Friday, March 15, 2019

"The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog" by Allan Wolf

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for a Youth Climate Strike-themed roundup.

While I don't have a poem related to that, please do go see the adorable Youth Climate Strike illustration by Thea Baker (who also illustrated my LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS).

Just 6 more slots left for this year's Progressive Poem! Please join us!!!

I'm in with the title poem from the newly released THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG AND OTHER HOW-TO POEMS, edited by the late Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Richard Jones, poems by some wonderful poets we know and adore!

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: 

Allan Wolf
Yo, Wolfman
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
Allan's new book
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.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing Allan's poem -- nice to hear from him too. Am very anxious to see this book; so many favorite poets are included!

  2. I've read through all the poems with bittersweet joy, Irene. I'll share sometime soon, and loved your poems, too! This beginning of your saying goodbye to Paul Janeczko is lovely. I enjoyed reading Allan's answers to the genesis of the poem. Good things come to those who wait, I guess. Thanks for a sweet post.

  3. Oh, how lovely! A beautiful moment spent in connection and respect with nature.

  4. What a lovely poem, and it's so nice to hear the background of how it came to be. Thanks for sharing, Irene.

  5. Had to laugh as I read Allan's poem... reminds me of a skunk encounter. Thanks for sharing the background/connection of poem and book title.

  6. I love backstory and process posts, especially when there's a cute dog involved! I can't wait for my copy of this book to arrive!

  7. Ohhh--how lovely to get this glimpse of both Allan and pbj at work. Hedgehogs and poo poo (although I'm sure that's usually PUPU) for all! (And congrats to you, Irene, for your contributions to the collection.)

    Also, just FYI, your blog is not showing up as usual today--it's all disorganized, although entirely readable.

  8. How-to appreciate this post.

    Scroll through fast.
    Lock onto one word.
    Say that word outloud: bazillion

    Scroll through slow.
    Read an entire sentence outlaid: "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."

    Go through this post word by word.
    Tell the writer of the post you enjoy it immensely.

    Go write a real Hot-To Poem

    Irene, so happy to know you are in such great company with three poems in
    this How-To Collection. So poignant about the timing of publication after our loss of pbj.


    1. PS April TWENTY is calling to me, if a name is not yet added there, thank you.

  9. I can't wait to read all the how-tos, wherefores, and whatnots of this collection! (So sorry it is pbj's last.) Thank you for sharing Allan's poem, Irene. He's always good for a big wolfy grin, and I mean that in the best possible way! Delighted to hear of your own poems in this collection, too. :) xo

  10. This post is a hug. The remembrance of pbj and the writing of the poem are delightful. I really look forward to reading this collection. Thank you for highlighting it. I'm casting around for an idea to think about for next week's Poetry Friday. This gives me ideas.


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