Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye - Driving Back

Driving Back
Naomi Shihab Nye

People do not
           pass away.

They die,
           and then

they stay.

©2013 Naomi Shihab Nye. All rights reserved.

I wanted to mention all the various honors Naomi Shihab Nye has received (multiple Pushcart Prizes, being a Guggenheim Fellow, the 2008 Cybil for Poetry for her book Honeybee) but on some level, I always wonder if that's really necessary... particularly after you've just read Driving Back. I mean... you don't really care about the awards, do you? You just read and that's enough.

I love the way Driving Back conveys so much heart and truth in just 11 words. It's a lesson I constantly have to relearn - brevity, honesty, simplicity, and the right words in the right order are the keys. Luckily, when I need a refresher, I can just turn to the poetry and prose of Naomi Shihab Nye to see all those elements at their best. And whether she's writing for adults or children or novels or standalone poems, she will make you think and feel... which is one reason why I'm so thrilled to have her here today to finish up this year's 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Dave Crawley gave us Eye of the Hawk. Tomorrow... a recap of the 2013 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days. Which means it's over! Sigh. It's always a bit sad for me when April comes to an end, though there's much to come here at GottaBook in May and beyond. I hope you stick around to see it... and more than that, I hope your whole year is full of poetry!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dave Crawley - Eye of the Hawk

Eye of the Hawk
Dave Crawley

Broad wings hover in a cloudless sky.
Shadow on meadows where songbirds fly.
Bright eyes gleaming, from a world on high.
     The tall blue sky of the hawk.

Red-tailed raptor with a taste for prey.
Nail-sharp talons that will have their way.
The hunter rules at the end of day.
     Beware the eye of the hawk.

Blacksnake slithers where a field mouse stirred.
House wrens flee from the great, brown bird.
For one lone creature, the last sound heard:
     The hungry cry of the hawk.

©Dave Crawley. All rights reserved.

First off... congratulations to Dave Crawley, winner of this year's March Madness (poetry style, that is)! Dave ran off a string of created-under-pressure poems based on assigned words (like his tourney ending entry using "bumbershoot" or his semifinal battle where his "sesquipedalian" poem barely topped vs. M. M. Socks' "portmanteau" verse) that was epic, impressive, and a whole lot of fun, too.

Now, if you followed March Madness or have read any of Dave Crawley's books, you'll know that he's got an incredible ability to make folks laugh. He turns a phrase and plays with words like nobody's business. In fact, he sent me a very funny poem as well as Eye of the Hawk, but I chose the latter because what I think often gets lost for those of us who write funny is that, well... I mean, look at the word choice, the imagery, the hidden rhymes and all that good stuff! It's there in all his funny stuff, too, but if you ignore it here, well, you'll end up prey, I tell ya!

I step off my soapbox with an entreaty that you find Dave Crawley's books and re-read his Madness poems. Or just enjoy the Hawk and see why I'm thrilled to have him here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Lesléa Newman gave us Teen Angels. Tomorrow, the 2013 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days finishes up with Naomi Shihab Nye and Driving Back.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lesléa Newman - Teen Angels

Teen Angels
Lesléa Newman

Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover

19 years old
18 years old
15 years old
13 years old
13 years old
11 years old

Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover


Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover


Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover


Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover

Hanged himself
Drowned himself
Hanged himself
Shot himself
Hanged himself
Hanged himself

Raymond Chase
Tyler Clementi
Billy Lucas
Asher Brown
Seth Walsh
Carl Walker-Hoover

Mama’s Boy

"Teen Angels" copyright ©2013 Lesléa Newman. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Perhaps some or all of the six names in Lesléa Newman's Teen Angels were familiar to you before you read the poem, but I'd be willing to bet that now you'll remember them all the next time you see them... and you'll know why. What a powerful piece of writing!

Today's poem could easily be a companion to Lesléa Newman's most recent book, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard, a novel-in-verse that deals with some similar themes and issues (and uses many points of view (including many of the silent witnesses to Matthew Shephard's death, such as the fence to which he was tied). I just read it recently, and I have to say it simply sticks with me. Another book I highly recommend.

Whether in her standalone poems, novels, or picture books (over 20 of them, by the way, including the oft-challenged Heather Has Two Mommies), I think it's safe to say that Lesléa Newman writes from her heart, and we're the lucky beneficiaries. It's a phrase say frequently in April, but, darn it, it's true: I'm an unabashed fan... and I'm thrilled to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, John Foster showed us how to Add a Letter, Find Another Word. Tomorrow... Dave Crawley with Eye of the Hawk! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

John Foster - Add a Letter, Find Another Word

Add a Letter, Find Another Word
(a word-finder's alphabet)
John Foster

When does the letter A create an opening?
When it turns jar into ajar.

Why is the letter B hot?
Because it turns oil into boil.

Why is the letter C skilful?
Because it turns raft into craft.

When is the letter D artistic?
When it turns raw into draw.

When is the letter E friendly?
When it turns mat into mate.

When does the letter F become airborne?
When it turns light into flight.

Why is the letter G deadly?
Because it turns rave into grave.

When does the letter H cry out?
When it turns owl into howl.

Why is the letter I angry?
Because it turns rate into irate.

When does the letter J sound harsh?
When it turns angle into jangle.

Why is the letter K good at tying?
Because it turns not into knot.

Why is the letter L good at making chains?
Because it turns inks into links.

Why is letter M good at multiplying?
Because it turns any into many.

Why is the letter N good at subtracting?
Because it turns one into none.

Why is the letter O good at providing access?
Because it turns pen into open.

Why is the letter P polite?
Because it turns lease into please.

Why is the letter Q quite sickening?
Because it helps to turn easy into queasy.

When is the letter R careless?
When it turns ash into rash.

Why is the letter S good at digging?
Because it turns hovel into shovel.

When does the letter T make a down-and –out?
When it turns ramp into tramp.

When does the letter U create a custom?
When it turns sage into usage.

Why is the letter V wicked?
Because it turns ice into vice.

When does the letter W create a turnaround?
When it turns heel into wheel.

When does the letter X reveal the inside story?
When it turns ray into X-ray.

When does the letter Y create longing?
When it turns earn into yearn.

Why is the letter Z bizarre?
Because it turns any into zany.

©John Foster. All rights reserved.

Dear editors who read GottaBook - would you please contact John Foster and inquire about turning the above poem into a picture book? It is very, very clever and even I, the non-visual guy, can see wonderful illustration potential. Thank you.

Word play is a recurring joy in John Foster's poetry, as is what I'd best describe as "smarts." (Note: I was going to make some reference to a letter S and turning marts into smarts, but geez... it's hard to do what he has done up above in a coherent way!). Head on out to read a couple poems at his site and while you're there, listen to him reading/performing a few poems, too. If you choose to attempt your own performance of Sean Short's Short Shorts, don't blame me if you have to ice your tongue after....

Besides being a wordsmith in his own right, John Foster also puts together fantastic anthologies, an art in and of itself. This means y'all have a lot of options when you leave this post... but in the meantime, I hope you share my happiness at having him here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, G. Neri brought us the June Bug Bash. Tomorrow... Lesléa Newman with Teen Angels. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

G. Neri - June Bug Bash

June Bug Bash
G. Neri

When the weather warms
With its summer storms,
June bugs appear,
Listen, you’ll hear!

Flippity-flopping all around,
Buzzing with that crazy sound.
Always bumbling in your ears,
Nearly bringing you to tears!

They jitterbug around your food,
Put you in a foul mood.
Blundering on your hair and neck,
THUD! There goes another wreck!

Then suddenly, they disappear.
Come July, they’re nowhere near.
Where they go, no one knows.
But guessing keeps me on my toes.

Do they go south to Yucatan,
Fishing with a fisherman?
Or Northward to the icy snow,
Playing with an Eskimo?

Or maybe to the Great Far East,
Dancing on a wildebeest?
Or off to the Wild West
Traveling with another pest?

Maybe climbing up the Pyramids,
To scare off all the tourist kids?
Or surfing the Pacific Ocean,
Now that would be a wacky notion!

They really could be anywhere--
Even hiding in your mother’s hair.
Laying low and out of sight,
Giving you an awful fright!

Who knows where June Bugs go,
Or why in June they only show.
But soon, you’ll hear a buzz, thud, crash.
Back in time for the June Bug Bash!

©G. Neri. All rights reserved.

Today marks the third 30/30 poem in a row by a Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award winner - this time, G. Neri, the 2010 recipient (based on the strength of his Chess Rumble, a free verse gem about poverty, death, and chess).

Now, having just recently re-read the I-can't-count-how-many-awards-winning graphic novel Yummy, I have to admit I was not expecting a poem quite like June Bug Bash from Greg Neri. So you can add "the unexpected" to the ever-growing list of what I love about poetry and poets. I love the fun, the rhythms, and the wild imagination of the June bugs... and love the speedy world tour, too, to send my brain to where my body currently isn't.

Again, not to sound like a broken April record, but if by some chance you haven't read G. Neri's work or shared it with your middle grade/YA loving reading friends, well, the time is now. I find all his books to date to be poetry in their own way, and I'm genuinely thrilled to have him here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

And hey... you can check out a roundup of all the Poetry Friday fun over at Laura Purdie Salas' blog today. Go see all the great stuff still going on as National Poetry Month winds down.

Yesterday gave us Wedding Photo by Joyce Lee Wong. Tomorrow John Foster brings us Add a Letter, Find Another Word! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joyce Lee Wong - Wedding Photo

Wedding Photo        Richmond, Virginia
Joyce Lee Wong

Just married,
poised on the courthouse steps
Baba wears a suit and tie
and Mama has on
a sky-blue dress.

A smile blooms on Mama’s lips
as she looks past the photographer,
her eyes fixed on something in the distance,
giving her face a dreamy look.
Does she miss her sisters and brothers,
her parents in Taipei?
Does she imagine
the sharp floral notes of incense,
the rub of silk,
as the courthouse tulips dance,
bobbing their scarlet and yellow heads
with the gusting April wind?

Baba turns toward her,
offering his arm,
his hand over hers,
his touch careful
as if he were holding something
as an egg,
its shell shining
impossibly blue;
a robin’s nest,
its intricate tangle of twigs
forming an airy house
in the pines;
or the first dogwoods
tender and new,
green as hope,
white as a promise.

©Joyce Lee Wong. All rights reserved.

Wanna know how to make Greg happy? Do what Joyce Lee Wong did when she asked if I wanted to use the above poem... which had been cut from her novel in verse Seeing Emily. Uh... yes! Not only do I get to revisit the world of her fabulous debut, but the poem, clearly, stands wonderfully on its own.

I find the language of Wedding Photo so evocative - the strong, fresh images and way the words just work together and pull me in. Add in the depth in the writing as well and I think you can see why she was the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award winner in 2007. If you haven't found Seeing Emily before, you should go read it... then come back and add this poem into the story.

Joyce Lee Wong is another one of the contributors to last year's Dare to Dream anthology, and is someone whose work I always look forward to reading. I look forward to whatever comes next, and I'm thrilled to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we had Under the Awning/Debajo del Toldo from Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Tomorrow... G. Neri with June Bug Bash! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guadalupe Garcia McCall - Under the Awning/Debajo del Toldo

Under the Awning
Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Four starving swallows caw and squawk in their nest.
Hour after hour, day after day, their parents came and
Went, went and came. Feathers flapping, tails snapping,
Feeding mouths that would not stay fed.

Today, there is nothing save the incessant squawking,
The emptiness that shocks. A black widow spider scuttles by,
Dragging behind her a silken sack, while a giant moth sleeps
Peacefully beside the nest, her wings splayed out widely.

Debajo del Toldo
Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Quatro golondrinas ambrientas gorgear y graznasen en su nido.
Hora tras hora, dia tras dia, sus parientes fueron y vinieron,
Vinieron y fueron, agitando plumas, castañeando rabitos,
Alimentando bocas que no se hartaban.

Hoy, no hay nada salvo el graznido incesante, el vacio que asusta.
Una araña viuda negra se escabulle, arrastrando detras de ella
Un saco de seda, mientras una polilla enorme duerme tranquilamente
Al lado del nido, sus alas desplegadas ampliamente.

©Guadalupe Garcia McCall. All rights reserved.

First off... congratulations to Guadalupe Garcia McCall, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award winner in 2013! The award is given every three years to... wait for it... a promising poet (who hasn't released more than two books) and is quite a wonderful bit o' recognition. Huzzah, I say!

And, I'd add, if you read today's poem, you'll get a glimpse into why such recognition keeps on coming. Read the poem aloud and feel the crispness and power of the language (I suspect in either language, actually!). There is such great specificity in the images... as if this scene must have been witnessed to be described so clearly.

Whether she's writing novels-in-verse or in prose, Guadalupe Garcia McCall's work will draw you in. It took me too long to discover her books, and I don't want you to make that same mistake. So go on out and find them. In the meantime, I'm just incredibly happy to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days. 
Yesterday, Renée LaTulippe introduced us to A Council of Cats. Tomorrow... Joyce Lee Wong with Wedding Photo! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Renée LaTulippe - A Council of Cats

A Council of Cats
Renée LaTulippe

A gathering of pinstriped gingers,
tortoiseshells, and calicos
holds a public meeting in
a patch of prudent primrose.

A quivering of well-kept whiskers,
the flexing of a flawless claw,
signals some dissent about
a point of feline law.

I ponder this scene silently,
the puffy tail, suspicious brow,
and wonder how you win a seat
on the Executive Board of Meow.

©Renée LaTulippe. All rights reserved.

Up until reading this poem, I had been unaware that there was any feline law at all - cat behavior seeming random to me - so I must thank Renée LaTulippe for casting light on this little known hierarchy. Unless... wait a second... she's not making this up, is she???? Impossible!

I first got to know Renée's poetry through the blogosphere and saw a lot more of it through March Madness these past two years. I've always loved her playful way with words, her quirky sense of humor sneaking in. I suspect there's no topic she can't find an angle on, and it'll be a fresh angle that you and I hadn't likely thought of. You can see her work on display in the Poetry Friday Anthology (Middle School Edition!), and I am pretty darn sure we'll be seeing more and more of her poetry in print soon enough.

I also want to point you to her blog where she puts up amazing posts (like her video on performing poetry) during her copious free time between writing, acting, editing, and living. It's great stuff all around, and just one of many reasons I'm thrilled to have Renée LaTulippe here at 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Steven Herrick spoke of Climate change. Tomorrow, Guadalupe Garcia McCall with Under the Awning/Debajo del Toldo! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Steven Herrick - Climate change

Climate change
Steven Herrick

when the sea levels rise
the Arctic cap melts
and we all, tearfully,
wave goodbye to the polar bears
and the Pacific Islands,
when storms batter our conscience
and tornadoes, out of season,
uproot the mango trees,
when raging floods
drown our riverside houses
and Aunt Emma,
when it snows in summer
and our crops lay frozen
in the fields,
when millions of refugees
are lost at sea
or starving on land,
remember that in the Year 2013,
we were more concerned about
gas prices
the new iPhone
school fees
and who was going to win
American Idol.

©Stephen Herrick. All rights reserved.

I think that Steven Herrick has come up with some of my favorite book titles ever: Love, Ghosts, and Nose Hair and My Life, My Love, My Lasagna among them. Who wouldn't pick up those novels? Exactly my point. You can see a full listing of titles - YA novels-in verse! Books for younger! Books for adults! - at his website... where you should also check out the links to videos of him performing (including 10 Things your parents will never say to you - again with the great titles!).

I think today's poem shows how some themes are universal... and that a poet's eye and ear know no geographical boundaries. Steven is from Australia, yet I'm posting his poem here in the U.S. on Earth Day because, well, talk about driving a point home with a timely, true bit of crisply worded, perfectly observed verse. Doesn't matter where the poem's written: we can all relate.

Yes, that's another thing to add to the list of what Greg loves about poetry! And in this specific case, when I got this poem in my inbox, it was yet another reason I was so excited to have Steven Herrick here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Maria Testa gave us First Game Ever, Perfect. Tomorrow... Renée LaTulippe with A Council of Cats! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Maria Testa - First Game Ever, Perfect

First Game Ever, Perfect
Maria Testa

We’re going to win

We're going to win
and I’m in the game
and my mind is a swirl
of words and slogans
I have heard all of my life,
and I am suddenly aware
that standing here at second base . . .
            it really does seem better.

And I start to think that
this might be enough
just being out here for the final out, enough
more than I ever dreamed, even,
I don’t need to make a play.

(It’s not enough.)

So I am jealous
when the ball bounces to short
even though the shortstop, the star, i
s my one real friend on the team –
a new friend made suddenly close, because he knows.
About me.

He fields the ball
and looks to me for the force,
the beautiful force that I forgot all about . . .
He looks to second, to me
because after all, I am
second base.

And I am there.
I am there receiving the throw,
the perfect throw
right to my glove,
the final out.

And I know that I am one of the boys.

I have been one of the boys
all of my life,
I have known this forever,
but today, this moment,
might be the very first time
that the whole wide world
and everyone in this perfect game
knows it, too.

©Maria Testa. All rights reserved.

Yay! Baseball! OK, sure... Maria Testa has written a poem here that's about more than baseball. And really, those of us who write about baseball are almost always writing about more than the sport itself. But that being said.... Yay! Baseball!

First Game Ever, Perfect is not the first time Maria Testa has written about baseball, a subject she's featured in novels (both prose and in verse). And as always, it's never just about the ballgames or how great a player Joe DiMaggio was, but also about family, or being a girl playing a boy's game, or the Italian-American experience. Yes, and baseball, natch, but I think it's those deeper themes and her ability to capture feelings with perfect pitch that make her books so readable.

And, of course, she doesn't just write about baseball or just write novels. Tackling everything from picture books to YA and MG novels to short stories to poetry with tremendous power, fantastic word choice, and storytelling skill, Maria Testa is a five-tool writer, if I may borrow a phrase, and I am thrilled to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Jenny Whitehead introduced us to The Litterbug. Tomorrow... Steven Herrick with Climate change! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jenny Whitehead - The Litterbug

The Litterbug
Jenny Whitehead

A spider leaves his web of white
that caught his midnight snack last night,
but we don't mind.

A slug leaves us his long ooze trail
still sticky like old ginger ale,
but we don't mind.

A litterbug leaves wads of trash---
pop cans and candy wrappers smashed.
Now, we mind.

This bug gives good bugs a bad name,
And we can't squish him---what a shame!

©Jenny Whitehead. All rights reserved.

True story - I knew the book Punctuation Celebration which is illustrated by one Jenny Whitehead (and written by Elsa Knight Bruno). And I ran into a book called Holiday Stew, a collection of holiday and seasonal poems written by one Jenny Whitehead. And, yeah, illustrated by her, too, but it's not like the book explicitly SAYS that, ya know? Sigh.

Anyway, I'm glad I figured out they were one and the same person, because I love the way Jenny turns a phrase and the way she makes one come to life visually. The Litterbug is a great lead in to Earth Day (coming up Monday) with its lovely twist on bugginess. And yeah, doesn't the poem simply scream out to be illustrated? Anyone have a suggestion for who might do that? Anyone?

I hope you get a chance to check out Jenny Whitehead's books, particularly knowing her dual identity! I'm glad I found them, and I'm incredibly happy to have her here at GottaBook as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday Kristin Elizabeth Clark gave us Pronoun. Tomorrow... Maria Testa with First Game Ever, Perfect! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kristin Elizabeth Clark - Pronoun

Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A pronoun is a ghost
of who you really are

whispering its presence
taunting your soul

in you
of you
but not
all you.

Struggling my own
He She
Him Her
I You

Scared that
for scrambled-pronoun

might never

©Kristin Elizabeth Clark. All rights reserved.

I see a title like "Pronoun" and I think I'm getting a grammar poem... and, of course, I am... but oh my, Kristin Elizabeth Clark delivers so much more. This, you'll probably not be shocked to hear, is yet another item on my list of "things Greg loves about poetry."

In her YA debut novel in verse Freakboy, coming out in October, Kristin writes about a gender-fluid kid... and you can see how pronoun issues can take on a very deep meaning. I think everyone who struggles with being labeled and finding their identity can relate, too, even if the journey and triggers are different. (For those on this particular journey, Kristin's new website has a nice list of resources to go with the book, as well.)

Yes, I do love the range of powerful poetry out there. So I'm excited to be able to share Kristin Elizabeth Clark's verse here with you today, looking forward to her October debut, and thrilled to have her as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

What about some more poetry! Head on over and check out the Poetry Friday roundup today held over at Irene Latham's Live Your Poem blog. Tons of great poetic goodness going on in the Kidlitosphere all month, and you can see a ton of it in one place.

Tomorrow... Jenny Whitehead brings us The Litterbug. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Irene Latham - Octopus Postcards

Octopus Postcards
Irene Latham

Twiddledeedum, twiddledeedoo
eight arms and nothing to do.

I spy a quarter-sized crevice.
Can I squeeze
sneeze my way in?

Just look at that scuttling crab
out for a stroll.
Quick, let me turn myself
red as this rock-hole.

What a yummy lunch.

Soooo sleepy.
See how my eyelids squint
and glint
like sliding doors?

Oh no. Shark!

Does it see me?
I think it sees me.

Can’t think.

Eat my ink! 

Wait. Must calculate.
One two three four five six seven... 

Call that shark “Mr. Amputate.”

Pardon me while I pulsate –

It's okay. Just wait.
Give me a chance
to regenerate.
Soon I'll be back to eight.

©Irene Latham. All rights reserved.

So, it's Poem in Your Pocket Day, and Irene Latham has provided us with 10 short verses in case you have many pockets that need filling. Or you can keep it all together in one pocket for an Octopoetic series, too. Sweet!

I love the way Octopus Postcards comes across as, well, an octopus' postcards - little snippets that collectively tell a bigger story than each one does by itself.  You can read 'em as fun. You can read 'em as educational. You can read 'em as a character study. No surprise, though, when you look at the rest of Irene Latham's work - a range of poems and novels with strong characters and an eye for detail that "teaches" you what you need to know to make her stories work.

Beyond bringing joy with her novels and poetry, Irene has brought a new tradition to the Kidlitosphere with her April-long Progressive Poem (with which you can follow along through her blog sidebar). Though it often confounds my expectations, I know I look forward each day to seeing what's next in the poem. A nice parallel, really, as I also know I've been looking forward to having Irene Latham here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday Robert Paul Weston brought us Freddy and the Yeti. Tomorrow... Kristin Elizabeth Clark with Pronoun! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Robert Paul Weston - Freddy and the Yeti

Freddy and the Yeti
Robert Paul Weston

“I don’t mean to sound petty,”
said Fred to the Yeti,
“but would you mind moving your foot?
It’s dusty and smelly,
and there on my belly,
my suit gets all sullied with soot.”

“I regret,” said the Yeti.
“My leg is so sweaty,
so filthy and dripping with slime.
But my toes are sooo grungy,
and your shirt is sooo spongy.
It’s perfect for wiping my grime!”

“Well, I wish you’d remove it!
I quite disapprove it,
and someone should give you the news:
You would cut that aroma
putting me in a coma
if you just started wearing some shoes!”

©Robert Paul Weston. All rights reserved.

If you don't know Robert Paul Weston - and you should, I say to you - just go now and find a copy of Zorgamazoo. (Heck, listen to Alan Cumming perform a bit of it if you somehow doubt my idea). It's a novel, yes... and a novel entirely in rhyming couplets! Funny, a little dark, and with a strong story, it's amazing as a read-aloud or read-alone.

No one rhyming novel wonder (Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff is likewise in verse), Robert Paul Weston also has a noirish novel in prose and, clearly, writes shorter poems, too. I love the rhythms of Freddy and the Yeti and the way the words slip and slide off my tongue when I say 'em. I like the silliness, too, but to me it's the package that silliness is wrapped up in that makes it work.

I'm excited to see that there's a new novel on the way in November (The Creature Department from Razorbill), and I look forward to seeing what comes after that, too. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to have Robert Paul Weston here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday Laurel Snyder brought us Bluster. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Laurel Snyder - Bluster

Laurel Snyder

A wind there was, a wild wind
That beat the boats against the sand
And made the branches bend and snap
And churned the sky aswirl.

Until the prairie…

A wind there was, a running wind
That galloped, raced, and chased across
The plains so far, so wide, so long
The wind could sing and soar.

Until the mountain…

A wind there was, a weathered wind,
That wiggled up and all around
And found its way past moss and stone
And made its way back down.

Until the lake…

A wind there was, a heavy wind,
That gathered drips and mist and rain,
And stormed across the far north shore
To cast them down again.

Until the city…

A wind there was, a misplaced wind,
That banged against tall walls and poles,
And made folks pull their jackets close
And blew some trash around.

Until Susan…

A wind there was, a tired wind
That found a girl out in a yard
And wrapped its arms around her tight
And showered her with leaves.

Until Susan smiled…

The wind sighed softly in her hair
And whispered everything it knew
Of mountains, plains and water too,
And made her murmur, “Oh!”

Until the wind died…

A girl there was, a wild girl,
Who dreamed of lakes and mountains tall,
Who longed to run the prairies wide,
And climb and soar and sing…

©Laurel Snyder. All rights reserved.

Poetry can lift my spirits or, dare I say, make them climb and soar when someone like Laurel Snyder lays down a verse. The anthropomorphized wind keeps me sailing on (well, until I meet Susan, of course, but then I sail on with her!). And I gotta say - to me i screams "picture book!!!!!" Who's with me?

Of course, it'd be no surprise to see a picture book from Laurel Snyder: she's had many published. And it'd be no surprise to see prose from her, either, as she's written novels and commentary and more. Oh, and poetry, of course she writes poetry. And in all of it, there's an honesty, an openness, and an underlying feeling of hope that always makes me want to read on.

One of my favorite parts of hosting this event is I get to say publicly stuff like... "I'm an unabashed fan!" Which I only say it because it's true! And that fandom is one big reason I'm thrilled to have Laurel Snyder here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday saw Emily Jiang's Painting with Sound. Tomorrow... Robert Paul Weston with Freddy and the Yeti! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Emily Jiang - Painting with Sound

Painting with Sound
Emily Jiang

Picking at my guzheng,
I can feel

the crisp, clean
mountain air

breezing over
my unbound hair.

Strumming my guzheng
I can feel

the cold rush
of waterfall

filling my ears
with thunderous call.

©Emily Jiang. From Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments - Shen's Books, 2013. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

You can add to the list of things I love about poetry: I can learn from it AND when written well, as Emily Jiang demonstrates here, a poem's language and imagery can paint a picture of something the reader might not already know. Because I admit, I didn't know what a guzheng was... but in reading the poem, my lack of specific knowledge mattered not one whit: I got it.

A guzheng is one of the instruments featured in Emily's debut book, coming later this year, called Summoning the Phoenix. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak when I saw Emily in March, and the book is both beautiful and fun. You can see a preview of the art at illustrator April Chu's blog, far more than the gorgeous little snippet you see here. You really should go see it. Really.

Emily is also a composer and performer, and her upcoming book is a clear example of how our different passions can all mix together to create art. I'm always happy to get a reminder of that myself... and it's just one reason I'm so happy to have Emily Jiang here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Stephen W. Cahill introduced us to Scatterpillars. Tomorrow... Laurel Snyder and Bluster! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stephen W. Cahill - Scatterpillars

Stephen W. Cahill

I met a scatterpillar
on a quiet country road.
He flashed a grin, a cheeky wink
and turned into a toad!

He hopped and hopped. I pleaded "Stop!"
so I could ask him why
he hadn’t changed himself into
a pretty butterfly.

"Because," he said, "I love to hop."
but when he saw the lake
he speedily transformed into
a slippy slidey snake.

He slithered to the water's edge.
Again I questioned why
he hadn’t changed himself into
a pretty butterfly.

"Because," he said, "I love to slide."
Then whooosh! He was a fish.
He slipped into the water
where he thrashy splashy splished.

He swerved with verve. He swimmy swam.
I hollered to him why
he hadn’t changed himself into
a pretty butterfly.

"Because," he said, "I love to swim."
And when he reached the shore
became a nutty squirrel,
and off he went once more.

He scurried up the nearest tree
and still I wondered why
he hadn’t changed himself into
a pretty butterfly.

"Because," he said, "I love to climb."
He glanced up at the sky..
"Aha!", I said, "At last you’ll be
a pretty butterfly."

But no, he said, "I feel today
a butterfly’s too small."
and grew into a dragon
that was twenty meters tall!

Away up high into the sky
he twirled and swirled and flew
then swooped back down
and scooped me up, and that was when I knew:

When scatterpillars shed their skin,
whatever one expects,
adventure isn’t far away.
Imagine what comes next..

©Stephen W. Cahill. All rights reserved.

Let's go to the archives and see... yes... yes... welcome Stephen W. Cahill, the first poet from Ireland to be part of 30 Poets/30 Days!

So, a little more than a year ago, Stephen entered Ed DeCaria's March Poetry Madness contest in its inaugural year. He'd never really concentrated on poetry before, but... well... why not have some fun? Since sometimes life is just like the movies, you know what happened next: he won! He became the very first recipient of The Thinkier (except that he didn't actually receive it as it never made it to Ireland. But that's another story entirely!).

Stephen's verses are wonderfully full of whimsy, finding that great balance of silly with smarts underneath. It was a blast being in the Madness with him, and I, for one, am so happy that he's kept writing and sharing his poems. I look forward to when we're talking about his books. Until then, I'm happy to be talking about his poetry here as part of 30 Poets/30 days.

Yesterday, Thalia Chaltas brought us Today's Topic. Tomorrow... Emily Jiang and Painting with Sound! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thalia Chaltas - Today's Topic

Today's Topic
Thalia Chaltas

The Subject of Sex
waddling proudly into Biology
on five of its legs,
the sixth dangling damaged
previous encounters.

Dana looks up and gasps,
flush infusing,
mouth slightly ajar.

Kevin leers
and plucks inside his mouth
with a finger,
making a POP.

Noreen mutters darkly
from under her bangs.

Otis pecks calculations,
certain that next period’s exam
is far more important.

We’ve seen this Subject before
but never up close.
I try gauging who knows the most
from their reactions.

For sure it isn’t me.
Maybe Noreen.

Mr. Rose drones sequences of words like

And just in front of him,
The Subject of Sex
displays and preens,
rotating slowly to show us
all sides,
shaking that sixth leg
like a third-base coach
waving us

©Thalia Chaltas. All rights reserved.

One of the many things I love about poetry is that there are really no subjects it can't cover and no age ranges it can't be written for. Thalia Chaltas clearly isn't writing for a younger crowd here, but her images and turns of phrase and focus on choosing the exactly right words... well... it's what makes for poetry I love to read regardless of where it's aimed.

If you've read Thalia's novels in verse, you'll know that she often deals with difficult subject matter and always in a way that, at least for me, commands attention rather than pushes me away. Her ability to give insight into characters with tremendous brevity and clarity... often surprising me with what she reveals... is something I wish I shared, I must say.

I love the perspective Thalia brings to the issues she deals with, and whether she's writing in verse or going full on prose, I look forward to whatever comes next. And in the meantime, I'm thrilled to have her here today as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, Jon Agee gave us High Jump. Tomorrow... Stephen W. Cahill and Scatterpillars! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.