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Thoughts, opinions, and ramblings about (broadly) children's literature from my perspectives as a writer, parent, and volunteer elementary school librarian. Oh yeah, and poetry of all sorts... with lots and lots of Fibs.
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April and 30 Poets/30 Days are done, but I wanted to wrap up the month that just passed here on Poetry Friday (and you can see the roundup of PF posts at Write.Sketch.Repeat). This year, I re-issued the poetry from the first two years of the event, so there were 60 poets and 60 poems in one month's time.
And I just have to say it was a privilege, again, to share the amazingly diverse work - in content and style - by an amazing group of talented poets. And to be among them? A thrill. Totally.
So, here, then is what I call 30 Poets/2 Years/1 Day!
Yeah, it was a fine month. Of course, poetry runs year round here at GottaBook, and if you want to keep on top of it, I hope you'll sign up to my poetry email list. That way, when a poem appears here, you'll get it via email for super-easy reading and sharing (plus there have been giveaways and other small extras, too). If you want in, just enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe:
Thanks again for hanging out here for 30 Poets/30 Days. I'm already looking forward to next April... and the 11 months in between, too.
I don't think I'm prone to hyperbole, so I truly mean it when I say that Andrew Huang is the type of brilliant, creative talent I believe makes the world a happier place. So, when I decided to make a book trailer for the 14 Fibs of Gregory K., I knew I wanted him to create the song for it. And he did, and it makes me happy EVERY time I hear it.
I have been experimenting with a lot of musical stuff since an early age, whether it was plinking away on the piano or recording myself on a tape deck. I always considered myself more of a visual artist though until my teens when I started being introduced to music outside of the pop and classical that I grew up with - stuff like punk rock, trip-hop, bebop, cool jazz, weird underground electronic stuff... I realized I loved it all.
Your song challenge videos/songs are incredibly creative. How do you even approach something like "make a song only using the sounds you can make from 1000 pairs of jeans"? Or "only use water sounds." I mean... seriously?
Those found sound videos are fun. It's really a process of discovery. I might have an inkling of where I could take something, but I basically start out by trying to get every possible sound I can out of whatever the challenge calls for. Usually, each sound I can make ends up translating in my mind into a representation of an instrument - tapping a box might work as a snare drum, for example. And then it's back to the normal matter of arranging a piece of music. The palette is limited depending on the materials of course. Most often in these kinds of pieces there isn't something very suitable to use as a bass.
You make music in so many different styles and genres. Do you have a favorite?
Couldn't ever pick a favorite. What I listen to changes all the time. In terms of what I create - sonically speaking - pop, rap, and the wonderfully broad "electronic" would form the backbone of the majority of my work, but I think I also bring a sense of structure and orchestration that comes from what I know and love in classical music. And my songwriting craft was honed more from listening to rock, folk, and country. If we throw all that in the pot it'll keep me happy (most of the time).
You just released a new album on Bandcamp. What's next?
Haha. "You just released a new album on Bandcamp" is a phrase that applies to me about once a month. (Greg's note: you really have to check out his stuff on Bandcamp.)
I'm working on a bunch of new stuff that will be seeing the light of day soon but the biggest thing is this sort of dark, brooding pop album called The Coldest Darkness. It's been years in the making and I haven't often been this excited about a project. There will be a really awesome physical package to go with it to, and I'm working on some out-of-the-ordinary ways that fans will be able to get themselves an early copy.
Andrew is also touring the West Coast of the US with Hank Green this summer. Perhaps I'll see you at a show? Besides YouTube and Bandcamp, you can find Andrew on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere as @AndrewIsMusic. I leave you with his Gravy and Toast, a song he wrote on commission. I mean, really - he turned toast and gravy into toe tapping singable fun. I rest my case!
What a month! And today's poems by Pat Mora and Walter Dean Myers seem like a perfect way to close, at least to me. It has been a thrill for me to share poetry this month by soooooo many poets who I admire so much (59 to be exact!). And thanks for hanging out with us!
How come my feet know how to meet The sidewalk as I walk? “Because of your brain, my love.” How come my lips don’t ever slip As I begin to talk? “Your lovely brain, my pet” How come my knees fly through the breeze As I race along? “Did I mention your B-R-A-I-N?” How come my ears know what to hear When I listen to a song? “They’re connected to your brain!” How come my eyes can judge the size Of everything they see? “Your brain, dummy!” How come my wrists know how to twist A knob or turn a key? “BRAIN! BRAIN! BRAIN! Use it!” And how come my belly button just sits there in the middle of my stomach without doing one little bit of work, gets these little lint things in it, and feels funny if I touch it?
It's a good day when you have Douglas Florian and Liz Garton Scanlon gracing your blog, I say. (And I say this even though back in 2009, due to my executive functioning skills, I didn't end up with a previously unpublished Douglas Florian poem so went into improv mode and shared a poem of his that's always stuck with me.) Riddles, laughs, beauty... I will miss this month when it passes, I must say....
Styropoem by Douglas Florian
I think I've never Seen a poem To praise a piece of Styrofoam. I've waited years - I'm waiting still. I guess I never Ever Will.
I was inspired by that poem (from Bing Bang Boing). So I sat down and wrote the following:
Ode to a Piece of Styrofoam (For Douglas Florian) by Greg Pincus
Styrofoam's good - There is no debate. And Styrofoam won't Disintegrate!
OK, here on day 28 with April Halprin Wayland and Francisco X. Alarcón and my search for daily themes once again leads me to say "I love poetry! That's the theme! POETRY!" Yup. I've done a good job this month not going all fanboy on y'all, but geeeeez, once again I gotta say... I love these poems, and hope you do, too.
When you have Kenn Nesbitt and Graham Denton on the same day, well, it's a day of smiles and smarts in poetry form (aka, a good day!). And thanks to Kenn, people arrive at my blog after typing "chicken on internet" on Google. That's poetic, too, in its own way!
My Chicken's On the Internet by Kenn Nesbitt
My chicken's on the Internet. She surfs the web all day. I've tried to stop her browsing but, so far, there's just no way.
She jumps up on the mouse and then she flaps around like mad to click on every hyperlink and every pop-up ad.
She plays all sorts of chicken games. She messages her folks. She watches chicken videos and forwards chicken jokes.
She writes a blog for chickens and she uploads chicken pics. She visits chicken chat rooms where she clucks about her chicks.
I wouldn't mind so much except my keyboard's now a wreck. She hasn't learned to type yet; she can only hunt and peck.
Sounds of scary night-time creatures: howling wolves and screeching bats, wailing witches, cackling demons, giggling goblins, keening cats; ghostly sounds to make one shiver: haunting screams and ghastly groans; rattling chains and shrieks of horror— noises that will chill the bones; creaking floorboards, footsteps creeping, voices from beyond the grave... when they’re having trouble sleeping that’s what infant monsters crave!
I am the poem out of reach I make you spin and leap and stretch and when you're just about to catch me off I twirl in clever choreography but we are never far apart I pirouette around your heart and head and tease with all the mysteries I can employ:
When the puppy in the road was mine, life didn't stop for the driver. That evening perhaps he read his son one of many stories grownups write for children about dogs. Perhaps this one found its way Home. The End. Then kissed his child center crown as always, the meat his wife was roasting, nearly done by the time the vet pronounced Bella dead at four months, one half hour before my daughter, at six, discovered a new way tomorrow could get here tears to whimpering then finally sleep a plastic bone beneath her pillow from this moment on, safe still from towers burning, a car moving fast against traffic as the children inside squeal themselves to death. A pan of oil too close to an open flame She Is, I think safe still from other stories.
Night and the driver couldn't see a black puppy bolting Didn't know that deep in her German Shepherd blood was a desire for the only story she knew Let's call it "Home"
so when the door was cracked she saw the promise of black night caught scent of her recent journey thought she knew the way back to us One half mile away from where I stood packing, now pondering black linen shorts now folding a Mama For Obama t-shirt into my bag now smiling over our daughter's first pink bikini as our dogsitters searched and found our number. Already, our trip to the Caribbean was becoming another story of another almost-thing, puppy-blood warm freezing fast for us into On the corner of Pacific and Bond that February
Ahhh, yes. Aren't these poems by Julie Larios and George Ella Lyon just gorgeous? That's why I chose them for the 25th, International Gorgeous Poem Day (newly minted by me). OK, fine. But they are wonderful words in perfect order.... Enjoy!
If I were a kite with no strings to hold me, I 'd let the wind take me – I'd let the crows scold me, I'd float through the sky with the sun on my shoulders. The clouds would all bite at my ears. I'd be bolder than bold, I’d dance, I'd go soaring— a life in the sky could never be boring.
I'd fly over houses then over the tops of skyscraping buildings but I wouldn't stop there, I'd sail over sailboats and islands and oceans. I’d drive the world loco with my locomotion.
Diving and squawking, The seagulls would show me the migrating whales as they spouted below me. Over Kansas and Kashmir, the hot sands of Cairo, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Everest – higher and higher— wheatfields would wave to me, deserts would sigh. Icebergs would stare as I rose in the sky.
The sun would be one friend, the bright moon another. And what would the stars be but sisters and brothers?
I'd know all the secrets the sky's never told me if I were a wild kite with no strings to hold me.
It's Day 24 of 30 Poets/30 Days and today, with J. Patrick Lewis and Georgia Heard poems for you, I present theme-by-coincidence: poems that are about poetry! Maybe it's my "day after Shakespeare's birthday" tribute? Or maybe, as before, it's just two great poems shared a year part. You be the judge....
Here on Day 23 with Nikki Giovanni and Charles R. Smith, Jr. poems, I'm reminded again that the unifying factor every day in 30 Poets/30 Days is "good poetry by amazing poets." Doesn't mean I won't search for other themes, of cousre (hey, it worked for Earth Day!), but today I am happy to share good poetry by two amazing poets!
I speak for those who are meek, for those who cover ears to silence sirens and shrieks shouted from mothers with mascara-stained cheeks sobbing over souls slain in the streets leaving generation gaps, so I speak.
I speak for those living in silence, quieted by criminals with a history of violence, for those whose lives were changed by the demise of loved ones lost right before their own eyes, for them, I speak.
I speak for young eyes that see bruises branded by daddy’s fists on mommy, battering her body scarring her soul turning her children’s warm hearts cold forcing their faces to hide and seek shelter from rage for them I speak.
I speak for the illiterate and weak, those who slip through the cracks and fall on the streets and scratch for salvation without food, shelter or heat, for those who are lost, for them, I speak.
These words that I say, these words that I speak give voice to the silent, scared and weak.
These words that I speak, these words that I say challenge everyone to listen everyday.
So, here on April 22 with poems by Janet Wong and Heidi Mordhorst there actually IS a theme... because the 22nd is Earth Day and these poems are thematically Earth Day friendly (besides being strong in their own right for any day). So here's to our Earth and to poetry, two of my favorite things.
If you praised my grandfather for being green, he would check his favorite flannel shirt and say, "You see paint?"
But he is as green as the snow peas he grows in his garden. Green as the old glass jars in his garage that hold pins and nails and hinges. Green as the avocados he buys from the little store on the corner.
If I praised my grandfather for his small carbon footprint, he would check the bottom of his shoes for dirt, then say, "Size 10 EEE."
Smaller Than I Thought for Mrs. Alexander’s Class by Heidi Mordhorst
Here at the Earth Day Party in the park they’re cutting the Earth Day Cake: rich chocolate to stand for the soil, swirls of green and blue frosting to represent land and water. The white icing at the Poles is melting under the unseasonably hot April sun.
It’s smaller than I thought. The pieces are small, too.
There’s no point in asking for seconds; in fact, there isn’t enough to go around. Some of us will have to share one slice of Earth Day Cake between us. I don’t know the kid who comes to sit beside me on the lawn. “Let’s take tiny nibbles to make it last longer,” he suggests. I nod,
and we gingerly dig our two forks into one small slice of the blue Pacific.
... I'm on faculty this year, so I say you must attend so we can chat!
Have you seen the lineup of keynote presenters? Wow. Every year I think "yeah, but who will they give us next year?" And each year the conference has incredible people, and I sigh and say "geez, who will they get NEXT year?" It's an amazing lineup of breakout sessions, too.
As part of the Conference, I'm offering a limited number of social media consultations that you can sign up for (there's a fee, just like the manuscript consults). For the summer con, I'm adding in more, more, more than what I've done with these consults at other events... and folks tell me those are worth it as is.
If you've got questions about the consults or my breakout session (whose title includes the word Pintwitfacegramblr in its name), just ask. Most of all, I hope you'll be there this summer so we can hang out!
Elephants and pasta both have natural ties to the 21st of April because... huh. I guess the fact is that Greg Pincus (a.k.a. me!) and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer appeared on this day was as random as I expected. Today's poems further show, I think, that you can go anywhere with poetry. And that, my friends, is unquestionably good!
I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti Is Grown by Greg Pincus
I went to the farm where spaghetti is grown In rows of long vines in a field of its own. It grows in the shade of the great ziti trees, Right next to the bushes that grow mac-and-cheese. Lasagna plants bloom alongside manicotti, And orchards of angel hair grow long and knotty. I watched as a tractor plowed rows of linguini, And cheered at the harvest of fresh tortellini. I helped as the farmer cleared fields full of weeds Then planted a crop using orzo as seeds. We watered his land that was miles across Then fertilized amply with meatballs and sauce. When I left that farm where spaghetti is grown In rows of long vines in a field of its own, I thought it the greatest place under the sky... 'Til I saw the farm where they only grow pie!
Long, long ago, before man tamed words on the page and when elephants were great kings of the sky, ruling the storms, inking out the sun, stampeding across the stars, there was a great counselor and prophet who traveled to the most remote mountain villages to share all he knew. As word spread of the master’s visit, many gathered under the arms of an ancient elm, and even a great flock of elephants swooped in with the first ribbons of dawn to perch in the branches and listen. But a quarrel erupted among the elephants over who had the best view, causing the limbs of the tree to fracture and fall, crushing all but the prophet himself. Furious, the prophet invoked a dreadful curse, shriveling the elephants’ prized wings into pitiful ears, chaining the elephant to gravity and man’s will for all eternity. To this very day you can see the poor elephants flapping their ears, dreaming of flight, but now only cousins of clouds.
The incomparable Jack Prelutsky started off the entire 30 Poets/30 Days adventure with a poem written especially for the event! In 2010, we kicked off with Alice Schertle in fine triolet form. I'm gonna run out of adjectives this month, but geeeeeez, I love these poets and poems!
A Little Poem For Poetry Month by Jack Prelutsky
I’m glad we have a Poetry Month, But still, I wonder why They chose a month with thirty days— Were months in short supply? I wish that they’d selected A longer month, like May. I’m certain I’d appreciate That extra poetry day.
Of course, if they’d picked February, I would be aghast, For February’s very short And passes far too fast. But April’s not as short as that, So I don’t hesitate To say I’m glad it’s Poetry Month. Hooray! Let’s celebrate.
So, I ran across this recipe on a scrap of paper on my desk today - I recall quickly writing it late one night while brainstorming ideas for The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. launch. I don't recall what my exact thoughts were, but I bet it was something like "Hey! It's food! And Fibonacci!" Regardless, here it is:
1 bag of chips 1 can refried beans 2 lbs. ground beef 3 handfuls shredded cheese 5 tablespoons sour cream
In a large pan, brown the meat, seasoned to taste (with 13 spices, ideally). Combine with beans. Pour bag of chips onto cookie pan to form an even layer. Cover chips with meat-bean mixture. Sprinkle the three handfuls of cheese on top. Put in oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with sour cream.
Yes, I had all that written down. I was serious about this idea, I tell you! As you may recall... I had pie at the launch party instead. I'm okay with that... but if you ever want to invite me over for Fibonachos, I'm game!
This year, I'm doing something a little different with 30 Poets/30 Days: I'm going to the archives and re-sharing the first two years of the amazing poetry I've been lucky enough to have here at the blog.
This will be the first year without new poems - logistics and life conspired to make it so that I wouldn't be able to offer up 30/30 the way I wanted. So, as I tried to figure out what to do to keep the event moving forward (because finding 30 poets was NOT the problem!), I went back and re-read old poems... and the answer became clear.
Each day of April, I'll re-share the poems that came out on that day in 2009 and 2010. For example, on April 1, you'll have poetry by Jack Prelutsky and Alice Schertle. So, two poems a day... and here's the full list of whose poetry you'll see in during National Poetry Month here:
You can see why I'm excited! I admit, I had not re-visited some of those poems in five years... and I'm suspecting most of you will find some wonderful surprises (or weren't even here with us those first years), so let me just say... there is some amazing work coming your way.
I'm looking forward to April, as always, and celebrating poetry a little more than during a typical month. But only a little more since poetry is a year-round thang!
What a Poem Can Be by Greg Pincus (inspired by Marilyn Singer's What Water Can Be)
Complete in a couplet A poem, petite Placed well on the page A poem, concrete An A B, A B verse A poem that's rhyming Clear metered precision A poem with timing Strong words in set structure A poem well formed On stage off the page A poem performed Fun twists causing laughter A poem with wit Best words in best order A poem well writ
I don't know that this form has a name, but it was true that it forced me to think of word choice. I suspect I will tweak and tweak and tweak this one because I had so much fun with it, but I promised myself I'd post what I had today... and here 'tis!
Well, I'll start off by saying that The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. did NOT win the MG Cybil award. Sigh. It was a thrill to be nominated, however, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Ultra by David Carroll, the MG winner. It was the one book in the category I hadn't read... and the others were so fantastic that I know that Ultra must be amazing.
The list of Cybil award winners is a great collection of books for kids across a whole range of areas. As always, I highly recommend checking 'em out.
So, on Sunday afternoon, I visited the one and only Dumb Starbucks in the US. All of us in line knew we were part of something that was art or a promotion or both, and I don't think anyone was waiting (and waiting and waiting!) for the free coffee. We were waiting because it was fun. It was community. It was... dumb in the best way!
What is Dumb Starbucks? Well, it's a place that is a "working
Dumb Venti, Dumb Grande, Dumb Tall
coffee shop" that looks like Starbucks, has a menu board like Starbucks, appropriates the logo of Starbucks... but simply adds the word "Dumb" in front of everything. Well, except the seasonal drink, the "Wuppy Duppy Latte." (Quoth the barista when asked what the drink was, "It's whatever you want it to be.")
It was exceedingly well done, including three Dumb CDs (one of which was part of a whole series of dumb music of the world).
And yes, it turns out that the whole thing is the brainchild of Nathan Fielder who hosts a Comedy Central show called Nathan For You. He claims there will be one in Brooklyn in two weeks, in fact, though who knows if it'll happen.
It wasn't just performance art which might've been more satisfying, but the way it played out was probably the same regardless. Here's the message from the founder that keeps in the spirit of the launch.
Now, I was gonna tie this into a writing post ("pay attention to detail") or a social media post ("go viral with IP borrowing at your own risk!") or both... but I decided, no, I'd just share my dumb experience. I got my drink, had a blast, and got more than enough enjoyment out of it to pay me back for my time. It was a win!
I walked in from my car - you fell off of your platter. You landed unnoticed, alone. Oh, how I wish you had made a loud clatter Or simply picked up the phone!
But no, you just stayed on the ground overnight Exposed to the cold and the dew. Now, come the morning, you're truly a sight: You're less yummy solid, more goo.
The world was a cruel one for you, you poor guy - A place full of heartache and hurt. Yet I toast you my friend, with a tear in my eye: You would have been one fine dessert.
Yes, this is based on a true, sad story of a cookie that escaped my post-Super Bowl party dessert-extraction expedition. Poor cookie. Poor me, who didn't get to eat said cookie!
Today, however, cookieless though I may be, I know I can eat my fill of poetry simply by checking out the Poetry Friday roundup over at No Water River. Great links to check out there and... a giveaway!. It's like a win-win!
By the way, if you want to get all the new poems hereabouts emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!
Notes on Spirit Week at My School (Part 1) by Greg Pincus
Pajama Day's rough If you sleep in the buff!
(Hat tip to Evan Pincus for the idea/help on this poem.)
Growing up, I was never a fan of Spirit Week or Spirit Days or any such, particularly not Pajama Day. Interestingly, of course, now I wish I could just wear a comfy robe all day when I go out and about....
When I was a young boy - in my mid single digits - I met Pete Seeger on his Clearwater sloop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The event still sticks in my mind, though not really because of meeting a famous singer/activist or anything like that.
What I remember about the event is that the sloop was late. Our family waited for hours - my parents were big Pete Seeger fans, and I certainly was, too, in that son-ly way... so we waited - but eventually we had to return home because there was no sloop in sight.
My dad, though, went back to be there when the boat arrived in the wee morning hours. It was that big a deal for him... and that's why, I'm sure, it was for me, too.
Our whole family returned to the sloop the next day, and I remember being on the boat, but that's really about it. My mom tells me there's a picture of me and Pete Seeger on the sloop somewhere at home, and I hope to find it next time I'm back there. But I remember the day even if not the specifics.
The boat moved on, of course, as did our lives. I never saw Pete Seeger in concert, though I've certainly sung his songs (and songs he popularized) my whole life. My own kids have heard his music... and sung it at school, too, I'm pleased to say. That brief meeting didn't change my life in any way. And yet...
When I read that Pete Seeger had passed away last night, the meeting on the Clearwater was the first thing I thought of. And that made me think of my dad, also gone from this world.
That memory - of a boat, of two men (one who could carry a tune and one who didn't care if he could or not but was gonna sing regardless), my whole family, the importance of song, and the power of speaking your mind - is a thread within me sewing together much more than I think I'd fully realized until today.
And I'd say that's part of Pete Seeger's legacy, too, just on a smaller scale than the front page news.
The book is chock full of over 300 science related poems by an incredible assortment of poets - Laureates J. Patrick Lewis, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Kenn Nesbitt, for example, or Joyce Sidman and Jane Yolen as other examples. Oh, and I'm in there, too!
The poems say they're for K-5, but I've been reading them since they arrived and... oh, just buy it. It's great stuff (and I'm not even using the classroom bonus material).