Monday, February 6, 2012

Your Own Stories and Poems

I really love it when readers are inspired by my work. Did any of the poems or prose pieces in A Suitcase of Seaweed inspire you to remember a family story or to write a poem of your own? If so, please tell us which poem inspired you, why--and post a short excerpt of your poem or story below!


  1. The poem "leeches" reminds me of my earliest memory.
    I was about 3 years old. I was playing outside on my leafy lawn, with my father raking leaves out back. As I was romping about in a pair of overalls I had, I looked down at my shoe and began to scream. I knew what they were from my mothers favorite movie "African Queen," and I was quite certain that there was a leech on my shoe. I was not aware at the time that in fall, the briar leaves we get look an awful lot like little bugs, with little "eye stocks" that stick to your clothing. My father came running. Once he had assured me that the leaf was most certainly NOT a leech, it became my pet, and I kept it for many days.

    Isola Murray, ARMS 7th grade student

  2. Isola: I love the imagery in your post! I can definitely picture your leafy lawn and the NOT-leech "pet." Thanks for sharing!

    1. ha-ha! thank you. It's funny the things you remember from when you were young. It was a traumatizing event, regardless of the fact that there wasn't actually any danger.

  3. I love your poem Campfire, it made me laugh, I thought that she was actually going to pull out a grasshopper out of the bag, but then it was just a marsh mellow.The poem that really inspired me the most was Shrimp. I really liked that poem because it reminds me of the dim sum place in Chinatown that me and my cousins go to when we visit Boston. I love dim sum, so when I read this poem and it reminded me I started salivating and got really hungry. when a poem can do that the writer has real power, so kudos to you Janet, I love your poetry.
    Posted By
    Noah Zobel

  4. Noah: Dim sum is one of my favorite foods (or food genres), so I am thrilled to know that I succeeded in making a fellow dim sum eater hungry! Here's to cha shu bao power!

    1. Thank you for the nice reply. It's good to know that someone knows what dim sum is, all my friends reply to my question with quizzical expressions or answers like "What are you talking about." Cha Shu Bao is delicious I get it every time we go to China Pearl (the dim sum place).
      Posted By

  5. I really like your poem "In the Neighborhood. When I read it I thought about how my parents always drive my sister and I past our old house. I see it and it looks like any ordinary house, and they ask if i remember it. I say yes, since I do remember the porch, the only problem is that nothing looks the same and if they didn't tell me it was our old house it would be "just like the rest".
    Posted by
    Sage DeChiara

    1. Maybe one day you'll want to write a story about your favorite house/home memories. For inspiration, next time you're at the public library, stop by the children's section and look for my book HOMEGROWN HOUSE (illustrated by E.B. Lewis), OK?

    2. Sounds great! I'll look for it next time.

  6. your poem a suitcase of seaweed reminds me of when this guy comes to my house and delivers fire wood like grandma brings the suitcase of seaweed

    1. Yes, firewood is similarly desirable in a useful sort of way, while not being the kind of delivery that makes you jump up and down with happiness. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that my grandmother's suitcase didn't contain any colorful Korean silk dresses for me (and just salty/smelly edibles)!

  7. I really like the poem "Grandmother's Almond Cookies." It reminds me of a time I was at my grandmothers house and she was making soup and I asked her why she wasn't using a recipe. She said back to me that she didn't need a recipe and that the recipe was a part of her since she had made it so many times. This poem reminds me of how amazed I was then.
    I love your poetry!
    Posted By,
    Nathan Baron Silvern

    1. Do you remember the ingredients? Could you write down a rough recipe? It might be a nice way to pay tribute to your grandmother.

    2. Here is a poem I wrote based on Grandmother's Almond Cookies. It has a rough recipe.

      Don’t need cookbook, memory in hands.
      A recipe that comes from many lands.

      One whole chicken in the pot.
      Turn on the stove, let it get hot.

      Onions, potatoes and carrots, chop chop chop.
      Toss in the broth, plop plop plop.

      Fresh parsley and dill hopefully fresh.
      These pinches of spice will refresh.

      Take the chicken out leaving the brew.
      Smells rise up as if shouting ‘Wahoo”

      Submerge ladle, sip for a taste.
      None of it can go to waste.

      The soup is done, the bowls are filled.
      To describe how we feel I would just say thrilled.

      I also have a blog
      It's a writing blog so check it out if you have time.

    3. Thanks for sharing your poem...and I love that you have "Haiku Mondays" on your blog!

  8. I really love your poem, "sisters." It is very true, I have an older sister and a twin and I am very different from both. Sometimes I wish I could be more like them, but most of the time I like that we are all so different. Your poem made me think of how different we all are but how they are both so important to me.
    Posted by,
    Libby M
    7th grader

    1. Libby: The way I compare one sister to ginger and the other to tofu, what foods (or animals or plants or objects) would you compare yourself and your sister to?

      For instance: if one of you were a cool peppermint, what kind of candy would the other be?

    2. Hmm... I think my sister would be like a dog, because she's hyper and friendly to everyone. I would be more like a cat; Shy until I'm used to someone and usually happy.

    3. Those two poems (or one poem with those two halves) would be a great gift to your family--needn't say much more than what you already said (or maybe just add a couple of lines). Try it!

  9. There are a few poems that remind me of moments from my family. The poem "Suitcase of Seaweed" reminds me of how whenever someone in my family (and/or me) travels to Japan, we bring back at least one, if not two, suitcases full of Japanese food, like crackers or sweets. The "Tea Ceremony" poem reminds of one time when my grandmother's friend invited us to have a small tea ceremony, and there was a lot of tradition in just the small ceremony. You had to sit a certain way and mix the tea leaves a certain way, and I remember that since I was so young, it was hard for me to be so still and to follow all the rules perfectly, and the poem reminds me a lot of tradition and certain customs.
    Posted by Amy Lynch

    1. Amy: I'd love to read a different version of "Tea Ceremony," written by you about your own memories!

    2. Thanks! I might try to incorporate that into a poem in the future.

  10. I really loved all of your poems and a lot of them I could relate to. My mother grew up in Japan so my life has a lot of Japanese influence on it. One of the poems that made me laugh was "Shrimp." My brother who is fifteen years old loves shrimp. At home usually on a busy day and we don't really have anything planned for dinner. My mom will ask what do you want to eat for dinner. My brother will say "do we have shrimp?" Whenever we go to a new restaurant usually my brother will pick some dish with shrimp. He's also sort of a picky eater so he doesn't really like trying new things, although he's getting better at choosing from a broader horizon.

    One of my favorite poems that you wrote in the book was "Grandmother's Almond Cookies." I really liked how the recipe was included into the poem and I liked how it rhymed as well. I wrote a poem inspired by you about my sister making chocolate cake. She doesn't make it that often anymore, but I would always remember waiting for the part where I got to try the frosting. That was always the best part of the day and I would remember while the cake was baking my brother and sister and I would play monopoly as a past time. When the cake was done and in the fridge to be chilled, I waited until right after dinner. I would ask my mom "can I have a piece of the cake?" and run up to the fridge.

    I really enjoyed reading all of your poems and I think for almost every one I had a small connection or memory would pop into my mind. Thanks!

    -Maha Awaisi

    1. Maha: Knowing that you had so many connections and memories to my book makes me feel really good. Thanks for sharing!

    2. I really enjoyed all of what you wrote. I think when I make connections to things especially in books or in poetry I get a lot more out of the reading. It's nice to make those memories pop into your head and I think that's why reading and writing bring out a lot of emotions and put ease to us too. Thanks!

  11. I wrote a poem bassed of your poem "Grandmother's Almond cookies." Reffering back to what I said on your second post, I think that family recipies are important. I wrote one about the hot fudge sauce that me and my mother make every christmas. Here it is:

    Take 4 oz. of unsweetened chocolate;
    Take 3 Tbs of sweet butter.
    Put in a saucepan and melt.

    While that’s melting, boil less than 1 cup of water.
    That’s ⅔ cup to be precise.
    After melting, add water and stir it up nice.

    Next add 1⅔ cup sugar and 6 Tbs corn syrup.
    (Count carefully!)
    Mix until smooth.

    Adjust the temperature so it is just boiling.
    Keep it that way for 9 min.
    Subtract the heat and let it cool for 15 min.

    Finally, the last and final step is to...
    Eat it over ice cream or profiteroles.
    (Makes 2½ cups)

    I called it "Mother's Hot Fudge Sauce" though I think that it might have come from generations before...

  12. One poem that I found myself able to relate to was "Grandmother's Almond Cookies." The way the poem was written felt primitive, and in turn, simple. This reminded me of a recipe my dad often makes: flourless chocolate torte. The recipe is basically butter, sugar, and chocolate, so it is easy to make and remember how to make.
    I also related to the poem "In Our Neighborhood." It reminded me of my old house in Belchertown. Whenever we drive by it, it seems plain and old, just like the others. With the help of this poem, I can see the house I now live in as plain, nothing special, but for now it seems like nothing else.

    1. A recipe poem called "Dad's Chocolate Torte" is sure to be a hit with your family--I hope you write it!

    2. I actually have written a rough draft of it, but it still needs some major revisions, so I will refrain from posting it for now.

  13. The poem, Love at First Sight, reminds me of the story my parents tell of when they first met in Georgetown University. They act like it was ‘love at first sight’ even though I think it was not. This poem inspired me because it reminded me of how in love they were. Part of the story is that they were at a party and my mom’s friend introduced them to each other and they never separated for the rest of the night. My parents have been in love ever since.

    1. You could write a poem about that Georgetown meeting as an anniversary present for them!

  14. The Poem 'Sisters' was nice for me because I have two sisters, and I often overlook their good qualities. Your poem inspired me to write my own siblings poem:

    My sister is like a homeless cat
    she seems nice at first
    But then you realize what she’s like
    when she lashes out.

    I am closer to a dog
    always nice
    and ready to make new friends.

    We are both good
    in our own ways
    but I am better.

    1. I think the cat stanza could use a little more love in it!!! Try adding another line?

  15. Just like Jonah, your poem Sisters inspired me to write a poem about my brother.
    Here is a little excerpt from it:

    He is like a fox, crafty and fast,
    Always making tricks,
    And placing lies,

    He says i am small
    And weak, like a mouse.
    But really, he fears me, like an elephant does a mouse.

    But really,
    I wish i was more like him.

    1. I don't think you need the last stanza, but you could keep it (if you like). Maybe play with the second stanza a bit more? I'd love to see what you else you could do with that last line.

    2. Okay; i think i will take your advice and trash the third stanza. When i read it over a few times, i realize that it isn't the best conclusion to my poem (haha). Im not quite sure what to do with the second stanza though, could you give me any tips?


    3. Suggestions for ending the second stanza? Just experiment a bit. Maybe use some of these to get your ideas flowing:

      He says i am small
      And weak, like a mouse.
      If I am Mouse,
      He is Elephant.


      He says i am small
      and weak, like a mouse.
      But sometimes I think he fears me,
      like an elephant does a mouse.


      He says i am small
      And weak, like a mouse.
      Maybe we are powerful in different ways,
      Like elephant and mouse.

  16. Your story "Sisters" inspired me to write about me and my sister. How she is the caramel and i am the popcorn

    Here is a bit of poem:
    My sister's caramel
    I am the popcorn
    alone we taste good
    but together we taste better

    sisters are are so different but still alike in many ways.

    1. Very nice. Maybe add something else, something about sticking together? Popcorn tastes good with butter, you could try some additional phrase that explains why you chose caramel.

  17. Your poem "Hospitality" reminded me of when I go to Turkey, and every single time we visit the home of a fairly old generation, with a loving tone they say "take off your shoes honey, you'll be comfortable", and quickly follow with an offering of slippers that according to custom, you may not reject. But, if you look in their eyes, you will understand that they are actually thinking "take off your shoes, they don't look clean, my labors of vigorous cleaning which I had to do because of your visit will go to waste". Here is a poem about it

    As guests,
    We always look,
    Down to the floor,
    Recently cleaned.
    To the cupboard,
    Slippers stacked neat.
    We look at the faces,
    The old gleaming eyes,
    Quietly thinking,
    "Keep my house clean,
    wear those darn slippers",
    Then they look at me, the younger generation,
    They say enthusiastically,
    "Oh! How much you've grown,
    take off your shoes,
    So we can see,
    If the slippers you wore last year will fit you".

  18. Excellent! I love it!!

    Think about playing with your punctuation a bit. With poems, anything goes in terms of punctuation, but I often like to omit commas (especially at the ends of lines). Also, I might "save as" 5 different drafts and play with small things like punctuation and alignment (where to break the lines, whether to group into stanzas) in 5 different ways, printing out my favorites and making a decision by comparing them side-by-side. Here is one example of how you could play with the alignment. Try a few more!

    As guests we always look down
    To the floor, recently cleaned.
    To the cupboard, slippers stacked neat.

    We look at the faces, the old
    Gleaming eyes, quietly thinking, "Keep
    my house clean, wear those darn slippers."

    Then they look at me, the younger generation.
    They say enthusiastically, "Oh! How much
    you've grown, take off your shoes, so we can see

    If the slippers you wore last year will fit you."

  19. Thank you for the advice! It's a really special opportunity to get tips from authors. I will definitely keep the punctuation advice in mind for future poetry.

  20. Your poem “Grandmother’s Almond Cookie’s” inspired me to write a poem about my father’s cooking. This poem was meaningful to me because I love food in every stage of the process- preparing, cooking and eating. I consider food to be part of my cultural identity which I discussed in my other post. This is the poem I wrote based upon yours:

    Dad’s Squid Ink Pasta:

    Open package, hear the rustle,
    crinkle cellophane- no hustle!
    Fill up pot and bring to boil
    throw in pasta, it's no toil!

    Shallots, garlic, olive oil,
    all of them are gifts of soil.
    Hear them sizzle in the pan,
    before adding shrimp and clam.

    Next- tomatoes, touch of salt,
    parsley chopped without a fault.
    Drain the pasta, add the sauce,
    mix it all with gentle toss.

    Fragrant smell of briny sea,
    Could it all be just for me?
    “Come, let’s eat the proper way,
    use a spoon and fork today.”

    By: Ilya Yudkovsky

  21. Thank you, I was definitely inspired by your poem "Grandmother's Almond Cookies" when I wrote this poem. I found the use of short phrases very helpful when I composed. I sort of meant the poem to be as if it was spoken by one person but I wanted to emphasize the last two lines as being spoken. Is there a more exact recipe for "Grandmother's Almond Cookies", does this recipe work? Again, thank you for reading my poem.

    By: Ilya Yudkovsky

    1. Ilya: I do believe that the recipe works. (At least it has worked for me.) Please try it and let us all know!

  22. The poem “A Suitcase of Seaweed” really inspired me because it reminded me of a lot of old family recipes. My grandmother is Chinese and she makes lots of delicious food. I was born in California and we lived near my grandparents until I was 5 years old, when I moved to Massachusetts. I used to enjoy her cooking every weekend, but nowadays, I don’t get to experience her cooking often. Whenever my grandmother does visit, or when I visit her, I love the chinese food she cooks for me. My favorites include her stir-fried beef and ribs 1-2-3. We call her stir-fried beef “po-po beef”(because “po-po” is “grandma” in chinese). Once my mom tried to make the same dish, but it didn’t come out the same, so we said “Hey, that’s NOT po-po beef!”

    Here’s a poem about the only thing I can cook – bagel and eggs.

    Cut the bagel in half.
    Slice, slice, slice.

    Put it in the toaster.
    Press the lever.
    Press the bagel button.

    Put a pan on the stove and turn on the stove.
    Put a pat of butter and swirl it around.
    Swirl, swirl, swirl.

    Crack the egg and drop it into the pan.
    Watch it cook until the edges are brown.
    Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle.

    Lift the egg out of the pan with a spatula.
    Set it on the buttered bagel and add salt and pepper.
    Shake, shake, shake.

    Then you’re ready to eat!
    Yum, yum, yum!

    1. Thanks for sharing your bagel poem. Would love to see a poem with the last line being "Hey, that's NOT po-po beef!" I think it would be a great gift for your grandmother.

    2. Thanks for your encouraging comment. My mom is trying to get my grandmother to write down her recipes but she doesn't measure anything when she cooks. She just throws in spices and smells and tastes the mix as she is cooking.

  23. The poem that inspired me was "A Suitcase of Seaweed" because it just shows how different cultures share a piece of themselves with the world. This also inspired me because my family travels a lot and when we go places, we are immersed in the normal life of the local people, and that is very different from our life.

    A Pouch of Cá½¹rdobas

    From the south
    Central America
    My dad returns from Nicaragua
    He greets us
    Arms open wide
    He holds a purse
    A monkey and bird
    Sewed onto the side
    We smile
    Unzip the pouch
    The smell of metal
    Reaches our noses
    And glint of coins
    Catch our eyes

  24. You're welcome! My dad loves traveling and he usually does it for work so we can not join him. The good thing about this is that he comes back with many gifts and stories to tell.