Poetry Friday: A powerful poem from the New England SCBWI Spring Conference

Last weekend the annual New England SCBWI Spring Conference was held in Springfield, MA – and what a joy it was to be back in-person, seeing friends I’d not seen in three years and making so many new ones, as well.

Last year’s conference was online, but 2020 and 2021 were completely devoid of any kind of gathering like this, so it was an event I was really looking forward to.

(By the way, if you didn’t have a chance to check out last Friday’s interview with author, editor, poet, and root beer connoisseur Ryan G. Van Cleave, I hope you’ll do so – it’s an eye-opening look at the process of putting together a 52-page poetic picture book and how developing your career in a non-focused sort of way can be of surprisingly great benefit!

With workshops, keynotes, and plenty of opportunities to share conversation and food, it’s a busy 2 1/2 days. For me, it was extra-busy because I not only hosted the Friday Night Open Mic as I have for several years now, but I also took part in several other events:

  • A poetry panel discussion Saturday afternoon with my author/poet friends Jane Yolen, Heidi EY Stemple, Padma Venkatraman, and Valerie Boling
  • A faculty book signing that immediately followed
  • A Sunday morning 2-hour intensive (a workshop that included writing practice) about free verse poetry

Throw in a Faculty Dinner Friday night, a Volunteer Dinner Sat. night, and plenty of down time to simply chat with friends and acquaintences, and it’s a pretty jam-packed weekend:

From top to bottom: The poetry panel, taken right after we’d wrapped up our discussion in the main ballroom; the ongoing slideshow featuring all the members’ book from the past two years was a hit; I had a chance to get pics with two of my PB2023 partners, Mary Munson (with the heart glasses) and Katie Mazeika; I also got to hang out with New Hampshire friends from our loose-knit creators group KidLit603: Rebecca Smith-Allen, Lita Judge, and Emilie Burack; in the lower left, I enjoyed Sunday breakfast with my friend Jane Yolen and Kimberly Venturi Yavorski; several faculty members donated books to be given away as door prizes, and all my publishers came through in a BIG way – the NE-SCBWI ended up giving away 26 copies of my various books! Wow!

The poem I wanted to share today is a powerful one from Padma Venkatraman, and one I shared with my free verse poetry workshop attendees:

by Padma Venkatraman

They ignored the new boy,
snickering behind his back.

                                                    In silence, I stayed     safe.
                                                    My lips pressed          together.

Growing bolder, they
pierced him with arrow-sharp

                                                    I pretended
                                                    I hadn’t                       heard.

(read the rest of it HERE)


There is actually a LOT going on in this poem: Padma uses columns and white space and point of view very specifically and to great effect. For example, the white space represents the silence that is the theme of the poem, the three columns represent the three people taking part in the poem (speaker, the boy, the reader), and both the first and third columns could potentially be their own poems, if read vertically. I could go on, but please check out the complete poem at the link and enjoy it.

I’m already eager to return to the spring conference in 2024, but for now I’ll catch my breath by checking out all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun at Linda Baie’s Teacher Dance, where she is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with an ironic poem from Danusha Laméris – ironic considering when it was published (shortly before the pandemic shutdown) and subject matter (small kindnesses, which seemed less and less common the longer the shutdown dragged on).

BY THE WAY: I’ll be in St. Albans, Vermont this Sunday, May 7
for the annual Book Fair at the Town Hall!

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by, say hi,
and perhaps pick up a signed copy of one of my books!


I’m still booking author visits for the 2023 Spring Semester (and Fall 2023, too)!

I love chatting with elementary and middle school classes about writing: why poetry is fun to read and write, the importance of revision, and how one’s imagination and creativity can lead to a fantastic career! My presentations are tailored to fit the needs of the classes and students’ ages. One day I might be sharing details of how a picture book like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) was created; the next, I’ll be discussing dinosaur breath or origami sea turtles!

Student presentations include:

  • The Making of a Picture Book
  • How a Child Saved a Book
  • “Once Upon Another Time”
  • The Most Imporant Thing about Writing Poetry
  • “I Am Today”
  • “A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human”
  • “Everybody Counts: Counting to 10 in Twelve Languages”

Adult presentations include:

  • The Making of a Picture Book
  • The Most Important Thing about Writing Poetry
  • Free Yourself with Free Verse
  • Tight Language, Loose Narratives: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book

Learn more at MattForrest.com!

If you or someone you know might be interested in having me visit your school, library, or other organization, please email me
at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com!


(The Little Fig, LLC, 2023)

Order a PERSONALLY-SIGNED copy of this or or ANY of my books
from my local independent bookstore!


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Find out more about BOOKROO here!


Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click here to view all my books and to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!




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12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A powerful poem from the New England SCBWI Spring Conference

  1. lindabaie

    Aw, that spring conference looks and sounds wonderful, Matt. Poetry rocks everywhere! The poem, as you wrote, is stunning and oh, so heartbreaking. I use the phrase “silence implies consent” in my mind wherever I am and wish others would teach their children about it and support them in it, too. Yes, the poem I shared is ironic because of the terrible conflicts during the pandemic but I am also grateful for the kindnesses that happened during that time, too. Have a lovely weekend!


  2. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful pictures and news, Matt, especially Padma’s powerful poem. I hope to make it to the New England Conference one day – so many friends to meet in person.


  3. margaretsmn

    I loved meeting and hearing Padma speak at NCTE. So special to have her and other great poets on your panel. Poetry doesn’t get much air time in our regional conferences. Thanks for sharing your experience.


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