Friday, May 22, 2009

Kid poetry and BOOK LINKS

Please allow me to plug my "Everyday Poetry" column in the May issue of Book Links. In this issue, I focus on celebrating poetry written by young people themselves in "Sharing the Poetry of Children and Teens" (pages 40-41). Here's an excerpt.

As the school year draws to a close, now is a good time to invite children to create or compile class or individual books that can become keepsakes for them to take home to remember the year. Poetry, in particular, can be a lovely form for expressing their growing up feelings.

Generally, my goal in sharing poetry with children is to focus on reading, performing, and discussing it, rather than on writing it; on the experience of poetry rather than the production of it. After all, everyone can enjoy poems, but not everyone will grow up to be a poet. Children shouldn’t be expected to write poetry until they’ve had some experience reading or listening to it, but many children will naturally experiment with writing poetry when they are immersed in reading and talking about it. Sharing published poetry written BY kids can be especially appealing because it inspires children to think of themselves as possible creators of poetry.

Poetry By Children
Several poets who have worked in schools, libraries, and with other youth projects have gathered anthologies of poetry written by children of all ages. Collections such as Salting the Ocean edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, vibrantly illustrated by Ashley Bryan, or Ten-Second Rain Showers and Soft Hay Will Catch You both edited by Sanford Lyne, show the range of thought and feeling that children can express in writing. Invite children to choose a favorite poem by an age-mate to read aloud, recopy and remember, or respond to.

Bring a camera to school to capture kids at work and play (you may already have photos of the year’s activities handy). Invite students to compose poems to accompany the photos and create a class book. For a wonderful example, look for teacher Ayana Lowe’s Come and Play; Children of Our World Having Fun. If you take digital photos, you can even “publish” simple books using commercial tools from photoprocessing sources (like Kinko’s or

Poetry by Teens
There are even more examples of published poetry by teen writers, including two volumes from the WritersCorps: Paint Me Like I Am and Tell the World and two other pocket-sized graphic poetry collections, Movin’: Teen Poets Take Voice compiled by Dave Johnson and Angst! Teen Verses from the Edge edited by Karen Tom, Matt Frost, and Kiki. Poet Betsy Franco has assembled several notable collections of poetry written by teens including Things I Have to Tell You (by girls) and You Hear Me? (by boys), plus the recent Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers, and Night is Gone, Day is Still Coming; Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults, compiled with Annette Piña Ochoa and Traci L. Gourdine-- all books full of unsentimental and authentic young voices.

I also write about poetry contests and about helping young people submit their original poems for possible publication. Be sure to help aspiring poets become familiar with the protocol for submitting manuscripts (style, format, etc.) and prepare them for the competitive process and for possible rejection. Outlets for their writing are also suggested. I also mention "Poetry Writing Resources" written specifically for young writers, including:

Inside Out: Children's Poets Discuss Their Work by JonArno Lawson and Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry; How to Write a Poem by Jack Prelutsky. Older students will enjoy Kathi Appelt’s Poems From Homeroom: A Writer's Place To Start or Ralph Fletcher’s Poetry Matters: Writing A Poem From The Inside Out.

As the school year ends, let’s share the words of children and teens—either in published works of young people’s writing or by creating homemade books to cherish or to add to the library for others to enjoy.

Once again, I'm thrilled that Book Links is featuring a previously unpublished poem to accompany the column. This month's poem features a fresh voice in Donna Marie Merritt. This poem challenges readers to step into a secret world and dream big. As a culminating activity for the school year, students can express their dreams in poems, writing individually or with a friend. Then compile them all into a time capsule to be opened at the end of the following year.

The Open Door

by Donna Marie Merritt

Truth sails across great spaces
Of invitations,
Offering images, which before,
Have only been mine in dreams…
The chance to be everywhere, anywhere, nowhere
At once.

Who else knows of this wonder?
Has it popped up like a mushroom,
Stirring the silent earth
In the quiet of the night?
Where does this enchantment begin?
Do its delights ever end?

I step through
The open door
As other seekers appear, then
Disappear along myriad, marvelous paths
Into that secret world of possibilities…
The library.

Image credits:

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.


J. Patrick Lewis said...

A toast to you, Donna! My congratulations on your grand encomium to libraries.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Yes, I was so tickled to feature Donna and her work. And you know how I love poems about libraries! :-)

Donna Marie Merritt said...

Pat and Sylvia, thanks so much! I feel like I've "arrived" by having my work showcased in BOOK LINKS and my poem on your blog, Sylvia. My agent is currently promoting my newest manuscript. It's not a book of poems but it is a read-aloud rhyming story that I look forward to sharing with children (and adults!). Thanks again. :)

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank YOU, Donna, for sharing your work so generously. I look forward to keeping up with your blossoming career!

Color Online said...

Thank your for what you do here. You have become an incredible resource for me. I appreciate what you do.

Color Online said...

We have both, Ten-Second Rain Showers and Soft Hay Will Catch in our library.

If you would please consider supporting our Summer Book Drive with a link or donation. We want readers to know gently used books are warmly received.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you for your kind words and for the info on your book drive. I will try to spread the word...