|My fellow presenters and me (at my session)
|Our host, Murti Bunanta
IBBY ASIA OCEANIA CONGRESS
It was a wonderful event and I met many people doing fascinating work often with very limited resources. I heard several interesting speakers-- on storytelling types, on the value of the trickster story for truth-telling, on the depiction of girls in Indonesian comics, on the importance of karma in eastern folktales, on the Korean diaspora, and so much more. My own presentation was about poetry (of course):
The World in Verse: Multicultural Poetry for Young People
I began by highlighting some of the special benefits of poetry, in particular:
*Special succinctness of poetry in providing an introduction to other cultures
*Poets use the language, experiences, and images of their cultures
*Poets make powerful points about prejudice, identity, and cultural conflict
*Poems show children firsthand both the sameness and the differences across cultures
I shared a bibliography of poetry books and a paper which they had all already received, so I read actual POEMS to them-- and there was a spontaneous and positive reaction. (This was a conference with several storytellers and even a shadow puppet performance!) Since my time was short, I chose about a dozen poems to read aloud to convey the breadth of styles and topics represented in contemporary multicultural poetry. Here's a glimpse.
African American Poetry for Young People
African American writers have been creating poetry for many generations with new poets emerging all the time like Charles Waters and Jaime Adoff alongside the award-winning Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Nelson, and Eloise Greenfield, among others. Consider some of these outstanding examples of African American poetry.
I read aloud:
“I, Too” By Langston Hughes and “At the Library” by Nikki Grimes and “Things” by Eloise Greenfield (a BIG hit!)
Asian Pacific American Poetry for Young People
Asian and Asian American poetry for young people is not just haiku; there are many lovely, ancient and contemporary works to share with children by poets such as Janet Wong and Linda Sue Park. Here is a sampling of poetry for young people by Asian and Asian American poets.
I read aloud:
“Speak Up” by Janet Wong and “1975: Year of the Cat” by Thanhha Lai, the beginning poem from Inside Out & Back Again
Hispanic/Latino/Latina Poetry for Young People
There are more and more poets of Hispanic/Latino background writing poetry for children. Some are of Hispanic heritage and others collect poetry from Latin American countries. Here are a few of my favorites for sharing with young people by poets such as Pat Mora, Gary Soto, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Margarita Engle.
I read aloud:
“Ode to Family Photographs” by Gary Soto and “Potato” by Pat Mora and “Juan” (one poem from The Poet Slave of Cuba) by Margarita Engle
Voices from Native American or Indian tribes and traditions offer poetry in many forms. Here is a selection of these poetry books for young people.
I read aloud:
“I Rise, I Rise” from an Osage prayer before a young man’s first buffalo hunt, collected by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and "Who Am I?”(excerpt) by Dusty Black Elk from Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky
International Poetry for Young People
As we seek poetry for children from many cultural perspectives, we can expand beyond the cultures in the U.S. and include poetry from other countries by poets such as Graham Denton, Avis Harley, Monica Gunning, Carol-Ann Hoyte, JonArno Lawson, Holly Thompson (living in Japan) and Renee M. LaTulippe (living in Italy). Some of the following works are imported from across the oceans and others are anthologies of global poems collected by poets within the U.S. Sharing poems from these collections can put a face on a news story from far away lands.
I read aloud:
“The Bridge” by the Lebanese poet, Kaissar Afif, translated by Mansour Ajami from The Space Between Our Footsteps and “Sleep” by Michio Mado from The Animals
One note-- most of the people at this conference made no distinction between multicultural and international literature, since many of the books they share are imported from other countries and their own indigenous publishing may be limited (particularly in English). It's all just "literature" to them without the VOLUME of books we have in the U.S. and the distinctions that we make in authorship and culture.
I also made some practical connections, talking about "Poetry Friday" and the "Take 5" strategies that we introduced in The Poetry Friday Anthology.
Take 5: Strategies for Poetry Sharing
#1: Read the poem aloud (vary your approach in multiple readings).
#2: Read the poem aloud again with student participation and involvement.
#3: Take a moment to invite students to discuss the poem; have an open-ended question ready as a prompt.
#4: Make a subtle skill connection with the poem—just one.
#5: Connect with other poems and poetry books that are similar in some way.
I ended with two sample poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology, showing how "multicultural poets" can express both culturally specific as well as universally understood themes and subjects:
I shared “Grandfather’s Chopsticks” by Janet Wong as well as “The Do Kind” also by Janet Wong.
I concluded by emphasizing how contemporary poets of color produce poetry that:
*Is both individual and universal, about childhood and about culture
*Captures themes of identity, society, heritage, power, wisdom
*Uses a variety of elements from memoir, facts, repetition, slang, rhyme to free verse
The session was well received and I was so pleased at the enthusiastic response to HEARING poems (although why should I be surprised?)! I spoke with several people afterward-- people who want to go home and promote poetry alongside storytelling (which is a bigger emphasis), people who want to encourage indigenous poets in their home countries, and even a middle school teacher in Bali who wants to introduce poetry jams and slams! So fun to make these poetry connections!