Thursday, March 25, 2010

Poetry Friday and Nancy Bo Flood

Welcome!! It's Poetry Friday (well, I'm actually posting this on Thursday night so that all of you East Coasters can post before you go to bed!) and I'm pleased The Drift Record will be providing a spot for the round-up this week. You can post your Poetry Friday topics in the Comments field (at the end of this post.) Be sure to provide a link when you comment, since I will not be summarizing during the day outside the Comments field.

Meanwhile, I want to introduce you all to Nancy Bo Flood, a fine poet and author whose debut novel for children, WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE, has just been released by Front Street Books.

 Old turtle, 
Little crab, 
Where should I go? 
Where can I hide? 

               -from Warriors in the Crossfire
Warriors in the Crossfire is the story of two boys, Joseph and Kento, caught between the battling Japanese and American forces on the island of Saipan during WWII. Each chapter is introduced by a quiet, koan-like poem that invites reflection (and often breaks your heart.)  I love the simplicity of the poem I opened this post with (titled "Courage.")  Here's another, which opens the chapter titled "War":

Shines silver 
Across breadfruit leaves., 
Broken shards of light, 
Broken dreams, 

I interviewed Nancy for The Drift Record, knowing you would love her poems for POETRY FRIDAY:

JL: Can you tell us what drew you to this historical period and setting? 

NBF: We were there. That is an overstatement but when our family lived on Saipan, our first surprise was that Saipan is part of the United States, a commonwealth, first put under U.S. care by the United Nations following WWII. Our second surprise was that the aftermath of WWII was everywhere -- rusting tanks and downed planes in the lagoon, Japanese cement bunkers pitted with bullet holes on every beach, and almost every family still recovering. I taught students who shared with me their family stories. I listened. I asked questions. Old timers were eager to "talk story." They encouraged me to tell their story so that peace would prevail, that their children could grow up with schools, enough food and a future. How seldom we think about the families and especially the children who live where wars are fought. Saipan is a tropical island in the western Pacific, the kind one imagines with sweeping white sand beaches and clear turquoise-blue waters. But World War II haunts both land and sea. I stood at the Suicide Cliff where hundred leaped to their deaths. The presence of war washes in and out like the tide. When I wrote Joseph's story, I wanted to write a story of hope, realistic and honest, but also one that expressed not only the horror and destruction of war but the amazing resiliency of the human heart to rebuild and forgive.

JL: What do you think is the role of the writer for children during a time of war and social unrest? Do you see parallels between the story of Joseph and Kento and the stories of children now in Afghanistan and Iraq? 

NBF: When children grow up in the midst of conflict, they lose everything, including their childhood. "When will we ever learn?" Through story, a writer can create awareness. To be a child surrounded by war, what is that like? Is it about guns and bombs? I think for many children, it is also about losing precious parts of childhood, forever. School, family home, and even pets. In Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People and War by Yukio Tsuchiya and Ted Lewin, the elephant keeper tells of trying to kill his dear friends, his elephants. Children around the world relate to loving a trip to the zoo and staring spellbound at elephants curling their trunks or flapping their enormous ears. Why would anyone want to kill them? Fire bombs were exploding over Tokyo. No one had food, especially enough food to feed starving elephants. Who thinks about having to leave the family dog or cat behind, or killing all the zoo animals, when war breaks out? Story makes us stop and see with a new perspective. Story gives us hope. In Warriors in the Crossfire, Joseph loses almost everything he cares about . How could he make his dreams come true without an education? How does a young warrior decide? What will help his family survive instead of perish? Joseph discovers that being a warrior sometimes means to restrain, to hide, to wait. He learns that his father's stories, not guns or bullets - his cultures chants, songs and dances - provide what he needs to survive.

JL: You're a wonderful poet - tell us about how it felt to work on this much longer piece of fiction. 

NBF:  Thank you, I am definitely a "poet in progress." Your question, Julie, made me think for several days (and nights!) Here is my "haiku" response:  Poetry captures an essence. /Poetry invites the reader to see anew. Narrative, the novel, captures an experience, usually the unfolding experience of a character in conflict that creates change. Poetry is an essential element through Warriors. Poetry reflects Joseph's transitions from rebel to warrior, from student to teacher. What better source than some of the oldest poetry, Basho's haiku, which is often a riddle of phrases that capture the essence of change, conflict, or a metaphor of the moment. Basho's brief poems invite readers to bring to the poem their yearnings and experiences, to give meaning to make sense to you, the reader, at this moment in your own journey.

JL: Nancy, your poems and now your fiction do just as Basho's poems do -"invite readers to bring to the poem their yearnings...." Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with readers of The Drift Record. I hope many people will be reading Warriors in the Crossfire.  

On April 15th, I"ll be over at Jacket Knack interviewing Namelos's art director Helen Robinson, who designed the cover of Nancy's book.


POETRY FRIDAY readers: Please click on "Comments" to find descriptions and links to what other people are sharing this week!!


  1. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for hosting! I'm gone, too. But I leave an offering at:

    If you ever wondered what is a senryu, stop by to find out.

    Laura Evans
    all things poetry

  2. Hi Julie, thanks for hosting this week. Warriors in the Crossfire is going on my wish list!

    I appreicate you allowing us to post early. I'm in this week with an original poem for my first grandchild. She is truly a miracle.

  3. Danika at is in with a Naomi Shihab Nye poem for springtime, introduced and performed by the poet herself.

  4. Thanks, Julie!

    I just posted some Wild Flowers
    on the Father Goose blog at

  5. Hi Julie! Thanks for the introduction to Warriors in the Crossfire--I'll order it for the library.

    Kurious Kitty looks at a poetry how-to for children, Guppies and Puppies.

    At Kurious K's Kwotes I have a quote by John Ciardi.

    And, at Random Noodling, it's cherry blossom time and nearly National Poetry Month. (Truthfully, here in NH, we've only gotten to crocus time.)

  6. Hi Julie--Thanks for hosting! This sounds like an intriguing book--thanks for sharing it.

    I've got a Douglas Florian poem at and this week's 15 Words or Less Poems (anyone can play) at

    Happy Poetry Friday!

    Laura Purdie Salas

  7. Thank you, Julie. Indeed you have "created a blog context in which readers can think." What does it mean to be a warrior? A poet? To change someone's world with a very few words? Nancy Bo Flood

  8. Want a laugh? I've posted a ridiculous yet hysterical Kenn Nesbitt poem:

    Thanks for hosting!

    Some Novel Ideas

  9. Hi Julie, thanks for hosting, and for posting early!

    I reviewed Time You Let Me In: 25 poets under 25, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye on Pink Me:

    Wild young poetry for a wild Spring night.

  10. Thanks for providing the space and putting it up on Thursday.

    Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ronald Koertge

  11. Hi, Julie. Thanks for hosting this week. My Poetry Friday post is all moon and stars. I have a snippet of one of my favorite childhood poems, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" and another poem, "Friend," from Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood.

  12. Thanks for hosting, Julie! I'm up with an original:


    Yup. Pants!

  13. Enjoyed reading about Nancy Bo Flood! Thanks for sharing that.

  14. Thank you, Julie, for hosting, and for introducing me to Nancy Bo Flood. Warriors in the Crossfire sounds gripping and beautiful and disturbing---all that I love in poetry.

    For my Poetry Friday post today, I'm honoring those doing the library-loving challenge by sharing Charles Simic's poem, In the Library.

  15. Thanks for the fascinating interview! Saipan is part of the United States? News to me!! And although it's troubling, it is indeed important to hear the "after-war" stories. Thank you for sharing WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE and Nancy Bo Flood with us today.

    My Poetry Friday post seems a little trivial compared to this, but I guess variety is the spice of Poetry Friday!

    I'm in with a poem about the chocolate cake I am going to start making as soon as I stop typing!

  16. Hi Julie,

    What an interesting interview. I'll be sure to look for Nancy's book!

    Today I'm celebrating Robert Frost's birthday with one of his early poems, "The Line-storm Song."

    Thanks for rounding us up!!

  17. Thanks, Julie and Nancy, for an uplifting start to my morning!
    I'm in with eyes raised in both Spanish and English: Hermanadad/Brotherhood by Octavio Paz, again from the public charter school application.

  18. I'm blogging a YA time-travel-adventure novel in blank verse, The Feather of Memory, and reading it aloud as I go, at

  19. Warriors in the Crossfire looks marvelous!

    I am always interested in what inspires different art forms. Today I have a painting by Pamela Sukhum that was inspired by David Whyte's poem Sweet Darkness:

    Thanks for hosting!

  20. Thanks for hosting! I have some poems to share about housework at

  21. Here's my contribution. Since there are daffodils everywhere I went with Wordsworth today.

  22. Thanks for hosting this week! At Abby (the) Librarian, I'm posting about Ocean Soup: Tide Pool Poems by Steve Swinburne.

  23. Thanks for hosting! I've got a poem about Marie Curie by Julianna Baggott:

  24. Wonderful interview! Thank you Nancy and Julie!

  25. Thanks for hosting, Julie. I'm in this week with Chesterton, here.

  26. Thank you for hosting Julie! I heart Poetry Friday. Today at My World/Mi Mundo I am talking about Douglas Florian's newest poetry book Poetrees. Hope you enjoy it!

  27. Hi Julie,

    Thank you for hosting PF this week! Over at , Randi Allison has shared a student poem inspired by Tony Ross.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!


  28. Thank you, Julie for hosting Poetry Friday. I attempted the limericks and have spring break on the mind!
    It is here:

  29. Julie,

    Thanks for doing the Poetry Roundup today!

    At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of a book of mask poems titled OUR FARM: BY THE ANIMALS OF FARM SANCTUARY--written by Maya Gottfried. Maya wrote the poems after volunteering at Farm Sanctuary, a place that rescues abused and neglected farm animals in Watkins Glen, New York. The illustrations by Robert Rahway Zakanitch are exceptional. My post includes videos of animals at Farm Sanctuary.

  30. Hi Julie,
    I'm in today with the baseball poem Finding Buckner.

    Thanks for hosting this shindig.

  31. Thanks for letting us visit with Nancy. The book sounds great.

    I've got Barney Saltzberg today at

  32. Hi Julie. Thanks for having us here today. Warriors in the Crossfire is on my TBR list.

    I'm in today from the water-logged Boston area with some lines from Elizabeth Bishop's "Letter to Two Friends." Also sending congratulations to Debbie Diesen on the release of her new rhyming PB, The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade.

  33. Thank you for the interview with Nancy! Today I posted about poet David Lee and his collection "A Legacy of Shadows". Ever since I heard Lee read his poetry at the Whidbey Is. writer's conference years ago (I heard you read for the first time there too, Julie!), he's been in my head.

    Thank you for hosting!

  34. Wonderful excerpts and interview. Heartbreaking, to think of those elephants, and of the children in the line of fire in war.

    Today, I've got Canis Major by Robert Frost in honor of his birthday. Here's the link for you:

  35. Oops! That should be FORGIVING Buckner! (That is, if you can find him!)

    Just hand me a few more of those absent-minded professor pills ...

  36. Hi Julie,
    I turned to a work by Scottish Poet, George MacDonald (1824-1905) titled:"The Wind and the Moon"

  37. I'm in with a Robert Frost poem too!

    Thanks for hosting, Julie.

  38. Wonderful interview. I read Warriors in the Crossfire a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Haunting, but also a celebration of the human will to survive and thrive.

  39. Thank you for hosting "Poetry Friday". I found a gem in a collection of poems called "Around the World in Eighty Poems". Actually, I also posted a wonderful Langston Hughes poem, "I, Too, Sing America".

  40. Thanks for hosting! I'm sharing a review of The Wonder Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

  41. Clocking in from the West Coast--I agree with Martha above--I am a major Elizabeth Bishop admirer. Did that woman ever write a bad poem? I don't think so.

    For anybody interested in poetry based on our grandmothers' generation, you're welcome to click.

    My favorite Bishop poem: "One Art."

  42. After seeing so many luscious pictures of macaroons on the French blogs that I enjoy following, I finally decided to try a chocolate one here in Portland at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Up until today, I’d always thought of macaroons as a coconut type of cookie (which isn’t technically a bad thing.) But now


    I now see what all the fuss is about. It was heaven on earth in a cookie. And one cookie did the trick! I felt completely satisfied and happy with that one cookie and my pot of lavender chamomile tea.

    So, here is a poem I found for Poetry Friday, and I have to say that I think I could dine on a macaroon during ANY month of the year.

    Wouldn’t it be fine
    in June
    to dine in the shine
    of the macaroon moon?

    by Wanda Haan

    I'm over at if you'd like to take a look. Thanks!

  43. Thanks for doing the round up Julie! I am chiming in late on Sat. morning with cherry blossom poetry by A. E. Housman: Loveliest of Trees

    I am enjoying your interview with Nacy Bo Flood. What a thoughtful presentation of a troubling subject.

  44. I read WARRIORS. Flood does write well. The story is compelling. But when I look specifically at the way she presents Joseph's culture, I come away feeling that she didn't get inside his culture, his people and their way of talking about who they are, particularly their dance. Her descriptions of that "warrior dance" sound like most other outsider descriptions of indigenous dance.

    I say that as a tribally enrolled Pueblo Indian (from Nambe Pueblo, in northern New Mexico) who studies representations of American Indians in children's literature.

  45. I should note, too, that I've got a blog, American Indians in Children's Literature, where you can read a lot more about my thoughts on appropriation, misrepresentation, stereotyping, etc.

  46. If Nancy Bo Flood is responding to comments, I'd like her to elaborate on this part of her interview:

    "They encouraged me to tell their story so that peace would prevail, that their children could grow up with schools, enough food and a future."

    I may be having a "doh!" moment, because I can't figure out how you (outsider to their culture) telling their story would do all that.

  47. Yes, I will comment, Debbie, first to thank so many for their thoughtful responses and their interest in this part of history that seldom is told. War continues. Children are caught in the crossfire. They fight to survive but then need to also survive in spirit to rebuild homes and communities and recreate family and culture. Thank you, Julie, for questions that looked more closely at the story and asked about the role of poetry in a novel.

    Poetry is a metaphor of an essence. Dianne White added one of my favorite beginning poems from Warriors in the Crossfire: "I miss the one
    who stares at the stars
    And reaches
    For the moon."

    Joseph loses the innocence and magic of childhood as war robs him of his boyhood friend.

    But to respond to Debbie's question, I worked with the keeper of the dance for a number of years learning. He told me this story and asked me to share it with others so they might listen.

    The story begins on page 74. "It came in a dream," my father said. "It came in a dream to one of our long-ago ancestors. Clansmen had been warring. Too many had died from the fighting, from the starvation that followed. Too many people, gone." My father hesitated, then continued. "A stranger came, and this spirit commanded, Get up! In the Darkness of the night, get up! Dance with me. Leap and strike higher!" My father nodded for me to continue. "All through the night they danced, and then the spirit spoke: Teach your people. Learn these dances. Protect your clan. This is your hope for survival. Light the fire within you. Light the bonfire that we might see. Learn to sweep, to leap, to fly."

    What does this story mean? Each time I hear his words I see anew. I pass them to each reader, from Felipe I Ruak, Reilighman, Keeper of the Dance, that people might see anew, bring their understanding to this puzzle, change their perspective. People might see the Rafalawash and Repaganor people not as past tense, not as stereotypes, but know they exist and their children "stare at the stars and reach for the moon." Nancy Bo Flood

  48. Children can reach for the moon only if peace prevails on earth.
    Nancy Bo Flood

  49. Debbie - Thank you for commenting. I'll let Nancy know that you have questions for her and that you sound upset!

    You take issue with the way Joseph dances, so I'm assuming that as an outsider yourself (a tribally enrolled Nambe Pueblo Indian of New Mexico) you have some special knowledge of the way the indigenous population of Saipan felt about their dances in the 1940's? Or are you working from generalizations you have formed about the way ALL indigenous populations feel about their dances? That worries me - it comes close to stereotyping indigenous cultures, lumping them all together.

    I'm also confused about something you say about Nancy being an "outsider." Are you saying that no "outsider" can help improve the conditions of people in another culture? ("Help" is the operative word - Nancy didn't say she was charged with the responsibility of doing it alone. She heard a call for help - should she have told them, "No way. It's not my story" - ?) No one but people inside the culture can help? Someone should maybe tell that to Paul Farmer about his years of work in Haiti...? Or tell that to quite a few other good people doing good work to help people who are suffering. Certainly, help can come from many corners.

    I've told my writing students that if a story is told carefully and told well, getting the details right, then the author shouldn't worry about being an "outsider." I don't worry about a man writing fiction from the point of view of a woman. A good writer with a good imagination can get the details of anyone's life right. I've read many books where female authors get their male characters right, and books where male authors get their female characters right. And M.T. Anderson didn't have to be black to understand and portray the agonizing world of the slave Octavian Nothing. I've just finished a book where the Irish author Colm Toibin writes a story about the hard lives of Spaniards in a small village in Spain. He didn't need to be Spanish himself to tell the story, nor to make me as a reader worry about the plight of his characters. He just had to want to tell the story, do the research, have a great imagination, and get it right.

    I do understand where the fear of appropriation comes from - there have been and in all likelihood will continue to be well-intentioned writers who perpetuate stereotypes. But I am cautious about claims of appropriation in general. To say all fiction written by people outside the culture engages in misrepresentation or appropriates another culture's stories doesn't make sense. If it were true, adults wouldn't be able to write ANY books for children - talk about being "outsiders"!

    I hope people will read WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE and draw their own conclusions.

  50. Aha - I see I don't have to pass Debbie's request for information on to Nancy. Nancy has already answered.

  51. I'm conflicted over how to continue this conversation. It is one that Nancy and I have had before, over on THROUGH THE TOLLBOOTH.

    Rather than repeat all of what I said then, I invite readers of THE DRIFT RECORD to read "What Debby Edwardson said" located here:

    In that post, I link to the Tollbooth discussion.

    Within the body of American Indian literary criticism, you will find scholars--both Native and non-Native--who are critical of authors who engage in the "as told to" production of Native story. It is increasingly frowned upon. My advice to you (writers) is not to do it. If you really want to help Native people, consider being their mentor(s), helping them tell their own stories, in their own words, as they choose. Introduce them to your editors. If they wish to thank you in their notes for your help, that is their choice, but do not claim any ownership to the product such as a co-authorship. Consider reading journal articles in Studies in American Indian Literatures. Some of their journals are online here:

  52. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  53. One last comment... I do not ascribe to the idea that you must be an insider to write stories that are not rooted in your own history. I do, however, prefer the writings of Native writers for several reasons. I've written about that in my SLJ column. I noted the context for my work here, and included the link to the SLJ article:

  54. Debbie - I originally posted your long fourth comment and then saw even more comments from you waiting in the cue - so I removed that last one and I'm going to ask you to please move your discussion of insider/outsider fiction over to your own blog. This post was a Poetry Friday round-up - as you can see from all the other comments that were posted. I did not monitor the comments through the weekend, but my automatic monitoring is back on, and I really don't want to put six different comments from one person up - sorry. People respond to different books differently, usually according to a certain world view. I appreciate your right to view the world in terms of insiders and outsiders, but I don't view it the same way. You don't need my approval to continue taking your comments any direction you like on your own blog.

    I'll give Nancy one last chance to respond, then I'm shutting this post down. For all of you who visited during the Poetry Friday weekend, thanks! See you next week.


  55. > I worked for a number of years with Joseph Ruak, the current "keeper
    > of the dance" on Saipan. Joseph was my cultural guide many times.
    > His family is dear to me. His father, Filipe, to whom the book, Warriors in the Crossfire, is
    > dedicated, and his mother, Rufina, are amazing people who survived the
    > war, survived the long years of rebuilding afterwards.
    > It was indeed my honor to help them prepare coconut pudding for
    > fiestas, pound breadfruit, fry fish for funerals, even hammer together
    > coffins. We shared stories, shared adventures on Saipan. Bill, my husband, and I
    > were the invited chaperones when the young boys of the dance group
    > traveled off-island to dance events. Often that meant sitting in the
    > pouring rain during the rainy season, boarding up windows during
    > typhoon season, and gathering flowers for mwars (head crowns) for
    > performances. We sat in the back of pick-up trucks and bounced along
    > coral roads to gather dancers after school for practices. We chased
    > pigs and chickens out of the stage areas. I still marvel at the
    > memory of watching contemporary kids dressed in black t-shirts,
    > over-big pants and tennis shoes shed their school garb and transform
    > into coconut-oiled gleaming dancers with sticks raised, attention
    > riveted, and ancient chants being song in unison rather than the
    > latest teen be-bop. If poetry is ever visual, then it is called dance. Thank you for listening, Nancy Bo flood

  56. For those of you interested in reading Debbie's thoughts on insider/outsider issues in fiction, especially as it relates to American Indians, please jump over to her blog at

  57. Debbie's website address didn't come through in readable condition - here is a Tiny URL version: