Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe
for a Youth Climate Strike-themed roundup.
It's hard to write those words -- "the late Paul B. Janeczko." Paul was such a kind human, and I'm so so honored he chose to include 3 of my poems in this collection. There's more I want to say eventually.
But today I want to share with you the title poem, which happens to be written by poet-extraordinaire Allan Wolf. Allan was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, too -- so please keep reading! And, in a nod to PBJ, I'll forever think of Allan as "Wolfman" now. You'll see... read on!
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog
Today I walked outside and spied
a hedgehog on the hill.
When she and I met eye to eye,
she raised up straight and still.
The quills across her back puffed out.
She froze in blind alarm.
In turn, I ceased to move about
to show I meant no harm.
Awhile we stood there silently
in time as if to say,
"I'll leave you be if you leave me,"
then went our separate ways.
- Allan Wolf
|Rosie's favorite toy stash|
IL: What inspired this poem?
WOLFMAN: I wrote the poem years and years ago, in one of my favorite hiding places on the second floor of Ramsey Library at UNC-Asheville. It is pin-drop quiet there. If memory serves me, I actually wrote The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog around the same time I wrote "How to Care for Your Tree" (another How-To poem in the Janeczko collection). And I recall I had plans for my own How-To Poem collection, though I ultimately moved on to other things. At that time, probably, around 1999, I was writing up a storm and trying a whole variety of things. I wrote a bazillion "double dactyl" poems (one that ended up in A Kick in the Head) at this time as well. None of that really explains the poem's inspiration, of course. Perhaps on that day I was feeling particularly erinaceous.
|Rosie guarding hedgehog toy|
IL: Why a hedgehog?
WOLFMAN: I liked the musical sound of the double H in hedgehog. And to be quite honest, I didn't really KNOW all that much about hedgehogs. This was years before hedgehogs would become popular cute pets. I sort of equated hedgehogs with porcupines. So the "meeting" (or maybe it started out as "greeting"?) was actually a bit fraught with danger--moreso than the poem takes on today. It was a time of experimentation as I was trying to find my own voice. I specifically wrote the poem in the old-school classic way of A.A. Milne. And "How to Care for Your Tree" was specifically written in the style of Lewis Carroll.
|Rosie wrestling around|
with hedgehog toy
IL: Do you have any words about finding out your poem would be the title of the book?
WOLFMAN: I'm glad you asked me that, cause I remember feeling pleased and honored, in the first place when Paul contacted me in 2016 to say he wanted two of my poems for the collection. He said he would pay me "two crisp one hundred dollar bills." I said I'd take my daughter out to the Chinese Buffet and he replied, "Poo Poo for all!" Anthologies are a long, slow process, I had submitted the poems to him so long ago that I had forgotten all about the project. So it was a nice surprise to have the cash for a couple poems that had just been lying about. Later that same year, in December he sent me the following brief e-mail:
Ho, ho, etc. I wanted you to know that the title of the book of how-to poems has been decided: The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. I thought you’d get a kick out of that. (I get my kicks from champagne. Or, used to.) Happy holiday, my friend.
He signed it in his usual lower case "pbj," the goofiest initials in the history of initials.
You ask me how I felt. I was pleased, of course, because to have written the titular poem is something of an extra honor. I actually purchased a shirt with a cute little hedgehog pattern! (See photo attached). While it doesn't necessarily indicate that it is the "best" poem, it does show that it captures the essence of the collection as a whole. I was also pleased because I knew I wanted to use poems in the collection as "mentor texts" in future writing workshops. I
suppose you might also say that it was recognition to my readers and my poetic peers that I was "officially" a part of the "canon" of contemporary children's poetry. Perhaps it makes me an "overnight success"--after 30 years in the business! But most impactful of all, is the bitter sweet appreciation I feel toward this collection (with its wonderful, who's-who line-up of authors writing poetry for young people) and how it pays tribute to Paul Janeczko's spirit, heart, and vision.
So many thanks to Allan for sharing here today... and so much love to Paul for filling the world with beautiful words.