“Ballet slippers and saxophones:” #Lee Bennett Hopkins

Kwame Alexander
When I was 2 my mom read me poems by #NikkiGiovanni & #LeeBennettHopkins. So cool that #TheCrossover has won the LBHopkins Poetry award!”

By Jan Godown Annino

If there is a King of Children’s Poetry in the U. S.
he is Lee Bennett Hopkins (the Queen would be
Jane Yolen.)

Lee Bennett Hopkins, Center Stage, Florida Artists' Hall of Fame  c. 2017 Stephanie Salkin, all rights reserved

Lee Bennett Hopkins, Center Stage, Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame
c. 2017 Stephanie Salkin, all rights reserved

LBH is a world-wide record holder in poetry.
And as young poets can attest, for 25 years
he has become the leader in establishing poetry awards
that lift up the art of poem-making and poem-reading,
to the highest levels.

This poet – and novelist- is also a long time leader in championing diversity of characters and themes in children’s books.

I can not say LBH chose Florida for retirement,
because so many projects are popping
for him. During a small dinner in his honor
with his lifetime partner Charles Egita, at
Paramount Grill, LBH talked of
juggling 60 poets’ work. That is because
in addition to writing his own heartfelt poems,
LBH a supreme anthologist of poetry for children.

So among tempting aromas, I selected
tofu scramble in his honor last week,
the night before
he took the stage with rock stars
Don Felder (The Eagles) ,
Billy Dean and Jim Stafford,
to be inducted
into the Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame.

Move over Ray Charles,
Tennessee Williams,
Zora Neale Hurston
and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who proceeded
LBH as honorees in the Artists’ Hall of Fame.

Much has already been written and
will be written
about this honor.

Enjoy Robyn Hood Black piece on LBH,
and futurewise, look for a Michelle Henderich Barnes’
report on the Florida
Convening Culture Conference that was
wrapped around the awards event. (Stick with the link to MB
above, for a cuter than candy pix of LBH!)

But let me just say that I felt as if
I was a
mermaid swimming sweetly on Sanibel sands,
among sandcastles made of syllables
and sounds ripe for poem-making,
as a result of being with LBH & his posse.

So now,
I’m back to writing, reading,
critiquing & visiting schools.
(It’s Dr. Seuss week!)

I close with big appreciations to
Secretary of State Ken Detzner and
his posse including Sandy Shaughnessy,
for bestowing the honor, which was
championed by many, including
poets Stephanie Salkin & Jude Mandell

A VIDEO TO NOTE
I do expect to return here with more on
LBH and the award. But first,
visit with this great video record
of the ceremony, which I enjoyed
straight-through as I couldn’t be in the
Gainesville audience,
scooting home for scheduled events.
Hint: when you have time, stick with this
Florida Channel memory for the poetic line,
we need ballet slippers and saxophones.”
Did you hear the crowd’s applause?

. . .
WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED
I am still focused on the continued
hate speech in this country.
For my Poetry Friday piece this week, I will again
highlight the resistance anthem, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.
But I am happy to provide links on Friday to some
poetry blogs keyed to an exciting March poetry
commemoration,
which I very much look forward to reading.

………..

A book, a month of books

I am fortunate to be part of today’s crew at
POETRY FRIDAY.

This week I completed THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
by Colson Whitehead, whose many honors for
bringing the main character, Cora, and her mother,
Mabel, to us, include
the 2016 National Book Award.

“The world may be mean, but people
don’t have to be, not if they refuse.”


– Mabel The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

I cried through much of it, especially at the end.
The author combines history and his own magical realism.
With those tools, he giftedly presents powerful suggestions
about the physical and emotional torture of the
enslavement business that are visceral and I flinched.
It is a swift thing to convict in our minds the U.S. businessmen and women who perpetuated imprisonment and brutality upon children, women and men.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD also delivers us to others
whose complicity must also be remembered and discussed.
The author’s ultimate gift is a fiercely independent young
woman whose spirit will not be squelched. At an imagined
museum in South Carolina, a temporarily-free Cora plays
parts in three different time-period dioramas of black history.
It gave me chills to see her assignment. I made an air-first
as Cora figures out how to get back at gawking white visitors.

Teachers should read this novel; it will be good to see how
it informs both history and literature classes,
for more mature students.
It may also be widely available on television.

This is a 2016 NPR interview with Colson Whitehead

. . .
Although any day of the year is an important time
to learn about more
titles on the black experience, here are some links,
in celebration of
February, Black History Month.

The Brown Bookshelf

Debut author Leah Henderson

I enjoyed meeting author Leah Henderson at a workshop
and think you will want to follow this talented
thinker as her writing career expands.

Poetry for Children
This site, above, created by children’s literature/poetry specialist Sylvia Vardell,
who I hope to meed some day as many of you have, features a link
to SoundCloud posts of poems on various aspects of the black experience. the-underground-railroad<