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Life on the Deckle Edge

Paul B. Janeczko and Poetic Possibilities

On Friday, March 6, ward-winning poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko kicked off a terrific weekend at the University of Georgia's 40th Annual Conference on Children's Literature. His many books, including the hot-off-the-press third collaboration with (Caldecott Medal-winning) illustrator Chris Raschka, A Foot in the Mouth, make poetry accessible, lively, and fun - even for young readers whose intitial reaction to poetry might not be enthusiastic.

Describing his own less-than-stellar early academic career, Janeczko said his goals in life did not include being an author, but rather achieving Little League fame and outliving the "one-eyed crazed cur" in the forsythia bushes. Fortunately for us, he caught the poetry bug in college. After grad school, he taught high school. He also became "a poetry junkie," reading poetry "irrationally, compulsively, endlessly...."

His books introduce and explore poetic forms, though Janeczko doesn't want young writers to get painfully stuck with syllable counts at the expense of what they're trying to express. His own writing ranges from wacky and playful to serious.

For instance,Wing Nuts (2006), co-authored with J. Patrick Lewis and whimsically illustrated by Tricia Tusa, is a collection of humorous senryu poems, while Worlds Afire (2004, 2007) describes a tragic, real event — a circus fire in Hartford, Conn., in 1944 which killed 167 and injured hundreds more.

Janeczko reminds us that poetry is powerful, and the commonplace is its perfect subject. "Good poetry explodes with possiblities," he says. National Poetry Month is almost here - grab one of Paul B. Janeczko's books and get a running start! http://www.paulbjaneczko.com

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