Friday, May 13, 2011

Remembering a Tree...Happy Poetry Friday!

Happy Poetry Friday!
Jama Rattigan's hosting Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup ~ thanks, Jama!
And here's the upcoming Poetry Friday Schedule.

Raise your hand if you knew that the United Nations proclaimed May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity..and that 2011 is International Year of Forests.  Me neither!  To get you in the mood, watch the UN's beautiful 30-second video, Forests In Our Everyday Lives, created by "an adolescent" (I can't find out who this teen is...if you can, let me know...):
All this got me thinking--what forests do I know personally?  Well...I've known some pretty wonderful trees in my time. So, naturally, I wrote a poem.

by April Halprin Wayland

I wish I could FaceBook our old avocado.  
She held out her arms for us to climb
when I was nine.

My sister dubbed her The Ubbery Tree;
we knighted my sister our Ubbery Queen—
her crown was green.

We stepped in the middle of our tree tent,
crunched on brown leaves and sticks and dirt,
we smelled raw earth.

We searched for her fruit, climbed her scaly branches,
rode her dragon-grey trunk, holding on tight
in filtered light.

We crushed glossy leaves between our fingers,
then breathed her spicy, licorice perfume
in our leafy room.

I wish I could FaceBook our old avocado tree.
She held out her arms for us to climb
when I was nine.x
(c) 2011 April Halprin Wayland, all rights reserved
photo by Amanda Wray

WRITING WORKOUT: Remembering A Special Tree

1) Read tree poems.  You might read some of these.
2) Close your eyes.  Breathe.  Think back; remember a tree.
3) Jot down as many memories about the tree as you can.  Scribble wildly about the smells, about each sense.
4) You're looking for real details.  The ants.  The nest.  A little dead hatchling under the tree. Fruit-juice dribbling down your chin.
5) If you can find a similar tree, go to it now.  Lie under it and look up, run your fingers along its branches, crush and smell its leaves, climb it.
6) I couldn't go back to my tree, so I went to Google images and typed in various combinations of the words, avocado tree, trunk, branches, climb.  I found the terrific photo of the squirrel in the avocado this way (and met generous Amanda Wray when I asked if I could use her photo.)  This photo brought back my tree and helped me remember more details.
7) Even young children will have a favorite tree.
8) If they cannot remember a tree--or if they live in an urban area and have no connection to trees, ask them to write about NOT having a tree memory...perhaps how it makes them feel, or what kind of tree they wish they had.  The key here is honesty...and to stay away from cliches. So if they're writing about an imagined tree, ask them to do research--go outside or go online.  Little, true details make all the difference.
9) Okay.  So now you have the raw material.  Now what?  I didn't know either.  I finally decided to write three-lined stanzas in which the last two lines rhymed.  In the end, the rhythm of each third line is the same. Try this...or find another poem you love and imitate the structure of that. Enjoy your tree memories!
I'd love to hear what tree you or your students chose to write about!

In the end, it's the specifics, the details that make a poem.
poem and drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland.  All rights reserved.
P.S: Remember to enter our Blogiversary critique give-away!--you have until 11 pm (CST) Tuesday, May 17, 2011!

P.P.S: A 28-minute cable TV interview when I was Out and About recently. (If only I'd cut my bangs!)


Carmela Martino said...

Love your poem, April. And thanks so much for sharing your interview clip. I loved hearing you read your own poems. :-)

jama said...

What a cool poem and interview!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I am a great fan of individual trees too, and cried with my daughter when we saw what the trimming crews had done to the red maple she climbed every day at the bus stop during first grade.

What I notice about your poem is that each 3rd line, with its slower, sedate 2 beats and 4 syllables, is like a trunk, holding up the leafy first two lines. Most enjoyable. We don't need facebook when you can write like that!

Tabatha said...

Enjoyed your poem very much, April! Wonderful sensory descriptions.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Heidi ~ I loved your comment, "your poem...each 3rd line, with its slower, sedate 2 beats and 4 syllables, is like a trunk, holding up the leafy first two lines." Thank you!

April Halprin Wayland said...

...and thanks for your kind comment, Tabatha ~