Friday, June 05, 2015

New Young People's Poet Laureate: Jacqueline Woodson

I'm so excited to announce that the next Young People's Poet Laureate has been selected. It's Jacqueline Woodson!

Jacqueline is the multi-award winning author of approximately 30 books for children and teens-- including the recent National Book Award winner, Brown Girl Dreaming, her memoir in verse-- which you know was one of my favorite books of the whole year! She also published Locomotion (2003) and Peace, Locomotion (2010) featuring a poetry writing character, Lonnie (nicknamed "Locomotion") with poems woven throughout the narrative. And of course her novels and picture books are built on beautiful, poetic language and memorable characters and true-to-life moments. 

Here's one of my favorite moments from Brown Girl Dreaming:

stevie and me (pp. 227-228)

Every Monday, my mother takes us
to the library around the corner. We are allowed
to take out seven books each. On those days,
no one complains
that all I want are picture books.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster
to read harder books
to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,
when I stop in front of the small paperback
with a brown boy on the cover.

I read:
One day my momma told me
“You know you’re gonna have
a little friend come stay with you.”
And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me
to read like my sister, I might have missed
the picture book filled with brown people, more
brown people than I’d ever seen
in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but
his mother kept calling him Stevie
my name is Robert by my momma don’t
call me Robertie.

If someone has taken
that book out of my hand
said, You’re too old for this
I’d never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story.

 From: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin, 2014)

Here's more about the award...
Formerly, the Children's Poet Laureate, now the Young People's Poet Laureate, this award was established by the Poetry Foundation in 2006 to raise awareness of the fact that children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them. The Young People's Poet Laureate receives a $25,000 cash prize and a medallion that includes the inscription “Permit a child to join,” taken from an Emily Dickinson poem. The Young People's Poet Laureate serves as a consultant to the Foundation for a two-year period and gives at least two major public readings for children and their families, teachers, and librarians during his/her term. He/She also serves as an advisor to the Poetry Foundation on children’s literature, and may engage in a variety of projects and events to help instill a love of poetry among the nation’s youngest readers.

2015 Jacqueline Woodson
2013 Kenn Nesbitt
2011 J. Patrick Lewis
2008 Mary Ann Hoberman
2006 Jack Prelutsky

The official announcement is here. And you'll find an interview with Jacqueline and Stacey Lynn Brown here. In this article, Jacqueline is brilliant, as always-- I loved this excerpt in particular: 

"I think one thing I want to do as young people’s poet laureate is make sure all people know that poetry is a party everyone is invited to. I think many people believe and want others to believe that poetry is for the precious, entitled, educated few. And that’s just not true. Our children’s first words are poems—poems we and our listeners are delighted to hear and eager to understand. Rap is poetry. Spoken word is poetry. Poetry lives in our everyday. I’ve read some of the most poetic tweets, listened to poetic voice messages and snippets of dialogue between teenagers. In terms of what distinguishes poetry from other genres—it wastes no time, and I love that. Poetry doesn’t meander—well, a lot of poetry doesn’t. It says, “Understand me now because what I need to say is urgent.” And this urgency, this sense of getting the moment on the page and then letting silence fill the white space, is one of the many things I love about poetry. I would love for everyone to listen to the poetry inside of them. I would love for everyone to believe that they have a poem to write, say, sing, rap, dance..."

I applaud this choice and look forward to what Jacqueline does next! Meanwhile, it's not too late to check out the Poetry Friday posts over at Buffy's Blog!


Buffy Silverman said...

Hooray for Jacqueline--so happy that she'll be inviting more kids to the poetry party! I love that poem from Brown Girl Dreaming too. Was there ever a stronger case made for letting kids choose their own books, and reading picture books to kids through out elementary school?

Linda said...

Jacqueline is a wonderful choice! I've been a fan of hers for many years and was fortunate to hear her speak at a conference. Her writing is filled with heart, and I'm so happy to see her receive this honor.

Jeannine Atkins said...

What a fabulous choice for laureate. And thank you for linking to and quoting those inspiring words!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you all for stopping by. It's a great day for poetry! So glad to have Jackie as our ambassador for a bit. I hope this means we'll see more poetry by her too!