Why We Write the Poems

Poets

Sarah, aged 13, and I, with the poet laureate of our city and all of us in the photo have been gathering on Tuesday nights to write together and be part of New Hampshire Humanities New Voices project. Sarah, her mom, and little brother are new Americans and bring their first language to the poems they’re writing in English. Sarah is a poet and and an artist. Here’s one of her anime drawings.

illustration by Sarah Cristina, grade 7

In the New Voices project, immigrant writers partner with local writers to write together and present together at a public reading. Thank you to teacher Carolyn Hutton who invited me to be the writer with her students. We’re gearing up to do our public reading. Here’s a poem I wrote about the magic that happened when we wrote together.

Why We Write the Poems

Because it stops raining and the dogwood tree finally

  relents and blooms,

Because it’s June and we can wear dresses off our shoulders

  and flip flops and our bodies can feel the sun,

Because, on the night Leidiane invites us over, the moon

  grows enormous and lights the expanse of the sea,

Because Tammi brings blooming azaleas and Carolyn brings

  miniature clipboards and pads she found at the Dollar Tree,

And because there are still people in the world singing love songs,

   we begin to write poems.

Because Pedro is two, his poems are giant circles on his Dollar Tree pad.

Because, combined, we speak Portuguese, English, Spanish, Music,

  Youth, Age and Indonesian coconut pancakes, we have

  immensity of imagination.

No one can stop writing the poems.

No one can stop remaking the world.

A Good, Good Year for Joseph and Whoosh in Joseph’s Big Ride

Ken Daley’s gorgeous illustration of Mama, Joseph, Whoosh with ALL her hair, and the bike in Joseph’s Big Ride.

“The narrative, which focuses on building a friendship, is paired with Daley’s vibrant illustrations, which depict just how fast the minds, and bikes, of young children can go…An ideal addition…”                      School Library Journal

This has been a good, good year for my characters, Joseph and Whoosh, in Joseph’s Big Ride.  Their bike – the one Joseph FINALLY gets to ride, his wish come true! – came to life in a school in Westbrook, Maine. Master’s of Education students at the  Maine College of Art made it happen with an Art Lesson they did with the students beginning with drawing lots of kids’ hands and the connected hands become the spokes of the bicycle’s wheels.  Like this….

Then like this…

Then all the children’s hands come together like this….

The children and these extraordinary art teachers put Joseph’s – really Whoosh’s (but she likes him) – bike all together like this…

You can see the steps to make the bike is this gallery of images and videos. The Art Lessons for Joseph’s Big Ride are created as part of a tool kit for a collection of children’s books called the,  Welcoming Library

Libraries and community centers can purchase the Welcoming Library of children’s books, mobile exhibit, and program resources to help new Americans and U.S.-born families in the neighborhood  meet each other through story.  See all the books and meet the creator, Kirsten Cappy, champion of books and children, at Welcoming Library.   

A Welcoming Library display in Maine.

 

 Joseph’s Big Ride also comes to Dads in correctional facilities to help parents connect with their kids through stories

I had to get this for my daughter. She’s got hair just like Whoosh.

Dad at Concord State Prison

The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) gives brand-new children’s books to incarcerated parents in New Hampshire and Vermont prisons to support family literacy.  I’m one of the writers who visits schools and prisons to tell stories and talk about reading.  We imagine ways to read aloud to their kids which parents can do, depending on the facility, by Skype, phone call, or making a recording.  CLiF also gives children brand-new books in schools and community centers. I’ve brought Joseph’s joyful tale to many, many children in schools in immigrant neighborhoods. 

With students at Dr. Norman Crisp School, Nashua, New Hampshire 

Meet OD 

Finally, for this good, good year for Joseph and Whoosh,  South Sudanese rapper, OD Bonny and I  have teamed up to write a new story for Joseph called AII YEE, JOSEPH!  I first met OD when he wrote a tribute song, “A Girl from Juba”  for Viola,  the heroine of my novel in verse, THE GOOD BRAIDER.  I am very excited to work with this talented singer and storyteller who brings his music around the world to the Acholi people and all of us. 

OD Bonny, on the go

“I hope I will learn to dance a different dance I’ve never danced before.”

“I hope I will learn to dance a different dance I’ve never danced before.”

“This is how we’re gonna do. We’re gonna dance the Nepali song. Cross left leg over right. One – two – three – go.” Then the movie song,  Kale Dai, blasted from the instructor Pujan Wagley’s phone through the school gym. Over the weeks, we moved from the Nepali dance into “Whatcha Gon Do With That Dessert.” And  Pujan, a student at Worcester State and a Bhutanese dancer, taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders hip hop moves to rapper Darwin’s song.  Students end with a flowy, traditional dance to  Ki Chhori hu ma.  This is a story about working with Pujan at Concord, NH’s Broken Ground School where I brought a poetry workshop, too – so together Pujan and I offered poetry and dance.  Our work was supported by a grant to the 21C After School program by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Here are some lines of poems students wrote about dancing with friends and with Pujan:

 

 

 

 

Pujan is one of the best dancers in the world.

When I dance I feel happy inside because

my body is moving.

I love dancing.

Sanjana

Pujan is so fun. I love dancing with Pujan

These are Pujan’s own words, “1 – 2 – 3 – Go.”

Then we start.

Soraya

My name is Molly. I drift

with the beat.

right, left, right, left.

Now repeat that a few times.

My name is Molly. I drift

with the beat.

No matter what, I keep dancing

Molly

When I dance with Pujan I feel…

Pink!

Happy!

Excited!

Silly!

Joyful!

Floating!

Fast!

Fun!

Esha

When I dance with Pujan he says,

like this,

left arm high,

then right arm high

Out of time.

Hakima

Put your left hand here and put your

right hand here. The girls do this

and the boys do this.

It is really fun to dance with Pujan.

Inaya

He says one foot at a time and move

your hips and, Always smile every time.

and, Don’t look sad. Be happy.

That’s why I love dancing.

Dolice

Dance is

fun

silly

weird

exciting

Emeline

 

When people dance with Pujan they feel like

they are about to fly in the Milky Way

because he can teach you how to do the dance

moves in a second. He doesn’t yell when you get

the moves wrong.

Tim

Dance feels like you could just

lift up into the clouds with

a mind of joy.

Bella

 

 

Well-loved volunteers who came to see the students perform at Parent’s Night and were awarded with flowers and art.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we read lots of poems.  Here’s a reading list of ideas for a poem and dance celebration.

Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More, Poems for Two Voices.  We played with poems in two voices to feel the rhythm of movement back and forth between readers.

Arm in Arm – by Remy Charlip

I love this book for it’s crazy whimsy. The students didn’t move into stillness, but a way to imagine it comes from Remy’s poem:

(c) Remy Charlip

BEFORE ME PEACEFUL

BESIDE ME PEACEFUL

BEHIND ME PEACEFUL

ABOVE ME PEACEFUL

BELOW ME PEACEFUL

ALL AROUND ME PEACEFUL

ME PEACEFUL

Remy always makes me smile. Take “Riddle Joke:

“Ask me if I’m a boat. / Are you a boat? / Yes. Now ask me if I’m an airplane. / No, silly. I’m a boat.”

Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill  includes this poem we read like an echo chant.

“Colors dance

And colors sing,

And colors laugh,

And colors cry___

They make you feel

Every feeling there is.”

Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield  especially “Way Down in the Music”

This is Just to Say, poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman

The title of our workshop was “Building Friendships Through Dance and Creative Writing” and this collection gave us ideas for writing about friends, including “Dark Haired Girl.”

You Read to Me I’ll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman.  I adapted the poem “New Friends”  in this collection and it inspired many students’ poems about meeting a new friend for the first time.

 

Congratulations Pujan, new friend, and kids at Broken Ground!

For another post I did on dance, please read, “Why Dance Each Other’s Dances” at the Multicultural Kid’s Blog.

Thank you Louise Wrobleski, formerly the NH Literacy Institute’s Site Director at the University of New Hampshire,  for her book and workshop recommendations!

“I hope I will learn to dance a different dance I never danced before.” Words by Bella, Broken Ground School, before we danced and we were imagining how it would be.