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!
VM: 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 48! :)
***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.
In the Midst of It All
yes, the hills
birds wing away –
why? why? why?
in her cloak –
no more you
no more me
- Irene Latham