Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kindergarteners Don't Scare Me!

Last week, I was lucky enough to hang out with TWO classes of Kindergarteners at Westwood Charter School here in Los Angeles. This was another visit that was part of my Poetry: Spread the Word project, and it was an absolute blast.

Now, I'll admit, I was a tad nervous about spending two hours with kids that young (I did back to back hours with separate classes, not two hours with one group!). But they were engaged, engaging, constantly coming up with fabulous ideas, laughing a lot, and clearly in classrooms where poetry and language were valued. We read some poems, brainstormed, shared stories, and in one case wrote a poem together. Good times, indeed, and further proof that poetry and kids mix well no matter what age!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hooray for J. Patrick Lewis, New Children's Poet Laureate!

Last Thursday, the Poetry Foundation named J. Patrick Lewis as the new Children's Poet Laureate, taking over for Mary Ann Hoberman (who took over for Jack Prelutsky).

The field of children's poetry has sooooo many amazing people in it and this two year Laureate term could have gone to many others and been a smashing success, I'm sure. Yet I admit I cannot wait to see what the next two years brings from Pat and for children's poetry, as I know he's going to put his stamp on this... and we're all gonna enjoy the ride.

And hey... before you go off and explore the J. Patrick Lewis website, you can poke around here for a few visits he's made, too: A Sixth Grader Sees the Future, The Voice of the Voiceless, and The Poet of the World.

Oh, yeah, one more thing... Congratulations!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wow! With a Dose of Totally Wow!

Thank you all for your support - comments, tweets, FB stuff, good vibes, pledges, Likes, and ideas galore. I'm excited, gratified, humbled, and truly looking forward to posting 100 poems and getting into 59 schools, in person or virtually.

More on all this soon... but now I gotta book. (Oh... and in case it isn't clear... "THANKS!!!!!")

Sunday, May 08, 2011

It's Me. On Video!

The above video (and if you subscribe to the blog and can't see it, please click here) is from my Kickstarter project, Poetry: Spread the Word. I think it explains why I'm doing what I'm doing and why I think my project is "a good thing."

Only 36 hours left in the funding period for Poetry: Spread the Word as I publish this. Thanks to all for your support in pledging, encouraging, and spreading the word, too. It's incredibly appreciated (and, ya know, there are still 36 hours to help :-)).

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Skyping with Explorer Elementary 5th Graders!

On Thursday, I had a Skype class visit with a fantastic group: Karen Feitelberg's fifth graders at Explorer Elementary School in San Diego. Their fabulous librarian, Roxyanne Young, arranged the visit... something that came about because of my Poetry: Spread the Word project!

During the visit, I gave some of the history of Fibs and got to hear them read some great examples they'd written. There were Fibs about all sorts of subjects... and even a Fib about not wanting to write a Fib! We ended by writing a group Fib first draft about pandas (or one panda, I suppose).

We had time for Q+A, too, and the students had some really great questions to ask... from what inspires me to write to how they can reach a bigger audience with their writing.

The hour flew by for me and, I think, for them. And nice words were said on a Facebook thread! What could be better? My big thanks to Roxyanne Young for making it happen and to Karen Feitelberg, who had the whole group ready (and inspired, it sure seemed to me. Inspired about poetry! Color me happy and impressed and more.)

What's so exciting to me is that I'm going to be able to do a lot of these visits thanks to Poetry: Spread the Word. We're in the last two days of the funding period - all pledges now help me give away more visits just like this one - so if you were thinking of checking my project out, now is surely the time!

At their best, visits are educational, inspirational, and aspirational (in both directions, really), and so many of you who read this have become patrons of the arts, enabling these visits with your support. I can't thank you enough... and, I think, there will be a lot of students out there who will thank you, too!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lee Bennett Hopkins - Good Books, Good Times!

Lee Bennett Hopkins

Good books.
Good times.
Good stories.
Good rhymes.
Good beginnings.
Good ends.
Good people.
Good friends.
Good fiction.
Good facts
Good adventures.
Good acts.
Good stories.
Good rhymes.
Good books
Good times!

© l985 by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

I bet a lot of you know Lee Bennett Hopkins' Good Books, Good Times! I know I've heard him and this poem in person - a "good time!" indeed. No matter if it's new or familiar to you, though, it's a great summation of the month just past... and a preview of all the months ahead at GottaBook and, I suspect, wherever any of you are, too. When Lee suggested it might be a good fit here, I agreed (and, since I'm taking a couple day blogging break here, what better message for visitors to find!).

Besides being a remarkable poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins has probably done more for children's poetry and children's poets than... well... probably than anyone. He's founded awards, he's lobbied, he's advised, he's promoted, he's encouraged, and most of all, he's inspired with his generosity of spirit and his love of poetry. It's always a pleasure to have him come a-visiting, and I'm thrilled to celebrate good books and good times with him and you all.

By the way, if you haven't seen the new site, you should head on over and check it out. Also, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Teaching Toolbox - a new blog created by librarians, teachers, and students (not Lee himself) - is well worth a visit.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I've Got a Matching Grant to Help Spread the Word!

I'm excited to tell y'all that I've got a matching grant of $500 to help my Poetry: Spread the Word project. This means that for the next $500 donated (or maybe it's down to $400 at this point since pledges have been coming in!), it'll be matched dollar for dollar to help me be able to give away more visits to more schools.

So, if you wanna check the project out, now would be a good time :-)

I must add that I'm so touched and gratified by all the support the project and I have gotten. Yes, the financial support is fabulous (see below!), yet I appreciate every tweet, comment, email, "like", Facebook update, and everything that folks are doing to help.

Believe me - I know that contributions aren't possible for everything we all want to help. Support, though, comes in many ways, and it's really been amazing to see. So, thank you!

Probably the biggest news in all of this, by the way, is that as of yesterday, Poetry: Spread the Word hit its funding goal! This means I'll be visiting (virtually or in person) 40 schools over the next year and posting 100 poems here, too. And we're not done - for every additional $100 raised, I will give away another visit. Right now, this already means five more schools... and I hope it will be many more.

Again, thank you all. We are spreading poetry, and that, I think, is a beautiful thing.

Many Poets/One Day - The 2011 30 Poets/30 Days Wrap Up

Logo by Mary Peterson
What a long, wonderful, jam-packed edition of 30 Poets/30 Days (neither of which is accurate this time around) it's been. I had such a blast, I must say.

One bit of news for the eagle-eyed among you: Kenn Nesbitt was listed on the announcement post but due to my late ask, his busy schedule, and my rule that this event is never about stress, his poem is going to come at some point in the future. Since he was one of the reasons the first edition of this event came together (and because he's wildly funny), I will be happy to have him here anytime at all!

And now, with no further ado, a look back at this year (and two bonus links for you, too):

Douglas Florian - April is the Coolest Month
Janet Wong - Eyes-to-Eyes
Marilyn Singer - A Stick Is an Excellent Thing
Joseph Bruchac - Siguan
April Halprin Wayland - Dear Whoever Composes the Sky
Graham Denton - I Am Huffing, I Am Puffing
George Ella Lyon - No Need for Metaphor
Avis Harley - Clerihews
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - Fantasy
Jamie Adoff - Soul Food
Susan Marie Swanson - Art Space
Elaine Magliaro - Dinosaur Dung
Charles Ghigna - Be Still in the World
Laura Purdie Salas - How to Talk to a Girl
Carole Boston Weatherford - A BAT CAVE: An Abecedarian Bedtime Chronicle
Heidi Mordhorst - The Playroom Floor Writes a Novel
Arnold Adoff - orien berg strasse
James Carter - go, poem
Joyce Sidman - Mudbath, Interrupted
Ann Whitford Paul - Caterpillar
David L. Harrison - Chess
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand - "I am God"
Calef Brown - Backstory: an excerpt
Jorge Argueta - Las Dos Piedritas/Two Little Stones
Liz Garton Scanlon - Word of Mouth
Ralph Fletcher - Mystery Flower
Julie Larios - Far From Home
Brod Baggert - If I...
Bobbie Katz - Haiku for a Jiving Djembe
Alan Katz - 101 Donations
Joan Bransfield Graham - ONE LANGUAGUE: Listening to Saint-Saens' The Swan
Francisco X. Alarcón - On Monday I Feel Like a Dragon/El lunes me siento como un dragón
Charles Waters - I Wear Mommy's Dress
Greg Pincus - I Put Each Carrot In a Suit
J. Patrick Lewis - The Voice of the Voiceless
Rebecca Dotlich - Skating Pond
Nikki Grimes - Busted; Closet; Someone Like Me (three tanka)
Kurt Cyrus - The Mummy and the Mermaid
Linda Sue Park - Explaining Baseball to an Alien
Kristine O'Connell George - Daze of the Week
Jane Yolen - The Alphabet: A Found Poem
Kathi Appelt - What Was She Thinking

Not enough poetry for you? Well, to see the prior years' roundups, click on the logos below....

30 Poets/30 Days - April, 2010
Logo by Bonnie Adamson

30 Poets/30 Days - April/2009

There are, as always, so many people to thank for making 30 Poets/30 Days possible and successful. First off, thanks to all the poets for their generosity in being part of this celebration. Thanks, too, to all my friends in the blogosphere for their support and ideas all year round, not just now. I must give one more big hat tip to Mary Peterson for designing the logo. And finally, huge thanks to all of you who subscribe or come on by these parts and make doing this so worthwhile.

Poetry's a year-round thang here, so I hope you're not going away. Besides, it's only 11 months until National Poetry Month is here again! I'm looking forward to that and everything before it... but for now, I gotta book.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Kathi Appelt - What Was She Thinking

What Was She Thinking?
Kathi Appelt

It’s the question her mother keeps asking.

That her only child could stop the train,
Snap her fingers and make it screech to a halt?

And now if only
are the only two words this mother can say.

If only she knew why the girl
looked up just in time to see
the golden beam of the engine’s light,
thought, how close is the moon, reached out to touch it.
Why she patted the dashboard of her new red Mustang,
the one her daddy gave her when she turned sixteen.
Now, she whispered, now. All her faith
in speed and gasoline, St. Christopher
dangling from the rearview mirror.

She would cry if she could remember how.

Her mother can’t stop crying.

And what about the engineer,
making his regular run between New Orleans
and Houston, sipping a cup of coffee
watching for deer along the tracks.
He always loved this time of night, the way
they turn and run,
their tails a white flash of goodbyes.

Now, he can’t bear the sight of them,
only looks straight ahead,
startled by each and every crossing,
so sorry for the lonesome
holy dark.

©2011 Kathi Appelt. All rights reserved.

True confession time: I haven't always been a fan of free verse, and that fact often still hovers way in the back of my brain. When I read Kathi Appelt's poetry, however, that distant thought never crosses my mind. I don't think there's time, really, as I'm instantly caught up (like I was last time she was here), engaged, reveling in well turned phrases and perfect, juicy words... even when the subject matter's not easy.

Her fiction's the same way. Her most recent novel, Keeper, ended up on seven slews of year-end 'best' lists, and followed up her Newbery Honor/National Book Award finalist The Underneath with more of the wonderful, poetic writing that just plain works for me (and, clearly, for many, many, many others!). I am, as I said last time, a fan indeed... and am very excited to have Kathi Appelt here wrapping up this year's edition of 30 Poets/30 Days.

(Greg's note: Kathi was the first poet to send me a poem this year. I had written up a draft post of hers first thing... then, in some frenzy of rescheduling, I made some still unknown to me error that left her post in the ether. I apologize for that but am thrilled to be able to close this year's celebration down with her now.)

Yesterday we had The Alphabet: A Found Poem by Jane Yolen. Tomorrow... a wrap up of the 2011 festivities!