Friday, April 30, 2010

Walter Dean Myers - Walking

Walter Dean Myers

How come my feet know how to meet
The sidewalk as I walk?
          “Because of your brain, my love.”
How come my lips don’t ever slip
As I begin to talk?
          “Your lovely brain, my pet”
How come my knees fly through the breeze
As I race along?
          “Did I mention your B-R-A-I-N?”
How come my ears know what to hear
When I listen to a song?
          “They’re connected to your brain!”
How come my eyes can judge the size
Of everything they see?
          “Your brain, dummy!”
How come my wrists know how to twist
A knob or turn a key?
          “BRAIN! BRAIN! BRAIN! Use it!”
And how come my belly button just sits there in the middle of my stomach without doing one little bit of work, gets these little lint things in it, and feels funny if I touch it?

          “Err…beats me.”

© Walter Dean Myers. All rights reserved.

Walter Dean Myers has won five (FIVE!!!) Coretta Scott King Awards, had a pair of Newbery Honor books, won the very first Michael L. Printz award, and won YALSA's Margaret A. Edwards Award, an award which recognizes an author's body of work, back in 1994... and just look at what he's done since! He writes fiction, non-fiction, novels, picture books and poetry. And as if he doesn't do enough for children's literature by himself, he's a character in and one of his poems is central to Sharon Creech's Love That Dog, which I mention here in part because 1) it is why in my head he is often "Mr. Walter Dean Myers" and 2) I can link you to the fabulous video of him, Sharon Creech, Sarah Weeks, and Avi performing Love That Dog.

For me, Walking is a wonderful way to close out this month of poetry here at GottaBook. It's fun, adds up to more than you expect, shows those skills great poets have of capturing a voice and putting a fresh spin on a situation, and, well, it makes me laugh. Plus, I love the seeing the brain get its due... though I do wish the poem offered an answer to the final question because it's always flummoxed me, too! Ah well. Even though he didn't give us the answer, I am totally thrilled to have Walter Dean Myers here to bring the 2010 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days to a close.

It's Poetry Friday (a year round tradition!), so why not head on over to Great Kid Books for the roundup of poetry related posts?

Yesterday brought us Reflecting by Liz Garton Scanlon. Tomorrow... a final wrap up.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Liz Garton Scanlon - Reflecting

Liz Garton Scanlon

I’m your moody friend with a changing face
looking out from deep in space.

I’m peppermint candy, cold but sweet,
and lantern light on a sleepy street.

I’m not afraid of howling dogs,
I cut through morning’s thickest fogs.

I brighten baby’s lullaby
with a twinkle in my eye.

I conduct the ocean tides
and set the stage for midnight rides.

A calendar for keeping time –
sharp as a sword, round as a dime.

I tempt the astronauts each night
while I rob Sun of extra light.

Golden as an apple pie,
but twice as big and twice as high.

Waxing now but soon I’ll wane,
then always come around again.

Friend to possums, hungry bats,
spotlight for the prowling cats,

I share my shine, for what it’s worth,
with everyone upon the earth.

I’m your companion in the sky
but do you know me? Who am I?

© 2010 Liz Garton Scanlon. All rights reserved.

Liz Garton Scanlon teaches, writes poetry and picture books, and blogs (including a haiku a day this April to celebrate National Poetry Month) among other things. Her book All the World - for which illustrator Marla Frazee received a Caldecott Honor - came out last year and has ended up on, by my count, a skadillion end of the year/best book/award lists... and counting. And, if you've read it or heard it read aloud, you know why - it's a wonderful poem on its own yet it also serves as an incredible picture book text (a different beast entirely!). And it's wonderfully illustrated to boot. Yes, you should buy it. Of course! Give it to someone you love.

I noticed, as All the World was getting acclaim, that everywhere I looked - Twitter, the blogosphere, Facebook, email lists, etc. - people were really, genuinely happy for Liz. I mean, like really happy in a way that is more than just "good for you!" And I realized that felt it too... even though I was just a blog reader and one time co-Cybils judge who barely knew Liz. My theory is that it's because if you read her blog or All the World or her poetry, you're confronted with a love of life, family, nature, and constant dollops of hope. It's infectious in the best way, says my theory, and you root for more of it. Whatever it may be, I also love her writing - her observations (look at how many ways she could describe the moon!), her use of language, her sense of humor. All that is why I can state as a fact, not a theory, that I'm thrilled to have Liz Garton Scanlon here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we saw Listen/Escucha by Francisco X. Alarcón. Tomorrow... Walking by Walter Dean Myers! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Francisco X. Alarcón - Listen/Escucha

Francisco X. Alarcón


“listen, mijito
we are never
really alone”

my grandma
to my ear

like a flapping
in the dark

“the wind
the stars
the sea

never stop
speaking to
each of us”

“escucha, mijito
nunca estamos
solos en realidad”

me susurra
mi abuelita
como colibrí

junto a mi oído
en la oscuridad

“el viento
las estrellas
el mar

a cada uno
no nos dejan
de hablar”

© 2010 Francisco X. Alarcón. All rights reserved.

Francisco X. Alarcón is an award winning poet, a college professor, and someone who can write his poetry in either English or Spanish (or both), for either children or adults (or both), and about whimsical topics or pressing issues of the day (or both and everything in between!).  Please check out the Poetry Makers profile at the Miss Rumphius Effect for more insights into his writing process and poetry. I'll wait here, because I have a story to tell. You're back? Great!

When I first started gathering books for the school library I've helped build, I got a large donation from a couple that was closing a school they'd been running. One of the books I got was Bellybutton of the Moon (illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez), and it became a favorite of mine on reading number one. On reading three, I happened to notice that it was signed to the couple's son, so I got in touch to see if this was really something they'd intended to give me or if their son might, in fact, want it back. Of course he wanted it! I mean, I wanted it already, so I was not surprised. I mailed it back then went on my own quest to get a copy for the library... where it was one of the very first books I shelved. So for that reason, as well as the fact that I'm just plain old a fan, I must say I'm absolutely thrilled to have Francisco X. Alarcón here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we saw Sounds Delightful by Graham Denton. Tomorrow... Reflecting by Liz Garton Scanlon! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Graham Denton - Sounds Delightful

Sounds Delightful
Graham Denton

Sounds of scary night-time creatures:
howling wolves and screeching bats,
wailing witches, cackling demons,
giggling goblins, keening cats;
ghostly sounds to make one shiver:
haunting screams and ghastly groans;
rattling chains and shrieks of horror—
noises that will chill the bones;
creaking floorboards, footsteps creeping,
voices from beyond the grave...
when they’re having trouble sleeping
that’s what infant monsters crave!

©2010 Graham Denton. All rights reserved.

Graham Denton writes poetry (which often makes me laugh), anthologizes poetry (in collections that often make me laugh), and has even sent me email that makes me laugh. Then again, he sent an email that made things difficult for me, too - for 30 Poets/30 Days, he sent me around 20 poems and asked me to pick! My process went something like this: read first one and say "Aha! This one!" then read the next and say "No, wait - this one!" then read the next one and change my mind again and so on and so on and so on.

It is not true that I made my final choice by playing a game of chance. Instead, I chose Sounds Delightful because I love the point of view and absolutely had a blast reading it aloud. Try it yourself and see. Fun, yes? Now try it with kids present and listen to them laugh at the turn around in the last sentence and, depending on their age, see them giggle or squirm before then. Good times, indeed, and a poetic skill which is just one of the reasons I'm thrilled to have Graham Denton here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Jacqueline Woodson gave us One of the Many Stories. Tomorrow, Listen/Escucha by Francisco X. Alarcón! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jacqueline Woodson - One of the Many Stories

One of the Many Stories
Jacqueline Woodson

When the puppy in the road was
mine, life didn't stop
for the driver. That evening perhaps
he read his son one of many stories
grownups write for children
about dogs. Perhaps
this one found its way
Home. The End. Then kissed his child
center crown as always, the meat
his wife was roasting, nearly done
by the time the vet pronounced
Bella dead at four months, one half
hour before my daughter, at six, discovered
a new way tomorrow could get here
tears to whimpering then finally sleep
a plastic bone beneath her pillow from this moment on,
safe still from towers burning, a car moving fast
against traffic as the children inside squeal
themselves to death. A pan of oil too close
to an open flame     She Is, I think
safe still from other stories.

Night and the driver
couldn't see a black puppy bolting
Didn't know
that deep in her German Shepherd blood
was a desire for the only story she knew
Let's call it "Home"

so when the door was cracked
she saw the promise of black night
caught scent of her recent journey
thought she knew the way
back to us
One half mile away from where I stood
packing, now pondering black linen shorts
now folding a Mama For Obama t-shirt into my bag
now smiling over our daughter's first
pink bikini as our dogsitters searched and found
our number. Already, our trip
to the Caribbean was becoming another story
of another almost-thing, puppy-blood warm
freezing fast for us into
On the corner of Pacific and Bond that February

©2010 Jacqueline Woodson. All rights reserved.

Jacqueline Woodson has received three (three!) Newbery Honors, the Coretta Scott King Award, been nominated for the National Book Award and been an NBA finalist, ended up on numerous book of the year lists and, most importantly of all, writes picture books and novels that resonate with children (and adults) who read them. No surprise, really - she writes honestly and powerfully about issues and emotions small and large (as her poem here today is testament). There's no manipulation in her work, simply connection.

I love her novel-in-poems Locomotion, but it was with Show Way (illustrated by Hudson Talbott) that I had my own personal "Woodson-epiphany" or something like that. That wonderfully poetic book is autobiographical, about the maternal line in her family. Yet it's so pitch perfect that this white male dad could read it aloud in front of a group of kids and feel completely natural giving voice to the story. It guided me along and kept me totally connected (via family traditions? parent-child issues? loss? All of the above?) despite the differences. To quote the text but turning it about the book itself: "I loved that baby up." Indeed I did (and do). In case it's not clear, I'm a fan... and I'm totally thrilled to have Jacqueline Woodson here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we saw George Ella Lyon's Trying To Get Out of My Tree. Tomorrow... Sounds Delightful by Graham Denton. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

George Ella Lyon - Trying To Get Out Of My Tree

George Ella Lyon
(according to the Celtic Tree Calendar
my birthday makes me a Willow)

How about a willow
         that doesn’t weep
that spikes her green tresses
         and carries on sturdy
like some punk oak

or gets that groovy bark
         like a hackberry

O willow
what if I don’t want to be
or witched
what if I want to be

royal like the oak
strong enough to be a ship

or abloom with love
like the apple

or sacred like the pine?

Am I stuck here
by the water
enchanted against my own

©2010 George Ella Lyon. All rights reserved.

George Ella Lyon writes everything from picture books to plays to novels to poetry (for children and adults) plus she teaches, sings, and loves caramel icing. Does there need to be more? But there is - her books have won bunches of awards and been "best book" listed numerous times, and she's managed to write about everything from creating poems to lullabies to trucks and more. Plus... today's her birthday!

I love the layers and textures of Trying to Get Out of My Tree, the perfect mixing human nature and mother nature. Besides appreciating the poem on its own, it also inspired me to try and write a "tree poem" and to experiment with other perspectives, too. In other words... it showed me a new way to view a part of the world, something I find much of my favorite poetry does. So, happy birthday to George Ella Lyon... a poet I'm thrilled to have here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, brought us Ars Poetica by Georgia Heard. Tomorrow... One of the Many Stories by Jacqueline Woodson! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Georgia Heard - Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica
Georgia Heard

In September, small poems lay
still and silent inside your hearts.
If you listened carefully,
you might have heard
the quivering of wings.

In January, from the corner
of your eye, you could have spied
a flutter or two –
poems slowly unfolding,
delicate silken wings.

In April, poems began to appear everywhere!
Rainbow wings beating, flapping,
hovering over desks, hanging
from the ceiling, tips of noses, tops of heads.
It was difficult to get any work done!

Now, your butterfly poems
fly free. You fold the memory
into your hearts. Poems --
small butterflies raised, watched,
let loose into the world.

©2010 Georgia Heard. All rights reserved.

Georgia Heard is a poet, a teacher, and an incredible advocate for including the writing and reading of poetry in the classroom. For that work alone - and you can learn more about both her poetry and her work with educators in her Poetry Makers profile at The Miss Rumphius Effect - we should all give three cheers. (I'll pause here while you cheer. Thanks!).We should also cheer for the collections she's put together, including This Place I Know - an amazing work made in response to 9/11 but which works for anyone, not just kids, seeking comfort.

Finally, we should cheer for her poetry itself. Did I mention yet that I'm a sucker for poems about poetry? I should amend that, really: I like the poems of that ilk that fill me with joy, make me tingle, give me a new way to view something I love. Ars Poetica does all that - it makes poetry take wing - and makes me very happy, indeed. And you know what? I'll give one extra cheer, just as I did when Georgia Heard said yes to being here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday brought us I Speak by Charles R. Smith, Jr. Tomorrow... Trying to Get Out of My Tree by George Ella Lyon! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Charles R. Smith, Jr. - I Speak

I Speak
Charles R. Smith, Jr.

for those who are meek,
for those who cover ears
to silence sirens and shrieks
shouted from mothers
with mascara-stained cheeks
sobbing over souls
slain in the streets
leaving generation gaps,
I speak.

I speak
for those living in silence,
quieted by criminals
with a history of violence,
for those whose lives
were changed by the demise
of loved ones lost
right before their own eyes,
for them,
I speak.

for young eyes that see
bruises branded by daddy’s
fists on mommy,
battering her body
scarring her soul
turning her children’s
warm hearts cold
forcing their faces
to hide and seek
shelter from rage
for them
I speak.

I speak
for the illiterate and weak,
those who slip through the cracks
and fall on the streets
and scratch for salvation
without food, shelter or heat,
for those who are lost,
for them,
I speak.

These words that I say,
these words that I speak
give voice to the silent,
scared and weak.

These words that I speak,
these words that I say
challenge everyone
to listen

©2009 Charles R. Smith, Jr. All rights reserved.

Charles R. Smith, Jr. is a poet, novelist, photographer and winner of the 2010 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for My People (where his photos and Langston Hughes' poetry combine to utterly fantastic effect). I first ran into his work when I was looking for sports poetry for a few kids I thought would really connect with, well, sports poetry. His books, forgive me for saying this but it's an accurate description, were a home run.

Also a big hit for me, I Speak is a poem that demands to be read aloud. In fact, I want to do a little experiment. I want to shoo you all out to Charles' website where you can listen to him reading a number of his poems. Then come back and read I Speak again, and, if you're like me, I bet you can hear him reading it aloud in your head. I know I could. And then read it aloud yourself. Feels good, doesn't it? And if there's anyone around you, I bet they listen to the words you speak. Good stuff, indeed, and just one reason I'm thrilled to have Charles R. Smith, Jr. here at GottaBook as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

It's Poetry Friday once again (seems to happen every week!), and the roundup of posts is over at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!

Yesterday, Heidi Mordhorst gave us an Earth Day (and every day) poem, Smaller Than I Thought. Tomorrow, Ars Poetica by Georgia Heard! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Poem by Me, and....

This will mark the first April since I started blogging that I won't have at least one of my own poems here on GottaBook. Heck, for three years, I had an original a day in April (all now linked over on the right hand side o' the blog, by the way), so it's a big change.

Luckily for me, Jama Rattigan was having a potluck over at her alphabet soup blog, and I've got an original poem called Foods That Scare over there as part of the fun. I hope you'll go on by and check it out (and the recipe for my grandmother's chicken paprikash, too!).

Jama's blog has been a blast all month, as have so many others in the Kidlitosphere. It's a lot to keep up with, though Elaine Magliaro has been putting up weekly roundups to some (though certainly not all) of the fun.

I hope you've been having as much poetry fun this month as I have! More soon, but now I gotta book....

Heidi Mordhorst - Smaller Than I Thought

Smaller Than I Thought
       for Mrs. Alexander’s Class
Heidi Mordhorst

Here at the Earth Day Party in the park
they’re cutting the Earth Day Cake:
rich chocolate to stand for the soil,
swirls of green and blue frosting
to represent land and water.
The white icing at the Poles
is melting under the
unseasonably hot April sun.

It’s smaller than I thought.
The pieces are small, too.

There’s no point in asking for seconds;
in fact, there isn’t enough to go around.
Some of us will have to share
one slice of Earth Day Cake between us.
I don’t know the kid who comes
to sit beside me on the lawn.
“Let’s take tiny nibbles to make it
last longer,” he suggests. I nod,

and we gingerly dig our two forks
into one small slice of the blue Pacific.

© Heidi Mordhorst. all rights reserved

Heidi Mordhorst is a poet and teacher and a teacher of poetry. And who wouldn't to read the work of or be taught by someone who tweaks, tests, and twists a poem around until the words in it "sound good to your ears and feel good in your mouth"? Head over to the Poetry Makers profile of Heidi over at the Miss Rumphius Effect to see that quote in fuller context and to learn much more about Heidi and her poetry and process.

I'm a big fan of Pumpkin Butterfly (illustrated by Jenny Reynish), in part because I love the way she picks up on small details and uses imagery that often made me view an item or topic in a new way. I love her take on Earth Day here for those same reasons: I get a fresh view of the world. And really, what better day than Earth Day for a breath of fresh air? Whether she's writing about nature or anything else, I look forward to more poems soon. And for now, I'm just thrilled to have Heidi Mordhorst here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer gave us Cousins of Clouds. Tomorrow... I Speak by Charles R. Smith, Jr.! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

Long, long ago,
before man tamed words on the page
and when elephants
were great kings of the sky,
ruling the storms,
inking out the sun,
stampeding across the stars,
there was a great counselor and prophet
who traveled to the most remote mountain villages
to share all he knew.
As word spread of the master’s visit,
many gathered under the arms
of an ancient elm,
and even a great flock of
elephants swooped in with
the first ribbons of dawn
to perch in the branches and listen.
But a quarrel erupted
among the elephants
over who had the best view,
causing the limbs of the tree
to fracture and fall,
crushing all but the prophet himself.
the prophet invoked a dreadful curse,
shriveling the elephants’ prized wings
into pitiful ears,
chaining the elephant
to gravity and man’s will
for all eternity.
To this very day
you can see the poor elephants
flapping their ears,
dreaming of flight,
but now only
cousins of clouds.

© Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. All rights reserved.
From the upcoming collection Cousins of Clouds
illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
Clarion, February 2011

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is a poet, novelist, teacher, and reading specialist for whom, I read, chocolate is a major food group. I think we must be related! And since today is her birthday, let me lead the chorus of song for my new-found relative... and wish her a happy birthday full of chocolate cake!

I love the way Tracie's poetry creates such rich imagery and how she finds small but perfect details to tell a bigger story than seems possible in the amount of words she uses. The poems in her collection Steady Hands, where I first "met" her, are great examples of different ways to approach the same broad subject - jobs - as well as having those pitch perfect details... and I must admit that I now can't wait until Cousins of Clouds is out and about. Until then, though, I'm simply so excited to have Tracie Vaughn Zimmer here on 30 Poets/30 Days. (And happy birthday!)

Yesterday Brod Bagert gave life to Personification. Tomorrow... Smaller Than I Thought by Heidi Mordhorst! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brod Bagert - Personification

How to Make a Poem that Flies
                Brod Bagert

If you want to put some life in a poem,
a little extra heart,
you might find that personification
is a pretty good place to start.

Make things act like they’re alive!
It’s a poetry delight.
Watch how I use it now to say—
“It was a stormy night.”

     The clouds began to growl!
     The wind began to cry!
     The moon got scared and disappeared,
     she didn’t say goodbye.

So in your poems, or in your prose,
or in your conversation
look for little clever ways
to insert a personification.

It’ll get to be a habit,
one of those everyday things,
one of the ways a poet learns
to give a poem its wings.

Then if your poem can find someone
to read its words out loud,
those wings will fill with air and soar
above the highest cloud.

© 2010 Brod Bagert. All rights reserved.

Brod Bagert writes poetry that begs to be performed - whether by him or by teachers or by kids or by anyone who's lucky enough to get their hands on them. This is no accident, by the way, as he began writing poetry again in earnest (and started to put his legal career to bed) when he wrote a poem for his daughter to read aloud in school. You can hear more about how he writes for performance and see him perform a few of his pieces in this video interview - it's well worth a peek.

As I mentioned last week, I'm a sucker for poems about poetry, and I have a soft spot for poems that define English language concepts, too, so Personification was a slam dunk for me. I particularly love how personification is not only defined by example but also demonstrated after the definition. And yes... I plan to perform this poem soon and have a blast, particularly since the poet did the hard work and already brought it to life. I look forward to a chance to hear Brod Bagert in person, but until then I'm thrilled to have him here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday David L. Harrison had us all Lookit! Tomorrow...  Cousins of Clouds by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David L. Harrison - Lookit!

David L. Harrison

Lookit me!
My toes grew roots!
I’m a tree!

You say, “Whoa!”
and I say, “I know!”

Lookit my limbs.
They’re big and huge and strong!

You go, “How did your limbs
get to be so big and huge and strong?”
and I go, “I don’t know, they just did.”

And lookit my branches!
They’re all full of storks and parrots
and ostriches building nests!

You say, “Wow! How did you get so many birds?”
and I go, “Because I’m so big and huge and strong,”
and you say, “Oh yeah, I forgot.”

My bark is the toughest bark in the whole world
so no one can chop me down.

Act like you’re a tree chopper with this huge ax –
the biggest ax in the whole world –
and you try and try
but you can’t even make a little chip in my bark
and you go,
“I can’t even make a little chip in your bark,”
and I say, “I know.”

Pretend you see a hippopotamus
making a nest on my tallest branch
and you say, “Wait a minute,
hippopotamuses can’t fly!”
and I go, “This one can,”
and you go, ”How?”
and I go, “Because he’s magic,”
and you just fall down on the ground
because you’ve never seen a magic hippopotamus.

Now lookit my toes.
They just grew claws!
I’m not a tree.
Forget about that.
I’m a cat.

© 2010 David L. Harrison. All rights reserved.

David L. Harrison is the only poet ever on this blog, so far as I know, to have an elementary school named after him. How cool is that???!!! He's also written around 80 books, covering subjects from bugs to vacations to volcanoes to pirates and beyond while running the gamut from non-fiction to fiction to collections of poetry (and beyond!). And, as if all that wasn't enough, he started blogging last year, and his blog is already on my must-read-every-post list. Huh. One could get the idea that he's mighty good at this whole writing thing....

I love how in Lookit! he captures the way a child's imagination can create an incredibly fun, involved scenario... then immediately discard it for something else. Better than just capturing it, though, he celebrates that imagination with such joy and honesty and humor. Plus, he shows respect for his readers in this and everything I've read by him (check out his Poetry Makers interview over at the Miss Rumphius Effect if you need further proof). Because of that respect, whatever subject or style he goes for, we're all ready to go along with him. And I'm telling ya, he's really amazingly good with this whole writing thing, so we get rewarded. All of this is why I say, with the utmost respect, I'm thrilled to have David L. Harrison here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we learned about Things To Do If You Are King Kong thanks to Elaine Magliaro. Tomorrow... Personification by Brod Bagert. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Elaine Magliaro - Things To Do If You Are King Kong

Elaine Magliaro

You dig?
What’s more—
You gotta ROAR.
Show your power.
Scale a tower.
Beat your chest.
Don’t forget to wear
A bulletproof vest!

© 2010 Elaine Magliaro. All rights reserved.

Elaine Magliaro - a poet, former teacher, and one-time school librarian - has taught me a lot about writing poetry... and she probably doesn't even know it (okay... now she does!). You see, her blog, the Wild Rose Reader, is one of my go to sources for all things children's poetry.  I learn about new books, discover poets I really want to know more about, find out tidbits and facts galore that broaden my knowledge of the world of children's poetry and how to write it, and...

Elaine posts her own poems! I've learned from her word choices, her ability to come up with fresh ways to approach familiar subjects, and the incredible array of forms she tries out and highlights (such as list poems, like hers in the collection Falling Down the Page). King Kong, part of a collection of "things to do" poems Elaine's working on, makes me want to sit down and write AND get a class of kids together to see what they'd come up with. Good times, indeed.  It's that type of inspiration - and the wonderful poetry that creates it - that helps explain why I'm so happy to have Elaine Magliaro here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday brought Clouds Like Us by James Carter. Tomorrow... Lookit! by David L. Harrison! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

James Carter - Clouds Like Us

Clouds Like Us
a poem for Mr. Wordsworth
          ! !
           ! !
You're n e v e r lonely as a cloud
for like the sheep, you're with the crowd.
And then there's always loads to do
like soak a fete or barbeque.

Clouds are water - boiled you know.
We're recycled H20.
Stream to sea to cloud to rain
ever moving through a chain.

How we love it when it's warm.
For then we cook a mighty storm.
When it's time to help some flowers
we'll brew up those April showers.

Going back to our CV-
we’ve a range of skills you see
snow to hail and mist to fog -
to forming shapes for you to spot!

Sunny spell? Oh we'll be back.
You'll need some rain - and that's a fact.
We're high as kites and cool as jazz.
That's clouds like us - our life's a gas!

© 2010 James Carter. All rights reserved.

James Carter had me at "hello." You see, my first contact with his work was when I ran into his book Time-Travelling Underpants. Sweeeeeet!!!! For me, the instant love was not that "underpants" is considered a funny word and he'd used it. Nope. It's that it was used in such a way that I laughed and was intrigued - a fresh image created, and one that made my mind race with possibilities. I admit it coulda been a short term love affair if I'd read the book and it wasn't smart, clever, funny, and wonderfully varied. But it was!

I highly recommend a trip out to his website to listen to him perform a few of his poems. I listen to track one, Electric Guitars, and I think "how can I get him into my school?!?!" What makes me so happy is that the poem works without any accompaniment but comes to life in yet another way with it, and a really fun way, at that. Which, it turns out, is how I feel about so much of his poetry... and just one reason I'm so excited to have James Carter here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we saw Lesson from Bobbi Katz. Tomorrow... Things To Do If You Are King Kong by Elaine Magliaro! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bobbi Katz - Lesson

Lesson (working title)
Bobbi Katz

On this daffodilicious day
I am judging a community poetry contest
               in a distant city
swimming on waves of words.
A tsunami of images and emotions
     is carrying me
so deep
        into other lives: Lives of children
who hear things no child should hear.
Lives of adults aching for lost loved ones.
Wounded veterans invisible to passers-by.
Kids fearing death before college.
Teens fenced-in by peer pressure…
or parents living through them…
I do not know their names or faces.
Poems have introduced me to their hearts.

And how to choose just three “winners”
  for each category
  and just three “honorable mentions”?
Each poet is a winner. Each is honorable.
I winnow the piles
         until I too
Sadness swells over my head
sweeping me off my feet.
I know I must take a break.

I walk outside.
Earth sings green and yellow spring songs.
I stretch my arms out and look up.
A young child's poem appears.
Each letter written in a different color:
The sky is in
the sky is in
the sky is in
   the sky.

Imagine a sunshined heart of many colors
Blossoming beneath the poem,
completing it.

 Yes! I'll remember this fine lesson:
   this fine poem
written by a child in a distant city.

© 2010 Bobbi Katz. All rights reserved.

Bobbi Katz can write about anything and make it lyrical and poetic, or at least that's how it seems to me. Whether it's monsters in her wickedly fun collection The Monsterologist (illustrated by Adam McCauley), the desire for a dog in her newest book, Nothing But a Dog, science, grammar, poetry or... well... anything, I tell ya, she creates dazzling images and wonderful phrases on a regular basis.

I admit I'm a sucker for poetry about different aspects of poetry, so her work-in-progress Lesson is a lot of fun for me. I love the emotions it captures, the perspective it offers. Plus, I like to read it alongside this piece Bobbi wrote for David L. Harrison's blog. (And for even more insight but on a broader scale, check out last year's Poetry Makers profile of her over at the Miss Rumphius Effect). Yes, I'm glad she wrote about poetry, but I'd've been happy no matter the topic... just one of the reasons I'm thrilled to have Bobbi Katz here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

It's Friday, and that means it's Poetry Friday here in the Kidlitosphere. This week, the roundup of posts is being held at the always fabulous Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Go on over and check it out for a whole lot of poetry fun. 

Yesterday, Eileen Spinelli gave us Praying Mantis. Tomorrow... James Carter with Clouds Like Us! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eileen Spinelli - Praying Mantis

Eileen Spinelli

Praying mantis
near my door
I wonder what
you're praying for.
A meal, perhaps,
a gentle wife,
a simple
mantis life?
And should the day
bring rain
and thunder,
a sturdy leaf
to shelter under.

© 2010 Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

Eileen Spinelli has written over 40 books for children, poems galore, won awards aplenty... and done it all writing longhand and using something called an "electric typewriter." I will research what that is, but I tell ya, if it will let me write poems or picture books like hers, I'll consider getting one ASAP.

Truth is, of course, I don't think anyone can write like her. It's not just that I love her point of view and wonderful words. Beyond that... well... when I used to do a lot of read-alouds in my volunteer librarian gig, I knew that if I was rushing in at the last minute, I could just grab one of Eileen Spinelli's picture books and be set. The books, like her poems, always read perfectly - you can't mess 'em up! That is incredible to me and something I admire greatly... just part of why I'm so glad to have Eileen Spinelli here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we had These rules are here for your protection from Arthur A. Levine. Tomorrow... Lesson from Bobbi Katz! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Arthur A. Levine - These rules are here for your protection

These rules are here for your protection
Arthur A. Levine

Banging on the windowed door
to J. Carberry Middle School
the sick green tinted glass bending to my fist
I can SEE the Hall monitor
who can surely see me
though she is staring ahead
as blank and stiff as if she were the Queen’s Guard
and not a guard in Queens.

Good for her. She’s protecting the school from me
the kid who left the building
(which no one seemed to mind)
to avoid the shock and awe offensive
being carried out in our lunchroom.
I just wanted two blocks of sun.
I wanted the one close sound
to be my sneakers
squeaking their plan of escape,
to buy yogurt
and eat it with no risk of collateral damage
from the insults and objects thrown.

Oh sure, I say to her, a whisper, a breath; ignore me.
That’s original. You think I WANT
To come back in here? Well.
With my glasses and backpack
my dangerous hoodie
I’m sure I look just like a terrorist threat.
Keep me out here; yes, please.
Keep the student body safe
from sarcasm.

© 2010 Arthur A. Levine. All rights reserved.

Arthur A. Levine is well-known for his work as an editor and publisher, shepherding award winning picture books and novels at different publishing houses and at his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books, at Scholastic. And, yes, he's the American editor of the Harry Potter books. No denying he's known for all that. But here's one thing you might not know about Arthur - he is an amazing poet and wonderful storyteller in his own right (and with many books to his credit as author).

I love the way Arthur plays with language and creates a whole, totally recognizable world and emotional oomph with such economy in the poem above. I flashed back to middle school instantly... and I'd bet anyone who's still there will read or hear this poem and feel the impact, too. As an aside, I also love that Arthur, busy in a demanding job and with a full life outside it, still makes time to pursue something he loves: writing. That should be a lesson to everyone of every age. Frankly, I'm glad he finds the time, because I look forward to more poems and picture books BY him in the years ahead. Until then, I'm just incredibly happy to have Arthur A. Levine here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we heard... okay... we saw The Big Snore by Kurt Cyrus. Tomorrow... Praying Mantis by Eileen Spinelli! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kurt Cyrus - The Big Snore

The Big Snore
Kurt Cyrus

Mama's wrecking furniture inside her throat tonight.
She drags a table to the left, then scrapes it to the right,
rips it with a chainsaw till it's just a pile of chips,
grinds it down to sawdust, and--

poofs it out her lips.

© 2010 Kurt Cyrus. All rights reserved.

I had known of Kurt Cyrus as an illustrator, (M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts, for example) but somehow didn't know about his verse until Kenn Nesbitt pointed me his way. OH MY! Leave this post right now and get a copy of his Tadpole Rex. I'll wait. Good. Now, read it. Fabulousness! Now go find Hotel Deep. I'll wait. More fabulousness! Now go find... well, you get the idea. If you want to learn more about what makes Kurt Cyrus tick and rhyme, let me send you off once more to his Poetry Makers profile over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

I love the quirkiness and the rhythm in his poems, plus, and this is a big plus, his verse makes me laugh and constantly surprises me. His books are also a wonderful marriage of text and art (two pieces of which are used here by his permission). The art, which is remarkable simply by itself, often has hidden jokes and images that join with the words for an even bigger overall impact. Still, I'll take his words with or without art... just one reason I'm exceedingly happy to have Kurt Cyrus here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday brought us The Ouija from Kathi Appelt. Tomorrow... These rules are here for your protection by Arthur A. Levine! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's National Library Week, and...

In honor of National Library Week... and in recognition of the difficult times facing libraries these days... I created a video (while testing out a new, free tool!) and wrote about how social media efforts by the children's lit community and others might be able to help libraries. Or at least, here's hoping.

You can see the video over at my other blog, the Happy Accident.

Also, this is the week for Operation TBD (that's Teen Book Drop, a fabulous event happening on April 15th. I hope you'll head on over to the Readergirlz site to learn more about Operation TBD.

Along with TBD, over at Guys Lit Wire, you should read Colleen's fantastic post about the project GLW is doing: wish lists for two specific school (Alchesay High School and Ojo Encino Day School) where new books are a very rare thing. And after you've read the post... maybe you can pick up something from the wishlists? Ya. That'd be swell.

So much going on out in the world and in the Kidlitosphere. More soon, but for now, I gotta book!

Kathi Appelt - The Ouija

The Ouija
Kathi Appelt

It scared the bejesus out of us
two at thirteen, no former
experience with spirits,
especially ones who had
such a command of spelling.

Words like ramose,
which look simple on the page,
but when you have to spell
it goes right out of your head,
even if you ask for the definition--
“having many branches.”

Our arms were like that,
our fingers thin buds
on the edge of its
round, plastic eye.

One of us asked when
the other would die, and when it
gave an actual date,
she blanched, and ran
to the toilet, knelt
down in front of it
and begged for mercy.

I can’t remember which
of us was sentenced, only
that we loved each other so
it didn’t matter. One death
would have meant two.

© 2010 Kathi Appelt. All rights reserved.

Kathi Appelt has written many beloved picture books for younger readers and a novel, The Underneath, which was a Newbery Honor Book and finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She also teaches, writes non-fiction and, clearly, writes poetry (and while I mean stand-alone poems in this case, I'd argue that if she were in charge of the phone book, it would read as a poem, too). Her next novel, Keeper, is due out in May. Excited, anyone (ya know, besides ME)?

Her ability to convey so much with amazing turns of phrase and images (just look at the last six words of The Ouija, for example) is something that I study as a writer and love as a reader AND read-alouder. In fact, if you've never shared her books aloud, you're really missing out, so get thee hence and do so. In case it's not clear, I'm a fan... and I'm so excited to have Kathi Appelt here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday gave us I Love Being Me by Charles Waters. Tomorrow, The Big Snore from Kurt Cyrus! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Charles Waters - I Love Being Me

Charles Waters

I love being me
With zits in many places,
Tripping over everyone,
Trying to eat with braces.

I love being me
With my frizzy auburn hair,
Day-Glo polka-dot wardrobe
That I carry off with flair.

I love being me
With thick ebony glasses,
Saying hello to flowers,
Attending science classes.

I love being me,
How do you feel about you?
Look yourself in the mirror,
Check out that beautiful view.

© 2010 Charles Waters. All rights reserved.

Charles Waters is a poet and actor who, among other credits, gave three years of service to Poetry Alive! - an organization that sends teams of performers/workshop leaders out and about, reaching an estimated 600,000 students nationwide each year. Yep - he's a poetry (and prose and performance) emissary! He also currently holds the coolest job ever - a judge at the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World. But I digress. Though how could I not?

I find that it's hard for me not to feel good when I read his poetry. There's such positive energy, and, as in the above poem, a direct, honest voice that I think kids will connect with instantly. I'm looking forward to much more from him, hope I'm lucky enough to get to see him perform his own poetry one day, and am very excited to have Charles Waters here today at 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday brought us Dancing Fingers from Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. Tomorrow... The Ouija by Kathi Appelt! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand - Dancing Fingers

The following poem comes from Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina Assoluta, a biography due out in 2011, written by Carmen Bernier-Grand and being illustrated by Raúl Colón. Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso is blindfolded in the poem because she had just surgery for detached retinas. At that moment, doctors thought she wouldn’t be able to dance again. But she danced until she was seventy-five.

Dancing Fingers
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

Blindfolded Alicia listens to the music of Giselle.
Her fingers are her feet, the bed sheet the stage.
“I see the theater curtain open. I absolutely see it.”
            Giselle is in love with another peasant, Loys.
Alicia’s fingers jump high—Giselle’s feet.
            Giselle learns that Loys is Prince Albrecht in disguise.
            As a peasant she cannot marry him. She becomes insane.
Alicia’s fingers move stiffly, horribly distorted.
            The earth shakes the day Giselle dies.
            That evening she becomes a Willi,
            a female spirit whose love is unfulfilled.
Alicia’s fingers jump high, but land silently as spirit feet.
            In the cold dawn the Willis rise from their graves
            to force Albrecht to dance until he dies of exhaustion.
Alicia’s fingers float softly.
            She doesn’t let the Willis touch him.
            Giselle’s devotion saves Albrecht from Death.
The golden damask curtain closes.
The theater almost falls with applause.
Alicia’s fingers take a bow.

© Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. All rights reserved.

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand has written biographies, tales from her native Puerto Rico (as an I-Can-Read book), a novel, and poetry, too. She also has, on her vibrant, fun website, one of my favorite ever answers to the question, "Why do you write?" Says Carmen - "Because I get grouchy if I don't." Yes! For more quotes and insight, I highly recommend a trip to Carmen's website and to this Cynthia Leitich Smith interview both.

Her poetry packs power, with wonderful images created by perfectly picked words (written in her second language, no less) which simply pull you into whatever's going on in the verse (fiction, non-fiction, comedy, drama, or I'm sure any mix of them all). I hope she continues to avoid being grouchy so that we can all read more from her... and I'm thrilled to have Carmen Bernier-Grand here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had Ch-ch-ch-check, Please from Alan Katz. Tomorrow... I Love Being Me by Charles Waters! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Alan Katz - Ch-ch-ch-check, Please

Ch-ch-ch-check, Please
Alan Katz

I only eat foods that begin with “c-h,”
like chicken and churros and chili.
If you're cooking dinner and there's no “c-h,”
then trying to feed me is silly.

Today I had chocolate and chickpeas and chips,
chimichangas and chow mein and cheese.
Tonight, chunky chowder is the only choice--
(Mom is out of “c-h” recipes).

She ordered a cookbook that's coming tomorrow;
Mom promised great foods she'll be makin'.
It will be a menu of new “c-h” treats--
like chmeatloaf!! Chomelets! Chbacon!

(from a collection to be published by McElderry Books in 2011 (and to be illustrated by Ed Koren))

© Alan Katz. All rights reserved.

Alan Katz knows funny. Yes, he also knows silly (as his labeled likeness by his frequent illustrator-collaborator David Catrow proves), but if you're one who gives "silly" a bad rap, I've chosen to play the "funny" card. Cuz he is. His "silly dilly" books of songs, like Take Me Out of the Bathtub, have created mirth for years, and if you're lucky enough to hear/see him perform some of these songs, I challenge you not to laugh. Yeah, even if you're in a room of adults as I was. In a room of kids? There's no chance of silence.

What I find in his books, including his poetry collection Oops, is an infectious spirit of joy. When I heard him at an SCBWI conference, I experienced that same joy when he generously gave advice and talked about writing, his family, encouraging kids to laugh and write - any and all types of poetry, by the way - and, well, everything. For all those reasons (and did I mention he's funny?) that's why I'm so happy to have Alan Katz here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at the always-worth-a-read Paper Tigers blog. Why not go check it out?

Yesterday we had Weeds from Ralph Fletcher. Tomorrow... Dancing Fingers from Carmen Bernier-Grand! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.