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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - The Poetry of US

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  Are your bags packed?

 

This week the third National Geographic volume of poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis launched into the world, THE POETRY OF US.  (Earlier collections are THE BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY and THE BOOK OF NATURE POETRY - both full of natural wonders and animal magnetism!)

 

THE POETRY OF US invites readers to journey from one end of the country to the other to savor the culture, history, and quirks of the many varied places we call home. It is divided into eight sections:  New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains West, Pacific Coast (including Hawaii and Alaska), and Territories. You'll find thoughtful poems, cheerful poems, challenging poems, heartbreaking poems... I've only just begun to delve in.  

 

I'm beyond thrilled to have a poem included, along with many other Poetry Friday folks.  (I hope there are lots of sneak peeks celebrated in posts!)  My Philadelphia-themed poem shares a page with a powerful one by Charles Waters called "City of Brotherly Love."  And just a couple pages back are a couple of 'our' Lauras on the same page - "Beach Day" by Laura Shovan and "Water, Water Everywhere:  A Delaware Chant" by Laura Purdie Salas.  It's an honor share book space with so many poetry friends and their fine poems in each geographical section.  

 

There are traditional poems such as the Navajo "Twelfth Song of Thunder" and several poems with translations, as well as timeless poems by national literary lights including Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Robert Frost, among others.  More than 200 poems in all!

 

A Frost quote leads us in, in fact: 

 

"All poetry begins with Geography."

 

Our editor extradordinaire offers an enchanting introduction and a final note with poetic invitation. I look forward to sharing this volume and all its breadth and depth with my third-grade-teacher daughter, Morgan, and with family and friends, as well as with young readers and writers in schools. 

 

Here's my contribution, celebrating the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, the nation's largest public art project.  (If you're in that vicinity, it happens to be Mural Arts Month with events from Sept. 28 through November 3!  Click here for more info.)

 

 

Mural Compass

 

Tall figures rise from city ground.

They speak to me without a sound

from vibrant faces, facing sun -

these paintings are for everyone.

 

Chartreuse and purple pop the street,

kaleidoscoping at my feet.

Graffiti marks are now long gone.

These paintings are for everyone.

 

On buildings bare and bridges wide

where history and hope collide

shine songs of freedom, fame, and fun-

These paintings are for everyone.

 

©Robyn Hood Black

 

 

This poem is a kyrielle - a centuries-old French form with eight syllables per line and a repeating end line in couplets or quatrains, with a minimum of three stanzas.  (Its origins are liturgical; the name comes from Old French kyriele, literally, kyrie eleison, from Late Latin, according to Miriam Webster.)

 

Deepest thanks to J. Patrick Lewis for this national treasure of a collection.  Lewis has penned more than 110 poetry and picture books for young readers and in 2011 he received the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. He served as US Children's Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2013.  He continues to travel across the country inspiring students and grown-ups.

 

Now point your compass over to Deowriter, where the oh-so-talented Jone is hosting the Roundup from her lovely writer blog, and making it a GREAT MORNING all day long.  Thanks, Jone!

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Poetry Friday - Animals! TWO BY TWO, Trip Pictures, and New Books to Crow About...

 

 

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

 

 

If you might indulge a few more trip pictures (with no promise that these are the last), I thought I'd share a brand new animal-themed book with a romping rhyme, and a general celebration of our non-human friends today. (Keep scrolling down after the post, if viewing on a computer, to see all of the animal pictures and the book cover at the bottom. IDs and locations are in the caption at the very bottom!)

 

 

Upon returning home from our amazing Scotland/Ireland family adventure this summer, I realized I had snapped several pictures of animals along with the castles and misty vistas.  Of course, I thought to myself upon this discovery.  My life has always been animal-centric, benefiting from a free-range childhood in the woods of Florida, and a lifetime of sharing life with the furred, feathered, hoofed, and scaled, and 30-plus years as a vegetarian. 

 

 

On our first full day in Edinburgh, a pigeon came to call at our apartment window overlooking James Court. We exchanged pleasantries.  I never thought conversing with birds was unusual, since I've done so since I was little, but my kids once gently let me know that not everyone goes around acting like Snow White in the forest scene in the original Disney movie. (Why not?)

 

 

This week I had a tête-à-tête with a broad-winged hawk (from a safe distance, yard to pine tree), letting it know that, No, I would not be putting my tiny Chihuahua back on the ground any time soon, thank you.

 

 

Anyway, as is my practice with close encounters of the animal variety, while in Scotland I looked up pigeon "spirit medicine" and found that it held perfect messages for the beginning of a trip that originated in vials sent off to Ancestry.com. 

 

 

"As a totem, the pigeon teaches us to return to our roots and explore our heritage. …  Pigeon also serves as a reminder that we come from a clan and are not alone."

https://www.thoughtco.com/bird-totems-4062050

 

 

Yay, pigeons!

 

 

And yay, books (especially ones with poetry!) which celebrate our fellow animals.

 

 

In 2011, it was my privilege to coordinate a children's poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich for the SCBWI Southern Breeze region.  Among our wonderful attendees was long-time member Lisa Lowe Stauffer  Lisa's first book for children, TWO BY TWO, a board book by Zonderkids, has just been released! 

 

 

On her website, Lisa mentioned our SCBWI poetry retreat and an assignment Rebecca gave everyone.

 

 

"TWO BY TWO started as a simple, steady poem about Noah's Ark," she writes, noting that the first lines haven't changed.

 

 

On the first colorful page we find animals entering the ark:

 

 

Two by two,

 

Board the boat.

 

Shut the door.

 

Time to float.

 

 

The monkeys become bored, however, and soon they want to do much more than float.  In fact, they "free the zoo" so that all the animals can party like it's, well, a long long time ago, BC.

 

 

Illustrator Angelika Scudamore's bright and lively characters are appealing and full of expression.  Young readers/listeners will have fun pointing out all the different animals on each spread.  The trim size is a generous 8 X 8, perfect for sharing with a wee one in your lap.  Here is another taste of the fun verse:

 

 

Anaconda limbo,

 

Tigers race in pairs.

 

Ring toss on

 

the caribou,

 

Pin the tail on bears!

 

 

Did I mention this was a FUN book?  Congratulations, Lisa and Angelika!

 

 

Interestingly, another rhyming board book was born not too long after that poetry retreat.  Prolific children's author Gail Langer Karwoski penned THANK YOU, TREES (Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner) – a terrific book to share with any inhabitant of the planet. (Here's my blog post about it.) 

 

 

Other Poetry Friday regulars in attendance that weekend included Doraine Bennett and Irene Latham.  (Did I miss any other PF folks?)  Irene has written about LOTS of animals in her novels and picture books.  Keep an eye out for LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS (Millbrook) coming soon to a bookshelf near you!

 

 

One last shout-out. While in Edinburgh, I got to catch up with my buddy Elizabeth Dulemba, and Jane Yolen joined us for lunch.  (She and Elizabeth had a literary event together in Edinburgh that week.) Elizabeth blogged about our meet-up here.   She also blogged about TWO BY TWO with an interview with Lisa and Angelika here

 

 

Elizabeth has lent her rich artistic talents to a book written by Jane with her son, Adam Stemple.  This wonderful new book from Cornell Lab Publishing Group, CROW, NOT CROW, debuts  August 28. (Here is Jane's blog post about it, with peeks inside the pictures from Elizabeth here.)   

 

 

I can't wait to add it to my bookshelf, right next to our Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's EVERYDAY BIRDS.  Young and not-so-young readers who love birds will soon be crowing about CROW, NOT CROW! 

 

Now, flap on over to Nix the Comfort Zone, where the Magnificent Molly has our Roundup.  [What?  MORE trip pix, you ask?  Well, click on over to my new post at artsyletters for a bunch of "animals in images" (& other related curiosities) from our trip!]

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Poetry Friday: Interview with David Jacobson - ARE YOU AN ECHO?

The poem: DAY AND NIGHT After day comes night, after night comes day. From where can I see this long, long rope, its one end, and the other?

Greetings, Poetry Friends. In a week when we could all use more poetry celebrating the human spirit, I’m delighted to welcome David Jacobson, author of the recently released and much-lauded ARE YOU AN ECHO?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (Chin Music Press, September 2016). This gorgeous 64-page picture book biography and poetry collection was also translated by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi and was illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri.

Misuzu lived 100 years ago in Japan. She possessed a keen ability to interpret life from the perspectives of others, even objects. Her poems are taught in schools and beloved by the population there, though largely unknown here, at least until now.

If you don’t know this book yet, these recent features are superb, and they offer many more links. [You’ll have to click back to return here, but please do – David offers a glimpse into the many moving parts behind the book’s creation as well as some history of children’s literature in Japan.]


***********************************


For Jama’s rich review at Alphabet Soup, click here.

Click here for Janet Wong’s behind-the-scenes interviews with David and Sally Ito at Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children.

Julie Danielson at Kirkus interviewed David here.

For an interview on Playing by the Book with Zoe Toft, click here.

Here’s the Misuzu Kaneko/ARE YOU AN ECHO? site.


***********************************


The posts above offer insights into the hardships and tragedy of Misuzu's life, and discussions of how these are sensitively handled in the text and art, as well as showcasing her beautiful poetry.




Now it’s my turn to interview David!

Tell us a bit about yourself - your career as a writer, your interest (and fluency) in Japanese, how you spend your days?

My writing career started inauspiciously as a copy boy at the New York bureau of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan’s Wall St. Journal), where I would retrieve wire copy and fetch dinner for the correspondents. I then progressed through a series of reporting and editing jobs at the Associated Press, NHK (Japanese public broadcasting), and CNN. Following a long transition during which I got an MBA and had 2 kids, I ended up at Chin Music Press in Seattle, where I’ve worked ever since doing a variety of editorial and marketing jobs.

I’ve been interested in Japan ever since going there as an exchange student during high school. I obtained a degree in East Asian Studies from Yale, and undertook advanced language instruction at Middlebury and the Stanford Center in Tokyo. After obtaining my degree at Yale, I lived in Japan for 5 years, first as a graduate student and then as a journalist. My work has involved Japan in various ways ever since.

Today, I’m the principal caregiver to my two children, and am forever trying to complete my writing and publishing obligations during the time they are at school. I also try to fit in some time to play the piano, a hobby I’ve pursued since I was five.


How did you first discover the poetry of Misuzu Kaneko?

A Japanese friend of many years sent me an anthology of her work in the fall of 2013. In reading her poems, I was first struck by how relevant they were to me and my own kids, even though Misuzu wrote them nearly 100 years ago. And then I was utterly charmed by the compassion she shows – to the fish on her plate, to a dog who has broken its leg, to a boy and a girl on a first date.

What compelled you to create a book about Misuzu and her poetry?

I started out loving her poetry. Then once I started looking into the possibility of translating her work, I realized that she was really a dream subject. Her poems had hardly been translated into English, and her backstory was both fascinating and tragic. But then the idea of pitching a poetry book (not a favorite of most US publishers) about what some might consider a fairly esoteric subject (a Japanese poet from a century ago) set in… Fortunately, though, Chin Music Press liked the idea.

I was struck by how she maintained her voice, despite the times and the culture in which she lived, as well as her illness. How do you think she kept her sense of self in these circumstances?

It’s really astonishing, isn’t it? She must have been a truly amazing woman. She grew up in a family of women, in which her mother and grandmother were in charge (her father had died when she was 3 and her grandfather was out of the picture). They let her get much more education than most Japanese girls got in those days. So I think her family must have encouraged her to become a strong, smart, and self-possessed young woman.

But when you look at how she responded to her very difficult marriage, her illness and the impending takeaway of her daughter, she displays such tremendous courage and will, based on her personal values, that you get the sense of a woman of great internal strength. I think that’s what enabled her to get through such difficulties.


As a student of haiku, I heard echoes of Issa as I read Musuzu's beautiful, original poems. What might have been some of her literary influences?

For someone who grew up in a fairly remote and provincial part of Japan, Misuzu was extremely well educated and cosmopolitan. There are multiple references to Hans Christian Andersen in her work, as well as to Western stories and characters like Jack and the Beanstalk, Robinson Crusoe, and King Midas. She became familiar with English poet Christina Rossetti, after her mentor said her poetry was reminiscent of Rossetti’s.

As for Japanese influences, she kept a scrapbook of works by contemporary poets she admired, offering a direct window into her literary tastes (poets included Kitahara Hakushu, Saijo Yaso, Horiguchi Daigaku, etc.). I can’t name any specific classical Japanese influences; however, her work often (though not always) follows 5-7 or 7-7 rhythms, suggesting close understanding of Japanese traditional forms such as tanka and haiku.


What was the publishing world like for children's literature in early 20th-Century Japan?

It must have been quite an exciting and liberating time to be in children’s literature in Japan in the 1920s when Misuzu was writing. Prominent writers such as Akutagawa and Shimazaki were joining the field. For the first time in Japanese literary history, Japanese writers were attempting to depict children’s inner lives, and they were encouraging each other to experiment. Moreover, there were amazing opportunities to be published. At one point there were 66 different children’s magazines published in Tokyo alone!

Wow!
This book is a sparkling feat of collaboration. How did you, Setsuo Yazaki, Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi come to cross paths? What was it like to work together?


There are so many collaborators on this book that reviewers can’t seem to keep straight who did what!

With the approval of my boss at Chin Music Press, Bruce Rutledge, I selected Sally and Michiko from a list of several translators. I liked the fact that Sally was herself a poet, and had already translated a considerable number of Misuzu’s poems with Michiko. Most important, though, was their sometimes motherly, sometimes girlish, but always accessible tone. We needed a voice that would speak to children, and I think Sally and Michiko provided it.

The collaboration between Sally, Michiko and me was much more intense than I expected, but very rewarding too. We lived in 3 different countries with 3 different time zones, so the most effective way to communicate was by email or Skype. Starting in early summer of last year, we exchanged comments and suggestions about the narrative and the poetry nearly daily. Each poem went through multiple drafts, as did the narrative. It was frustrating at times, but exhilarating, too, to get to the bottom of what Misuzu was trying to accomplish and then to convey that to English readers.

As for Yazaki, I met him in Japan during my September 2015 trip there. He and the head of JULA Publishing Bureau, Misuzu’s Japanese publisher, met me, illustrator Toshikado Hajiri and translator Michiko Tsuboi in Senzaki, where Misuzu grew up. They showed us around the Kaneko Memorial Museum (which Yazaki directs) and a number of other places in town connected with Misuzu. They had flown all the way from Tokyo (at least a half day’s travel) to meet us.


Toshikado Hajiri's art is breathtaking, capturing joy as well as solemnity. Did you see the paintings before publication, and how do they help tell the story?

Yes, I was in close contact with Toshi from early on in the process, and showed him multiple copies of the manuscript before he even began sketching. In September of 2015, the two of us, along with translator Michiko Tsuboi, visited Misuzu’s hometown of Senzaki together, so that Toshi could get a feel for the look of the place where she grew up. After a month or so, he submitted sketches, which we commented on, and then once we reached agreement, he painted them.

I feel his work adds a lot to the text: the look and feel of early 20th century Japan; and tone and emotion, particularly to the darker parts of the story where the text is spare. His art also amplifies the meaning of some of the poems. I love, for instance, his interpretation of “Day and Night,” a poem in which a child is wondering about time: when does day end and night begin? Toshi brilliantly reinterprets the rope, a metaphor for time, as a jump rope!


Finally, tell us about your travel plans for January!

I am not familiar with all the details yet, but from what I understand I will be participating in three events with poet Setsuo Yazaki in Kyoto, Tokyo and Asahikawa, Japan. They are being organized by Misuzu’s Japanese publisher, JULA Publishing Bureau, and are intended to celebrate the launch of ARE YOU AN ECHO? in Japan.

Sounds wonderful! Many thanks for joining us today, David, and sharing so much of how this treasure of a book came to be. (My thanks as well to Janet Wong for introducing me to David last month at POETRY CAMP at Western Washington University.)

For this week’s delectable Poetry Friday Roundup, please visit the aforementioned one-and-only Jama at Alphabet Soup!
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Poetry Friday - One Minute till Some Terrific Poems!


Greetings, Poetry Peeps! I missed everyone last week while I was winding up a week of school presentations (20, give or take) in Georgia.

It's the only week of the year that I actually take naps.

Maybe next year, I'll take along the hot-off-the-press collection getting so much buzz this week, Kenn Nesbitt's ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME (Little Brown and Company, illustrated by New York Times illustrator and celebrated artist Christoph Niemann). Click here for more about Kenn's first anthology on his extensive and colorful website, Poetry4Kids.

The Night Sky certainly seems to approve, with showers of sparkly stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. The anthology has also been selected by Publishers Weekly as a Best Book of 2016.

Easy to see why, with 140 new poems by many of the best children's poets writing today. That includes quite a few Poetry Friday folks - so many that if I tried to mention, I'd leave someone out. Congratulations to everyone whose work lies between the intriguing purple covers!

It was a treat for me to meet Kenn (Children's Poet Laureate, 2013-15) at Western Washington University's POETRY CAMP a few weeks ago. He's kindly agreed to let me share one of his poems from the book today. There are seven sections, chock-full of poems that can be read in about a minute each. Every section is launched with a poem by Kenn. Here is one of my favorites, just over mid-way through.


Ted, Ted, Climb in Bed


Ted, Ted,

climb in bed.

Grab that book

we've read and read.

Tuck the blanket.

Tuck the spread.

Here's a pillow

for your head.

Settle in.

Get ready, Ted.

Here come poems

just ahead!



©Kenn Nesbitt. Used with permission.

I predict this book will be "read and read," and read again! And, hey - it's out just in time for your holiday gift list. Sleepy parents will enjoy it as much as their tired tykes.

For more great poetry morning, noon, or night, visit the lovely Laura at Writing the World for Kids. (Yep - she's in the book, too!)
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Poetry Friday: Charles Ghigna' s Wild Side


Welcome, Poetry Friday Fans!

Today we have a special treat -
Charles Ghigna, a.k.a. Father Goose®, is in the house!

You’ll find his name on the spines of more than 100 award-winning books from publishers such as Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, and Orca, and as a byline on more than 5000 poems in anthologies, textbooks, newspapers, and magazines - including Highlights, Cricket, The New Yorker and many more. Though he gallivants all over connecting kids and poetry, we’re happy to claim him here in the South, as he makes his home in Alabama.

This month we’re celebrating some fun new animal books running wild – just in time for any critter-crazed kids on your holiday gift list.

Just out from Animal Planet, Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals is sure to please any budding zoologists or simply curious kids.

“The target audience is ages 8-12, but we think ALL ages will like this one” Charles says. “It's 128 pages chock full of stunning close-up photos by some of the world's top nature photographers! You will see creatures from the bottom of the world's deepest oceans to the uninhabited jungles of the Amazon. Many of the animals have only recently been discovered!”

I’m in!

Click here for a peek inside.
Charles has kindly shared the poems introducing each section.



Strange

Strange how we as humans
View creatures great and small—
For we who see their strangeness
Are the strangest ones of all!


Unusual

Unusual is what we call
The weird, the fast, the rare.
We classify each creature—
But do they really care?


Gross

Gross is used instead of yuck
For words like poop and pus,
But all these animals agree—
It's only gross to us!


Cool

Cool is how we think we look
When we try to impress,
But animals are born that way—
With lots of cool finesse!


Poems ©Charles Ghigna. All rights reserved.


Need some animal-friendly titles for the younger set? Check out Charles’s recent books from Orca Books, A Carnival of Cats(2015) and A Parade of Puppies(released in August), both illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman. These interactive board books feature rhyming texts that playfully invite young readers to guess what kind of dogs/cats are hiding on the pages. Wag, wag!


Now, how about an Extra Credit Q & A with Charles?


If you were an animal, what animal would you be & why?

An Arctic Whale. It can live for more than 200 years. That would give me a little more time to write a few more books and poems!

What's the coolest animal you've ever seen in person?

Our Golden Retriever, Honey. She was a loving, loyal, smart companion. She used to follow me up here to my treehouse and sit beside while I wrote, then follow me down the stairs for coffee breaks -- and treats.

Whenever I'd lie on the floor to do a few sit-ups, she would lie down beside me on her back.

She had quite a vocabulary. She understood words like "walk, car, food, go, stop, sit, stay -- and pizza!" We used to spell those words when she was in the room to keep her from running to the backdoor to get in the "car" or run to the front door for a "walk" -- or when we ordered "pizza." ;-)


Is your Muse diurnal or nocturnal?

I guess I'd have to say both. She's been good to me day and night. I often write late at night and into the wee hours of the morning. So far she's been a very accommodating companion.

Are you a dog person or cat person? (Or, like me, unabashedly both?)

I'm like you. I'm unabashedly both. I love dogs -- and admire cats! ;-)
My first two books and my last two books are about dogs and cats. My first books from Disney were GOOD DOGS BAD DOGS and GOOD CATS BAD CATS and a couple of my latest books are A CARNIVAL OF CATS and A PARADE OF PUPPIES.


Do you currently belong to any pets?

Yes, but not in the house. My "pets" now are all free range pets: a hawk that lives in a nearby tree and circles over the treehouse each day to say hello, multitude of squirrels and chipmunks I watch from my window, and two jeweled hummingbirds I'm watching right now at the feeder.

I would add the menagerie of monarchs that have been dancing outside my window this summer, but it looks like most of them have already started heading to their vacation homes farther south.


You mentioned "treehouse" again - do you really work in a treehouse?

Yes, I do. It's the treehouse-looking attic of my home, a 1927 red brick Tudor cottage here in Homewood, Alabama.

That is just wonderful. Thanks for visiting with us today! [Pssst – want a peek at the treehouse? Click here for a 2009 video tour created by the Homewood Library.]

The wonderful Tricia is rounding up for us this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

[I’m gallivanting myself for Family Weekend at Seth’s college and then a week of school visits near Atlanta – will check in when I can from the Peach State!]
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Poetry Friday - YOU JUST WAIT Giveaway (!) with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong



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


Twenty-four
Eighteen
Six.


Arrrgh. That’s not it.

Twenty-six
Fourteen
Eight.


Nothing. Nada. Nyet.

Twenty-six
Eighteen
Four.


Click. That’s it!

Unlock your head,
then your fingers,
then the door.



©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.



PAZ:
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

locked out
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:


PAZ:
Numbers


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.
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Poetry Friday: Daily Issa and Creatures Great and Small

I don’t know about you, but to counteract the weight of the daily news, I could use a daily dose of Issa!
[Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) is regarded as one of the primary masters of haiku. He endured much hardship and loss, and his heartfelt poetry is known for its sensitivity to all living things.]

Wait -- Now I have a daily dose of Issa!

For years, Issa scholar and past-president of the Haiku Society of America David G. Lanoue has offered a random Issa poem delivered to your inbox or your Twitter account (or both!) . [Here’s a post about Dr. Lanoue (David) from my blog a couple-few years ago. A professor at Xavier University, he has translated upwards of 10,000 of Issa’s poems.]

His Issa website was launched in 2000. Click here to get to know Issa and sign up for daily poems. After my own unsuccessful attempt a while back to receive this daily treasure (operator error, I’m certain – it’s really quite easy), I finally got myself subscribed and love reading an Issa poem each day.

Thursday’s made me smile:


at an honest man's gate
honeybees
make their home


1824, translated by David G. Lanoue.


It reminded me of our summer guest I blogged about before – the golden silk orb weaver who took up just outside the back door and is still with us. She’s apparently going to go for a third brood?

Issa wrote about spiders, too. And lots of animals. Lanoue’s book, Issa and the Meaning of Animals – A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective (2014), offers accessible insights about this special poet and many of his haiku – a must if you are an Issa fan, a double-must if you are an animal-loving Issa fan.

Here’s one I love:


corner spider
rest easy, my soot-broom
is idle


Translated by David G. Lanoue.


And one more – this goes out to my newlywed teacher-daughter Morgan. They have seen deer a few times in their in-town neighborhood in Georgia this week; a buck, twice!


the young buck’s
antlers tilting…
“cuckoo!”


Translated by David G. Lanoue.


The book provides background and unlocks potential meanings for the poems, which give us beautiful imagery with or without explication. Hope you enjoyed this taste!

Are you a teacher? Click here and here for David’s website pages designed just for you. You can “test” your haiku/Issa knowledge with the first link, and find out about how to share Issa’s life and poetry with kids at the second.

Also, if picture poetry books call your name, you might enjoy sharing Matthew Gollub’s Cool Melons – Turn to Frogs! – The Life and Poems of Issa, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone (Lee & Low, 1998, 2004). This colorful paperback combines some biography and sample poems to offer glimpses into Issa’s life and writing.

That's what’s going on in my universe this week. For the Poetry Friday Roundup and lots more poetic goodness, please visit poet and teacher extraordinaire Heidi over at My Juicy Little Universe.  Read More 

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Poetry Friday - THANK YOU, TREES by Gail Langer Karwoski and Marilyn E. Gootman


Greetings, Poetry Friday Tribe! It's our last Friday of National Poetry Month for this year. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of catching up to do this weekend on all the poetic wonderfulness around the Kidlitosphere. If you're in the same boat, have no fear - Jama's Roundup of the month's activities will guide you and keep you clicking for days.

With a nod to Earth Day last week, I'd like to introduce a little book I've been meaning to highlight since it came out three years ago. It was the first rhyming children's book by award-winning author and my dear friend, Gail Langer Karwoski, and co-written by Marilyn E. Gootman. Thank You, Trees, illustrated by the multiple-award-winning Kristen Balouch and published by Kar-Ben Publishing (a division of Lerner), is a lovely rhyming romp in celebration of something akin to a Jewish Arbor Day. (Click here for the publisher's page about it and here for Amazon .)

This board book invites the very youngest readers and listeners to appreciate the trees around them and to learn about Tu B'Shevat, a festival sometimes called the "New Year for Trees."

Here is the text on the opening spread:


On Tu B'Shevat
We plant a tree.
Baskets of fruit
For you and me.

Orange, grapefruit
Peach or plum,
Lemon, mango,
Apple - yum!


©Gail Langer Karwoski and Marilyn E. Gootman


The colorful art is joyous, perfectly complementing the verse. The book garnered great reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, and Publisher's Weekly.

Be sure to check out Gail's website for more info on this and her many wonderful, classroom-friendly books. Her work has deep roots and an expansive reach, providing lots of cover and adventure for young readers!

Our host for Poetry Friday is no stranger to the woods. In fact, be sure to read her Earth Day poem posted last week. Many thanks, Buffy, for rounding us up today.

I'm off for a weekend in the mountains, where I plan to savor poetry AND appreciate the glory and goodness of trees. Wishing you the perfect shady spot to read in! Really... have you hugged a tree today? Have you? ;0)  Read More 
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Poetry Friday - DAYENU & Extra Credit Questions for April Halprin Wayland


We’re slap-in-the-middle of Poetry Month! Does it get much better? Well, it does if you get to hang out with one of my all-time favorite people and poets, April Halprin Wayland.

Welcome to Life on the Deckle Edge, April, where I’m always running a wee bit ragged. Until I spend a few moments with something as wonderful as your just-launched More Than Enough - A Passover Story (Dial Books for Young Readers), which invites us to slow down and savor and be grateful. Katie Kath’s exuberant illustrations brim with joy, depicting a loving family’s preparations for their special Passover meal.

Today, I appreciate your playing along for a few “Extra Credit” questions!


April’s Extra Credit Q & A

“We wander the market surrounded by colors – Dayenu.”
First, what is Dayenu? Second, where are your favorite places to wander?


Dayenu (pronounced die-AYE-new) is the title of a song we sing at Passover . It's bright and bouncy and the chorus is a true earworm—it's simply the word Dayenu repeated over and over.

Dayenu means, "It would have been enough." So, for example, we say, if we had only been freed from slavery, that would have been enough—Dayenu! And, if the Red Sea had split and that was all, that would have been enough...etc.

Dayenu is a reminder to be aware of and grateful for the blessings in each moment.

Favorite places to wander? Meadows. And on verdant green hiking trails with my dog or my hiking buddies. Although I live within walking distance of the ocean in Southern California, rolling green hills are what light me up.

“We reach through the bars to lift one purring kitten.” Please, tell us about your pets!

Gladly, Robyn. I include an animal in all of my books.

• Eli is our licky, lanky dog (part Doberman, part German Shepherd, part knucklehead);
• Snot is our tiny tortoiseshell cat (she was the runt of the litter) with a squeaky kitten voice. (And don't blame me—my husband named her);
• Sheldon is our California desert tortoise. We had to get a permit from the state to adopt him because these tortoises are listed as a threatened species.
• We have about ten 10-cent gold fish in our pond (who have grown the size of submarines),
• and we have two red-eared slider turtles. We used to have four, named after the Beatles; we're not sure who survived, so their names could be any two of these: John, Paul, George or Ringo.

“We soak in blue bubbles and dress up for dinner.” What was your most recent dress-up occasion, or one on the horizon?

You can bet that I dressed up for the official More Than Enough book launch at our wonderful local independent bookstore. It was so much fun! I wore a bright hearts-and-rainbow dress, read the book, taught the Dayenu song and played the fiddle as the audience joined in.

Then we passed out coloring pages and I talked to the grown-ups about the hilarious behind-the-scenes story of how this book was born. [This is a must-read, Folks – click here for a tale of flexibility & determination!]

We served my favorite Passover food, charoset. Charoset symbolizes mortar which Jewish slaves used between bricks to build edifices for the Pharaoh. It's made of chopped apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon, dates and either wine or grape juice. Put it on matzoh and it's yummy-crunchy-sweet—divine!

“We search high and low for the lost afikomen.” Do you have a favorite “found object”?

Such an interesting question, Robyn. My father was a farmer and an artist—and an appreciator of all things great and small. He found a crooked old plumbing pipe about the size of a child's arm, bent at the elbow; he stuck flowers and a chicken hawk feather in it, and brought it home. So quirky-beautiful... and so my father. That's the first thing I thought of.

(Not gonna lie… that made me tear up a little!)
“She wraps us in blankets, then sings Eliyahu.” You’re no stranger to music. Do you sing to the radio or iTunes while stuck in LA traffic? What station? Are you a humble hummer or a belter-outer?


Actually, I usually listen to National Public Radio 24/7—news, not music. And audio books. In terms of music, I'm all about sitting-around-the-living-room playing acoustic instruments and singing folk music with friends. Songs written by songwriters like Tom Paxton and Stan Rogers, to name a few.

But lately when I'm driving listen to the songs from the musical, Hamilton. Wow. I've never understood hip-hop before, I'd never taken the time to really listen to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the lyrics, the music, the book, and who stars in the musical knocks it out of the stadium. (I also listen to In the Heights, which Miranda wrote and starred in, too).

When I'm in the car, I'm a belter-outer. Which are you, Robyn?

Ha! Well, I’m an NPR addict as well. But bring on a classic rock anthem, and I’m belting it out -- if it's just me in the car, anyway!

The children enjoy “… a Passover sleepover.” Best rest for you – rain on a tin roof? Ocean? Crickets? Birdsong and window blinds?

Rain on the roof. (The alarm on my cell is birdsong. It's an almost liquid way to transition from dreaming to real life.)

Thanks so much for joining us today, April. We could never get enough of YOU!

Thank you for having me, Robyn—I love your questions (and you!)

Readers, for some extra fun today, I’m happy to report I’m a guest over at Penny Klosterman’s terrific blog as part of her “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt” series, where you’ll also get to meet my super-talented niece, Sara, and my delightful great nephew, Carter.

And for even more Poetry Month celebrating than you think you can stand, bop on by Today’s Little Ditty, where the magical Michelle has our Roundup this week.
Dayenu!

[Note: I'm attending a history conference here in Beaufort today and will try to check in at the mid-day break. Go ahead and leave some love for April!]
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Poetry Friday - Spring Haiku from Terri L. French


Happy 2nd Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month!

I'm on the road but wanted to share a few lovely spring haiku by my friend, Terri L. French. Terri has been the fearless leader of our Southeast Region of the Haiku Society of America for several years, bringing lots of lively opportunities to our part of the country. I'm taking the reins this year, but she and the organization's powers-that-be have kindly agreed to let me get past a very busy spring first, including planning daughter Morgan's out-of-town June wedding. (Thank you, Terri and HSA!)

Much appreciation to Terri for sharing these poems here this week. Enjoy!



oodles of daffodils--
the beauty of an empty vase


Bottle Rockets, 2011



a succession of sneezes--
forsythia blossoms




gentle rain...
the chant of spring peepers
joins my zen




wind
blowing on the child
blowing on the pinwheel



Poems ©Terri L. French. All rights reserved.



These last two poems are from Terri's collection, A Ladybug on My Words, available from Amazon.

Terri was a guest on my blog three years ago during Poetry Month; click here for a bit of her background and more of her haiku!

Speaking of haiku and Poetry Month, The Haiku Foundation will once again celebrate International Haiku Day with a global "rolling haiku" on April 17. Mark your calendar and click here for more details!


If you're a fan of short poems, you've probably ventured over to Laura Purdie Salas's blog. She's our host today for the Roundup, so make like a ladybug and fly on over to visit Writing the World for Kids.
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