Greetings, Poetry Friday-ers!
I'm freshly back from a glorious week up at a Highlights Founders Workshop with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, and beautifully blogged about by Linda and Catherine. I didn't unpack my suitcase, though – I’m heading out again, this time across the entire country to end up with more of my poetry tribe! I know, I know... I AM a lucky duck. Quack.
I'll finally (!) get to meet Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell IN PERSON at Western Washington University's POETRY CAMP - an awesome conference next Saturday, Oct. 1. Several participating poets will arrive a little early, and I'll be leading a "Makerspace" found poem/mixed media workshop Friday night at a local bookstore. Can't wait!
Speaking of waiting, I'm delighted to keep the celebratory blog party going for the newest member of Sylvia and Janet's Pomelo Books family, YOU JUST WAIT - A Poetry Friday Power Book. The indefatigable Vardell-Wong duo has come up with a truly one-of-a-kind resource for middle school students, sprung from their POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL (an NCTE Poetry Notable published in 2013).
Taking innovative inspiration from Lee Bennett Hopkins’s “groundbreaking work in creating poetry anthologies” (from the dedication), they’ve crafted a book that is part anthology, part novella, and totally interactive. Students are going to love it. I love it. (If I’d only had this book during those couple of years I taught middle school English…)
Nutshell: Janet took a dozen poems from the PFA for Middle School, added two dozen more original poems, and whipped up a complete narrative with living, breathing characters. Sylvia took this delectable main dish and served it up with fun side activities. Then she handed over ingredients and a bowl to the reader, offering a recipe of prompts for each chapter (and space on the pages!) to create his or her own poems.
The character names in YOU JUST WAIT came from Julie Larios’s gorgeous poem, “Names.”
Saturday morning means I buy pan dulce
with Tio Chepe and my cousin Lucesita
whose name means “Little Light” –
that’s what I call her, and she laughs
and pinches me and calls me “Peace”
because my name is Paz. …
(Side note - I get to present a picture book workshop next Saturday with Julie – I know, more lucky quacks! Quack quack!!)
The action part of the story comes from Paz’s trying out for the soccer team. Will she make it? Emotional connections come from relationships (cousins who are also schoolmates) between Paz, Lucesita, and Joe, who is a little older. Middle school students will see themselves in fresh, accessible poems about identity struggles, sports, fears, achievements, family, making it through the school day – and food! – to name a few themes.
Here’s some backstory from Janet:
We moved to a new town when I was a junior in high school. I felt very uncomfortable being “different-looking” in a school that was 90% white and suburban/semi-rural (after having been at a diverse urban school the previous year). My solution: to spend every lunch period in the library, reading alone. This wasn’t necessarily a bad solution, but I was very lonely until I finally started making friends a few months into the year. Something I’d love to see: lunchtime book clubs using YOU JUST WAIT to pull kids in and get them talking. Give them an excuse to join by giving them books!
YOU JUST WAIT provides an easy structure for a book club to follow; they can do one PowerPack a week.
What is a PowerPack, you ask?
Here are the spreads from the PowerPack which include my poem, “Locker Ness Monster.” (These small pictures don't do the type justice, but I wanted to lend a sense of how everything works together.)
The section opens with a PowerPlay pre-writing activity - in this case, a “Pick a Number” adventure with several possible options. Next are two poems: my “Outside Poem” poem from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL and Janet’s “Response Poem,” (this one told from Paz’s point of view, carrying the story over from the previous Power Pack as well as tying into this one).
Locker Ness Monster
Arrrgh. That’s not it.
Nothing. Nada. Nyet.
Click. That’s it!
Unlock your head,
then your fingers,
then the door.
©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.
Locked Out and Running Late
Usually I refuse to check a box.
I just let myself be blank.
But today I checked Other
and Hispanic and Asian
to get things over with because
I am in too much of a hurry
and who I really am
this very second is
and running late.
©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.
Then, a “Mentor Text” poem by Janet follows, this one again from Pax’s point of view:
4 People would never guess
7 that my mind is such a mess
2 with numbers.
6 But I can memorize a poem,
9 read and read it to make it my own.
9 And then I can use it like a code.
3 Here’s a rhyme
4 when it comes time
7 to know my number. OK, let’s see:
3 (472) 699-3473!
©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.
Last in each PowerPack is the Power2You page, with terrific prompts created by Sylvia. In this one, it’s called “Numbers” and offers space to write under the following prompt: Write your phone number in a vertical column below. Then create a poem by writing a line for each number, adding that number of words in each line (so 9 = 9 words, 7 = 7 words, and so on). Or use another set of numbers that means something special to you.
Pretty brilliant, no? Here are some thoughts from Sylvia:
It was fun to explore this new project with Janet and think about ways to involve young people in looking at how poems work. I particularly enjoyed my role in thinking of creative "PowerPlay" and "Power2You" activities that were fun and playful and not like the usual school exercises. It was made easier by Janet's engaging poems that evoke a strong teen voice and persona. I thought about how to connect pre-writing with texting, movies and poems, and numbers and doodles, too. We hope young readers feel empowered to come at poetry in multiple ways and express themselves through their own writing.
[PowerPacks include poems by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Joseph Bruchac, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Charles Ghigna, Avis Harley, Julie Larios, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Janet Wong. I'm beyond thrilled to be in such book company.]
But – WAIT! There’s MORE! Now you want your own copy, right? Janet and Sylvia are eager to get this jam-packed, brimming-with-resources, friendly-sized volume out into the world, inspiring young writers. They have tucked 5-count’em-FIVE copies right here in my blog to give away! Just leave a comment below by Wednesday, Oct. 5, and I’ll announce random winners on Friday, Oct. 7. Then don’t stray too far away – I’ll need to track down lucky ducks via email to find your real-world pond addresses.
Many thanks to Janet and Sylvia for visiting with us today and donating these wonderful books! [Don't want to leave things to chance? Click here for information on how to order this and other Poetry Friday Anthology editions.]
After commenting, be sure to go back to Reading to the Core, where the lovely and talented Catherine is hosting our Roundup this week.