Saturday, April 3, 2010
Knock Poetry Off the Pedestal by Marilyn Singer
Knock Poetry Off the Pedestal: It's time to make poems a part of children's everyday lives
by Marilyn Singer – School Library Journal, 4/1/2010
It was last October, and I was feeling self-congratulatory. I had already booked the 11 participants for the next “Poetry Blast,” the reading by children’s poets at the American Library Association’s annual conference. Once again, we were going to spread the good word that poetry is an aural art.
Then I got an email from Richie Partington, friend, critic, and kids’ lit missionary. He’d been invited to teach a class on children’s and young adult poetry at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science. “What important concepts about poetry would you like library school students to learn about?” he asked.
“Well, Richie,” I started to reply, “as I’ve always said, to appreciate poetry, you have to hear it.” But then all of my assurance went out the window. Surely, I thought, that isn’t the only concept that future school librarians need to embrace. I know firsthand that most kids seem to like poetry. But something amiss happens along the road to adulthood, and many of those same students end up actively disliking poetry or not relating to it. And who can blame them? Poetry is often presented as a rarefied thing that exists only to be analyzed by professorial types or as greeting-card sentiments to be enjoyed by love-struck girls (and the guys who hit on them). So, I mulled, what can librarians do to buck this trend? I know! I’ll ask some other poets who write for young readers.
One of the first to respond was poet-photographer Charles R. Smith, Jr., whose latest book, My People (S & S/Atheneum), nabbed the 2010 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, thanks to his stunning photos. He immediately came up with a grand mantra: “Poetry needs to be taken off the pedestal.” He adds, “While poetry month is a good idea in theory, it ultimately confines poetry to that one month. As a black poet, I’m busy in February [Black History Month] and April [National Poetry Month], but I’m still a black poet the other 10 months of the year!” The solution? “By exposing students to poetry on a daily basis, by connecting it with their everyday lives, they begin to see the beauty and value in words,” says Smith.
Yes! I agree. And so does Julie Larios. Perhaps “librarians don’t use more poetry because they’re afraid of it,” and some believe it’s “nowhere near as sturdy as fiction or nonfiction… or it’s too cute, maybe, for kids,” says Larios, winner of the 2006 Pushcart Prize for poetry and a teacher in Vermont College’s Writing for Children program. “That’s why poetry comes out for only one month of the year and at holidays. I would love to have librarians stop thinking poetry should only be about snowmen, hearts, dancing flowers, bunnies, ice cream, witches, pumpkins, turkeys, jingle bells, and the wind.”
Read the rest of the article here: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6724230.html