Thursday, September 28, 2006

First Children's Poet Laureate announced

Last night, Wed., Sept. 27, Jack Prelutsky was announced as the first Children’s Poet Laureate during the Pegasus Awards ceremony established by the Poetry Foundation. A gathering of poetry-loving guests (including yours truly) was there to honor and celebrate this momentous landmark in the world of poetry for young people. The evening included a lovely cocktail reception, followed by an elegant dinner all held in the imposing Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago. Prelutsky was clearly moved to be honored in this way and talked briefly about his poetry writing and acknowledged the publishers, editors, booksellers, teachers, librarians, professors and others who had supported and promoted his work over the years. He even acknowledged the contribution of the various illustrators whose work has complemented his poems so perfectly over the years and grew especially emotional in his tribute to artist friends now gone: Arnold Lobel, Garth Williams, and Ted Rand. He then read five of his poems aloud tracing his unique career path along with humorous story asides for each, including:

“The Solitary Spatuloon” from his latest book, BEHOLD THE BOLD UMBRELLAPHANT

“You Can’t Make Me Eat That” from IT’S RAINING PIGS AND NOODLES

“Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face” from THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

“Don’t Ever Sieze a Weasel by the Tail” form his first solo work, THE GOPHER IN THE GARDEN (now out of print), but republished in ZOO DOINGS

He closed with an original Shakespearean sonnet that he penned for the occasion entitled, “Sonnet for September 27” (which should be posted on very soon).

It was lovely to see poetry for children take center stage this evening. Kudos to the Poetry Foundation for making children’s poetry a priority. The Children’s Poet Laureate receives a check for $25,000 and a lovely medallion featuring the cartoon Pegasus characterized by James Thurber encircled with the words “Children’s Poet Laureate” on one side and the opening line of an Emily Dickinson poem on the other side, “Permit a child to join.” The Children’s Poet Laureate will serve as a consultant to the Foundation for a two year period and will give at least two public readings during his/her tenure. I hope this will be the first of many steps in seeing poetry written for young people receive the recognition it richly deserves.

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