Category Archives: poetry

February 19, 2015 | A Shepherd’s Journal: The Fragile Crack of Frozen Stars


When it is -11 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 C), the snow doesn’t so much crunch as it …squeaks.

I wait in the dark at the gate. Again.  Yesterday was a meal best left behind for the post trauma to come.  Today I voice a prayer for ‘no new mamas’.

I listen deep inside like an equitorial tracking station pinging for space craft. Was that something? No.

The wind has mercy.  I am only marginally cold except in my exposed face, but I am imaginative enough to bring up my dear Jack London in the similar dark but way worse.

I trudge and squeak down to the rambling pile of desuetude called our barn.  The snow is a Godsend.  It insulates the ground from a truly deep freeze.  Some old timers say a February snow is worth an April fertilizing.  We shall see.

I pass the spot where we lost two lambs yesterday.  Another motto: raise ’em on the ground.  In other words, hope your lambs be small and easy to birth.  Raise ’em on the ground, not in the womb.  These were among the largest lambs we have ever grown in our thirty winters of joy and pain and shepherding.  Too large to make it safely out. You don’t want to know how hard we tried.

I see the ewe who lost them both.  Yesterday, after my wife heroically midwifed them out,  the ewe licked and licked and licked them.  A bleat, a sideways look to us.  She paws the lambs still sticky and golden from birth. Post trauma.  I walk into the barn.

No new mamas. My prayer has been answered.  I break the ice in their water buckets.  Later I will swap out empty buckets for fresh ones and hope desperately that the so-called frost proof hydrant at the barn has not frozen.  That would probably mean hauling water from the house.  An all day affair.  We have done it before.

I think about my wife upstairs at home, deep in the piles of blankets and cats.  I imagine that warmth like the shot of bourbon I probably should have had before I came down here.  She took the late evening duty.  She is the real shepherd of the two of us.  I got the early morning duty.

I feed out hay and a little grain.  The ewes and their lambs are snug in their little lambing ‘jugs’. Sufficient unto themselves even to eleven below zero. The expecting ewes outside stir with anticipation so I toss them a few flakes of hay to keep them from talking behind my back as I trundle uphill to the house, to the warmth that loves me and doesn’t want to kill me.

At the gate I note that my beard is icicled where I have been breathing.  I turn off the flashlight. Frozen photons rain down from the new  moon sky. It is dark matter lambtime in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


A Portfolio Response to Summary

An Improvisational portfolio on the subject of Ferris Jabr’s “Why Brains Prefer Paper”.

For class,  Friday the 13th, February, 2015

1. Here is the article for summary:

2. Here is the diigo annotated link:

3. Here is the diigo outliner that scraped all the links and little bit more as I attempted to ‘Backward engineer’ the author’s writing workplan:

4. Here is the picture of the map I drew based on the annotated link above:  20150213_070511

5. Here is the zeega:

I prepared this on the fly for class and will report back on results and more explanation in the next post.  What. Fun.


February 7, 2015 | A Shepherd’s Journal: Nothing. Done.

I have a reason to
be about
inside this beastly hour
scrubbing the moony
fields for
a mule braying
at distance.
Mars two handbreadths
away from
a waning full moon.
shadows full as noon.
Young toms
touching whisker
trading sniffs
of where they’ve been.
neighbors a mile away
security lights ablaze.
stars even farther.
I listen for a ewe’s
faint chuckle,
for a lamb’s quivery birthbleat.
the moon points to nothing.
I am up for the nothing.
the shepherd’s chore of declaring
nothing new tonight–


Feedforward in the Garden of Your Mind

One of the projects I have started the year with is a Google Form survey. I have asked students to fill out this form.  Tomorrow we will look at the data in this spreadsheet that the form above generated. There is an amazing cache of data in there and I have asked my students to find stuff of interest.  I am looking forward to their observations with keenness.

Here is the last question I asked them: “We will end the semester at some point. May 15, in point of fact.. The Ides of May (if there is such a thing). Write for me what you imagine you might have done in your semester in English 300.”

My response to this question below is an example of feedforward as far as I understand it.  Or as some folks call it,  ‘presencing‘. I am trying to use my fervid imagination as a way to pull both myself and my class toward a more valued future, a previously unopened door to a more potent adjacent possible.

“OK, relax. Turn on the time machine. Set it for May 15, 2015. On.

What a glorious spring is has been! I smell cut grass and the beginnings of a cool morning breeze.

I am waiting for the last projects of the semester. It worked. My fellow learners bought into the idea that what they value and what they need to know is critical to learning, their learning. We did a lot of stuff. Some of it very unexpected. Who could have predicted that the Google+ community would have produced so much collaborative work. I said at the beginning that collaborative work was allowed and boy did they take me up on it. Some of it ended up as conference papers and presentations but others were epubs and even service learning projects.

Speaking of presentations. I have never know so much variety and such quality. When I invited my department head in to watch he insisted that he only had ten minutes to watch. He stayed the whole hour and then he started pounding on the doors of other faculty to tell them they had to come watch. It was so crowded that I was really glad someone had the idea to stream them. I had a couple of colleagues, one in Egypt and one in France tell me that they had never been so excited about teaching and learning afterwards. We had pechacuchas and ignite talks and incredible demonstrations and even someone who did theirs on a Google Hangout from Saudi Arabia. Thank God for all those adhoc Google Hangout everybody started doing when one of us needed to be gone for a week for surgery.

I always say half joking that the great and happy secret of my job is that I get paid to learn. I think I really am getting paid this semester. The podcasts that we started doing on a regular basis throughout the semester have really taken off in the edtech community especially the ones that were led by students.

And this says nothing of how I have gotten so much help on my MOOC project–MOOC HOSTEL. I don’t think it would have happened without the class’s help. First, they helped me with the user experience. Second, they became active users of the site. Third, they began to spin off projects for blogs, podcasts, YouTube Channels.

Don’t get me started on YouTube. Our channel rocks. I don’t know whose idea it was to make that work or the class internet radio station. In fact the sheer volume of fun and useful stuff generated blows my mind: memes, videos, multigenre, pix …just astonishing.

Everyone had something they took pride in creating and will take with them into the future. Apps, series of posts, a research blog, a twitter account with 500K followers–that was a huge surprise for everybody. “

Some folks might think that this is hyperbole.  In fact it needed to be even more embellished than I managed.  I wonder what my students will think when I read this to them tomorrow, this missive from the future.

Following the Bouncing MultiMedia Ball: Playing in the Popcorn Fields

I am embedding a PopcornMaker Mix here so that others may share in it and play with it. PopcornMaker allows for such collaborative play. Join in. Not sure how this will work but that is the nature of the infinite game of play and life.  You can watch the progress here throughout the course of the experiment or you can join us here. And, following Alan Levine’s learning dictum, if you can’t figure out how to do it twenty minutes (or even ten), ask for help.  Glad to offer it.

Remember.  Join us here:  Uptown 

How to Read Slowly

I am trying to practice slow reading over the “end of year” interweek, Boxing Day to New Year’s Day.  I am looking especially at new year’s poetry. My first peek is at Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Burning the Old Year”


Here is an image of the poem that I saved to use in the zeega you will see below.

Poems for the new year


I think that you can sometimes see physical intent in a poem by just looking at its shape.  In this case (although I might be imagining this) I do see the lines burning down and shortening like candles.   The number of lines per stanza ‘burns down’ too.  This may by unintentional , but…it is fun to look anyway.


you can join me on (membership is free) to annotate the poem.

Burning the Old Year Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye : The Poetry Foundation


Here is a zeega that I used to translate her poem into other modes.  I used a totally apt song by Nat Baldwin that just tears me up everytime I hear it.  I edited out some words and replaced them with gifs.  Artistic license in the mashup, OK?


Here’s a Soundcloud reading of the poem.  A few more discoveries from that slow, oral reading.  The images in the fire crackle out to me.  I imagine wrapping paper where I hadn’t before and I see how this poem might have been inspired by a gift on a doorknob that turned into a gift from some Muse.

OK, now I can say that I have read the poem.  It is worth a slow go.  It is a good poem and I can tell you exactly why I think so because as I engaged with it, it engaged right back at me. Maybe you can think of other ways to engage.  I will be using this as an example for an assighment that I will be doing in my online “Intro to Lit” class this spring.  It might even make a fun #dailyconnect or a neat cooperative google doc/hackpad/diigo group annotation.