It’s been quite a challenge to re-enter the real world after spending four glorious days at the Highlights Foundation last week. I had to pinch myself more than once to make sure I was really there, learning about “The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children” from Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. I’ve loved the work of these two wise and witty poets for years, so being at this workshop was a real thrill.
My time at Highlights was made even more special because I got to spend time with fellow Slicer Linda Baie. (Read her thoughts about the workshop here.) Poetry Friday pals Robyn Hood Black, Buffy Silverman, Linda Kulp Trout, and Charles Waters were also there, and it was wonderful to meet so many other talented and passionate poets from around the world.
We were immersed in poetry day and night. Everyone shared their own original poetry as well as poems by favorite poets, including several classics by Georgia & Rebecca. Lee Bennett Hopkins visited with us via Skype, sharing his insights and preferences about poetry. “I want children to read poetry that shows them the beauty of the world,” he explained.
WordSong editor extraordinaire, Rebecca Davis, joined us to answer our questions about publishing poetry and to give us a sneak peak at Georgia’s collection of animal poems for two (or more) voices, that will be published in a few years. We were also treated to a preview of Rebecca’s (Dotlich, edited by Davis) new book with Jane Yolen, Grumbles From the Town. (More about this on Friday.)
And, of course, we wrote poetry. Rebecca and Georgia led us through a variety of exercises each day. My favorite was “The Art of Observational Poetry.” During this exercise, we carefully examined a small stone, first listing our scientific observations about color, shape, texture, and so on. Then we turned those observations into something more poetic. As Georgia explained, “looking carefully and translating your observations into language is the work of a poet.” Suddenly, my small stone was an asteroid, cratered and misshapen, tumbling through the universe, until the hand of a child plucks it out of its orbit and clutches it close.
It’s not a poem yet, but it has possibilities. Thanks to my new “poetica friends,” I am inspired to “follow the thread” of these words and find the door into their poem.
Thank you to Stacey, Dana, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.