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.


Lisa Yee said...

Wonderful, wonderful!!! Gee, Arthur, if the editor-thing doesn't pan out, it looks like you have a promising career as a poet!

Mary Lee said...

You're right, I DIDN'T know he is a poet!

BethMooreSchool said...

LOVE this!

Tabatha said...

Great voice!

Rachel Griffiths said...

He wears a lot of hats, and this one exceptionally well. That was really lovely, Arthur.

On the Shelf said...

You hinted in a much earlier post that you wanted pictures. Here's what I'm doing with your project:

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Arthur, this was great. I really enjoyed it and marvel at what a great example of "voice" you've given us. I can imagine there's so much more that character has to say!

Anonymous said...

Nice! I can just see that kid outside the door.

BJW said...

Holy MOLEY Arthur! This is flipping incredible. Quite moving with the proper funny Arthur sass. Love it.


A great moment, captured, Arthur! I love this line - "I wanted the one close sound to be my sneakers" Sigh. Ain't poetry grand?

Lisa Gail Green said...

I LOVE it!! So great. Especially the line about Queen's guard and guard in Queens. Thanks for sharing with us!

Lia Keyes said...

I can see this in my mind so clearly, and LOVE the lines that include: "though she is staring ahead as blank and stiff as if she were the Queen’s Guard and not a guard in Queens."

Great voice, attitude, and observation. You are a revelation. Respect.

Lori W. said...

Perfect line breaks (especially at the end). I can really see this kid. Nice work, Arthur, and thanks, Greg, for reminding us of this poetry celebration on the listserv. I'm enjoying it.

Doret said...

Oh my, that was great.

I will no longer think of Arthur A. Levine as only an imprint.

laurasalas said...

I knew Arthur was a wonderful writer, but didn't know he wrote poetry! Love the sarcasm and vulnerability in this kid's voice...

Mary Ann Dames - Reading, Writing, and Recipes said...

If I had to choose, my favorite line is the narrator wanting to hear the squeak of his sneakers.

tanita✿davis said...

WOW, I had ZERO idea he wrote poetry!

Is there nothing the man can't do!?

Heidi Mordhorst said...

This is poetry with guts and smarts and cheek written for my daughter, heading toward middle school.

"I just wanted two blocks of sun....

with my glasses and backpack
my dangerous hoodie",

that kid she is/I was wants more!

Where can we find it, Arthur?

Dan Santat said...

I'm a little late to the game but that was an outstanding poem, and I'm not just saying that to get on our good side, Arthur.