Friday, January 30, 2015

Poetry Friday: Awards Season!

Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrations by Beth Krommes

Next Monday morning the ALA will make its Youth Media Awards announcement and I, for one, will be listening when they do. I love following the Mock Caldecotts and Mock Newberys right up to the day the winners and honor books are revealed. And I'm just as excited to hear about the Sibert (non-fiction); the Batchelder (translations); the Pura Belpre (Latino); the Geisel (beginning reader); and the Coretta Scott King (African-American.)  Now if only the ALA would make the announcements in the evening, I'd have an ALA Pizza-and-Popcorn party where we sit around, just like it's the Oscars, and bet on who will win.  

Let's hear it for the wonderful books of poetry being mentioned as possibilities for the Caldecott - the stunning illustrations by Rick Allen for Joyce Sidman's Winter Bees; ditto the artwork by Melissa Sweet for Paul Janeczko's Firefly July; Jon Muth for both text and illustrations for Hi, Koo; Becca Stadtlander's illustrations for On the Wing by David Elliot, and the illustrations by Gary Kelley for J. Patrick Lewis's Harlem Hellfighters. This year I'm going with a dark horse, hoping that Blue on Blue by Dianne White, with wonderful illustrations by Beth Krommes, will get some of the love it deserves from the Caldecott committee.

Having looked at the Mock Caldecotts and Mock Newberys, I think Marla Frazee is likely to get the picture book medal for The Farmer and the Clown, and it looks like both the Newbery and the CS King are headed the direction of Jackie Woodson for her verse novel, Brown Girl Dreaming (which also won the National Book Award.) Maybe The Family Romanov will get the Sibert? and Frida by Yuyi Morales for the Belpre?  I have no idea what book will win the Batchelder, though I do love the fact that books originally published in another language are finally getting translated into English in the U.S. 

Well, I can't have a Pizza-and-Popcorn party, but I can ask which books you would like to see get the medals. Any of the poetry titles mentioned above? Other favorites? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted today by Paul at These 4 Corners. Head over there to see what other people have posted.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"January Jumps About in the Frying Pan"

Don't you just love how the New Year stretches out in front of you this time of year? From January to December, there's very little filled in yet on the calendar. Possibilities abound. By December, it will be a jumble of scribbled notes, circled days, reminders, appointments, annotations, and cross-outs.

Translation: Fog in January, sunny year. Free downloadable calendar with original artwork by Sophie Kukukita

Below is a little months-of-the-year poem that I like for its asymmetrical rhythms - the poet, George Barker (about whom I know very little other than the fact that he was English and T.S. Eliot declared him a genius) takes his time line-wise, syllable-wise, and stress-wise in getting to the rhymes he wants, a little like a jazz musician who arrives at his logical destination despite unpredictable digressions. November is my favorite stanza, with February a close second. How about you?

January Jumps About 

January jumps about
in the frying pan
trying to heat
his frozen feet
like a Canadian.

February scuttles under
any dish's lid
and she thinks she's dry because she's
thoroughly well hid
but it still rains all month long
and it always did.

March sits in the bath tub
with the taps turned on.
Hot and cold, cold or not,
Has the Winter gone?
In like a lion, out like a lamb
March on, march on, march on.

April slips about
sometimes indoors
and sometimes out
sometimes sheltering from a little
shower of bright rain
in an empty milk bottle
then dashing out again.

May, she hides nowhere,
nowhere at all,
Proud as a peacock
walking by a wall.
The Maytime O the Maytime,
full of leaf and flower.
The Maytime O the Maytime
is the loveliest of all.

June discards his shirt and
trousers by the stream
and takes the first dip of the year
into a jug of cream.
June is the gay time
of every girl and boy
who run about and sing and shout
in pardonable joy.

July by the sea
sits dabbling with sand
letting it run out of
her rather lazy hand,
and sometimes she sadly
thinks: "As I sit here
ah, more than half the year is gone,
the evanescent year."

August by an emperor
was given his great name.
It is gold and purple
like a Hall of Fame.
(I have known it rather cold
and wettish, all the same.)

September lies in shadows
of the fading summer
hearing, in the distance,
the silver horns of winter
and not very far off
the coming autumn drummer.

October, October
apples on the tree,
the Partridge in the Wood and
the big winds at sea,
the mud beginning in the lane
the berries bright and red
and the big tree wildly
tossing its old head.

November, when the fires
love to burn, and leaves
flit about and fill the air
where the old tree grieves.
November, November
its name is like a star
glittering on many things that were
but few things that are.

Twelfth and last December.
a few weeks away
we hear the silver bells
of the stag and the sleigh
flying from the tundras
far far away
bringing to us all the gift
of our Christmas Day.

                 ---George Barker

Speaking of time passing - month-by-month or year-by-year - here are two photos of George Barker - young and old. A life lived in between those two snapshots.

If you want to read what other people are posting for Poetry Friday, head over to Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem, by clicking here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Poetry Friday: Going All Apple-y

"Behold, the apple's rounded worlds...."
Whenever a new year approaches, I get a little corny - or maybe I should say "apple-y." I want to post a poem with some gravitas to it - not just the Irish ditties or the jump-rope rhymes I'm drawn to under normal circumstances. After all, it's the end of one year, the beginning of another year - so the world turns, one kind of time fades, another kind of time entices.

Each December 31st, this apple-y feeling comes on like the scent of mulled cider - I can almost taste it, and it always leads me to Laurie Lee's poem, "Apples." It isn't the right season to be thinking of apples; still, I get more apple-y (or even "wanton," as Lee puts it) as each day of the lunatic old year finishes up. 

In this poem, Lee (whose Cider with Rosie, a description of life in the Slad Valley of the Cotswolds circa 1920, is not to be missed) recognizes the need to "take entire my season's dole" and welcome whatever comes, be it ripe, sweet, sour, hollow, whole. Life doesn't dish out any one of those things exclusively - it offers up the entire selection to you, to me, to the boy in the poem, to the stallion and starling, to the bent worm and the waltzing wasp. No one gets just the sweetness - life isn't like that - it's a "rounded" world. Yes, there are sweet bites; there's also the black polestar, and there's the rind with its crimson stain.

Still, don't we all want to greet life with the "easy hunger" Lee describes? So I offer "Apples" again - it's turning into my annual New Year's poem - as the year's opening post for Poetry Friday 2015. 

The round-up is being hosted by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect - when you're done here, head there to see what other people have posted. And Apple-y New Year, everyone!


Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

Laurie Lee as a young man...

...and older, walking through the hills above the Slad Valley.