Friday, June 1, 2007

Poetry Friday: Interview with Douglas Florian, Part 2

Douglas Florian was kind enough to grant me a second interview. You can read my first interview with Douglas here. And let me say, once again, I am a huge fan of his poetry books for children!
Elaine: I read in a BookPage interview that you were inspired to write your first collection of children’s poetry after you picked up a copy of Oh, That's Ridiculous!, an anthology of humorous poems that was edited by William Cole. Can you tell us what it was about that book that gave you inspiration? Can you also give us some information about your first foray into children’s poetry?

Douglas: Oh, That's Ridiculous! was basically a very funny book, with poems from a wide variety of poets and time periods, including some of the first poems of Shel Silverstein. The irreverent drawings of Swiss artist Tomi Ungerer were amazing, and the design format was to have many poems with black ink drawings.

Elaine: Your series of books of animal poems has been very popular. Can you tell us what gave you the idea for Beast Feast, the first book in the series?

Douglas: I always felt that animals are a "natural" not only for poetry but visually as well. And they're great fun to research!

Elaine: Do you do much research before you begin one of your collections of animal poems?

Douglas: I do enjoy going to the Bronx Zoo, American Museum of Natural History, or reading books and articles about animals. And I always interview my backyard menagerie.

Elaine: You employ clever wordplay, puns, and pithy endings in many of your poems. You also coin new words like Saturning, super-dupiter, walrusty, and porcuskin. Much of your poetry is humorous. One would assume you enjoy having fun with words and making your readers laugh. Are you a funny person?

Douglas: I am occasionally a punny, I mean funny, person, but I'd rather be more funny in print than in person. Prince Charles of England once said, "The Americans are inventing too many new words," but I'm sorry, Charlie, it's great fun to do that.

Elaine: In addition to narrative and lyric poems, you write mask poems, poems of address, and concrete poems. You are also a master of rhythm and rhyme and the use of repetition in your poetry. How did you learn so much about the genre?

Douglas: I immersed myself in verse before writing beast feast, reading poetry from different times, cultures, forms, and mentalities. I am especially big on "pithy" poems, and sometimes wear a pith helmet to facilitate that.

Elaine: Do you read children’s poetry? If so, do you have any favorite children’s poets or favorite books of poetry?

Douglas: My favorite children's poet, by near and far, is Ogden Nash, although almost all of his animal poems follow the AABB rhyme scheme. His poems are sometimes misprinted. To see what I mean, just google: Ogden Nash the Kitten .

Elaine: Do you have any favorite adult poets?

Douglas: I've always loved the beat poets, especially Allen Ginsberg. In college I spent an entire term studying Milton's Paradise Lost, but it was lost on me.

Elaine: Which of all your collections has been your most successful or best-selling book to date?
Douglas: Insectlopedia was the number two pestseller, I mean bestseller, of children's books, thanks, in part, to Daniel Pinkwater's reading it with Scott Simon on NPR one Saturday. It's still selling well. I guess it has "legs" so to speak.

Elaine: Do you have a favorite among all the poetry books you have written?

Douglas: My favorite is:
beastfeastintheswiminsectlopediamammalabilializardsfrogsandpolliwogsbowwowmeowmeowbingbangboinblaugheteriazoo'swhoand comets,stars,themoon,andmars. I love them all.
For the art my favorite is comets, stars, the moon, and mars.

Elaine: Now that you have completed your fine series of seasonal poetry, published nine books of animal poems, and written a collection of space poems—what can we expect from you next? Are you working on a new collection that you would like to tell us about?

Douglas: I am totally obsessed with dinosaurs, in fact, I am thinking about changing my first name to Douglasaurus.

And there you have it readers—my second interview with Douglas Florian, a funny—and punny—man…and certainly one of the most talented illustrators and poets creating books for children today.

Note: I own and enjoy all of Douglas Florian’s poetry collections. My particular favorite is Insectlopedia. I absolutely LOVE that book!!! But I also love Winter Eyes, and Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs, and In the Swim, and On the Wing, and Summersaults, and Mammalabilia, and on and on and on.

I want to thank Douglas Florian for granting me this second interview for Wild Rose Reader. Douglas, I look forward to your next poetry collection!

Happy Poetry Friday!


Grace Lin said...

great interview, Elaine! Handsprings is one of my favorite poetry books.

Bkbuds said...

This is a wonderful interview. I went back and read the first one you did too. He sounds like such a cool person!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I like WINTER EYES the best of all his seasonal poetry books. I remember some of the fourth graders arguing over who was going to borrow that book next from the school library.


I actually met Douglas Florian at the Children's Literature Institute at Simmons College two years ago. He IS pretty cool and
very funny...and punny.

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