Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category
Posted in African American Literature, book festival, Canadian writers, children's literature, historical fiction, middle grade novels, multicultural literature, poetry, race & gender, self-publishing, speculative fiction on July 22, 2012 | 1 Comment »
I try to avoid crowds as much as possible but it’s hard to stay away from a book festival—especially when it’s in Harlem and the street is filled with black folks who love to read, write, and talk about literature! I watched some of the Schomburg panels on C-Span before hopping on the train to give my own presentation at the Young Readers Pavilion, which was once again expertly run by the Hudsons. I read from Ship of Souls and took some questions from the young readers in the audience, and then had time to catch the second half of the panel on getting black boys to read, which was moderated by Wade Hudson. I don’t like crowds, but large gatherings do increase the likelihood of meeting folks you haven’t seen in a while. It was great to catch up with Carol-Ann Hoyte, poet, librarian, and editor/publisher of the forthcoming anthology, And the Crowd Goes Wild! Carol-Ann shared some of the sports poems with kids at the Young Readers Pavilion and she’ll be back in NYC this fall for an official launch party so stay tuned. I also met Donald Peebles, author and librarian-in-training; we talked about the importance of male role models, the need for more black male voices in YA lit, and the many different family configurations that make black boys LOVE to read. That was an issue that came up in the panel: what’s the link between fathers and better literacy among boys? I’m not a fan of the “just add MAN” remedy to what ails the black community, though I absolutely believe that fathers are important to boys and girls. But the mere presence of men doesn’t solve any problem—it’s their involvement in the family that matters and their commitment to promoting literacy by reading with and around their kids.
Later that night I had a Skype conversation with my cousin and we realized that our “fun” summer reads actually reflect our scholarship…I just finished a novel on racial violence in the post-Emancipation South, and she was reading a novel about the body’s memory of trauma. I’d been planning to self-publish my novella about black children and AIDS this fall, but somehow that conversation gave me a sharp nudge. I worked on it past midnight and ordered a proof this morning. There is a major AIDS conference in D.C. right now, and a Canadian friend sent a team from her Toronto clinic, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands. When I visited that clinic a couple of years ago, one of the researchers asked me why I didn’t write about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. I assured her that I *had* written about it but couldn’t find a publisher. Well, what am I waiting for? The community is still in crisis and waiting ten years hasn’t helped matters any. I hope to have An Angel for Mariqua out by my birthday in late October. This is just a demo cover I made with the CreateSpace template.
Christmas is coming, but nine-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved wooden angel as a gift. Each night Mariqua whispers in the angel’s ear and soon her wishes start to come true! Mariqua begins to do better at school and she even wins an important role in the church pageant. But best of all, Mariqua becomes friends with Valina Patterson, a teenager who lives in Mariqua’s building. Valina helps Mariqua learn how to control her anger, and reminds her pretend little sister that “everyone has a story to tell.” Their friendship is tested, however, when Mariqua discovers that Valina has been keeping a secret about her own mother. Can the magic angel make things better?
A touching story about love, compassion, and the gift within every heart.
For children age 8+.
Posted in African American Literature, Brooklyn, children's literature, feminism, historical fiction, poetry, speculative fiction, the garden, writing life, young adult novels on June 27, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
I woke up this morning with my introduction written out in my mind. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to turn to black feminist writer June Jordan, and thinking about my favorite poem of hers reminded me of the James Baldwin quote I used for the title of my dissertation: “the terror of trees and streets.”
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clearmy head about this poem about why I can’tgo out without changing my clothes my shoesmy body posture my gender identity my agemy status as a woman alone in the evening/alone on the streets/alone not being the point/the point being that I can’t do what I wantto do with my own body because I am the wrongsex the wrong age the wrong skin andsuppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/or far into the woods and I wanted to gothere by myself thinking about God/or thinkingabout children or thinking about the world/all of itdisclosed by the stars and the silence:I could not go and I could not think and I could notstay therealoneas I need to bealone because I can’t do what I want to do with my ownbody andwho in the hell set things up
Which bodies belong in which spaces? Our age, race, gender, and sexual orientation too often determine where we’re able to find sanctuary. I’ve read almost half of Ruth Chew’s books and won’t have any trouble comparing hers to mine, but need to begin with a consideration of the way African Americans relate to nature. In Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, editor/poet Camille Dungy reflects on the trauma of enslavement (and lynching) and its impact on the way blacks engage with the natural world:
African Americans are tied up in the toil and soil involved in working this land into the country we know today. Viewed once as chattel, part of a farm’s livestock or an asset in a banker’s ledger, African Americans developed a complex relationship to land, animals, and vegetation in American culture. (xxii)
Given the active history of betrayal and danger in the outdoors, it is no wonder that many African Americans link their fears directly to the land that witnessed or abetted centuries of subjugation. (xxvi)
Even during the most difficult periods of African American history, the natural world held potential to be a source of refuge, sustenance, and uncompromised beauty. (xxv)
I’ve got a few more articles to read on the development and design of urban parks, and the memorialization of the dead…writing an essay is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Not exactly fun, but challenging and—if it coheres—satisfying. Scheduling a midday break at the museum…
Posted in African American Literature, art, children's literature, equity, family, middle grade novels, multicultural literature, poetry, schools, speculative fiction, writing life, young adult novels on May 20, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Ah…a day of rest! On Friday I wrapped up my last Harlem workshop with Behind the Book. The students had finished reading Ship of Souls, and when I asked if they had any questions, it turned out most of them wanted to know what would happen in the sequel! I should have recorded my answers to all those questions because I actually sounded like I’ve got a clear sense of the narrative. Now I just have to make time to write it! The students did a great job developing outlines for their own magical stories and, as usual, several of them asked me whether Ship of Souls would be made into a film. I could have shown them the audio version of the book, which came out last week. I received my copies in the mail but have only listened to a couple of minutes so far. I think of an audio book being a lot like a radio play, but I don’t think there are any sound effects in the reading of my novel.
Yesterday I spent most of the day in the Bronx with four other Lee & Low authors and illustrators: Tony Medina, Katie Yamasaki, Mark Weston, and G. Neri (via Skype). We had a small group of kids, parents, and educators for Family Literacy Day, but they were amazingly attentive considering our presentations lasted from 10:30am to 1pm. Then each participant got a signed copy of Bird, Honda: the Boy Who Dreamed of Cars, I & I Bob Marley, and Yummy. Lee & Low’s sales manager, Abe, did a great job organizing the event and it was nice to see families resisting the lure of a sunny Saturday in order to focus on books and art. I like meeting other authors, but meeting artists is a totally different experience—it’s a blend of awe and envy because I can write a decent story, but I can NOT paint a beautiful picture. You should see the incredible murals that Katie has made all over the world—and she’s working on another with women prisoners at Rikers Island right now. After the event ended, Katie, Tony, and I talked about the publishing industry and how easy it is for some to divorce multiculturalism from social justice. We discussed the Trayvon Martin case and the news that “minority babies” now make up the majority of births in the US. Ten years from now, will those children be able to find their mirrors in books? Not unless we continue to press for change in the publishing industry. I connected with a few allies this past week, which is just what the doctor ordered—it’s too easy to feel isolated and discouraged…
Today: rest, read (I’m halfway through Toni Morrison’s Home), write out a summary of The Deep, and then prepare for tomorrow’s school visit. Just five more to go…
Posted in activism, children's literature, historical fiction, kidlit blogs, LGBTQ, multicultural literature, poetry, racism in publishing, speculative fiction, young adult novels on January 13, 2012 | 5 Comments »
…take the Birthday Party Pledge! Today is our official launch day. If you haven’t already visited the BPP site, please stop by and take the pledge. If you’re a book blogger, grab the code and add our button to your site. If you know others who could benefit from the many lists on our site, spread the word! Our team has compiled book lists with dozens of multicultural titles in all genres: poetry, historical fiction, books boys love, graphic novels, speculative fiction, books girls love, chapter books, LGBTQ, picture books, sports books, and non-fiction.
The Birthday Party Pledge emerged from an ongoing conversation between authors, educators, librarians, and book bloggers. We wanted to promote children’s books by authors of color, and we wanted to encourage the building of home libraries in low-income communities. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, less than 5% of all books published annually for children in the US are written by people of color. Many publishers insist that they can’t find more writers of color and/or claim that the market doesn’t exist for books about children of color. Yet a study conducted by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation revealed that many adults want to purchase multicultural books and are simply unable to find them:
Nearly eight in ten (78%) U.S. adults believe that it is important for children to be exposed to picture books that feature main characters of various ethnicities or races—but one-third (33%) report that it is difficult to find such books, according to a recent survey that was commissioned by The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children.
Some parents simply can’t afford to buy books, and we encourage all families to draw on the resources available at their local public library. In other cases, buying books for children is a matter of shifting priorities and redirecting resources. Compared to video games and other toys, books are relatively inexpensive (and can often be purchased “like new” from online resellers). Buying books locally puts money back into your community, and we encourage you to support those independent bookstores that carry multicultural books.
The BPP has two goals:
1. To encourage childhood literacy in order to promote a lifelong love of books.
2. To assist adults in providing children with books that truly reflect the diverse society in which we live.
Take the pledge today!
- Olympics and other major international sports events (i.e., FIFA World Cup)
- winter/summer, individual/team sports
- winning and losing
- amateur/professional athletes
- sports fans and those behind the scenes (coaches, refs, etc.)
- equipment/uniforms and places where sports are played
- sports history and other miscellanea (halls of fame, records, trivia, etc.)
I had a lot of fun at the last Read Out Loud event, and will be leading a poetry workshop based on Wish this time around. If you’re in Harlem, stop by! Here’s a message from the coordinator, Christine Petro:
We are growing more excited about READ OUT LOUD on this Saturday, December 3rd at PS 92. In addition to author appearances and book signings we have a full schedule of activities for children and youth (ages 4-13) and their parents. Among the highlights, Sesame Workshop is returning as an activity partner this year and Scholastic is the generous contributor of 1,000 books for our book giveaway.
Other activity partners include Barnard College, Bank Street School of Education and Columbia University, all running hands-on, literacy-based workshops, designed to engage families in the creative process of writing and reading. New York Public Library is on site to do library card sign-ups and a number of other institutions and organizations (20 in total) are taking part to encourage families to read and enjoy books. One exciting new component of the event this year is a Student Writing Gallery, which will exhibit high quality writing pieces from students in District #5 schools. Please check out the work of these young writers at the event!
Morningside Area Alliance holds this event in collaboration with Community School District #5, which includes 31 public schools in Harlem. Our host school, PS 92, the Mary McLeod Bethune School, is a welcoming and friendly learning environment, and we appreciate all the energy and resources they have contributed toward this event.
PS 92, Mary McLeod Bethune School
222 W. 134th Street
Between 7th Ave. (Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd) and 8th Ave. (Frederick Douglass Blvd)
New York, NY 10030
Main entrance is underneath scaffolding.
The nearest train is the C train at 135th Street/St. Nicholas Ave. or the 2/3 on 135th Street/Lenox Ave. There does not appear to be any planned service changes for these trains.
You may find street parking nearby, or the nearest parking garage is a couple of blocks away:
Deb Parking, LLC
300 W 135th Street (between St. Nicholas and Frederick Douglass Blvd.)
$10 flat rate for regular cars
$20 flat rate for SUVs
Rate applies from 6:00 AM – 12:00 midnight
Follow our Twitter account @ReadOutLoudNYC and use hashtag #ROL2011 to tweet about the event. You may also “Like Us” on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Morningside-Area-Alliance/248322296888
Last night I had the honor of attending an awards ceremony at NYU’s Institute of African Affairs—the indomitable Maya Angelou was there to accept an award from OWWA (the Organization of Women Writers of Africa). I’m new to the board of OWWA and definitely felt out of my element (yes, I wore cute shoes that hurt my feet) but this past week has been pretty difficult and it was wonderful to be in a room full of folks who love literature and cherish black women’s creativity. I was responsible for interviewing folks with my Flip camera and before my batteries died, I managed to capture Maya’s acceptance speech. Jayne Cortez, co-founder of OWWA, introduces her husband, sculptor Melvin Edwards, who presents Maya with one of his works of art; Maya then sings, recites poetry, and shares words of wisdom about making the most of your talent and time on this earth:
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting Carol-Ann Hoyte, a poet/librarian from Montreal. She’s planning to publish an anthology of children’s poetry next year and is actively seeking submissions—please share this exciting news with others!
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Submission Deadline: April 30, 2012
Ready, set, write! An anthology of children’s poetry dedicated to the wide world of sports is in the works. Our target release date for the collection is August 2013 — six months before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. We’re looking for original, unpublished poems, aimed at 5 – 12 years old, that deal with various aspects of athletics such as but not limited to the following:
*Olympics and other major international sports events (ie. FIFA World Cup)
*winter sports/summer sports (NOTE: do not have to be official Olympic sports)
*winning and losing
*sports jobs (from athletes, coaches, and referees/umpires to those who work behind the scenes)
*surfaces (ie. ice) on which sports are played/places (ie. stadiums) where sports are played
*sports history and other miscellanea (halls of fame, records, trivia, etc.)
Please email poems to Carol-Ann Hoyte at kidlitfan1972 at yahoo dot ca.
Poets whose work is selected for the collection will receive a small honorarium. We will contact you in late July 2012 / early August 2012 if we plan to include your poem in the anthology. A portion of the anthology’s proceeds will be donated to a North American or international organization dedicated to working with youth in sports.
Carol-Ann Hoyte & Heidi Bee Roemer, The Co-Editors
Roots & Blues, Part 2! It’s been a long time coming, but I guarantee you this interview with illustrator R. Gregory Christie is worth the wait! If you missed Part 1 of this series, do take time to read poet Arnold Adoff’s thoughtful responses regarding the inspiration for his latest book of poetry.
ZE: It has been argued that “trauma resists representation.” How did you approach the illustrations depicting the horrors of the Middle Passage? As a children’s book illustrator are you expected to make every subject “beautiful”?
It’s all about nuances and the experience a painter has gained in order to shout things softly to his audience. The metaphorical poems in Roots and Blues masterfully intermixed historical names and events into a continuous flow. I feel that the words have a similar sentiment to Blues music, by the way the atrocities and triumphs are a continuous poetic flow. To paraphrase Tom Feelings, any subject matter can be presented to people of all ages, one has only to hear the blues to know something horrible can be told in a beautiful way.
I also believe that if you present a trauma with a melody, metaphorical words, or with attractively arranged pigments you can at least get the public’s attention, but it’s the artist’s experience and ability to use nuance that will get people to care. If done carefully, I believe that the art will be embraced as something beautiful, at least for some of the people. The poems from Roots and Blues mimicked the essence of the Blues and the history of brown folks’ “American” journey. So I, in turn, mimicked Arnold’s words in a visual form, which I suppose is the purpose of an illustration.
The visuals are muted grays and blues that I hope are in tandem with the dull pain to those words that were intermixed with pockets of joy. This is the first time I used a glazing technique for an entire book. I chose to knock the colors down a bit, kind of a bluish gray pallor cast over what was once vibrant colors. I was able to wipe away and rebuild certain places in the painting so that the glaze would in fact brighten certain areas within the images. This was done to have pockets of vibrant colors in cool and distant images.
Yes, I’m often expected to make my art beautiful (if not cute) but I tip the balance towards images that will challenge our children. Foremost I paint for myself and do this with the hope that other people will “get it.” I keep it fun and interesting but also honor myself as an artist.
I am all about balance, in my life and in my art. The artwork for this book was my best attempt to capture Arnold’s flow of opposites, colorful moments as a contrast within a long, painful journey.
He has an ability to give historical facts, capture the emotion of the times, and barrage my mind with a stream of visuals. Nothing was sugarcoated in the writing; perhaps that would be a disservice to the people that went through that pain and to the young people that need to be prepared for the world’s realities. It seems to me that Arnold danced between these two conflicting emotions all the time (ecstasy and agony) while not being too nostalgic. The poems and the times they comment upon are raw. He put himself out there as an artist and I wanted to keep up with him visually.
But Poetry is one of the most difficult things to illustrate for me, because you have to be decisive when interpreting the meaning of a series of meanings. I always think that such a work can be read so many different ways and too quick of a decision towards the meaning can kill the audience’s growth. On the other hand, indecision in the illustrator can often produce a visual incongruity. In illustration I think the major point is to be able to process the mix into an interesting visual summation. Poetry seems to be a mix within a mix, an art form capable of having many tentacles. I think that it takes a delicate heart and advanced mind to embrace something that can be so mercurial, definitively stated and so personal to the reader. I feel as though such a listener wants to create his own relationship to those words, so being told what’s definitive as the meaning (visually) can come off as a killjoy.
I respected his art by approaching the series of poems as one steam of ideas. In some cases I focused on the idea of something literal…a piano player or image of a jook joint etc., and other times I attempted to comment on the spiritual side of things. One of the first pieces shows three figures connecting with land and water; eyes are closed and bodies contorted. On one hand, it would have been easy to define the words near it as a piano player image, but I took the harder road and commented on the metaphorical aspect. I wanted to introduce the reader to the origins of it all: the respect for the land and the process of life, it’s circular direction between death and life. We come from the earth only to go back within it, so this first painting is about impossibilities and how something that doesn’t make sense sometimes has an order to it. Time must pass in order to sometimes understand that disorder. The land, people and gestures are my way of introducing the readers to what they might expect for the other parts of this book. To expect that the impossible will make sense and to take the subject matter with solemnity and inspiration. I had to pace myself and pace the imagery for the book. At times you will see the agony in the lack of facial expressions—simply eyes closed or the gesture of the hands and body—and other times the figures will be directly looking at you, engaging you as the viewer. It’s art that shows itself but invites you to find your own meaning based upon your own life experiences and whatever you can project into the historical and artistic experience.