Tag: Poetry Friday

BLACK LIVES MATTER: POETRY FRIDAY

Every poem is a blow against silence. ~ Carlos Fuentes

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“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!