Sorry to be AWOL so long, but I’ve been traveling as well as finishing a big book project. Let me fill you in on my travels, first! Like many in the children’s literature biz, I was lucky enough to attend the annual conference of the American Library Association in Washington DC. One of my favorite things was the poetry jam I hosted on Saturday, Spreading the Word with a Children’s Poetry Jam. The session was sponsored by the ALSC Education Committee, and was designed to celebrate the oral quality of poetry for children with a poetry jam led by five major poets in the field: Betsy Franco, David Harrison, Jack Prelutsky, Joyce Sidman and Marilyn Singer. The poets were delightful, reading from their own works in a back-and-forth jam of poems, connecting poems spontaneously from poet to poet and back again. From topics such as dogs to insects to the grotesque to the humorous to poems for two readers, these varied voices were a lively mix of styles and poems.
Then the audience was invited to "jam" along with their favorite poems from a selection provided. (I had tiny “poetry jam jars” as “handouts” with a poem inside each jar—ready to be read aloud.) Finally, the featured poets also spoke briefly sharing advice about promoting reading and writing poetry with children. The room was full, the energy was high, and the poetry was fun. We provided an opportunity to hear poets read their own work (always a treat!) and a model for jamming that children of all ages could try. Special thanks to my five fabulous poets and to these publishing representatives: Tracy Bloom, Random House; Lisa DiSarro, Houghton Mifflin; Michelle Fadlalla, Simon & Schuster; Nancy Hogan, Boyds Mills Press for bringing the poets to DC.
Then on Monday night, I attended the fourth annual ALSC Poetry Blast, a concert of poets reading their own work. What an amazing evening listening to Andrew Clements, Betsy Franco, John Grandits, Eloise Greenfield, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Alan Katz, Walter Dean Myers, Alice Schertle, Marilyn Singer, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (who shared a new poem about a very hip librarian). Congratulations to uber-librarian Barbara Genco and super-poet Marilyn Singer for putting this together once again. Be sure to look for the Blast again next year or come to the Texas Library Association conference next April 17, 2008 in Dallas where I’ll be hosting the fourth annual Poetry Round Up, inspired by the very first ALSC blast. Or take this idea and plan your own poetry reading event!
Picture credit: This is where I bought the (clean) tiny jam jars for the poems and the poetry jam.