Monday, April 30, 2012

Marilyn Nelson - Telling Time

Telling Time
Connally AFB, Texas, 1951
Marilyn Nelson

Mama reminds me I’m a big girl now:
I’m five years old. I can watch Jennifer
for five minutes; they’ll just be down the street.
They tuck us in. I hear the door lock click.
Five minutes. Just five minutes, Daddy said.
My first-grade class is learning to read clocks,
so I know minutes are the little lines
between numbers. Clocks is how you tell time.
Past is before now; future is after.
Now is a five minute eternity,
Jennifer and I howling in pajamas
in the front yard of the housing unit,
surrounded by concerned faceless strangers
who back away, now our parents are here.

© Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

Telling Time is a piece from an as yet unreleased YA book Marilyn Nelson is writing about her childhood in a Fifties military family. What's so wonderful to me is that she makes five minutes back then feel remarkably like five minutes today, yet just in this one poem she's created a whole family for me to become invested in... and I know that time and place will be a critical part of who they are, how they act, and the prism through which I'll come to view them. Perhaps I know this because I've read other Marilyn Nelson poems, but to me, at least, it's all there in this one short verse.

Marilyn Nelson's books for adults and children have won so many awards and honors that I don't have space to list them all. She herself has received a Guggenheim fellowship and been the poet laureate of Connecticut. All those titles and honors, however, come from the fact that her writing connects on every level - helping us see people clearly, bringing a depth of emotion, creating laughter, and never shying away from her subjects. I promised myself I'd make it through April without gushing about any of the poets, but the only way I can do that is stop myself now and simply say I'm absolutely thrilled to have Marilyn Nelson here today to bring this year's 30 Poets/30 Days to a conclusion.

Yesterday, Alma Flor Ada gave us To Poetry/A La Poesía. Today wraps up this year's edition of 30 Poets/30 Days. There's much more to come here at GottaBook in May and beyond, but we'll leave that for another day. Thanks for hanging out here in April, and may every month be poetry month for you!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Telling Fibs!

Today over at Katie Davis's blog, I'm encouraging everyone to tell Fibs. In fact, I'm even giving instructions on how to do it. I hope you'll go check it out.

Alma Flor Ada - To Poetry/A La Poesía

To Poetry/A La Poesía
Alma Flor Ada

I have posted Alma Flor Ada's poem as an image instead of text so that it looks the way it should. If you subscribe to the blog and cannot see it, please click here. If you click on the image itself, it will appear bigger.

Alma Flor Ada is a teacher, an advocate, a well-loved speaker, a onetime Fulbright scholar, and an award-winning author and poet. She's written for adults and children, written fiction and non-fiction, written poetry and memoir, and, obviously, does all this in Spanish and English. And yes, I'm trying not to be all fanboy gushy and stuff, but let's just say I might've squeed a little in excitement when she said she'd join the fun here this month. Let's just keep that between you and me, though, okay?

I love the celebration that is To Poetry/A La Poesía. And I love that in its own way, it's an instruction manual... teaching by example as well as by explanation. As with so much of her work, the poem creates an emotional reaction in me, and like always the emotions are never forced or obvious but instead comes from the power of her stories and words. I'm a rather big fan, in case that's not clear, and I'm thrilled to have Alma Flor Ada here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Kimberly Marcus gave us Revision. Tomorrow... Telling Time from Marilyn Nelson brings the 2012 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days to a close.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kimberly Marcus - Revision

Kimberly Marcus

Life is full of twists and turns
and, with each bend, a person learns
that fire warms and fire burns -
a matter of degree.

Life is good and life’s not fair
and in this whole wide world out there
some will love and some won’t care -
a harsh reality.

But in this life you get to choose
how you cope with things you lose,
a mortal wound or healing bruise -
it’s all in how you see.

© Kimberly Marcus. All rights reserved.

As a writer, I was instantly attracted to the poem Kimberly Marcus sent my way. Revision? But of course! As a reader, what I loved was how the poem moved me along, played with my expectations, and delivered something so spot on that I never cared about my initial expectations again. And if you know how stubborn I can be, that's saying something! I love the perspective and the power the poem gives off, particularly because I didn't see it coming.

Of course, this shouldn't, uh, confound expectations for anyone who's read Exposed, her debut novel. There's a reason her verse story ended up on so many end of year lists and got so many awards - the writing is taut, emotional, and always rings true to the characters she creates. I also happen to love the fact that she can turn on a dime and write funny, rhyming picture books, too. Fabulous words, no matter how you slice them... just one of the reasons I'm so excited to have Kimberly Marcus here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we had Catku courtesy of Lee Wardlaw. Tomorrow... To Poetry/A La Poesía from Alma Flor Ada! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lee Wardlaw - Catku

Lee Wardlaw

Paper bag crackles.
Crouch…wiggle…POUNCE! Game over.
You need a sack lunch.

© Lee Wardlaw. All rights reserved.

Lee Wardlaw had herself a pretty good year with her most recent book, Won Ton - A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (illustrated by Eugene Yelchin). It's been winning awards and honors galore, including this year's Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Best of all, though, it's struck a chord with readers with its fantastic combination of emotion, humor, cat-ness, and poetry. And not just any poetry, mind you, but haiku! A story told 17 syllables at a time is not easy to pull off, but when you read Won Ton, you never get hung up in thinking what the author did to make the form work. On the contrary... it works so well, you don't think about form.

What fascinates me most about Won Ton is that up til now, Lee Wardlaw wasn't known for her poetry. Her fun, funny, sharply written novels like the 101 Ways series (which is how I first got to know her work), sure... but haiku? And yet as she demonstrates, you can make a form your own with skill, an eye for detail and perfect words, perfectly placed. Now, of course, Lee's known as a poet, and I think that's a great thing... since I hope it means we get to read more from her! I wish Won Ton and Lee Wardlaw continued success, since it's been a blast to be able to share it vicariously, and I'm so happy to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is up over at The Opposite of Indifference. There is so much good stuff going on in the Kidlitosphere this month, you really should check it out. And you'll learn about "butt books"! Need I say more?

Yesterday, Ron Koertge took us on a Field Trip. Tomorrow, Kimberly Marcus gives us Revision. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ron Koertge - Field Trip

Field Trip
Ron Koertge

They’re good kids, rich and sheltered. Dutifully
they hold the hand of the boy or girl beside them.

They file out of the library with their teacher,
and there’s Death eating a sandwich.

They can’t help but stare. He’s sitting right where
that raccoon was a couple of months ago.

Their teacher told them all about raccoons, a medium-
sized mammal whose original habitats were
deciduous forests.

“Who is that person?” asks Tyler who will never grow
up to be a senator and, in fact, will never grow up at all.

“Look at this!” the teacher cries pointing to an anthill
at her feet. The children stare politely at the raised mound

and the lines of workers, some carrying crumbs twice
their size, others the bodies of their fallen comrades.

© Ron Koertge. All rights reserved.

Like so many of the poets who come by these parts, Ron Koertge writes for adults as well as kids and teens. Field Trip is, for example, from a forthcoming adult collection due out in 2013, though it speaks to teens, too, and shows so much of what I love about his poetry: a quirky spin, great turns of phrase, humor, and keen observations passed on with brevity and clarity. I guess you'd say his writing makes me see with new eyes - I would never have come up with what he writes, but once I read it... yes, of course!

I first became hooked on Ron Koertge's poetry with Shakespeare Bats Cleanup - a score for me with its combination of poetry and baseball, two of my passions combined flawlessly. (Even before then, by the way, I'd had an important encounter with him!) I always enjoy the characters he creates, and I'm looking forward to his July release of Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses to see who I'll meet next. In the meantime, I'm happy to have met a new poem by Ron Koertge, and incredibly happy to have him here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Susan Taylor Brown shared In My Backyard. Tomorrow... Lee Wardlaw shares a catku (that'd be a cat haiku, by the way)! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem - Day 25

Today is my turn to add a line onto the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem, started and to be finished by Irene Latham with a whole slew of us in between.

In fact, elow my new line (added in bold below), you can see all the stops the poem has made before....

(if you cannot see the whole post, please click here)

Susan Taylor Brown - In My Backyard

In My Backyard
Susan Taylor Brown

iridescent wings dip, dive
between branches
of the scraggly Toyon bush
not yet six feet tall

pointed beak
weaves bits of moss
with spider webs
tucks in a single strand of grass
a dainty dandelion seed
then flies away

cat quiet, I creep
tiny nest cradles
tiny eggs, two
no bigger than my thumb

whirling wings
hum hello
now go
she settles, spreads
herself atop the eggs
watches me
watching her

the wind blows, blustering
never flustering her
she sways a branch dance
keeping safe
tiny nest
tiny eggs
where rainbows wait to hatch

© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

I've known Susan Taylor Brown and her poetry for a few years online and off. Her novel in poems, Hugging the Rock, is a moving, wonderful read, and her poems and blog entries over time have been everything from jaw-dropping to helpful to fantastic to motivating with a few other stops in between. The common trait, I think, is that I react to what Susan writes - it's not, for me, a passive process, and that's a really good thing.

Susan's poem and the photo you see here are part of something unfolding in Susan's backyard (no surprise!) right now and on Facebook and elsewhere for the rest of us. She's brought the situation to life so fully that I care about this single hummingbird who should truly have no place in my life. I check Susan's Facebook feed to see what's new. I get excited when there are updates. And darn it, I'm emotionally involved. That is, for me, all about the power of her writing, and just one reason why I'm so happy to have Susan Taylor Brown here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had Steve: A Cautionary Tale from Bruce Coville. Tomorrow, Field Trip from Ron Koertge! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Late Bird Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to all of you who entered the Late Bird vs. Shel Silverstein giveaway.

Courtesy of the randomness of, the winning commenter is the person who left comment 38 (in the waning hours, no less!)...

Mike Hays! 

I'm sorry I couldn't give copies to everyone. I guess the rest of you should really just head on out and buy The Late Bird :-)  (Actually, I know many of you already have. You totally rock! All of you do!)

Thanks so much for all the comments, emails, tweets, reviews on Amazon, new tags on Amazon, and happy thoughts directed my way. I've been having a blast with the launch. I haven't yet moved into the Top 5 in the Children's Humorous Poetry charts on Amazon (and Shel hasn't moved out of there, either), but I have a sense of what that takes now raw number wise, and that was one of the geeky goals.

Congrats, Mike! And again, thanks to all of you for your support!

Bruce Coville - Steve: A Cautionary Tale

Steve: A Cautionary Tale
Bruce Coville

See this boy? His name is Steve.
He wipes his nose upon his sleeve.
Some day he'll learn this habit's dirty:
He'll do it in a short-sleeve shirty!

© Bruce Coville. All rights reserved.

I am an unabashed Bruce Coville fan, so when I was putting together this year's edition of 30/30, I shot him an email. You see, I've heard him speak (a MUST if you get the chance)... and he's had bits of his poetry in different presentations. He also always makes me laugh, so I was hoping he'd have something fun lying around. As they say, score! I laughed when Bruce sent this - a poem inspired by his days as an elementary school teacher - then laughed again when he came up with the title. Good times!

The author of more than 100 books for kids (or, from another perspective, author of over 14 million books in print!), Bruce Coville is truly a master storyteller with tremendous range. When I'm working in the school library and kids are looking for something good to read, I always know I can turn to him and, even if I haven't read everything we have on the shelf, I know I can find a great match. From magic shops to unicorns to monsters to Shakespeare retelling to kids with nasty habits, I'm always ready for the ride he'll take me on... just one of the reasons I'm thrilled to have Bruce Coville here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Thanhha Lai shared The Last Hen with us. Tomorrow... In My Backyard from Susan Taylor Brown! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thanhha Lai - The Last Hen

The Last Hen
Thanhha Lai

Brother Vũ yanks
the last garden greens
and divides into five portions
the last scallion omelet.

He saves
one potato
one carrot
one onion
to make stew
from the last hen running.

The hen screams
when we enter her shed,
stabs us with her beak,
writhes as if being tickled
when Brother Vũ slices
a red line
across her throat.

All day Brother Khôi
has refused to come down
from the attic.

The blood pudding,
we eat right away.
The stew must simmer
all night.
for breakfast,
we chew and chew meat
that might as well
be rubber bands.

The hen
exercised plenty
during her life.

April 28

© Thanhha Lai. All rights reserved.

Thanhha Lai won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her novel Inside Out & Back Again. It's a stunning book - a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about a young girl, Hà, and her family who flee Vietnam and end up in Alabama, written in a series of prose-poems. If you've read the book, you'll recognize character names in the poem above, as this is a piece that was removed from Inside Out in one of the last passes through. As a writer, all I can think is "the stuff cut out is pitch perfect, too???" As a reader, I want more, and not simply because it re-acquaints me with characters I loved spending time with. Nope. I. Just. Want. More.

Somewhat amazingly to me, Thanhha Lai had not written poems like this before Inside Out & Back Again. Call me crazy (you won't be the first), but I'm thinking she's pretty good at 'em. The imagery, the relationships, the humor, and the emotional power in the poems in Inside Out all serve the story, never showing off, never bringing attention to themselves, and never, from my point of view at least, taking a wrong step. 

I hope she decides to try her hand at more, but I'm sure whatever's next will be well worth a read, no matter what form it comes to us in. I'm incredibly grateful to Thanhha Lai for sharing more of the world of Inside Out & Back Again with us here, and I'm really thrilled to have her here today as part of the fun at 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we met A Kestrel Couple thanks to Robert L. Forbes. Tomorrow... Steve: A Cautionary Tale by Bruce Coville! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Giveaway Time Running Out!

You only have until tomorrow (Monday) at midnight to leave a comment and be part of The Late Bird vs. Shel Silverstein launch party and giveaway. Yup. All it takes is a comment for a chance to win the book... or maybe one of 11 copies of the book!

Go on and check out the giveaway, party, and rumble!

Robert L. Forbes - A Kestrel Couple

A Kestrel Couple
Robert L. Forbes

My Elize
On the breeze
Through the trees
To our nest
In flighting
Kestrel kiting
Now alighting
From our quest.

Squirmy worms
Earth affirms
Eager squeaks,
Mewling mood
Foraged food
Feeds the brood
Fast chewed
In cheeky beaks.

Timeless honor
Father, mother,
Eye-closed lives
Lovesong sung
Heartmate won
Spring sprung
Eggs done –
Nature thrives

© Robert L. Forbes. All rights reserved.

Robert L. Forbes might be the only 30 Poets/30 Days participant who has, this year, read at Books of Wonder in New York and been at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland (he might not be - I haven't asked), but I guarantee you he isn't the only one to wake up in the night thinking poetry, grabbing a pad, and getting to work. When I read an interview where he talked about that being part of his work process... boy, could I relate! He's a man who has verse and verses running through his brain, and luckily, he's found a way to get them out so everyone can enjoy them.

The illustration and poem above are from an upcoming Robert L. Forbes poetry collection, where he once again collaborates with the remarkable illustrator Ronald Searle. The first two book, Beastly Feasts and Let's Have a Bite, feature a wonderful range of animals coming alive in whimsical verse and with a quirky perspective... all accompanied by illustrations that sing with the poems. Take a peak on his website for more. Though before you go away, let me just add that I love the passion, excitement, and sense of fun Robert L. Forbes brings to his work, and I'm thrilled to be able to have him here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had JonArno Lawson with Burning Hot Banana. Tomorrow, The Last Hen from Thanhha Lai! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

JonArno Lawon - Burning Hot Banana

Burning Hot Banana
JonArno Lawson

I bought a burning hot banana from a bin in Indiana
with a burning hot and sticky splitting freckly yellow skin
Splotchy-rotten over-ripe, thick enough to clog a pipe
When I think of it today I swoon and sicken from within.

© JonArno Lawson. All rights reserved.

I challenge you to read JonArno Lawson's poem aloud and not grin from the rhythms and sounds alone. Then, of course, there's the rather terrifying banana image that those rhythms and sounds conjure up, and you're all gonna have to deal with that on your own. I long ago made peace with it, and in fact, am looking forward to the book Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, which contains Banana, just to see what other things I'll encounter there. But, hey,  I'm brave when it comes to poetry.

I love the way JonArno Lawson plays with words. That love started when I read his collection A Voweller's Bestiary (from Aardvark to Guineafowl) which is both a quirky alphabet book AND a collection of lipograms, a poetic form that, to me, makes the villanelle look easy. Except the thing is, when you read the book, you might not even be aware he's doing anything other than writing... even in poems where he only uses the vowel Y, for instance. Check out this 2010 Poetry Makers feature and see a few poems from the Bestiary to see what I mean. That's mighty fine stuff, indeed, and just one reason I'm thrilled to be able to share JonArno Lawson's work with you today at 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday we had Hope Anita Smith sharing Education/Application. Tomorrow... Robert L. Forbes with A Kestrel Couple! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hope Anita Smith - Education/Application

Hope Anita Smith

I learned that
Bessie Coleman was
the first African American woman
to fly
I could hardly stay in my seat
White folks had me believin’
black folks was chained to the earth
weighted down by the color of our skin
And now this
I was wearin’ my Sunday go to meetin; dress
and my black patent leather shoes
but I couldn’t resist
climbing up on the wall
at Benson Street Park on the way home
I spread my arms and walked to the edge
imagining Bessie sailing above
cutting through clouds
and when I could stand it no longer
I bent myself at the knees
and propelled myself into
why, I do believe
I flew

© Hope Anita Smith. All rights reserved.

Hope Anita Smith has a rather remarkable way with words. I mean, really now, "propelled myself into possibility" is one of those perfectly placed and formed phrases that will never leave my mind and will always be associated with this poem, its story, and the emotional rush I felt at the end. Emotions, in fact, are something that I associate with her poetry in general -from the powerful story of a family in crisis in The Way a Door Closes right through the sadness and healing in Mother Poems, her words pack a powerful punch.

A few years ago here in LA, I decided to go to an SCBWI schmooze where Hope was the featured guest. I didn't know anything about her or her poetry at the time, but I figured I should go and listen since I kinda like writing poetry, too. I was totally blown away not only by what she shared, but how she shared it... the openness, the humor, the honesty, the words. It was a casual evening, but the impact was, like her poetry, quite strong. It's a fond memory for me, and one of many reasons I'm so happy to be able to have Hope Anita Smith here today, sharing her poetry at 30 Poets/30 Days.

The Poetry Friday roundup is over at Random Noodling today. There's a ton of great stuff in the Kidlitosphere this month, so head on over and check it out for another jolt of poetry fun.

Yesterday here at GottaBook we had Something Sweet from Ed DeCaria. Tomorrow... Burning Hot Banana from JonArno Lawson! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Late Bird vs. Shel Silverstein - a Giveaway and Launch Party!

My e-book, The Late Bird, is just over one week old, and I never gave it a real celebration. So, to fix that, I'm hosting a launch party giveaway!

Yup, I'm giving away a copy of The Late Bird to someone who comments on this post, and I might be giving away as many as 10 copies. It all depends on what happens when The Late Bird goes birdo-a-mano with Shel Silverstein.


By the way... I found where.
You see, I'm a geek. And I've noticed that Shel Silverstein dominates Amazon's best seller list of children's humorous poetry. No surprise there... other than the TOTAL domination. I mean, I once saw my book behind TWO different editions of Light in the Attic and THREE editions of Where the Sidewalk Ends! Wow! Heck, I haven't seen any book break into the top five other than Shel and his four big poetry collections.

Now, I love those books, but the geek in me got to wondering what it takes to move into the top five on that chart. And I figure if there's ever a time that it's likely for me to observe that, it's when I'm actively launching The Late Bird.

So, of Course... A GIVEAWAY!

Yup. You don't have to do ANYTHING other than leave a comment here for a chance to win The Late Bird. I'll count the comments at 11:59 PM on Monday, April 23 and give away a copy to a random commenter (number taken from  

And, I'll give away another copy for each place the Late Bird moves up (if any) in the top 5.

If somehow the Bird gets to number one, I'll give away 10 copies. I'll hold to this through May 15th, even though the comments close Monday. Also, I will buy a copy of each Shel Silverstein book that gets passed for the library where I volunteer, if it isn't already on the shelves (which might be all 4).

I'll need your email address to get you the book, so I'll have to contact the winner(s) - make sure you don't comment anonymously!

Wow, Greg. Can I Do Anything Else Beside Comment?

Sure you can! You can tell your friends about The Late Bird and this giveaway. You can buy dozens of copies of the book to up your odds of winning here (then send the copy you win to someone else, cuz it can go to any email address). Or you can buy one, even. You can let folks know they don't need a Kindle to read the book.

You can leave reviews on Amazon or elsewhere if you've read it, or add tags on Amazon that fit the book. You can follow along the list to make it a spectator sport and share in geekery with me!

And most of all, you can realize that I really am just celebrating the release of the e-book and, despite my geeky desire to gather statistics, I truly am happy to have all of you here to share my excitement with, and I hope you'll join in the fun for that reason alone. You're all a huge part of why the book exists, and I truly didn't put out the e-book to rival one of my poetry heroes.

Let the Games Begin!

Thanks for sticking around these parts. I look forward to giving at least one of you a copy of The Late Bird. Will it be you? Only if you comment, I say! So let the fun begin....

(EDITED TO ADD: Mike Hays, commenter 38, is the big winner!)

Ed DeCaria - Something Sweet

Something Sweet
Ed DeCaria

My nostrils flare to greet
           a subtle drift of something sweet;

Like perfume of a princess,
           on my nose it takes a seat.

A savory sensation,
           a surprising nasal treat;

One tantalizing trace, I know
           my life is now complete.

An odor so omnipotent,
           an essence so elite;

A fragrance so phenomenal,
           it simply can't be beat.

Impossibly provocative
           for something so petite;

There's really nothing else quite like...

                                                 the smell
                                                 of my own feet.

© Ed DeCaria. All rights reserved.

Ed DeCaria is probably best known right now in the children's poetry world for launching the fantastic, poetic March Madness bash this year, but it won't be long, I don't think, before he's far better known for his poetry. He's a whiz at engaging the senses via wordplay and word choice, and for me at least, when Ed's poetry is around, there's laughter afoot, even when he treads in areas that could easily be booted to the scrap heap.

Ed's Home on the Web

I "met" Ed before Madness began, connected by our shared love of baseball and poetry (and baseball poetry). And what I've learned since is that he's got one of those creative genius minds I love being around - from launching and running an event at his site that must've exhausted himself to writing about baseball stats to creating incredibly clever, inventive poetry to uniting a community, he makes it all seem fun and effortless. I'm a fan, clearly, and I'm exceedingly excited to get a chance to shine a light on Ed DeCaria's poetry today here at 30 Poets/30 Days. 

Yesterday, Leslie Bulion gave us The Theory of Everything. Tomorrow, Education/Application from Hope Anita Smith! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Leslie Bulion - The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything
Leslie Bulion

Loopity, whippity,
Such supersymmetry,
Forces and matter are
Built from one thing.

Making our universe
Singing with grace notes from
Vibrating string.

Science Note:

According to string theory, also known as “the theory of everything,” every particle in the universe, and even forces like gravity, are made from infinitesimally small loops. These loops wiggle and vibrate in extra dimensions we can’t really imagine, but can only explain with physics and math. Strings are thought to be the building blocks of all matter and energy, and how they wiggle determines whether they’re a quark in a carbon atom or whether they’re a photon of light!

© Leslie Bulion. All rights reserved.

One of my favorite things about hosting 30 Poets/30 Days is that I never know what I'm going to see as poems start coming in. I love the surprises in form. I get excited by the subjects. And when Leslie Bulion sent me a poem about string theory (and a double dactyl, at that!), well, I did a big old happy dance. Wordplay and cool science in one poem makes my geeky heart skip a beat, I tell you. To make things better still, Leslie wrote this poem based on her upcoming middle grade novel, The Universe of Fair (coming in August from Peachtree). Can you guess who's looking forward to reading that? Can ya? Can ya? (All those who guessed "Greg" can stay after class and help clean up the comments.)

In Leslie's last poetry collection,  At the Sea Floor Cafe (Odd Ocean Critter Poems), there was a similarly excellent mix of facts, fun, and form. To me, this mix is always a winning one... and when I've read the book with kids, I've discovered that, in fact, it's not just me who sees it that way. I'm looking forward to her novel, more poems on string theory, and whatever else Leslie Bulion throws our way... and I'm thrilled to have her here at GottaBook today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Ellen Hopkins brought us Small Surprises. Tomorrow... Ed DeCaria offers up Something Sweet! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ellen Hopkins - Small Surprises

Small Surprises
Ellen Hopkins


Traversing the hardscrabble hillside,
scattered shale makes empty promises
beneath your feet, rock
over boulder, beige
over brown.
The day leans long toward the west
and monotony clings to you like dust,
spattered in your sweat.
Below, sage and bitterbrush smear
to the far horizon. You tire
of the sameness. And you wonder
if God has grown tired, too.
In answer, at your feet, a sudden spray
of scarlet—Indian paintbrush,
rooted in sandstone.


Surfing waves of high meadow
wasteland, your boots trample
the blackened grass, lift
a memory of smoke-strangled skies,
wind, coughing cinders,
and the cries of those who fled.
At the perimeters, scorched
cadavers—Jeffrey pine
and juniper—bear intimate testimony
to the arrogance of man, careless
keeper of the flame.
Humbled in the face of such destruction,
you stumble to find,
midst charcoal and ashes,
a solitary green seedling.
Nearby, a thrush begins to sing.


With a tweak of the faucet, steam rises
to transform the temperate space
behind your shower curtain.
You enter your porcelain rainforest,
step on a blue plastic tugboat.
A curse foams up
into your throat, but before it can bubble
out, you consider existence
minus blue plastic tugboats,
wooden trains and Hot Wheels cars.
This child, thrust into your ordered life,
has roiled it into chaos
and cluttered your neat, neutral
rooms with tissue paper
collages, lopsided dream catchers
and crayoned I love you’s—small surprises
of great magnitude.

© Ellen Hopkins. All rights reserved.

There is something magical in the way Ellen Hopkins puts words on a page. It's more than just her remarkable word choice and imagery, though that's a huge part of it. But for me, it's also in how she uses space and line breaks in a way that I study and study to try and understand how they make everything even more powerful than it already is. I must note, though, that what usually happens for me is that I plan to "study" Ellen's writing but simply end up reading, even though I've read it before.

Ellen's currently writing for both teens and adults (no, no... not just her books which have always been read by adults, too. I mean targeted for adults!). But did you know that she'd written 20 non-fiction books for kids before she published Crank? This fact has always made me happy, as it not only shows the power of hard work and perseverance, but it also shows all of us who create that we should keep doing so. I think Ellen has found her voice, indeed, and I love, love, love the way she has bonded with her readers and with people in the writing community, too. For me, it's truly a huge pleasure and privilege to have Ellen Hopkins here today at 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Secret. Tomorrow, Leslie Bulion with The Theory of Everything! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Me and Spaghetti!

Just a quick note to say that you can see me and hear me over at Renée LaTulippe's No Water River today... on video with my poem I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti is Grown.

And there's an interview and everything. I hope you'll go check it out. And thanks, Renée,  for having me!