Friday, November 30, 2018

The Poetry of US ~ Grateful for Poetry Anthologies and Anthologists!

Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday(The link to PF and my poem are below)

This month, TeachingAuthors posts have been about the things we're most grateful for in the world of words. (Except for Wednesday's post, which includes a hot picture book writing prompt called "Dialogue is Sriracha Sauce."Bobbi is grateful that each of us has a voiceMary Ann is grateful to her family of storytellers,  Carla gives thanks for primary source documents which bring her research to life, and Carmela gives thanks to readers who make a huge difference in the life of a book.

Today I am grateful for poetry anthologies and the anthologists who create them. These works are a gift both to the poets in each collection and to their readers.

I've been honored to work with many of our finest anthologists. Today I'd like to bow deeply to a "well-loved, deeply-respected, and internationally-renown author and poetry anthologist," (and, may I add, a really fun guy),  Paul B. Janeczko who just this month won NCTE's Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.

This award, established in 1977, honors a living American poet for their aggregate work for children ages 3–13. Take a deep dive into his website and see what a remarkable writer and person Paul is.

photo of Paul B. Janezko courtesy of Candlewick Press

Thank you for all you have given us, Paul--you are deeply loved and you soooo deserve this award!
And speaking of anthologies: National Geographic just published an anthology by another well-loved, deeply-respected, and internationally-renown author and poetry anthologist, former Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, THE POETRY OF US: More than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places and passion of the United States (National Geographic)

In 2015, I was thrilled when Pat asked me to write a poem about San Diego Zoo for this book "(perhaps include some of its exotic species)?" So after correspondence with and phone calls to the zoo hoping to get a free behind-the-scenes tour or interview with an animal keeper (wouldn't you think?), I convinced my husband that for our wedding anniversary we needed to go on a two-hour $89/per person behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. And so we went. (Yes, he's a keeper.)

What a fun day!

It's both exhilarating and terrifying to write for an editor. Many of my attempts are stiff, lifeless. Nonetheless, I sent Pat nine poems. One was about two pandas getting married (we saw part of a wedding at the zoo), one was from the POV of a child lost in the zoo (I was six years old), two were about an elephant getting a manicure (we saw this on the tour--it's an actual thing!), a poem titled GOD DISCOVERS THE SAN DIEGO ZOO (about the S.D. Zoo Corps program for teens), one about a surprise date at the zoo (art reflecting life), a take-off of Robert Frost's The Pasture set in the zoo ("you come, too"), a quick and quirky poem about the first female zoo director, and a more serious poem about the same director.

Pat picked the last poem. Anthologists are editors, parent figures, therapists, task masters, mentors and more. Pat is one of the most patient editors I've worked with, watering and weeding poems I didn't even know were growing inside me...and then showing me how to clean up their meter and meaning.

Over a period of months, we changed phlangers into wombats, we took zebras out of their stalls (they've never lived in stalls in the San Diego Zoo, according to the zoo's historians) and more. Here is my poem as it now appears in this marvelous (and visually delicious) collection:

Belle Benchley
by April Halprin Wayland

I was the bookkeeper, that's all.
At noon I'd watch the zebras loll
I'd study wombats eating lunch
I really did not know that much
about the zoo.

I saw the llama wasn't well—
how did I know? It's hard to tell.
I pointed out a listless gnu
(for I read volumes about zoos.)

Some people swore our chief was rude—
depends upon your point of view.
(Recall he built this cageless place
which opened 1922).

It may be Dr. Wegeforth’s rage
that drove three zoo leaders away.
He marched to my desk, bent down and said:
"You try and run it—go ahead."

And so I did. 
poem (c) 2018 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Thank you for hosting PF at Carol's Corner today, Carol!

posted with gratitude by April Halprin Wayland with help from Eli, Monkey and Snot.


Carol said...

Congratulations on having a poem included in POETRY OF THE US. I join you in saluting Paul Janeczko! I have loved his work for many, many years! And congratulations on having a poem included in POETRY OF THE US. That's quite an honor. I loved reading about your process! Nine poems to get one that was publishable! Wow, wow, wow!

Linda B said...

I try hard not to miss any of Paul Janeczko's books, always marvelous. And love that about your special "research" at the zoo, April & the poem work that resulted in this voice of a zookeeper/animal lover. Congratulations!

Carmela Martino said...

I just picked up POETRY OF US from our library. What a GORGEOUS book! Congratulations, April! Thanks for sharing the story behind the creation of your poem, too. Love it!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carol, Linda and Carmela ~ it's a beautiful book--National Geo books always are. And Pat is an artist and a genius. Paul is beloved...what can I say? Beloved.

Unknown said...

Your anthologist chose wisely because you can never go wrong writing or reading about Belle! Your poem captures her keen eye, her amazing patience, and her special ability to get along with a difficult boss. Of course, I'm biased since I'm writing an adult biography about Mrs. Benchley for the San Diego Zoo. She's an unsung hero who will finally get her proper due as the first and only woman zoo director of a large zoo in the world (from 1927-1953). Bravo!

April Halprin Wayland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
April Halprin Wayland said...

I know this is you Beth, even though your name doesn't show up. I can't wait to read your book! Ladies and gentlemen, look out for Beth Brust's book about Belle Benchley... it's not coming out for a while, but it will definitely be worth the wait!

CS Perryess said...

Brava! I really appreciate the poem (& its appreciation of the value of the parenthetical). Happy December to you.

Catherine Flynn said...

Congratulations on having a poem in Pat's stunning new anthology! And thank you for sharing your poem's origin story. These always fascinated me. It sounds like you could write a whole collection of zoo poems!

Liz Steinglass said...

I love your poem and the story behind writing it. Yes, thank you to anthologies and anthologists!

Diane Mayr said...

I always enjoy learning the story behind the story or poem. What a interesting subject!