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Only, I've been a little distracted. I skipped off to the city for my local SCBWI meeting - an art show, a lecture from book-wise and witty editors Mary Kate Castellani and Caroline Abbey, and then a consultation and workshop with art director, professor, and story genius Joy Chu.
This is the same Joy who guided me over the last two winters in visual storytelling classes through the UCSD online extension program.
I'm still reeling with inspiration. I could have listened for days. Months. Years.
Now I'm home, all bright and hopeful, waiting for my brain to shape so many beautiful tips and ideas into working order. Time to let the front thoughts simmer. Time to play with poetry.
We started with a poet-tree. The wildebeests and I cut out branchy trees and labeled each branch with simple word: sky, go, sea, etc. Next, we cut out dozens of leaves - in all flutters of color, because it just looks more exciting that way.
Each branch grew rhyming leaf words: sky = cry, my, pie, etc.
Because we like to make life even more thrilling, and sometimes complicated, I thought it might be fun for the older wildebeests to thread their leaves on yarn. Winnie added a button.
Pip used gold pen. She's really into gel pens lately.
And their finished masterpieces.
I'd love to meet a tree like this someday, shimmering with colors, yarns, and words! I think I'd move in.
I'll share more poetry play next time.
Until then, here are a few favorites:
A Kick in the Head, An Every Day Guide to Poetic Forms - compiled by Paul Janeczko, ill. by Chris Raschka
The Random House Book of Poetry - edited by Jack Prelutsky, ill. by Arnold Lobel
Switching on the Moon - collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Peters, ill. by G. Brian Karas
Chicken Soup With Rice - by Maurice Sendak
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard
Now We Are Six By A.A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard
Did you know that Earth Day started way back in the 1970’s? For many it marks, as a website quotes, “the birth of the modern environmental movement.”
Way back in 1962, author Rachel Carson began the run up to concern for the environment with her New York Times bestseller, “Silent Spring.” It generated with its sale of 500,000 copies in 24 countries, a call for public awareness of concern for the gradation of the environment and by inference, its impact on public health.
Change is a hard thing to measure and it is usually only measurable AFTER it has occurred.
That is why the picture book’s value in its ability to both entertain and enlighten, is so underrated in some quarters in the sometimes headlong drive to get to the chapter book. So much is missed and discounted in what the picture book has offered in the past and continues to offer in the present. And Ms. Adams’ book is a perfect example.
Adrienne Adams is the winner of two Caldecott Honor books in 1960 and 1962 for “The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up” and “Houses From The Sun”. Both were done with text by Alice E. Goudey.
She is also the illustrator of ALA notable books for her Grimm’s Brothers versions of “The Shoemaker and the Elves, ”Jorinde and Joringel,” and “Thumbelina” by Hans Christian Andersen.
In “Poetry of the Earth,” Ms. Adams has chosen thirty-three poems from renowned poets such as Robert Frost, Randall Jarrell, Carl Sandburg, William Butler Yeats, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, celebrating everything from buffaloes to bats, snails to specks, sandhill cranes to squirrels and tiger lilies to tortoises.
Listen to this small sample from Robert Frost’s, “Dust of Snow”:
“The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree”
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.”
Young readers, once you get past their understanding of the word, “rued”, will certainly get the visceral feeling of how one single moment can change a day; one small second in time can change a minute from moody to merry. Kids do it all the time; it’s part of being a child!
And its impetus for them can be a poem, a line from a book, a hug, a smile, or a touch of the hand.
Let Earth Day this year, and books that echo both the shelter and nourishment it gives humanity, be the jumping off spot for a teachable moment with young readers. Share books with them that celebrate how wonderful and healing the earth can be; what a sacred space it is, and how much it is in our care.
Below is a link to 50 fun and engaging hands on Earth Day Activities for young ones.
“I’m interested in the collage form,” Balakian said. “I’m exploring, pushing the form of poetry, pushing it to have more stakes and more openness to the complexity of contemporary experience.”
He describes poetry as living in “the speech-tongue-voice syntax of language’s music.” That, he says, gives the form unique power. “Any time you’re in the domain of the poem, you’re dealing with the most compressed and nuanced language that can be made. I believe that this affords us the possibility of going into a deeper place than any other literary art — deeper places of psychic, cultural and social reality.”
From the book’s titular poem:
Bach’s cantata in B-flat minor in the cassette,
we lounged under the greenhouse-sky, the UVBs hacking
at the acids and oxides and then I could hear the difference
between an oboe and a bassoon
at the river’s edge under cover—
trees breathed in our respiration;
there was something on the other side of the river,
something both of us were itching toward—
radical bonds were broken, history became science.
We were never the same.
And, as the jacket description notes:
The title poem of Peter Balakian’s Ozone Journal is a sequence of fifty-four short sections, each a poem in itself, recounting the speaker’s memory of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert with a crew of television journalists in 2009. These memories spark others—the dissolution of his marriage, his life as a young single parent in Manhattan in the nineties, visits and conversations with a cousin dying of AIDS—creating a montage that has the feel of history as lived experience. Bookending this sequence are shorter lyrics that span times and locations, from Nairobi to the Native American villages of New Mexico. In the dynamic, sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma, and forgetting is both global and ancient; but we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture and the resilience of love.
The book in its wonderful camel on wheels home #dada
In honor of the 100th birthday of the emergence of the Dada movement, we are sharing the unique artist book created by Rolf Lock embodying Hugo Ball’s Karawane. In full leather boards, the exquisite hand illustration and lettering was executed on sandpaper…because…it was. It is housed, as one would expect, in an olive wood camel, the book at rest forming its hump…because…it is.
The text of the Ball’s poem, written in 1916, is as follows:
Poems in the Atticis a collection of poetry that creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be. We interviewed master poet Nikki Grimes on her process for writing poetry and if she has any tips to share.
In Poems in the Attic, the reader is introduced to free verse and tanka styles of poetry. Why were you drawn to the tanka form?
Poetry, for me, has always been about telling a story or painting a picture using as few words as possible. Haiku and tabla are forms that epitomize that. I’d previously played with an introduction to haiku in A Pocketful of Poems, and I have long since been intrigued with the idea of incorporating tanka in a story. Poems in the Attic provided such an opportunity, so I jumped on it.
Many readers are intimidated by poetry or think it is not for them. For people who find poetry difficult, where would you recommend they start?
Start with word play. I sometimes like to take a word and study it through the lens of my senses. Take the word “lemon”, for instance. What is its shape, its scent, its color? Does it make a sound? Does it have a taste? How would you describe that sound, that taste? Where is a lemon to be found? What does it do or what can you do with it? In answering such questions, in a line or two in response to each question, one ends up either with a poem or the makings of a poem.
Is there something people can do to be “good” at writing poetry? Where do you find inspiration when you get stuck?
There are a few answers to that question.
Read poetry voraciously. If you aspire to write good poetry, you must first know what that looks like.
Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a muscle that must be exercises, no matter the genre.
Play. Build your vocabulary. Experiment with a variety of forms. For too many trying poetry, rhyme is their default. But rhyme is bot synonymous with poetry. It is merely one element of it. Explore metaphor, simile, alliteration, assonance, and all the other elements of poetry. Think interns of telling a story and painting a picture with words. These practices will lead you somewhere wonderful.
SAD Mag, a Vancouver based arts & culture publication, is seeking poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction pieces. Theme: Secrets (personal and political secrets, unconventional ideas and lives — writers are encouraged to interpret creatively and broadly). Length: 1,000 words max. Accepted pieces published online alongside an illustration; some published in the print issue. Particularly interested in works by queer and emerging writers. Deadline: May 15, 2016.
Room Magazine is accepting entries for their annual Poetry and Fiction Contest. Prize in each genre: $1000 plus publication. Judged by Marilyn Dumont (poetry) and Doretta Lau (fiction). Room’s contests are open to women, trans*, two-spirited, and genderqueer people. Deadline: July 15, 2016.
Online journal Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing is accepting submissions of poetry, literary fiction, creative nonfiction, features, and artwork for the Fall 2016 issue. Deadline: August 15, 2016.
One thing that still surprises me is how much little kids are fascinated by sharks. Shark books in my library are always checked out - even more so than dinosaur books. In light of this, I am truly surprised that Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks written by Skila Brown and illustrated by Bob Kolar is the first book of its kind I have encountered. Happily, Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks is a treat to read, both for Brown's playfully informative shape poems and for Kolar's colorful, watery illustrations that handsomely capture the (often beautiful) subjects. I don't usually include so many illustrations from a book in a review, but Brown's range of shark subjects and Kolar's illustrations are so fantastic, I wanted to give you a really good idea of all that Slickety Quick has to offer.
Wisely, and with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, Brown kicks off Slickety Quick with a poem about the great white shark - in the shape of that distinctive fin. Thirteen species and their poems, along with brief facts, follow and their variety might surprise you.
Brown's poems are as dramatic as her subjects and very fun to read out loud, especially the poem about the hammerhead shark for two voices, above. The pages of Slickety Quick are so fun to pore over and readers are sure to learn about sharks without even realizing it!
On his websiteKolar mentioned that he loves creating the end pages of his books and this is where I realized I had reviewed a book illustrated by Kolar back in 2011 and, tickled by the end pages, I included them in my review of Nothing Like a Puffin by Sue Soltis. And, I also realized that I had reviewed Skila Brown's unforgettable debut novel in 2014! A verse novel set in Guatemala in 1981, Caminar tells the story of a young boy caught between the military government and guerillas fighting against it.
Poetry School Visit photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery
Do you have poems swirling in your head? Do you have one poem memorized that you share every day with someone new in the library? Do you dress up during poetry month? Have you created a poetree display? There are so many amazing fun things to do during poetry month! This year, I switched up my school visits a bit and added a poetry timeline. The poetry timeline works great with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.
Below are two options for adding poems to your timeline-Movement: Day 1 and Historical Events.
Historical Events Poetry Timeline: Before your school visit, create your poetry timeline on a huge piece of colorful paper using makers or paint. Select a series of interactive poems that match up with a specific date. For example, Velcro by Maria Fleming invented in 1955. Start with a really really early date and end with 2016. Add between 7-12 poems with a variety of dates. (This will change depending on your school group size and how much time you have.)
Day 15 – walk, crack, dance, pop, and fly. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery
Hold your school visit either in the classroom or wing/meeting space, use a white board or bring in big pieces of butcher paper. Have the classroom or group select a day-Day 1, Day 22, Day 245, or Day 6,780. Have fun selecting the number. Let’s start with Day 1. Have the teacher assist with writing the poems on the timeline after you read them. Students will select (yell out) where the poem will go and what time of day the poem should happen. For example, after reading the poem “A Smoothie Supreme,” students might select the poem to start at 6pm. Write the poem and time on your timeline-6pm A Smoothie Supreme by Deborah Ruddell. After-this is the best part! – read together and act out each motion-Slither, Run, Crunch, Flap, Slurp, Aaaaa (roller coaster noises while pretending to ride a roller coaster up, down and around.) Hooray, yells the group together.
Tell your group the name of the poem again and remind them what the action is that matches up with each poem and book. This is a great way to introduce new poets like Deborah Ruddell, Julie Paschkis, Bob Raczka and more! The poetry timeline creates interaction and movement. You will be loud, be silly and be smiling.
Poetry Timeline Popcorn photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery
Have fun with each timeline by adding illustrations-markers, pencil drawings or cut-out magazine collages.
You can also create a seasonal poetry timeline-fall, winter, spring and summer or theme poetry timelines-Sports, Animals, Food-so many options.
For more poetry ideas, explore past Poetry Paige ALSC blog posts.
Please share your school visit ideas and photos below (especially, if you dress up during poetry month.)
Let’s face it; poetry is a bit intimidating or at the very least, seen as highbrow, and inaccessible to most people.
With April ushering in the freshness of spring, and also bearing the title of National Poetry Month, I try at The Snuggery, to feature books for young readers that may just dissuade parents and kids from that concept of poetry as something far from the everyday, totally musty, and far from modern.
That is so untrue; it is in the everyday; both yours and mine, and it is our observations, feelings and take on that everyday that makes poetry come alive. And it’s in the very uniqueness of each person’s view of the life and lines in a poem, that its true rich and varied humanity emerges for all to enjoy.
Remember the tale of “The Blind Men and the Elephant?”
Each blind man endeavors to find out what the reality of an elephant was.
One felt the trunk, and said an elephant was a tree branch, another felt the tail, and calls an elephant like a rope, still another felt the ear and deemed the elephant, a fan. One more touches only the leg, and calls the elephant a pillar.
Well, poetry to me is much like that story. No one person searching for the truth of the elephant has the market cornered on it, if it is viewed from one singular perspective.
It is only within the collective of the feelings and observations of all individual experiences, that the wholeness of the reality of the elephant begins to take shape.
And so it is with the beauty of a poem.
Meet young Daniel, who is asking pretty much the same question about the definition of poetry, as he sees a sign in an urban park that lists:
Poetry in the
“What is poetry?”, Daniel says.
Nature is such a wonderful teacher for so many things in life, that it’s not so surprising that he starts his questioning about poetry with the park’s wildlife inhabitants.
In sequence, he queries a spider who says:
To me, poetry is when morning
A squirrel has a different perspective on poetry:
Poetry is when crisp leaves
My own favorite is the chipmunk that gives Daniel’s question a thoughtful Hmmm, and then offers his own take:
Poetry is a home with many
windows in an old stone wall.
And so it goes, from frogs to turtles, from crickets to a wise old owl at dusk, who sets young Daniel to thinking poetic thoughts at the close of day, as she hoots:
Oh, Poetry! Poetry is bright stars
in the beaches, moonlight on the grass,
and silent wings to take me wherever I go.
Sunday dawns bright as a button, and Daniel finds that he has a poem to contribute to the announced “Poetry in the Park.”
His recitation is a beautiful one, put together and gleaned from all the perspectives that he has seen and heard through observations shared from his park poets, and those he has taken in with own eyes, and also those seen through theirs.
And, as he stops to see a sunset reflected in a pond, he immediately intuits what he has been seeking, as relates to poetry.
“That looks like poetry to me”
“To me too,” says Dragonfly
Micha Archer, teacher and mother of two, has fashioned here, a special book on poetry that not only makes the subject of poetry accessible to children, but uses the artistic technique of color-filled collage illustrations so wonderfully done as to reflect the innocence and vibrant freshness of childhood discovery and brings it all winningly alive to the reader.
If poetry can be described as a collection of words that express an emotion or an idea, then the picture book called “Daniel Finds a Poem” by Micha Archer is worth the seeking and finding of a poem that is not merely Daniel’s.
Perhaps, more importantly, it’s the finding of a special picture book providing the first steps towards the start of a hunt for your young reader’s own world of poetry, just waiting to be discovered in their own backyard.
Biannual independent arts & lit journal The Quilliad (Toronto) seeks submissions for the next issue. Publishes poetry, flash fiction (500 words or less), and short stories (generally 1000-2000 words). Send 5 poems, 5 flash fiction pieces, or 2 short stories max. Payment: $12 honorarium, contributor’s copy, and free admission to the launch party for your issue. Deadline: April 30, 2016.
Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine (NC), which explores the wide spectrum of the senior citizen’s life, seeks pieces for the next issue. Open to poetry, short fiction, creative essay, memoir and book reviews from anyone, anywhere. Welcomes any topic, and in any voice or style. Main criteria: the work needs to be good: it should engage the reader/viewer, enrich our experience. Deadline: June 1, 2016.
Poetry holds a special place in my heart, for the way it helps me slow down and notice. As I share poetry with my students, it's very important to me to help them see that the poems we read have been created by real people. We need to help our children see that they, too, are poets.
I am thrilled to share interviews with California poets for young people. This month, I will share interviews with Jorge Argueta, Nikki Grimes, Isabel Campoy, and Lee Wardlaw. Please consider inviting these wonderful poets to your schools to connect in person with your students. In the meantime, let's welcome our first guest.
Jorge Argueta is a prolific Salvadoran poet who lives in San Francisco. I love sharing his bilingual poems and stories with children. Argueta immigrated to the United States more than 30 years ago in the midst of his country’s civil war. He writes poetry and children’s books, runs Luna’s Press and Bookstore in San Francisco, and gives poetry presentations and workshops in the US and in El Salvador.
1. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?
When I write a poem, I normally visualize it. If it’s a place or a person, I visit with them. In my imagination, I talk to the people, trees and fruits and vegetables. I live with them. I have an office, but I like to do my writing in my kitchen because I feel it is a place where I can dream. My tea kettle is a steam train, it brings people, cows, mountains, rainbows, rivers, moons, suns, stars, they all come to keep me company when I’m writing.
I love writing in my kitchen because it reminds me of my home in El Salvador. I have the sweet company of my family and friends, here I can bring the past to the present, to the future. In the kitchen I have chairs, tables, kitchen utensils and photos. I am surrounded by wonderful colorful vegetables and fruits, each with different shapes and scents. To me the kitchen is a place where I make connections with the whole world. Just as life, the kitchen is a poem.
2. I love sharing descriptive words with kids. What are some words that you have been thinking about lately, that might be particularly delicious?
Water fire colors mango sunrise
I believe words were given to us to talk about our happiness, our sadness, our joy, our perseverance, our justice. As an indigenous person, a Latino person, I need to talk about our endurance. I believe words were given to me to talk about the needs of people for justice, and to see the world in different ways.
3. What are three (classics) books you’d like to see in every child’s home?
The Popol-Vuh, 1001 Arabian Nights and Jungle Book.
There’s definitely classical literature that you can turn to, like The Popol–Vuh for children, a classical book by the great Mayan people, adopted for children by Ana Maria Dueñas, or The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling, or picture books by Dr. Seuss. But I also want to share other poets’ work with children.
The great Chilean writer, Gabriela Mistral, wrote for children’s and for social justice. She was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1945. Pablo Neruda’s mind, his writing touches children, young adults and adults. His words are child-like, yet also powerful enough to touch anybody. Also a Nobel prize winner. In El Salvador, Claudia Lars, wrote amazing poems for children.
Most recently, my good friend, Juan Felipe Herrera--current Poet Laureate of the United States-- conveys the power and the tenderness to share the experience of the farm workers and Latino immigrants, to talk about important issues today. Francisco Alarcón—another good friend who just passed away, wrote such fun poems for children, that make me laugh and smile and wonder.
A good message to convey to parents is the importance of the oral tradition. We are telling parents to make sure their children read, read, read -- but we also need to remind ourselves how important it is to keep the oral tradition alive. Tell children where they come from, who grandpa was, what he did as a young boy. We have beautiful family stories that we sometimes forget to tell our children.
4. Is there a poem you can share a snippet with us?
Why are young people leaving their country to walk to the United States to seek a new, safe home? Over 100,000 such children have left Central America. This book of poetry helps us to understand why and what it is like to be them.
This powerful book by award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta describes the terrible process that leads young people to undertake the extreme hardships and risks involved in the journey to what they hope will be a new life of safety and opportunity. A refugee from El Salvador’s war in the eighties, Argueta was born to explain the tragic choice confronting young Central Americans today who are saying goodbye to everything they know because they fear for their lives. This book brings home their situation and will help young people who are living in safety to understand those who are not.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Mr. Argueta. It was a true delight and pleasure.
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Black Napkin Press is currently seeking submissions of art and poetry for their inaugural digital publication and future issues. From the editor: “We want your weird, we want your provocative, we want the poems that you need in the world. We like poetry that forces a reader to feel, poetry that punches you in the heart and leaves you with the taste of blood on your teeth.” Deadline: Rolling.
April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For today’s Poetry Friday, we chose a poem from Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
The Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group invites entries from adults and youth for the 2016 Write on the Lake Contest. First prize: $100. Categories: Poetry (3 pages or 1500 words max), fiction (2500 words max.), and creative nonfiction (2500 words max.) Entry fees: Adult – $20 and youth (under 18 years) – $10. Deadline: July 31, 2016.
New quarterly Flytrap Uprising is accepting submissions for their second issue. Looking for noir–noir fiction, noir poetry, and articles about noir topics. Editor’s note: Noir is more than detective stories. Seeking “your dark, your discouraged, your hopeless, but also your light at the end of the tunnel.” Deadline: August 31, 2016.
A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Krystyna Poray Goddu
Chicago Review Press, 2016
Grades 5 and up
April is Poetry Month, so it's fitting that A Girl Called Vincent was released earlier this month. The biography provides middle grade and teen readers with an in-depth look at the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was known to her friends
Submissions are open for the debut issue of November Bees, a quarterly online art and literature journal. Currently seeking previously unpublished nonfiction and fiction (including blurred genre hybrid) under 1,000 words, plus poetry and visual art. Deadline: July 15, 2016.
University of Regina Press and poet Sue Goyette are asking poets to submit to a collection that addresses the issue of sexual assault, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, rape culture and the ongoing quest for justice. Open to international submissions. Pieces can be sent by mail (University of Regina Press, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK, S4S 0A2) or emailed to email@example.com. Deadline: September 15, 2016.
Entries are invited for the Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest. Top three winners receive publication on the contest website and private online mentoring sessions with contest judge, George Elliott Clarke (Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate). No entry fee. Open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec. Deadline: June 1, 2016.