Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Memory Poet-Tree: a Wednesday Writing Workout

Howdy Campers! Welcome to...
My mother says that everyone remembers the trees of their childhood.

I recently attended the annual FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) Luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library Children's Literature Department. Each year, FOCAL gives an award to an outstanding children's book with California content.  This year's award deservedly went to my friend Joanne Rocklin for her wonderful book, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street (Abrams).

This book bubbles over with the voice of middle graders.  It's a wonderful and truly amazing work, as the avalanche of great reviews and awards attests.

Joanne's acceptance speech was thoroughly Joanne: full of enthusiasm, aware of her audience, bursting with love.

I had such a great time, I bought one of the centerpieces, made by
Ray Moszkowicz's art students at Palms Middle School:
 Each detail of this inspired centerpiece references her book.

Joanne's memories of her beloved orange trees inspired my poem that day (I write a poem a day); I thought perhaps a memory of a tree in your life might inspire you, too.

I wrote about our Meyer Lemon tree and how incredibly generous it is.  See for yourself:

I want to share my lemon tree poem with you...but here's my dilemma: dozens of my poems have been published in poetry anthologies...but recent contracts specify that poems can never have been published--even on a blog.  ACK!

But wait! I see that I've blogged on this topic before... so let's use a poem I've posted previously:

by April Halprin Wayland

I sit under this tree
to sit under this tree.

Not to win anything.
Just me and tree.

If the wind happens to drop
a sweet plum in my lap, though,

I would never say no
to a plum.
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved
Now it's your turn. 
1) Close your eyes. Think of a tree from your childhood...or any tree of significance to you.
2) List details of that tree that cover all five senses, or write snippets of your memories of the tree.
3) Or you may want to simply plunge in, and see what memories sprout from your pen or keyboard.
4) Consider putting your poem (or was it a story that emerged?) into a form...or not.
5) Consider sending your poem to someone who would remember that tree.
6) Leave a comment about this exercise.  :-)

Don't forget to enter to enter our Book Giveaway to win
Brenda Ferber's Valentine's Day picture book,  
The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever (Dial)
 All the details are in Esther's post below. 

And thanks for coming to today's Wednesday Writing Workout!

poem and lemon tree photo © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved


Linda B said...

I love the idea, & somewhere else I read about asking people to write about trees. This particular article said that there always was a memory, just as you said, April. The tree I'd write about is in one of my grandparents' back yard. They said it was 'my' tree. I climbed it & sat in it. I swung from a tree that hung over a branch. It's late so I won't finish, but wanted to tell you I enjoyed the post!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Merci, Linda.
A good start indeed:

I climbed it
sat in it
swung from it...


Renee LaTulippe said...

Now that I am finally starting to submit poems here and there, I'm thinking twice and thrice about putting them on my blog - I must conserve them JUST IN CASE, right? Sigh.

I love this exercise and am sharing it on FB. The tree I'm writing about is a pine tree on the small mountain across from the house I grew up in. You can individuate this particular tree from the house since it's the biggest pine around. The neighborhood kids hiked up there for years (through the cornfield, across the sledding hill, over the broken stone wall, up a steeper hill overgrown with tall hay-like stuff). We used that tall hay-like stuff to build a thatched fort in the bottom branches that were very low to the ground. I went back a few years ago and you can still see my name carved in a branch.

Thanks for the memories, April!

Fats Suela from Gathering Books said...

Beautiful artwork of the tree. This post reminded me of the huge mango tree in our backyard when I was little. One end of the hammock was hugging its trunk. Oh, the memories! Thanks for sharing this with us today. =)

Margaret Simon said...

April, I used this exercise with my students today. Some results were good, others need work. They are posting on the class kidblog. I may share this on my own blog, but will be sure to link back. Thanks for a great idea. You are so right, everyone has a tree.

Liz Steinglass said...

Yes, I've started to think twice about posting too, but it's such a great way to build a community and to develop skills and voice. It seems a shame to exclude them from publication.
I used to braid the hair of a weeping willow.
I love the first two lines of your poem.

Bridget Magee said...

I'm eager to read Joanne Rocklin's PB! It reminds me of my childhood growing up in Anaheim - our entire elementary school was surrounded by an orange grove. A great place to play hide and seek after school. I'm inspired to write a poem about it and I will probably put it on my poem-a-day blog. (Though I do keep a separate file of poems that I want to send to publishers.) Thanks for sharing your "Winning" poem - we had plum trees on our block, too. Happy Friday! =)

Tabatha said...

I remember that poem from the first time you posted it -- definitely a "winner"! My favorite tree from my childhood was a cherry tree. I love Liz's comment about braiding the hair of a weeping willow!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

I am going to have to return to this over the weekend, when I have time to breathe. But I know the tree I'll choose - the magnigicent oak on our front yard.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Wonderful, April! I'm late making the rounds this afternoon. Just took a break for a walk and around the road noticed a precious little one posing in a tree as her mom snapped a picture. Reminded me of my own tree-climbing daughter (now about to turn 21). And your post made me think of my own "special tree" growing up. (And the orange trees in our yard in Florida. Must get Joanne's book!)

Your poetic homage to just being with a tree makes me smile, too. Thanks for sharing.

Violet N. said...

Wonderful prompt--and the photo of your lemon tree looks amazing. My tree is a grove of poplars, within sight of the farmhouse, but far enough away to be a safe haven for all kinds of dreaming and building. We called it the Log Cabin Bush.

Violet N.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Renee's pine, Fats Suela's mango, Liz's weeping willow (braiding its hair!), Bridget's orange grove, Tabatha's cherry, Tara's oak, Robyn's special tree, Violet's poplars (I had to pause and find a photo of a poplar--I'm from California!--what a privilege to read about each of your trees.

My mom was right.

Irene Latham said...

I am a big fan of trees in poems (and in real life. :) One of my favorite poems I've ever written is called "What I Thought As I Watched Hurricane Ivan Take Down the Silver Maple in Our Back Yard." Basically it's a poem of tree memories. And now you've reminded me of that, April, and I thank you!