Today I would like to introduce three of the CYBILS poetry panelists. Next week, I will feature the other panelists. We are all hard at work reading, reading, reading poetry books.
MsMac What is your day job?
Anastasia: I teach writing workshops (online) and write books for kids.
Mary Lee: My day job is 5th grade Language Arts teacher.
Carol: I am a literacy coach at a K-8 bilingual school in urban Denver.
MsMac: Who are your poetry mentors?
Anastasia: I love, love, love poetry by Valerie Worth, Lilian Moore, Margaret Wise Brown and Eve Merriam.
Mary Lee: My poetry mentors are Robert Frost and Kay Ryan; J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, Joyce Sidman, Jane Yolen, Heidi Mordhorst, and Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.
Carol: Not sure if they are mentors but I love (in no particular order: Kristine O’Connell George, Anna Grossnickle Hines, J. Patrick Lewis, Doug Florian, Valerie Worth, Mary Oliver, Langston Hughes, Mary Lee Hahn, Marilyn Singer, lots and lots more.
MsMac: What qualities are needed in a poetry book to make the finalist list?
Anastasia: As for the finalists, I’ll be wearing my writing teacher hat and look at the 6 traits of writing. I teach the 6 traits to my writers this way:
1. Ideas, organization, and voice are the big picture traits.
2. Word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions are the small details traits.
For the big picture, I want to see a book where all of the poems fit together in a logical way – they all need to be there for a reason, and the collection needs have a spine that carries the poems from beginning to end. The voice needs to be clear and poignant.
For the small details in a poem, it’s all about word choice and rhythm. How the words sound when they are read aloud, how the lines sound, where the line breaks are…all of that influences how the poem is experienced. Conventions, the spelling and punctuation, are important too, though I will say that I often write like e.e. cummings and use as few conventions as possible!
Mary Lee: To make the finalist list, the poetry should be accessible to the audience — KIDS! — and, of course, it should be well-written. To be a finalist, there should be some quality that sets the poems apart from others — innovation, creativity, etc.
Carol: Another hard question. Last year the finalists varied widely. REQUIEM, that eventually won, was historical fiction, dark and haunting and serious. It was definitely more appropriate for older kids, not a book for much below fifth grade. Several others that made the finals, or were personal favorites, combined science or nonfiction in unique and unusual ways, e.g. I loved, loved, loved COUSINS OF CLOUDS a book of poems and facts about elephants. I want the poems to have strong language and be poems that kids will enjoy.
MsMac: What is your favorite chocolate?
Anastasia: I have a daily dose of dark chocolate. (I had given it up for a while but when I started enjoying it again, my blood pressure numbers went back down! Who knew?)
Mary Lee: I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate — I’m very sensitive to caffeine, so I have to time my doses carefully so I can sleep the night through. I love sweet and salty together, so my favorite chocolate is with peanuts or peanut butter.
Carol: Nothing fancy! M and M’s? Three Musketeers? I love pretty much any milk chocolate, I don’t like dark chocolate.
Thank you Anastasia, Mary Lee, and Carol for your answers and dedication in being a poetry panelist.