My poem in RHYME & RHYTHM: POEMS FOR STUDENT ATHLETES- out today!

Today is the publication day for RHYME & RHYTHM: POEMS FOR STUDENT ATHLETES! This anthology of poems is about all aspects of sports… from the joy, the sweat, and precision… to the emotional, family, and social aspects. 

I’m proud to have a poem in this collection. “A Slice of Time” is about intramural floor hockey played in a high school gym after school… but it’s really about how socio-economics affects young athletes, with a girl-crush thrown in for good measure.

Congratulations to editor Sarah J. Donovan PhD… as well as the many poets whose work appears in this stellar collection: Nikki Grimes, Zetta Elliott, Padma Ventrakaman, Laura Shovan, Bryan Ripley Crandall, Heidi Mordhurst, Beth Brody, Krista Surprenant, and more!

It’s the perfect gift for the athlete in your life! Available in all the usual places and here.

My poem in the New York Times!

As writers, we get used to leaning into headwinds, persevering through all of the rejections and maybes and the waiting. Then when something wonderful happens, it’s a shock to the system!

Yesterday, my poem about growing up in the Bronx appeared in the New York Times. Right there in the Metropolitan Diary section of the Sunday Times was “Ars Poetica, Bronx,” a poem I wrote about how I became a poet. It was inspired by a prompt from a class on poetic forms, taught by poet Georgia Heard in spring 2021. It was written in my favorite time of day, when I rise at 5 a.m. to enjoy an hour or two of writing time before the world wakes up, a ritual known to many writers as #5amwritersclub.

New York Times, 7/25/21!

 

Sharing the poem brought me so much joy yesterday– and enthusiastic responses from friends and family in Massachusetts and New York, California and Ireland, the UK and Brazil. It brought back vivid memories of the breakfast table in our apartment in the Bronx, where the Times was a fixture. 

When the “yes” days happen, it’s important to savor them! Yesterday was a “yes” day.

 

 

Teaching teachers: Poetry in the early childhood classroom

When you get to combine teaching with a topic you’re passionate about– that’s the sweet spot! I just finished teaching one of my favorite courses at the community college, “Poetry in the Early Childhood Classroom.”

In this class, we dove deep into poetry: how to infuse it throughout the curriculum, how it can foster social-emotional growth, how a poem can be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door for a child.

One of the assignments of the course is “Author Study of a Poet.” This summer, my students (who all teach in early childhood) focused on Nikki Giovanni, Janet Wong, and Douglas Florian, among others. They also completed Poetry Portfolios to use in their classrooms, and made big beautiful poetry charts for shared, choral reading.

It was a creative, fun class, and their final reflections show that! Here are some of their postings:

**My view on poetry in the preschool classroom has changed dramatically.  Prior to this class I would have considered myself not a fan at all.  I had no idea how helpful the addition of poetry could be to introducing and elevating the curriculum in the classroom.  I love the idea of adding connections to the subject at hand by utilizing poetry to enhance the topics.  I am also intrigued by the humor that can be added by selecting the right poem. I love to make the kids laugh.

**I never really took the time to read poetry, but now after taking this class, it has really opened my eyes to all the different ways poetry is useful. Especially tonight’s class and listening to Mary explain how poetry can be used, like as a dipstick to see what children know, or to preview a topic. I like how poetry can also be used as an emotional rehearsal. Things can always be related to poems or vice versa.

**The same way I sometimes underestimate the power of a walk through nature is the way I can “overlook” the power of poetry in the classroom.

**I will definitely take away from this class the idea of servicing through teaching in a new light.  The idea of helping a child with transitions by utilizing poetry and books as windows hit me in a whole new way.  I also will take away the positive impact that poetry can have on speech development and shyness.

I had that hit of “mission accomplished” as I read these comments, and I hope they inspire any teachers who read this to add more poetry to their teaching.

Happy summer, everyone!

POETRY FRIDAY- Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

This beautiful book of poems by Nikki Grimes is a revelation and inspiration. First, it allows us to

    discover the poems of lesser-known black women poets of the Harlem Renaissance–poets like Jessie Redmon Fauset, Gwendolyn Bennett, Effie Lee Newsome, and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Then, masterful poet Nikki Grimes follows up each of those poems with a “Golden Shovel” poem of her own. 

The Golden Shovel form was developed by poet Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks; it’s a way of resampling the work of another poet. Here’s a good explanation of how to write a Golden Shovel poem. Grimes writes of this form, “This is a very challenging way to create a poem, especially to come up with something that makes sense, but I love it for that very reason!” I can’t wait to try my hand at this poetry form!

Illustration by Keisha Morris

LEGACY: WOMEN POETS OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE is a treasure trove of a book. There’s so much to love and dive into. There are the poems by the Harlem Renaissance poets, the poems by Nikki Grimes, the amazing art, and the wonderful poet biographies and artist biographies in the backmatter. It’s a whole package of wonderful, a perfect way to celebrate #NationalPoetryMonth, and as one reviewer wrote, “Black girls everywhere, this collection is salve and sanctuary.”

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Catherine hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog Reading to the Core. Check out the feast of poetry there today!

BLACK LIVES MATTER: POETRY FRIDAY

Every poem is a blow against silence. ~ Carlos Fuentes

***

“This is for the unforgettable… 

the ones who survived America by any means necessary. 

And the ones who didn’t.” 

Kwame Alexander’s book THE UNDEFEATED is an ode to the African American experience, a book-length poem with illustrations by Kadir Nelson that will leave you breathless.

THE UNDEFEATED is both ageless and utterly of the moment, as we as a nation wrestle again and again with the worth of Black lives. 

It’s impossible to turn the pages without names coming to mind:  Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd… and many more.

Stephen Fry writes in his book The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, “Deriving from odein, the Greek for to chant, the ode is an open form of lyric verse made Public Monument.”

Public Monument.

A monument, a history book, a cry of urgency and celebration, THE UNDEFEATED belongs on every bookshelf in America. 

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Jama hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Check out the feast of poetry there today.

POEMS IN MANY VOICES

I love reading a poetry collection in many voices, and Walter Dean Myers’ HERE IN HARLEM is a masterful example of this. In his introduction, Myers writes that he was inspired by Yeats, Synge, and Spoon River Anthology to write about his beloved neighborhood in Harlem. “As the idea for this book ripened in my mind, I began to imagine a street corner in Harlem, the Harlem of my youth, and the very much alive people who would pass that corner. So began Here in Harlem.”

About ten years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Myers and he signed my copy of HERE IN HARLEM — a treasured book on my shelf.

I’m working on a poetry collection in many voices. It takes me down research rabbit holes and illuminates forgotten corners of history. I’m taking it slow. Each poem allows me to step into the shoes of another person, to see the world through their eyes.

 

Myers did this beautifully in HERE IN HARLEM, whether that was a newsstand worker, a little girl, or a tired nurse from Harlem Hospital (in a poem that could have been written in the time of Coronavirus!).

HERE IN HARLEM is a poetic gift I return to again and again. If you were going to write a poetry collection in many voices set in one location, I wonder where it would be.


On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Tabatha hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference blog.  Check out the feast of poetry there today!

Telling a Life in Poetry

I love reading biographies, and when an author succeeds in telling the story of a person’s life in poetry– that’s magic. In honor of National Poetry Month, here are three favorites I have come across lately.

 

RUNAWAY: THE DARING ESCAPE OF ONA JUDGE by Ray Anthony Shepard, Illustrated by Keith Mallett. (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2021)

Shepard manages to break open history in a way that is bracing and forthright. Many young readers may not know that there were enslaved people in the household of our nation’s first president, George Washington. Ona Judge was one of those enslaved people, and she escapes in this dramatic and poetic story of her life. Shepard uses lyrical language and repetition in such an effective way. As Shepard writes in the backmatter, “In my poem, I reclaim those questions to show the inherent humanity of the enslaved.” I love this book and the illustrations by Keith Mallett are breathtakingly beautiful.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: ARETHA FRANKLIN, QUEEN OF SOUL by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Frank Morrison. (Atheneum, 2020)

Masterful poet Weatherford manages to tell the story of Aretha Franklin’s life in a spare, poetic text that highlights adversity as well as Franklin’s rise to fame. The story is told in COUPLETS, and it works beautifully! And they all have the same end rhyme– a poetic feat. In less than 300 words, Weatherford conveys the Queen of Soul’s life, her struggles, hardships, and glorious moments of triumph.

GRASPING MYSTERIES: GIRLS WHO LOVED MATH by Jeannine Atkins. (Atheneum, 2020)  

In this middle-grade work in verse, Atkins portrays the life of seven women who employed math in their trailblazing lives. A Native American statistician, two astronomers, a scientist who mapped the ocean floor…each portrait in verse uses precise, poetic language to show us the subjects in childhood, their love of math, and their striking accomplishments. Atkins drew me into each life with finely crafted images, lyrical language, and a sense of wonder. As she writes in the backmatter, “History can happen when no one watches, as simply as a girl wonders about the sea, counts backward, turns over a rock, or reaches up holding the string of a kite.”  With beautiful illustrations by Victoria Assanelli.

As I work on my various projects, including a poetry collection and a picture book biography, these poets inspire me! I hope they inspire you, too. Happy National Poetry Month!

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Mary Lee hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at A Year of Reading. Check out the feast of poetry there today, and all the treasures abounding for National Poetry Month!

The Writing Life: Creativity, Generosity, and Luck

Writing is a solitary craft. But we also need the spark and alchemy of sharing with and learning from others.

I’m right in the middle of a three-week poetry forms class led by poet Georgia Heard. I am learning wonderful techniques that will elevate my writing, but I’m also gaining so much from the energy and insights of the other poets, and the way that Georgia establishes a sense of community. Last week we had poet Marilyn Singer present to us about reversos!

The magic that happens in a supportive creative community is a key to surviving the writing life, and so is sharing time and talents with a generosity of spirit (something Georgia Heard does especially well!). Twyla Tharp writes about this in her amazing book THE CREATIVE HABIT:

“I cannot overstate how much a generous spirit contributes to luck. Look at the luckiest people around you, the ones you envy, the ones who seem to have destiny falling habitually into their laps. What are they doing that singles them out? It isn’t dumb luck if it happens repeatedly. If they’re anything like the fortunate people I know, they’re prepared, they’re always working at their craft, they’re alert, they involve their friends in their work, and they tend to make others feel lucky around them.”

I think this captures the spirit of Poetry Friday, too!  Wishing you a happy Friday, a good weekend, and a way to share time and talents with supportive and generous friends.


On Fridays, I love taking Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share their love of all things poetry. This week, Susan hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Soul Blossom Living. Check out the feast of poetry there today!

A fun poetry form: the Reverso

On this Poetry Friday, I made my first attempt at writing a reverso. 

Poet Marilyn Singer developed this form. She has written three books of reverso poems! This is her definition of the form:

“A reverso is a poem with two halves. In a reverso, the second half reverses the lines from the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization — and it has to say something completely different from the first half.”

Books of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer

Marilyn was the guest presenter in the Tuesday evening poetry class I take, led by poet extraordinaire Georgia Heard. A few days ago, Marilyn shared some reverso poems with us, and others, too. Her dramatic reading skills are inspiring! 

I tried my hand at it this morning. I’d love to add a reverso to the firehouse-themed poetry collection I’m working on.  I even got out the scissors, clipping and snipping lines and moving them around. It’s still very much a work in progress, but I hope to have a draft of a poem ready for next week’s class with Georgia!

 

Hop on over to Linda at TeacherDance for more Poetry Friday posts!

Poetry Friday- Christmas Eve Wishes

A friend recently sent me a photo that was a throwback to 2004… the year my poetry was first published in an anthology. She had asked me for a signed copy and I’d sent her one.

 

Mistletoe Madness, published by Blooming Tree Press, was chock full of poems and stories for young readers about Christmas. My poem, “Christmas Eve Wishes,” was included in the anthology alongside the work of so many other writers and illustrators, including Linda Joy Singleton, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, and Agy Wilson.

Mistletoe Madness, from Blooming Tree Press (2004)

Do you ever want to get out an editing pen, even after your work has been published? That’s been the case almost every time my poetry appears in any collection or anthology, and this one is no exception. Still, I love it because it was the first.  

 

Christmas Eve Wishes

by Mary E. Cronin

 

Our gifts are stacked and laced

With ribbons curling bright

For every child who’s yearning

I wish a gift tonight.

 

Our dinner plates sparkle

On the tablecloth white

I wish all hungry families

Will have a feast tonight.

 

As carols play softly

Our Christmas tree’s alight

I wish a peaceful evening

For the whole wide world tonight.

 

***

I love being a part of Poetry Friday, a weekly celebration of children’s poetry. Painter, poet, and illustrator Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup of Poetry Friday posts today at her blog, which features a beautiful poem, “Stardust.”

Wishing all in the Poetry Friday community the happiest of holidays, even as it may be a quieter Christmas than usual.