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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Poetry, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 4,155
1. ‘Mrs Ribeiro’ Poetry Video Goes Viral

Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet and the founder of the Project V.O.I.C.E. organization, honored an inspirational teacher by crafting a piece called “Mrs Ribeiro.” The video embedded above features her performance at Inner City Arts in Los Angeles.

The poem can be found in Kay’s 2014 collection, No Matter the Wreckage. To check out more of her work, click on these links to listen to a reading of  The Typea reading of Montauk, and her talk on the TED 2011 stage.

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2. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton – PPBF, Diversity Day, 2016

  Celebrating Black History Month! Title: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses HortonPoet: Author and illustrator: Don Tate Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2015 Themes: slavery, illiteracy, poetry, African American, perseverance, Genre: biography Ages: 6-9 Opening: GEORGE LOVED WORDS. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved. He and his family lived … Continue reading

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3. Poetry Friday: Response to Picasso's Sculpture of a Cat







Response to Picasso’s sculpture of a Cat

She’s pregnant, this cat
or just given birth. She’s muddy;
her tail's been broken.
Look at her neck, stiff

as a stanchion. Look at her compact
head; so ill-made for big thoughts
you fear her tail is pulling
her backwards. She isn’t curled

by contentment, or preying
with merciless grace, or cagily
sinuous. Still—
she is Cat. She disdains

opinion. You can tell
by the vainglorious shine
of her ears, as if she is listening to
an undivided convent

of cats chanting her name
lapping up her blessing
as she passes them. She has lived
fully; they have been holy.

Picasso stretched time between
sculptures; using his brush to pry apart
skulls, turning to his hands only when the Muse
purred to him. He was never trained

to mold clay or pour bronze but
what he made, he kept
close. They fattened
his household. Did he speak

to Cat? Attempt to straighten
her tail, even as she hissed? How do
you feed a Muse who doesn’t need
you? She’s given birth; he stirs mud.

                        ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for discovering the intriguing Picasso sculptures, which provided the inspiration for this month's ekphrastic poetry challenge. (The Poetry Seven plans to respond to an image or piece of art every other month in 2016.  I'm already researching which artist to choose when it's my turn...)

Here are the links to my Poetry Sisters' poems (each of us chose a Picasso sculpture from a select group, so there's some overlap in the inspiration images, but glorious uniqueness in the response!)

Liz
Tanita
Tricia
Laura
Andi (taking a breather this month)
Kelly

More about Picasso's sculptures.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven's own, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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4. Remembering Francisco Alarcón

Beloved poet and educator Francisco X. Francisco X Alarcon Alarcón passed away on January 15, 2016. Francisco was a prolific writer of poetry for children and adults. Born in California and raised in Mexico, Francisco’s poems explore his Chicano identity and celebrate the double joy of being a poet in two languages. His awards include multiple Pura Belpré Honors as well the Chicano Literary Prize and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. His passing is a great loss to the world of Latino literature.

We asked some of the authors and artists who knew Francisco to share their memories of him:

Jorge ArguetaJorge Argueta, Author

I met Francisco X. Alarcón in the early 80’s, shortly after I arrived to San Francisco from El Salvador. Panchito was already a well known poet. He was a member of the Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade along with other poets, Alejandro Murguia (founder of the Brigade and current Poet Laureate of San Francisco), the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Juan Felipe Herrera, Jack Hirschman, Barbara Paschke and David Volpendesta.

I met Francisco at the place where most of us gathered, Café La Boheme in San Francisco’s Mission District. Francisco baptized this coffee house “The Cathredal of poetry.”

Francisco teaching young people.
Francisco teaching young people.

I traveled with Francisco four times to El Salvador, to participate in the Annual International Children’s Poetry Festival “Manyula.” Francisco was so happy to contribute. He shared with me the vision that through the gentle power of poetry we could help Salvadoran children and youth stay away from violence and have hope for a better future. Francisco did readings, lectures and poetry workshops for children, youth and teachers.

Years earlier he helped me organize the poems I would publish in my first children’s poetry book, A Movie in my Pillow. I will always be thankful to Francisco for his guidance and recommendations for this book. He truly loved El Salvador, its people, landscape and food.

Francisco at Monsignor Romero's Crypt
Francisco at Monsignor Romero’s Crypt

One day on a break from the festival we walked the short distance from the library, where the festival is held to the San Salvador Cathedral to pay a visit to Monsignor Romero’s crypt (El Salvador’s beloved priest who was assassinated by right wing death squads in the 80’s). Francisco was deeply moved to see his tomb and wrote a poem about this special visit. He shed tears and said to me, “I understand why El Salvador must continue to struggle for justice.”

That evening a wonderful full moon shone in the Salvadoran sky. Francisco laughed with his loud magical smile and said, “Here even the moon is a pupusa*.”

*El Salvador’s most popular food – A round tortilla made with corn dough, stuffed with beans, cheese and other ingredients.


Rene Colato LainezRené Colato Laínez, Author

I first met Francisco X Alarcón through his children’s books in my bilingual classroom at Fernangeles Elementary School. All of my students were from Latino families. Most of them were born in the USA. The rest of the students were recent immigrants from Latin America. I loved to read Francisco’s books because in them my students could find their culture, traditions, and as Francisco said, “Their roots/ Sus raices.”

At that time, my students called me, “The Teacher Full of Stories/ El maestro lleno de cuentos”, because I was always telling stories and turning them into books for the classroom. Francisco’s books were a great inspiration to write my own stories.

René Colato Laínez, Francisco X Alarcón, Margarita Robleda and Jorge Argueta
René Colato Laínez, Francisco X Alarcón, Margarita Robleda and Jorge Argueta

I had the big opportunity to meet Francisco in person at the CABE Conference (California Association for Bilingual Education). I was so excited to meet him. He was my rock star writer! I shared with him and the other authors who were also signing books, Amada Irma

Perez and Juan Felipe Herrera, my desire to write books. Francisco told me to keep writing and one day perhaps I will be sitting and signing books with them too.

Those words inspired me to keep writing and submitting my manuscripts for publication. It was a challenge process to publish a book but I did it. Francisco was right! Now I was signing books next to him and other amazing authors.

Francisco and Rene
Francisco and Rene

In 2010 author Jorge Argueta funded a children poetry festival in my native country, El Salvador. As a Salvadoran children’s book author, Jorge invited me to participate in the poetry festival. Margarita Robleda and Francisco X Alarcón were the other two pillars for this amazing festival that we do every year in El Salvador. Many Salvadoran authors also joined us to create the International

Children’s Poetry Festival (Internacional Festival de Poesía Infantil).

Francisco loved El Salvador. During the civil war, he helped recent Salvadoran immigrants in San Francisco. Now, he was in El Salvador visiting and reading his books to children from different parts of the country.

We always had a great time in El Salvador reading our books, eating pupusas, taking pictures, walking around San Salvador, and swimming at the beach.

I will always remember him. Francisco X. Alarcón, descansa en paz amigo.


Maya Christina GonzalezMaya Christina Gonzalez, Author and Illustrator

Maya wrote on her blog, “Francisco X. Alarcón let go of his body January 15. His passing is moving me very much. I am finishing drawings on our latest book together. A book of days. I look at spending the next few months very intimately sitting with Francisco as the arte unfolds. I am so sad.”

francisco-x-alarcon

Watch Maya and Francisco talk about their work together:


Louise May, Editorial Director at Lee & Low

Francisco was a joyous force of nature with a generous spirit. His works for children radiate love and celebrate family, all kinds of families. I am always amazed at how his poems continue to delight and often catch you by surprise. We are proud to be the custodians of his children’s poetry collections so that generations to come may get to read his work. And I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with him. Always an experience!


Francisco, you will be missed.

Discover Francisco’s books for young readers:

Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para soñar juntos

Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems / Jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primavera

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/ Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano

Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems/ Los Ángeles Andan en Bicicleta y otros poemas de otoñ

Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/ Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno

Animal Poems of the Iguazú/ Animalario del Iguazú

 

 

 

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5. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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6. Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem

viorst_what are you glad aboutWhat Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White
Primary, Intermediate   Dlouhy/Atheneum   102 pp.
2/16   978-1-4814-2355-7   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-2355-1   $10.99

Viorst’s most famous book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this collection of over fifty poems expresses the same wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Viorst plays with school subjects such as reading, writing, and “arithmetrick” (in the “School Stuff” section), and there are poems about competition with friends (the “Friends and Other People” section), bossy moms (“About the Family”), and the mystery of time sometimes seeming fast and sometimes slow. But the strongest poems go to the heart of feelings, such as worrying: “I like the sun hot on my back. / If killer sharks did not attack, / I’d like beaches.” One especially poignant piece deals with breaking up with a best friend: “We’ve never had an argument, or even a small fuss, / But I’m not my best friend’s best friend anymore.” White’s illustrations bring zany humor to the poems, and even sometimes add their own little twist, as in “Whoops,” where a poem about trying to reach something high up is pictured with someone reaching for a treasure chest on the back of a dragon. From a riff on The Sound of Music (“My Least Favorite Things”) to a clever poem pondering the purpose of toes, this collection will delight kids and the adults who read it aloud, too.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem appeared first on The Horn Book.

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What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem as of 1/1/1900
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7. Notebooks on Field Trips: Discovering the Writer’s Life

One of my favorite things about being a classroom teacher was taking educational field trips with my students. One year, I took my fifth grades on 20-25 field trips around the five boroughs… Continue reading

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8. Paying Irish journal open to submissions

Southword Journal Online (published twice yearly by The Munster Literature Centre) seeks poems and prose (in English and Irish) for their summer issue. Deadline: March 15, 2016. Payment for accepted pieces: €30/poem and/or €120/story.

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9. University journal seeks poetry & prose

Sulphur, Laurentian University’s literary journal, is seeking submissions for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in English and/or in French. Open to emerging and established writers and artists around the world. Submit to eas@laurentian.ca Deadline: February 15, 2016

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10. Your literary wildness wanted

Online and print UK journal WILDNESS wants work that evokes the unknown. Seeks poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for their third issue (April 2016). Length: 2500 words or 80 lines max. Deadline: March 4, 2016.

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11. Prom: awesome or shitty? Stories and poems wanted

Tumblr site PROM zine seeks poetry, nonfiction, and short stories about prom — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Length: 500 words max. Planning for spring publishing date. All accepted submissions receive a hard copy of the zine. Deadline: March 6, 2016.

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12. Seeking stories on Women and Justice in Canada

Understorey Magazine seeks fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and spoken word for special issue on women and justice (Women and Justice in Canada). Welcomes diversity of voice, experience and perspective. Length: 1500 words or 5 poems. Open to Canadians (including residents) who self-identify as women. Honorarium available for accepted pieces. Deadline: May 1, 2016.

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13. Oscar Schwartz Gives a Ted Talk on Poetry and Technology

Writer and researcher Oscar Schwartz gave a talk at the TEDxYouth@Sydney conference to discuss this question: “Can a Computer Write Poetry?” We’ve embedded the full presentation in the video above—what do you think?

Schwartz focused his talk on “why we react so strongly to the idea of a computer writing poetry — and how this reaction helps us understand what it means to be human.” Click here to check out Schwartz’s digital Turing test for poetry, bot or not.

In the past, several poets have spoken on the TED stage including Project V.O.I.C.E. founder Sarah Kay, spoken-word performer Malcolm London, and math enthusiast Harry Baker. What is your favorite poem?

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14. Professor Squawkish Fallathropy ~ Quoter Supreme ~ continued

psf-two

(please excuse temporary lessening of artwork quality as I experiment with different materials…like felt tips. Oh yeah! A Fine Art degree at the Slade and, years later, I’m just now realising the utter joy of these incredible deliverers of colour :-)


Filed under: children's illustration, love, poetry

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15. Professor Squawkish Fallathropy – Quoter Supreme

Professor Squawkish Fallathropy - Quoter Supreme


Filed under: children's illustration, poetry

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16. Scaling Wall

Something there is that does love a wall,
That sends the gangly boy-limbs clambering up
And bids the mother not to fuss or call
Out words of caution, not to spoil the bliss
Of racing, arms outspread, along the bricks,
Along the road that crests the world, the whole
Huge world six cinder blocks and seven leagues
Below. The boy is king, is wind, and she
Must hush: just study shrubs in neighbors’ yards,
Imagine herself a Seventies mom, unfazed
By threats to skull, spine, ulna, femur.
He shouts, he leaps; the earth (a mother too)
Shivers, lets loose the cord of gravity
This once, just once, and also on the next
Block, the next wall, each ridge that lures
Him skyward all the long way home.

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17. Miss Haze Poetry Video Goes Viral

Miss Haze has crafted a moving poem called “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliott Poem).” The video embedded above features her performance at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam.

Follow these links to listen to three more of Miss Haze’s poems: “The Help,” “Twerk,” and “Alligators.” Which musicians have inspired you to create art?

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18. Four $1000 awards in poetry & prose contest

The Los Angeles Review welcomes entries for four new awards: Flash fiction (500 words max.), poetry, creative nonfiction (1500 words max.), and short fiction (1500 words max.) Winners receive $1000 prize and publication in LAR. Entry fee is $20. Deadline: May 1, 2016.

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19. Write about eating for a lit + photo installation

The Norton Center invites submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for EAT: A Literature and Photography Installation Event. Pieces can be about eating in all configurations: literal, figurative, experimental, dark, nostalgic, satirical, etc. Selected works exhibited alongside a photographic interpretation of each piece by Kentucky photographer, Sarah Jane Sanders. Deadline: February 5, 2016.

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20. Seeking writing about ‘The Road’

The Turnip Truck(s) is interested in the dialectics of the human and its environment(s). Seeking submissions for their second issue and first contest, The Road. Interested in essays, poems, and stories. Welcomes work that addresses anything from a traditional hero’s journey to learning to traverse a foreign land; embraces a new perspective; or navigates the Internet super highway. Reading fee: $3. entry fee: $12. Deadline: March 1, 2016.

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21. Review of Amazing Places

hopkins_amazing placesAmazing Places
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by Chris Soentpiet and 
Christy Hale
Primary, Intermediate   Lee & Low   40 pp.
10/15   978-1-60060-653-3   $18.95

The amazing places mentioned in the title of this poetry collection are all in the United States, with their locations marked on a map on the endpapers. The specificity of the places is a real strength of this compilation, with each of the fourteen poems centering on one particular location and the experience of being there. The focus is as much on people as on scenery, with many of the poems written in the first person, as with Janet Wong’s “Campfire,” set in Denali National Park: “Just think— / when Mother was my age, / she could build a fire / with sparks from rocks.” The art shows the mountain range in sunset colors, with firelight creating a cozy spot for mother and daughter to connect. While some poems are set in nature (Prince Redcloud’s “Niagara”; Nikki Grimes’s “Tree Speaks,” about Grand Canyon National Park), others are about historical sites, like Joseph Bruchac’s poem set in a longhouse at the Oneida Nation Museum in Wisconsin. Soentpiet and Hale combine their talents to showcase the special elements of a place (size or majesty or vibrancy) as well as the response of people to it, conveying powerful emotion and interactions through facial expressions and body language. Hopkins has gathered together an impressively diverse and talented group of poets for this polished and inspiring collection, which concludes with additional information about the places in the poems and source notes.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Seeking work with observation, empathy, vitality

The Wax Paper, a literary and arts journal printed as a newsprint broadsheet, is accepting submissions of all forms of written word, image, and collected conversation. Advice to writers: Read the publication’s manifesto. Deadline: June 30, 2016.

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23. Connor Franta Poetry Video Goes Viral

Connor Franta has crafted a powerful poem called “New Year, New Me.” Franta has become well-known as a vlogger on YouTube.

The video embedded above features Franta’s recitation of the piece; it has drawn more than 355,000 views. Have you made any resolutions for the new year?

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24. Looking for writing that gets ‘under the skin’

UK quarterly online magazine Novelty seeks submissions for Issue 3. Theme: “Under the skin” — literally (skin as the natural limit of being human) and figuratively (obsession or irritation). Accepts essays, articles, columns, fiction, and art. Deadline: February 8, 2016.

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25. Remembering Francisco Alarcón

I was saddened to hear of the death of Francisco Alarcón last week. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for one of my National Poetry Month series on Poetry Makers. If you don't know him or his work, his obituary contains some lovely thoughts.

UC Davis poet fought injustice, approached world with sense of wonder

Reading Rockets conducted a nice interview with him. It is below.

Finally, I thought this might be a good time to share again his Poetry Makers interview. This was originally posted April 3, 2010.

*****

Several years ago while looking for some bilingual poetry for a student teacher, I stumbled across the book Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la nieve: y otros poemas de invierno, written by Francisco Alarcón and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. The vibrant art on the cover reeled me in, and once I was inside the magic of the poems enchanted me. Here's one I suggested she use with her ESL students, all recent immigrants, all Spanish-speaking.

Ode to Buena
Vista Bilingual School


here Spanish
goes to school
with English

uno-dos-tres
is as easy as
one-two-three

here children
of all races write
beautiful poems

in English
and Spanish
even in spirals

and following
the beat of teacher
Felipe's clave

here children
learn to sing
with their hearts
Oda a la Escuela
Bilingüe de Buena Vista


aqui el español
va a la escuela
con el inglés

uno-dos-tres
es tan fácil como
one-two-three

aqui niños de todas
las razas escriben
bellos poemas

tanto en inglés
como en español
hasta en espiral

y siguiendo
la clave del
maestro Felipe

aqui los niños
aprenden a cantar
con el corazón

Before moving on to Francisco's interview, take a few minutes to listen to him talk about his family and read some of his poems.


***************
How did you get started writing poetry? What got you hooked on children’s poetry?
Francisco: I started to write poems when I was around 13 years. I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I wanted to put down in writing my grandmother’s songs she used to sing. I thought the songs were part of the oral tradition but when I found out they were her own compositions that she had never written down, I decided to transcribe them. Since I don’t have a very good memory, I would make up for a line or two that were missing in the traditional ballads that usually have stanzas of four verses each.

I published my first book of bilingual poems for grown-ups in 1985. Later I became aware that there were almost no books of bilingual poems children written by any Latino poet in the United States, and so I wrote and published my first book of bilingual poems for children in 1997, “Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems” (Children’s Book Press). I published three additional books to complete the “Magical Cycle of the Four Seasons” of the year. I wrote a book of bilingual poems for children about dreams. “Poems to Dream Together” (Lee & Low Books, 2005). My latest book, “Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú” (Children’s Book Press, 2008) is a celebration of a natural wonder of the world.

What are the things you enjoy most about writing poetry for children/young adults?
Francisco: I write poetry for children in the same way I write poems for grow-ups. My signature poetics is that “less is really more,” that is to say, that few words in a poem can express a great deal and some times better than long texts. I believe that poems can only be complete when they are read by readers or are heard by listeners. My poems demand readers and listeners who are “accomplices” of the author and can make sense of my poems that I believe are incomplete without the participation of readers and listeners. This is why I enjoy immensely reading aloud my bilingual poems to children during school visits or during poetry presentations in public libraries or community centers.

In the past, I used to present my poems together with slide shows, but last year, at the urging of the organizers of “Words Take Wing,” an annual literary presentation of children sponsored by the School of Education and that takes place at the Mondavi Performing Arts Center at the University of California, Davis, I began doing power point presentations in which my poems are projected to a screen together with visual images from my children’s books. I did this for the first time at a morning presentation at the Mondavi Center together with artist Maya Christina Gonzalez, the illustrator of five of my children’s book.

There were about 1,000 children and teachers in the audience in one of the largest performance theaters in Northern in California. It was a smashing great success and as a direct result, I was invited to visit about 20 schools in the surrounding areas in the following months. I see this as an integral part of the poetic process that starts with my solitary writing of the poems, then includes the edition and publication of the books of poems with artwork by inspired artists and designers, and finally extends to the actual presentation of the poems to children, their families and teachers, and the public in general. This process brings lots of joy and satisfaction to me as a poet and educator.

Who/what made you want to write?
Francisco: I began writing poems as a way to retrieve family memories, first by writing down the songs composed by my paternal grandmother in Guadalajara, Mexico, and then, by giving testimony of my family and personal experiences. After I do presentations of my poems to children, I usually ask children if they have any questions or comments, and often I receive some very insightful comments or questions from children, like the one I received at “El Festival del Libro” on March 14, 2010, in Sacramento.

A nine-year old girl commented that she noticed that all the poems I had read were in some way connected to my own life. I told her that I appreciated very much her insightful comment, and that yes, for me, poetry is an extension of my own life; that my poems are direct reflections of life and reality that I find fascinating, mesmerizing, and magical; that although I celebrate the imagination of other poets and writers, my poetry is a celebration of our surrounding reality, than more than being fictitious, my poetry is above all a testimony of life.

I told the audience that I have thinking about my work as a poet of the past 30 years; that I have come to the conclusion that maybe the main reason why I have never used periods in my poems is that in reality all my poems are really part of a single very long poem that is my life; that a big final period will mark my tombstone. And then I read the following poem that I include here:

Life Poem

not a single
period in all
of my poems--

my life
is really
the one poem

I've been
writing all
these years

--one single
long sentence
with no periods--

the day
I pass away
will mark

the last
and only
period

of all
my life
poem
Poema Vida

ni un solo
punto en todos
mis poemas--

mi vida
es de veras
el único poema

que he estado
escribiendo todos
estos años

--una sola
larga oración
sin puntos--

el día
que muera
marcará

el único
punto
final

de todo
mi poema
vida


Have you had any formal poetry training? If not, how did you learn to write what you do?
Francisco: I had the privilege of having excellent education opportunities in my lifetime. I was a scholarship student that attended El Instituto de Ciencias, an elitist high school run by the Jesuits in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since I was in the Dean’s List, I was given the keys to a wonderful literary library of more than 3,000 books that was at my personal disposal. This library was a paradise for a teenager interested in devouring books.

Then after I moved to California and went to college, I took many solid courses on Latin American and Spanish literature and got a BA in Spanish and History from California State University, Long Beach. For five years I undertook graduate studies at Stanford University, in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. I consider Fernando Alegría, a Chilean poet and novelist who was the cultural attaché in the Chilean Embassy during the Allende government, and a professor at Stanford, one of my literary mentors. When I was a Fulbright scholar in Mexico, I met and became a very close friend of Elías Nandino, who at 80 years old was a survivor of generation of Mexican writers known as “Los Contemporáneos.” Elías Nandino became my mentor in poetry and life.

While attending Stanford, I moved and lived in the Mission District in San Francisco, California, and met and collaborated with many great poets and writers like Juan Felipe Herrera, Lorna Dee Cervantes, José Antonio Burciaga, Lucha Corpi, Jack Hirschman, Alejandro Murguía, among others.

Being faculty to some intensive poetry workshops like “Art of the Wild” organized by Jack Hicks, professor fo UC Davis, in Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe in California, taught a great deal about poetry. I had the chance to interact with Gary Snyder, who is one of the main teachers of poetry of my generation. Above all I have to say that life is the teacher, mentor, inspiration, and main theme of my poetry.

Can describe your poetry writing process?
Francisco: I am always very puzzled by poets who say that they write poetry every day at a certain time. I have never been able to do so. I write poems really in a fit of passion. I can go on days and months without writing anything and then suddenly poems come rushing to me unexpectedly. I have learned to leave everything aside and become a medium for the poems. Whole collections of poems have come to me in a matter of few days. Most of the bilingual poems my latest book, “Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú.” came to me while I was visiting the Iguazú National Park in Northern Argentina. So, I can say the poems were written in situ.

For some unknown reason, I write most of poems by hand on yellow lined paper blocks. Maybe I see myself as a secretary taking dictation for a poetic brief instead of a legal one. I am so old fashioned; I still use cursive handwriting; for me, the movement and cadence of writing by hand are very inspirational and conducive to poetry.

Do you have a favorite among all the poems/poetry books you have written?
Francisco: This is very difficult question to ask to poet like me. It’s like asking a father about his favorite son or daughter. I celebrate each poem of every poetry book as being unique and part of a large book that I have been writing all my life. For me poetry somehow escapes the realm of the possible. I read some of my poems I wrote decades ago as if I had written them yesterday, and others that I wrote recently I read them as if someone else had written them; they keep surprising me.

Would you like to share the details of any new poetry project(s) that you’re working on?
Francisco: I have been working on two books of poems for children. The first one is collection of bilingual poems about the Mesoamerican origin of Chocolate. I have submitted the manuscript to several published and I have been told by editors that although they loved my poems they found that the subject matter, chocolate, is really a taboo subject for children’s books, because chocolate supposedly makes people obese. But my poems deal with the indigenous origins of chocolate and not about the sugar that was later added to chocolate. I sent the manuscript to a university press that is still considering it. I know that when my book of chocolate poems comes out it will do really well among children, educators, critics, and the public in general.

The second book is a collection of poems about Aztec calendar. I have titled this unpublished book, “Tonalamatl: Book of Days / Libro de los días.” This is a trilingual collection that includes short poems for the 20 days in the Aztec calendar in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The poems in Nahuatl are translations done by Natalio Hernández, one of the most distinguished Mexican poets who write in Nahuatl in Mexico. This book is directed toward middle school children and young readers and is a groundbreaking literary project because it will be the first time that a picture book will be published in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl in the United States. I am in the process of looking for a publisher.

Pop Quiz!
Your favorite dead poet?
Francisco: In English, two of my favorite poets are E. E. Cummings and Langston Hughes. In Spanish, I would say Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda.

Your favorite place to write?
Francisco: I don’t have a particular place for writing. I have written many of my poems on my kitchen table and on small notebooks as I walk around or right after I wake up in the morning, also in the middle of night still on my bed.

Favorite quote on writing/poetry?
Francisco: "The earth laughs in flowers" by E. E. Cumming. I once wrote a poem that resembles this quote:
SPRINGTIME
hills are starting
to crack a green
smile once again

Your nominee for the next Children’s Poet Laureate?
Francisco: I would nominate Pat Mora, who has published so many beautiful children’s books.

***************
Francisco has done such a wonderful job describing his art that I can't add much more. I wish I had thought to ask if he composes in Spanish, English, or both. I'm not sure it matters, but to someone who is sadly monolingual, I am intrigued by those who can "think" in a second language. And frankly, I struggle to write decent poetry in my native language, so reading Francisco's work fills me with even more admiration and wonder knowing he's working in two languages.

I'd like to end this remarkable interview with two of my favorite poems. The first can be found in Poems to Dream Together / Poemas Para Sonar Juntos. The second can be found in From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems / Del Ombligo de la Luna: Y Otros Poemas de Verano.

In My Dreams

buffaloes roam
free once again
on the plains

whales become
opera singers
of the sea

dolphins are
admired by all for
their smarts and joy

in my dreams
there is no word
for "war"

all humans
and all living
beings

come together
as one big family
of the Earth
En Mis Suénos

los búfalos rondan
por las praderas
libres otra vez

las ballenas
se vuelven cantantes
de ópera del mar

los delfines son
admirados por todos
por su ingenio y alegria

en mis sueños
no hay una palabra
para "guerra"

todos los humanos
y todos los seres
vivientes

se juntan como
una gran familia
de la Tierra


Ode to My Shoes


my shoes
rest
all night
under my bed

tired
they stretch
and loosen
their laces

wide open
they fall asleep
and dream
of walking

they revisit
the places
they went to
during the day

and wake up
cheerful
relaxed
so soft


Oda a mis zapatos


mis zapatos
descansan
toda la noche
bajo mi cama

cansados
se estiran
se aflojan
las cintas

muy anchose
se duermen
y sueñan
con andar

recorren
los lugares
adonde fueron
en el día

y amanecen
contentos
relajados
suavecitos

All poems ©Francisco X. Alarcón. All rights reserved.

To learn more about Francisco, visit these sites.

Godspeed, Francisco. You will be missed.

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