Friday, September 20, 2019

Thank you, Lee Bennett Hopkins

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! My poem, the link to our current book giveaway, and the PF link are all below.

Our current Book Giveaway, which ends September 25th, is for a copy of Deanie Yasner's debut middle grade novel, Essie Rose's RevelationTo enter, go to Esther's latest Student Success Story.

We lost a great one in August—"passionate educator and prolific children's poet and anthologist,* Lee Bennett Hopkins.  

Towards the end of August, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater offered her blog, The Poetry Farm, as a space to honor Lee, who died on August 8th. We at TeachingAuthors are celebrating Lee today.

I first met Lee about 35 years ago through my teacher, poet Myra Cohn Livingston, who was one of Lee's good friends. Over the years, Lee's praise, his honest--and at times, blunt--editorial notes, and the hand he held out to me to write my own books and to write poems for his anthologies, changed my life. Thank you, Lee.

Lee Bennett Hopkins ~ photo by Charles J Egita 

One of Lee's suggestions that I hear every time I write a poem or teach poetry, is: consider each time you use "the" and "a;" can you delete them It's amazing how intimate a poem can become without them.

Here is the cover of his anthology, SURPRISES (Harper and Row, 1984), which was the first I CAN READ poetry book.

And here is "Last Laugh," from that collection, one of my favorite LBH poems. (Keep in mind that in an I CAN READ book, there could only be 36 characters per line, including punctuation and spaces.)

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

They all laughed when I told them
I wanted to be

A woman in space
Floating so free.

But they won't laugh at me
When they finally see
My feet up on Mars
And my face on TV.

Thank you, Lee.

Fellow TeachingAuthor Esther Herschenhorn writes: "Lee's Pass the Poetry, Please! remains my go-to book on poetry for children - re the poems, the reading, the writing."

"He shared what he called his signature poem, "Good Books, Good Times!" in the Afterword of the 1998 Third Edition of this book. He created this poem in 1985 when he was chosen the Children's Book Council's National Book Week Poet. I love the poem. I also love the book's dedication - "To my Poet-friends who make it all possible.'" Click here for the full poem.

In 2009, when Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong asked me to write a poem to be included in their anthology honoring Lee for winning the 2009 NCTE Excellence in Children's Poetry award, I was scared. 
What could I contribute that others wouldn't?  I thought about Lee--what did I really know about him?  I knew that he loved Sondheim. I knew that his mailing address included the word "cove" in it. I pictured a cabin next to a quiet lake. Then I thought about the art of being an anthologist. What must it entail? Gathering, collecting, arranging.  

Although an early draft was from a poem's point of view, I'm glad that this is the version that was published:
for LBH 
by April Halprin Wayland

Walking along the shore at sunset in sandals,
you bend to collect the right rock, the best twig,
the perfect poem.

Washing them in a blue enamel bowl,
you turn on Mozart low,
barefoot in your kitchen by the cove.

Sitting on your heels on the wooden porch,
you position, then reposition each piece.
Here?  Here?

Stomping inside, slamming the door,
you turn on Sondheim

At sunrise in your slippers,
you come out on the porch
to shuffle them again.

Suddenly seeing it:
sequence, order, symmetry—

poem © 2019 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

How I imagine an anthologist works...
collecting, rearranging, creating unity.
photo by April Halprin Wayland

Hark! One more of Lee's anthologies is coming soon!  According to *Publishers Weekly obituary, "His most recently completed work, I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, features poems from award-winning, diverse authors paired with artwork from illustrators of similar backgrounds, providing portraits of growing up in America. It will be published by Lee & Low in October."

Lee Bennett Hopkins expanded the world of poetry for children. 

Thank you, Lee.

To find out more about him, start with Renee Latulippe's 2013 interview of him at No Water River.

And don’t forget to enter our latest Book Giveaway: win a copy of Deanie Yasner's Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer!  Details here.

Thank you, wonderful Linda B, for hosting at TeacherDance today!

posted with love by April Halprin Wayland with help from Eli, Penny and Gin (Penny and Gin are short-term rentals)


Irene Latham said...

April, I love how you imagine an anthologist works and that blue bowl of beauties. And the pic of you and Eli and your grand-dogs is.... GRAND! xo

Cheriee Weichel said...

Collector makes me want to shout Yes! I too love the blue enamel bowl, but all of it together is the absolute truth of how to write a poem.

Carmela Martino said...

What a wonderful tribute, April. Lee will be greatly missed in the Kidlit community. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful poem Collector. (I wanted to call it "The Collector" but I realized you intentionally omitted "the"!) I especially love the last stanza.
Suddenly seeing it:
sequence, order, symmetry—

Ruth said...

I love your picture of Lee's work.

Carol Varsalona said...

April, it is so wonderful to read another tribute to our Dear Lee and to know that another anthology will be coming out to remember the amazing contribution Lee made to the world of kidlit and poetry. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on an anthologist and featuring the bowl inmage to make the connection visible for us.

Linda Kulp Trout said...

Thank you for this lovely tribute, April.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, dear Irene 💕

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Cheriee ~ it was a challenge to find my way in... How does one compile an anthology?

April Halprin Wayland said...

It's been awhile since I read that poem, Carmela, and it was a nice surprise to see that I, liked that last stanza, too.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Ruth 🐕

April Halprin Wayland said...

I really appreciate you stopping by, Carol~ thank you for your kind comment.

April Halprin Wayland said...

You're welcome, Linda 😊

CS Perryess said...

Great stuff, as usual, April. And fabulous to see your smiling face (with dogs).

jan godown annino said...

O Joy, dear April! Like Irene, I am bowled over by your blue bowl imagery & lovely poem, "Collector." for Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong's previous LBH tribute.

I am so happy to read his own poem "Last Laugh" & to delight in the surprise it storytells.

And this post connects more by helping me hear his own actual voice as he reads to me & those in a small workshop in 2015, his "Good Books, Good Times."

One more - I love know that Myra Cohn Livingston brought you to Lee. Wow, just, Wow.

Michelle Kogan said...

Loved hearing about your history with Lee, April–and that your were a student of Myra Cohn Livingston how fortunate for you. I've been a fan of his poetry and anthologies for a long time. I can picture your poem and perhaps how Lee may have chuckled at it. Thanks for this lovely tribute remembering him.

Janet Wong said...

"Sondheim . . . LOUD": I'm sure that you made Lee laugh with that line from your fabulous poem of tribute!

Bobbi Miller said...

What a lovely tribute, April. Thank you!