Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit joyful Jan at Bookseedstudio for Roundup.
I'm excited and delighted to give you a wee tour of a gorgeous new book Welcome to the Wonder House, brought to us by WordSong/Astra Publishing, with poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, and (dreamy!) art by Deborah Freedman. I love how this book includes AND invites so many questions. Wonder, indeed!
All three creators are here at Live Your Poem today to welcome you...so come on in, get comfy! I've asked them to each respond to a one-word prompt as it applies to their experience building this Wonder. Yay!
But first, the winner of last week's giveaway of Moonstruck! Poems About Our Moon edited by Roger Stevens, illus. by Ed Boxall is Joyce Ray! CONGRATULATIONS! Joyce, please email me with your mailing address at irene(at)irenelatham(dot)com.
And now...I want to share one of my most favorite spreads in Welcome to the Wonder House. It's called the "Room of Wishes." Thanks to the whole team for allowing me to share a couple of poems, too.
This first one is by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. It doesn't have a title. (None of the poems in the collection are titled. And the author of each poem is identified by the poet's initials at the end of the poem):
I wrote my wish
upon a kite,
closed my eyes,
grabbed its string—
let it fly. . .
My wish came true,
it flew into
that wide, wide map
and sailed my name
up high and free,
and with it sailed
a part of me.
I may have written a few wishes upon a kite, and watched it sail into sky. Lovely, yes?
And this one is by Georgia Heard:
Where do wishes go,
do they linger in the sky?
Shooting star wishes.
Even superhero wishes.
Clouds are crowded with wishes.
Don't you love the thought of all those wishes up there riding the clouds? So wistful (as clouds are). :)
And now to the interview portion of this post! As is tradition here at Live Your Poem, the creators are responding to simple one-word prompts. Enjoy!
Georgia Heard: Creating the poems for Welcome to the Wonder House involved many, many months, and even years, of writing multiple drafts with insightful guidance from our editor, Rebecca Davis. But when you're passionate about a topic like we were about Wonder, writing is not difficult and, paradoxically, writing the poems felt effortless, although it took a lot of hard work -- if that makes sense.
The idea behind Welcome to the Wonder House came easily and naturally during a car ride to Newark Airport back from a Highlights workshop. Rebecca Davis was driving, Rebecca Kai Dotlich was in the passenger seat and I was the scribe in the back seat scribbling down all of our ideas as we excitedly shared them out loud. That’s how our framework of the Rooms of Wonder was born.
One of the most difficult yet most wonderful parts of writing Welcome to the Wonder House was deciding on the particular Rooms of Wonder. Out of numerous ideas, we had to think through if any of the Rooms overlapped, which ones felt childlike, and which ones were repetitive. For example, we initially had a Room of Praise, a Room of Blessing, and a Room of Prayer, but we realized they were too similar. In the end, we decided to keep the Room of Praise. Some of the poems that we had already written, we either revised or saved for another project. It was challenging to let go of those poems that we had put so much effort into crafting.
At some point, Rebecca Kai Dotlich visited me to co-teach a poetry workshop. After teaching all day, we worked on our book, staying up late curating each Room of Wonder by cutting out our poems and placing them onto large post-it notes that we had designated different Rooms (see photo). We reviewed each poem to ensure that they covered a broad range of wonder topics, as well as poetic forms, and if a poem didn’t fit in a particular Room we went back to the drawing board and wrote a new one.
Perhaps, the hardest part of creating Welcome to the Wonder House was waiting to see Deborah Freedman’s enchanting art. When we finally saw the first sketches, we knew she would bring something extraordinary to the project.
Writing, as William Stafford poetically puts it, is like following a thread. And with Welcome to the Wonder House, the effort and the years it took all of us to create this WONDERful book, required passion and persistence and, even though we didn’t know exactly where it would lead, we had an unwavering belief that wonder was the thread we needed to follow.
Rebecca Kai Dotlich: In writing the poems for Welcome To The Wonder House I was often transported to my own childhood places full of wonder, like the creek that ran behind our house and beyond, meandering over rocks and roots, under branches and sky, and in and out of corrugated culverts that became small, dark, silver 'caves," as we walked, bent over, to the light on the other side. The scents of those days, and that place especially, was familiar and delicious as I went bumping along on my bike over tangled roots, umbrellaed by a cool, damp world of green and open air.
|Rebecca's creek (referenced in the poem|
that lives in the "Room of Wishes")
Deborah Freedman: Every new book is a fresh start for me, a new challenge to relish. Though until now, I have had to create these challenges for myself! So when Welcome to the Wonder House landed on my desk, it was a wonderfully welcome surprise.
I immediately fell in love with the concept — an allegorical house, organized into “rooms”. Georgia’s and Rebecca’s poems would fill those rooms, inspiring wonder, curiosity, imagination, and my job would be to create environments for them. I aspired to honor and enhance each poem’s spirit by, somehow, creating the visual equivalent of a poem.
|"Room of Creatures" spread|
I began with the end, the last line of the book: the Wonder House is our Whole World. Clearly, the authors were not thinking of this as a literal house; pages would be the only walls, acting at the same time as doors to open one room to the next. The physical book itself would form spaces for readers to inhabit, sprinkled with touches of domesticity sparked by vivid imagery in the poems. The question, “How bubbling hot does it get on the sun?” in the Room of Curiosity prompted a lightbulb. “Where is everyone? Can you hear us?” in the Room of Mystery led to a telephone to the universe. In the Room of Creatures Poems, sea animals swim in an underwater scene… but is that the ocean, or your bathtub?
We would like to invite children to drift dreamily from room to room—to read a poem here, another there, and read the pictures. But most of all, we hope children will leave with lots of their own questions, and encouraged to move through their own worlds with a fresh sense wonder.
Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing your HOUSE with us! Special shout-out to editor Rebecca Davis, who is a poet's dream! And to Kerry McManus, who does such great work getting poetry books out into the world. Mwah!
And now, this week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem. I was inspired by Rebecca and Georgia to include some questions. Thanks so much for reading!
What is the reason
for heat, for light?
Is there more
to a candle's flicker
What if the flame
is meant to soften us,
to make us willing
Why then do we rush
Perhaps that puddle
is the place
where we'll learn
to love one another.
- Irene Latham