Last night I was struggling with what topic to write about for Poetry Friday today. I tried a to draft a couple of poems. It was not working – the creative juices – so to speak – were not flowing. If you’ve read any of my more personal blogs over the last month, you’ll know why. My head is still not completely back in Wisconsin – even though my body returned at the end of September.
By the time I went to bed, I still had no idea of what to post about today. I opened the bookcase that contains some of the books I got from my mom’s classroom when she retired thirty years ago. I frequently reach to these when I am “stuck.” On the shelf are compilations from Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Jeff Moss, and Bruce Lansky to name a few. I reached for the book, Butterflies in a Jar by Jeff Moss (1989). Primarily, I chose this book because I had not looked at it in a very long time.
With interest, I read the inside book jacket flap that described Moss’s career with the Children’s Television Workshop – AKA the producers of Sesame Street. I had forgotten Moss was part of the extremely talented group that brought the Muppet characters to life. Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch were two characters Moss developed. Moss also created some of the most famous songs known to the Sesame Street television show. Remember, “I Love Trash?” Well, Moss wrote it! And, there were others – many others.
By the time I read the poem, The Butterfly Jar and a few others, I knew what I’d write about today! Poets come from all walks of life. I believe that is the beauty of the genre. While Moss might be closer to the foundations of poetry than I, the fact that do not have classical literary training or in depth language arts education doesn’t count me out – far from it.
For my entire life, I’ve worked with children – sick and well children in primary care settings, babies in intensive care, toddlers in rehab settings, children in elementary classrooms, children in my after school groups at Evergreen Garden Club and Garden Club at North Woods International School, as well as high school students coming to these groups to earn service hours for National Honor Society. I ran several enrichment groups for talented and gifted students: book clubs, third grade writer’s circle, and formed a parent group to help our district meet the needs of this special subset of students. If there was a need, I saw it and addressed it.
Did that come from knowing classics, having flawless writing skills, or being able to espouse on the technical aspects of poetry? No. My enrichment offerings, many involving creativity, writing, and STEM subject came from a passion and interest in enriching our youth. My experience in two very different, yet philosophically similar professions – nursing and education – where I always worked with children (birth – age 21) form the base for my writing and especially my poetry.
Despite coming from a different background, in the world of poetry, I can still offer something. And, it can be something different. By the time I went to bed, I had at least one new poem idea swirling in my head about a second grade student in a classroom where I served as a substitute over ten years ago. If I can bring the idea to life, the poem will be engaging, relatable, and funny. And, if that doesn’t work – I’ll turn back again to my life experience and nature – one of life’s greatest inspirations.
In today’s case, my inspiration came from a song writer/poet who wrote pieces I remember from my childhood. The song “I Love Trash” was written in 1970 but the book that Moss put out – The Butterfly Jar -was written in 1989. I might not have 29 years of longevity on my side to produce poetry but it shows that people evolve. Life teaches us about what to be and what experiences to draw upon to reach our goals. Sadly, Jeff Moss died in 1998 at the age of 56. You can read more about him in this Poetry Foundation interview.
You never know where inspiration will come from!
Moss’s book begins, “We had a jar with a butterfly….“
“And there are things inside my head
Waiting to be thought or said….“
A reading of the complete poem can be found here. I hope you enjoy it.
Today is Poetry Friday. Our host for this week’s round up is the fantastically creative Bridget Magee at wee words for wee ones. Please visit her blog to post a link to the round up and visit some more wonderful poetry! Thanks for hosting Bridget!
Thanks for highlighting Jeff Moss today, Carol! I had no idea he was Oscar and Cookie (I’m on a first name basis with all the SS folks as they visited our household daily while my girls were little. I still miss ol’ Grover.) I’m glad you dug deep and found such an inspirational poet to share with us. 🙂
When I am searching for inspiration, I often take a deep dive and get lost in the research. Thanks for sharing what you learned about Jeff Moss, gone too soon. And I agree that poetry is for everybody.
What a wonderful rabbit hole you’ve given me today. You’ve given me the name of the creative force behind many happy memories from my childhood. Best of luck with your new poem idea – I hope it turns out to be all you want it to be.
I love reading your time readying for Poetry Friday, Carol. Like those above, I didn’t know about Jeff Moss’s work with Sesame Street. He gave us huge gifts that will continue to be opened by new generations. Thanks for this poem as butterflies leave us this year. Happy Weekend!
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Thanks, Linda. I practice a lot of metacognition! It seems to help me improve my skills and/or lessons! I’m currently in AZ looking for a few more monarchs! (I brought my tags with me!)
Carol, so glad you found inspiration this weekend, and became reacquainted with Jeff Moss. I enjoyed the video you shared. I’ll look forward someday to reading the poem about your experience substituting with the second grader.
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As always, thank you Denise!
I’m a fan of putting words to process…I just wrote this very same line on Alan Wright’s post for PF. And, here is another wonderful post describing process from stuck to complete and beautiful poem. It’s good, isn’t it? That metacognition. It’s one of the most fascinating parts of my teaching life too. I love talking it over with kids. Wonderful resolution to your post. Thank you!
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Thank for reading!