National Poetry Month 2013

And Sometimes Life Has Other Plans

Poetry month is over and I didn’t make it through the month with my mentor poem project. I do want to return to it but sometimes, you know, life has other plans.

One of the most difficult things for me has been to find mentor poems that we also available online so that other people could read them and teachers could use it as a resource. I have some poems left that will make good mentor poems but they are long and didn’t work in the short pockets of time I had available.

This was my 5th year doing a poem a day and the 1st year that I failed to make it through the month. I’m not going to list excuses because it doesn’t really matter. In fact, I’m not going to call it a failure, just a postponement while I find my footing once again.

In the meantime, if you know of short poems that would be good for models, and that are available online, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013|Tags: |4 Comments

In the style of Rudyard Kipling, If

I love using this poem, If by Rudyard Kipling, in the classroom. We dissect this poem line by line and we don’t go on to the next line until we’ve talked through the one before. This is hard for a lot of the at-risk kids I usually work with but the eventually work their way through it. I have them what they think Kipling meant and then I have them talk about it as it compares to their lives. Then I ask them to write there own poem modeled on the poem.


Here’s a version of one my tries at this.


If you can learn that your value comes from being yourself,
not who the rest of the world thinks you should be

If you can recognize that no one person
sits in judgement of you

If you can lean into the understanding that difficult people too,
carry their burdens

If you can not cause pain to yourself, to others

If you can freely share your knowledge
knowing it will just increase your wealth
and manage your wealth so that the
seeking of it doesn’t manage you

If you can let go of hate and anger and fear
and all the useless emotions that hold you back
while at the same time filling yourself
and the world with love and laughter and compassion

If you can encourage dream following in everyone you meet
while nurturing dreams of your own

If you can let yourself believe
in yourself

There is nothing you cannot do.

–Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of Rita Ann Higgins, Be Someone

I really liked the direction my poem took after I read Be Someone by Rita Ann Higgins. I would use it in the classroom along with IF and MY CREED to help kids develop their own guidelines for living.

Here’s my first draft.

Be Someone

Be someone who is kind
more than someone who is indifferent.
Indifference kills more things than
hate or anger ever will.

Be someone who dreams
and someone who helps other people
make their dreams come true.

Be someone who is not afraid to say you are wrong
and someone who doesn’t always have to be right.

Be someone who understands
that being yourself is enough
and that you don’t have to remake yourself
into something else
to make someone love you.

Be someone who loves
a lot
with all your heart
and no holds barred
because love heals
and help you grow
and it feels good too.

Susan Taylor Brown


Thursday, April 18, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Inspired by J. Patrick Lewis, What to Wear Where

Today I picked this fun poem by  J. Patrick Lewis called What to Wear Where as my model poem. I really wanted to do something light and fun but my muse had a different idea. Here’s my first draft.


What to Wear

When you visit someone special
what you wear doesn’t matter
you will be cloaked
in hugs and laughter
or silence smiles
that sing a love song
of understanding and
together you will braid
a tapestry of memories
that will keep you warm
even when you are miles apart.

Susan Taylor Brown

Wednesday, April 17, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |8 Comments

In the Style of William Bly, Things to Think

I think this poem by Robert Bly, Things to Think is an interesting one to play with. It would be fun for students to experiment with thinking of things as opposites. I didn’t quite get where I wanted to with this first draft but I have something to revise down the road.

Here’s my first draft.


Things to Think

Think in opposites
If you’re hungry
think of vegetables as the new chocolate
and bread and sugar and steak as
something that makes you sick to your stomach.

Think that there is no greater high
than working out
and that watching television will make you fat
Think that there is good in everyone
even the people
that make you mad
or make you cry
or walk out of your life without a decent explanation.

Think that you are beautiful and healthy
and that the reflection in the mirror
is someone you used to be
not someone you are now.

When the world threatens you
think that it is just a passing storm
about to drench the fields
to help the flowers grow.

Susan Taylor Brown

Tuesday, April 16, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |5 Comments

In the Style of Tupac Shakur, The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Today’s model poem for National Poetry month is The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur

My students often want to read and share Tupacs poems and lyrics and this poem of his one of the cleaner ones that I can use in the classroom. I’ve never tried to use it as a jumping off point for my own work but when I reread it, I had a vision of all the dogs that are thrown away and how some of them, like my Zoey, are lucky enough to be rescued and find a new forever home. Here’s my first draft.


The Dog That Remembered How to Love

Did you hear about the dog
thrown to the side of the road
because someone didn’t want it anymore
left to fend for itself
with no guarnatee of food or water
no microchip or tag to know where home was
no a soft bed to curl into at night?

Did you hear about the dog
not much more than skin and bones
seen skulking in the alleys
digging through garbage
scratching at the fleas that covered her body
and the foxtails that filled her ears
and the parasites that filled her belly.

Did you hear about the dog
they couldn’t catch
because it ran so fast
like white lightening
running running running
faster still when someone shot it
burying a slug of metal in her hip
faster faster faster
until finally they set a trap
and caught that dog in a cage
and put that dog in a car
and took that dog to another cage
where that dog waited.

Did you hear about the dog
that got lucky
that got found
that got saved
that dog that found a different kind of home
that dog that got food and water
and a bed of its very own
that dog that got clean
that dog that got healthy
that dog who still loved to run
run fast.

Long live that dog
that remembered how to love
the humans who loved it back
after so many other humans
turned away.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of October by Bobbi Katz

October by Bobbi Katz is a fun poem to model and could lead to a wide variety of other new poems. My rough draft is pretty rough but I like the direction this is taking and I will come back to play with it some more. Since my garden is full of native plants, I do my planting in the fall, not the spring like so many other folks, and I like the idea of building on this poem.


October is
when the dirt bed
throws back its sheets
and welcomes bulbs and seeds
to have a slumber party
hoping they will move in
and improve the neighborhood.

October is when leaves are
starting to fall into compost piles
to feed the worms who will cook up
a nutritious meal for the native plants

October is
just before the rain begins to fall
in California
when the garden grows
where you can’t see it
and hope for spring
surrounds you.

Susan Taylor Brown

Sunday, April 14, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Another in the Style of William Stafford, my poem What's on My Desk

I adore the poem What’s in My Journal by William Stafford because it is deceptively simply and equally deep. You think you are going to read a list of tangible things and yet there is so much more. I want to revisit this poem and try to do the same but for today’s rough draft, I took the easy way out.


What’s on My Desk

Expected things, like pens and pencils. Art
things like crayons, scraps of handmade paper,
a paintbrush I forgot to wash. Stuffing from a
dog toy, stolen from the dog just before she ate
it. A Christmas card I forgot to mail. An empty water
bottle. A dirty coffee cup. Dead batteries and a dead fly.
Evidence of my poor housekeeping skills.
A paper dictionary I never use anymore. A quote
to help me be more focused. A rock I found in the
backyard. The collar from my only cat,
gone 10 years now. Two crumpled pieces of paper
torn from a notebook. My tolerance for clutter is high
yet I rarely work at my desk too surrounded by
things to sidetrack me from creating something new.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of Major Jackson, How to Listen

Today’s model poem is How to Listen by Major Jackson. A few years ago I read this poem and used the title as a jumping off point for a new poem of my own with the same title. That one turned into a a pretty angry poem so I wanted to give it another try.

How to Listen

Go outside
find a spot in the sun
the garden is best
close your eyes, gently
breathe slowly
slower still
until nature’s orchestra
hums in your ear

Susan Taylor Brown

Friday, April 12, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |8 Comments

In the Style of Elizabeth Alexander, My Poem Ars Poetica #1: Learn to See


This was a fun one to model, even if I didn’t follow the idea exactly it was a nice jumping off point for me. Read the original poem Ars Poetica #100: I Believe by Elizabeth Alexander.

Here’s my first draft.

Ars Poetica #1:Learn to See

Let me explain.

Poetry is that first sip of coffee in the morning
a fresh orange
cod liver oil.

Poetry is the exactly right shade of pale yellow
to match the roses that climb the gazebo at the park,
the cinnamon red of my favorite boots
the rusted rims of the old car deserted in the woods.

Poetry is the smell of chopping onions for dinner
wet dog and cotton candy
the garbage can overflowing behind the fish market.

Poetry is my husband’s kiss goodnight
the soft velvet of a hazelnut leaf
A snake. A slug. A snail.

Poetry is my grandson’s giggles
my mother saying “I love you” on the phone
my daughter’s tears.

What do you mean you don’t understand poetry?
It’s all around you.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of William Stafford – Things I Learned Last Week

There are a lot of examples of list-like poems but since I would swoon reading William Stafford laundry list so it’s no surprise that his poem, Things I Learned Last Week is one of my favorites.  Each line could be reworked into a poem of its own.

Here’s my first draft.


Things I Learned Last Year

Good friends
are not as large in number as you might think
when you first start counting.

Not everyone you meet will want to be your friend.

Just because you work with someone
doesn’t mean they are going to be your friend.
When you no longer share the same job,
don’t be surprised if you hear silence
instead of something more.

Some people you once called friend will turn out to
just be people you met once upon a time
and not much more.

Some people you hardly know will come to your rescue
before you realize you are in trouble.

Even when someone tells you it’s not about you
it still feels like it is all about you.

It’s up to you how to react to realtionship changes.

A real friend wants to hear all about you
even the yucky parts that might make them uncomfortable.

If a friend doesn’t understand
something  you’re doing or saying
or something you’re not doing or not saying
they’re not afraid to ask questions.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a good friend.
Sometimes it’s scary.
And sometimes it is a whole lot of really tough work.

Good friends are rare
and that’s a good thing I learned
because we take special care
with rare and beautiful things.

— Susan Taylor Brown

Another poem in the style of Eve Merriam, How to Eat a Poem

There are a lot of great examples out there of “how to” poems but How to Eat a Poem by Eve Merriam has always been one of my favorites.

Here’s my first draft.


How to Be Beautiful

Stand up straight.
Smile at everyone you see.
Smile at the tired clerk at the store
and the guy who cuts you off in traffic
and the homeless man begging for change
outside the library.
Smile big and wide
and don’t worry if your receding gums show.
Let your smile dance up to your eyes
until the sides of your face pull up into
little lines of happiness
then watch your smile somersault
away to dance for a stranger.
You do not need perfect skin
a perfect body
expensive clothes
in order to be beautiful.
Just smile.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the style of, Martha Baird – Do Not Make Things Too Easy

Today I chose the poem Do Not Make Things Too Easy by Martha Baird for my model. It took an unexpected turn and I’m looking forward to coming back and working it into even more of an anthem. I really encourage people to give this a try. I’m not spending more than half an hour on these first drafts. These are just emotional dumps from me after I read the model poem. Then later I will have fun with polishing them in the revision stage. It’s very freeing to know that these are quick drafts and don’t have to be perfect.

Here’s my first draft.

Do Not Tell Me I Cannot

Do not tell me
I cannot climb mountains you can’t see
I can be
my mind conceives.

Do not tell me
you do not believe in me
I can be
so much more
than you imagine.

I am sick of dishonesty
believe me
I can be
true north on my own
I want dreams to be met by dreams
If I am amazing, and trust me, I am amazing,
Do not tell me you are surprised.

Susan Taylor Brown


Monday, April 8, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

In the Style of George Ella Lyon, Where I'm From

I assign this poem to students all the time but I’ve never tried to do it myself so today’s mentor poem is Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon.

Here’s my first draft.


Where I’m From

I am from sunshine
clothes hanging on the line
oranges and apricots
(not a fan)
walnuts and almonds
(could never get enough)
I am from catfish
caught by papa
frozen by nana in a wax milk carton
to feed us in the winter months.

I am from Captain Kangaroo
Miss Nancy’s magic mirror
Bosco syrup and KoolAid
Red Skeleton and Ed Sullivan
G.I. Joe full-size and Barbie
with no moving parts.

I am from White Gloves and Party Manners
dresses made at home
winter coats from Rhodes
the PowWow parade
and fireworks at the high school on the fourth of July.

In my attic bedroom
I slept with open windows
the smell orange blossoms
carried to my dreams
by the ghosts that shared my space.

Susan Taylor Brown

Sunday, April 7, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |12 Comments

In the Style of Eve Merriam, Metaphor

Today I used the poem Metaphor by Eve Merriam as my model. I am finding this a really interesting exercise though finding the mentor poems is more difficult than I originally imagined.

Here’s my rough draft.




Evening is
a photograph
of how you spent your day.

Focus on the moments
large and small
you want to remember
blur the rest.

Capture colors.

Each day
becomes a masterpiece.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of Donald Hall, My Poem, The Garden


Today’s mentor poem for me is called The Things by Donald Hall.

As often happens when I pick a mentor poem I don’t try to follow a form or idea exactly but rather use the mentor poem as a jumping off point for something new for me. Instead of looking inside my house, I looked outside my back door to the huge Japanese Maple tree that sits outside my office. It is the only plant growing in my backyard that is not a California native plant but it is such a large tree, that we let it stay. The vines that I planted, are one of the few true vines in California native plants. And the butterflies I wait for are the Pipevine Swallowtails, whose only food are these vines, and who used to be prevalent in my area but whose numbers have dwindled greatly over the years. I have no butterflies, yet.

Here’s my rough draft.


The Garden

When I step outside I see a giant Japanese maple
planted near full grown by another family
lowered by a crane over the top of my tall home
because impatience
was the food they used to fertilize most everything.
A tree, healthy, green, growing tall,
wide enough to shade the patio and my office
and just kiss the edge of the roof,
a beautiful specimen but it’s not mine
even though its roots tunnel throughout my yard,
I did not nurture it through drought and frost
and I curse the tiny seedlings that sprout everywhere
but in spring it fills with birds who nest and sing
so I let it stay and plant pipevines at the base
and encourage the vines
to travel up the trunk and across the branches
like tentacles dripping with funny pipe-shaped blossoms
while I stand in the shade of the massive maple
and wait for butterflies.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the style of a song from One Republic

Songs are great poems to use as models. This is an example I’ve shared in the past but it is still one of my favorites. It’s modeled on the song called SECRETS by One Republic. You can read the lyrics to the song here.


Here’s my poem modeled on the song.


I need to know
that getting up in the morning
matters to the world
to someone other than the man
who matters so much to me,
the man who may not understand
why I need to know
that I matter at all.

You can tell me
it shouldn’t matter
but it does.
You can tell me
I matter in ways
I may not understand
in so many ways I can
only hope to believe

But I need to know
the kind of knowing that comes
from some place deep inside
some place I don’t reside
I want to run and hide because
what I fear is the world
pieces of soul
I don’t want the world to see
what I fear
is that what I need
matters too much to me

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved.

Your turn. If there’s a song you feel drawn to, search for the lyrics online and then try to model a poem based on that song. Good luck!

Thursday, April 4, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |7 Comments

In the style of e.e. cummings, My Poem, Let it Go


Today’s model poem is let it go by e.e. cummings

In his poem I think cummings is talking about letting go of all the negative things in your life in order to make room for love to find you. For my poem I decided to apply it to my life with Zoey.

Here’s a first draft of my poem


let it go

the clean carpet,
the hairless furniture
unblemished wood
anywhere there stands a door
a single slipper, socks
my favorite jeans
the claw foot of an antique table
they are all just things
and things are not mean to stay

let them go
the young, now leafless manzanita
the irises and the yarrow
too tender to hold their ground
the row of wax myrtles,
green soldiers guarding the fence
the blue-eyed grass
the monkey flowers
the delicate violas
you must let them go
let all of them collapse
into compost
food for future years
when you can plant again

let all go
sleeping late
silent quiet days
walks unfettered
let all go
and embrace

life with a dog


Susan Taylor Brown


In the style of Lucile Clifton, My Poem, Come Celebrate With Me

Today’s model poem is Won’t You Celebrate With Me by Lucile Clifton.  You can click the link to read the original poem.

I have a lot of energy wrapped up in this draft and I need to let it set before I rework. This came out in a white, hot heat.   Here’s my first draft of poem modeled in the same style.


Celebrate With Me

won’t you celebrate with me
what I have become
a woman strong and brave
enough to speak her mind,
a wife, a lover
daughter, mother
a friend to few
I hold dear
a non-friend
to some
for reasons I don’t understand
born into confusion
about how to become
how to trust I had
in all my glory
before barreling past
my destination
not knowing
I was enough
I am enough
come celebrate
with me that
I have climbed
my mountains
cheered the sunrise
knowing, knowing
I am stronger
at all the broken places.

—Susan Taylor Brown

Happy National Poetry Month and William Carlos Williams

Yay, it’s National Poetry Month! That wonderful time of year where poetry loves gather and share original poems, favorite poems, anything poetry related.

This year I am going to use the month to work on poems modeled on other poems. This is a great exercise in the classroom, especially for students (or adults) who are intimidated by the idea of writing poetry. What you do is pick a model, or mentor poem, and then write your own version of the poem. I hope you’ll give it a try along with me.

Let’s start with an easy one,  This Is Just To Say by William Carlos WilliamsYou can click the link to read the original poem.

Here’s my first draft of poem modeled in the same style.


This is Just to Say

I have taken
the letters
you threw

and which
you said
were full
of lies.

Forgive me
but there was
a love story
waiting to be told.

—Susan Taylor Brown


Your turn!


Looking for more poetry events in the Kidlitosphere? Check out Jama’s round-up of all the fun.

Monday, April 1, 2013|Categories: National Poetry Month 2013, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |16 Comments