Guess I’ll get a haircut today

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I visited by phone with Judy Thompson, Executive Vice President of Development and Campaign Director at Drury University. Judy has been a friend from all the way back to our days as Drury students. She was Sandy’s pledge daughter in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Coming up shortly is a major fund raiser Drury is calling Match Madness so Judy and her team are hard at work planning ways to engage alums and others who might contribute toward the campaign. The request for my help was to film me reading one of my books. Since I’m currently too far away to go to the Drury recording studios, I agreed to make a video and send it to them. I’ll try to make it today because timely is critical.

I desperately need a haircut so today when the shops open, I’ll get myself more presentable. For the video I could read my most recent book of poems, AFTER DARK, which came out last year. But I want to think about this. As Drury’s poet laureate, maybe I should pick a selection from several sources to read. Something I’ll need to decide over the next few hours. Straightening my work space? Hey, it will still be there tomorrow, right? My friend and fellow writer Bill Anderson says one of the best parts of being a writer is that almost everyday some new surprise comes up to keep the game interesting. This, I think, is a good example.

New Children’s Poet Laureate

Hi everyone,

If you haven’t heard the news, J. Patrick Lewis has been named by Poetry Foundation as its new Children’s Poet Laureate. The post lasts two years. Pat is the third poet to be so honored and follows Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. Here’s the link to read a most insightful interview of Pat by Sylvia Vardell.

I hope you will read the interview and remember to send Pat well earned congratulations.  Don’t forget that Pat also serves as one of the judges for Word of the Month Poetry Challenge.

Speaking of which, we haven’t seen anything yet this month from students! With end of school year activities looming, teachers don’t have much time this month. But I remain optimistic that at least a few steadfast young poets will come through.

Yesterday I had cataract surgery. This morning the patch comes off so I’ll see what I shall see.


Family Voices

BULLETIN: Today is the last day to vote for the August Hall of Fame Poet!! If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to pick your choice and vote before 10:00 p.m. EST. Go to this link,, click in the circle by your choice, and click on vote at the bottom of the box. If you want to reread the poems, they’re listed below the ballot box.

I’m involved in a project to stimulate parents to read more often to their preschool children. We’re in the process of recording voices of area celebrity readers to create a library of good books read on a CD. When we’re finished, we’ll add the voices of parents to personalize each CD, then give it and a free book to the family. Here’s an article that appeared in Springfield News-Leader last week.

FAMILY VOICES, Connecting Generations with StoriesThis fall, several child advocates will launch a project called Family Voices: Connecting Generations with Stories. The goal is to help your children succeed in school. We’re going to do it by reading stories to them.

Sound radical? It is in many homes.

Only 54 percent of our nation’s children under age 5 are read to at home on a regular basis. That drops to 36 percent in families living at the poverty level; 31 percent when neither parent is a high school graduate.

That’s like withholding tools a child needs for a good life. Literature’s words through stories build a child’s language skills, and kids who are good with language are more likely to succeed in school. Poor readers at the end of first grade are likely to remain poor readers after fourth grade, and become prime candidates for dropping out of school.

Family Voices is an effort to make more parents aware of the positive long-term effects of reading daily to their preschool children. Beginning this fall with a trial effort at Boyd and McGregor elementary schools, project volunteers will record parents reading to their preschool children. Age-appropriate books will be selected by children’s librarians and provided at the recording session.

The parents’ voices will be preserved on a CD along with the voices of more than a dozen community leaders reading more stories. The result will be a treasury of more than one hour of stories for young children, read by adults who want kids to grow up loving books and literacy.

Each participating family will receive the CD that includes their own voices, and one free book for each child under age 5 in the family. Even when a parent is unavailable to read to a child, the CD will provide opportunities to listen to good stories read well, and help the child develop a love for books and the magic of words.

Family Voices is an independent committee of literacy advocates whose members represent Drury University, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield-Greene County Library District, Parents as Teachers, and community leaders. The project is sponsored by Drury University’s School of Education and Child Development and chaired by its poet laureate, David Harrison.

Itchy poems so far this month

Announcement: At Drury University they’re building a page for me on the School of Education and Child Development website. I’ve been working to help establish a job description and to create activities I can do in my role there.  I now have an office — #303 — in Lay Hall on campus. Here’s the link. Let me know if you have ideas or suggestions. Thanks!


So far this month our numbers are off — must be summer, huh? — but the quality of our itching is beyond compare! My thanks to you busy poets who have found time to contribute to July’s great scracth-off. For you slackers who are having too much fun to take up the challenge yet, you still have plenty of time. I won’t cut off this month’s entries until Monday, July 26, at 10:00 p.m. For now, here’s who and what we have to date. If you haven’t read our poets’ efforts yet, click on the Adult W.O.M. Poems and Young Poet W.O.M. Poems boxes above this post.

Here are the adult poems:


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

And here is our lone — but lively! — young poet poem so far:

Taylor McGowan: Little Nuisance

Thanks to Ken Slesarik’s Guest Reader appearance last week we were joined by several new visitors from Arizona. I hope you folks in the hot west (where I once lived) will share your own brand of itching.
And thanks to Carol-Ann Hoyte’s recent Guest Reader appearance, we also welcomed a number of readers and writers from Canada. Do folks in your area have itch poems to share? I hope so!


Kansas SCBWI annual conference will be held in Overland Park September 17-18, 2010. For more information, here’s the link:


Poet laureate

Hello everyone. Some of you know that I serve Drury University as poet laureate and from time to time create projects and activities on behalf of that connection. Recently I sat with the university president and the dean of the school of education and child development, and we agreed to place more emphasis on my role. Here is my new job description.

To assist in Drury University’s ongoing efforts to promote public appreciation of literacy, Drury President Todd Parnell has announced the creation of the honorary post of poet laureate. The poet laureate will act as a literary ambassador-at-large, representing Drury’s commitment to and embracement of the written word as a vital aspect of our culture and sense of common identity. Attached to the Drury School of Education and Child Development, the laureate will be a spokesperson for the university’s endorsement of the literary arts as an indispensable part of our progress and an important contribution to our heritage.

To further promote the prestige of the position and its strong involvement with the School of Education and Child Development, a Poet Laureate Page will be posted on the School of Education website. The laureate will receive no pay but may be allowed space on campus and expenses appropriate to activities performed for the university, which will in every case be preapproved by designated campus representatives.

The appointment will be held for two years upon acceptance and proclamation at an official ceremony. The term may be extended from time to time or cancelled at the will of the president, his advisors, and the poet of title.

To ensure a successful and fulfilling benefit from the position, Drury and the poet laureate have developed guidelines by which the laureate’s energies and talents may be put to good use. In general, these activities can include school appearances, lectures, and public forums as well as other events organized by Drury and/or the laureate. The laureate agrees to cooperate in efforts to promote his association with Drury through press releases, interviews, articles, electronic media, conference programs, and other opportunities that may arise. The laureate will receive no pay from Drury but all parties understand that the laureate’s established rates for public and written activities will remain in place.

Specific suggestions for laureate activities include:

 Work with School of Education and Child Development staff and administration on what would serve them best.
 Create opportunities to present via Internet to students in schools beyond our area, such as Kansas City and St. Louis.
 Speak to a Drury senior or graduate classes about the field of children’s literature in general and poetry in particular.
 Annually visit students at three Springfield (area) schools.
 Co-host an on-campus workshop for teachers who want to introduce poetry in their classrooms.
 Co-host an open mike poetry event for Drury students.
 Co-host a program featuring Drury students on KSMU during National Poetry Month in April.
 Write an article for the paper about the importance of poetry at home and in the classroom.
 Be interviewed on the role of a university poet laureate.
 Meet with Springfield Public School leaders on how Drury’s poet laureate can help them.
 Meet with leaders of state teaching and librarian associations on how Drury’s poet laureate can help them.
 Consider how Missouri’s state poet laureate and Drury’s poet laureate might work together in some way.

I don’t mean or intend to tackle all the items on that list — at least not all in the same year! –but I am nibbling at a few, have already done one or two, and am considering a couple not on the list. One reason I’m posting this is to solicit input and ideas from you. In general, poets laureate in any capacity often find themselves inventing their own job descriptions and seeking activities that fit their personalities, time, and goals. Thanks for any ideas you might have. A news release from Drury was circulated yesterday.

My link to Drury, should you be interested, is