Tuesday, April 17, 2012

5Q Poet Interview Series: J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen

Our 5Q Poet Interview series for National Poetry Month continues with this interview with both J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen about their new collaboration, Take Two! A Celebration of Twins. Graduate student Jerusha Hunt offers this interview (plus) with the duo.

J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis and his twin brother Mick were born on May 5th, 1942 in Gary, Indiana (Lewis 2009). After teaching Economics for over twenty years at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, J. Patrick Lewis retired and became a full-time writer. He published his first book of poetry for children in 1990 - A Hippopotamusn’t: and Other Animal Poems. Since then he has published more than 50 other poetry collections for children and even a few for adults. The themes and subjects of his poetry are as varied as the poetry styles he employs. Lewis writes poetry about everything from historical heroes to animals and bugs. He experiments with all poetry forms, and readers can expect to find anything from a haiku to concrete poetry in his repertoire. He has even invented a new verse form called the zeno (A Circus for the Brain 2011). Additionally he is renowned for his creative wordplay, as well as his witty riddles. In 2011, Lewis won the National Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Poetry Award and was named the Children’s Poet Laureate (Vardell 2011).

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen was born in New York City on February 11, 1939. She attended Smith College and after graduation returned to New York City and worked as an editor. Her first book Pirates in Petticoats, a non-fiction work about women pirates, was published in 1963. Since then Yolen has published over 300 books. She has experience in a myriad of genres ranging from newspaper articles to novels to poetry. Her books, stories, and poetry have won multiple accolades including a Caldecott medal. Yolen has three children and six grandchildren. Of those six grandchildren, Amelia and Caroline are twin girls (Yolen)!

Take Two! A Celebration of Twins
By J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
This endearing collection of 44 poems all about twins will surely find its way into the hearts of all lovers of twins and twins themselves. The collection is divided into four sections: Twins in the Waiting Womb, Twinfants, How to Be One, and Famous Twins. The poems themselves are about how fun, special, and sometimes stressful it is to be a twin or a parent or sibling of a twin. The clever poems are written in a variety of poetic forms ranging from sonnets to couplets. Sophie Blackall’s watercolor, pencil, and painted paper collage illustrations sweetly emphasize the action in each poem. Additionally, interspersed among the twin poems are “twin facts” that range from scientific to historical information. The facts are quietly located at the bottom of the page and don’t detract from the poem that appears above it. They’re just as entertaining as the poems themselves. This is the perfect gift for anyone with twins in their lives.

An Interview with the Authors
Why did you decide to write a book about twins? Aren’t they just like other people?

Jane Yolen: Pat is a twin. I have twin granddaughters, twin aunts, and twin brothers-in-law.

Aren’t twins just like other people?

Jane Yolen: Yes and no. There's is a special bond, and that's what we were exploring.

Why did you and J. Patrick Lewis decide to collaborate on this book? Who had the idea first?

Jane Yolen: The twin idea was impossible to deny. We had just written and sold a book of poems on Chagall, the artist, and were tossing ideas around for a next book. I honestly can't remember if he came up with it or I did.

Which of these poems were inspired by your own twin antics?

J. Patrick Lewis: That's difficult to say since all of the poems I wrote have as their subtext my very twinness. "Pat and Mike" comes closest to a direct connection.

Is it true that twins have their own secret language? Do you still communicate in this way as adults?

J. Patrick Lewis: Perhaps, but not in our case, at least no experience that I can recall. Our usual way of communication is by telephone — daily.

Could you share a special or funny twin story from your own childhood?

J. Patrick Lewis: Mick was always voted "Most Likely to Succeed." I was always "Class Clown." Both were well-deserved. There's always been a little bit of hero worship on my part for my "significant other."

Poem Preview
On March 6th, 2012 my sister gave birth to a darling set of fraternal twin girls – Remy Mae and Lucia Wren. I flew home and met them on March 10th; and on March 13th when this book arrived I read it cover to cover to them to pass the time between feedings. Although they were only a week old, one poem touched my heart. It’s a poem that I hope to memorize and record for them to hear every night before they go to sleep. Somehow the idea makes the 2,000 miles between us seem not as far.

Lullaby to the Twins

Good night,
Good night.
The single moon
Shines down.
And soon
One sleep
You’ll share.
You are
Two stars:
One dark,
One fair.
Two hearts,
And I am here.
Good night,
Good night.
Sleep tight,
Sleep tight.

Follow up
Before reading this poem, discuss lullabies and their purpose. See if students remember the lullabies that were sung to them as babies. Have them share the songs they remember. A variety of songs and lullabies from different cultures should be presented during this discussion. If not, examine additional lullabies from different cultures. There are a multitude of books and recordings available to enrich the lesson. Then present "Lullaby to the Twins" to the class. Discuss why it’s the perfect lullaby for a pair of babies. To conclude the lesson, have students go home and record their family members singing the lullabies of their childhood. Have them bring them to class and compile a class album of lullabies.

Publishers Weekly. "Children's Review: Take Two! A Celebration of Twins by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen." Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing Business News | Publishers Weekly. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7636-3702-6 (accessed March 25, 2012).
Lewis, J. Patrick. "J. Patrick Lewis | Children's Poet & Author | Scenes From My Life." J. Patrick Lewis | Children's Poet & Author. http://www.jpatricklewis.com/scenes.shtml (accessed March 25, 2012).
Paul, Pamela. "Take Two! by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen - NYTimes.com." NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/books/take-two-by-j-patrick-lewis-and-jane-yolen.html (accessed March 25, 2012).
Kirkus Reviews. "Take Two!." Kirkus Reviews. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/j-patrick-lewis/take-two-lewis/#review (accessed March 25, 2012).
Vardell, Sylvia. "A Circus for the Brain: J. Patrick Lewis interviewed by Sylvia Vardell." Poetry Foundation. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/children/article/242020 (accessed March 25, 2012).
Vardell, Sylvia. "J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Toolbox." J. Patrick Lewis Poetry Toolbox. http://jpatricklewis.blogspot.com/ (accessed March 25, 2012).
Yolen, Jane. "Jane Yolen: Biography." Jane Yolen. . http://janeyolen.com/biography/ (accessed March 25, 2012).

Profile Pictures from:
J. Patrick Lewis - http://jpatricklewis.com/scenes.shtml
Jane Yolen – http://claudsy.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/mondays-interview-with-jane-yolen/

Image credit: penguinpr.co.uk;blogidrive.com

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2012. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Robyn Hood Black said...

I've been curious about this collection - thanks to each of you for the sneak peek, and the twice-as-nice interview! Love the lullaby.