Friday, July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday is here today


Rally now to share your post.
I am here to be your host.
Did I say, “Come by and share?”
Are your poems ready there?

I’m happy to host our gathering today and invite you to leave a comment below with a link to your blog. I’ll wrangle the posts on and off throughout the day. Thanks for stopping by!

New, original poems
Charles Ghigna gets us started with his new poem, "The Worst Bad Word" on his Father Goose blog.

Elaine Magliaro is a triple threat with three postings: at Wild Rose Reader, she has her first ever Poetry Friday video, "Two Poems for Jack." At Political Verses, she has another Sarah Palin post--Sarah Palin: A Farewell Speech and Poem. (Her third is a poem by Paul Zimmer, see below.)

Bill as "FatherReader," holding down the fort for the beachgoing MotherReader, is also highlighting the poetry of Sarah Palin over at MotherReader (read by William Shatner on Conan!).

Andy is posting for The Write Sisters this week. She was inspired by William Shatner to explore the Beat poets.

Heidi Mordhorst shares her thoughts on new curriculum ideas with a poem called Backwards Day.

Stella has a short poem about Summer Days plus a quick review on her book finding this week at LearnLoveGrow.

Carmela Martino informs us that the lovely April Halprin Wayland has posted an original poem about writing a holiday story from the heart at Teaching Authors.

At Color Online check out a poem draft in response to the YA novel, Kendra by Coe Booth.

Melissa shares her first visual poem, "When," inspired by the theme of peace for this week's artwalk on Twitter.

Greg at Gottabook has an original Fib poem up today, "Boogie Boarding."

Tiel Aisha Ansari has an original sonnet celebrating the weather, "Green Skin."

Liz shares an original poem, "The Swim," in honor of her Uncle Joe at Liz in Ink.

Lorie Ann Grover went to the theater and shares her haiku response at Readertotz and at her blog, On Point.

Young poet Priya shares a new poem, "reassessment," at Book Crumbs.

Dianne White has a new poem, "Cameravision" on her blog today.

Favorite poems for the day
At Blue Rose Girls, Elaine Magliaro is sharing a poem by Paul Zimmer entitled "Dog Music."

Susan Taylor Brown (filling in for Laura Salas) brings us a round up of photo poetry today.

Tricia at Miss Rumphius is sharing a poem today by Julia Kasdorf entitled "What I Learned From My Mother."

Jama Rattigan invites us to celebrate National Pickle Month with Arlo Guthrie's "Motorcycle Song."

Diane Mayer sharing a poem today by Cornelius Eady, "The Empty Dance Shoes" at Random Noodling.

Kurious Kitty shares "Dedication on the Gift of a Book to a Child" by Hilaire Belloc.

At the Stone Arch Books blog, Senior Editor Beth Brezenoff posted a poem by Timothy Steele, "Herb Garden."

Karen Edmisten features the lovely "Hyla Brook" by Robert Frost today. And Little Willow has posted Robert Frost's "Not to Keep."

Kimberly has posted a zombie riff on Richard III at lectitans.

In a shout out to her friend, J. Patrick Lewis's Countdown to Summer, Julie Larios is showcasing one of his gems at The Drift Record.

Thoughts about poetry
Kelly Fineman has an essay on evoking mood in a poem through sound choices.

Jeannine wrote about Mother Poems by Hope Anita Smith.

Mary Lee reviewed J. Patrick Lewis' Countdown to Summer at A Year of Reading. As it happens, so did Linda at WriteTime.

Sally shares her thoughts about the novel-in-verse Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong at PaperTigers.

Betsy at Fuse #8 has reviewed (and likes) David L. Harrison's Vacation; We're Going to the Ocean.

Check out Jone's thoughts about the resource book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku by Jane Reichhold.

Posting and poem by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Vacation poems

I’m in San Francisco this week—near the ocean—a perfect moment to mention a new poetry book by David L. Harrison called Vacation; We’re Going to the Ocean, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2009). It’s a fun and engaging summer poem collection, with a strong boy sensibility, and a story framework that bounces from poem to poem, cartoon to cartoon. Its small trim size (5 x 7) adds to its packable portability. My only quibble—a small one—is that the two-column layout of a few of the poems suggests they can be read simultaneously by two voices, but instead it’s simply to maximize space on the page. It’s a tad confusing in a few instances, but not a deal-breaker.

This small “beach book” packs a walloping 45 poems from “Hi” to “Home at Last” detailing a family’s road trip to the beach and their brief stay there. Each poem adds another moment, all from the perspective of a young boy named Sam who collects a spider, scorpion, tarantula, and crab along the way. Kids will enjoy the poems about sitting in the car, potty breaks, spending the night with relatives, camping, cookouts, coping with siblings, art museum stops, hiking, hotel overnights, and of course beach time activities. Shepperson’s black and white cartoons on every page add a strong dose of storytelling and humor, giving each family member a distinctive personality. (Harrison and Shepperson collaborated previously on Bugs, another small-sized, visually and verbally inviting poem collection.)

Here’s just a sample, sure to be a familiar topic to anyone who has sat in a car with kids for more than 5 minutes!

Are We
There Yet?
by David L. Harrison

My foot’s

my seat
is sore.

You said
“another hour”

You say
“an hour”

are much


from Harrison, David L. 2009. Vacation; We’re Going to the Ocean. Illustrated by Rob Shepperson. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, p. 14.

If you can’t get to the ocean yourself this summer, here’s a virtual vacation, complete with rambunctious kids and sand in your _________. Enjoy!

This week, the Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Year of Reading. See you there!

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poetry Blast Report (and Blogaversary)

For those of you who were not able to attend the ALA conference or the fantastic ALSC Poetry Blast held last night at the Chicago Hilton, here is a very brief recap of the amazing, diverse line up of poets hosted by Barbara Genco and (poet) Marilyn Singer.

A very brave (no need to be nervous!) Laura Purdie Salas opened up the evening by sharing some of the poems (and backstories) from her newest collection, Stampede; Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School (which I so enjoyed and reviewed on April 26). She followed up with selections from her next work, Bookspeak, poems about books (woo hoo! I LOVE that topic!) and had the audience enthralled with her compelling acrostic poem “Diary.”'

Next the ever-charming David Harrison (who was honored—and teased—for being the only poet with a school named after him) read poems from 5 different collections, including his latest, Pirates (which I reviewed last fall, Sept. 19), Somebody Catch My Homework (he shared “Monday,” a poem that I’ve been reading/singing since 1993 when that book first appeared—it’s hilarious!), Sounds of Rain (about an Amazon river trip), Connecting the Dots (which he called “memory-based poems”), and Bugs (clever, quippy insect poems).

The effervescent Carmen T. Bernier-Grand followed with a reading of selections from her new poem-biography of Diego Rivera. This is in the same vein as her previous wonderful César; ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We can! and Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life! all published by Marshall Cavendish. The poems pull no punches with the lives of each of her subjects and here Diego emerges warts and all as a figure who tried to “take from life all it gives you,” but sometimes fell short.

Joyce Carol Thomas then read some of the poems from her most recent Coretta Scott King honor book, The Blacker the Berry, sharing the illustrations by Floyd Cooper along the way. Her use of berry colors (blackberry, raspberry, cranberry) provided simple, palpable metaphors for treating issues of skin color and race. She shared that the book was dedicated to one of seven granddaughters, the girl with the darkest skin who was often teased by the others—but no more since this book!

Susan Marie Swanson was up next reading To Be Like the Sun, her sunflower poem picture book, then a few selections from Getting Used to the Dark (her first poetry anthology), and three poems from a work in progress in the voice of a girl named Robin (her ode to T-shirts was perfect!). She closed with a reading of The House in the Night, just honored with a Caldecott medal for the illustrations by Beth Krommes, and the audience was completely captivated to hear the words alone read by the poet who wrote them. So soothing and contemplative.

Next up was Jon Scieszka, always a hoot, especially when skewering his own poetic stature. He read from his brand new collection of Trucktown Nursery Rhymes which parody traditional Mother Goose verses infusing trucks of all kinds as the subjects acting “like four year olds.” He was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t read as mellifluously as Ashley Bryan had in his Wilder Award speech the night before and was egged on to give it a try. The “Jack Be Nimble” spoof was a hysterical train wreck!

Bobbi Katz held her own in following his crazy lead and read her “July” poem from Once Around the Sun to get us rolling, followed by her own hilarious, witty, slightly gruesome selections from her new book, The Monsterologist, which she called a “memoir in rhyme” and claimed to have “ghost-written.” The poem, “The Verbivore,” in particular, is priceless! I picked up a copy of this book in the exhibits and the LOOK of the book is absolutely gorgeous—well-matched to the creative, clever poetry.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich was up next and read her own summer-y poems from Lemonade Sun, followed by a selection from her collaboration with J. Patrick Lewis, Castles, admitting her own fascination with beheadings and grim history! What range! Her readings from Over in the Pink House nearly had us jumping to the rhythms of these jaunty jumprope rhymes. She closed with the beautiful ending passage of her new picture book, Bella and Bean, about poetry writing and friendship, with the face of the moon like a clock turned to “forever.”

The dynamic Hope Anita Smith (who came to my Texas Poetry Round Up in April) next performed three poems from her second book, Keeping the Night Watch, capturing the angst and anger of a teenage boy whose absent father has now returned. She ended with selections from her newest book, Mother: Poems, and her powerful delivery underscored the emotions and experiences she has captured in a loving and heart-wrenching mother-daughter relationship.

The inimitable Joyce Sidman provided a transition with two poignant paired “apology” poems from This is Just to Say. Next, she read a selection from her latest work, Red Sings From Treetops, a 21st century Hailstones and Halibut Bones. I was also excited to hear a poem from her next book, Ubiquitous, Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, another collection rooted in the natural world. Here, she focuses on the opposite of endangered species, on the hardiest forms of life beginning with bacteria and ending with humans—the most difficult poem she has ever written, she says.

The Blast ended with co-host Marilyn Singer sharing lively poems from her collection, First Food Fight this Fall, about the school year from the voices of children, as well as her new rhyming poem picture book, based on two inter-twining poems, I’m Your Bus. In Barbara Genco’s introduction of Marilyn, she mentioned her view that “poetry is the fountain of youth,” comparing the openness of young children to the qualities needed for writing poetry—expressed much more beautifully than I can manage here!

It was a wonderful evening, as always, with the time flying by as the audience sat absorbed in the words, sounds, and rhythms of each of these unique poets. It was also fun to see several other poets joining the audience including Arnold Adoff and April Halprin Wayland, and Peggy Archer and Jude Mandell. I can't wait to see who's there next year. Mark your calendars now for Monday evening at the ALA convention in D.C. in 2010.

As it happens, today is also the THIRD anniversary of my blog and I wanted to pause to thank YOU, readers, for tuning in. I set out to carve out a space where people could get help in “finding and sharing poetry with children” and I have learned so much along the way. Since starting off on this journey, I’ve done lots of additional writing myself (Poetry People, the Everyday Poetry column for Book Links) and had so many opportunities to connect with poets (and added Poet Links to the blog) and then to read, review, and celebrate their work. (Thank you, poets, for connecting with me. That’s the best perk ever!)

In these few years, Poetry Friday has become a fixture in the blog world and the Cybils award has taken root (and always includes poetry—yay!). What a treat to bond with other bloggers who appreciate poetry, too, especially during our Poetry Month extravaganzas. The Web 2.0 world keeps evolving and blogs may become passé before you know it, but in the mean time, I will keep my radar tuned to poetry, scanning the book world for news, notes, and anything poetry-related, with the goal of helping you help kids (and kid readers help themselves!) keep poetry alive in all our lives.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.
Image credit:;

Thursday, July 09, 2009

ALA, Book Links & Poetry

I’m off to Chicago for the annual conference of the American Library Association. My daughter (a budding librarian herself) is joining me and I am excited to share the conference experience with her. Plus, the fabulous Poetry Blast is Monday night and I will be there with bells on. Look for a future post about that event featuring Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, David Harrison, Bobbi Katz, Laura Purdie Salas, Jon Scieszka, Joyce Sidman, Marilyn Singer, Hope Anita Smith, Susan Marie Swanson, and Joyce Carol Thomas. Won’t that be a treat?! (Are you a Blast fan on Facebook?)

In the mean time, I would also like to plug Book Links magazine and it’s final “stand alone” issue which is chockablock full of poetry goodies. (Beginning in October, Book Links will be bundled with Booklist, another ALA publication.) This July issue of Book Links includes:

A Poetry Book of their Own by Denise B. Geier (on making handmade poetry books)
Talking with Carole Boston Weatherford by KaaVonia Hinton
Talking with Ashley Bryan by Dean Schneider
Biographies of Poets by Barbara A. Ward and Terrell A. Young
Connecting Picture Books and Poems by Susan Stern
and of course Everyday Poetry: The Art of Poetry by Yours Truly

Isn’t that an amazing line up?

Here’s an excerpt from my column including a wonderful pantomime-worthy original poem by Douglas Florian that appears alongside it.

Everyday Poetry: The Art of Poetry
We know th
at poets create pictures with words, but some even use pictures to prompt the words or they create the art that accompanies their own poetry. Art and poetry go hand in hand and it can be fun to explore poetry books based on art, poetry books illustrated by the poets themselves, and poem picture books that feature single poems reinterpreted through art.

Ekprhastic Poetry

Poems written in response to art are called “ekphrastic” poetry, the unifying thread in Jan Greenberg’s anthology,
Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art and its recent companion, Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World. Greenberg includes a helpful introduction and map locating poem sources, poems in multiple languages, biographies of poets and translators, and poetry from more than 30 different countries. Other anthologies that pair fine art and poetry are also cited along with follow up activities.

Poet Artists

There are many poets who also produce the illustrations for their own poetry collections. They are known for their art, as well as their writing…. Douglas Florian creates distinctive paintings+collages that are instantly recognizable (
Dinothesaurus, Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars; Handsprings).

For more examples of paintings and poetry, check out the work of Calef Brown who employs wordplay alongside inventive acrylic and gouache (
Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, Flamingos on the Roof, Soup For Breakfast), or Kurt Cyrus who creates nature poems and watercolor paintings (Oddhopper Opera, Hotel Deep), or Adam Rex who produces outrageous cartoon monsters and poem parodies (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich; Frankenstein Takes a Cake)…. and the iconic photography of Charles R. Smith, Jr., (My People, If) or the cut-paper collages of Hope Anita Smith (Mother) or the textured quilts of Anna Grossnickle Hines (Winter Lights, Pieces) and Sue Van Wassenove (The Seldom-Ever-Shady Everglades).

Poem Picture Books

Many picture books have rhythmic and even rhyming text, but a true “poem picture book” features a single poem as the book’s complete text, a poem that can stand on its own without the illustrations. This gives us the opportunity to see the poem through new perspectives and can serve as a model for homemade picture books that kids can create for their favorite poems. It can also be helpful for older students who may be familiar with a classic poem, but h
aven’t found it moving or meaningful until they see it as a visually rich experience. Specific examples and activities are also provided.

er Sports
By Douglas Florian

Puddle hopping.

Watching waves.

Belly flopping.

Finding caves.

Chipmunk chasing.

Climbing trees.

Relay racing
Skinning knees.

Picking daisies.

Swimming laps.
Feeling lazy.

Taking naps.

Sand handstanding.

Washing cars.

Counting stars.

[Thank you again, Douglas! Be sure and stop by his Floriancafe.]

This week's Poetry Friday celebration is hosted by Jama Rattigan at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. Go there now!

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

Image credit:; ala

Friday, July 03, 2009

More Poetry News from Europe

I was honored to be a visiting scholar (last week) at the Internationale Jugend Bibliothek (IJB, also known as the IYL, International Youth Library) housed in Blutenburg castle, an amazing site for a children's library containing over half a million children's books from all around the world. While there, I conducted a small research project and participated in the “In Short” presentations of poets from around the world during the two-day Symposium at the end of the week. In my short-term research project, I was looking for examples of English-language poetry from other countries (besides the U.S.) to see what might be available and what kinds of trends in poetry publishing I might discover. I found the following titles particularly intriguing:

Brownjohn, Sandy. In and Out the Shadows. (Britain)
McAlpine, Rachel. Another 100 New Zealand Poems for Children.
Mitchell, Adrian. A Poem a Day Helps you Stop Work and Play (Britain)
Pender, Lydia. Australian Stories and Poems for Children.
Pinnock, Patricia Schonstein. Saturday in Africa; Living History Through Poetry (South Africa)
Pinnock, Patricia Schonstein. Sing, Africa! Songs and Poems for Young Children (South Africa)
Reid, Christopher. All Sorts; The Max Fatcher Reader (Australian)
Tadjo, Veronique. Talking Drums; African Poetry
(I have ordered my own copies of several of these books and will write further about them soon.)

I was surprised to discover so much poetry from Africa at the IJB and found several examples that were rich in cultural details. I had expected to find poetry from Australia and New Zealand and was pleased to find several distinctive collections. One unexpected discovery was Mitchell’s collection of poems for every day of the year which I discovered in the special exhibition of poetry and illustration. I have been developing a similar collection of calendar-based poetry in the U.S., so this was a very helpful resource to learn about. Overall, I found my brief exposure to the English-language holdings of children’s poetry to be very fruitful and I discovered fresh, accessible, culturally-specific contemporary poetry with great appeal to young readers.

The following secondary source was also excellent:
Hull, Robert. What Hope for Children’s Poetry? Books for Keeps. Jan., 2001, N. 126, pp. 10-13.
I had missed this article since I don’t have regular access to the British journal, Books for Keeps, but found it still very timely—and sharp in its criticism and call for more meaty poetry for children. He writes, “Is ‘poetry for children’ morphing into ‘crazy verse for kids’? Certainly the image of the poet hovering over some books seems to wear the manic rictus of the children’s tv presenter, hyper-performancing for the child as intellectually stationary dolt.” OUCH! I enjoy some “crazy verse,” but he makes a valid point, don’t you think?

He also quotes Chukovsky, reminding us that poetry “‘must have the skill, the virtuosity, the technical soundness of poetry for adults’”, and also “’bring the child within reach of our adult perceptions and thoughts.’” Excellent point! Finally, he also bemoans the “teaching” of poetry—the pressure to teach it a certain way, to find time for it at all, to know enough about poetry to teach it well, and to allow children to simply “inhabit” poetry, rather than be forced to manipulate poetic forms in some mechanistic way. Another good point!

Then, during the Symposium, I was eager to see what observations and trends in poetry publishing might be shared. Here are some of the highlights and quotes I gleaned:
*Peter Nickl (government official): Poetry as “linguistic aesthetics”
*Christiane Raabe (Director of the Library): “A child becomes first a poet and then a human being” (quoting a German scholar)
*Jutta Richter (German writer and poet): “Poems are the fastest way to put the soul in order”
*Andrew Fusek Peters (British writer and poet): “Poetry is a broad church for what is and isn’t poetry”
*Panel: Poetry is “the most intimate part of literature”
“Although a poem is short, you need to spend a lot of time with it.”
*Ted van Lieshout (Dutch poet and artist): “A book can be an object of art, not just a carrier of text”
“A poem can unsettle you—it’s not just to put the ‘soul in order’—it’s both.”
He likes “putting it into perspective”—taking sad stories and making them better and taking a great story and adding a bit of sadness. It makes a text more beautiful.
*Gerda Anger-Schmidt (Austrian writer and poet): Austrians are big into puns and playfulness
*Lionel Le Neouanic (French artist and poet): He produces books for childhood, not children; “Anything that is playful is poetry as well” (He performed French rap!)

Wonderful week! Wonderful experience. I learned so much in such a short time and I hope I was able to contribute a bit with information about American and Canadian children’s poetry, too.

Of course I must share a sample poem for Poetry Friday. Here’s one from a British collection —perfect for summer time. It’s from In and Out the Shadows by Sandy Brownjohn, a small collection with terrific graphic black and white illustrations reminiscent of Aboriginal art. [Note that a “stoat” is like a weasel.]

Roll Play
by Sandy Brownjohn

Two stoats chasing down a country lane
Threading over and under each other;

ut fur in a twisted skein,
Flashes of white as they ble
nd together,
Black-tip tails woven into the grain,
Twined in one continuous slither—

A moment of summer that will remain.

from: Brownjohn, Sandy. 2000. In and Out the Shadows. Oxford University Press, p. 26

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday posters at Tabatha A. Yeatts. See you here and there!

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

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