Poetry Friday: The 2017 Progressive Poem, in all its seafaring, dragon-drama glory!

Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem wrapped up last weekend! Each day throughout April a different person would add a line until we finally had a complete, 30-poet poem on April 30…and as always, there were a few surprises on our way to the finish line.

One never knows what form – if any – the poem will take when the first person (in this case, Heidi Mordhorst) starts things off. Perhaps it will be metrical, perhaps not; maybe it will rhyme, maybe not. This year’s poem jumped back-and-forth, particularly when it came to whether or not to rhyme – some lines did, others didn’t, depending on what each writer decided to do with his/her line.

But somehow, like always, it all made sense by the time it was completed! If you’d like to listen to the audio of it, click play (but please forgive my giant head…I can’t do anything about that!):

The Secret Inside the Book

I’m fidget, friction, ragged edges–
I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle,
stories of castles, of fires that crackle,
with dragonwords that smoke and sizzle.

But edges, sometimes, need sandpaper…
like swords need stone and clouds need vapour.
So I shimmy out of my spurs and armour
facing the day as my fickle, freckled self.

I thread the crowd, wear freedom in my smile
and warm to the coals of conversation.
Enticed to the stage by strands of story,
I skip up the stairs in anticipation.

Flip around, face the crowd, and freeze!
Shiver me. Look who’s here. Must I disappear?
By hook or by crook, I deserve a second look!
I cheer. Please, have no fear. Find the book.

But wait! I’ll share the lines I know by heart.
Mythical howls, fiery tones slip from my lips
Blue scales flash, claws rip, the prophecy begins
Dragonworld weaves webs that grip. I take a trip…

“Anchors aweigh!” Steadfast at helm on clipper ship
a topsail schooner, with sails unfurled, speeds away
As, true-hearted dragon pirate, I sashay
with my wise parrot, Robyn, through the spray.

“Land Ho!” (“Land Ho!”) We’ve hooked the whole crowd.
So it’s true what they say: the play IS the thing.
Stepping back from my blocking, theatre grows loud…
I draw my sword, while shielding the BOOK–the house din dies.

With rhythmical wordplay, I unleash a surprise…
I leap into my book, bid my readers “Goodbye!” (Goodbye!)

.

In case you’d like to check out any of the lines as they were added throughout the month, here’s the schedule:

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

You can also visit Irene Latham’s blog, Live Your Poem, to see all of the past 5 years’ Progressive Poems. And for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup!

========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The Return of “Poetry…Cubed!”

National Poetry Month begins tomorrow, so I thought it was about time I brought back a little contest I created a couple years ago, and give you a chance to win a little something for your trouble!

If you’ve ever seen “Chopped!” on The Food Network, then you already know how this works. In this reality-TV game show, chefs battle each other by trying to create
the best dishes they can using specific – and often bizarre – ingredients given to them in a special basket. For example, contestants might have to create appetizers using endives, tempeh, raw oysters, and M&Ms. And yes, the ingredients are often that ridiculous.

So for this contest, I’ve taken the premise of the TV show and applied it to poetry – but without the 20-minute time limit, lacerated appendages, and broken dreams. I call it “Poetry…Cubed!” Here’s how it works:

  • Use the 3 images below as inspiration to write a poem. (1 poem, to the 3rd power – “cubed,” get it??)
  • The poem can be any form, any genre, any number of lines, rhyming or not. Oh – and it also doesn’t have to be very good! Remember my mantra: #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading. This is all about having fun while writing, so no pressure allowed!
  • The only hitch is that you need to include a reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract. (Heck, it’s poetry, so stretch the boundaries!)
  • PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Then email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and I’ll share them here on Fri., April 28. Out of all the poems submitted, one lucky writer will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015), which not only features a Bob Raczk poem about National Poetry Month, but also a poem by Yours Truly in honor of National Cereal Day (March 7)!

Keep in mind, I can only format poems to a small degree – so if possible, try to refrain from lots of unusual breaks and text placement. I’ll do my best to format your poem per your wishes, but WordPress will only allow me to do so much; blogging platforms aren’t known for being particularly poetry-friendly!

Now…without any further ado…here are your three images (click on any to enlarge):

                 

(All images courtesy of Katherine Esenwine

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to combine three disparate images into one poem; in many cases, it takes several lines and a few different stanzas to tell the story effectively.

Which is why I, never one to back down from a challenge, decided to try writing a haiku, a form which would require the smallest amount of words. (I love making things difficult for myself)

I have to be honest, I never gave any thought to how these three images would work together before I selected them. I simply picked them from a trove of pictures available and posted them – so you & I both began looking at them with fresh eyes and the same sense of bewilderment. But after about 20 minutes of poetic pondering, I came up with this…

stamen, style, stigma,
steam; corolla blooms magic
as iris opens

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

At this point, I was going to explain my thought process – but I think I’ll hold off on that for a week. I’d love to see if you can figure out how the imagery in my poem connects to the images shown. Read it again, if you’d like, and please let me know your thoughts in the comments, below – I am truly eager to hear from you!

Be sure to email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com before Thur., April 27…and also don’t forget to visit Amy at The Poem Farm, where she is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup along with a blog birthday and a celebration of colors!

========================================================

ALSO! Starting tomorrow, Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem gets underway! Writer/blogger Heidi Mordhorst will start things off with one line, and each day throughout April a different person will add a line – until we have a complete, 30-poet poem on April 30!

I won’t be adding my 2 cents worth until late in the month, but it’s fun to follow along and watch the progress; here’s the schedule:

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

========================================================

Due out Sept. 5, 2017 from Boyd’s Mills Press! Pre-orders available now!

 

========================================================

poetryfridaybutton-fulllDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The 2016 Progressive Poem is here!

national-poetry-month 2016

Poet/blogger Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem has been rolling through
the kidlitosphere all month, and it has finally arrived at my little corner o’ the web! Each day, a different writer adds a line, and on April 30 we’ll see how it ends when Donna at Mainely Writes adds the final line!

2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemA structure began to take shape early on, and by and large the folks who have added to the poem have been keeping that form in place. When Jone MacCulloch added her line yesterday, she referenced a “divining seer” – which was the second mention of a person who is not the speaker.

So now we have the speaker, a child, and now a seer…for a wistful, dreamy sort of nature poem, there’s suddenly a lot of people around! So what is this seer doing? Who is he or she? Let’s find out…

Here is the poem, including my line:

A squall of hawk wings stirs the sky.
A hummingbird holds and then hies.
If I could fly, I’d choose to be
Sailing through a forest of poet-trees.

A cast of crabs engraves the sand
Delighting a child’s outstretched hand.
If I could breathe under the sea,
I’d dive, I’d dip, I’d dance with glee

A clump of crocuses crave the sun.
Kites soar while joyful dogs run.
I sing to spring, to budding green,
to all of life— seen and unseen.

Wee whispers drift from cloud to ear
and finally reach one divining seer
who looks up from her perch and beams;

So the seer is…?? Could be the child, could be someone else, could be an animal – who knows? I’m betting Violet Nesdoly can fill us in when she adds her line tomorrow! 

(Side note: I originally ended my line with the word ‘smiles,’ but then realized that Violet’s word choices would be very limited for a rhyme. So I changed it to ‘beams’ not only because it allows for more rhyming words, but the noun version can be used as a ‘perch’! Get it?? I love poetry!)

Want to follow along? Care to see the thought process of the lines that have come before? The 2016 Progressive Poem is making a stop at the following blogs:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

========================================================

Poetry_Friday logoBy the way, if you have not had a chance to check out my post from this Tuesday, it’s a poem written by a teenage girl who falls under the autism spectrum, and it’s quite moving and insightful…I do hope you’ll take a look at it!

And for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup – along with a surprising poem about water and echoes – please visit Michelle H. Barnes’ blog, Today’s Little Ditty!

========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month begins!

national-poetry-month 2016

Yes, it’s National Poetry Month once again, and there’s so much going on, it’s hard to keep track of everything! There are poems and contests and interviews and all sorts of things…but first things first!

First, I’d like to share a new form I’ve been working on – which is actually an old form. A really old form…

You’ve very possibly heard of haiku, yes? If so, you probably know it consists of 3 lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count (although English-language syllables don’t exactly translate to the Japanese language, so many folks who write haiku in English eschew this rule).

Well, haiku is a relatively new Japanese form; what I’ve been practicing is a form that has been around since the 5th or 6th century AD: the sedoka.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThe word sedoka means, roughly, “head-repeating,” and is made up of two tercets, or parts, known as katauta. Katauta – with a 5-7-7 syllable count – are rarely ever written by themselves; they are usually grouped in pairs, creating one sedoka.

The idea of “repeating” is not so much the words themselves, but the subject or feeling of the poem. In simple terms, each katauta describes the same subject, but from a different perspective; therefore, one sedoka presents two perspectives.

Here’s my example:
.

West wind whips fiercely
thin strands of branches atop
lonesome beechnut’s balding dome.

In younger days, green
leaves embraced each limb – now sweet
Zephyrus betrays my age.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
.

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my feet wet writing the Naani poetry form, and now I’m practicing ancient Japanese…you never know where, or how, inspiration will strike!

========================================================

2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemToday is also the first day of Irene Latham‘s annual progressive poem! A different writer adds a line each day, and on April 30 we’ll see how it culminates…and it all starts HERE, with Laura Purdie Salas!

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

========================================================

I tend to share a lot of special posts during National Poetry Month, but this year I’m so busy, I’m keeping things lean. I’ll still have my Poetry Friday posts – and am planning to share some very special poetry by some very special young people – but other than that, I need to focus on three new picture book manuscripts I’m working on, a new poetry collection I’ve barely started, and a New England SCBWI Conference workshop I’m leading at the end of the month!

(Oh, yeah – and I have two kids I need to take care of, as well!)

If you’re wondering what other kidlit bloggers and writers are doing for this month, please check out Jama Rattigan’s list HERE, and for all of today’s Poetry Friday posts, be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm!

========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Daylight Savings in March”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllTime to set those clocks ahead! If you live in the U.S., this is the weekend to set your clocks ahead one hour, before you go to sleep Sat. night.

If, on the other hand, you live in one of the other areas around the world who participate in Daylight Savings Time, you may or may not be doing that this weekend! Different countries have all sorts of opinions on when it starts, when it ends, and how long it lasts – which makes me think it would be easier for everyone if we just did away with the whole thing. Do you have an opinion on it?

Daylight Savings in March

A good night’s sleep,
my strength,
willpower…
I lose much more
than just an hour.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

My poet friend Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday today at Live Your Poem, so be sure to visit for all of the day’s poetry links and fun!

If you missed my interview with her and my review of her new book, you can find that HERE – and I also hope you’ll take some time to check out my blog post from this past Tuesday, on how poems, commercials, and novels are ultimately the same things…really!

========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “The Situation”

What was happening in 1984? “Ghostbusters” was the top-grossing film, Prince released his groundbreaking album, “Purple Rain”…The Soviet Union withdrew from the Olympics in the United States…and Yours Truly was dancing on the ceiling…

Two reminders before we hop in the ol’ time machine and fly back to the ’80’s…

Antarctica coverFirst, you still have a few days left to enter to win a brand new, signed children’s book! Just check out my interview with Irene Latham and my review of her new book, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press), and leave a comment as your entry! You can also share the blog post on Twitter for an additional entry – but it all wraps up on Feb, 29. I’ll announce a winner, to be drawn at random, next week, so don’t wait!

Also, Laura Shovan’s February poetry prompt series, the 2016 Found Object Poem Project, continues all month long at her blog. You can view all the photos and the poems inspired by them – and you can also log on to Michael Ratcliffe’s blog for today’s prompt and poems.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllNow then…onward and upward!

…and backward…

I’m dusting off an old poem today – and by ‘dusting off’ I mean actually dusting off. And disinfecting, too. With gloves.

You see, I was talking to a fellow writer last week who asked me what my first published piece was, and I told him it was a free verse poem I wrote back when I was either a junior or senior in high school. I remembered what it was about and its general structure, but not much else; it got me wondering how it would hold up now, if I’d written it today.

So I started digging through my archives – and somehow found it! It was published in 1984 in a local college’s literary magazine called The Henniker Review. Published by New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, The Henniker Review began in 1979 and, to the best of my knowledge, is still being published today – and I’m grateful I made it into at least one edition!

How does it hold up? Meh…not sure. If I was writing the poem now, it would most certainly be different – it feels very amateurish to me, but I suppose that should be expected from 30 years of hindsight. Don’t get me wrong; I still like it, because it’s one of those high points in my life I can look back on and recognize as a motivating factor in my pursuit of publishing. But it’s definitely a younger, less-experienced me who wrote it:

The Situation (poem from Henniker Review)
(Click to enlarge)

– © 1984, The Henniker Review (New England College), all rights reserved

Note the yellowing of the page…the mold-induced smudges…the overwhelming mustiness…

Well, you may not be able to smell the mustiness from where you are, but trust me – it’s there. Hope you enjoyed this little excursion back to the ’80’s, and I hope you’ll swing by Elizabeth Steinglass’ blog for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Book Review: “When the Sun Shines on Antarctica”

Antarctica coverIrene Latham has done it again. A couple years ago, she was hanging out at a watering hole on the African savanna (and that’s not a metaphor – by “watering hole,” I mean a real watering hole) and this year she’s at the bottom of the world, on the largest continent – and largest desert – on the planet.

Irene follows up her 2014 children’s poetry collection, Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole (Millbrook Press) with the equally entertaining and insightful When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press).

In fifteen poems, Irene not only teaches readers a little bit about the wildlife and habitat of Antarctica, she imbues each of her subjects with a bit of magic here and a touch of tenderness there, so that each poem helps bring the reader a little closer to the truth. The book opens with the dawn of summer and concludes with the start of winter as the sun sets.

When the Sun Shines on Antarctica

Icebergs brighten
as the sky peels

itself of darkness
and stretches awake.

Glaciers murmur.
Penguins reunite

and seals rouse
from slumber

Whales breach
and blow;

waves rush
and slush

against shifting
ice shelves.

Welcome,
Summer.

We’ve been waiting
for you.

– © 2016 Irene Latham (Millbrook Press), all rights reserved

The poems are primarily free verse, so Irene makes great use of internal rhyme and enjambment to create touching scenes that are sometimes quiet, and other times full of energy.

One of the nice things about this book – and Wildebeest, as well – is that although there is plenty to learn via Irene’s poems, they never feel didactic; they are poetry for poetry’s sake, first and foremost. Sidebars on each page provide more information about each subject (from seals to krill to brinicles!), and the earthy blues and greens of Anna Wadham’s illustrations complement the icy, watery nature of Irene’s scenery – all adding up to a beautiful book to read as well as simply admire.

I had a chance to chat with Irene about the book, her life of writing, and what she has coming up in the near future!

Irene headSo tell us, how did a social work major from the University of Alabama end up with 5 books of poetry, 2 middle grade novels, and another poetry collection due out next month?

I took the scenic route, that’s for sure! While I didn’t attend a single writing class in college, all those courses on developmental psychology and family dynamics have certainly enriched my writing life.

Without any training, how did you end up learning your craft? And what was your first published piece? What do you think of it today – still good, not bad, or would you totally revise it?

I started honing my craft by entering contests sponsored by Alabama State Poetry Society. At first I didn’t place at all, then I started getting Honorable Mentions, and eventually prize money! My big break came when I won a chapbook contest — no cash, but publication and 100 copies of my chapbook NOW PLAYING (poems that used classic movie titles, but were often about something else entirely).

I kind of cringe when I read those poems now — as I’ve continued to grow and develop as a poet I can now see all sorts of flaws! But it was my best work at the time, and an essential, precious part of my journey. Those poems are exactly what they needed to be — and one or two of them I do still like. 🙂

How do you move between the children’s poetry thought process and an adult’s? Do you work exclusively on one or the other, or do you bounce back and forth, depending on your mood and inspiration?

My initial efforts are most often from my adult self. I was writing a poem last week about pears, and the image that came immediately to mind was Sylvia Plath’s “little Buddhas.” I love that! But of course a kid probably wouldn’t get that. I so admire those children’s poets among us who seem to so easily and naturally find those child-like comparisons. It’s a challenge for me. I am constantly having to coax my inner 8 year old out to play. She’s shy, but one thing I’m good at is persistence.

WildebeestTwo years ago, you were at an African watering hole; this year, you’re in Antarctica! How do you come up with the ideas for your collections, and how long does it usually take you to complete a manuscript?

I have an abundance of obsessions, so coming up with themes/ideas for collections is not my problem. Usually they arise when I read books or go to museums or attend local community events where a speaker might mention something, and I investigate further, and next thing I know, I’m neck-deep!

As for the second part of your question, “complete” is a very slippery word, isn’t it? I could keep tinkering with poems forever and more than once have had a great idea for a way to improve a manuscript after the book is already in print. It’s one of the things that attracts me to writing in the first place – the endless learning curve.

I can churn out a bunch of first-draft poems that will be the skeleton of a poetry book manuscript within a few weeks – I strive for a poem a day. But then it can take years for the individual poems to grow and develop and for me to figure out the point of it all. I’m constantly asking of the manuscript: what is your purpose? what are you trying to say to the world? what else?

Next month, you have ANOTHER collection for children, Fresh and Delicious! Tell us about that! How did it come about?

Fresh Delicious coverFRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers’ Market (Wordsong) is my first attempt at poems for a younger (K-2) audience. It started with a contest through my SCBWI region (Southern Breeze, which includes AL, GA, and the FL panhandle). Each June, for free, we can submit some pages for a contest that’s judged by editors. All entries receive a feedback sheet. I wanted to enter the contest, and I had just been to the farmers’ market. Voila! Poems from the farmers’ market!

I was so excited about the poems that I did NOT enter the contest – results aren’t announced until October – and sent them straight to my agent instead. She sent them to Rebecca Davis at WordSong, who had read (and rejected) at least three, perhaps four prior manuscripts (including Dear Wandering Wildebeest). She liked the poems, saw lots of promise, but didn’t feel they were quite ready. Instead, she gave me some brilliant feedback (seriously. BRILLIANT), and off I went, revising away! A couple of revisions later, she presented it at the editorial meeting and we got a green light on the project. O frabjous day!

I am always trying to explain to people that children’s poetry does not need to rhyme! (In fact, I’m hosting a workshop at an upcoming SCBWI conference about free verse) Why do you suppose you are drawn more towards free verse than rhyming poetry?

I am so happy you are teaching people that children’s poetry need not rhyme! Confession: for many years I thought all children’s poetry was Shel Silverstein! I really didn’t know there was a market for the kind of poems I write, which are by and large free verse, until I attended a poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich in 2011 (organized by the one and only Robyn Hood Black! I’m so so grateful!). That weekend was a turning point in my writing life.

Afterwards I went on a nearly sleepless writing jag for a week as I discovered I could write the way I write for adults – but for kids. I have a gypsy heart, and being hemmed in by form or rhyme makes me irritable and unhappy. Plus I love beautiful words and lyricism, and for me, writing is a spiritual practice. It’s a way for me to love the world. I am able to achieve all of those things with free verse.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate you on TWO OTHER manuscripts you just sold, Pop! Bam! Boom! and It’s Not Black and White. What are they about?

Thank you! Pop! Bam! Boom! started with Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884 I got to thinking about all the things that explode – seed pods and symphonies and dreams – and I started writing. It’s Not Black & White is a special project based on real-life experiences that I co-wrote with Charles Waters. Told in two voices, it’s about friendship, race, and understanding as it happens in a 5th grade classroom when a black boy and a white girl are forced to be partners on a writing project.

Final question! I have to ask…do you ever get a chance to chat with Father Goose -Charles Ghigna – who’s just south of you in Homewood, AL? And what’s the best advice you ever received – from anyone?

Chuck and I do, in fact, chat from time to time! He’s famous around these parts (more than a hundred books to his credit now!), and he’s been a lovely supporter of my work.

As for advice: When my first book of poems came out (2007), my husband gave me a small plaque that reads, “Live Your Poem.” That’s where my blog name comes from! For years I have shared in presentations that writers have a responsibility to “live a life worth writing about.”

But it’s more that that: we need to be present, open, and delight in our lives – really LIVE. That’s poetry! I also love how those words can mean whatever they need to mean to an individual – your poem-life will be different from mine. And every single incarnation is beautiful.

I think that concept is what draws most of us to poetry, Irene…so thank you for taking the time to chat!

Thank you, Matt, for having me, and for your great questions. I’m excited for YOUR forthcoming books. Yay!

.
To my readers, I’m so glad YOU took the time to read today’s post, I’m going to give you an opportunity to win an autographed copy of Antarctica! Just leave a comment below, and I’ll draw a winner at the end of the month…so please let your friends know, so they can get in on it, as well. (and if you share this post via Twitter (using the Twitter button below), you’ll get an ADDITIONAL entry!)

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!