Thursday, July 16, 2020

IMAGINE by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Maureen (Moe) McKeon-Phillips and her talented team have created another beautiful film of a poem-- this time for the poem, "Imagine" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Rebecca is the author of many award-winning titles including poetry collections such as Lemonade Sun, In the Spin of Things, and Grumbles From The Forest: Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist (co-authored with Jane Yolen, as well as picture books such as What Can A Crane Pick Up? which received a *starred* review from Publishers Weekly, What is Science? (an AAAS Subaru SB&F prize finalist), and Bella and Bean (an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor), among many others. She gives poetry workshops, visits classrooms across the country, and speaks at conferences, retreats, libraries and schools to teachers, aspiring writers and students of all ages. Her work has been featured on Reading Rainbow and the PBS children’s show Between the Lions.

Savor this gorgeous, evocative interpretation of her poem here, then join the rest of the Poetry Friday crew over at Bookseedstudio.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Celebrating Kevin Henkes

I was so fortunate to chair the 2020 Children's Literature Legacy Award committee for ALSC and am so excited to see our recipient, Kevin Henkes, receive his award on Sunday. And at the exact same time, I am so disappointed that we can't gather in Chicago for the ALA convention and sit with that beautiful crowd of booklovers to hand Kevin his award in person and savor his acceptance speech. What a crazy time we find ourselves in! 

The convention is virtual this year and EVERYONE can join in hearing Kevin's speech for the first time on Sunday night (7pm Central) at the link here. (It will also be available for viewing there afterwards, as will all the acceptance speeches.) He will follow the Caldecott and Newbery Award acceptance speeches and I am so excited to hear them all! Big thanks to my lovely Legacy committee: Rob Bittner, Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, Louise Lareau, and Lucia Acosta. 

Meanwhile, I went a little crazy and created this "found" poem out of some of the book titles written and/or illustrated by Kevin Henkes just for fun. Enjoy!

Now head on over to Karen's Got a Blog for more Poetry Friday fun!

Friday, June 19, 2020

A poem for Juneteenth

I have been a longtime fan of poet Carole Boston Weatherford and her many works of poetry-- many historical, biographical, and fact-based, most in picture book form. I have learned so much from each of her books and always look forward to what she does next. This year? She has FOUR books out this year! That includes: 

  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom. Ill. by Michele Wood. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. By and By, Charles Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. 
  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Ill. by Frank Morrison. New York: Atheneum.

But I also want to take a moment to highlight one of her poems in honor of today's celebration of Juneteenth, the day that enlsaved people in Texas (my home state) learned of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This poem is from an older book, Remember the Bridge (Philomel Books, 2002) and captures a bit of history and a lot of conviction and never-ending hope! 

Carole has also published a book ABOUT Juneteenth, as well as many other books that uplift the Black experience and share Black history. She's won many awards for her work including a Sibert Honor, Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award, Coretta Scott Kind Awards and Honors, multiple NAACP Image Awards and SCBWI Golden Kite Honors, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honors, among many others. Here is just a sampling of her work.

For Black Music Month, Carole has been posting musical connections to her many music-themed poem picture books, too! Don't miss it! Now head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect where Trish is hosting our Poetry Friday celebration. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Nikki Grimes x 2

Irene Latham is corralling our Poetry Friday posts all celebrating the work of Nikki Grimes! Be sure to check out all the posts at Irene's blog, Live Your Poem. I'm a big fan of Nikki's (and Irene's, for that matter) from way back! I co-chaired the NCTE Poetry Award committee (with the late Peggy Oxley) that selected Nikki for the award in 2006 and was there when she received her Legacy Award from ALSC. I created the teacher guide for her book, Garvey's Choice, hosted her for a poetry festival here in Texas and the Poetry Round Up at TLA, and just featured her new book, Southwest Sunrise, on my blog a few weeks ago. And her work just continues to be terrific and diverse: picture books, novels in verse, anthologies, and an incredible memoir. Plus, the awards keep piling up too! 

Nikki has been kind enough to collaborate with Janet (Wong) and me on several of our poetry anthologies, so I thought I might feature two of her poems from those books here. 

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Black Poetry Matters

As we look for ways to raise the voices of our Black sisters and brothers, I turn to poetry, of course. And there is a rich, long history of poetry by African American poets (see the list below), with new poets emerging all the time. In 2020 alone, I know of 10 books of poetry by Black poets-- offering powerful history and painful struggle, as well as celebrating identity, family, and everyday joy. And this is just a beginning!


  1. Brantley-Newton, Vanessa. 2020. Just Like Me. New York: Knopf.
  2. Browne, Mahogany L. 2020. Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
  3. Elliott, Zetta. 2020. A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart. Ill. by Noa Denmon. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  4. Elliott, Zetta. 2020. Say Her Name. Ill. by Love is Wise. New York: Jump at the Sun.
  5. Grimes, Nikki. 2020. Southwest Sunrise. Ill. by Wendell Minor. New York: Bloomsbury
  6. James, Nancy Johnson. 2020. Brown. Ill. by Constance Moore. Cameron Kids.
  7. Johnson, Angela. 2020. A Girl Like Me. Ill. by Nina Crews. Brookfield, CT: Lerner/Millbrook.
  8. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom. Ill. by Michele Wood. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
  9. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. By and By, Charles Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Atheneum.
  10. Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2020. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Ill. by Frank Morrison. New York: Atheneum.

Now, let's see what others are thinking about this Poetry Friday hosted by Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. See you there!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

NCTE’s 2020 Notable Poetry List

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) strives to recognize and foster excellence in children’s poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. A committee gives the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children to honor a poet for his or her aggregate work every two years and also publishes a list of "notable" poetry books each year chosen "for their use of language and poetic devices and their appropriateness for children ages three to 13." Their most recent list includes 28 outstanding books of poetry and 11 novels in verse, including a biography in lyrical verse, hybrid works of poetry and informational text, and innovative collections. In some cases, these are newly published poems, while other titles include works of classic or contemporary children’s poets that are newly illustrated or edited into a fresh collection. The 2020 NCTE Poetry Committee members included: Trish Bandré, Donna Friend, Ted Kesler, Judy Rowe Michaels, Heidi Mordhorst, Lisa Pinkerton, and Yoo Kyung Sung.

NCTE’s 2020 Notable Poetry List

Complete annotations can be found in this article in School Library Journal. Meanwhile, here's the list in brief. 

Notable Poetry
AHMADI, Ahmadreza. When I Colored in the World. illus. by Ehsan Abollahi. tr. by Azita Rassi from Arabic. Tiny Owl. ISBN 9781910328491.

ALEXANDER, Kwame. How To Read a Book. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Harper Collins/Harper. ISBN 9780062307811.

ALEXANDER, Kwame. The Undefeated. illus. by Kadir Nelson. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9781328780966.

BRAMER, Shannon. Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children. illus. by Cindy Derby. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773060958.

BULION, Leslie. Superlative Birds. illus. by Robert Meganck. Peachtree. ISBN 9781561459513.

COOPER, Susan. The Shortest Day. illus. by Carson Ellis. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763686987.

FOGLIANO, Julie. If I Was the Sunshine. illus. by Loren Long. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781481472432.

FROST, Helen. Hello, I’m Here! illus. by Rick Lieder. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763698584.

HEARD, Georgia. Boom! Bellow! Bleat! Animal Poems for Two or More Voices. illus. by Aaron DeWitt. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781620915202.

HEGEDUS, Bethany. Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou. illus. by Tonya Engel. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781620145876.

HOBERMAN, Mary Ann. The Sun Shines Everywhere. illus. by Luciano Lozano. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316523844.

JANECZKO, Paul B., ed. The Proper Way To Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. illus. by Richard Jones. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763681685.

MAILLARD, Kevin Noble. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781626727465.

OWENS, Mary Beth. Hawksbill Promise: A Sea Turtle’s Journey.illus. by author. Tilbury House. ISBN 9780884484301.

My First Book of Haiku Poems: A Picture, a Poem and a Dream. tr. by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen. illus. by Tracy Gallup. Tuttle. ISBN 9784805315156.

RANSOME, James E. The Bell Rangillus. by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781442421134.

RASCHKA, Chris. Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: A Small Tall Tale. illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763675233.

ROSSETTI, Christina. Blooming Beneath the Sun. illus. by Ashley Bryan. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. ISBN 9781534440920.

SALAS, Laura Purdie. In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House. illus. by Angela Matteson. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781620916308.

SALAS, Laura Purdie. Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons. illus. by Mercè López. Lerner/Millbrook. ISBN 9781512498097.

SALAS, Laura Purdie. Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations.illus. by Micha Archer. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580897983.

SCHAUB, Michelle. Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections.illus. by Carmen Saldaña. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580898751.

SINGER, Marilyn. I’m the Big One Now: Poems About Growing Up. illus. by Jana Christy. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781629791692.

STEINGLASS, Elizabeth. Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer. illus. by Edson Ike. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781629792491.

TURK, Evan. You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. illus. by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534432826.

VECCHIONE, Patrice & Alyssa Raymond, eds. Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. Seven Stories. ISBN 9781609809072.

WOLF, Allan. The Day the Universe Exploded My Head. illus. by Anna Raff. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763680251.

WONG, Janet. A Suitcase of Seaweed & More. Pomelo. ISBN 9781937057336.

Notable Verse Novels
ARGUETA, Jorge. Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk. illus. by Manuel Monroy. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773063294.

BARON, Chris. All of Me. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250305992.

ELLIOTT, David. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. HMH. ISBN 9781328987594.

HEMPHILL, Stephanie. The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062490117.

HOLT, K.A. Redwood and Ponytail. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452172880.

LUCIDO, Aimee. Emmy in the Key of Code. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9780358040828.

MOSKOWITZ-SWEET, Gloria & Hope Anita Smith. It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz’s Story of Hope. illus. by Lea Lyon. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. ISBN 9781250165725.

NAGAI, Mariko. Under the Broken Sky. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. ISBN 9781250159212.

SALAZAR, Aida. The Moon Within. illus. by Joe Cepeda. Arthur A. Levine Bks. ISBN 9781338283372.

WARGA, Jasmine. Other Words for Home. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062747808.

WILSON, Kip. White Rose. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9781328594433.

Now head on over to A Year of Reading where the Grande Dame of Poetry Friday, Mary Lee is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Remembering Peggy Oxley

I learned that my colleague Peggy Oxley passed away recently and I wanted to take a moment to honor her memory. 

Peggy was a long-time classroom teacher and a lover of literature and poetry for young people. She and I served as co-chairs of the NCTE Poetry Award committee that chose Nikki Grimes as the recipient back in 2006. Peggy was such a wonderful collaborator--the kindest, gentlest soul. She taught second grade at St. Paul Catholic School in Westerville, Ohio for her entire 43-year teaching career, not retiring until age 86. Isn't that incredible? And she is everyone's dream of the perfect second grade teacher-- endlessly patient and positive. She brought authors, illustrators, and poets into her classroom long before that was a cool trend and helped parents and colleagues see the value in providing children with this special experience. 
Peggy also invested in ongoing professional development, founding The Literacy Connection (and serving as its longtime President), a well-regarded teacher support group and was an active presenter at conferences and author of scholarly publications like Reading and Writing, Where It All Begins: Helping your Children at Home (1991), receiving many awards throughout her career.  

Franki Sibberson, literacy leader and a fellow Ohioan like Peggy, wrote a lovely tribute at the blog she maintains with Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading.

Janet Wong served on the NCTE Poetry Award committee along with Peggy and me and was kind enough to write a new poem honoring our friend, Peggy. I think it perfectly captures Peggy's love for nature, children, and poetry. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Rita Dove, Barack Obama & Poetry Love

I recently ran across this video of a poetry reading with Rita Dove that President Obama held in the White House back in 2011. I had never seen it before and I thought it was so lovely-- especially hearing Barack Obama talk about what poetry meant to him and hearing Rita Dove (one of my favorites) reading two of her poems aloud. I particularly loved this comment from the former President:

Now head on over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for a wonderful Poetry Friday gathering! She throws an awesome party! 

Friday, May 08, 2020

The Greatest Hits of Lee Bennett Hopkins

One of the silver linings of the terrible coronavirus is the greater access we are getting to digital resources that are usually only available to subscribers. For example, BOOKLIST and BOOK LINKS are providing access to all current issues for anyone who wants it. And as it happens, I have an article in the April issue of BOOK LINKS. It features the poetry legacy of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins-- with tributes from 23 poets who each chose a favorite from his amazing repertoire of poetry anthologies. That includes: Susan Blackaby, Leslie Bulion, Isabel Campoy, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Margarita Engle, Charles Ghigna, Joan Bransfield Graham, Nikki Grimes, David L. Harrison, Georgia Heard, Irene Latham, Renée M. LaTulippe, Jone MacCulloch, Elaine Magliaro, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Naomi Shihab Nye, Heidi Bee Roemer, Laura Purdie Salas, Marilyn Singer, Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Janet Wong. And these are SOME of the poets who collaborated with Lee during his many years of creating poetry anthologies and only SOME of the 100+ anthologies he created.

There's a downloadable pdf of the whole article here.

Now head on over to Today's Little Ditty where the lovely Michelle is hosting our Poetry Friday get-together.

Friday, May 01, 2020

"Poetry Friday" by Janet Wong

National Poetry Month may be over, but every day is a good day for sharing poetry-- especially Poetry Friday! And when you have a poem ABOUT poetry Friday, it's a MUST. Here's one more mini movie created by one of my lovely graduate students Carly B. featuring the poem "Poetry Friday" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

"All Kinds of Kids" by Elizabeth Steinglass

Here's another in my mini movie series-- this one created by Ashley M. featuring the poem "All Kinds of Kids" by Elizabeth Steinglass from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"The Library" by Sara Holbrook

Here's another installment in my poetry mini movie series. This one is created by Kayla P. featuring the poem "The Library" by Sara Holbrook from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012). Enjoy! Don't forget that you can still use many resources from your local library ONLINE! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Stop! Let's Read" by Kristy Dempsey

Here's another installment in my poetry mini movie series. This one is created by Kristina W. featuring the poem "Stop! Let's Read" by Kristy Dempsey from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015). Enjoy! There's plenty of time to read right now and just what we need to ESCAPE! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

"Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini poem movie--this one is created by Elaine A. featuring the poem "Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Click on the link below.

"Let's Pledge Between Us" by Janet Wong

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer

Here's another mini movie created by my lovely graduate students in bringing poetry to life. This one is made by Felicia T. featuring the poem "Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

"Food Fest" by Heidi Bee Roemer

Saturday, April 25, 2020

"A Phone is Not a Friend" by Carole Boston Weatherford

Here's another mini movie in my series of poetry videos made by my amazing graduate students. This one is created by Mary R. featuring the poem "A Phone is Not a Friend" by Carole Boston Weatherford from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! Right now, our phones are a great way to CONNECT with our friends! 

Friday, April 24, 2020

"I Wish" by Toon Tellegen

I'd like to pause to feature a very interesting collection of poetry and art that came my way this spring: I Wish by Toon Tellegen, illustrated with portraits by Ingrid Godon, published by Elsewhere Editions. This is one of those rare birds: an international book of poetry translated from Dutch by David Colmer that is accessible and fascinating for readers here in the U.S. (and other English-speaking countries).

Elsewhere Editions, a publisher of international, translated picture books from around the world, notes: "An art object as much as a delightful picture book, with laid and vellum pages I Wish uncovers a gallery of portraits inspired by old-fashioned photographs – faces staring out at us with the serious, veiled expressions of a bygone time. Paintings of earnest children, solemn men and women, and persnickety babes speak through Toon Tellegen’s peculiarly affecting poetry. The poems present a glittering kaleidoscope of wishes, from imagined feats of heroism to reciprocated love."

Award-winning Dutch children's author Toon Tellegen offers 33 imaginative prose-poems opening with the statement "I wish" inspired by the luminous, old-fashioned portraits created by Ingrid Godon in this beautiful volume for thoughtful young readers. An exhibit of these portraits by Godon was set to appear at a gallery in New York this spring. "Like dozens of confessions poured from the page, the writing presents a glittering kaleidoscope of wishes, from imagined feats of heroism to reciprocated human love." 

About the author: Toon Tellegen is a Dutch writer and poet who published his first collection of stories for children in 1984 and has published more than twenty collections of poetry to date. In 2001, his book Raptors (Raafvogels), translated into English by Judith Wilkinson, won the British Poetry Society's Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. Tellegen was also awarded the Theo Thijssen Prize and the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire body of work. 

About the translator: David Colmer translates Dutch literature and is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. He received the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier, a PEN Translation Prize, and an International Dublin Literary Award. 

About the artist: Ingrid Godon is a Dutch children's book illustrator and artist. Her first illustrated book, Wachten op Matroos, was published in 2000 accompanying André Sollie's poetry. Her illustrations stand out for their poetic, sensitive depictions of people and places. When Ik Wou (I Wish) was launched in 2011, it was nominated for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis award. 

This book is such a fascinating combination of art and ekphrastic poetry with a weird, yet child-like sensibility. Here's one of my favorite poems from this collection. See what you think!

Kirkus noted: "This Dutch import pairs portraits with poetry to articulate wrenching individualism, yearning, humor, desires, and pathos... This probing psychological journey makes for an exciting exploration in empathy." 

Now head on over to Wondering and Wandering where Christie is hosting our Poetry Friday gathering. See you there!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Guest post: Anne Meeker Watson

I'm happy to share my blog space with another friend and colleague-- and near-relative! Anne Meeker Watson is a music therapist and early childhood expert who has created a full of music and play to help children learn and practice skills for social-emotional development, language, and literacy. So much of it is poetry-adjacent with its songs, picture books, music videos, and instructional strategies.

Anne writes:
I create songs that I make into  illustrated picture books. Each book has its own personality, as I utilize the art of six different illustrators. I want children to be able to interact with a variety of styles of art as they sing my songs. Each book targets an early learning skill. (Shhhh. Don’t tell the children we are trying to teach them something. We only want to think they are having fun.)

One of my favorites of my 20 books (and counting – I cannot help myself!) is called SURPRISE KID. The song and book were inspired by a friend of mine who taught music at an elementary school. She had to take early retirement because she was injured by a second grader in her classroom who escalated and hit her with a white board. She sustained a traumatic brain injury. The book is dedicated to her, and to every young child who needs to learn to calm their bodies and calm the way they feel. 

I figured having a super hero with the special power of self-calming would be a great idea. My illustrator insisted that we have three super heroes, so that every child could recognize themselves in one of these three precious characters.

When COVID “hit the fan” and early childhood professionals were charged with planning distance learning for their young children, I began to see the re-emergence of worksheets, white boards ("let’s write our numbers and letters while looking at our teacher on a computer”) and flashcards to accomplish this goal. This made me weep into my glass of Cabernet and bag of double stuffed Oreos. (I am dealing with my stress really appropriately over here.) I decided to start giving away anything and everything I had created to help. Phil and I donated 800 SURPRISE KID books in one day. Then I produced a little SING.PLAY.LOVE. “party” with a dance, song and read-aloud of the SURPRISE KID book. I also created a page on my website so parents could go download the songs. 
*The “Party” is here.
*The music video is here if you want a quick peek at SURPRISE KID.
*The accompanying resources for my “Party” can be found here.
*My blog with regular features is here.

I would love you to share my “party” and my songs/books/support with anyone who could use it. Music, poetry and cyber hugging help!

Sylvia: Thanks for sharing, Anne, and for all your work helping our youngest learn and grow and cope-- especially now. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

"Field Day Fun" by Elizabeth Steinglass

Here's another in my mini movie series created by graduate students working in the field. This one is by Jaylen R. featuring the poem "Field Day Fun" by Elizabeth Steinglass from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! Here's hoping we can gathering for outdoor "field days" again very soon! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"Summer Reading" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Elizabeth L. featuring the poem "Summer Reading" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Monday, April 20, 2020

"Time for Lunch" by Caroline Starr Rose

Here's another mini movie in my poetry video series. This one is created by Natalie S. featuring the poem "Time for Lunch" by Caroline Starr Rose" from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

"When You Arrived" by Liz Garton Scanlon

Here's another mini movie to celebrate poetry. This one is created by my graduate student Jessica S. featuring the poem "When You Arrived" by Liz Garton Scanlon from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

"Secret Worlds" by Margarita Engle

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Sarah M. featuring the poem "Secret Worlds" by Margarita Engle from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Guest post: Patrice Vecchione

Patrice Vecchione is an author, poet, artist and teacher. She edited one of my favorite poetry anthologies from last year: Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. Some of her other poetry anthologies include: Truth and LiesRevenge and Forgiveness, and Faith and Doubt and other works focused on teaching and writing include The Knot Untied, Writing and the Spiritual Life: Finding Your Voice by Looking Within, Territory of Wind. She has taught poetry and creative writing for many years with her writing program The Heart of the Word: Poetry and the Imagination. Here she writes about her newest book:

My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Poetry Writing Resource for Speaking In and Speaking Out. 
(New York: Seven Stories/Triangle Square, 2020)

I'm so happy to feature her "back story" on the writing of her new book here below. Welcome, Patrice! 

How My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice Came to Be

Before a single word of each of my three nonfiction books touched paper, I've first lived their content, but none more so than My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry & Speaking Your Truth

When I was a colicky newborn, my mother began reciting poems, telling stories and singing songs to me while rocking me to sleep. Not, of course, that I have a conscious memory of those first days. But I do remember being a little girl on a Manhattan park swing, listening to my mother as she pushed me from behind while reciting Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing.” Whenever I recite one of many poems she gave me, it’s my mother’s voice I hear in my head. “How do you like to go up in the air, up in the air so blue?” she’d nearly sing, and time after time, right when she got to the word “air,” she’d have taken me there, up into its blue expanse.

In elementary school, the first book I bought with my own money was A Quartet of Poems, a Puffin paperback that, though falling apart, is still in my library. During my difficult middle and high school years and young adulthood, when my mother no longer recited poems to me, still that magical, transformative artform was part and parcel of my days. No longer Stevenson nor Milne nor Eleanor Farjeon, but May Swenson, William Stafford, Theodore Roethke, Basho and Buson, then Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, and so it went from there. The more poems I read, the more there were to read!

During high school I began writing them myself. As I say in My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: “One morning during her first year of high school, wearing the brown felt hat with the beaded sunburst on the front (the hat she wore even to bed), her long hair falling down the length of her back, she walked out of class, giving no reason… Pulling out a small notebook and a chewed-up pencil from the back pocket of her jeans, the girl began to write. Unlike the dread and drudgery that came with classroom writing, this was nearly effortless. It was as if the poem were writing her.” 

Writing poems was the intimate, honest way I talked to myself; it’s how I discovered what I truly felt and thought without risking that my mother, father or a teacher would tell me I’d gotten it wrong. Writing them was how I was able to make a distinction between myself and my dis-functional family. And more. When I wrote a poem, I made something tangible from the intangible, and in doing so I made myself real, and sometimes what I made gave me a sense of beauty and pride.

Shortly after high school, I got it in my head that because of how much reading and writing poems served me, doing so might support others, and so I taught myself how to teach poetry by volunteering for a year at an elementary school. I’ve been writing and teaching in schools and leading writing workshops for children and adults for over 40 years. More than once, poetry has saved my life, and I’ve witnessed its powers of transformation in my students, so how could I ever do anything else?

I’m not sure, did My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice start to come into being when I was born or when I began writing poems or the day I walked into that first classroom with a passel of poems in hand and stood before a group of eager students?

Sylvia: Thanks so much for taking the time to give us a glimpse "behind the curtain," Patrice. This is a tremendous resource for us-- especially right now when we can all use a bit more guidance. Now head on over to Molly's blog, Nix the Comfort Zone, where she is collecting all our lovely Poetry Friday musings. Take care and stay healthy, everyone! 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"Scary Territory" by Janet Wong

Here's another mini movie-- this one is created by Jessica A. featuring the poem "Scary Territory" by Janet Wong from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud (Pomelo Books, 2018). Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Guest post: Marjorie Maddox

I'm hosting a guest today-- poet and teacher Marjorie Maddox. She has a new book that debuts today and is chock-full of great teaching strategies accompanied by example poems. Perfect for teens and young adults. Want to know more? Take it away, Marjorie...

Inside Out:
Why Writing Poetry Helps You Read Poetry
and Why Both Help You Experience the World
by Marjorie Hafer Maddox

Ready for some fun? Step into the world of poetry and you step into your life and the lives of others. Slide into the lives and experiences of others and you saunter into a wide-open world of observation and insight. And in this many-faceted universe of sparkling details, there are poems. 

And more poems. 

And even more waiting to be written and read, available to circle you back to your life, and the lives of others, and that sometimes hard, often beautiful, always thought-provoking real and imaginative abode we call home.

But first, step inside, take a look around, rearrange the furniture of words, pull up a stanza or two, and settle in. Lounge with alliteration. Chit-chat with personification. Shift around the puzzle pieces of a sestina.

Now, like any good host, invite in your friends, students, or children. This, I would argue, is the best way to experience and share the joys of writing and reading poetry—from inside the poem. To understand the home of a poet’s creation, step into that home. But don’t stop there. Take up your own tools—pen, pencil, or keyboard—and begin creating. Feel with your mind (and fingers!) the energy of breakthrough, the trial-and-error of revision, the exhilaration of playful work that is the house of writing.

Yes, playful! Quite simply, my years of playing with words are the foundation for Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises. I want to pass on that sense of play to others. Many young people grow up with a love of language, but others are fearful of or intimidated by writing. Inside Out is about getting to know the poem and its possibilities. Here’s the opening piece:

How to See a Poem 

Close your eyes. 
What swims behind your lids
lights imagination. 

Sometimes you’ll recognize flecks 
of what is or what was. 
Sometimes specks of speculation 

will filter in, or fine strands of Never-Never Land
will land in the inner world of mind.
Just keep not 

looking into what’s expected
until you’re free to see
with vision that’s beyond 

the ordinary.

Inside Out also is about trying on the perspectives of other people (or things): “a prince, a pauper, a piece of popcorn,/a philosophical panda, a paranoid piano…Cleopatra…the president of Mars” (“Dramatic Monologue). It is about knowing, through writing, the power and delight of puns, rhyme, onomatopoeia, line and stanza breaks, and simile and metaphor. And it is about discovering HOW to write a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle through a poem that IS a sonnet, triolet, clerihew, sestina, or villanelle.

How to Write a Villanelle 

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
and sings a song that you’ve already heard, 

returning to its favorite branch to perch. 
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray— 
to write a villanelle. Think how the bird 

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say
within its favorite song, the one you’ve heard 

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird 

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail, 
still singing songs that you’ve already heard. 

Next time you want to fly away on words, 
remember what we talked about this day. 
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

For me—as a poet, as a creative writing professor, and as a frequent visiting author at schools—the play of poetry occurs when I’m writing, yes, but also when—with primary, secondary, and university young poets, I’m sparing with puns, soaring on a sonnet, or romping through meter. Thus, Inside Out, also includes nine interactive writing exercises, tested over many years in classrooms and school visits. (Plus, there’s a helpful glossary of poetic terms.)

Geared toward MG and YA poets (and their teachers and parents), these activities encourage introspection and collaboration, allowing young authors the freedom to experiment with poetry’s “fun bag of tricks” while addressing a wide range of topics. After all, poetry’s great gifts to the world are observation and empathy, allowing us to express our own experiences, as well as to better understand the similar (or very different) experiences of others. 

All those details, all those lives, all those different ways—through poetry—to discover our world…. and have fun doing so—that’s how this book came to be. 

Please join me in this exciting adventure of writing and reading poetry—from the inside out!

My web site:

Sylvia: Thank you, Marjorie, for this enticing glimpse! What a gift for young writers and teachers, everywhere.