Friday, October 21, 2022

2 Mentor Poems to Try and Then Teach

Howdy Campers! Happy National Day on Writing (this week) and Happy Poetry Friday! My poem and the link to PF are below.

Today's topic? Anything I want to share with you. Hooray!  Let's dive in.

The UCLA Extension Writers' Program offers an Annual Instructor's Retreat. It's well-run and much-needed, connecting instructors from all over the world to share wisdom, teaching challenges and conundrums and more.

I wanted to share my love of mentor texts with fellow instructors. Here's my proposal:

A Mentor Poem Exercise That Changes Everything.

1) I'll share two poems

2) You'll write your own version of one of them.

3) Your mind will explode.

4) The End.

The Program Director thought it was funny, and I was given the go-ahead.

If the term is new to you, here is how an author on an episode of a podcast at the National Writing Project defines it (slightly paraphrased):

Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you — both teacher and student — can return to and reread for many different purposes. They are texts to be studied and imitated … Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats. They should be [texts] that students can relate to and can even read independently or with some support...And of course, a mentor text doesn’t have to be in the form of a book — a mentor text might be a poem, a newspaper article, song lyrics, comic strips, manuals, essays, picture books—almost anything.

In my session I offered attendees a choice. They could either riff off a long poem or a short prompt.

1) The long poem (I first read it on Alison McGhee's wonderful blog):

by Cathy Ross

If the moon came out only once a month
people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it
in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice
how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.
And if the moon came out just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one has to work on lunar eve,
travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,
celebrations with champagne and cheese.
Folks would stay awake ’til dawn
to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.
And if the moon came out randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, never knowing
when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,
weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance
of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,
everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,
night events would be canceled,
moon-closure signs posted on the doors.
And if the moon rose but once a century,
ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,
enchanted by its spell. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.
Maybe you will live to see it too.”
But the moon is always with us,
an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,
so no one pays it much attention.
why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if you’d never seen it before,
as if it were a miracle,
as if you had been waiting
all your life.

(Isn't that poem glorious?)

2) The short prompt: write a poem in which all events occur simultaneously.

All at once...

Here's an example:

At the very moment the phone rang
the meringue fell
the baby fell out of the swing
the earthquake toppled Tokyo
at that moment
I decided to leave him

~ author unknown

3) What the moon poem inspired me to write:

by April Halprin Wayland

If my sister came by only once a month
I would appreciate her more. I’d mark it
in my datebook, take a walk with her, notices
how her smile glowed like the moon.
And if my sister came by just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one in our family would work on Sister Eve,
I’d rush to get home before she knocked,
we’d celebrate with non-alcoholic champagne and non-dairy cheese.
I’d stay awake ’til dawn
to watch as she left my house and disappeared down the road.
And if my sister came by randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, I would never know
when she might appear, friends would scan the skies for her plane, the internet for her arrival info
weatherpeople on TV would give odds—“a 10% chance
of your sister coming over tonight”—and when suddenly there was a knock (!)
everyone would cry “your sister’s here,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing at us,
happy for us and envious we had a sister.
Night events would be canceled,
My Sister’s Here signs posted on my door.
And if my sister showed up but once a century,
ascending luminous from Southwest Airlines flight #274 on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather by their screens
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by her brilliance, my brilliance,
our love; enchanted by this spell of sisterhood. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw them together once.
Maybe you will live to see them, too.”
But my sister is always with me,
a beloved familiar taste, like stew, warm and full of comfort
which no one appreciates much.
I am outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if I’d never seen her before,
as if she were a miracle,
as if I had been waiting
all my life.

4) What the poem the prompt inspired me to write:

by April Halprin Wayland

At the very moment my hot cocoa spills in the car,
and its marshmallow lands in my wet lap --
a white island in a tsunami of hot, dark liquid --
a squirrel shoots across the street
and our dog jumps joyfully out of the open sunroof,
onto the asphalt.

That's when I know
that no one is an island,
we all need the love of a dog,
the thrill of the chase,
and a crossing guard
or green light
to watch over us.

both poems© 2022 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Now it's your turn: pick a poem, a picture book, song lyrics--anything--and write your version of it, focusing on a topic that's close to your heart. Or follow the prompt and write what I call an All At Once poem. 

Then pass the magic onto your students, kids, friends, or that guy wearing the Dodger cap at the drug store. 

Please join my next UCLA class, An Introduction to Picture Books for Absolute Beginners on November 19, 2022 from noon-3pm Pacific Time! Enrollment begins November 5th

Thank you, Bridget, for hosting this week's Poetry Friday at wee words for wee ones !

Posted by April Halprin Wayland, who has one more thing to say: 

Please vote. America needs you to. If you don’t know who to vote for, do some research. Ask one of your very smart friends, then, make an educated guess.  Don’t hand your vote to someone else by not voting. Your voice matters. So thank you for voting. Thank you for helping to save our democracy.

drawings© 2022 (If you use any of them, please credit April Halprin Wayland. Thank you!)


Linda Mitchell said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing the definition, your funny proposal and wonderful mentor text. It's a whole workshop in one PF post...I love it. I will definitely write two poems based on the long and short mentor texts.

Irene Latham said...

That proposal is so very April HW! Love it. And yes, will give these prompts a go. Thank you, dear April! xo

Janice Scully said...

What a great post, April. I particularly love your sister-visiting poem, and I will send it to her as I haven't seen her in a very long time because of the pandemic. It made me laugh and miss her more. These are great mentor poems! Thank you.

Bridget Magee said...

What a gift this post (and you) are, April! Cathy Ross' poem is brilliant. (as the moon!) I'm definitely going to try an All At Once poem...perhaps today.
I'm thankful to have the privilege (and ability) to vote abroad. Love your drawings. :)

Linda said...

I always learn so much from mentor texts, and the two you posted are wonderful. I especially love your "All at Once" poem. You've inspired me to write my own version. Thanks for the great post!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Every bit of this--fun! I want to try right away.


All events occur simultaneously. I pretend
that the pastn in which I am worrying
what I look like all the time, is long gone;

that there is a future where everything
is going, still, despite my lessons,
exactly as I plan (a kind of faith);

but the truth is that all events
occur simultaneously. I am still
that little girl; I am already
the old crone; right now my sweater
has grease stains and I'm wearing it
anyway, having decided not to shower
(a kind of wisdom); already the day

is starting to slip and slide, to morph
into the gutters or is it the meadows
on either side of the straight path (a kind
of serendipity); already I am remembering
to breathe through the folds of time
like someone who has given up on
consecutive and accepted simultaneity.

Linda B said...

My granddaughter has been writing lots of poetry, will share this with her, April. I love every bit of it, the "Sister Eve", and on. Since I do notice the moon, would be saddest of all if it only came once in a while, but the poem reminded me of seeing a solar eclipse, happy to have had it happen in my lifetime! Thanks for a marvelous & inspirational post. (My ballot came yesterday! I have the weekend to fill it out before boxes are ready!)

Patricia Franz said...

Oh my! I LOVE your post! Cannot wait to try both of these exercises!! Thank you!!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

What a fun exercise! I must try it!

Margaret Simon said...

Such a full post! I will definitely hold onto this as a mentor text for my own writing and share with my students. I love, love your sister poem. I have a sister that I see only occasionally and it should always be a celebration.

Marilyn Garcia said...

I think I could get lost in my office for many hours writing poems from these exercises. What a great way to get the ink running to the paper!

Carmela Martino said...

Love this post and both your poems, April, but especially the sister one. This image made me laugh:
My Sister’s Here signs posted on my door.
You've reminded me that I don't see my own sister near enough.
You're such an inspiration!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Linda... I would love to read any poems you wrote based on either of those. You can email them to me If you'd rather not post them here:

April Halprin Wayland said...

Irene! So lovely to"see" you here, dear one. Yes, I had nothing to lose, so I took a chance with that proposal and I'm glad I did. There's something wonderful about aging... It allows us to be more of who we are.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Janice, do you mean that you're going to send her my poem or your own sister poem? Either would be fine. I wonder what your sister poem would be 😘💕

April Halprin Wayland said...

Bridget! Thank you so much for your own post and for helping me through the technical twist I was experiencing. And yes, that Kathy Ross poem is almost like the moon itself, isn't it?
Here's how I'm voting:

April Halprin Wayland said...

Linda! I'd love to read you're all At Once. Poem 🙃😁 If you'd rather not post it in the comment section, you can email it to me (if you want to):

April Halprin Wayland said...

Heidi! I love that you wrote your poem here, for all of us to enjoy. It's wonderful. I particularly like--well, so much but here's one part:
"already I am remembering
to breathe through the folds of time"

April Halprin Wayland said...

Linda! I would love to see any poem that your granddaughter or you wrote based on either of these mentors!
(Here's how I voted:

April Halprin Wayland said...

Hello there,Patricia! I don't think I've met you before. Thanks so much! For reading this group blog. I can't wait to hear/ read what came from these exercises!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Marcie ~ It really is fun... There's something about a mentor poem that's like A friend! standing by to help if you don't know where to go next

April Halprin Wayland said...

Oh, Margaret! I hope you do share it with your students. I would love to see what they came up with. If you're comfortable sharing. You can send them (and/or your own?) to me if you're comfortable:

April Halprin Wayland said...

It is a great way to get ink running to the paper, Marilyn. I can see using mentor texts as warm-ups before getting down to whatever is on my to do list that day 🌱

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmila! You and I inspire each other... Like two trees in bloom 😘💕

Mary Lee said...

Everything about this post. Especially the invitations. Especially the moon poem. For sure the everything at once poem. Most of all, your voting site. Inspirational. Informational. Passionate. Informed.


I'll try the prompts this week.

Sarah H. said...

Great post and great poems—thank you for sharing them!