2013 Year in Review

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It's just a funny shot of
Kiara reading Goodnight Bush and making a face about Dick Cheney.

Well, 2013 has been my most prolific year as a blogger with this being my 51st post. The 52 poems project definitely kept me going. I loved returning to a few of my favorite poets: Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, and Lucille Clifton, but I also discovered how much I love other poets like Seamus Heaney, Richard Blanco, and Naomi Shihab Nye. My poetry posts were not so widely read, though. I don't know how much these stats really tell me. I mean, as of now, my Dukes of Hazzard excerpt is my all-time most read which just shows the power of the label in a search engine. Apparently more people search for 80s tv shows than for poems about forgetting and remembering life.

Still, these were the three posts which got the most hits in 2013. Thanks for reading along and here's to another year of reading, writing, blogging, and living.

The third most visited post was titled Conception after a poem in Reflections of Motherhood. I decided to share this after we decided to try to grow our family again. No luck yet, but we're still hopeful!

The next most-read post was about the new year's wishes my students made and some wishes of my own. It surprises me that this was so widely read, but I'm glad for it and I do plan on writing more about my teaching and the state of public education this coming year.

But for 2013, the posts which resonated most was Love that Dog about our family's decision to re-home our dog. I still tear up reading it and still miss Scout. It was tough not hanging her stocking this holiday season and if anyone is in need of a dog stocking, let me know.

See you in 2014!


52 Poems: Weeks 51 and 52 The End

These are the last poems I'll be posting for a while. 52 poems ends up being quite a lot, so thanks for coming along with me on this year's poetry detour. It reminded me how much words matter. Hopefully, they reminded you of that too.

2013 has been a year filled with teaching, writing, reading, and poetry, but it's also been about a little girl who is growing in a world far away from where I grew up and far away from my immediate family. Here are a couple of poems from my Reflections on Motherhood collection about little Kiara Harper's journey. They were inspired by poems I posted in week 14 of this poem-a-week project, Pablo Neruda's "You Will Remember." and in week 16, Billy Collins' "Forgetfulness." 

Urban Girl
after Pablo Neruda’s “You Will Remember”

You will remember sirens and bright night skies,
the beach and warm winters,
voices in a chorus of languages
and traffic flowing instead of silent water.

You will remember snow as a vacation
an escape to a mountain
rather than a driveway or walk to shovel
or a day off from school.

You will remember family
after a plane ride or a long drive
and the Oregon relatives whose love
stretches from a thousand miles away.

Pictures with Grandpa
after Billy Collins’ “Forgetfulness”

I watch you with your grandpa
and I’m so glad you know him,
that his booming voice
is familiar to your tiny ears,
that his bright white smile
brings out your giggle.

I snap pictures to capture the moments

so when he slips away,
when he can no longer remember your name,
I can show him pictures
of that first Christmas and first birthday
to help jostle loose a memory
of how much he loves you.

And when he is gone
I will show you these photographs
so you will know,
in a time before you can remember
your grandpa loved you
and you loved him too.


52 Poems: Weeks 49 and 50 A Gift of Words

Right before winter break, I always share a couple of my favorite winter poems with my students. As this 52 poems project nears its end, I thought I'd share them here. I've posted "Good Hours" in the past, but here it is again, along with another Robert Frost favorite, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" which always sounds like it should be the title of a Pearl Jam song. Enjoy.

Good Hours
By Robert Frost

I had for my winter evening walk—

Rie Munoz
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces

Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,

At ten o'clock of a winter eve.

Rie Munoz's Evergreen Bowl
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Through Eyes Like Mine v. Overdue Apologies

So, a couple of times in the past few weeks people have told me they didn't know I had a second book. What? How is this possible? It came out almost two years ago. Apparently, I didn't do a very good job getting the word out about Overdue Apologies, the middle school memoir follow-up to Through Eyes Like Mine.

Well, the early reviews are in, and it seems that the adults prefer Through Eyes Like Mine, and the young adult readers like Overdue Apologies more. My students have given me great feedback, even though I'm a little bit torn about my students reading my books. I don't mind when they read Through Eyes Like Mine, but this year I made the mistake of telling them they shouldn't read Overdue Apologies. So, of course, this made them want to read it. It's been good for me, though. I've had the chance to get more feedback and it's always funny to hear them critique my middle school choices.

"Ms. Nakada, I was mad when you broke up with Robert."

"What ever happened to Robin, or Casey, or Bianca?"

Then, one of my students wrote in a reading journal that she cried as she read the last chapter. She loves her middle school friends and hates to think they will someday drift apart.

She made me consider that it might not be so bad for my middle school students read my middle school memoir. Even though I did some things I'm not proud of, maybe reading my book will help them make better decisions than I did.

So, if you have a reader on your holiday list, here are a couple of books for your consideration.

Through Eyes Like Mine

Overdue Apologies


52 Poems: Weeks 47 and 48 Pablo Neruda on Keeping Quiet

With the year winding down and headlines reminding me of all that is wrong in the world, I need a poet to remind me to keep quiet. 

after Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet”

Now that you are walking
I can hear your footsteps
Pitter patter in the world.
I want to keep quiet,
to silence the noise of the world,
the shots fired on a winter morning,
the distant blast of bombs exploding
at the end of a marathon.
I watch you bravely take first steps
into this world 
of peace and violence,
truth and lies,
and remember to count
to twelve, and keep still.

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.