Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe
Also, check out the roundup of National Poetry Month goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup
. As always, there's a ton of creativity going on in this community of poets... take that covid-19!
Today it is my pleasure to welcome Vikram Madan
to respond to three simple prompts as they relate to his brand-new book A HATFUL OF DRAGONS
, from Boyds Mills and Kane, which he both wrote and illustrated. Vikram and I were to be on the Poetry Roundup panel together at Texas Library Association, and I am so sorry that didn't happen! But it makes me extra-glad to have him for a visit here, at Live Your Poem. Take it away, Vikram!
Although ‘A Hatful of Dragons
is primarily a book of funny poems, the illustrations accompanying
the poems are vital to the humor. I am a visual person (my
‘day job’ is ‘visual artist
’!) and I often conceive of
poems as a visual whole - with words and images intertwining and
playing off each other. When Rebecca Davis, my editor, distilled my
raw manuscript into a more defined collection, she was drawn to the
handful of poems that had linkages to each other. As we refined the
book further, I found this a delicious area to explore: could I find
ways to visually cross-connect the poems in unexpected ways, so as to
enhance both the humor and the reading experience? I hope that
attentive readers will have a delightful time discovering how
recurring characters and visual narratives cross-connect the poems.
(For example, can you find the characters from Page 56 on Page 38?)
VM: I initially thought illustrating the
book would be a breeze – just a matter of turning rough sketches
into finished art. Boy was I wrong!
My first set of illustrations ended up
‘too tight’ – I had the art-equivalent of stage-fright (this
being my first traditionally published book) and overthought
everything, making the resulting artwork look rigid and lifeless. It
took gentle prodding from my editors to help me loosen up and breathe
life into the drawings.
Many times my art just had to ‘grow
up’ to meet the ‘high expectations’. Other times I found myself
iterating on possibilities trying to find the right look. For example
here are eight (spot-the-differences!) layouts I created for the back
cover (all of which were eventually rejected for being ‘too busy’):
In general I ended up working on the
art far more than I expected to. That said, it was a fabulous
learning experience and my editors were wonderfully patient as I
found my way.
VM: When I am writing rhyming poetry, I
focus a lot on rhythm, rhyme, beat, scansion, and syllable count.
What I did not expect at all was that the poems in the book would end
up being copy-edited. And the copy editors would (rightly) suggest
corrections to my (colloquial) punctuation, grammar, word and phrase
usage, etc. Some of the requested changes threw a wrench (or more
accurately, an unwanted syllable or two) into my carefully
constructed stanzas and I had to go back to redo parts of some poems.
In the process I had to grudgingly accept that, as writers for kids
who are just learning to read, we have a responsibility to
demonstrate the correct use of language, and hold ourselves to the
higher standard, even if it makes our own jobs a little harder.
VM: I’ve been amazed at my editors’
attention to detail. For example, my illustration for a poem titled
‘Time Machine’ had a subtle reference to the movie ‘Back To
The Future’. I didn’t think anyone would notice it – but
sure enough my editors spotted the ‘anomaly’! With their blessing
that ‘easter-egg’ is still in the book – look for it on page
***YAY! I found the Back to The Future 'easter-egg.' :) Also, you can hear Vikram reading poems from the book in this video.
... and now for the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED
(my National Poetry Month project extended across the entire year!
) ... I had hoped Vikram's book would inspire me to write something light, but that's not what happened. Sigh.
the Midst of It All
wing away –
her cloak –
- Irene Latham