Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Poet X

One last poetry video to close out our digital celebration of National Poetry Month, but this time it's highlighting a novel in verse, rather than the text of a single poem. This one was also created by one of my graduate students, Rose B., and also used with her permission. I think she captures the spirit of Elizabeth Acevedo's powerful and award-winning book, The Poet X (Harper, 2018). Check it out!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Freedom Over Me

National Poetry Month is coming to a close, but it's not too late to highlight one more powerful poetry video. This one was created by Itunu S. and is a trailer for a picture book, rather than featuring a single poem. It's a powerful introduction to Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum, 2016), told through narrative poetry and amazing art. Check it out!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Summer Reading

Spring is in full swing and we're thinking about the end of the school year and the summer ahead. Here's the perfect poem video to send the students into the summer. 
It's "Summer Reading" by Janet Wong from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). This video was created by Michele H. and is so fun and engaging!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Field Day Fun

April means National Poetry Month, but for many children it also brings field day fun outdoors. 

Here's a poem that captures that special event, "Field Day Fun" by Elizabeth Steinglass from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Amy W. has created a fun digital poem video for Liz's poem complete with authentic photos of kids having fun at a real field day!

Click this link to watch.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Gym Teachers

Ready to get up and stretch?
Watch this video of the poem, "Gym Teachers" by Darren Sardelli from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Tiffany W. has created a fun poem video full of active kids and with a lovely nod to the gym teachers who guide them. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What Does a Reading Specialist Do? (2.0)

Double your fun with this second interpretation of the poem, "What Does a Reading Specialist Do?" by Linda Kulp Trout from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Here, Kelsea R. uses a clever dog to show the way! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Time for one more pet-themed poem!

This time, poet Helen Frost's poem, "Disappointed" is brought to life in this video created by Amy T. and cleverly narrated by kids! You'll find this poem in Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017). 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Please, Mommy, Please

Ready for something fun and playful? 

Check out this poem video for the poem, "Please, Mommy, Please" by Janice Harrington from the book Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017). 

Sally S. created this appealing video featuring that poem. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Fake News

Janet Wong tackled a tough topic in her poem, "Fake News" from Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017). 

Then Adrianna S. turned it into an engaging poetry video. Check it out!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

In the Life of a Substitute

For all the teachers--and substitute teachers-- here's a poem just for you!

Janequeal S. created this poem video for the poem, "In the Life of a Substitute" by Lydia Breiseth from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2019

TLA Poetry Round Up

Look at this wonderful group of poets with me! (L-R: Janet Wong, Leslie Bulion, Alan Katz, Laura Purdie Salas, David Elliott, David Bowles, Kip Wilson, and Marilyn Singer) We had a fantastic time at the 15th annual Poetry Round Up at the annual Texas Library Association annual conference in Austin, TX. Each poet shared excerpts from a current book and the audience was enthralled to hear each poem read aloud by the poet who authored it. We heard serious, silly, moving, and fascinating poems from picture book collections, novels in verse, and anthologies. It was an amazing and magical morning! 

Featured Poets:

Select Bibliography of Books by Poetry Round Up Poets
Bowles, David. 2018. They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid's Poems. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
Bulion, Leslie. 2019. Superlative Birds. Atlanta: Peachtree. 
Elliott, David. 2019. Voices. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
Katz, Alan. 2008. Oops: Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking. Ill. by Ed Koren. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2019. In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House. Ill. by Angela Matteson. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2019. Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons. Ill. by Mercé López. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
Salas, Laura Purdie. 2019. Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations. Ill. by Micha Archer. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Singer, Marilyn. 2018. Have You Heard About Lady Bird: Poems about Our First Ladies.New York: Disney-Hyperion.
Singer, Marilyn. 2019. I’m the Big One Now!: Poems about Growing Up. Ill. by Jana Christy. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills/Wordsong.
Singer, Marilyn. 2019. Who Named Their Pony Macaroni? Ill. by Ryan McAmis. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
Vardell, Sylvia and Wong, Janet. 2018. Great Morning!: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. Pomelo Books.
Wilson, Kip. 2019. White Rose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Wong, Janet S. 2019. A Suitcase of Seaweed & More. Princeton: NJ: Yuzu Books.

Now, be sure and visit the Poem Farm where the lovely Amy LV is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Weekend Away

Here's a poem video with a camping theme just in time for summer preparations!

Enjoy the poem "A Weekend Away" by Janet Wong from Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017). Michelle O. created this special video based on Janet's poem. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lost and Found

And here are still more wonderful poem videos for celebrating National Poetry Month! 

Here, Nicole G. created a poem video for "Lost and Found" by Laura Shovan from Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017).

You'll find it by clicking on this link. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Questions, Questions

Happy National Poetry Month! 

The fun continues with this poem video created by Megan L. for "Questions, Questions" by Janet Wong from Pet Crazy: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017.) 

Monday, April 15, 2019

School Bake Sale

Ready for more?

Here's a poem video created by Dacari L. for the poem, "School Bake Sale" by Elaine Magliaro from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Report Cards

Watch another wonderful one-minute poem video to celebrate National Poetry Month. Leane K. created this video for Janet Wong's poem, "Report Cards" from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Secret Worlds

More fun for National Poetry Month! 

Kristen J. created this poem video for Margarita Engle's poem, "Secret Worlds" from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). 

Click this link to watch this digital poem video.


Friday, April 12, 2019

TLA Sneak Preview

If you're going to be in Austin, Texas, for the Texas Library Association conference, be sure and come to our 15th annual Poetry Round Up next Tuesday, April 15! It will be fabulous and I'll share highlights from it later in the month. Meanwhile, happy Poetry Friday, everybody! Now head on over to Live Your Poem where the wonderful Irene Latham is hosting our Poetry Friday celebration! 

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Thanks to Joy H., here is a poem video for the poem "Thankful" by Traci Sorell from from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Happy National Poetry Month!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What Does a Reading Specialist Do?

In my continuing series of poem videos to celebrate National Poetry Month, here is one for "What Does a Reading Specialist Do? by Linda Kulp Trout from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018).  Amber W. created this digital poem video. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Language of Healing

Ready for more digital resources for National Poetry Month?

Amy K. made this poem video for "The Language of Healing" by Janet Wong from Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2017).

Monday, April 08, 2019

Art Class

Ready for some more digital poetry resources?

Here is a poem video that Angela M. created for the poem "Art Class" by Carol Varsalona from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). 

Angela used Animoto, so you'll need to click this link to view her video. 

Sunday, April 07, 2019

What If

 More amazingness for National Poetry Month! 

Meagan F. created this poem video for "What If" by Janet Wong from Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2016).  

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Border Kid

Still more for National Poetry Month! 

Emily D. created this video for the poem, “Border Kid" by David Bowles from Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2016). 

Friday, April 05, 2019

All Kinds of Kids

More for National Poetry Month! 

Here is a poem video for "All Kinds of Kids" by Elizabeth Steinglass from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). This video was created by Carrie B. Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Scary Territory

Let's keep the momentum going for National Poetry Month! 
Here's another poem video created using Animoto for the poem, “Scary Territory” by Janet Wong from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). 

This one is by Melanie C. and you can see it by clicking this link.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The House of This Minute

The celebration of National Poetry Month continues! 
Next, Casey B. created this video for "The House of This Minute" by Kate Coombs from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Here We Go

Our celebration of National Poetry Month continues!

Here is a poem video for "Here We Go" by Janet Wong from Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book (Pomelo Books, 2016). This video was created by Erin B. and it's pretty inspiring. 

Monday, April 01, 2019

Poetry Fridays

Happy National Poetry Month! 
This year, the students in my “Poetry for Children and YA” course have created videos for a single poem, helping us savor it, line by line. I’ll be posting a poem video each day for Poetry Month. Generally, I'll feature the video here (via YouTube), but this first one was created by David M. using Animoto for the poem, “Poetry Fridays” by Janet Wong from GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). 


Friday, March 29, 2019

National Poetry Month 2019

Now head on over to Carol's Corner where all the Poetry Friday folks are gathered! 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Remembering Paul B. Janeczko

Teacher, poet, and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko has passed away. Such a loss; such a significant contribution to the world of literature for young people. I would like to take a moment to celebrate his significant and influential work. He is one of the first people to champion poetry in terms of it's appeal and value to young readers, as well as to provide guidance in the teaching and sharing of poetry with young people. He paved the way for all of us who think of poetry in terms of guiding young people to enjoy and embrace it. Including ME! I first encountered his work when I, myself, was a sixth grade teacher. (He started as a teacher too.) I found the choices he made and the formats he provided so helpful and appealing and my respect for him and his work has grown over the years. What a life well lived; what a huge contribution to all of us who love poetry and look for engaging and creative ways to introduce young readers to the genre we love so much. Here's just a sampling of the depth and breadth of his work. There are MANY others! 

I first encountered Paul's work in poetry collections that included comments or auto biographical bits from poets themselves along with the poems. Like these:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1983. Poetspeak: In Their Work, About Their Work: A Selection. New York: Atheneum.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 1990. The Place My Words are Looking for. New York: Bradbury.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2002. Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Then later, he focused on poetry teaching with engaging picture book collections illustrated by Chris Raschka:
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2001. A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems. Somerville, MA:   Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2005. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul. B. Ed. 2009. A Foot in the Mouth; Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Ill. by Melissa Sweet. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2015. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 

Plus he created books centered on poetry form:
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 1988. The Music of What Happens: Poems that Tell Stories. New York: Orchard.Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2000. Stone Bench in an Empty Park. New York: Orchard. (haiku)
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2001. Dirty Laundry Pile. Poems in Different Voices. New York: HarperCollins.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2007. Hey, You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things. New York: HarperCollins. (poems of address)

He created thematic collections too, of course:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1999. Very Best (Almost Friends): Poems of Friendship. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Janeczko, Paul B. Ed. 2004. Blushing: expressions of love in poems & letters. New York: Orchard Books. 

There are also several books of poetry by Janeczko himself:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1998. That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems. New York: Atheneum.
Janeczko, Paul B. 1993. Stardust Hotel. New York: Orchard.

And amazing, powerful novels in verse written by him alone:
Janeczko, Paul B. 2004. Worlds Afire. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Requiem; Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. Candlewick. 

Plus nonfiction books about poetry helpful to teachers and students alike:
Janeczko, Paul B. 1994. Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers. New York: Bradbury.
Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. Poetry Reading in the Middle Grades. Heinemann.

And he collaborated with other poets on dual-authored books, like: 
Lewis, J. Patrick and Janeczko, Paul B. 2006. Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku. New York: Little, Brown.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, and Paul Janeczko eds. 1996. I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: A Book of His and Her Poems Collected in Pairs. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Plus, he authored many works of "straight" nonfiction he created like Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Cyphers, and Secret Writing, among others. He has a lifetime of major contributions to poetry-- with two new books out this year. Look for The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and other How-To Poems which debuts next month! He will be awarded the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry in November-- a lovely recognition of his life's work. Personally, I owe Paul a major debt of gratitude for paving the way for anthologies of poetry that include a teaching component-- a focus of my own work with Janet Wong and our Poetry Friday anthologies. Goodbye, Paul, and thank you for the many, beautiful gifts you left us. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Cybils 2018: And the winner is...

The Cybils Awards (The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal.

The Cybils Award winners for books published in 2018 (and the last quarter of 2017) have been announced! But first, some background... 48 poetry books were nominated last fall and then 7 poetry books were selected for the shortlist in December by a committee of judges. The books they selected for the shortlist in the poetry category included: 

Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters (Carolrhoda Books)

H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg (Penny Candy)

In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs by David Elliott (Candlewick Press)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook Press)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)

Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Seagrass Press)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

Each of these books was obviously beautifully written and innovative in it's own way. I was lucky enough to serve as a Round 2 judge and we had a heckuva time comparing these "apples and oranges" with anthologies, poetry, picture books, and novels in verse among these finalists. But our charge was to close only ONE book. 

In the end, the winning book is... Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

Here's the blurb our committee wrote for this winning book:

LONG WAY DOWN is a tour de force work of poetry. The entire novel in verse takes place on an elevator ride as a young man whose brother has been shot and killed descends to avenge his murder. Along the way, he is visited by the ghosts of those he has lost, the elevator filling with smoke as each enters to question, chide, taunt, and harangue him. This masterful narrative structure and the claustrophobic setting in that metal box filled with smoke, ghosts, and words create a gripping tension and kinetic energy that make LONG WAY DOWN nearly impossible to put down. Jason Reynolds’s spare, lyrical language and gorgeous, mesmerizing imagery stay with you and compel re-reading and discussion. This novel in verse makes maximum use of the format, using the poem placement, the background art, and the free verse poems themselves all working in harmony. Reynolds varies his approach to the poems to keep the tension high, repeating references, using anthropomorphism, and incorporating anagrams that startle, like a pause for a breath. His use of poetic language is vivid and powerful including: “how do you hug what’s haunting you?”, “another piece of me, an extra vertebra, some more backbone”, “headlock that felt like a hug”, and “pushing the pistol under my pillow like a lost tooth.” The questions this book raises about the cycle of violence and the responses it evokes also make LONG WAY DOWN a natural for discussion with young readers themselves.

You can find more about ALL the winners in all the categories here.

As it happens, our Round 2 Poetry Committee Chair, Jone, is rounding up all the Poetry Friday posts and I just noticed her post is a lot like mine (oops, surprise, surprise), but that's OK. Poetry deserves all the promotion it can get, right? Go link up with all the wonderful Poetry Friday people at Jone's blog, Check it Out, right now!

Friday, January 25, 2019

500 Reasons to Explore Poetry Anthologies

 I wrote an article on the resurgence of poetry anthologies for ALA's BOOK LINKS magazine that is out this month, "500 Reasons to Explore Poetry Anthologies." As I worked on it late last year, I was stunned to see how many poets are included in the 10 anthologies that I featured-- over 500! And I was thrilled to see how diverse these collections are, too. You'll find the whole piece online here and some key nuggets below. Hooray for poetry anthologies! It's the best way to introduce young people to MANY poets and a wonderful way for NEW poets to get their work out into the world! 

500 Reasons to Explore Poetry Anthologies
By Sylvia Vardell

If you were to spend approximately $100 and order the ten poetry anthologies featured here, you would have access to 500 different poets who write for young people. 500! Who knew there were so many classic and contemporary poets to seek out and savor? The recent resurgence of the poetry anthology has provided a valuable resource for celebrating diversity in literature. In these ten current poetry collections, the editors have actively sought out many new poets to offer new perspectives on a variety of themes and topics. It’s also interesting to see the diverse forms that these anthologies can take: blending poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and providing cross-genre connections so important for teaching, maximizing the picture book format with illustrations that can inspire each poet or provide a unifying theme for the poetry, or eschewing art and illustrations to focus on poetry exclusively. Many of these outstanding new collections are the creations of new or small presses taking risks to reach poetry readers. And many new voices make their first appearance in a poetry collection or anthology. In sharing these poetry anthologies, we can provide opportunities to meet new writers, new poetic forms and styles, and new ways to approach themes and topics and perhaps inspire young readers to create their own collections of favorite poems. 

World Make Way
Master anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has a Guinness Book World Record for the number of poetry collections over the years—more than 100! One of his most recent books is a picture book collection of poetry inspired by 18 works of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The eighteen participating poets features a variety of established names including Marilyn Singer, Alma Flor Ada, Carole Boston Weatherford, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Cynthia Cotten, Julie Fogliano, Charles Ghigna, Joan Bransfield Graham, Irene Latham, J. Patrick Lewis, Elaine Magliaro, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ann Whitford Paul, Janet Wong, and Hopkins himself.  The art pieces are a diverse set of powerful paintings, engravings, scrolls, manuscript folios and woodblock prints from around the world. The beautiful layout of the book features each artwork and its companion poem in a large double-page spread in full color. It’s a mini-museum in 48 pages. Some of my favorites are:
  • “Ti-ki-ri, ti-ki-ri,ti-ki-ri, ti-ki-ri-, tas!”, a chant-like poem by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, accompanying “Skeletons as artisans” by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada
  • “Studio” by Marilyn Nelson, an inspiring poem that captures the backstory in Kerry James Marshall’s painting of his first encountering a black artist’s workshop 
  • “It’s All Magic” by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poem that asks, “What time is it? / Time to be kinder”, alongside a folio from an ancient Syrian manuscript depicting elephants in a fantastical device 
  • “Cat Watching a Spider” by Julie Fogliano, full of unexpected rhyme and alliteration, paired with a Japanese silk painting, “Cat Watching a Spider” by Ōide Tōkō

The Poetry of US
As the subtitle for this book indicates, you’ll find more than 200 poems in this gorgeous, glossy book of poetry that captures some of the cultural diversity of the people and places across our country. Some 143 poets contribute powerful poems organized in geographic categories from east to west across the US: New England, Mid-Atlantic, the Southeast, the Midwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountain West, the Pacific Coast, and U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). More than a hundred contemporary poets are the primary authors, but classic selections are also included by poets like Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, and Walt Whitman. There are even poems in Spanish, Arabic, and Korean with translations provided in English. And of course, the beautiful, dynamic full-color photographs from the archives of National Geographic Magazine complement the poetry beautifully and are fantastic for browsing, studying, and celebrating. Some of my favorite poems in this comprehensive anthology include: 

  • “Hmongtown” by Bryan Thao Worra, observations on culture through foods and family
  • “The Arabic Numbers in America” by Ibtisam Barakat, how numbers can reveal cultural roots
  • “Give-Away” by George Ella Lyon, books and homes and homelessness
  • “Ella” by Mariel Bede, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Sing a Song of Seasons
For an “old-school” 333-page massive anthology with a poem for every single day of the year, don’t miss Sing a Song of Seasons edited by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. It is packed with 366 nature-themed poems by 186 classic and contemporary poets from “A” (John Agard) to “Z” (Benjamin Zephaniah) who are primarily British, but also hail from the U.S., India, Africa, China, and elsewhere. It is organized by months of the year, January through December, with a poem numbered for each date each month. Vibrant full-color illustrations in mixed media provide continuity as scenes featuring different animals in rural and urban settings are matched with appropriate poems. Here are a handful of my favorite poems:
  • For January 11: “Winter Days” by Gareth Owen with its staccato two and three-word lines describing winter
  • For March 18: “Crows” by David MCord with multiple irresistible stanzas beginning “I like…”
  • For May 2: “How Without Arms” by JonArno Lawson personifying the sun as having arms, knees, and eyes
  • For September 28: “Poemology” by Anselm Hollo comparing “an apple a day” to “a poem a day” with humorous results

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson conceived of their book, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise our Voices as a “treasury” for troubling times to “offer young readers words of love, support, encouragement, and hope in today’s toxic and divisive political environment.” This unique anthology is half poetry and half stories, songs, and letters and all illustrated by a variety of talented artists using different styles and media. Some poems are provided by authors more known for fiction (like Sharon Draper) or for nonfiction (like Tonya Bolden) and others are by well-known poets (like Margarita Engle). Other featured poetry contributors include Kwame Alexander, Joseph Bruchac, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Kelly Starling Lyons, Carole Boston Weatherford, Marilyn Nelson, Arnold Adoff, Pat Cummings, Tameka Fryer Brown, Jabari Asim, Curtis Hudson, Zetta Elliot, Jason Reynolds, and Wade Hudson himself. This unique combination of prose, poetry, and art makes each genre stand out as you turn the page and encounter a new voice. Some of my favorite poems in this collection are:
  • “I Wonder” by Margarita Engle, a look at the seeds of the future
  • “A Day of Small Things” by Tonya Bolden, how small acts of kindness make a difference
  • “You Can Do It” by Jabari Asim, a rhythmic cheer of encouragement
  • “A Talkin’-To” by Jason Reynolds, honoring young fears with caution that turns to hope 
In this innovative anthology appropriate for adults and YA, poetry is paired with short stories all written by diverse, contemporary poets interacting with one another including Amanda Lovelace, Canisia Lubrin, Cyrus Parker, Iain S. Thomas, Liam Ryan, Nikita Gill, R.H. Swaney, Sara Bond, Trista Mateer, and Yena Sharma Purmasir.  Poets connect with each other, poetry connects with short fiction, and poets connect with readers. For this project, ten poets were invited to submit three poems each. These three poems were assigned to a fellow poet who would choose one of these poems to write a short story based on it and were encouraged to incorporate a line or two from the poem into their story. These ten confessional poets are active in sharing their poetry on social media and their Twitter and Instagram handles are even included in their bios at the back of the book. In this volume, each pair of poem plus short story is also accompanied by a black and white sketch created by one of the poets, adding a visual dimension to the works. My favorite pair of poem and story is:
  • “Things That Aren’t True” by Yena Sharma Purmasir
Connected to the story
  • “Driving with Strangers” by Iain S. Thomas
This powerful poem-story combination hinges on questions of identity and family and who we are when we have no family or our family members are gone. The next book, [Dis]Connected: Volume 2, will be published in the fall of 2019 and features a whole new crop of poets. 

Imperfect: Poems About Mistakes
This slim volume packs a lot of punch with 70 poems by 55 different poets including many new poets such as Linda Kulp Trout, Catherine Flynn, and Robert Schechter, alongside a handful by classic poets like Carl Sandburg, Kobayashi Issa, and Antonio Machado. There are even a handful of  poems written by young people themselves (in 6th and 7th grade). The focus on making mistakes of all kinds is the “perfect” focus for an anthology aimed at tweens and teens and the poets approach the topic from both serious and silly points of view.  Extra resources at the back of the book offer helpful advice for the young reader including  “Making Good Decisions: Brainstorming for Future You” with very practical tips, “Apologizing Effectively” with step-by-step guidance on making sincere apologies, and “Poem Forms You Can Try” with options for poetry writing including acrostic, diamante, double dactyl, and poems for two voices. A lively blog dedicated to the book (MistakesAnthology.Blogspot.com) continues to offer insights and quotes, along with links to each of the poets with more poems to enjoy. Some of my favorite poems in this engaging collection include:
  • “Apology” by Robert Schechter, with a multitude of synonyms for “mistake”
  • “A Note from the Architect” by Mary Lee Hahn, a spin on creating the leaning Tower of Pisa
  • “Sea Hunt” by Steven K. Smith, a narrative poem about discovering one’s passion
  • “Stolen” by Elizabeth Steinglass, a look at how shoplifting might make you feel
New Poets of Native Nations
New Poets of Native Nations is a new anthology of poetry for adults, but it’s such a seminal work introducing new voices, it is worth sharing with middle grade readers and young adults, too. Editor Heid E. Erdrich is Ojibwe and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. She has gathered the works of twenty-one poets first published in the twenty-first century—cutting-edge writers who do not identify as “Native American” only, but are a diverse and often multi-ethnic group including Alaskan Native and island nations. This includes Tacey M. Atsitty, Layli Long Soldier, Tommy Pico, Margaret Noodin, Laura Da’, Gwen Nell Westerman, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Natalie Diaz, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Dg nanouk okpik, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Sy Hoahwah, Craig Santos Perez, Gordon Henry, Jr., Brandy Nālani McDougall, M. L. Smoker, LeAnne Howe, Cedar Sigo, Karenne Wood, Eric Gansworth, and Janet McAdams. There is no unifying theme to the anthology; Erdrich notes, “We do and we do not write of treaties, battles, and drums. We do and we do not write about eagles, spirits, and canyons. Native poetry may be those things, but it is not only those things. It is also about grass and apologies, bones and joy, marching bands and genocide, skin and social work, and much more” (2018, p. xiv).  Some of my favorite poems for sharing with young people from this collection include:
  • “Obligations 2” by Layli Long Soldier, a diamante poem
  • “Passive Voice” by Laura Da’, a poem that references zombies
  • “Theory Doesn’t Live Here” by Gwen Nell Westerman, a family story poem
  • I Tinituhon) by Craig Santos Perez, a poem in columns of two letters each
Erdrich reminds us that the last anthology of Native poetry was published in 1988, so this collection is long overdue and very welcome. Young readers may be somewhat daunted by an anthology free of interior illustrations, but will surely respond to the powerful emotions, experiences, and expressiveness in this collection. 

It’s equally exciting to see this poetry anthology trend continue into 2019. Look for Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, a picture book collection edited by Miranda Paul. It features 32 diverse poets including Padma Venkatraman, Carole Lindstrom, Sylvia Liu, Carolyn Dee Flores, Sarvinder Naberhaus, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Traci Sorell, and many more. The editor reports that each poem is a different type of poem including the acrostic, ballad, décima mirror,

found poem, sijo, Tyburn, among others. Marlena Myles, a Native American artist (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscokee Creek) created illustrations that link the poems together and Paul reports that book sale proceeds will go to We Need Diverse Books. Another picture book collection is coming from noted anthologist Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones, The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. This time, the unifying theme of “how-to” offers advice on practical things like how to make pancakes or more fanciful tasks such as how to be a snowflake-- all in poem form by the likes of Kwame Alexander,
Pat Mora, Allan Wolf, and more. Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond offer an anthology for older readers entitled Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience featuring 64 poems by poets such as Elizabeth Acevedo, Tarfia Faizullah, Hala Alyan, GallMukomolova, Bao Phi, Ocean Vuong, and many more. Publisher Ruth Weiner reported that the editors wanted to “create a sense of the immigrant and refugee experience that would honor its complexity and variety.” They sought out poems that “represent the range of poets’ ethnicities and most deeply give voice to the experiences of young adult first and second generation immigrants and refugees” as well as an historical perspective provided by established poets such as Ellen Bass, Eavan Boland, Jeff Coomer, and Li-Young Lee. It looks like an exciting assemblage of poet voices with a very important and timely focus.

I’ve had my own experiences creating poetry anthologies in assembling informal collections for my students, friends, and family, as well as in collaborating with poet Janet Wong to publish poetry anthologies that include guidance for sharing and teaching each poem. It’s a daunting task to curate poems into an effective whole, but we always enjoy seeking out new poet voices to participate. It shouldn’t be surprising that poetry is a place where diversity is welcomed—and I hope those who choose and use books with young readers will look to poetry to help paint a richer portrait of who we are as an “anthology” of people.


  1. Erdrich, Heid E. (Ed.) 2018. New Poets of Native Nations. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press.
  2. Hopkins, Lee Bennett. (Ed.) 2018. World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Abrams. 
  3. Hudson, Wade and Hudson, Cheryl Willis. (Eds.) 2018. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. New York: Crown.
  4. Janeczko, Paul B. (Ed.) 2019. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. Ill. by Richard Jones. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.  
  5. Lewis, J. Patrick. (Ed.) 2018. The Poetry of Us: More Than 200 Poems about the People, Places and Passions of the United States. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.  
  6. Lovelace, Amanda; Gill, Nikita; Thomas, Iain S. et. al. 2018. Disconnected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise. Delta, BC Canada: Central Avenue Publishing. 
  7. Paul, Miranda. (Ed.) 2019. Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. Ill. by Marlena Myles. Brookfield, CT: Lerner/Millbrook. 
  8. Vecchione, Patrice and Raymond, Alyssa. (Eds.) 2019. Ink Knows No Borders. New York: Triangle Square/Seven Stories Press. 
  9. Waters, Fiona. (Ed.) 2018. Sing a Song of Seasons. Ill. by Frann Preston-Gannon. Somerville, MA: Candlewick/Nosy Crow. 
  10. Yeatts, Tabatha. (Ed.) 2018. Imperfect: Poems About Mistakes: An Anthology for Middle Schoolers. Rockville, MD: History House Publishers.
Now head on over to Tara's place at Going to Walden to get access to all the Poetry Friday posts this week.