Thursday, September 18, 2014

Poet to Poet: Carole Boston Weatherford and Jacqueline Woodson

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson who just made the “2014 Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature” (again!) with her new book, Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline was also kind enough to participate in my ongoing “Poet to Poet” interview series, too. 

Jacqueline Woodson is the award winning author of many amazing novels for young adults (Miracle’s Boys, Hush, If You Come Softly) and for the middle grades (Last Summer with Maizon, Feathers) and picture books for children (The Other Side, Each Kindness, Coming on Home Soon, Show Way) and so many more including previous works that interweave poetry like Locomotion. 

Carole Boston Weatherford
The lovely Carole Boston Weatherford is my poet interviewer. She is the author of many, many books of poetry and other genres including: The Sound that Jazz Makes, Sidewalk Chalk; Poems of the City, Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People, Dear Mr. Rosenwald, Birmingham, 1963, Becoming Billie Holiday, and many more. She is also the recipient of many awards including the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and Lion and the Unicorn Award Honor for Excellence in North American Poetry for Birmingham, 1963. 

Here she asks Jacqueline three great questions about Brown Girl Dreaming. 

Carole: Why did you choose poetry for your memoir?

Jacqueline: This is how memory comes to me -- In small moments with all of this white space around them.  I didn't think this memoir could be told any other way.  It felt like it would be untrue to the story to try to write a straight narrative out of lyrical memory.  Also, I felt this way best expressed what I was trying to say -- that words have always been coming to me, that I've always been trying to hold on to them, set them free, floating onto the pages.  This form shows them floating, shows the words moving slowly across, down, over the page.

Carole: You allude to Langston Hughes in BGD. What other poets influenced you?

Jacqueline: There've been so many since my first encounter with Langston Hughes -- Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni was HUGE for me, Countee Cullen's INCIDENT, was a poem that haunted me and made me think about living as an African American in the United States.  So many poets influenced me both politically and artistically. 

Carole: How did the oral tradition contribute to your development as a writer?

Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline: I think the fact that my family was always telling stories really helped me believe I could tell stories even if I couldn't read or write.  Also, the history they held onto that wasn't written down, that was past down from generation to generation really gave me a strong sense of myself in the world and of the people who came before me.  I love the fact that even though as enslaved people we weren't allowed to learn to read and write, that didn't stop us from telling our stories.  That's amazing to me.  And that really gave me a lot of faith in my own ability to tell stories.

Carole concludes: Although our upbringings were different there are some coincidences: a Caroline and a gardening printers in the family, storytelling kin, rural roots, handmade first books about nature (butterflies and trees), begging to wear afros, and birthdays a day apart (mine is Feb. 13). Because my father was a printer, I kind of consider publishing the family business. Do you think your grandfather’s career in printing in any way emboldened or destined you to seek publication?

And Jacqueline responds:
Huh -- I hadn't thought of that -- But yes, the fact that there were always words in some form in our lives, words became a part of me.

Thank you both for sharing so openly in my mutual admiration society! 

Image credits:;;;


Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Lovely! Thank you so much for posting this. I am looking forward to BRown Girl Dreaming!

Rosi said...

This book is getting a lot of buzz and I am really looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the interview.

Linda said...

BGD just arrived on my doorstep a few days ago. I am a huge fan of both of these wonderful poets. Also, two years ago I had a group of eighth grade boys in my reading class who always complained that they hated reading. I got them each a copy of Miracle's Boys, we read it together, and they loved it! So did I! Jacqueline's writing grabs the heart!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for stopping by, friends. DO NOT MISS this book-- it's something very special!

Susan said...

Heard Ms. Woodson's interview on NPR the other day and thought this would be a wonderful read for my 12 year old granddaughter. Haven't found a copy yet but I will.