Today I’m happy to host award-winning author and poet Jacqueline Jules, who’s here with her excellent contribution to the Children’s Poetry Blog Hop. Let’s get right to it:
Thank you, Debbie Levy, for tagging me to participate in The Mortimer Minute, a bunny hop through the children’s poetry blogosphere. The Hop was started by April Halprin Wayland and since September has inspired poetry lovers around the kidlitosphere to share three burning poetry questions. Here are mine:
1. What is your favorite kind of poem?
I usually get a little antsy when I am asked to name a favorite. In most cases, my favorite is my most recent—book, movie, song, etc. And I don’t have a favorite sports team which makes me a bit of a nerd. However, ever since I read Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters in high school, I have been a big fan of narrative poems—poems that tell a story in the voice of a character. After I became a teacher, I encountered Mel Glenn’s Class Dismissed and fell in love all over again. A poem that portrays a memorable character in the space of a page electrifies me.
2. What is the difference between poetry and prose?
This is another hard question. Prose can be quite poetic and poems can be prosaic. Not everyone is as big a fan of the free verse narrative poem as I am. In critique groups and articles, I have encountered cranky arguments that narrative poems are indistinguishable from prose, save for line breaks. I disagree. A good narrative poem concentrates language into images that evoke strong emotion or thought. Carefully chosen details connect with the reader and reveal truths within a brief, breathtaking space. A good example is Judith Viorst’s “If I Were in Charge of the World.” I often use this poem in poetry lessons. Here is the second verse of Viorst’s poem.
If I were in charge of the world
There’d be brighter night lights
Healthier hamsters, and
Basketball baskets forty-eight inches lower.
In the span of four prosaic lines, the poet has revealed an endearing character who is afraid of the dark, has suffered the loss of a pet, and is not as tall as she would like. I find this brilliant, and for me, what poetry is all about—to say volumes in just a few words or sentences. When a poem reveals the essence of a character or a personal discovery in a tiny story, I am transported. I especially love a last line that pulls everything together and makes me humph in agreement or laughter.
Another favorite example comes from Mel Glenn’s Class Dismissed. In the poem, “Dominique Blanco,” a high school girl complains, “I have spent four years here on the edge of everything—friends, parties, classes—rejecting myself before others had a chance to do it.” The poem lists other poignant disappointments of her high school years to end with her yearbook: “They left out my picture./ It figures.” The image of this lonely girl whose picture was accidentally left out of the yearbook has stayed with me for years. It is such a powerful metaphor for how she was ignored and overlooked.
What is your favorite poetic device?
I love using alliteration in poetry. It is so much fun to use the same syllable to create a musical sound and to mimic the topic you are writing about. Here is a poem of mine called “Morning Monster” that makes liberal use of alliteration to express my dissatisfaction with being awakened by a garbage truck one summer morning.
A monster is grumbling in the street
grinding its teeth on broken bits of glass.
It doesn’t help to cover my head with a pillow.
The groaning continues
growing louder and louder
until the monster is right outside my window
gobbling cans in gargantuan gulps
then crashing them against the sidewalk
stealing my first morning of summer sleep.
I have tagged Madelyn Rosenberg, winner of the Arlington Arts Moving Words Poetry Competition, author of Happy Birthday Tree, The Schmutzy Family, The Canary in the Coal Mine, and all around savvy lady and editor. Madelyn also has a great sense of humor, so I can’t wait to read her poetry questions and answers on November 15th on her blog.
I’ve also tagged Anamaria Anderson, a book reviewer, museum educator, and children’s literature judge who has served on various award committees including this year’s Batchelder Award. Anamaria is also one of the most articulate people I know. I am looking forward to hearing her thoughts on poetry on November 15th at her blog, Books Together Blog.
Thank you, Jackie. I really enjoyed your questions, your answers, and your poems. –Debbie
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