A humid Florida hey there weary travelers, from this Bookseedstudio patch of Poetry Friday. We PF bffs are collected this week via Live Your Poem by honorary Floridian & groovy poet Irene Latham. To know more about friday poet pals, please visit No Water River & Kitditosphere, at this article’s end, where I’ve linked.
I think of gardens when I think of NIKKI GRIMES, “poet, photographer, artist & avid gardener,” as she describes herself. In addition to the shelves of literary & publishing success honors that this poet has earned, I feel that everyday, Nikki Grimes deserves armloads and cascading gardens of all kinds of flowers, baskets of fresh herbs and roaming vines of fresh veggies. In her decades and decades of work in crafting exquisite books, she has helped young readers, especially those whose skin color is similar to hers, feel someone understands their rocky road. But please know that she is a writer for all. Her words nurture all children & many adults, to bloom into their full potential. Start with WORDS WITH WINGS, a title that I connect with deeply. In 2015, I included it in a Bookseedstudio blog here.
An early self-bloomer, despite finding little fertilizer & too much rocky ground in earliest years, young Nikki created poems and art before the age of 10, living in bleak circumstances. She always desired to create beautiful things. She remembers making poems from age six!
Nikki Grimes is outspoken in her commentary on our world’s marginalization of books created by writers of color and about the sidelining of books about families and children of color. Consider how infrequently these good resources are brought up in class, outside of a specific anniversary, celebratory day or month. Nikki Grimes has.
Listening to Nikki Grimes at the Reading Rockets’ interview linked in the paragraph above, says to me that from the first day of school, children should be reading stories where not all the children are white. And in fact, it is right that all children read bright stories where most of the kids in the room, at the park, are not white. Stories on making new friends, losing shyness in class, managing seats on the bus, events at the fair, camping adventures, discoveries at a museum, should cover all children. Consider also how often a book about a topic on people of color or other marginalized people who aren’t people of color (and this does include people who are American Indians/Native Americans) is a sad book, a book about a difficult topic. Most children still grow up unaware of the exceptional, trail-blazing healers, scientists, thinkers, discoverers & others, who are people of color. The general public only in recent years learned of the brilliant work of black women in the U.S. space race program, dedicated mathematicians, cruelly marginalized, while proving exceptional crucial brainpower to the United States mission. People in Florida, home of NASA, should be especially sensitive to knowing & teaching this story, told in HIDDEN FIGURES, the great picture book that was sold for a movie, created for all ages.
OK. I’ve stepped a bit off-topic. But that too, may be a key part of the Nikki Grimes story, as when you read more Nikki Grimes’ books or follow her life story you may tend to step off-path, too. This poet’s child days truth is told in the enormously potent ORDINARY HAZARDS. As a young girl she endured, she survived, through serial, multiple, unhappy home & school settings. There was violence. Out on Mean Streets, she did defend herself. This makes the exquisite beauty that Nikki Grimes delivers in the poems she crafts & also in her images in photographs and paintings, all the more compelling. Step into her visual art gallery.
Author appearances with new books are altered in #healthierathome times. But meet the inspiring Nikki Grimes at her home’s Nikki Grimes You Tube Channel, Try a poetry prompt there or learn how lists are important to her creative process. You can also catch up with an April 2020 visit some of us checked into at the Highlights Foundation #HFGather. Subscribe to her newsletter, read her blog & other pages at her website & follow along on twitter. As you dwell among her works and learn more of her life, you may discern that two of Nikki Grimes’ themes are Faith & perseverance. For ideas on Faith look to her book, THE WATCHER, inspired by Psalm 121 or sit in the pew, COME SUNDAY. For life as a creator who keeps on keepin’ on, look to her generous sharing about bumps in path to finding a publisher for her exceptionally successful book, A POCKETFUL OF POEMS. She also shines a generous spotlight on other creators, as she does in this interview she conducted with POEMS IN THE ATTIC artist, Elizabeth Zunon. I beam thanks to Michelle Barnes, who met Nikki Grimes at a library event in Florida, for tipping me off to the N.G. Elizabeth Zunon Q/A.
Notes from Nikki is bright with her tenderly cultivated blooms, cultivated words, & with creative re-imaginings of her recycled paper projects & news of her deep connections with students around the globe. When you find one of her books out there in the world, let her know, for this newsletter!
Peace to you, especially in troubled times.