Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS + book for you!

LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS

Today I am thrilled to interview my favorite picture book
artist who is also a dear pal.
Lisa Desimini is a frequent illustrator – interpreter of poems
for children, in beloved titles such as

DOODLE DANDIES, Poems that Take Shape
GOOD MOUSEKEEPING And Other Animal Poems
LOVE LETTERS
TOUCH THE POEM

The poets Lisa appears with, between covers, are
among my many favorites, including –
Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis, Arnold Adoff.  
 
Lisa is also the author of her own delightful picture books.
They include DOT THE FIREDOG and also a story my
Book Bear puppet & I schlep along to reading time at
school each October, TRICK-OR-TREAT, SMELL MY FEET!

c. Peggy Gifford/ Lisa Desimini

FAMOUS Naomi Shihab Nye/Lisa Desimini


Until recently, Lisa’s newest lovely books are
THE GREAT BIG GREEN, which she illustrated for poet Peggy Gifford, and
FAMOUS, illustrated for poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

This spring Lisa’s newest, THE FLEATASTICS, which she
wrote and illustrated, jumped into the welcoming world.
These reviews scratch the surface:

 “Desimini’s frolicking microscopic world of fleas is a realm within a realm…
Amid the plot about perseverance, (she) sprinkles in the flea family’s running
commentaries.
The engaging, brightly colored scenes filled with comical asides
should be a great story time read for high-energy kids.”
– Booklist
 
“Desimini’s…universe of fleas delights with boundless imagination
and pockets of hilarious flea dialogue, vivaciously depicted.”
– Kirkus Reviews
 
 Let’s give a bouncy Poetry Friday welcome to LISA DESIMINI as she shares about
THE FLEATASTICS.

LISA: Hi Jan, I’m thrilled to be a part of your book blog!
Thanks for having me!

THE FLEATASTICS Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI, c. 2017 Lisa Desimini


Q. 
It’s a joy to be with you, Lisa.
You jumped from one coast to the other. When we visited years ago
in New Orleans, your base was the NYC area. These days the West Coast
is your muse. Is the children’s book vibe different in California and as
author and artist in children’s literature, what resources do you
connect with there?

LISA: SCBWI has a summer conference here and I’ve attended twice.
I saw friends from NY and met some new ones here on the west coast.
I received tons of valuable information and inspiration.
Even though I’ve done many books, I find there is always more to learn.

Q.
I remember your sharing (and I kept it under wraps) about this lively
idea that you couldn’t shake off – a flea circus!  It made me giggle.
And now that I have met tiny main character Sarafleana, I have a seat
on the front row of the tent. What were the high points of your creating
Sarafleana, her family, and her journey?

LISA: It was a long circuitous journey. I tried out several main characters with different motivations.
I had Farley Fillmore–he was too small to be a part of the circus.
I thought about a traveling sporting event with a tiny flea that was never allowed to play.
When I came up with the first line, “Sarafleana was a born jumper.”
I knew I was on the right track.
Another joy was coming up with flea-inspired ideas, names and terms like the grand fleanale.
The classic name Sarafeana was perfect, I just had to add the “l” to transform it to Sarafleana.


Q.
One of the delights of this book is finding the sly puns and terms, especially
on re-reading THE FLEATASTICS for hidden treasures.
Here is the chicken or egg question. Art and image first, or words and story?

LISA: Well, the first thing I came up with was a quick sketch of a Dachshund.
His tail was on page one, then there were 13 spreads of his body,
(just a line through the middle of the page) the final spread was his head.
I thought maybe there could be different scenarios going on behind the dog.
The seasons could change or the weather.

One day I looked at that simple sketch and saw the dog’s body as a stage.
That’s when I came up with the idea of a flea circus performing.
I developed the story before I did any serious sketching.
It took many rounds of sketches before I came up with the look of the fleas.
I wanted them to look cute and silly not scary and mean.

Q.
You aced that!
Switching to another species, I know about the serendipitous arrival of the kitty,
Crash, into your life. (How is Crash these days?) But you LOVE dogs, too.
Right here on the shelf, I’ve pulled out DOT THE FIRE DOG, the sweet visit
with a dedicated dalmation that you wrote and illustrated. What is it
about dogs that makes them ideal characters for picture books?

LISA:I think dogs are loyal, silly and present.
They are our pals.
I’ve only had and been around good-natured dogs that want to be a part of everything.
And they can be so wise.
I am now a kitty lover since we got our, Crash.

Beloved Crash devotedly assists in all aspects of office work.
c. Lisa Desimini


If things go well with THE FLEATASTICS I would love to do a sequel with cats.
Cats have their own silly quirky habits.
I think grooming their entire body, hairballs and catnip might be a part of that story.

Q.
As an upright who has lived with spunky kitty Ginger
for 16 years, that sequel sounds so mewvelous.

For visual artists and for writers who glom onto art-process
details, please share a peek into your studio.
At home or off site?
Corner of a room or an entire four walls?
Natural light or electric?  
Digital-creation or hand-drawn?
And, just how do you corral all the supplies that a dedicated
collage artist such as yourself, wrangles?

LISA: Good question! I counted… my studio is about eighty-eight steps from our house.
It was the garage turned into an apartment by a previous owner.
So it has a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, but I removed the stove and put two sets of flat files in there. They contain all my collage papers and many paintings from kids books and book jackets.
I have a futon bed for guests or in case I work late.
I have acrylics, oils and my computer.

c. Lisa Desimini

For THE FLEATASTICS, I made paper collages, I sealed them with a clear gel and painted shadows and highlights and added texture.
Then I scanned them into the computer and added backgrounds and other details.
I made the fleas in the computer because they were too tiny.
I keep a folder of scanned papers, objects, fabric, photos and painting textures in my computer so I can do my collages digitally, if I have to.

Q.
Appreciations for a groovy peek into your process and the inspiring studio.

We are not giving away any story spoilers today about performers
in THE FLEATASTICS circus, to savor the surprises in reading it.
But before we leave the famous act, is there any encore information
you’d like to share?

LISA: This book was very different for me, it was challenging but
SO much fun!


I loved working with thought/dream bubbles, the background
flea dialogue, and subplots.
I want to explore that format even more so I’m working on a
graphic novel idea about a magician.

 
Q.
A Lisa Desimini graphic novel – that sounds magical.
Thank you again for this visit about fun but also educational,
THE FLEATASTICS.
(I didn’t know anything about flea hatching!)
Please tell high-jumping Sarafleana, Brava!
And we wish THE FLEATASTICS family many tents of happy
performances ’round the world.
Also a scratch of the heads, to sweet
Sparky and sleepy Snoozer.

LISA:
Thanks, Jan! I loved your Q’s!

Q:
Applause back at you, Lisa!

This is a joyful book that unfolds in
an easy- to- follow surprise story line, yet with many fascinating asides.
I love seeing each little flea’s “look” and how the visitors
to the dog park have personalities, such as the one dog always
thinking of the yellow ball.
Also, I love seeing the woman wonder about a cat park.
Every time I read it, I find discoveries. You will too.

THE FLEATASTICS Show Continues

Now, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, cats and dogs,
fleas and fleamasters,
Lisa’s Desimini’s flea circus offers an encore right here on
Bookseedstudio’s stage with our giveaways, via generous
publisher Boyds Mills Press.
Please comment below and your name will identify you.
If I don’t know you let me say, Hello!
Be sure to share your real name & contact info (website link, email)
if that info can’t be easily found online. If you don’t want to be considered
for the give-away – and we do have multiple copies – you can still comment & say so.
After Monday July 24, more comments are welcome, but they won’t be entered,
so be sure to comment before Tuesday July 25.
Thank you.

Hop over to these links, too.

Mr. Schu Reads
Watch a book trailer for THE FLEATASTICS

I previously reported on THE GREAT BIG GREEN

ISLAND’S END by Padma Venkatraman

(Heidi, at My Juicy Little Universe, squeezes flavors on Poetry Friday this week.)

Island’s End, a novel from
Padma Venkatraman

This spring through a workshop,
I learned about a novel from poet &
award-winning novelist Padma Venkatraman.
Although this post isn’t about her novel-in-verse,
A TIME TO DANCE, which I expect to
bring to a post later,
I hope you will like beginning to know her works.
And if you already found her, I’m glad we share
appreciation for Padma (also known as T V Padma)

ISLAND’S END by Padma Venkatraman

This contemporary-set novel welcomed me to
meet a hunter-gatherer tribe, lead by the elder,
Lah-ame.
I became pulled into their ways. The characters
& the setting feel so real, I would welcome a
story about their earlier years, leading up to the
time that we meet the communal villagers.

ISLAND's END by Padma Venkatram, Penguin Young Readers Group

ISLAND’s END by Padma Venkatram, Penguin Young Readers Group

Ideal Readers of this book, look for stories involving:

Nature
Back country camping
Self-sufficient subsistence societies
Coastal-set stories
Girl leaders
Little brothers/families
First Peoples
Love

The story line
Lah-ame, the tribal family’s longtime & wise male
leader, and the main character, Uido, the chosen new leader,
a young woman, are faced with an intrusion of outsiders
coveting wood of fabulous trees, set in contemporary times.

Favorite line
“Maya covers her face with her hands, as though tears
are something to be ashamed of. I put my arms around
her, but she does not sob.”
(about a visiting outsider, Maya, who doesn’t want to harm
the people or resources of the isolated island)

Favorite scene
If I say, I’ll be sharing a key plot element, but
the rituals & traditions of the tribe call out
to my inner-anthropologist self.

Book bonus 1
Pitcher plants! Seasonal pitcher plant bogs grace
the wild part of our North Florida world; I can’t
remember when I’ve found these unusual plants
to be an important feature of a
beautiful novel the way they are here.

Book bonus 2
Inspired by a writing prompt shared at
Reflections on the Teche by Poetry Friday’s
Margaret Simon,
I selected words that feel charged, played with them
& offer this found poem,
inspired by ISLAND’S END:

Water slurps
by Jan Annino

Healer
Drumbeat
Dreams

Healer prays
Apprentice prays

Drongo bird*
Crocodile
Monitor lizard

Turtle fat
Bear skin
Beeswax glue

Healer prays
Apprentice prays

Cliff
Beach
Reef

Healer prays
Apprentice prays

~ Jan Annino

*Drongo bird

Book bonus # 3
The author’s oceanography career before publishing novels
sailed her to many places, including islands off India.
In learning that some island groups inexplicably avoided
harm from the disastrous 2004 tsunami, she found a
story route into how that could be.

For more on Padma Venkatraman, author of
CLIMBING THE STAIRS
ISLAND’S END
A TIME TO DANCE

The Nerdy Book Club

Padma Venkatraman’s website

Meet Padma at these places:
James River Writers Conference 2016

Highlights Foundation, 2017

Salty summer with Langston Hughes & Ashley Bryan

Poetry Friday’s weekend picnic is collected by Tabatha!!!

Today, my little corner of the blogosphere
washes ashore with
a picture book poetry collection and artwork
that may make you sail fast,
to the nearest beach.

On a recent humid, landlocked night at the library,
I hooked into the splashy, floaty cover of SAIL AWAY.

This bounty is a group of poems by Langston Hughes,
with art
from puppet maker, painter, creative wizard,
Ashley Bryan.

SAIL AWAY  cover artwork  c. Ashley Bryan,  poems c. Langston Hughes

SAIL AWAY
cover artwork
c. Ashley Bryan,
poems c. Langston Hughes


Many readers know that Mr. Bryan is a long-time,
year-round dweller of an island off the coast of Maine.
His artwork collage compositions for this collection
are rolling, liquid beauties.
(A surprise on the endpapers reflects his love of his Mother, is all I will say about his process for this book.)

Not many of us – me included – are familiar
with the years that the late, great, Mr. Hughes
labored as a seaman.
This book tells us that his appreciation of the
salt life stems from jobs he landed on ships and boats
in Europe and Africa.

Long Trip
by Langston Hughes

“…We dip and dive,
Rise and roll,
Hide and are hidden
On the sea….”

lines from “Long Trip”
c.Langston Hughes

My first editor in the news bureau where I worked
upon college graduation was also a licensed
U.S. Coast Guard Captain.
Capt. Mike, who was as gentle a wordsmith
& boatsmith as you could find, would
understand those lines.

The seas become inscrutably flat at
times, which is how our family likes it
when we pop up a big umbrella at the shore.
But who knows what flat water covers?

Sea Calm
by Langston Hughes

“How still
How strangely still
The water is today.
It is not good
For water
To be so still that way.”
c.Langston Hughes

I hope you can ship off to your favorite pond, lake,
creek, river, bay, ocean, or backyard kiddie pool,
with Capt. Hughes & Capt. Bryan.
I’d like to give a basket of tumbled-in-surf, St. George
Island, Florida, shells to the brilliant publishing team that
hauled this catch ashore for the world to sing.

For more on Ashley Bryan, I found an important
interview from The Horn Book, with details about
SAIL AWAY.
http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/talks-with-roger/ashley-bryan-talks-with-roger/#_

Of the many online resources about Langston Hughes, I think this
one from Howard University Library is especially wonderful.
http://www.howard.edu/library/reference/guides/hughes/

And I hope you swim back here, likely sometime
in August, after this blog returns from break.

Oyster Boat c. JanGodownAnnino

Oyster Boat c. JanGodownAnnino

A visit with Irene Latham

Happy summer! The very helpful Diane is herding haiku folks &
other poetry people into the weekly partee known as Poetry Friday.

A visit with Irene Latham

I have twice bumped into Alabama-based author
Irene Latham.
We exchanged grins at a cozy SCBWI Southern
Breeze workshop. Then months later, we appreciated
the airy space of The Bookshelf, a friendly emporium
in a Georgia village.

Irene Latham P.B. Shelf (with approving elephant) The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA  c. 2016 JanGodownAnnino

Irene Latham P.B. Shelf (with approving elephant) The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA
c. 2016 JanGodownAnnino

All my moments with this often-traveling, award-winning poet,
novelist & picture book author give me the feeling that
I want to be a calmer & kinder person & a much more
creative writer. No wonder I’m craving an Irene Latham fix. 

I left a trail of peanuts, in hopes of enticing this
elephant-loving woman into the Bookseedstudio studio.
The snacks worked. We are today’s exclusive site for,
A visit with Irene Latham.

Q.  
Peanuts or popcorn?

I can’t pick… enjoy them both! Especially if there’s
chocolate involved…

Q.  
 Book wrangling. Keep them in a tall, narrow bookcase? A
short, fold-up bookstair? Alphabetized by author?  How do
you tame your home/office library?

I have books in every room of the house — but I try really
hard to keep only the books to which I have strong attachments.
(Books are meant to be read, not collecting dust on a shelf!) I don’t
do alphabetical, though it sure would make things easier to find! I
tend to group according to emotional impact. I do have several
bookshelves devoted to only children’s literature.

Q.  
Background sounds. What is your writing zone playlist?
Is silence when you write, golden?

Silence is my sound of choice. Or birdsong.

Q.  
We are visiting Birmingham, your town. 
What are 3 places you’d take us to?

Vulcan at night,
Johnny’s in Homewood for the best
upscale meat-n-three you will ever eat,
and Reed Books.
And then there’s the Civil Rights Museum, Railroad Park,
Birmingham Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens,
our fabulous zoo… 

Q.  
Please finish the sentence. A map is…

. . . unnecessary.
Let the journey guide you, not the map! (I actually love maps
and am learning some of the best things ever are found when
you put the map away.)

Q.  
If your name weren’t Irene, it would be…

. . . Hannah. (I am named after my great-grandmother,
Hannah Irene.)

Q.  
If writing weren’t your work, it would be… ?

My husband and I love to travel and love to EAT, so
maybe together we’d host a TV travel show? 
 
Q.  
What should children’s writers ask
themselves when they start a new project? 

Am I having fun? Am I delighted?
Does this story fill me with wonder and joy?

Irene Latham with young friends, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA

Irene Latham with young friends, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA

Appreciations
to Irene for these fun thoughts. You can glean a fine dollop of
poem-making tips & shake paws with the elephant-loving
Irene Latham at these fresh & delicious 2016 events: 

Alabama Writers Conclave (Birmingham, AL) – July 15-17
Mississippi Book Festival (Jackson, MS) – August 20 
Poetry Camp (Bellingham, WA) – October 1
SCBWI Writing & Illustrating for Kids (Birmingham, AL) – October 8
Louisiana Book Festival (Baton Rouge, LA) – October 29
NCTE (Atlanta, GA) – November 17-20

ALSO
you will not want to miss, coming to a bookshelf near you
(sooner or later) this hard-working poet’s way with words in:
IT’S NOT BLACK AND WHITE
(poetry picture book, co-authored with Charles Waters)
FRANK AND MISS FANCY
(historical fiction picture book)
POP, BAM, BOOM!
(poetry picture book)
THE OCTOPUS POSTCARDS
(nonfiction picture book)

FOR
more juicy details visit www.irenelatham.com

AND
if you have’t already, read these Irene Latham books
find them fast:
FRESH DELICIOUS
DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST
WHEN SHE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA<
/>

LEAVING GEE’S BEND
DON’T FEED THE BOY


THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS
THE SKY BETWEEN US
WHAT CAME BEFORE <
/>

Here is a little Irene Lantham poem-in-progress,
about Irene,
but certainly not BY Irene.

Brave Irene

Deep down in
another writer’s desk
dwelled fusty words,
not the best.

Irene swatted the dull things
away. She clapped her paws:
“Walloping crisp verbs,
come in and play.”

A calvacade of tight terms
appeared:
crack
creak

gulp
flick
shine
peel

hammer
squabble
gobble
burble

leap
convene
squint
grimace

Multitudinous words danced
in the now-lively place.
Appreciations extended!
Violets in a vase.

“Tut, tut,” Irene said,
“Good words always lived here.
You just had to banish
that writerly fear.”

-jga

Highlights of Working at Writer’s Wonderland – 2

Favorites from the Workshop – The Work at The Novel-in-Verse Workshop
by Jan Annino

(Seekers of the POETRY FRIDAY round-up, of which this article is a part, are collected by Jone at CHECK IT OUT. https://maclibrary.wordpress.com/)

To cope from withdrawal symptoms
following a Highlights Foundation Workshop
last month, I’m writing about my favorites
from the experience.
In the last post I listed High Five
Favorites from The Tour of The Office.

Favorites from the Workshop – The Work

Work!
A lot of it.
In an ardent
doodle, doodle, idea, idea, scribble, scribble,
sense.

Breakthrough moments
bubbled up,
so I chucked swaths of lines,
retooled others in light of
directions newly imagined.
Terrific progress.

Mornings I awoke to birdsong.
First light filtered in from a wood,
across a red clover field where
a red tractor sat.
A breeze tickled delicate white curtains
against honey blond, paneled, cabin walls.

Each of the perfect-weather mornings,
I grabbed my journal/notebook that wears
an embossed mantra,
“A moment of gratitude makes a difference in attitude.”
It arrived home juicy with impressions,
characters, thoughts, titles, snatches of
dialogue & questions.

I tugged myself away from the cabin’s
spell & went outside early.
Plump robins worked to make a nest
in a beam of my front porch.
Writers also saw Baltimore orioles.
I stopped in my path for the flight
of an indigo bunting.
Bluebirds visited me uncountable times.
And more delight –
chipmunks wove in an out of slate walls near the 5,200 square
foot airy conference center fittingly known as The Barn.

copyright 2016 Joanne R. Fritz, all rights  reserved

copyright 2016
Joanne R. Fritz, all rights
reserved


More Work
Each morning top-drawer authors,
Kathryn Erskine and Alma Fullerton,
guided us with pithy & lively lectures & writing prompts.
They are each of them such
physical presenters, it felt at times as if we
watched theater.
We listened to a potent talk &
enjoyed many conversations with
visiting author Padma Venkatraman,
(A Time to Dance, Island’s End, Climbing the Stairs.)

Afternoons offered time for one-on-one
meetings with the mentors.
Plus, individual writing marathons inside.
Or out, with assistance from previously noted
chipmunks and avians.
Writers found the creek at the bottom of the hill.
It reflected a clearness that guided
thoughts & work.

copyright,  Kathryn Erskine,  all right reserved

copyright,
Kathryn Erskine,
all right reserved


<

By 4 we collected in the living room of The Barn
in a daily group critique
for the brave. Everyone felt brave,
drawn out by the nurturing faculty.
We appreciated the Floyd Cooper art on the walls &
the big sofas holding red pillows emblazoned with the
distinctive H for Highlights, logo.

The nights were usually free for reading,
writing, or discussion. I felt fortunate that an
insightful librarian, also working on historical fiction
like me, asked to share evening work time in The Barn.
Another night we were gifted with visits from City
Folk, an accomplished agent & an esteemed editor.
Such insights, we gleaned. Such access, we appreciated.

Favorite Words of Wisdom
Katherine Erskine, whose books include Mockingbird, Quaking,
The Badger Knight, plus the forthcoming, Mama Africa:

All of your stories will make wonderful books.

Imagine an elaborate line-up of dominoes that you will be setting off, in touching
the first one. Each domino must connect. Each scene must connect with the next.

Keep in mind who is the antagonist. Who is the battle against.

Alma Fullerton, whose books include In The Garage, Libertad, Burn
& the forthcoming, 50 Lashes:

Don’t sacrifice story for poetic form.

My first draft is basically barfing on the paper.

The evil person can be even nastier if we don’t see him/him from
his point of view, but when we view that antagonist from the outside.

Bonus Staff
The kind & funny chef staff (hello there, Marcia,
Amanda, Megan, Derrick & a spot-on walk-on, Kent!) matched
the quality of the story-crafting faculty. And their treats are
missed (hello there, toasted kale appetizer, mushroom loaf,
stuffed peppers, cream of squash soup, rhubarb crunch,
grilled asparagus, local cheeses, et. al!)

In Summary
Pages were required with the application;
this varies workshop to workshop. We 12 brought
library or teaching or children’s bookselling or publishing
tales with us. Students traveled from as far as Idaho, and as
next-door as N.J. and PA.
We grew close to each other, in sharing about our novel-in-verse
(one biography-in-verse) projects.
I’m anticipating news in the months ahead about terrific progress.
I’ve already brought fresh work to an at-home writing partner
at the library last night.

To Be Continued
How cool it is to be collected in an online group by our
spiffy librarian techie, my sharp critique partner
that night, to continue the journey begun at Highlights.
Appreciations to all.
With extra thanks to Kathryn Erskine & Joanne Fritz for
sharing the photos for this article. My 125 images
I took in the 5 days didn’t make it home, but
that’s another Story.

Highlights of Working at Writer’s Wonderland – 1

Highlights of Working at a Writer’s Wonderland – The Tour
by Jan Annino

I write this blog article as a coping mechanism
to soothe withdrawal, from leaving
a Writer’s Wonderland.

Last month I attended my first Highlights Foundation
Workshop for Children’s and Illustrators. A two-word
writing results summary is – terrific progress.
I hope the days there aren’t my last visit to the Highlights
nirvana for writers, editors, and illustrators.

Here today, from the recent Highlights Foundation
Workshop for writers of novels-in-verse, are my High Fives
about The Tour. Tomorrow’s blog article is about The Workshop.

The Tour
My High Five Favorites at the Office – The Tour

images-2
Highlights logo is cheerily emblazoned on scattered carpets.

images-1
A giant skull sits in the editor-in-chief’s office (ask about it on
tour.)
images-2
Magazine editors work in an historic downtown former mayor’s home,
a building accented with high ceilings, big, built-in
bookcases, and tall windows.
images-3

Editor name plates are old Scrabble tile holders that display the
wood letters spelling first names. (Hello Joelle, Channing & everyone!)
images-4
All on the magazine staff answer mail from children; every piece of
child mail is answered.

Finally, my heart also melted when I saw that books created by
book friends (Lee Bennett Hopkins, Lisa Desimini, Irene Latham)
are so handy for reference.

Okay, so I gave you one more – that makes six. The Highlights
folks like to overdeliver and I feel we all carried that spirit
away with us.

I hope you can visit this blog again; tomorrow I expect to post High Five Favorites from the Workshop – The Work.

(printablenumbers.org a resource for educators, is much appreciated
for today’s numbers.)

Favorite Poem Project & Robert Pinsky

Favorite Poem Project & Robert Pinsky
http://www.favoritepoem.org/

Such an honor! The former U.S. poet laureate,
Robert Pinsky, brought the national Favorite Poem Reading
Project to our town, Tallahassee, recently.

images
Of course we managed to get to the event.
Everyday people from around the state of Florida read a poem,
by an established author. This is the road show for a previous online invitation at the Favorite Poem website. I didn’t enter, as it was some time back. But I’m so glad so many (at least 18,000) people did.

They picked one poem that, over and over, calls to them.
This is one of Robert Pinsky’s favorite challenges. To ask everyone to find a favorite poem or two, read them regularly, and further, he urges us to read the poem out loud and not stop there. Memorize a favorite poem. That allows us to carry it with you, everywhere.

Now, if you are a Poetry Friday regular, this is a given. But
for Bookseedstudio readers who are here from other paths,
might this be a good thing for you to try?

Recently I saw this:

“When was the last time
you did something
for the first time?”

Maybe memorizing a poem will be that new first time
neuron nudger.

Back to Pinsky

This acclaimed poet looks like a cross between Bill Nye, the
Science Guy & that great space educator Carl Sagan. With a
wide grin & great voice, he was just as engaging
as each of them.
“A poem is a work of art made for a human voice,” he told us.
“But it’s not the art of one expert. It’s the art of any and all.”

Here are just three of the poems read that evening.

“Nick and the Candlestick,” Sylvia Plath
“Why I Am Not A Painter,” Frank O’Hara
“Soneto XVII” Pablo Neruda

And I still remember how Pinsky quoted James Baldwin,
“Culture is everybody’s birthright.”

So, everybody, I have always been one of those who can’t pick one
favorite poem. But he said in that case, know that you are
working with one of your favorites. Despite the title of the project,
it doesn’t have to be THE one and true only favorite. Like picking
among children, impossible to do.

So here is the title of a poem section I like a whole lot among
many favorites. It is, “Alphabets,” (part 1) and it is
from the pen of the great Seamus Heaney. It begins:

Alphabets
by Seamus Heaney

“A shadow his father makes with joined hands
And thumbs and fingers nibbles on the wall
Like a rabbit’s head. He understands
He will understand more when he goes to school.

There he draws smoke with chalk the whole first week.
Then he draws the forked stick that they call a Y.
This is writing. A swan’s neck and swan’s back
Make the 2 he can see now as well as say…”
c. Seamus Heaney

Now, I must not have been paying attention because
I didn’t have much advance notice of this long-planned
event & jammed in time, was I, so I had no Pinsky
collection, to nail a book autograph, one of my hobbies.
But everyone says to start with “The Song of Poetry,”
which is both a terrific poetry collection &
an informal primer for poem-making. So it’s on the way.

Thank you Robert Pinsky, for your service as U.S.
Poet Laureaut, for putting Tallahassee
on your map & to Erin Belieu of FSU,
for making this evening happen.

Next time I expect to have a few words about
Tallahassee’s great good luck in the visit to FAMU of
transformative poet Nikki Finney (Head Off & Split.)

Also then, I expect to be playing the National Poetry
Month 2016 Progressive Poetry Game, with Irene
Latham at Live Your Poem & Equally Wonderful
Others. Here’s the lineup (apologies for
computer gremlins -drat! & no links…)

2016 KIDLITOSPHERE PROGRESSIVE POEM
1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Diane at Random Noodling
5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots
6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
10 Pat at Writer on a Horse
11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
13 Linda at TeacherDance
14 Jone at Deo Writer
15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly
17 Kim at Flukeprints
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Charles at Poetry Time
20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
21 Jan at Bookseedstudio
22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Mark at Jackett Writes
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
30 Donna at Mainely Write

AND today’s Poetry Friday frolic is hosted by my pal Michelle H.
Barnes at the tuneful Today’s Little Ditty.