Howdy! Waving on my way to the airport for a quick trip; Amazing Amy at The Poem Farm has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. See you next week!
Life on the Deckle Edge
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! Nope, I can't believe it's already September either... but it was nice to get a peek at the blue moon/super moon to round out August. (It was so cloudy because of the outer storm bands Wednesday night that it took three attempts. Prayers for all those affected by Idalia. My Florida family folks are all okay.)
The next time we'll have that super-blue combo treat, it will be 2037. Our baby grandson will be old enough to get a learner's permit!
I have hopes for him, and for our world, as we face so many overwhelming challenges. Hope lifts us up - it's the thing with feathers, as our Emily said a century-and-a-half ago.
What is Hope? is also the newest title in the ekphrastic anthology series for young readers from Pomelo Books. Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have outdone themselves again, offering a collection of 40 poems written in response to photographs, and all sparkling with hope. There's also a great section in the back with resources for readers, writers, and teachers. As with previous titles, 100 percent of the profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. (That is hope in action, right there.)
This book, along with others in the series, sprang forth from an online workshop led by Janet & Sylvia. I was delighted to participate again in one of these magical gatherings, and I'm honored to have a poem included in the volume, pictured above. (Sylvia made wonderful 'poem cards'!) The poems were penned by current and previous workshop participants, along with a few guest poets as well. The opening poem, "World," by Syliva, sets a perfect tone for choosing hope when the world offers so many reasons for anger and sadness. Janet has a very fun poem livening up the middle, "Pickleball." I really enjoyed this one because I had the good fortune, along with fellow contributor Matthew Winter, to get a personal pickleball lesson from Janet herself, and her quick-on-his-feet and fast-with-a-paddle husband, Glenn. (That was in July, at the "Think Poetry" & more gathering at Janet's beautiful home in Washington state. I mentioned this wonderful trip in a blog post here.)
Here's my poem:
To look at me,
you might only see
my long body bunching up.
Lumbering along a branch,
What you don't see
are my wings.
Give me a little time.
A place to spin.
A thread of hope.
I will stretch iridescent wings
and dance in the wandering wind.
©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.
What is Hope? has just been named a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press" Selection for August 2023. (Each month, the CBC highlights new titles identified as great resources for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents. See the whole August list here.)
Hop on over to Pomelo Books to learn more about this hope-full collection here. You'll find several options for purchase. Easy-peasey clicks, and you'll be adding to our world's supply of HOPE.
Ramona at Pleasures from the Page is gagthering up all the Poetry Friday goodness this week. Thanks, Ramona!
Quick Wave! I didn't quite get a post up for this week (been a week of artsy-making and studio-chaos), but please go visit our generous and lovely and talented Linda at TeacherDance for the Roundup. She offers a poignant look at new beginnings as we begin transitioning from summer to fall.
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I hope you don't mind a little sidestepping from poetry into another genre. I'll try not to keep you long!
A decade ago, I wrote the following haiku which appeared in Acorn.
telling it slant
a ghost crab slips into
©Robyn Hood Black
Acorn, No. 31, Fall 2013
This poem was a grateful nod to our dear Emily's poem:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)
By Emily Dickinson
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
"Explanation kind" and slightly slanted truth can come in other forms, too. Fiction. Parables. And... Fables.
For well more than a decade, I've written several monthly components for Core Essentials Values, a character education program in more than two thousand schools across the country, and based in my old former stomping grounds in Georgia. (Here's a link to their website.) Programs are available for students from pre-K through high school, and my work is for the elementary school components.
For each month's value (say, kindness, or patience, or initiative), I choose an animal to represent it and compose a short nonfiction piece about that animal; a color, with a brief explanation of how it relates to the value; and quotations (usually quite old - 1. there's a lot of wisdom in generations past, and 2. I respect copyright!). It's a LOT of research and a good bit of writing, but I love doing it. Other writer/educators write the direct curriculum, and most of them have been around since the early days, too.
In years past, Core Essentials teamed up with a publisher and offered "book bundles" with trade titles as supplemental classroom materials, a fun way to reinforce that year's values. With changes at that publisher, this option was not really feasible moving forward. The talented folks I answer to (Elizabeth Higgins and Leslie Bolser) wanted to come up with another books-related offering, if I would do the writing! After bouncing around varioius ideas via email and Zoom, we had a meeting last November that took a fun turn. Producing a book for each month was not a very realistic goal, but I grabbed a thought from Leslie and then tossed out the idea of doing a book of fables - just one book, but with 10 chapters corresponding to each value for the year. And, I'd make whatever animal I had previously chosen "star" in that month's fable. During this meeting, I happened to have within arm's reach several antique Aesop's Fables books, because that's how much of a nerd I am. I've always enjoyed sharing fables in author school visits.
They were excited and asked if I could come up with a sample in a few weeks. "Of course," I heard myself say, though with my online artsyletters business, November and December are downright crazy months. I turned in a prototype, they liked it, and we were off and running. After the holidays, I wrote the rest of the fables, in the chaos of a temporary apartment-more-like-storage-unit, as we were selling our house at the coast and getting ready to move here to the hills.
Those were a 'wild' few weeks, but I had a blast writing the stories (after purchasing and reading even more old books of fables, of course...). I enjoyed the challenge of some of the animals I had to work with; I always try to mix in a variety (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, the occasional fish, insects etc.), and I try to highlight North American animals familiar to US kids as well as animals in unusual habitats on other continents. So that's how I ended up having to figure out how to make a decorator crab the central figure in a fable, among other wonderful creatures.
At the end of each fable are discussion questions, thoughtfully written by Lois Brown and Leslie Bolser. Super classroom-friendly!
Jonathan Maloney, our curriculum illustrator, was eager to have a go with the book. He makes amazing graphics each year, including the poster featuring all of the animals. His work is bright, accessible, clear, and kid-friendly. I wondered how he was going to translate that simple graphic style into actual characters for the book. Magically, evidently! His compositions, character expressions, and fun small touches here and there make the animals visually endearing and add another layer of subtle humor. A youngster in my extended family saw the book recently and appreciated the "shoes on the alligator" in The Manatee & the Alligator. (That was one of my favorite stories to write, too.)
Here's a peek at the book's page on the Core Essentials website [ https://coreessentials.org/collections/all-resources/products/new-august-2023-may-2024-values-book?variant=40256881328174 ] , with a link to that first fable I mentioned writing, The Pika and the Bear.
This softcover/paperback book is tailored to be used with Core Essentials Values curriculum, but it's also offered separately.
I hope teachers find this bonus book fun and helpful; I'm ready to tackle the next menagerie! I also look forward to sharing OUT ON A LIMB with students this fall and discussing how reading and writing poetry helps us write across all genres, including fables.
Our wonderful Molly is tackling the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Nix the Comfort Zone.
Well, my post last week all wrapped up in love seems appropriate for this week, too... I'm helping my best friend from college with her daughter's wedding this weekend! Happy for the special couple, and not together enough to have done a post beforehand to share. Hope you have a LOVEly weekend yourself - please go enjoy a fun poem and wonderful roundup hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference. :0)
Greetings, Poetry Lovers!
Confesstion: On Thursday morning, I blew off work to finish a book while rocking on the front porch. We had a slow, steady rain all day and temps just in the upper 60s and low 70s, so can you blame me? Everything is still lush and green. We'll be back to pushing 90 this weekend.
I finally finished THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune (website here.) The book was published in 2020 by TOR, and my family members have been raving about it as it got passed from person to person. If you haven't read it, no spoilers - but one does learn early on that snuggled up into the main storyline is a quiet love story between main character Linus and oh-so-compelling Arthur. So count me in its large fan club! (I know the author has published two more books since then - and others before. I didn't say I was particularly timely.)
With love in mind, I went searching for an old August-y poem for this week, noting in some of my dusty tomes in my studio that for our British friends, "traditional" harvest thoughts begin in August, and did for us Americans until we came up with Thanksgiving. At any rate, I stumbled upon a poem by American author James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916 - learn about this popular poet and children's writer here) that jived with my love poem/harvesty/blue moon-super-moon-month sensibilities at the moment. It's from RILEY LOVE-LYRICS, with "life pictures" by William B. Dyer, published by Grosset & Dunlap. The copyright goes back to 1883, but this edition is 1905. The dreamy photograph above accompanies the poem.
WHEN MY DREAMS COME TRUE
When my dreams come true - when my dreams
come true -
Shall I lean from out my casement, in the starlight and
To listen - smile and listen to the tinkle of the strings
Of the sweetest guitar my lover's fingers fondle, as he sings?
And as the nude moon slowly, slowly shoulders into view,
Shall I vanish from his vision - when my dreams come
When my dreams come true - shall the simple gown I
Be changed to softest satin, and my maiden-braided hair
Be raveled into flossy mists of rarest, fairest gold,
To be minted into kisses, more than any heart can hold? -
Or "the summer of my tresses" shall my lover liken to
"The fervor of his passion" - when my dreams come true?
When my dreams come true - I shall lie among the
Of happy harvest meadows; and the grasses and the
Shall lift and lean between me and the splendor of the
Till the moon swoons into twilight, and the gleaners'
work is done -
Save that yet an arm shall bind me, even as the reapers do
The meanest sheaf of harvest - when my dreams come
When my dreams come true ! when my dreams come true!
True love in all simplicity is fresh and pure as dew; -
The blossom in the blackest mold is kindlier to the eye
Than any lily born of pride that looms against the sky;
And so it is I know my heart will gladly welcome you,
My lowliest of lovers, when my dreams come true.
And, finally, a feel-good love story gem in case you missed it. I found in the Weather Channel app videos, but you can Google and find other references, like this one on Good Morning America's Instagram. Seems a farmer in Kansas, Lee Wilson, wanted to surprise his wife with something special on their 50th wedding anniversary this month. With help from his son, he planted 80 acres of sunflowers - 1.2 million of them! - timing them to bloom right about now. Sigh and swoon. :0)
For lots of swoon-worthy poetry this first Poetry Friday of August, and blessings from the natural world, visit the multi-talented Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading.
Quick wave from the Road... I have the good fortune to go hang out with more writer/illustrator friends this weekend, so I don't have a real post. But please paddle on over to see the lovely Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for this week's Roundup!
Greetings, Poetry Lovers!
Perhaps you had the good fortune as I did this week to attend a virtual treat: the online book launch of WELCOME TO THE WONDER HOUSE, a gorgeous picture book with poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard and illustrations by Deborah Freedman. It's hot off the press from WordSong, which is now an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers.
[*UPDATE*: Deborah Freedman kindly sent a link to the recorded launch on YouTube - you can watch it HERE!]
The online launch included an inspiring discussion moderated by the amazing Betsy Bird with Rebecca, Georgia, Deborah, and WordSong Editorial Director Rebecca M. Davis. Attendees got peeks inside writer journals and illustrator sketchbooks, and it was fun to hear how verbal and visual ideas grew and flourished into final works.
If you didn't catch the discussion, by all means catch the book! It's one of those rare combinations of exquisite and accessible. The reader is welcomed into different rooms, beginning with the "ROOM of CURIOSITY" and ending with the "ROOM of WISHES." There are rooms for ordinary things, creatures, time, quiet, and mystery, to name a few more.
One of Rebecca's poems, in the ROOM of NATURE, begins this way:
Beneath a trillion leaves,
cloud-braided with sky,
my feet balance on a tangle
of puzzled roots in a wilderness of secrets, ...
and Georgia begins one of the poems in the ROOM of PLACE like this:
Puzzle-shaped continents and islands
circled by swirls of blue ocean,
turn on this globe I cradle in my hand. ...
Their poems take us from the tragic end of the dinosaurs to exhilarating considerations of planets and moons, and to the deep wonders of our hearts and minds.
Deborah Freedman's mixed media art is simply glorious. In the talk, she mentioned her training as an architect, and crisp lines and amazing details confirm this skill set. Plus, you might find yourself gazing at blueprints and architectural seals (those official-looking round stamp impressions)! This is a book you'll want to enjoy with or without its dustjacket and definitely with its endpapers. The precision in places in no way makes the pictures cold or too technical, though - flowing, graduated colors, surprise elements and compositions, and a winsome little animal here or there beckon us to enjoy it all.
I can imagine this book as a special gift for about a zillion occasions. If you order one for this purpose, just make sure to order an extra copy to keep - it's one that children and adults will want to return to, revealing new secrets with each read.
Learn more about Georgia Heard here, Rebecca Kai Dotlich here, Deborah Freedman here, and Rebecca M. Davis and WordSong here. Many thanks to Betsy Bird for another exceptional visit with children's book creators!
And in case you don't know, Rebecca and Georgia put on some mighty fine poetry workshops... well worth attending if you're so inclined.
The multi-talented Linda Mitchell, a student of wonder herself, has our Roundup this week at A Word Edgewise. Thank you, Linda!
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! It's so much fun to meet in person someone whom you've only seen in a little Zoom square. Especially when they bring their adorable dog along.
Most of you know Pomelo Books and the power team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. (If you don't, please visit all the poetry magic here.) And many of you know about the online anthology workshops they've offered the last couple of years. (Info here.) Participants in these workshops have had the opportunity to submit poems for a book associated with each one, and now there's a nice collection of these user-friendly ekphrastic anthologies being shared in living rooms and classrooms, gathering a trail of awards as they go. I've had the privilege of participating in a couple of these and meeting new folks through the Zoom gatherings. When Janet and Sylvia recently offered a new "Think Poetry" workshop geared toward sharing poetry in schools as well as writing, I jumped on that, too, since I love sharing as much poetry as I can during author visits.
Janet also graciously offered to host a bonus in-person Think Poetry workshop/gathering for anyone who could get themselves out here to the beautiful coast of Washington state this week. My hubby graciously offered to give me all his frequent flyer miles. So here I am! Another participant and contributor to these recent anthologies, Matthew Winter, likewise boarded a plane from the East Coast and flew across the country to join in the fun. And, he brought along his adorable flying companion & canine connoisseur of poetry, Bailey.
Matt and I have been staying at the same friendly inn in town and did a little exploring at the small harbor Wednesday before working on some poetry adventures with Janet and Sylvia. It's been a blast! As an elementary school teacher for 21 years, Matt brings not only his talent as a writer to the table but years of professional experience and expertise with young learners, particularly in the area of reading. Originally from Maryland, he lives in New York.
"I love to read and write stories and poems for children," Matt says. Lucky for us, he's sharing them with the world! Matt's poems are featured in these Pomelo books: Things We Feel, Things We Wear, What is a Friend?, and What is Family? While Matt can rollick and roll with playful poetry, as in his "Apron" poem in Things We Wear, he can also capture emotions more difficult to talk about.
Here are two wonderful expamples.
I want to roar and rattle
and get ready for battle.
No! I don't want to talk.
I want to screech and squawk.
Count 1, 2, 3 -
just like magic
I'm back to me.
Things We Feel by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2022.
In lieu of flowers, please
if you can spare -
maybe a little bit of
for our family
What is a Family? by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2023.
Look for more of Matt's work soon in the next Pomelo Books anthology! And for another great reason to purchase from Pomelo Books, all profits from this recent anthology series are donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund (IBBY.org). Sylvia is the current president of IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People), having served this organization for many years. Founded in 1953 in Zurich, IBBY reaches across the globe to get books in the hands of young people. The Children in Crisis Fund was set up in 2005 "to help children affected by natural disasters, civil disorder or war. The Fund seeks donations for projects that replace or create libraries/collections of appropriate children's books and provide bibliography, the therapeutic use of books and storytelling."
Many thanks to Matt, and to Sylvia and Janet, for their generosity.
For more terrific poetry, visit the oh-so-talented Marcie Flinchum Atkins for the Roundup!
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I'm chiming in at the end of a family beach vacay to join Irene Latham's "Moon in June" poem party as part of this week's Poetry Friday Roundup.
Irene is celebrating the upcoming launch of The Museum on the Moon: The Curious Objects on the Lunar Surface, illustrated by Myriam Wares, and published by Bushel & Peck's Moonshower imprint. Click here to learn more about it and land a copy for yourself!
Congratulations, Irene, and all the creators of what looks like an out-of-this-world collection.
We've been back in the Beaufort area, in the same rental house on Harbor Island where we've gathered for years. I do miss this charming coastal town! I still sell some artsyletters wares in a couple of shops here, and yesterday I took a few items downtown. On my drive over the bridge from the sea islands, I realized that this bridge will always remind me of the early evening a few years ago I was crossing it from the same direction and saw a shimmery crescent moon suspended over the river and the rooftops, inspiring a little poem that ended up in Highlights Hello in the fall of 2021. (The beautiful illustration is by Denise Hughes.) I thought, Hey, I could share it again for Irene's poetic lunar soiree.
So, please excuse the repetition for those who have seen it before! But it's fun sharing a lullaby poem during a trip with our oh-so-active one-year-old baby grand here, where our daily schedules have revolved not around moonrises and moonsets but around mealtimes and naptimes. Our Sawyer's been a trouper with all things sand and sea and pool. In fact, he's probably swallowed a wee bit of sand and sea, as those toddler hands move fast.
Another fun poetic note, we've all read him Two by Two by Lisa Lowe Stauffer countless times. (It's a rollicking Noah's Ark tale illustrated by Angelika Scudamore and published by Zonderkids - click here for more info.) Quick backstory: I coordinated a children's poetry weekend workshop for our Southern Breeze region a dozen years ago, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich was our fearless leader. Lisa was there, and this manuscript, her first published children's book, grew out of that weekend. Irene was there, too - an accomplished novelist and poet, but she hadn't published her impressive bevy of children's poetry collections yet!
Grateful for all these connections, for adventurous human spirits, and for the moon.
by Robyn Hood Black
In the sky
Sings a silver
with golden light
Wink and kiss
The world good night.
©2021 Highlights for Children.