Friday, February 23, 2018

cracking up, raising up

So much good news for the master poets among us!  This week it seems better to be a full-time poet than a full-time teacher: I am Tired and Emotional despite two days of freakishly May weather, ample use of sunlamp, and efforts to remember to dance.    I am discouraged.

First response: give in and wallow.  Here's a song--were you listening to this in 1979?--that I've rediscovered and that seems to speak to the moment.  #lyricsaspoetry

Thank you for being Tired and Emotional with me.  Now here's an antidote.  This is a poem by an unassuming Unitarian Universalist minister that was read in my service recently.  It makes me feel.......encouraged.

LET THE ARTISTS WIN | Bob Janis-Dillon

I vote we let the artists win
the ones covered in paint from their last attempt
to smuggle across the beauty of a bowl of fruit
the 14-year-old rapper learning to spit
throwing life's chaos on the rhythm wheel
uncovering the shapes that live on after the next break

I say we let the food bank volunteers win
the ones always carrying around their agenda
for the meeting, waging campaigns
to stock shelves with bread

I would like to see the nurses extend their string of victories
from the hospital bed to the nation's boardrooms
until we care for each other as if death
were inevitable and mercy was the only thing
that made the rounds bearable

I say we let the kindergarten teachers win
as they raise up small edifices
for the beauty words
will never capture or reveal

Maybe even let the helpless drunkard win sometimes,
when she cries into her beer
and declares it's all too much

I will let the grandmothers win
when they tell the old stories
that hold me in their keeping

And the children yelling
play! play! The ones who have already cost us so much
of our final productivity
the only tyrants who can command
the true attention of the wise
I want them to win too
again and again
without pity

and then when the men with guns come
we can say I'm sorry
but whether you win or lose
it's really never been my game sir
I have lost
and lost again a thousand wars of the heart
and those to whom I have waved the white flag
those to whom
I have surrendered
the whole and holy of my life
will never
let me go

There are too many soul-thumping moments in this to list them all...but let me tell you, when my minister read the words "I say we let the kindergarten teachers win," and three people sitting close to me reached over to touch my shoulder or look in my eyes, their acknowledgment mattered.

And now I'm off to school, to
"raise up today's small edifices
for the beauty words
will never capture or reveal."

The round-up today is hosted by Liz--long time no see!--at her blog Elizabeth Steinglass.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Cybils Poetry Award 2017!

Poetry Award selected by Joy Acey, Linda Baie, Kate Hillyer, Heidi Mordhorst & Buffy Silverman

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

No one is immune to stress in this era of political rancor and natural disaster, including kids. Luckily, a stress-busting antidote is served up in the impeccably rhymed I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, written by Chris Harris and illustrated by Lane Smith. Hilarious, sweet, and thought-provoking, this collection bowled the judges over with its bouncing rhythms, dazzling word play, and rank foolishness. (And the judges weren’t the only ones–review copies kept disappearing into the bedrooms and backpacks of nearby middle-graders.)

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a literary tour de force that consistently delights. It’s A. A. Milne crossed with Shel Silverstein, seasoned with a dash of Oscar Wilde and a hint of Ellen Degeneres. It reads like a giant inside joke–a joke that anyone with a funny bone and a few minutes to read can get inside. (Except for 11 ½- year-olds. They have to come back when they are 12. Just read the jacket flap.)

There are stunning visual quips like "The Duel," where the letters b and d face off (it doesn’t go well, resulting in p and q). There’s an ongoing feud between Harris and Smith, as seen in "I Don’t Like My Illustrator" and its lovely accompanying portrait of the author. It has groan-worthy puns, ("The Old Woman Who Lived in Achoo") and plenty of the absurd ("Just Because I’m a Turkey Sandwich and Some Chips Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Have Feelings Too, You Know!") Masterfully sprinkled throughout the silly, naughty, and nonsensical are poignant moments like "I’m Shy on the Outside:"

I’m the life of the party here under my skin.
So keep knocking—
Someday I might let you in.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming will make poetry lovers of young and old, from any background and experience, even the poetry skeptics–it’s just subversive enough that kids will be passing it around the playground like contraband candy. Best of all, it will make them laugh. Giggle. Chortle. Guffaw. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that these days?

For anyone who's interested in how this decision-making works: there's a nominations period, after which Round 1 readers (typically people with more flexible schedules than I have!) read all the nominated books and come up with a shortlist of approximately 7 finalists.  Then, between Jan. 1 and Feb.14, announcement day, Round 2 readers read those finalist titles, critique, discuss, rant, pronounce, waffle, rank, persuade, and finally agree which book earns the award.

The Cybils Awards Mission is very helpful in this selection process:
The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.

The round-up today is hosted by Jone at Check It Out, and thanks to Jone also for her work behind the scenes rounding up the Judging Panel of mostly Poetry Friday regulars who helped to choose this book.  And now, SO much goodness in one double-page spread....Check it out!

Friday, February 9, 2018

february ekphrasis

Laura Shovan's annual birthday month poetry project has burgeoned this year!  Even after setting a limit of 100 participants for the Facebook group, more have petitioned for entry and now well over 100 are looking each day at a piece of art from someone's own home collection and writing about it, or in more cases, from it--taking all different kinds of inspiration.

I too am joining in as able, and below are the pieces I've described (which is all that the word ekphrasis means).  Thanks to Laura and to Kip Wilson Rechea, a fellow author who's helping Laura mind the very busy ekphrasis store!

textile by Morag Gilbart

Thanks for bearing with the unpolished but very fun and challenging quips and snips!  Speaking of which, if you haven't learned about the awesome Windows Snipping Tool which has literally changed my life as a teacher and a blogger, you should:

The round-up today is hosted by Sally Murphy over down under.  See you there, and see you next Wednesday, Valentine's Day, for the announcement of the Cybils Poetry Award winner!  Can't wait to share the big news!