Some people just can’t sit still. It was almost exactly one month ago that I featured my friend Amy Ludwig VanDerwater on the ol’ Triple-R blog here, as she celebrated the release of her newest children’s poetry collection, Read! Read! Read! (Boyds Mills Press). Well, guess what…she’s back!
Yesterday marked the book birthday of Amy’s newest baby, Poems are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres (Heinemann) – a tremendously useful and easy-to-understand resource designed to help educators not only teach poetry, but to teach them how poetic tools, forms, and devices strengthen (as the title suggests) writing in general.
The book is a wealth of information and includes poems from folks as diverse as Kwame Alexander, J. Patrick Lewis, Jack Prelutsy, Jane Yolen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Margarita Engle, and – whoa! Wait a sec…how did I end up in this book?? Indeed, it’s true; many, many of our Poetry Friday family members are contributors, as well!
The book also includes numerous poems written by children – students who are learning the particular lessons Amy writes about. But how, exactly, did this book come to be? Amy was kind enough to join us today to talk about it…
Thank you for taking the time to visit, Amy! There are plenty of books out there about poetry and how to teach it, so what made you first decide that this particular book needed to be written?
I have been rolling this book around in my head for a long time. Reading wise poems has deepened my heart, and writing hundreds of poems has honed my prose. Watching poetry disappear from many classrooms in the name of “Standards” was making me cry, and this idea felt like a secret door in again.
As Mary Lee Hahn wrote, so many of us are trying to “bring poetry back to writing workshop” and into children’s lives. My hope is that Poems are Teachers will introduce children and teachers to many poets and that it will open doors between poetry, and narrative, poetry and information, poetry and opinion writing. Poetry is friends with all!
How does one go about finding a publisher for a book like this before it’s written? Did you approach Heinemann with a proposal first?
Heinemann has a whole process for proposing professional book which you can check out HERE. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Heinemann as an occasional consultant for the past 15+ years, and I am also co-author with Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons of Poetry: Big Thoughts in Small Packages, part of the Grade Two Writing Units of Study.
I couldn’t feel more grateful to be publishing this book at this time with this thoughtful company and with Katie Wood Ray, an author I’ve admired for years, and an incredible editor.
How did you approach the task of putting it together? That is, how did you determine the best format, the aspects of writing that you wanted to include, etc.?
I am a terribly disorganized person, but I have been teaching writing and about strong qualities of writing for twenty years, so organizing this book through the various layers of writing – from idea-finding through language play – made complete sense to me.
The challenge was knowing when to stop and trying to juggle the over 150 poems by both adult and child poets. Imagine piles of poems and permission forms and me….looking bewildered. I struggled with confidence and with my own writing demons, but that’s where Katie saved the day.
There is plenty for people to learn inside this book…but what did YOU learn from writing it?
I learned that I can do something scary. And I learned that poets, teachers, children, and families are very generous. I learned, too, that I still have tons to learn. This book is just a wee bit about poetry. There are so many beautiful books, so much to explore. My hope is that however long my life is…I’ll use each day to become a little bit better of a person and writer. I know that poems will keep teaching and feeding me.
You also have a brand-new poetry collection that just came out a month ago, Read! Read! Read! (Boyds Mills Press), plus you have more books coming out next year! Considering you started The Poem Farm several years before you were published, how does it feel now, with so much going on??
It feels humbling. I started The Poem Farm so as not to write alone. I never imagined all of this goodness. I hope to be of service and to keep writing in my notebooks, to make a little difference.
Thank you tons, Matt, for sharing your superfun poem, “Soccer Sides” in Poems Are Teachers, and thank you for inviting me here today!
Well, thank YOU, Amy – for everything you’ve been doing to spread poetry to our kids. Congrats on both of your new books!
I am still smiling like crazy about your Flashlight Night and my Read! Read! Read! releasing together with Boyds Mills Press last month.
That was a great week, I have to agree! Thanks again, Amy.
By the way, folks – if you’d like to WIN A FREE COPY OF POEMS ARE TEACHERS courtesy of our good friends at Heinemann, just leave a comment below, or share this post on Twitter or Facebook (and be sure to tag me, so I’ll know!). I’ll pick a name at random next Thursday at noon and announce the winner in next Friday’s post.
As for my contribution to Poems are Teachers, Amy asked me to write a poem with two distinct halves. Not necessarily two stanzas, but two separate thoughts that combine to make a whole, such as a before-and-after scene, two people talking, or two perspectives of the same subject.
So I thought about it for awhile, and one night driving home from one of my indoor soccer league games, an idea hit me. This is what I came up with:
Offense means head down the field –
…………………………….try to score!
Goalie blocked your shot?
Follow up and shoot some more!
……………………………………………………………….Defense means hang out in back.
……………………………………………………………….Better keep a watchful eye!
……………………………………………………………….Their offense wants the winning goal –
…..I’d like to see them try…
– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
From the book, here’s a little background on how the poem came to be along with a few words from Amy about the structure:
Whether you teach poetry or write it, this book is an invaluable resource – so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. And speaking of poetry, Leigh Anne Eck is hosting Poetry Friday today at A Day in the Life, so be sure to head on over and check out all of this week’s poetry links and fun!
More “Flashlight Night” news:
I just learned a couple of days ago that Flashlight Night has been selected as one of the Top 20 “Best in Rhyme” rhyming picture books by Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution website!
I’m very happy to be in company with folks like Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lisa Wheeler, the late Anna Dewdney, and fellow former Poets’ Garage alum, Diana Murray, among others.
The final 2017 Best in Rhyme Award announcement will be Feb. 3, 2018 in New York City on KidLit TV – and I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
Oh, and the Flashlight Night road tour continues rolling along! Where will I be? When will I be there? Here’s my updated schedule:
- Oct. 27, 6pm: Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH
- Nov. 1, 12pm: Concord Hospital Early Childhood Learning Center / Gift Shop, Concord, NH
- Nov. 11: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA (“The Making of a Book” Children’s Author Day)
- Dec. 2: Barnes & Noble, Peabody, MA
- (soon-to-be-confirmed: Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NH
- (soon-to-be-confirmed: Barnes & Noble, Newington, NH
- (soon-to-be-confirmed: Toadstool Bookshop, Keene/Peterborough/Milford, NH
I’ll continue updating this as dates are added…and thank you again for your support!
- KIRKUS Starred review!
- Featured review in Sept. 26, 2017 Shelf Awareness!
- Amazon “Best Books of the Month,” Sept. 2017!
Thank you so much to all who have enjoyed “Flashlight Night” enough to write about it:
“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal
An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book
“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist“
“Favorably recalls Where the Wild Things Are” – Shelf Awareness
“A poetic and engaging journey” – Cynthia Alaniz, Librarian In Cute Shoes
“Illuminates the power of imagination” – Kellee Moye, Unleashing Readers
“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy
“Beautiful words and stunning illustrations” – Jason Lewis, 5th grade teacher at Tyngsboro Elementary School, Tyngsboro, MA