– From Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala
(Click to see spread in its entirety)
– From Jessica Young’s Spy Guy
(Click to enlarge)
I’ve got a review over at BookPage
of Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala
(Atheneum, April 2015), illustrated by Charles Santoso
. That is here
, and I’ve got some art from the book here today at 7-Imp.
To boot, I’ve got some illustrations from another Santoso-illustrated book, Jessica Young’s Spy Guy, coming to bookshelves in May from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the story of a very loud, very bumbly spy and his “Chief” (a.k.a. his dad). Looks like the Spy Guy illustrations were created digitally, and the Koala illustrations were colored digitally — but originally created in pencil. There’s a definite difference in the two; there’s more texture, for one thing, in the Koala illustrations, and the Spy Guy illustrations channel more of a traditional cartoon vibe, which is fitting for this light and fun slapstick story.
Santoso, who lives in Australia, is an animation-studio concept artist/art director by day and illustrator by night! Here’s a bit more art from both books. Enjoy. …
Art from Sean Ferrell’s I Don’t Like Koala:
(Click to see spread in its entirety)
(Click to enlarge)
Art from Jessica Young’s Spy Guy:
“So Spy Guy went to Headquarters to see the Chief. ‘Chief!’ he said. ‘Tell me the secret to spying!’ ‘Spy Guy,’ said the Chief, ‘that you must discover for yourself.
But if you seek to sneak, try not to speak.'”
(Click to enlarge)
“Spy Guy put on his brand-new shoes. He didn’t make a sound as he crept through town. But … everyone saw him coming.”
(Click to enlarge)
I DON’T LIKE KOALA. Text copyright © 2015 by Sean Ferrell. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.
SPY GUY: THE NOT-SO-SECRET AGENT. Text copyright © 2015 by Jessica Young. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Charles Santoso. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.
* * *
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *
I’m typing this while listening to President Obama’s remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and it’s funny stuff. (The Anger Translator made me laugh outloud.) My kicks 1-7 will be that — and, selfishly, I want to hear the rest of it, so I’m off! But tell me …
What are YOUR kicks this week?
Last week in the WIR,
Jennifer R. Donohue said
"But really, I want to hear more about the Buttonweezers, et al."
which reminded me to tell you all about a fabulous moment of query serendipity! I got a query from a writer named Buttonweezer! Spelled differently of course, but still. I fell upon her query with glee and told her of the Buttonweezer clan that lives here on the blog. Even more interesting: her first name was Janet! This falls under the truth is stranger than fiction category heading!
Dena Pawling added some interesting info to her bio with us:
Besides that description of how my husband asked me out on our first date, one of my earliest memories is of his car-at-the-time, a Triumph Spitfire. All you car types are groaning now. I don't remember where we went on this date, but while he drove me home in the rain, the generator caught fire. So, wearing a dress, I helped him push the car (in the rain) into a gas station. He says he was surprised I still agreed to go out with him. I always thought our dates were like an adventure.
One of these days I'll tell you about how my car caught on fire when I had Sue Grafton with me. Her next book is the X in the series. I'm lucky it's not X for eXtinguish.
bjmuntain offered up two links on publishing rights. I'm not going to reprint them here because the first one was full of errors. (Her later comment fixes the link to the second one) When you're researching stuff about publishing PLEASE consider the source. The first link was written by a writer trying to be helpful. I'm all for helpful writers but it's clear to me this one didn't know much about contracts.
The SECOND link (publishinglawyer.com) looks like correct information.
Then bj further asked:
I spent a lot of time last night checking out submissions guidelines, payment and rights bought for several magazines. Many of them say they buy First North American Serial Rights, or First World Rights, or First Electronic Rights. Or even a combination of those. A couple bought First Australian Serial Rights. One or two bought first English language serial rights.
So maybe I'm dense, and if I am, I'd love to have it explained to me.
You're not dense. You're reading what the site says they buy.
Here's the horrible truth: they don't know what they're doing! Contracts from magazines and smaller publishers are NOTORIOUS quagmires. I could show you some that make sharks weep. I see a LOT of these since one rule here at the Reef is that no client signs a publishing contract of ANY KIND without me looking at it. Even if I didn't sell it; ESPECIALLY if I didn't sell it in fact.
Some contracts are just blatant rights grabs (university presses wanting copyright for published thesis) and some are a mishmash of terms that fail to cover things like the duration of exclusivity.
If you REALLY want to know about contracts join the National Writers Union or the Author's Guild and get their information on contracts.
And I'm really sad that the only thing *I* get on Capcha is "I am not a robot." I am not so very many things, I wonder how they came to decide this one the one thing I shouldn't be in order to comment.
It's the trifecta that demonstrates idiocy; we've all done one or more of the above, but I hope to garamond, never on purpose!
Lisa Bodenheim asked the question I should have answered:
Wow. So what's an author to do? Surely the author is in a contract with that agent. If the author does not appreciate what is happening, they can have a direct conversation with their agent. But if the agent doesn't get it or if the author remains unsatisfied with their agent, then what?
You fire the agent.
MB Owen asked:
Can an agent "un-deliberately" mislead? It sounded intentional, trying to make the pitch fit with an editor's tastes while knowing his client's book was something else.
This is an interesting question, and one I actually know something about right now. I did not "deliberately mislead" an editor about a book he bought on proposal but it was clear that what I had loved about the story, and talked about in my pitch, had NOT made it in to the first draft of the book.
The author and I realized this together, and actually decided she'd rewrite to incorporate more of what I'd seen in the story. That's why it's the trifecta of errors that is cause for alarm. I not only didn't get the category and editor wrong; I sold the book.
Christina Seine brought up another good point:
This makes me wonder if that rep has a bad rep among editors. Because it sounded like he really pooched it, to more than one editor. I bet that's not a first. So what I imagine then are editors receiving pitches from Agent Stu Pidd and going, "Not this guy again! Hey guys, did I tell you about the time he pitched a contemporary YA as historical romance? I don't think he ever even read the book!"
Under those circumstances, you're lucky if anyone reads the guy's correspondence at all. Yikes.
You're right: they DON'T read the submissions from agents they think are idiots. I've heard from MANY editors about "schmagents" who are permanently barred from serious consideration. It's one thing to send something an editor doesn't like, or doesn't think can sell. It's another thing entirely to get EVERYTHING (the trifecta again) wrong.
But mostly schmagents are the ones who don't have a clue how publishing really works. The good news? If your agent is one of them, your book is probably still submittable in that the editors on the submission list never saw it.
Though, is it possible for editors to turn down books because they don't like the agent? I assume that is another business relationship that needs to be at least workable. Knowing that certain agents (well, agent) are misleading you the first time would make me question if I ever want to read something they have again.
Yes it's not just possible, I know it happens. It's not for misleading pitches or getting categories wrong though. It's cause the agents are impossible to work with. Things like insulting the editor during negotiations, or using foul language in email (even I, known dropper of the F-bomb do NOT do this!) or being intractable about things that can't be changed (or dim witted about how to ask for changes.)
The problem here is, as a writer, you'll never get this information. I can't tell you who are on those lists; I don't know more than a few names, all of which were revealed to me in total and complete confidence, usually in person, far from any publishing ears. In other words, never even written down.
Dena Pawling made me laugh out loud with this one:
And excuse my woodland creature brain, but thanks for clarifying this line - “I spend time talking to them on the phone, over lunch, on Twitter, and in other odd places (like conferences)....” After last week's discussion, when I read “in other odd places” I pictured you sliding your pitch under the restroom stall door.
I very rarely slide mss under bathroom stall doors when I'm meeting editors. Under their martini glass, you betcha!
Pharosian asked this:
Wow. That's one situation I never even thought about. So if I sign with Fabulous Agent and she sells my cozy mystery (or mysteries), and then sometime down the road I write a slasher (or some other project FA finds distasteful), is FA obligated to try to sell it? And if FA doesn't want to, what's her recourse? Fire me as a client?
No, I'm not obligated to work on anything but that's not really the right question to ask. When I talk to a potential client I ask about the kinds of books the writer wants to work on in the future. If the answer is "well, this cozy series is great but my true love is writing romance" I am NOT going to sign the client no matter how much I love the mystery series, because the author needs an agent who can do both kinds of books effectively. I'm probably not that agent. The slithery force of nature that is Barbara Poelle probably is.
Of course, if a client develops a sudden interest in a category I don't do well, it's too late not to sign them. In those cases I call in favors from friends (Brooks Sherman for example sold Sean Ferrell's picture book on my behalf) or learn the category (I have a middle grade novel on submission now.)
Sadly brianrschwarz earns a lifelong residence on Carkoon with this one:
I hate to say it QOTKU, but you might be right.
Then tried to cancel his ticket with this:
After flipping back and forth, I eventually decided to take QOTKU up on her advice and sent my email an hour ago. After all, if it failed miserably, I'd just blame my writing career on Janet. ;)
But to my surprise, it turns out sharks are sharks for a reason. TFFA responded within the last hour and recommended I leave the bloody book in question on the table, but reply with my query and full for my YA novel. I suppose then if she hates the query for YA book, she can still read bloody mess with renewed fortitude and a more accurate expectation.
So basically, I owe Janet a drink. Let me know when you're in the Midwest.
Midwest? Is that near midtown? Cause if you can't get there on the subway…
Turns out Christina Seine will be joining brianrschwarz on the trip to Carkoon.
Also, apropos of nothing but Twitter, I was not surprised to learn that Janet is a pimp. I kind of always pictured her as one, in a John Travolta suit, leopard skin coat, flat-brimmed hat, heaps of gold jewelry, base thumping in the background, and of course the razor-sharp teeth. SO badass.
bjmuntain had an interesting question about withdrawn mss
A question just occurred to me, while reading through comments again. If an author withdraws a submitted manuscript for X reason, would it be possible - or even ethical - for the agent to decide that X isn't going to bother her and read the manuscript anyway?
I'm not saying 'ethical' as in morally right. I mean professionally ethical. Is it something that is seen as wrong in the publishing industry? Or is it really just a morally indifferent choice? I can see it going either way.
I think if an author asks you not to read a manuscript, you don't read it. From a purely pragmatic time management point of view, it makes no sense to read something if it's not on submission. I think from a business practices standpoint you really do want to convey to an author that if they ask you to do something, you honor their wishes. I've had clients ask me to do stuff I thought was the wrong choice for their career, but it's THEIR career. I offered my opinion, the client elected to do something else.
I don't think it's morally wrong to read a withdrawn ms, but I don't think it's something I'd do.
Susan Bonifant summed it up nicely:
My only experience with a hired editor was as a new writer when I would have taken advice from the neighborhood grocer.
It was awful. She was borderline abusive when I disagreed, found ways to charge more than she should have and made me feel like I was lucky to be wasting her time.
I think she may have even suggested a prologue. No, that's not true.
My (embittered) take, now that I would never consider it again, is this:
One, don't do this if you are not feeling strong about yourself as a writer yet. And two, consider whose advice would be more valuable - someone who is paid to find problems, or a beta reader who is going to tell you why they put the book down to get a drink and didn't come back.
And let me add that anyone you work with on your creative projects who makes you feel "lucky to be wasting her time" is not someone you want to work with. The reason for that isn't cause they hurt your feelings, it's cause they don't know what their job is. Their job is to help you. That's the reason you're paying them. It's entirely possible to be direct, no-nonsense, AND helpful. I have the replies to rejection letters to prove it.
Amy Schaefer asked a good question about what happens NEXT:
Here is my concern. Let's say I hire Editor Redpen to fix my manuscript. She does an excellent job, and as a result of her advice, I sign with Agent Superpants. She sells the MS. Fast forward a year or two, and I'm ready to show Agent Superpants my new manuscript.
The phone rings.
"Hi, Amy, it's Agent Superpants. I've read the new manuscript you sent me."
"Great! How did you like it."
Long pause. "It's... rough."
"Unpolished. Flabby. Your pacing dies completely in chapter four, and doesn't come back until chapter 17. All of your male characters are generic, and your protagonist is unfocused. What happened?"
The writers I work with who hired an editor to help them both said that it made them better writers. Not just improved the manuscript, but the process itself helped them see what a novel needed. That's really the goal of spending that money: to learn how to do it yourself next time.
BUT, that is also the reason I think hiring an editor to write your query is not a good idea. Writers need to learn how to draft a solid query, and the only way to do it, is to do it. Sure you can get help on spotting flaws but you yourself should write your query.
Susan Bonifant brought up Grub Street:
I'm not opposed to the idea of paying for a second read. But how and why is it necessary to consider all that is available for 4K, rather than what is essential for far less? Grub Street in Boston for example charges way, WAY less to pair a writer with a completely objective, multi-traditionally published author, often an instructor, in the genre you select, who will tell you exactly where the suckage is from a reader's standpoint.
By sheer happenstance I'm writing the Week In Review here at the Delaware shore and on the next couch over is an agent who will be at Grub Street next week, and what is she doing? Reading manuscript pages from the people she has pitch sessions with. If you're looking for a place to discover the Suck, Grub Street (and other good writing conferences) can be it.
InkStainedWench had an interesting question:
Now I'm curious. Do editors reject a book with a simple "Dear agent, no thanks, have a nice day."
Generally no. They usually give me some feedback which they know I will share with the author. If things really go wrong, I'll get a phone call and nothing is put in writing. How to share that information is then up to me.
Some editors do have form rejection letters. I have no problem with those, but if I get more than three, I know I'm missing the mark pretty completely with what that editor is looking for, and it's time for some digging and reading.
And Donnaeve asked:
Janet, don't you find it strange not one acquiring editor gave the OP and their agent anyfeedback?
Yup. I'm hesitant to guess as to the reason however since I don't know the book, or the editor submission list.
But as it turns out there WAS some feedback: Matt Adams said
Hi guys -- OP here.
To answer some questions ...
We got some feedback and got passed around the office by three editors, but that was as far as we got. Two seemed close, but in the end decided not to offer. The feedback was diverse -- there was no universal complaint.
My agent has always thought it should be a big book and has told me she'll push it as far as it can be pushed. She's told me she feels confident she could find SOME publisher for it now, but thinks it deserves better -- I think she's more baffled by the lack of success than I am. And while I understand the concept of trunking it, that's hard to do when she's still willing to find it a home. She's not demanding the edit, but she thinks it would be helpful in helping the book become what she thinks it should be. I'm not saying that I'm sure the book is big or even publishable, but I think I owe it to myself (and her) to give it every opportunity I can to succeed. And before I give the wrong impression, my agent is awesome -- she got everyone to read, which was her job as far as I'm concerned. It was my part of the equation that was lacking.
But I think Janet's right in that saying a second read instead of the full edit is the way to go. Or second read then a full edit.
Thanks for the input everyone. I appreciate it.
I think Matt's agent is smart. If the novel isn't working, it's time for a second set of eyes. That's a demonstrable lack of ego, and business savvy there.
Amy Schaefer asked a good question:
Hmm. With 28 rejections but no consensus on what is wrong (or holding you back, or making editors say no), I sincerely wonder what insight any new editor, paid or otherwise, can give you. 28 is a decent sample size; if there were a major fault in your work, I would have expected that feedback to bubble to the surface from multiple sources by now.
Which leaves the paid editor's professional opinion about what is going wrong here. It doesn't sound like you have much to lose in buying a second read, but if there is no particular thing wrong with your book, I wonder how much she can really help you. Maybe your book is just quirky and different and hasn't found the right home yet. Best of luck!
That's entirely possible, but remember an editor at a publishing house isn't required to tell you what doesn't work in a novel, only if s/he intends to acquire it. Much like agents in the query queue, "not right for me" is the only required answer.
Editors often times will not say negative things in a "not for me" letter to an agent because CLEARLY the agent feels the book has merit. "This book has no plot" is not something I'd expect an editor to say to an agent, and yes, I've sent out books where the plot could be found only with a magnifying glass…
brianrschawrz demonstrates he wants to live on Carkoon forever:
You may not always be right,
RobCeres asked a question that I think a lot of writers would ask here:
Oh to have this conundrum! Assuming the publisher is reputable, what is the downside of going both routes? If the publisher wants the book isn't that tremendous ammunition for a query letter? I mean if I was an agent I would love the first line "I am querying you because (whatever the reason is), and INHO (I'm Not a Hobby Outlet) is offering a publishing contract.
And you'll be surprised to learn that having an offer in hand doesn't make you more attractive to an agent. In fact, it can be a problem.
If you turn up with a contract in hand, you'll be thinking your novel is publishable as it stands. And it is: at THIS publisher.
I can't think of a single book I've sold that I didn't have at least one round of edits on before I sent it on submission. Most are three rounds, a couple right now are on Round Ten and Eleven.
Telling an author with a publication offer in hand that their novel isn't ready isn't fun. In fact, it often leads to hard feelings that end in fuck you and flouncing off.
If your novel is terrific, I probably want to take it out for a spin at the larger publishers. It's hardly ever possible to say to a small publisher "Hey, can you wait on this offer for two months while we see if we can get something better?" and even harder to say to editors "hey, can you read this really soon cause I have an offer pending from the Carkoon Illuminated Manuscript Society."
This is why agents BEG you to query them first, and publishers second.
JEN Garrett had an interesting piece of advice:
Here's one way to implement Janet's awesome advice about doing your research.
If you want to know whether a publisher sells to libraries, find a title that the publisher has published (there should be a list on their website). Then call your local librarian and ask if they CAN order the book. Make it clear you are not asking them to order it; you just want to know if the publisher is legit.
The reason you want to do this, is because library books are sold through different distributors than a bookstore. But really, you can use this simple test anywhere you want to see your book in print.
And then you guyz just went completely nuts with list of seasons you all enjoy. In other words, the kinds of comments that really make me laugh.
Colin Smith had an interesting turn of phrase here:
1) If your first book is published, as far as an agent is concerned, there's nothing more to be done with it. There's no point trying to get an agent for it, and why would you? It's published already!
I'm going to quibble here: There's a LOT more to be done with a book even after it's published. The problem is there's NO MONEY. My policy is that if I don't sell something I don't take commission. (co-agenting things are the exception).
If an author comes to me with a book that's under contract, I don't get a commission but I DO end up doing a lot of work on the book because my job is advocating for my author NOT making money. I need to make money so I try to avoid situations where doing my job means I won't make money.
This situation happens more than you think when you sign a client who has been repped and sold by another agent for previous books; or who has a backlist and no agent.
The conversation then turned to acronyms, and you guyz had some hilarious versions thereof.
That said, the fewer use of acronyms here on the blog the better. Acronyms create a sub-strata of readers, those "in the know" and thus a group of readers who are NOT.
I'd like to keep all of us in one group as much as possible. If you don't get the Carkoon or Buttonweezer references, you can still get value from the blog. If we start abbreviating the important stuff like Original Poster it's harder for new readers to feel welcome.
Speaking of welcome, I'm writing this from the Delaware shore where I've retreated to read requested full manuscripts. It's been a VERY productive four days let me tell you.
On Thursday, I strolled around the little town and found a terrific bookstore. One the shelf as I walked in, this greeted me:
On Friday, my companion in world domination and I took a short break and drove to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies. I grew up loving the Misty of Chincoteague books. Marguerite Henry was the first author I ever met. Her kindness and graciousness to an awestruck, tongue-tied eight year old girl with a red leather autograph book warms me to this day.
Next week is the Edgars so I'll be hanging out with a lot of out of town friends coming in for the festivities. Not much work gets done but a good time is had by all.
The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.
This weekend marked the first horse show of the season. Typical of a Michigan spring, the weather did not cooperate. Lows in the 30s, highs in the mid 50s. It was soooooo cold in the morning! I opted to dress at the hotel instead of in the changing room at the fairgrounds because the thought of shedding layers in the freezing barn aisle just did not agree with me.
With all of the construction and accidents, I was so glad that I did decide to treat myself to a little personal time at the Fairfield Inn. It’s only about an hour drive, but the construction traffic added to that significantly, and I didn’t want to have to get up and be on the road by 6:30am to be ready for the 9:00 start time.
So far, my girls are doing a great job. I let Elsa show Elle in a junior exhibitor driving class, and then I drove her yesterday in the Open class, and she scored a blue ribbon each time. The championship is later this morning, so hopefully she will continue to shine.
Pixie was second in both her classes; one of the trainers rode her Friday night, but my girl stalled up and would not go forward before the second canter. When I rode her, she reversed and cantered instead of reverse and trot, in the same spot! I don’t know if I overcued her or the overhead door, which is green, freaked her out for some weird, small horsey brain reason, so I will do whatever I can to NOT be ANYWHERE near that door when we have to transition from one gait to another during the championship. Otherwise, she was really, really good. She stayed on the rail, a huge problem for us last year, she didn’t keep bobbing her head, and she actually flat walked for me, so all in all, a good show so far.
Check out my current contests! See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!
Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library. Click here to learn more about it.
New Arrivals at the Café:
Lots of romances because I am under a lot of stress right now.
Tycoon’s Delicious Debt
Bull Rider’s Son
To Tempt a Cowgirl
His Defiant Princess
Pregnant by the Cowboy CEO
The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets
Her Knight in the Outback (Library)
A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!
What did you get? Please leave links and share!
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In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.
Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Joan Bransfield Graham, author of the books Splish Splash
(2001), Flicker Flash
(2003), and The Poem That Will Not End
(2014). In addition to these books, Joan's poetry for children has been published in numerous anthologies, textbooks, and children's magazines.
How do you begin a poem? OR How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
There are so many ways that poems tempt me to write them. Sometimes it starts with "a rhythm, a rhythm and a rhyme" and, then just like Ryan O'Brian, I'm off and writing. After we went on a family camping trip to Yosemite and hiked up Vernal Falls on the Cold Shower Trail, I wrote a "Waterfall" poem. When I thought about how it might look on the page, I decided to experiment with shaping it like a waterfall. Whole stanzas solidified into "Ice Cubes," I froze words into a "Popsicle," and took a "Shower" in words . . . Splish Splash
evolved. Having an ongoing interest in photography, I often think of poems as wide-angle (the big picture) or telephoto (zoom in for the details) poems. With poetry, as with my camera, I can capture a moment in time, an emotion, a new perspective. I like to play with the shape of language and the language of shape. Also, if you rub words together, how can you not ignite a spark?
How do you choose the form of your poems?
Joan: Perhaps the poems choose their own forms, the one that fits best. It helps to try out various forms for the same idea to see which is the most effective. Musicians jazz our world with soul, rock, classical. Artists amaze with oil paints, watercolor, collage. Poets surprise our senses and shake us awake with delicious forms and voices to best express what they want to say. It is exciting to have so many options. It's fun to experiment until it clicks, and you know you've found the perfect fit. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz said, "A common fallacy is to think that a poem begins with a meaning which then gets dressed up in words. On the contrary, a poem is language surprised in the act of changing into meaning."
Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
I'm always eager to try something new. I have information in my files about the Arabic ghazal and might have to give that a try. An example is Patricia Smith's "Hip-Hop Ghazal." I just got home from the gym where I stretched my way through yoga with peaceful music in the background and then danced through a loud Zumba class with hip-hop, Middle Eastern, and salsa rhythms. A woman said to me, "My brain is ready, but my body's not." I don't think she actually spoke in iambic pentameter, but that's how I remembered it. Music and dance can have repetitive movements and moves, and I am thinking maybe I need to write a Zumba/exercise/dance villanelle.
I'm quite fond of the villanelle. Here's "Fever," compliments of Ryan O'Brain, from THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END
. When I wrote this, I had visions of Amadeus
at his creative crescendo and could hear Peggy Lee singing and snapping her fingers. I've color-coded the repeating lines. When I'm working on a villanelle, I fill in the repeating lines I've chosen and then work backwards, forward, around—it's an intriguing challenge. I'm planning to use this for a choral reading sometime with one side of the room reading the red lines and the other side reading the blue lines. I have written those lines on large strips of oaktag. Then students can see and feel this form before they encounter Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." I dedicate this to all poets, artists, actors, and musicians who have a fever to create.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain,
I feel compelled to write, and write, and write.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.
Is there some way that I can plug the drain—
To rescue me, to save me from this plight?
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
I’ve stepped on board a rhythm kind of train,
That’s traveling, zooming at the speed of light.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.
What made this happen no one can explain,
I toss and turn and twist each sleepless night.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
What’s that? You say that I should not complain?
I’m tired and hungry, but you might be right.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.
Now, I just wrote this villanelle refrain.
Hey . . . maybe I should NOT put up a fight.
I cannot stop this fever in my brain.
Day in, day out, the words just fall like rain.
Poem ©Joan Bransfield Graham. All rights reserved.
What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Joan: My I'd like them to know that poetry is fun, useful, and a great adventure. Each poem is an act of discovery; you can learn more about yourself and more about the world around you; it helps us widen our vision and our hearts. Poetry is a bridge that connects us and allows us to step into another's experiences, ideas, life. We are all connected, and nowhere is that connection stronger than in poetry. C. S. Lewis said "We read to know we are not alone." When someone responds to what we have written, then we are singing a duet.
Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Edward Hirsch reports that "pattern poems have been found in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, ancient Persian, and in most modern European languages." Today we often use the term "concrete" (the opposite of "abstract")—having a definite form. The Pattern Poem shows a visual relationship between form and meaning. And so I offer two versions of my poem "Birthday Candles" from Flicker Flash—one in English and then the same poem in a foreign language
—Japanese. What an amazing job they did! The Japanese version of Flicker Flash
came out in 2013 from Fukuinkan Shoten, Japanese text ©Chie Fujita. I am astonished they were able to translate the poems and maintain the shapes so successfully.
To refer back to question #1, when I was attempting to write this poem, I put candles on a cake, lit them, and sat alone at the dining room table in the dark. I thought about all the celebrations we had experienced around that table . . . and the glowing faces, which made all those occasions so special.
A million thanks to Joan for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.