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Hannah enjoying poetry workshop
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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich
Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
photo by Mel Hornsby
Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy
Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire
Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller
photo by Robyn Hood Black
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June 25, 2015
Greetings from South Carolina on this summertime Poetry Friday.
Just shy of a couple of weeks ago, I finally turned my attention to one of my “TBR” ’s (To Be Read’s) in my always-toppling stack. Jacqueline Woodson’s
BROWN GIRL DREAMING (Nancy Paulson Books, Penguin, 2014) – with its shiny gold National Book Award Winner sticker – had even traveled with me in May, but I hadn’t cracked it open yet. I’d been anxious to read it, and it had certainly been praised on Poetry Friday in recent months.
Then the multiple-award-winning author was named our new Young People’s Poet Laureate by The Poetry Foundation
at the beginning of this month, and I jumped into this autobiographical journey told in verse. I was immediately captivated – and not just by the exquisite writing. I hadn’t realized before that Jacqueline Woodson was born less than two weeks after I was in early 1963 (about 350 miles apart, and in some ways, worlds apart).
I was intrigued by how our early memories might be alike in many ways and drastically different in others. I was born in Tennessee and grew up in Florida; she was born in Ohio and grew up in Greenville, SC, and in New York. (Greenville is where I went to college, met my hubby, and where my daughter currently lives.)
I was not really aware of racial tensions as a very young child; I never saw “Whites Only” signs. They certainly might have existed in places where we traveled when I was tiny, but I would have been too young to read them. I have no recollections of races being separated in my early world.
In BROWN GIRL DREAMING, Woodson masterfully shows how the people she most loved and looked up to as a child had been affected by Jim Crow laws and racial injustice, how life was different in the North and South in the ’60s (and ’70s). Reading the book, you see through her eyes as a child trying to make sense of her family’s past and present.
She describes walking past a Woolworth’s with her grandmother in Greenville, because even after the laws changed, her grandmother had been ignored in that store before:
I wasn’t even there. It’s hard not to see the moment –
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes, a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather purse,
between her gloved hands – waiting quietly
long past her turn.
I remember Woolworth’s – one of the department stores of my childhood. I remember ladies wearing gloves and carrying patent-leather purses. I never remember feeling discriminated against, because that was not my reality. Of course I learned about racial inequality as I grew up and matured, but I didn’t have to endure it directly, or hear that my parents, siblings or grandparents had suffered because of it. I don’t have to battle it now.
It’s been an interesting half-century to be alive. I remember watching President Obama’s first inauguration on TV, seeing his two precious daughters and thinking they were about to move into the White House, and recalling that I had been an infant on this earth when four little girls were blown up in a church in Alabama, and I just cried.
Anyway, this month, I had been reading along in BROWN GIRL DREAMING each night when, 10 short days ago, news broke of the atrocity at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (That’s just a little over an hour up the road from here.) I was numb. I texted my husband, who was on a church service trip with my son in another part of the state.
I cannot pretend to fathom what those families have been going through. Each of those nine souls was a shining light in their homes, communities, and in the greater world. The reactions of many of family members have demonstrated the message that love is stronger than hate. It’s been humbling and inspiring to see these grieving individuals embody such deep faith and verbalize it so simply and eloquently. Grace personified in the midst of unspeakable loss.
Of course, the timing of my reading Jacqueline Woodson’s beautiful book has made it that much more poignant for me. In case you haven’t yet read it, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it’s only about race. It’s about joy and loss and self-discovery, about a young writer falling in love with words and finding her voice – in vivid memories from a full childhood laced with warmth and wonder.
In addition to the poems, there are black and white family photos to enjoy as well. To me, the whole book is like a carefully and lovingly designed photo album. Each poem evokes a picture's thousand words of possibilities and connections. Artfully chosen details and descriptions create a strong, sturdy, and inspiring story – especially for someone creative, of any color and of any age. Especially for any young reader who might struggle a bit with reading or writing, but who has something to say.
For more inspiring poetry this week, please visit the lovely Carol at Carol's Corner
for the Roundup.
June 18, 2015
Greetings, Poetry Friends -
The Academy of American Poets (poets.org) email in my inbox had some suggestions for Father's Day, and because I'm a bit of a 17th-Century buff, I had to click on an offering from Anne Bradstreet
(1612-1672), an unusual-for-the-times female voice of letters in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here is the poem; I love the title:
To Her Father with Some Verses
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.
Father's Day is a mixed holiday for me, as my dad died 20 years ago, less than three months before our youngest was born, when I was almost 32. I loved him dearly; it was complicated. [Alcohol, among other things, will do that.]
My mother remarried about five years after my folks divorced, and I've been blessed to have a wonderful stepdad for 35 years now. My hubby Jeff has been close to his dad all his life, and he's still with us.
Two of my dear friends have lost their fathers since this year began, so I know the weekend is going to be difficult for them, their mothers, and their families. Two men who graduated with or near us years ago at Furman also have died unexpectedly this year, leaving behind wives and teen and young adult children. They were devoted dads.
Of course, being just down the highway from Charleston, I am numbed with other South Carolinians and citizens of the world by the senseless loss of life there Wednesday night - not just people who gave of themselves to their families but who selflessly served their community and beyond in lives that embodied faith. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with them this weekend.
I'm looking forward to Father's Day on the home front celebrating my wonderful husband, and welcoming him and our son back from a week-long church service trip in the upper part of the state, where it was triple digits most days. We'll have a special surprise here for him. And air conditioning.
Whatever this weekend holds for you and yours, I hope it brings joy - in present moments or in memories. And may we all hold up others who are shouldering tragedy or heartache. Like Anne, if we've had loving guidance, we can "pay it while [we] live," as did those precious souls gone from us in Charleston this week.
Mary Lee, the Rounder-upper of Poetry Friday Round-Up hosts, is hosting today over at A Year of Reading.
Actually, she's at a writing conference on Friday, but she's left Mr. Linky to collect posts while she's away. I'm sure we'll all find poetry there to comfort, celebrate and enjoy.
June 11, 2015
Well, last week's pairings of treatments new and old for a familiar nursery rhyme was such fun I couldn't help but want to continue in the same vein this week. Only a little different.
I'm still enjoying OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY collected by Elizabeth Hammill (Candlewick - England in 2014, US in 2015): a new chock-full treasure of 150 nursery rhymes from around the world, illustrated by 77 stellar international artists, featured recently by our good friend Irene Latham
I've now gone crazy for one illustrator's work in particular, Olivia Lomenech Gill, who illustrated "Hush-a-bye, baby,...". She's an award-winning printmaker and artist working in northern England. Her first children's book, Michael and Clare Morpurgo's poetry anthology, WHERE MY WELLIES TAKE ME
(Templar Publishing ), won the English Association 7-11 Picture Book Award and was shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal in 2014.
Take a look at her work on her website (and her agency website)
, and perhaps you'll be left sighing as well. Rich, sumptuous, lively, and my favorite subdued but deep color palette, with lots of gorgeous dark line!
But I digress, even if it was delicious. Back to OVER THE HILLS...
I couldn't find "proof" of the "Hush-a-bye" lullaby's origins, though it seems to be held by many that it was written by early English visitors to America, who noted how Native American mothers hung birch-bark cradles in trees, allowing the wind to rock their infants. There are other theories as well, but in OVER THE HILLS..., Gill's illustration depicts the Mayflower and pre-colonial coastline, and it's opposite a Chippewa lullaby ("Little baby, sleep,/Mother swings your hammock low...) and a lovely painting of a Native American mother and baby.
"Hush-a-bye" seems to have evolved into "Rock-a-bye" In the picture above, I placed my little volume of Kate Greenaway's MOTHER GOOSE
(Frederick Warne) opened to "Rock-a-bye Baby,..." above the "Hush-a-bye" spread.
Here are the two nursery rhymes, not the same but related?:
from OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall,
Down will come baby,
Cradle and all."
and from Kate Greenaway's MOTHER GOOSE
Thy cradle is green;
Father's a nobleman,
Mother's a queen.
And Betty's a lady,
And wears a gold ring;
And Johnny's a drummer,
and drums for the king."
I'm betting some of you super-smart Poetry Friday-ers know more about the history of these English rhymes and lullabies than I do. If so, please share in the comments!
Here's what I remember about lullabies in my own youth. My wonderful mother sang "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," because that's the song her mother rocked her by. So that's what I sang to my own two babes for endless hours on the porch swing. Maybe they'll sing it to their own babies one day!
And my brother and I used to cackle at the following little song:
"Go to sleep,
Little creep -
I am tired and beat.
Go to sleep,
Little creep -
before I DROP YOU!"
I still remember the tune, but I'd hate for that to be my maiden voyage on Sound-Cloud, so I'll leave it at that. ;0)
Thanks for visiting, and if you're still awake, please share your own lullaby thoughts.
Then rock on over to the incomparable Jama's Alphabet Soup
, where she and Mr. Cornelius have the Round-up. And blueberries, lots of yummy blueberries... mmmmm.
June 11, 2015
Greetings! Apologies for the earlier confusion, but here are the UN International School haiku contest winners from our featured student poets of the month, announced last weekend in New York. I’d like to thank so many of you for supporting another year of our “Student Haiku Poet of the Month”
feature, wherein we celebrate promising young poets from The Paideia School in Atlanta each month with examples of their poetry and some of their thoughts about haiku.
This monthly treat is made possible by the efforts of Tom Painting, an award-winning haiku poet and teacher or former teacher of these wonderful young writers. [Click here
for a post about Tom from my blog in 2013.]
Several of them recently won awards in a big international contest – the 2015 Student Haiku Contest
hosted by The United Nations International School, the Northeast Council of Teachers of Japanese, and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.
Of our featured poets from this year and last, the following students were recognized in this year’s competition:
First place, Junior High division - Olivia Graner
creak of the door
the attic's smell
floods the hallway
©Olivia Graner. All rights reserved.
for Olivia’s Student Poet of the Month feature.]
Honorable mention, Junior High division - Cole McCord
of expired milk
©Cole McCord. All rights reserved.
for Cole’s Student Poet of the Month feature.]
Second place, High school division - Marisa Schwartz
the taste of the ocean
in a pretzel
©Marisa Schwartz. All rights reserved.
for Marisa’s Student Poet of the Month feature.]
Third place, High School division - Emma Jones
grandma's rough hands
©Emma Jones. All rights reserved.
for Emma’s Student Poet of the Month feature.]
Paideia had winners in the elementary division and several more honorable mentions in the junior high/high school divisions. Congratulations to all these young poets, and hats off to each student who entered from all over the world.
The judge for English poems for the Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Teacher categories was John Stevenson
. Submissions in the English Division came from 19 different schools/programs in the US and around the world. Finalists came from schools in New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and also from Belgium, Kenya, and Japan.
June 4, 2015
Despite the fact that I gave away box after box of books in our big downsizing move last year, every once in a while Poetry Friday is responsible for my adding another, though I really have no place to put one.
A recent PF post by my dear buddy Irene Latham
featured OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY collected by Elizabeth Hammill (Candlewick - England in 2014, US in 2015): a new chock-full treasure of 150 nursery rhymes from around the world, illustrated by 77 stellar international artists. Oh, be still my heart. Worth making room for.
I am still perusing and enjoying this delightful book. (Irene confessed: "I want to live inside it.") I thought it might be fun to take one of the rhymes and compare it to a more traditional treatment. Hence the image above with Kate Greenaway's MOTHER GOOSE ( Frederick Warne) turned to "Mary Mary, quite contrary" and the same verse featured from the new anthology.
I was immediately drawn to this whimsical, purple Mary (with stripes!) , illustrated by Niamh Sharkey
. Turns out she is Ireland's second Children's Laureate (2012-2014) and has a trail of awards. She also created Disney Jr.'s animated Henry Hugglemonster.
Back to Mary.
Here is the text of the familiar rhyme.
Kate Greenaway's version:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
and cowslips all of a row.
And from the new collection:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells
and pretty maids all in a row.
Guess it all depends on whether you prefer cowslips or pretty maids, and whether you like them "in" or "of" a row!
Also in the photo are a couple of cuttings from our yard - all brand new as the garden has gotten gobs of water via thunderstorms the past few days. My hubby Jeff loves to play in the dirt, and he's planted zinnias and mums (seen here, along with a cute little yellow flower that I INSISTED we buy last year at the home and garden store, because I fell in love with the name -- butter daisy! What could be more adorable than butter daisies?!) Also coming up are the requisite daylilies, sunflowers of varying heights, calla lilies, lavender, and some purple-spikey magenta plant that looks to be a show-off.
What's in your garden? Do you live where color already abounds, or are seedlings just now pushing their way through the dirt? Wherever you are, wishing you a summer of sunshine and flowers and lots (& lots) of poetry.
Go pick out a poetic bouquet today at Buffy's Blog
where wild things and growing things are always celebrated!
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In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!
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Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
National Council of Teachers of English
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