2014 MARCH MADNESS POETRY competition (#MMPoetry). 

Did you watch?

Did you see who my competition is?

The Queen of Kidlit, Jane Yolen.

I’m going to need your support.

I mean it.

If you subscribe to this blog, or follow me on twitter, or if you are my friend in real life or only on Facebook, or if you went to VCFA, or University of Rochester, or Woodrow Willson Senior High School in Washington, DC, or Eagle’s Nest Camp in North Carolina, or even if you hate me that’s okay because I all I need you to do is get excited about children’s poetry and vote for the poem you love (Anna’s). Read with an open heart and mind and choose the poem that resonates with you (Anna’s). Use all your academic training and writing experience to pick the well-written example (Anna’s)… and then send chocolate!

A huge thank you to Ed DeCaria for the time and energy he gives to children’s poetry and to 64 authletes who bug him about the competition at this time of year. If you’ve never followed the March Madness Poetry Competition before, take a look at Madness! Writing 126 New Children’s Poems in 21 Days. If you are a teacher and you want your kids to join the other 1000 students who will be official poetry judges check out Win 50 Kids’ Poetry Books In 50 Milliseconds! It’s Madness! and register in the next two weeks before the competition begins.

Get your poetry groove on because starting March 17th, things heat up. The week begins with the unveiling of the first words (both to spectators and authletes) and later that week, the first poems will be published.

I’ll see you there! (Vote for Anna)

I made it to Round 2, Please Vote!

Dear, Readers. I have be absent but excusably so. I had some unplugged time last week while I traveled from health and yoga retreat, to a friend’s home, to the VCFA writing retreat (More about this later.) It was a week of emotional revelations and rejuvenation but through it all, I wrote poetry!

Yes, the March Madness Poetry Tournament continues and I’m still in the brackets. For round 2 I had the word “jam” and I’m up against, wonderful woman and Highlights editor, Marileta Robinson. What an honor. (She had the word “caricature.”) I hope you’ll take a look at our poems and choose your favorite.

(If you are not a good reader of subtext– I just asked you for your vote.)

Many of the commenters noticed that we both used “jazz” in our poems even though that was not a requirement. If you surf around the site you’ll see that this sort of collective conscious phenomenon happens time and again. Super weird!

Jam vs. Caricature

Please share the link widely on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Parents, please share with kids and teachers. Teachers, please share with students and other teachers!


Vote for My Poem on ThinkKidThink.com

First the good news…

My first round word for the March Madness Poetry tournament was given to me a little more than 36 hours ago. The word- potion. My opponent has to manage the word- bastardized- into her poem, so I’m looking forward to see what she does with that. Here is the link: Potion vs. Bastardized. Ideally, I’d already be able to see what I’m up against, but Ed Decaria, who runs the tournament ran into a few delays today.

The bad news…


Uh Oh! Round 1 Flight 1 Voting Delayed

Due to changing work circumstances, it is going to be difficult for me to post the poems and polls in a timely fashion this morning. They may trickle in throughout the day, but some may not end up getting posted until late tonight. I apologize for this, but not much I can do. It will just make tomorrow all the more INSANE! If we need extend some polls through Friday lunchtime, we can do so.

Thank you for your understanding!


p.s. Poems submitted are still considered FINAL; this is not an extension of the writing period, just a delay of the voting period.

(I’m amazed that he does all this organizing and tech work on a volunteer basis. I should talk to him about that. Maybe get a donation button up on his site.)

The good news…

Again, the poems will be posted: Potion vs. Bastardized. If they are not posted when you stop by Wednesday, please go back on Thursday when they will surely be available. I’d appreciate your vote.

The even better news…

A big thank you to Mrs. Kistler and the 49’ers (her third grade class) for suggesting the word, “potion.” I actually wrote three poems and then revised one heavily before I decided on my final submission. I hope they feel I’ve captured the third grade experience and that they tell all their friends to vote for me :). Keep reading and writing poetry!

Potion vs. Bastardized. Vote for me!!!

Training event #3: Revision (My 600th post!)

Good Monday morning!

It has been a big weekend here at the Boll household. My husband who was away for 16 months with the Navy has returned. Right now we are in the Honeymoon portion of the adjustment period. Dad is a superstar and the boys are on their best behavior. Dinner was lovely (no one argued), weekend chores went well (they did what they were asked the first time)… hmmm why wasn’t it this way for the last year?!?

In some ways, my stress has been releaved. Right now, Hubby has the morning drive and dog walk task and here I am in the quiet of my newly cleaned office to think, and create.

Our family is going through a process of revision. We have to learn to see ourselves again in a different way. There are parts that we want to keep that make us stronger as individuals and as a unit and parts that hold us back from being our best selves. One way to come out happy on the other side of revision is honesty. Stay with me now, this applies to writing too.

In writing, there are bits we fall in love with. It may be an original line, a group of words, a character, a plot twist, but sometimes that bit we love may not be helping the entire piece shine. What follows is a longish post in which I work through the process and thinking of creating a poem. I’d love for you to grab a cup of tea and stick around. After you read, leave me a comment. Is my process similar to yours?

About a year ago while walking Lucy dog in the early morning winter,


I came up with a group of words, “The snow shows, what my dog’s nose, knows.” I’ve been struggling to work a poem around this line. It started like this:

poetry revision 1 poetry revision 2

Then like this:

Waking to White

The moon winks in my window,
starry laughter fills the night,
My fingers find Nell’s furry ears,
and then I wake to white

Six feet on floor, we leave the bed,
a chill is in the air
Nell’s collar rings, my parents snore,
we skip the creaky stair.

Wet nose to knob, Nell has her coat,
a wagging welcome mat.
But wait I need one layer more,
a scarf, two boots, a hat.

We slice through cold, we run and leap,
into the covered field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

Usually Nell leaves me out
I’ll never have her expert snout
Today for sure, I know I’ll win
I’ll be my doggie’s sniffing twin

The snow shows, what my dog’s nose,

At this point I’ve struck the pieces that are holding back the poem. I created a whole story here. Is it really necessary, I ask myself, all this build up? I really love the image of the moon in the first stanza, I can skip the kid and dog going down the stairs and getting ready to go outside if I trust that the reader knows a child wouldn’t be out in the snow in their PJ’s. Also, the piece about Nell already having her coat is a little inside joke to myself and a homage to Else Holmelund Minarik’s, “What will Little Bear wear?” The next stanza brings the child and dog outside, and I also like the imagery of a sparkle show. What if I turned those couplets around in order? Then the transition from night to day, inside to outside, calm to play might work better.

A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.
We slice through cold, we run and leap,
into the covered field.

Nope. That doesn’t work for me. Even though the syllables, 8 in the first line and 6 in the second, are the same, “a sparkle show revealed” feels more settled and doesn’t lead into the next line. Also, going straight from the child waking to being in the snow is too abrupt. Hmmm…

What about this:

All suited up, we’re out the door
into the snowy field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed. 

I lose the active verb “slice,” which I liked, but now I’ve gained “snowy” which helps the reader who might not have gotten that the white in the first stanza was snow. I like this better.

Now I have to deal with the fourth stanza which bothers me because the rhythm changes from 8 and 6 syllables to: 7, 8, 8, 8. This ups the pace and let’s the reader know something is going to happen but to me, it feels a little drastic.

What I need here, to make the final line work, is to set up the contrast between between Nell’s abilities to track invisible scents and the experience of the child who can finally see the critter pathways in the snow. But wait, doesn’t the last line already say all that? What happens if I just ax that fourth stanza?

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

The snow shows,
what my dog’s nose,

This doesn’t feel right either. I still feel that the contrast between human and dog, grass and snow aren’t specific enough. While I’m driving in the car, I come up with the line, “critter paths, hide in summer grass” which is 8 syllables long. This is the same number of syllables as the pay-off line at the end. It also fulfills that transition and contrast void I was feeling. Here is the final poem.

Waking to White
By Anna J. Boll

The moon winks in my window,
starry laughter fills the night,
My fingers find Nell’s furry ears,
and then I wake to white

All suited up, we’re out the door
into the snowy field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

Critter paths,
hide in summer grass
but snow shows,
what my dog’s nose

Thanks for reading Creative Chaos.  I’d love to see your comments, what would you like to see? Happy revising!

Training event #2: Reconnect with your inner child– play!

A funny thing happened this week. My friend Caroline Carlson posted 22 Awesome Fisher-Price Little People Playsets You Wish You Still Had from BuzzFeed.  I tweeted it on, and since then I’ve gotten more retweets and shares on Facebook than ever. Jo Knowles and Tami Wight shared my link on Facebook and have had tons of comments. A neighbor from my childhood got in on the cyber conversation too. Why? These toys allow us to time travel to a place without deadlines, or carpools, or grown-up responsibilities. A place when all that we cared about was:

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We used to have time to get down on the floor and imagine. We were encouraged to value story, to construct, to explore relationships, to appreciate the awesomeness of simple machines. (Remember how the helicopter blades would turn in the airport and the cars would  be dumped from elevator onto the twirly ramp in the garage?)

The zoo.. that’s a rare one. I used to set up a whole village and decorate it for Christmas and have them all visit each other
-Facebook Comment

Ah man! I had the Airport #1 (but with a helicopter/helipad & a baggage carousel!!), the School House (we used to try to make our Weeble Wobbles fit on the playground equipment to no avail), and the Yellow Family House…. Sigh.
-Facebook Comment

Many of us can’t or won’t let them go.

I’m only a little bit embarrassed to say I loved these so much that they show up in my dreams.
-Facebook Comment

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 2.58.15 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 2.58.56 PM

And why should we?! We should play on a daily basis. For some of us that still means getting on the floor and building with blocks, playing with dolls, and costuming ourselves as monsters or queens. But for many of us (at least people who read this blog), it’s about playing with words, honoring the power of story, and embodying our characters. Have you played today? If you followed the link to the BuzzFeed photos and remembered these toys fondly, try to write a poem about it. I’d love for people to paste their poems, or a link to them (Your blog) in the comments below!


Training event #1. Listen to Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco read his poetry.

On Monday I found out that I’d be an authlete in the Think Kid Think March Madness Poetry Tournament. I announced that I’d be posting about my training for said tournament. See original post. 

Training event #1. Listen to an amazing poet read his work.

Tuesday evening I attended the reading of Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poet extraordinaire. Mr. Blanco read at Merrill Theater in Portland, Maine in front of a huge audience. I’d say a packed house but there were a few seats left in the upper balconies. Check it out.


Mr. Blanco’s poetry was accessible, musical, and evocative. His reading techinque allowed me to close my eyes and imagine the words on the page, the line breaks, and how they enhanced the meaning and emotion of the poem. So, yes, I am a poetry nerd but more important, there was a whole room, nay, an auditorium full of poetry nerds, and artists, and other writers, and lovers of the same. One incredible, and incredibly wonderful community all gathered together to say, “Poetry is important to us. We value you, Richard Blanco, and the work you do.”

At the end of my evening, as I walked to my car, I happen to run into the poet himself. I introduced myself and complimented him on the reading. He was warm, and encouraging, and meeting him made a great night even better.  Training was never so joyful as it was tonight.

Watch Richard Blanco read the 2013 Inaugural Poem: One Today