A young poet in character

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye edited the poetry anthology SALTING THE OCEAN, which is afloat with the vibrant writings of young poets. Like Nye, I think that attention paid to young poet voices can build peace, provide future strong leaders and just make any poet’s day.

If you agree, Poetry Out Loud,  is a brilliant program you may want to run out & connect with. I volunteered with POL recently & hope to help out more, next time around.

In the 1950s in my state, Florida, a Putlizer-Prize winning author thought about a young poet.

In doing so, the author created a character not seen often then. An elementary-age poet character. If you know of a recent (within 3 years or forthcoming) picture book or illustrated book (not YA, which pays tribute to teen poet charactersoften enough) for children that features a elementary age character who is a poet, I would like to know for my list.

In the meantime, young poet Calpurnia is a character to consider. She is inspired by her dog, to write poetry:

 

My dog’s name is Buggy-horse

         Of course.

 

Our young poet further writes:

 

Lovely day,

Come what may.

         If I did not love

                           my mother

                                    and my father

 

         I would run away.

         Because

                           it is a running-away

         Kind of day.

from THE SECRET RIVER

 

With the birds chit-chittering outside my open window

 

With the two kinds of azalea in the yard (native & exotic) nodding pink petals on the March breeze

 

With my Western cousins having just swept through town on their way home, enticing us with video of their kayak adventures among manatees, alligators and living whelks

It

feels like

a running-away day.

I can’t run.

Why –

just been away in Boston & then immediately after, Central Florida

hosting a critique meeting soon

have 3 essay deadlines

And mostly, my writing deserves this keyboard time.

But – if you are north of Garden Zone 8 &  your winter has lasted longer than usual this year, is it time for your running-away day?

I hope so, remembering the advice of one of my favorite writers for children, Cynthia Rylant, who said that instead of reading an interview with her online, a writer should probably go and play.

 

Did you guess the adult creator of the young poet who was inspired by her dog?

It is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in THE SECRET RIVER.

Timeless, lovely story, in each of its two editions:

 

THE SECRET RIVER  by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

THE SECRET RIVER
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

 

 

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings illustrated by  Leo & Diane Dillon

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
illustrated by
Leo & Diane Dillon

 

 

 

 

Poetry Friday

Today is Friday, PoetryFriday! (Poetry Friday links are below)

Today, among the three or four mighty fine books I’ll have time to read in school as a BookPALS volunteer to five classes, I’ll share this favorite:

WHEN LUCY GOES OUT WALKING.

This is a fun calendar book from Ashley Wolff.  I am lucky to have met both Ms. Wolff & also, her sweet Lucy of times ago, who was the real model for many an Ashley Wolff book.  Each month brings us the pup, Lucy, in her first year of life.

The children I read to are keen to see how tiny Lucy is pictured  in January, compared to how big she has grown, romping in December’s snowy poem.  Much as they will shoot up there, in 2014, eh?

My favorite poem is August,  for a finicky feline reason:

“When Lucy goes out walking

In August’s muggy heat,

The neighbor cats all scatter

Up and down the street.

To and fro

Where’d they go?

In August’s mugggy heat.”

-Ashley Wolff

The art for this poem include orange kitties. So of course I am sure they are our Ginger cat.

If you would like to dwell more in  poetry for children, please take time today or this weekend to visit:

Ashley Wolff

Teaching Authors

Poetry Friday – today hosted by Donna at Mainely Write.

Poetry Friday is a weekly community of readers and writers in children’s literature. They remember their own childhood joy in knowing poetry. And now they are passing it on.

 

I still like paper

I Still Like Paper

I am playing around with a parade of poems that might true up into a collection, one that has pieces for families & their young kiddos.

A poem that may not fit, because it is not silly enough,  but still, I like it,  is  “Thinking Cap.”

Thinking Cap

My aunts and mother loved poetry

They rhymed in time

About bugs

Like Emily’s bees

They recited verse from good to worse

Their performance tickled me

“The Quangle Wangle’s Hat”

by Edward Lear

Was one they held especially dear

They hooted at the way

Critters climbed the hat

And sat

And sat

Now when I feel unfunny

Or if I need some honey

I put on my thinking cap

And feel the memory –

Their performance of

That hat

That hat

– Jan Annino Godown

If you take poetry chapbooks along for travel reading you know they impress older folks, who begin to talk about poetry recitation/elocution/memorization assignments of their Youth. Here are two collections I keep close by on my shelves. And then I pick them up for travel around town or across the states.

Natasha Trethewey  NATIVE GUARD

“…jailors to those who still would have us slaves. They are cautious, dreading the sight of us…”

The biography of Sonia Sotomayer, a photographic history of Florida in the Great Depression & Jimmy Carter’s novel about the American Revolution are among my recent, non-poetry, bedside reads. So maybe it follows that in chapbooks I will migrate to ones that collect real & imagined memories of family & history.

Natasha Trethewey’s NATIVE GUARD marches into my heart with the news that in the Civil War, units formed up beginning in 1862 of black U.S. Army soldiers that would eventually guard Confederate  P.O.W.s  This tinderbox, combined with the author’s own Mississippi heritage of being born to a mixed-race couple at a time when that was illegal, helps form the drumbeat for a stark collection that references Faulkner, the Civil War Diary of Col. Nathan W. Daniels, Nina Simone, Winslow Homer & the murder of this poet’s mother when Natasha Trethewey was only 19. It is not easy to put down, unless it is to stare off  & think long & hard. NATIVE GUARD earned a 2007 Pulitzer Prize. And Trethewey was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate.

Nancy Willard  IN THE SALT MARSH

“My mother’s sisters knew the art

of telling tales, and lies so new

all those who heard them called them true”

Here in North Florida, the Gulf of Mexico coast curves like a dancer’s outstretched arm. A marsh grass shoreline evolves, not good for beach blankets. The rhythms of this Other Coast are described by Jack & Ann Rudloe, Susan Cerulean, Bruce Means & Ellie Whitney, among others.  Their non-fiction about this land dimples my bookshelf with a shallow curve, an echo of the treasured salt grass fringe. IN THE SALT MARSH, poems titled “Deer Skull,” “The Sandbar,” and “The Ladybugs,” could have been inspired from our region.  My favorites, “Houses,” (the fragment above) and “The Way She Left Us,” feel as if the poet is a relative who limned people I loved for these lines. Nancy Willard is from Michigan. She created a 1985 novel set in the 1940s that imagined baseball luminaries in an unusual game,  (before the A Field of Dreams movie arrived, adapted from Shoeless Joe.) Her writing has won the O. Henry Award, the Newbery Award, & the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. She is a retired Vassar professor.  I found her through  children’s poetry & stories that she is beloved for, and continue to learn from her in her guides to writing (especially TELLING TIME), her adult poems, fiction, & her other magic, line drawings.

If you are still with me, when I came through recent astigmatism & cataract surgery (never better, thanks to a precision surgeon & staff) it was a soft notebook of thirsty, flecked, rag paper & a gaggle of pencils & pens that kept my ideas from racing away, before I could return to the glarish (is that a word? glare + garish) computer screen. So, I Still Like Paper, and think that I always will.

artwork c. Nancy Willard from an autograph on TELLING TIME

artwork c. Nancy Willard
from an autograph on TELLING TIME

Workshop Friday/MLK Jr. Weekend

I prowl around for prompts.

And so I found inspiration in HEART TO HEART, edited by Jan Greenberg.

This collection of visual art features  poems created by writers who feel a connection to a work of art.   When I paged to  Faith Ringgold’s art and  Angela Johnson’s poem, “From Above” I felt a tingle. Angela’s poem is inspired by Faith Ringgold picture book, TAR BEACH, a favorite I pulled right off my shelf. I turned  to the starry night, rooftop image in the poem, and  luxuriated in reading both the poet’s words and the artist’s words, seeing the artist’s images, and then I reread the whole story.

Next I pulled from my shelves other titles, centering on the theme of honoring good stories featuring African-Americans, both in fiction and non-fiction genres.

Thus arrived my recent Friday workshop for writers I collect with regularly.

We each selected a  book rich with images. Then we each selected a work of art within that picture book. And then we started a  poem, with the artwork as catalyst.

The title that pulled me to it centers on a theme involving slavery and emancipation that I haven’t seen much about.  The story is WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE by A. LaFaye, an author whose historical fiction is a valued staple on my shelves. And we are colleagues, through the Hollins University MFA Children’s Lit. program.  This picture book is illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd. I selected a ROSIE LEE scene where the child character finds his mother. This unfolds in the confusion following Emancipation, when many families searched tirelessly to re-create as whole as possible, their families that had been harshly separated by slavery.

“A Pie So Sweet” by A LaFaye

I remember the exact smell when I found Mama

Walking for days and days, I didn’t find much sweetness in that air

until a lady set a pie out on a window

but the breeze must have decided to carry the scent of those fresh hot blueberries the other way

because I didn’t smell anything

Still, I came down that big hill, closer to  the bottom and that big hotel

until I saw her eyes still sweet gray like a kitten

and a scarf at her neck still covering something not sweet –

the scar from when she tried to run for Freedom and they brought her back by dragging her

but she survived that

Now came this day

It’s Freedom Day

The end of my walking to find Mama, baker of sweet pies

It was the pie that found me my Mama

A pie so sweet

Workshop Friday books:

Mama Miti  Donna Jo Napoli/Kadir Nelson

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky    Faith Ringgold

Planting The Trees of Kenya Claire A. Nivola

Tar Beach  Faith Ringgold

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice  Philip Hoose

Walking Home to Rosie Lee     A LaFaye/ Keith D. Shepherd

Martin’s Big Words           Doreen Rappaport/Bryan Collier

Always My Dad    Sharon Dennis Wyeth/Raul Colon

SIT-IN   Andrea Davis Pinkney/Brian Pinkney

The Story of Ruby Bridges  Robert Coles/George Ford

The catalytic book is HEART TO HEART, edited by Jan Greenberg.

Update: Bookseedstudio is proud to direct you to the

THE KING CENTER IMAGING PROJECT

Obama’s poet

A Poet and a Secretary

THE book I just devoured in celebration of Obama’s elevation to the Presidency of the United States is for children.

And it’s not one of the several handy bios of him for young readers.

It’s a picture book of  poems in several voices, by his poet, Elizabeth Alexander, of Yale, and her equally distinguished colleague, Marilyn Nelson, a much-honored creator of children’s literature.

http://www.wordsongpoetry.com or

http://www.wordsongpoetry.com/another_starred_review_for_mis.html

Elizabeth Alexander’s presence on the platform at this historic event shouts out that this president lauds the arts & art creators.

Already sensing that, Quincy Jones asks for support to imbed the arts in the White House with a Cabinet level secretary post. See

http://www.petitionsonline.com/esnyc/petition.html

and reach it by typing in US Secretary of Arts

Meanwhile, Poet Elizabeth Alexander will receive a wider audience because of her Jan. 20th role on the world stage.

I want you to know she is already beloved by librarians, teachers, students & many others for  MISS CRANDALL’s SCHOOL for YOUNG LADIES & LITTLE MISSES of COLOR.

This book, with illustrations by Floyd Cooper (winner of three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards) is an unforgettable visit to the true story of a Quaker woman’s dedication to her black students in New England in the 1830s.

Her determination to stand tall against local terrorists affiliated with churches, the town council & local business community makes me, “ache with caring,” to borrow a phrase of Mem Fox, about seeing this history presented to a wider audience.

If you are more interested in the present day than in history,  notes in the book mention more recent updates, including how the 1984 dedication of the Prudence Crandall Museum, was also marked in an undistinguished way by the  Connecticut KKK.

Enjoy. Weep. Share. Rejoice in the presidency of Barack Obama.

(And a palette of color to Janeen Mason

http://www.janeenmason.com,   for the petition tip.