Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Poetry: Gift Tag

I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving with your favorite people. I did! What are your favorite holiday memories? Your favorite gifts? Janet Wong and I have published our third book in our collection of digital poetry anthologies, a book of holiday poetry for kids—out this week for your holiday shopping consideration. It’s called Gift Tag and it’s an anthology of 28 poems for young people about gifts and giving.

Jane Yolen writes about pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; Douglas Florian about playing with dreidels; Lee Bennett Hopkins about the true meaning of Christmas; J. Patrick Lewis about Mew Year’s Day. Have you ever wondered what a spider thinks at Christmas? Have you ever given a gift that later made you wonder, “What were we thinking?” Do you remember your first bike, your first baseball glove, your first bottle of perfume? As with our second book in the PoetryTagTime series, P*TAG, photos provide writing prompts for these and two dozen other poems that will bring back warm gingered memories of your own family celebrations.

Gift Tag features poems by a who’s who of poets: Jeannine Atkins, Jen Bryant, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Margarita Engle, Douglas Florian, Helen Frost, Joan Bransfield Graham, Lorie Ann Grover, Avis Harley, David L. Harrison, Sara Holbrook, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Bobbi Katz, Julie Larios, J. Patrick Lewis, Pat Mora, Ann Whitford Paul, Laura Purdie Salas, Michael Salinger, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, Robert Weinstock, Steven Withrow, Allan Wolf, Janet Wong and Jane Yolen. Isn’t that an amazing line up of voices?

We gave our poets three rules:
1) choose a photo from our Gift Tag photo blog,

2) write about what popped into your mind when you saw the photo; and

3) keep your poem short—10 lines (max), and no more than 25 characters (with spaces) per line.

Our goal: to have each poem appear whole on a Kindle screen. We call this form the Kindleku. Douglas Florian suggested that a better name would be the Kindlekuku. We admit that it was a bit cuckoo to set a limit of 250 characters per poem—but we think you’ll like the results!

Here’s just one example to whet your appetite. David Harrison chose the photo of the baseball and glove. He writes:

I pitched baseball as a boy. Getting a new ball for Christmas was the perfect gift. I could smell the new leather, feel the power and speed stitched inside, dream of striking out batters. I couldn’t wait for spring.

And here’s his beautiful poem:

The Gift of Spring
by David L. Harrison

My fingers trace seams,
feeling how I’ll throw
the curve of my dreams,
holding it just so.

Outside is dark and cold,

Snow lies deep and white,

but in my hand I hold

spring, Christmas night.

One of the unique things about Poetry Tag Time anthologies is that there are connections or “tags” between poems that reveal how one poem can lead to another and another and another. In this Gift Tag collection, we identified a key word or phrase in the poems that connected one poem to the next. You’ll find that chain of connections and poems on our photo blog here. And of course readers might find entirely different ways to share and connect these wonderful poems.

For more info about this and our other digital poetry anthologies (including PoetryTagTime for children and P*TAG for teens), visit We like to imagine kids reading these e-books on Mom's cell phone while standing in line at the store or poring over the images and poems on Dad's iPad or sharing a favorite line of a poem on the class Kindle. They can own this book in minutes and read it on a laptop with the free Kindle app. Amazing!

Next? Janet and I are exploring developing a poetry app for iPads and iPhones! Stay tuned… meanwhile, I’m wishing you all a happy, healthy, holiday season of hope.

Be sure to join the Poetry Friday gathering at Heidi Mordhorst's Juicy Little Universe blog. See you there!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2011. All rights reserved.


Mary Burkey said...

So. Darn. Cool.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Sure to be another hit! Congrats to you and Janet for making great poems so accessible this year. Happy Holidays!

janet wong said...

I love David Harrison's poem. I'm glad you shared it here!

David Harrison said...

Sylvia, my thanks to you for posting my poem. It was a pleasure to join so many other poets to help create this fun new collection. I'm grateful to you and Janet!


KaaVonia Hinton said...

Great post, Sylvia. I'm recalling all of the fond gifts of childhood. Thanks.

Amy LV said...

I like my Droid so much more now that it's full of poems. Dorky, but true! Thank you both for all you've done for poetry, for poets, and for warming up technology. I, too, love David's poem. A.

laurasalas said...

What a gorgeous poem! Kindleku--love that!

Charles Waters said...

Vardell and Wong Power!!!!!!!!!

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

I love this! Yes, thanks for posting David Harrison's poem.