Recently, I was accepted into the Poet’s Garage. I’m not sure what possessed me to send my application when I learned they had an opening, but luckily, they accepted me. So here I am, in the Garage, a place where William Peery, founder, says "poems go to undergo repair and body work."
I soon realized these folks’ vocabulary includes words like amphibrach, caesura, quatrains, and anapestic meter. WHAT? My poetry highlight is rhyming letters written by a cow.
Not only that, Poet’s Garage has requirements, a certain number of poems you must critique per month and a certain number you must write and share.These folks are serious. It’s like attending a poetry workshop every day.
So in honor of these serious poets, and all serious poets, I’m writing about poetry today. I know my blog theme usually involves character-driven stories and sometimes the environment. You’ll see them. I promise.
Let’s begin with Nasty Bugs, a children’s book of poems, selected by the iconic Lee Bennett Hopkins. Lee’s a master poet but he also celebrates and showcases other poets. He’s in the Guinness World Records for most prolific anthologist of poetry for children! Happily, Lee’s love of theatre brought about a meeting and a friendship. He often attends a theatre where my daughter performs, choreographs and directs. He wanted to meet my daughter, but there I was, tagging along. And so the meeting happened and the friendship began.
Nasty Bugs is a disgusting book ( I say that with the greatest admiration) filled with poems about things kids find fascinating, like stink bugs, bedbugs, and fire ants!
The poems tell us about amazing, if sometimes repulsive, insects. Insects live in the environment. And wow! Talk about fascinating characters. (Told you I’d hit the character-driven and environmental themes. Everything is connected.)
Maggot tells us this about himself:
“I’m a comma
In a drama
Of disgusting devastation,”
In Fran Haraway’s Cockroach, we read:
“This tribe is tough; it perseveres.
It’s lived three hundred million years.”
Watch out when you read the Lice poem. You’ll definitely start scratching your head!
In an effort to help my meager attempts at writing poetry, Lee advised that I study the best, one of which is Myra Cohn Livingston.
Myra wrote a wondrous book on how to write poetry, published in 1991, entitled Poem-Making - Ways to Begin Writing Poetry. Her writing feels as if she’s taking the reader gently by the hand, saying, “No need to be afraid. Making a poem is joyful and exciting.” The book is out-of-print, but copies are available online. I think it should be on every poet or would-be poet’s bookshelf.
Much of Myra’s poetry feels similar to her Poem-Making book, as if she was taking your hand and saying sweetly, “Come along.” She made every word spring to life.
In Earth Songs she begins:
“Little O, small earth, spinning in space,
face covered with dizzy clouds, racing,
Soon she follows with these words:
With land and sea,
I am earth,
Come with me!
No reader could refuse such an invitation and so we follow the most majestic of characters – Earth. Yes, the poems are driven by the character, earth itself.
A more recent book that marries poetry and photography, nature and character, is Step Gently Out, by Helen Frost, photos by Rick Lieder. Frost, like Cohn Livingston, gently encourages the reader to slow down and appreciate our natural world.
Step gently out,
Be still and watch a single blade of grass.
An ant climbs up to look around.
A honeybee flies past.
Frost is speaking to you, the reader. But as you gently turn the pages, you meet other characters, including spiders, ants, and moths, up close and personal.
So, tentatively, I joined the poets of Poet’s Garage, many of whom love poetry so much that I’m sure they write a poem a day, just as the amazing Jane Yolen does. Jane shares her daily poems with anyone who asks. If you want to be on Jane’s list to receive a poem a day, you may write her at email@example.com and request to be added to her mailing list. She adds people at the beginning of the month, so you’ll need to be patient and wait until October to receive your first “Jane poem.”
One of the best suggestions from a fellow Poet Garage member was to pick up a copy of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled. This has got to be the best book on unlocking your inner poet around. Mr. Fry is an actor as well as novelist and comedian. You may remember him from A Fish Called Wanda. His sense of humor makes the study of enjambment and quaternary feet not only bearable, but fun.
And the poet master Lee Bennett Hopkins? His suggestion is that “if you want to write poetry for children, read poetry, particularly works of the NCTE Poetry Award recipients. It will give you a crash course in the best work by America’s finest writers.”
Go ahead and try it. Step happily…into a poem.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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