Thursday, September 19, 2019


It's time for another installment of my "EXTRA! EXTRA!" series. I love this "extra" glimpse into books of poetry that I've enjoyed. It's like the "Director's Cut" of a movie with "behind-the-scenes" nuggets that just extend the experience even further. 'Cause I always want MORE of any book I like! 

This time, it's Elizabeth (Liz) Steinglass who is giving us this glimpse. Her Soccerverse is a big hit this year and I hope you've checked it out. It's so timely with the USA women's soccer team emerging as world champions and with children everywhere playing more and more soccer. Plus, even if you're not a big fan of soccer, her poems really capture the authentic feelings of childhood. The backstory she shares with us below is really insightful. Check it out!

Liz writes:

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2019) includes 22 poems about all things soccer—the ball, the field, the goal, uniforms, red cards, positions, fans, coaches, etc. Still, there were a few poems in the draft I first sent editor Rebecca Davis that didn’t make it into the final version. Here’s one:   

Is like the second someone hands you
An ice cream cone
And you’re just about to take
Your first

Is like dropping your ice cream
In the dirt
And all you can do
Is watch it

I still like this poem, and Rebecca did too, but in her feedback she said she wanted the collection to focus less on winning and losing and more on the emotional complexity of playing and being on a team. So while this poem came out, new poems about teammates, the coach, and opponents went in. One of my favorite quotes about Soccerversewas from a friend who said, “This is a book about social-emotional learning disguised as a book about soccer.” She had no idea how good that made me feel. I’m not sure about the word disguised, but yes! This is a book about soccer and about feelings.

Thank you, Liz. I feel like I'm in on a secret! And I love that your "sports poetry" is not only about sports after all! 

Now, gather around for the Poetry Friday happenings at Teacher Dance where Linda is hosting us all. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019


It's time for another installment of my "Extra! Extra!" feature. This time poet Cynthia Grady is sharing a poem that did NOT appear in her book, I Lay My Stitches Down, and the back story behind it. 

Cynthia Grady

I LAY MY STITCHES DOWN: POEMS OF AMERICAN SLAVERY was published in 2012 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. It was my first published book. A patchwork quilt is used as an extended metaphor for the entire collection. Each poem is named for a traditional quilt block pattern and each is spoken in the voice of an enslaved individual —except the first and last. Those two poems are spoken by modern day people to bind the work together.

One of my very favorite quilt blocks is called Ocean Waves. When done well, it’s gorgeous, and I wanted to include a poem with that title in a big way. Here is one worked by one of my first quilt instructors, Gai Perry, an extraordinary quilt artist.

When I was in the MA program in children’s literature at Simmons, I heard Tom Feelings speak about his brilliant book, The Middle Passage-- the horrendous leg of the triangular sea journey taken by slave traders from West Africa to the West Indies. I was so taken with Mr. Feelings’ artistry, compassion, and his vision, that I began reading everything I could on the subject.

Ten years later, when writing the poems that make up STITCHES, I wrote drafts of a poem called “Ocean Waves.” I wrote about the Middle Passage. I researched and wrote some more, and couldn’t come up with a satisfying poem.

So then, I thought maybe I could write a poem about the Quaker-owned whaling ships off Nantucket. They took in runaways, and after the whale hunt, let those people go free in the North. A satisfactory poem didn’t come.

Finally, I thought I could write about enslaved and free blacks working side-by-side on the docks in Louisiana or South Carolina, imagining what that might have been like. I did more research. Here is a draft, that I nixed before even submitting the work.

Ocean Waves
I work ports now, hefting crates. ‘Twas the sea
I loved -- prow piercing the waves, swift as a
needle through silk. Slaves, free blacks, Greeks, Dutch,
Portuguese. Working, sweating, whistling as
one. Until I saw a slave ship. Human
cargo with stench of bile rising on shrieks
from below. Darker than the belly of
Jonah’s whale. Born here, I’d never before
seen my countrymen arrive to these shores.
Such rudderless hope. Mad bondage. My kin.

While I was happy with the collection as it was, I was terribly frustrated and sad that I couldn’t include my favorite quilt block.  But a funny thing—I have never been able to sew a satisfying Ocean Waves quilt block either! Too many triangles!

Thanks for sharing so openly, Cynthia!

Now, head on over to Laura Purdie Salas's blog for more Poetry Friday links. 

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Poetry Friday Party is Here!

Janet (Wong) and I are excited to host Poetry Friday today! As kids and teachers and librarians head back to school, we wish everyone a wonderful year full of learning and laughter and poetry! To get us rolling, here's one of my favorites from our anthology, GREAT Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). This one's by a newcomer who is already making a BIG name for herself, Traci Sorell. 

I'm excited that I'll finally get to meet Traci at the upcoming IBBY regional conference and I hope you'll join me there! (IBBY = International Board on Books for Young People and USBBY is the US section of this global group.) It's one of my favorite professional development events of the year (or every other year since it's biennial)! It's a small event with an intimate feel-- almost like a literature "retreat." And each of the speakers (authors, illustrators, poets) mix and mingle with the conference-goers. Most stay for the whole conference and become part of the audience too. It's lovely! And best of all, this is a group that looks at literature with a global focus, so meaningful in helping us think beyond our own borders. I hope you'll consider joining us! Here's the link for more info.

Best of all, there are heaps of poets who will be at the conference! Look at this list (below)!  So, make plans to come to Austin, Texas in October and you won't regret it! 

Now please use the handy InLinkz button below to add your Poetry Friday link and Janet and I'll be visiting your blogs all weekend long! Happy Poetry Friday, one and all!

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