Troll Posts Into Poetry

Kate Baer Fights Back with Art

A mother of four is turning the ugly words people share across the Internet into poems with her new book, I Hope This Finds You Well. The bestselling poet has turned the hateful DMs that she's received into new poems, transforming critical words and harsh judgements about everything from looks to politics into something new.

By now readers might guess what format these poems are written in: erasure style! Each poem is comprised of troll mail as well as fan mail, and the author's intention with the technique is to inspire others to make something beautiful out of the ugliness in their lives. While I'm not sure how I feel about that, I do think it's great the author found a way to heal and maybe even get back at her trolls a bit.

What other books of unique poetry have you heard about lately? Share any cool poems or stories about poets in the chat. 

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Maya Angelou to Appear on U.S. Quarter

Are you excited to see the new coin?

After the controversy over putting Harriet Tubman on U.S. money, it's hard to decide whether or not it's an honor. Yes, we need more representation across the board, but on the symbol of capitalism that harms everyone--Black folks in particular--it may not seem as much of a place of reverence as, say, a statue or naming a school after someone. What are you thoughts regarding whether or not being placed on money is really an honor or not?

This question is important this week because the incredible Maya Angelou is about to appear on the U.S. quarter. It feels exciting to have the first Black woman on a coin, which is why folks are wrestling with this question this week. Some argue that it's simply a problem and not an honor, while others are saying that they've never been interested in coin collecting until this moment. As much as folks might want to see her lovely face rather than the faces of slave owners who didn't want to pay taxes, perhaps they'd like to address the many problems--problems that often feature capitalism as a root cause--first? 

What do you think of Angelou's face on the quarter? What other coins or bills would you like to see changed soon, and who do you think should be pictured on them? Do you think it's an honor to be on money? Share your thoughts and opinions in the chat. 

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Amanda Gorman Shares New Poem

Have you heard "New Day's Lyric"?

We recently discussed Amanda Gorman's new collection of poems, and now that the New Year is here, the poet has given us another new poem. It's called "New Day's Lyric" and she performed it in an empty theater in a partnership with Instagram. Gorman says she wrote the poem not only as a celebration of the New Year we're now living in, but to also honor the pain of the last year we've all endured.

The performance is available at the link and it's just as moving as one would expect a poem from the poet to be. In it, she recites, "Even if we never get back to normal, someday we can venture beyond it, to leave the known and take the first steps. So let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next."

What's next. That really does sound hopeful. As the numbers rise higher in my community than they've been throughout the entire pandemic, that hope is hard to find. Without any government mandates where I live, it feels like life is even harder than it was a year ago, even with vaccines. We need people in our community to actually get them for them to work, and in the county adjacent to mine, over 20% of people or more are infected. In my own... well, my own cares more about naming highways after disgraced presidents and suing schools over mask mandates than anything else.

So I'm going to return to Gorman's words a lot as I try to stay home yet again. She gave me so much hope last year, and while some of what we'd wished for came true, so much else has not yet. I'm going to hold onto hope with Amanda Gorman. What's next. How about you? What poems are giving you hope right now?

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Call Us What We Carry

Amanda Gorman has a new collection!

Back when we fell in love with Amanda Gorman's "The Hill We Climb" on Inauguration Day, many of us wanted more of her words to mull over. The young poet's writing speaks to many Americans, her powerful words igniting so many hearts with hope and action. Today while we long for so much more action toward progress, health and stability, Gorman has gifted us with a collection of her works.

The collection, Call Us What We Carry, does feature that poem we fell in love with in January, and it contains many other moving works. The poems in the collection aren't all historically driven; some feature universal topics like grief and identity. But the book is essentially a "message in a bottle," says Gorman, and there are lots of poems in it about America, its history and its present.

Have you read Gorman's new book? Which poems speak to you and what about them is so memorable? Share your thoughts about the works in the chat. 

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Rest in Peace, Thomas Kinsella

Poet passes away at age 93

If you've ever studied the poems "The Táin" and "Butcher’s Dozen" in school, you already know about Thomas Kinsella. Ireland celebrates the famous poet as one of their best, but Kinsella is also known as a teacher who taught in the United States for many years. Since 1958, when his first major collection was published, Kinsella has made a household name for himself among the most descriptive and talented poets. 

"Buter's Dozen" was especially well-known because of its subject matter, which was Bloody Sunday. Kinsella was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin and the UCD Ulysses Medal, among many other accolades in his life.  Kinsella passed away in Dublin at age 93. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor, who died in 2017. 

What was your favorite poem by Thomas Kinsella? Share your memories and favorite quotes by the poet in the chat. 

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Trelani Michelle's Historical Poetry

Check out this incredible project!

It's incredible to see so many artists take to Patreon to sell their art these days, and some of it has so much meaning that you're really getting a lot more than art alone when you support an artist. Take Trelani Michelle. Not only is this creator interviewing Black folks from the South to catalog their lives and what they were like throughout history, but she's making them available in poetic readings and writings available on her Patreon.

Like many Patreon creators, Michelle has various levels of support subscribers can give in order to access different things she's made, from book readings to her full-sized book. What's really exciting is how she has covered many historical events that people either did not know about or events that folks do know about but don't know the whole history, especially through the eyes of folks who've experienced it. 

What other exciting poetry projects have you seen lately? Share them in the chat. 

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Reflections at the End of the Year

How was your 2021?

It's the time of year when I start to really reflect on the things I've learned and done in the past 12 months. This has been one of the most different years for my family and me--perhaps even more than 2020. That makes me want to really dive into how it was different and who I am after 2021. 

If you search online, you can find all kinds of End of the Year reviews. I've been a fan of Susannah Conway's Unraveling reflections, and I really love the books and products by SARK, Jen Louden, Brene Brown and other authors over the years. I also really like the six-word poems and 100-word poems people use to sum up their lives, personalities or years, and I was thinking we could do that here.

Reflecting on this past year, how would you describe it in a six-word poem? How about a 100-word poem? Share your reflections in the chat.

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Coding with Poetry

Create Poetry with Art and Animation

If you are familiar with the Hour of Code as a parent or teacher, you already know that it's a fun way to introduce kids to coding in general. Now Code.org has a bunch of different programs kids can use to get into coding, including one for the kids who love poetry. There are a couple of options for interested kids, too.

Poem Art allows students to add art and animation to a classic poem, illustrating it while they learn some coding basics. Coding with Poetry is a set of five lessons for kids in 4th through 8th grade where they can play with poem-generating code. Either program is a great way to involve creative kids in coding. It's code-based but also involves sharing poetry in a circle and other artistic components.

What other cool coding programs have you run across using poetry, literature or creative writing? Share them in the chat. 

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Diverse Collections of Poetry

What are you reading?

While I'm working on a poetry unit for my teen for next semester, I'm realizing that I don't have as many diverse voices included as I'd planned on. I have lots of Black voices--honestly, you can't do a poetry unit without them; many of the most powerful poems ever written were penned by Black poets--but I'm not seeing a lot of representation otherwise. The collection of "diverse poetry" that I've been saving for next year really isn't as great as I recall, either.

These collections look like great additions. I need to get them and check them out! The immigration poems really call to me but each of these collections looks like they would really provide a look at different voices than we typically learn about in school. I'd love even more suggestions, though, especially of a prolific poet or two whom we could do a deep dive into. I have Amanda Gorman on our list but I'd love more young poets, too. 

Which poets do you consider to be essential when studying poetry? Which poets have moved you or written works that have changed your life? Share all of the poets you wish you had learned about in high school in the chat!

Poetry Slams

Are they happening where you live?

Poetry slams have unfortunately fallen to the side in many communities lately, whether due to the pandemic or lack of interest. While I've tried to generate some interest, the youth in our clubs and groups just don't seem to be very interested. It's a bummer, but I don't think we should push interests on people if they really aren't into them much.

Some areas are seeing slams start back up again with a passion, such as the Oakland area. I love that it looks a lot like the subversive poets we've seen and loved over the years with new topics (and sometimes old ones that still need to be dealt with) and twists. I can't help but feel like if youth attended just one of these events, they might become interested in the art. 

Are poetry slams happening where you live? What about virtually? How have you managed to ignite interest in slams with the youth you teach or work with? Share your tips in the chat. 

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