Poetry Friday: March Madness Edition

When I faced down ‘androgynous’ in the first round of Poetry March Madness last year, I was sure that any word Ed threw at me this year would be easier. But I was wrong. This year I drew ‘bereft’. It’s a fine word, but I live in Connecticut. And ‘bereft’ is a raw word for me. A sharp, painful word. It brings to mind tiny coffins and sobbing parents. Not an easy word to write a children’s poem about. So I really, really, really struggled this year. Hours before my entry was due I was still fussing with several unsatisfactory entries.

My first finalist was a poem about the yearly mastery tests:

The school’s bereft of noise,
of running feet,
of shouting voices,
of raised hands,
and laughter.

Must be testing week.

The second was a sappy poem for my husband:

bereft of song
of yellow daffodils
of pink petals, falling
is more like spring
than I am me
without you

But the poem I was really trying to avoid writing was the following poem (still in a very rough stage). Originally it had bereft in the 2nd to last line…


Patiently the 6th graders fold the
paper squares six times and, laughing,
cut angles to match the
poorly printed diagrams. Holding
back tears I guide a hand
making a center star, thinking,
how can we make stars
when the night has lost so many.

To vote in the first round, go to Think, Kid, Think.
For more Poetry Friday, visit Check It Out.

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8 Responses to Poetry Friday: March Madness Edition

  1. jama says:

    “Snowflakes” is so touching. Bereft is a REALLY hard word for a children’s poem. Kudos to you for coming through.

  2. Linda Baie says:

    They all have their beauty & in different ways, Katya. The last is sad, & needs to be, the first could be sad, yet you break that thread so well with the testing line. And the middle is lovely, just right for your husband. As you can see I like them all for different reasons. Thanks for sharing the process.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing all three poems – bereft IS a tough word, Katya, but you handled it admirably – congrats!

  4. Tara says:

    One word and three marvelously different poems. I was also moved by the way you responded, instinctively, to the word bereft – with the things in Connecticut that sprang to mind with that word.

  5. Mary Lee says:

    You had my teacher-empathy vote with your testing poem, but now that I see where your CT thinking led you with this word, you have my heart-vote for the snowflake poem.

  6. Thanks for writing about how you got to your poem. I’m always interested in that process as told by a poet. And thanks for the poems!

    Like Mary Lee, as a teacher myself the testing poem really resonated. I’d like to think it was only a week that was bereft…but…unfortunately in some schools that extends far beyond a week! :(

    I love the lines from Snowflake:
    how can we make stars
    when the night has lost so many.

  7. Laura Shovan says:

    Hi, Katya. I thought your testing poem was great and spoke to the way real learning stops during standardized testing. “Bereft” is a powerful word. I’m glad you’re following your instincts and taking time with snowflakes. I love the metaphor — paper snowflakes are made both from what is there and from the empty spaces, side by side. It is the perfect image for the word “bereft.”

  8. Ruth says:

    I think your snowflake poem is heartbreakingly beautiful.