Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
for Roundup. I'm delighted today to be featuring Sylvia Vardell
in celebration of her new anthology A WORLD FULL OF POEMS,
brought to us by DK.
And, to make it even more fun: on this very same day, Sylvia is featuring *me* on her blog -- or rather, my new book THIS POEM IS A NEST. :)
I'm so excited about Sylvia's new big book of poems. I often tell new-to-poetry people to start with an anthology, because no matter your tastes and inclinations, you will likely find something there to love! It's why I often gift anthologies, too. (I have, in fact, already ordered copies of Sylvia's book to gift this holiday season!) And what better person to curate a collection of poems than poetry-dress-wearing, poetry-expert-and-enthusiast Sylvia??! So let's get to it, shall we?
SV: Thanks so much, Irene, for inviting me to share a bit about my new poetry anthology, A World Full of Poems. It’s been such a privilege to work on this book, especially during the first months of this horrible pandemic. All that quarantining enabled me to hunker down and dive deeply into poetry for young people. I have my own substantial library of poetry for young people and pulled piles of books to search for poems, then more piles, then more poems, and so on. I was given the assignment of finding approximately 150 poems for this anthology from the editor in London who vetted all the poems (along with her staff). I think it may be the first anthology of poetry that DK Books has published, although I may be wrong about that. (Please let me know if I’ve got that wrong!) It was my task to recommend poem after poem as they sorted through what fit best for each of the eight categories they had established.
The Fresh (Unexpected):
SV: One of the things that was particularly fresh and fun was seeking poems from poets outside the U.S., particularly from the UK. Fortunately, I have MANY anthologies and collections and had fun reading and hunting for the “just right” poem. I only wish we could have had more time to include even MORE poems by MORE English-speaking poets outside the U.S. But I am so happy to find so many poems by so many diverse voices inside and outside the U.S.!
SV: The most difficult part of this anthology building was finding perfect poems and then not being able to use them. Why? Including a poem in an anthology requires getting permission from the poet and usually from the publisher that originally included that poem in a book (unless it’s out of print and rights have reverted back to the poet). So, that means tracking down the permission source—both poet and publisher, sending inquiries, getting responses, and finding out the permission fee. DK Books had a limit to what they could pay for a poem (given that they wanted to include 150 poems). In most cases, it worked out just fine, but there were a few cases in which the fee was so high, it was beyond our budget. I shouldn’t be surprised that a poem by Langston Hughes or Pablo Neruda would cost quite a bit to include in an anthology, but I had high hopes!
SV: One of my favorite things in this process is that I was able to secure permission to include two poems by one of my favorite poets: Karla Kuskin! She was one of the first contemporary poets writing for young people that I encountered as a brand new teacher in the 1970s. I had grown up on the classics (like Longfellow) and wasn’t aware that there were poets TODAY who wrote for young people—what a revelation! (This was around the same time of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974; boy, do I feel OLD!). Although she has passed away, Kuskin’s poetry is still so relevant, engaging, and thoughtful. I hope I can help new readers fall in love with her work too. Here’s just one of her wonderful poems (and it appears in the book, too).
SV: Finally, my last task was creating some “activity” pages for the back of the book and you may know that I LOVE back matter! I went to town here and they ended up using about half of what I developed—which is fine. I made a poem “treasure hunt,” as well as providing tips on sharing and writing poems. I even had fun using Canva to create a graphic design for each page to show them how I thought these activities could be made more visually interesting and engaging for kids.
And now the book is coming out (Oct. 6) and I can’t wait to see it! I don’t have my copies yet, but I hope they arrive soon. I’m so happy to see 110 poets get their work out into the world and that DK Books has taken this chance on poetry when publishers are sometimes “shy” about doing so. Meanwhile, I just discovered that you can purchase the book on the Target website and that may be the craziest surprise of all!
Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing your book here today! And thank you for including two of my poems: "Summer Storm" and "Let's Celebrate the Elephant." YAY!!!
And now, my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem! I didn't know what to title this poem, and when I settled on "The Power of Art," I did an internet search on the same. I discovered this book that I immediately ordered! The power of art, indeed... also, you'll notice a little epigram "after Rilke." That's because of this Rilke quote which I adore, and sort of became the structure for the poem: “I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” Thank you for reading!
The Power of Art
- after Rilke
I stand in the gallery –
I stand, I sit.
I pace for a morning,
And still I wonder:
am I the singing parakeet
or the artist's solemn
or something else,
dancing just outside
- Irene Latham