Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Be thankful for our NCTE poets

Janet Wong (poet and project partner, pictured here at our Poetry Party with J. Patrick Lewis, Kristine O’Connell George, Elaine Magliaro and Rebecca Kai Dotlich) and I have a few extra copies of the special "festschrift" book of poetry in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins winning the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award. So... drumroll... we propose a mini-competition for giving away the last dozen copies. Here's the challenge:

In the COMMENTS area, list the name of a past NCTE Poetry Award winner whose work you are thankful for (and list a couple of favorite book or poem titles). [Look here, if you need help.] If you are thankful for more than one poet, enter multiple times! (No limit to your entries, but you can win only once.)

Two winners will be chosen AT RANDOM each day from now through the end of Thanksgiving weekend. I'll post daily from now through Sunday, so only comments each day will qualify for that day's giveaway. Clear?

To kick off our giveaway celebration, I'd like to share another Lee tribute poem. This offering is by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater whom I met at our wonderful Poetry Party. It's a quiet, thoughtful poem to honor Lee and his legacy. Thanks for sharing, Amy.

Private Party (for Lee)
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

In the Library of Congress
on a cold November night
poems tiptoed out of books
dressed up in black and white.

"Tonight we celebrate a man"
one poem raised a toast,
"to LBH, who makes us think
he loves us each the most.

He wrote us down for children
who've read us through the years.
Our words make families giggle
light dreams
dry lonely tears.

And so tonight
we thank you
our father
kind and clever
whose living breath
makes poems sing.

Through us
you'll live forever."

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

Image credit: SV, Stephen Alcorn


Michele Krueger said...


It was a pleasure to meet you and Janet, Elaine, Rebecca, Pat and Kris who worked so hard to put on the Poetry Party. I was honored to share my poem with you all. Lee's influence, his generous spirit and editorial insight has touched us-poetry lovers-all so profoundly.
Thank you for inviting my poem into the beautiful Tribute book.

I'm not entering your contest because I already received my copy, but here are 2 poems written on airplanes these last few days. One eastbound, one westbound, not bookbound! Enjoy)

Preparing To See Lee
A List Poem

First, before I quench this thirst
to honor Lee, to raise a toast
I've got chores to do-
dump compost
slice pears, freeze them
iron shirts (to decrease them)
fold clean laundry
stack in piles
cram my suitcase
for mucho miles:
make-up, sweaters
boarding pass
cell phone charger
cashew stash
choose my shoes
de-lint wool coat
find suede gloves
and a carry-on tote

Over mountains
snow-capped granite
flying above this foggy planet
hurtling forward
toward today
where we gather together
to sing, to say
to celebrate
our good friend Lee
Reigning Emperor
of Poetry

For Poetry's Sake

This is the path I take
This is the life I make

My tongue sings
My soul quakes
My tears stream
My heart aches

For beauty, for pain
For poetry's sake

This is the path I take
I am neon
I am utterly

Michele Krueger

Steven Withrow said...

I am thankful for every one of these poets. It's my dream to belong to that select group of poets.

I have to say Valerie Worth is my absolute favorite. I have read *all the small poems and fourteen more* dozens of times. I know so many of the poems by heart. Little marvels of focused attention and precise vocabulary!

I love:
"Zinnias, stout and stiff,
Stand no nonsense: their colors
Stare, their leaves
Grow straight out, their petals
Jut like clipped cardboard,
Round, in neat flat rings."

I was delighted to visit Natalie Babbitt recently and to hear her read Worth's poem "Toad" aloud. We talked about Valerie and the fun that Natalie had illustrating the small books.

Steven Withrow

Steven Withrow said...

I also want to put in a note about Lee Bennett Hopkins.

He once took the time to read through a poetry manuscript of mine, and he offered some excellent, constructive criticism. This included, "Get rid of the word 'the' where it's not needed."

I'll always be grateful for Lee as a poet and for his encouragement of my writing.

Steven Withrow

Karla said...

"Be thankful for our NCTE poets"

I am thankful for Karla Kuskin! When I was little girl I was drawn to her books because she spelled "Karla" with a "K." I didn’t know any other Karlas spelled with a K. It was so cool to see the name Karla on the spine of a book. Growing up in North Dakota, a state with very few trees, I longed for and loved trees. It was a real treat to go to the lakes in Minnesota because there were so many trees! :-) Two books by Karla Kuskin are “In the Middle of the Trees” published in 1958 (the year I was born) and “Near the Window Tree.” So not only was her name the same as mine but she seemed to also love trees! It is sometimes for these kinds of inexplicable reasons that children are drawn to a certain author, poem, story or book. :-)
Karla Schmit karla.schmit@gmail.com

Tricia said...

I suppose I can't say all of them (though I'd like to), so I'll say Myra Cohn Livingston. It was her book POEM-MAKING that got me started writing poetry for my students.

Karla said...

Three wishes
The first
A tree:
Dark bark
Green leaves
Under a bit of blue
A canopy
To glimpse sky through
To watch sun sift through
To catch light rain
Upon the leaves
And let it fall again.
A place to put my eye
Beyond the window frame.

Wish two:
A chair
Not hard or high
One that fits comfortably
Set by the window tree
An island in the room
For me
My own
Place to sit and be

My tree
Here my chair,
Rain, sky, sun.
All my wishes
All the things I need
But one
Wish three:
A book to read.

From Near The Window Tree by Karla Kuskin
Harper & Row, 1975.

The Tree and Me

There’s a tree by the meadow
By the sand by the sea
On a hillock near a valley
That belongs to me
With small spring leaves
Like small green dimes
That cast their shadows on the grass
A thousand separate times
With round brown branches
Like outstretched sleeves
And the twigs come out as fingers
And the fingers hold the leaves
With blossoms here and there
And always pink and soft and stout
And when the blossoms disappear
The apples hurry out
In the middle of the blossoms
In the center of the tree
With a hat and coat of leaves on
Sits smiling me.

From In the Middle of the Trees by Karla Kuskin
Harper & Brothers, 1958.

Karla Schmit

Julie Larios said...

I, too, am very grateful for Valerie Worth - when I talk about poetry with MFA students, I almost always mention what I think is a perfect poem of hers: "bell." It works on the level of metaphor (being, as some people claim all poems are, about poetry) as well as on the level of the very real object in all its heft and solidity. Her ability to compress clear image and lovely language into the smallest possible package has always amazed me.

Linda said...

Sylvia, thank you for your wonderful posts about Lee's celebration. I tried so hard to be there.

I'm thankful for Lee Bennett Hopkins. Over the years, he has published several of my poems in his anthologies. He once told me that he believed in the little poem I wrote about my sons. He later published it in "Families, Families." It meant so much to me.

I'm also grateful for Myra Cohn Livingston. I use many of her books in my classroom. One of my favorites is "Flights of Fancy." I also read her poem "Martin Luther King" to my students every January. Thanks to her, we are able to read the poems of Janet Wong, Kristine O'Connell George, and so many other of my favorite poets.

kevan said...

Well I want to win the book so I offer up Nikki Grimes. I loved Meet Danitra Brown.

And hello to my coast-confused friend, Janet Wong!

janet wong said...

Great comments, everyone! And I enjoyed reading the poems by Michele and Amy.

Karla: when I saw your first name, I instantly thought of Karla Kuskin...so I think you must have been channeling her spirit today.

Steven: what a lovely example of Valerie Worth! It must have been truly special to spend time with Natalie Babbitt, talking about her work.

Julie: if I had to compare you to another poet, it would be Valerie Worth. Her poem "clock" is one of my favorites.

Tricia and Linda: Myra Cohn Livingston would be my choice too, though Eve Merriam and Valerie Worth would be right behind her. My favorite book of Myra's was THERE WAS A PLACE.

And...what a surprise to hear from my good friend KEVAN here! You are so right...I should be in Seattle this week, visiting my mom. I'm feeling guilty about it...but I'll be in Seattle for Christmas!

(For those of you who don't know Kevan's art, you must look for his FRANKIE STEIN and TICKLE MONSTER!)

Anonymous said...

I'm thankful for Ms Kuskin and her advice to write about a radish, for Mr Kennedy and his marvelous variety of poems for all ages, and more. But I'm truly thankful for the small poems of Valerie Worth, who reminds me with her legacy of work that a poem doesn't have to be big or loud to be important.

janeyolen said...

How could I have missed this blog for so long? You are now bookmarked.

And wasn't that a wonderful party. Poetry and chocolates, what could be better?


janeyolen said...

How could I have missed this blog for so long? You are now bookmarked.

And wasn't that a wonderful party. Poetry and chocolates, what could be better?


JoAnn Early Macken said...

I'm thankful for the work of Barbara Juster Esbensen, especially A CELEBRATION OF BEES, an inspiration for anyone who helps students write their own poems. Her collections ECHOES FOR THE EYE and WORDS WITH WRINKLED KNEES are pure genius!

Elaine Magliaro said...

I guess I'd have to say that I'm thankful for them all--with a special little nod toward my friend David McCord. The NCTE poets were my teachers. I learned how to write poetry by reading their books...all the time. Some wrote rhythmic, rhyming poems. Some wrote free verse. They wrote about nature...feelings...childhood...animals...imagination--everything!

Over the years, I memorized hundreds of the NCTE poets' poems. Their words and images sang to me. Their poetry flowed through my veins...was interwoven through all the subjects that I taught in my elementary classroom.

When I was ready to commit myself to writing the best poetry that I possibly could, I was confident that I had had the best education that a novice poet could possibly have--one taught by masters of the craft: The NCTE poets.

A million thanks to you and Janet for "Dear One." It's my special remembrance of one heckuva poetry party!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Wow! I am thankful for ALL your posts and tributes, as well as the legacy of our 15 NCTE Poetry Award recipients!

lisa said...

I'm thankful for Barbara Esbensen -- Words with Wrinkled Knees, Echoes for the Eye, Cold Stars and Fireflies. She was a guest speaker in a writing class I was teaching. I expected her to talk about writerly things like meter and rhyme. Instead she regaled us with eye-popping facts about cheetahs. Her passion for the natural world propelled her, and her writing skills allowed her to communicate that passion to children.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

I'm thankful for Mary Ann Hoberman's poems, especially her collection THE LLAMA WHO HAD NO PAJAMA with its perfect rhythm, rhyme, and repetition ("Frog," "Permutations," and "Way Down Deep" are among my favorites), and her picture books ONE OF EACH and THE SEVEN SILLY EATERS.