Friday, August 02, 2019

EXTRA! EXTRA! Chris Baron and ALL OF ME

It's time for another installment in my "Extra! Extra!" series, inviting poets to share a poem that did NOT end up in their published book-- and provide a bit of backstory about the choice not to include that particular poem. It makes sense that not everything a writer produces ends up in the finished book and yet I'm surprised when it comes to poetry and poem collections or novels in verse. It seems like each poem would be a gem that must be included. And now that I'm seeing poems that have been omitted from finished collections, I'm even more intrigued! It's kind of like watching the "director's cut" of a movie-- with all the richness and detail that can offer. So, here we go with another example of wonderful poems that give us a bit of "extra" enjoyment of an already strong work. 

Here, Chris Baron talks about his new book, ALL OF ME, a moving novel in verse: 

"Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother's paintings and sculptures. Ari's bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on "sales" trips. Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he's overweight, but he can't tell his parents―they're simply not around enough to listen.

After an upsetting incident, Ari's mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book―and the diet―can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents' marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life."

Chris writes:

This poem, "First Kiss," was the poem that actually started my MG career--that's a story I usually share at book talks or signings--This poem first appeared in a different collection of poetry, but it captures the innocence and curiosity of the main character, Ari, really well.  In this poem, he is remembering  a first experience he had back when he lived in New York before moving to the Bay Area. In the end, the poem wasn't really needed for the overall story-but it holds a special place in my heart. 

First Kiss

Fat kids don’t have girlfriends.
Friends yes, but not kissing,
not even in third grade.
So imagine my surprise
when once, in the backseat 
of our 77’ Caddy,
on the drive home
from the 3rd grade birthday party,
Tonya, her quiet eyes in mine,
put her braid on my shoulder,
and kissed me, twice. 
The first kiss struck my nose,
then squarely she found my lips. 
The next day at school,
I spent hours staring 
out the window, my shoulder 
bending in memory of the braid.
My fingers pushed against my mouth,
trying to remember the cold
suddenness of her lips and breath
that made me.

In All Of Me, I desperately wanted to capture the beauty of the Bay Area setting, so there were many "snapshot" poems like this that simply melted away into other poems: (much better).

The Mountain

across the street
from the nursery
is soft green
and jagged granite,
spotted with dark green
trees that wind
all the way to Muir Woods.
One day, I think,
I want to go up there
into that mountain.
I wonder if I can do it.

Ari wants to be a cryptozoologist! He identifies so much with the creatures that are somehow outcasts--outliers in a world that demands normal.  There were many extra bigfoot (and other cryptid) poems that didn't make it in.  This one speaks to the legendary Bigfoot myths surrounding Central Park.

Mrs. Goldberg tells us
that world is filled
with stories about Bigfoot,
some creature halfway between
a distant relative or something else.

in Central Park,
on my walk home,
I saw something 
in the wide-armed branches
of an old Beech tree.
A shadow pulled itself 
into a too-high branch,
some unreachable height.
I stopped where the grass
becomes the street
and turned back,
the shadow swung down,
its arms twisting,
the head slightly
tilted, looking at me 
through evening sky. 
I looked at the path,
the dark shapes of trees
like rough curtains
drawing around me.
Still, I wanted to see it up close. 
I felt the calm and the fear
of anything being possible.

They say the smell of Bigfoot
is like rotting flesh, 
like a dog dying,
a gym locker. 
They say that Bigfoot has a cry 
that can silence the forest,
cut darkness in half.
They say that Bigfoot 
is usually kind
but can sometimes be cruel.

I am always looking for Bigfoot.
The impossible creature,
lost in time, 
either so afraid and always hiding,
or maybe brilliant and powerful,
able to hide in plain sight
even though

it's so immense.

Here is a photo of Chris and his kids when he took them to the Bay Area where the book takes place. 
Thank you, Chris, for sharing so generously and for creating this compelling and likable protagonist and sharing his poignant story. Don't miss this honest, heartbreaking and uplifting middle grade novel in verse about body image, family struggles, finding friendship, and self-discovery.

Now head on over to My Juicy Little Universe where Heidi is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering


Linda Mitchell said...

Wow! What a great idea for a novel in verse....a perfect format to pack emotion. And, it's really got a ring of "kid" in it with those two poems. Thanks so much for introducing 'All of Me' and Chris. Both are new to me and I'm delighted to meet them.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Can't wait to read this one. That "First Kiss" really carries the power of a surprise new connection:
" the cold suddenness
of her lips and breath
that made me."

I look forward to finding out who that boy grew up to be! Thanks, Sylvia.

Kay said...

Thank you for introducing Chris and his book -- one I want to read. From first kiss to big foot, I loved hearing from Ari and want to read more.

Rosi said...

Beautiful work. I will be looking for this book. I particularly loved these lines:
I spent hours staring
out the window, my shoulder
bending in memory of the braid.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I'm always excited to introduce a new poet and a new book!