Tuesday, April 10, 2012

5Q Poet Interview Series: Georgia Heard

Our 5Q Poet Interview series for National Poetry Month continues with this interview with Georgia Heard about her new anthology, The Arrow Finds Its Mark. Graduate student Kori Parkinson offers this interview (plus) with Georgia.

About Georgia Heard
In addition to writing children’s poetry and creating compilations of children’s poetry books, Georgia Heard authors many books on teaching writing. She visits schools around the world as an educational consultant and speaker, teaching writing and poetry, challenging both the young and old to find the poetry around them every day. Heard is a founding member of The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City, which is a research and staff development organization, housed at Teachers College, Columbia University. Visit her website at http://georgiaheard.com/

The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems
A found poem is a piece of already existing text or language that is refashioned or made into a poem. In this collection, the text might be a line from Twitter, a box of OxiClean, an airline magazine, or graffiti. Heard’s book includes thirty poets who transform text, found from some very unlikely places, into verse. Imagine seeing a friend’s Facebook status or reading a teacher’s note sent home to the parents of her students and finding poetry in these words. This lively and unexpected poetic form encourages readers to find the poetry in everyday words.

Kirkus Review (reviewed on January 15, 2012)
Found poems can be found right here in a small anthology of original poems. Found poems are exactly what their name implies: poems created out of words and phrases found in all sorts of places—on Facebook, in a thesaurus, in newspaper advertisements in magazines, on detergent boxes and signs in a hardware store. But, as the introduction cautions, “If you put a frame around any text and insert line breaks and stanzas—it won’t necessarily be a poem.” It takes vision to see the potential of poetry all around us, and then it takes magic to elevate and deepen the language. The first lines of Heard’s opening poem, “Find a Poem,” define the finding poet’s process: “come across / chance upon / stumble on / discover / turn up / bring to light.” Aimed at young readers, with an eye to helping them learn to write their own found poems, the collection will be a handy guide to an accessible form. Not so easy will be getting students to understand what makes these poetry, and a bit of elaboration in the introduction would have helped make the case. But certainly in the spirit of helping young people play with language, this will be a welcome addition to every teacher’s writing toolbox. Students may not be convinced these are real poems, but they’ll enjoy creating them anyway, whatever they are. (Poetry. 8-12)

Q and A with Georgia Heard
KP: I truly love the premise of this book, but how does one decide which combined random words or phrases are poetry rather than just words or thoughts on a page? Or can any group of words be considered poetry?

When poets look for found poems we look for language that works on the literal level but also on the figurative and/or sonic or sound level. For example, Michael Salinger’s poem “The Hardware Store” works on the sonic level -- he found words and phrases from a hardware store and presented them rhythmically -- while words from a box of OxiClean detergent claim it boosts cleaning power but Janet Wong’s title “Pep Talk” transforms those words into a metaphor for boosting a person’s confidence. As Coleridge said, “Poetry is the best words in their best order” even if the words are found on a street sign or a Facebook page.

KP: You teach writing and poetry around the world. Are there different views on what is considered poetry in various cultures?

Every culture and country has a tradition of poetry -- and although the languages are different all poetry shares similar qualities. It’s how poetry is embraced in these diverse cultures. In some cultures poetry is an integral part of the every day unlike in the United States where there are some wonderful ardent fans of poetry but poetry doesn’t necessarily have mass appeal.

KP: Will you tell me about the chosen title, THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK?

The title The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems comes from my poem “Find a Poem” which is the first poem in the book. I looked up the word “Find” in The Oxford Thesaurus and chose words that described a poet’s process of creating a poem. “The Arrow Finds Its Mark” is one of the sentence examples in the thesaurus for the word “find.” It seemed to me be a perfect metaphor for the creative process -- when poets are looking for found poems we scan the world for poems -- and when the words feel right it’s like we have an “aha” moment like when an “arrow finds its mark.”

KP: What was your process in developing this collection, including time, selection strategy, etc.? Were there already “found” poems from which to choose or were they written specifically for this book?

All the poems in The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems, except two, were specifically written for the book. I sent an email out to poets, describing the found poetry anthology project with several examples, and asked for contributions of found poems. I received almost one hundred poems, and I then selected the poems that I thought were the best examples that were diverse in both subject matter and form, keeping the audience in mind. The whole process including revisions took about a year.

KP: What do you find as the strangest/most unique place a poem used in this collection was found?

One the most unique places where a poem was found is Robyn Hood Black’s poem “Battling Beams” found in a Funopolis LASERTAG Results Report, folded up on a counter in the laundry room.

Poem Sneak Peak
I got my hands on an advanced copy of this jewel, and wanted to share one of poems.

by Laura Purdie Salas

Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus
Please don’t feed the bears
Don’t go pet a porcupine
Never tease a weasel
Never, ever shout in a zoo
Never smile at a monkey
Please don’t wake the animals
Never play snap with a shark
Don’t take your elephant to school


Suggestions for Sharing
The above poem is a book spine poem-- a poem that is made by stacking books and using the text from the titles on the spines. What a fun challenge for students! In addition to sharing this poem with students, show them pictures of other book spine poetry (or pull these books if you have them in your collection!). Depending on the age group, you might want them to work in teams or as individual to scour the stacks in your library and create a masterpiece all their own. Be sure to take pictures of the student creations to display and post to your library web page.

Book cover retrieved from Amazon.com
Heard, Georgia. 2012. The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems. Antoine Guilloppe, illus. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Kirkus Review. The Arrow Finds its Mark. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/georgia-heard/arrow-finds-its-mark/
Profile picture retrieved from http://www.heinemann.com/PD/speakers/products/410S.aspx

Image credit: penguinpr.co.uk;blogidrive.com

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2012. All rights reserved.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Loved learning about this title! I'm new to the concept of spine poems and think they're such a great way to get kids thinking about found poems.

Janet Wong said...

I was really impressed by the variety of poems (and original sources) in this book of found poetry; I'm so honored to be included. And Georgia, in addition to "just" compiling this book, was an excellent editor. Her suggestions made my pep talk 100% peppier!

Amy LV said...

I loved reading this book, discovering the many many places where the poets found their poems! Reading this book, even after having the privilege to write a poem for it, expanded my vision of found poetry. Great fun! Georgia is such a wise teacher-teacher; I will always be grateful to her for AWAKENING THE HEART and for the speeches I have heard her give. a.

Robyn Hood Black said...

To Sylvia and Kori - thank you for bringing us the amazing Georgia Heard in this wonderful series of interviews! I'm beyond honored to have my poetry included in this collection. This week I shared the book with older elementary students in a school visit, and they were eager (and creative!) in drafting their own found poetry. The teacher said several wrote more poems "for fun" at home that night.

Charles Waters said...

Georgia has dedicated her life to furthering children's poetry to people from all walks of life and we are richer for it. I'm honored to be in this anthology.