This week at a glance

It has been a good week.

Monday I introduced a new challenge for anyone interested in composing Found Poems using pre-existing prose found in all sorts of publications. We have read several excellent poems so far and they continue to come in. Please don’t forget about this opportunity. Georgia Heard is checking that post to see if she can spot poems she could use in her upcoming book.

Tuesday I summarized our ITCH poems posted so far. Here they are again.

ADULT POETS

Steven Withrow: The Witch’s Itches
Mary Nida Smith: Bewitched
Gay Fawcett: Itch (written by Laura C., a former student)
Ken Thomas Slesarik: Itchy Dilemma
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater: Why Me?
Jane Heitman Healy: In the Mirror
Jane Heitman Healy: Letting Go
Barbara Turner: Mr. Poe’s Itch
Julie Krantz: Blood Brothers

YOUNG POETS

Taylor McGowan: Little Nuisance

Since then we have received these additional poems.

Gay Fawcett: A Lady’s Fame
Liz Korba: Which Itch?

Wednesday it was my pleasure to feature Wendy Singer’s remarks and poem. Wendy continues to receive many comments from fans old and new. She was my 6th Guest Reader.  These Canadians are doing all right for themselves! Where are my poets from other countries?

Thursday I re-featured the pictures of all six of my Guest Readers so far. That made a great looking page with talented people from New York, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, and Montreal.

Friday I gave you a link to my three-day poetry workshop next June in Pennsylvania and announced the coming appearances of Nancy Gow (July 21) as my next Guest Reader and Gary Dulabaum as a Featured Friday Guest.

Not a bad week, considering that I’m supposed to be taking time off this summer to write more.

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Announcing a new challenge

rubberman

Here’s a new one for you. Have you ever tried your hand at composing Found Poems? This is another great exercise because it sharpens our sense for things poetic and offers the thrill of the hunt.

The definition of a Found Poem is as follows:
A poet takes an existing text and refashions and reorders the words and presents them as poems. A Found Poem consists exclusively of outside texts; the words of the poem remain as they were found. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

Here are a few rules for a Found Poem:
 The original author (or source) must not have intended the text to be poetry
 Finders may cut words and add line breaks but may not add words
 Finders may add their own title
 The original source of the text must be cited and can be included as part of the poem
Here is a list of possible places where you might “find” a poem:
 Newspapers and Magazines
 Signs or Bulletin Boards in School Hallways
 A Note Found on the Floor
 A Sign in a Classroom or Cafeteria
 An English Test
 Billboards
 Street Signs
 Greeting Cards
 Food Containers (cereal boxes, etc.)
 Menus
 A Social Studies Textbook or Other Books
 Emails and Texts
 Slips of Discarded Paper
 Overheard Speech or Conversation

If you have a Found Poem, please post it in the comments section below this post. I hope to see many of you share your creative discoveries. There is no limit so fire away.

To make this challenge more inviting, you should know that Georgia Heard, who is scheduled to be one of my featured guests, is currently gathering Found Poems for a new book for ages 8-11 that she’s compiling for Roaring Brook Press. Georgia is looking forward to seeing the poems posted on my blog. This is an opportunity for you to compete for a spot in her book.

To help guide you, here’s an example of one of my own Found Poems.

New York, New York

New York City,
magnet for people
from around the world,
constantly pushing forward,
stretching boundaries –
New York, uniquely
New York.

Found poem source:
American Airlines magazine,
American Way, June 1, 2010
Article by Gerald J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines
Borrowed words are in red.

Whenever I visit New York City, I marvel at how much can change there in a short period of time. The city is a magnet for people, capital, talent and energy from around the world, in part because it is constantly pushing forward, stretching the boundaries of what a city can be. And yet, New York is always uniquely New York.

Charles Waters today

BULLETIN #1: Be sure to come by on Monday. I’m issuing a new challenge that I hope you will enjoy.
BULLETIN #2: This just in from our talented friend Steven Withrow. It’s fantastic news so check it out. “Publishers Weekly ran a great online article about the Library of the Early Mind documentary today”: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/43774-new-film-on-children-s-book-authors-and-illustrators.html

Charles Waters from Florida,

Today I bring you my interview featuring Charles Waters. After you read his account of his dedication to becoming a writer, I know you will be impressed and reminded that what we do is not easy and is not for those who give up before they realize their dreams. Here’s Charles.

Interview with Charles Waters, July 9, 2010
Q
You find outlets to express your creative side in a variety of ways. Describe your journey of self discovery and your hopes for the future.
A
For me it’s always been about finding something that gives you joy, challenges you in a great way and sticking to that no matter what obstacles arise. I started acting professionally in 1997. I’ve worked many survival jobs in the interim (a market researcher, car collector, waiter, shuttle driver, valet, warehouse employee, security guard) and a few others. All those jobs were what I needed to go through in order to get to where I needed to be, which was an employed actor. If I had to describe everything that I’ve learned along the way in one word I would say humbleness.
I feel I haven’t scratched the surface in what I can do as an actor, children’s poet and person. I’m grateful to be alive every day because if you think about what’s going on in the world any problems you may have are maybe infinitesimal in comparison. What I hope for the future is continue to grow in all facets of my life. I feel by staying humble, working hard and being a good person, great things will happen.
Q
How did you know you were a poet? Describe your decision and how you went about getting published.
A
I guess I was always a poet because since I was a child I felt I might have looked at the world different from my classmates, at least I verbalized it which made people look at me like I was a bit off-kilter.I didn’t knowingly realize I was a poet until I started performing for Poetry Alive in the fall of 2003. I was with them for 3 years and I really have to thank them for turning me on to poetry because it was never taught to me in school. Because you have to learn at least 70 new poems a year for them, you couldn’t help but fall in love with the best writers in the world.

In terms of getting published, I realized after about 4 years of writing children’s poems that I MAY have something to share so I started submitting and started piling up the rejection letters. I will say that being an actor and having been rejected thousands of times in my career gave me some preparation for it, but it still stinks.

There’s no way around getting rejected, it’s a way of life, the good news is that when you finally do get an acceptance, it feels like all the work you put in was worth it. I’ve been published in the newspaper The Evening Sun, a wellness magazine called Spotlight on Recovery, the 30 Poets/30 Days blog by Greg Pincus and now your blog and the key for me to have that happen was to get my name out there, find all my favorite children’s poets on Facebook, ask them advice and hopefully they may ask to see my work. I’ve had the incredible good fortune of having Rebecca Kai Dotlich take interest in me not only as a poet but as a person and she’s been instrumental in passing my name to her fellow friends/poets and that’s been a huge boost for me.

I’m still working hard towards getting a book of mine published, be it my own children’s poems, an anthology or both. The fact that you, David, were rejected something like 80 times and now you have 80 books published gives me hope!
Q
Why are some people afraid of writing poetry? How can a beginning poet get past the fear factor?
A
It all starts in the schools. I believe it’s a vicious cycle where teachers back when they were students had to learn poems by rote instead of by heart and they resented that so when they became teachers they would make sure that didn’t happen again. I can tell you that not having poetry taught to me in school was a shame because it really does make you feel less alone in the world, especially at a young age. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m disparaging teachers, especially since my mother was one and my high school teacher, Becky Vandenberg, was one of the most influential people in my life. It’s just that it’s such an important tool to a better understanding of our world.

For me getting past the fear factor is all about reading and writing. The works of Jack Prelutsky, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Sara Holbrook, and many others will help you write poems because the more you read the better understanding you have of metaphors, similes, imagery and other forms that will make you not only appreciate words but savor them like dark chocolate out of the fridge.

Q
Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?
A
I’m here to tell you that writing verse is hard work. Because so many words rhyme together one is in danger of their writing coming off as a cliché. Having said that, free verse takes a huge amount of perseverance as well because putting words together slapdash really isn’t poetry. I guess a master on the subject, Jane Yolen, said it best when she stated “make every word count.”
Q
Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts some writers to poetry?
A
In my opinion, distilling life’s essence down to a line or 20 lines is more a gut punch to me than something that’s served out over 300 pages. I’ve been reading consistently since the 6th grade when I started devouring the sports pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I love a good novel like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (at 588 pages), but I’ve never been as gob-smacked as when I started getting into the children’s poems of, let’s say, Barbara Juster Esbensen who, in Cold Stars and Fireflies, goes through the 4 seasons in less than 70 pages!
Q
How much does a children’s poet need to know about poetry to become a poet?
A
You don’t have to know a lot in the beginning but you should keep learning over time because in order to write, not just children’s poetry, but in general, is to read a lot. It’s vital. Read, write, repeat!
Q
While waiting for the big break from an editor, how should budding poets work to perfect their craft?
A
What’s helped me is sharing my writing with people who I trust. I have a select group of people who read what I have and give me an honest critique. It’s important to listen to what they have to say, it’s also important to remember that you have the final decision. It’s all up to you!

Ken Slesarik today

rubberman
Today it is my pleasure to introduce Ken Slesarik of Phoenix, Arizona as my fifth poet in the Summer Guest Reader Series. The invitation is for readers to post their picture with a poem and or an article of 500 words or fewer on subjects about writing or children’s literatre. In Ken’s case, he has provided both an article and a poem at the same time. Thank you Ken!

And now, read on.

WHY I WRITE POETRY
By Ken Slesarik

It was the day after my 40th birthday and what should have been a peaceful transition into middle age for me began a five month ordeal. I woke just after 6am with a tremendous pain and ringing in my left ear. Scared and confused I did what most grown men would have done and called my mother. Mom suggested I take something for the pain and get myself to the emergency room.

After an almost seven hour wait the doctor examined my ear, said the drum was completely shattered and asked if I listen to extremely loud music or have been on the receiving end of any blows to the ear. I explained that I went to bed in slight discomfort and woke in extreme pain. Leaving the hospital I was optimistic. With prescriptions for pain and infection in hand I promptly scheduled a follow up visit with a specialist.

The medications I took faithfully and it’s true much of the pain was gone but there was one thing that the meds couldn’t touch. Have you ever heard the sweet sound of a teapot whistling? It’s quite pleasant for about the first twenty minutes. You see, I had a constant, often loud ringing in my ear, never ceasing, twenty four hours of every day, every moment, and every second.

Within a week of my emergency room visit I noticed a slight pimple on the left side of my face, near my ear. In a few short hours it grew to the size of a small egg and protruded from my face. This resulted in another hospital visit where the doctor enquired if I had been taking my antibiotic as prescribed.

The next four months were the worst in my life as several new and reoccurring infections popped up in various places on my body and gradually the pain meds did not work as well. It seemed as if I was on an endless cycle of doctor visits and stronger antibiotics. as the doctors agreed that they could not even think about reconstructing my eardrum until the infections were under control.

I became depressed; sleep deprived, and lost weight. For the first time in my life I could empathize with the person who might consider taking their own life. Before this time I would think such a person was weak and if I wasn’t raising a son who had already lost his mother to suicide I would have seriously considered that option.

The ringing was simply dreadful and I was slowly losing hope as I tried to function in my new job as a special education teacher. Most of my sixth grade students had behavior issues to begin with and took full advantage of the fact that I could not hear out of my left side. It was pure torture.

After a few months my mother came down from San Diego to care for me and I would often cry, curse or lose my temper. I remember being constantly agitated and looking for a fight.

The thing that transpired next literally changed my life. During a particularly painful weekend of anger and self pity my sister handed me some paper and a pen and asked me to write a poem about our dad as I would occasionally write family poems and other silly rhymes before my ear woes.

After snapping at her I decided to try. The next forty minutes went by fast as I wrote three of the most crappy poems you can imagine as well as several short rhymes. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I realized I had been so engrossed in the creative process that I was completely detached from the ringing, that awful, awful ringing. I remember thanking God as it was truly a beautiful moment and a short reprieve in over four months of suffering and chaos. It gave me hope, something to cling to and a little joy amongst the pain.

Within days of this one of the specialists recommended more tests and blood work and a few days later I got the call with my results. It seemed I had contracted an extremely rare staph infection quite likely during my first ER visit. This infection was fast spreading and non-responsive to any known antibiotics but it did respond to one type of medication. So I took that round of meds, all the infections went away and they reconstructed my eardrum with skin from my canal.

It’s been over four years since that defining moment and the best I can describe it is that my brain associates so much pleasure and the absence of pain to writing rhyming poetry. I set a goal that weekend to always improve, write at least one respectable poem a week and at least one a month that would make Shel Silverstein proud.

Ted
By K. Thomas Slesarik

Ted the cannibalistic tick
is not so good at arithmetic.
He eats those ticks, yes quite a few,
then loses count before he’s through.
It’s so uncouth to eat your kind,
but don’t tell Ted, he doesn’t mind.

Dear Ted, my pleading don’t ignore,
it’s fine to be a carnivore
but this advice it should suffice,
learn to count and switch to lice.

My “itch” poem

BULLETIN: Taylor McGowan just posted a poem for this month. Ths is the first young poet we’ve heard from in several weeks so I’m delghted to see this clever post by Taylor. Check it out!

THIS POEM MAY CAUSE ITCHING

by David L. Harrison

I know you’re sitting there reading this poem,
silly as it is, which I wrote for you
while also sitting, being an age
when sitting comes naturally.

You began with the title, wondering
if itching can start by suggestion
or watching someone scratch,
the way one yawner in a waiting room
soon fills the place with grimacing mouths
and eyes scrunched shut
above nostrils flaring like horses –

Anyway,
I was thinking that pruritus,
a fancy word a doctor might use,
can start about anywhere on
your twenty or so square feet of skin
where, say, an ant battles your arm hair
or a shirt label at your neck
makes you think spider.

In case you wonder how you know
you itch, blame it on your dermis,
where nerves receive urgent notes
from the outside fussing about everything
from pollen to mosquitoes,
whereupon they hit panic mode,
so to speak, and fire off warnings
that zip up your spine
to Action-Central (your cerebral cortex)

to complain about tickle-itchy feelings of
a ladybug on your elbow
or dander from your cat.

So, long story short, yes,
the title alone can make you itch.
Where depends on the spot
this very minute you are dying
to scratch.

By the way, if you’ve never signed the guest book on my website, why not drop by and do so? I appreciate hearing from those who visit my site. Thank you.

David