Archive for the ‘poetry friday’ Category

Several years ago, in order to illustrate Monica Brown’s Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011), Julie Paschkis immersed herself in Neruda’s poetry and took Spanish language classes.

She fell in love with Spanish, its sounds and structure. Already a lover of words, she found these new words both interesting and fascinating, so much so, that she incorporated them in her paintings to stunning effect. She had created her own brand of visual poetry inspired by Neruda’s words.

Her love affair with the language didn’t end with that book. As one thing can sometimes beautifully lead to another, Julie discovered that her unfamiliarity with Spanish freed her to write poetry. The fourteen free verse animal poems in Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (Henry Holt, 2015) were first written in Spanish, then translated by Julie into English. And as she did with the Neruda book, she added words inspired by the poems to her illustrations.

In this exquisite tapestry of three languages — Spanish, English, and Art — we are treated to Julie’s charming insights and observations of creatures inhabiting land, sea and air, inviting us to appreciate them in new and surprising ways. Did you ever wonder what a turtle might be hiding in her shell?

(click to enlarge)


The turtle hides
in her shell.
But maybe there is space,
a place
for hidden treasure.
Just for pleasure
she could put an emerald
and a ruby or two

When she walks
she listens to the rattle of the gemstones.
That is why she goes so slowly —
she doesn’t want to spill
her secrets.



La tortuga se esconde
en su caparazón.
Tal vez hay un vacío,
un espacio
para un tesoro escondido.
Sólo por gusto
la tortuga podría meter
una esmeralda y unos rubís

Cuando anda
escucha el traqueteo del tesoro.
Por eso ella anda lentamente —
para no deja caer
sus secretos.

And the snake? He writes “a slippery poem/with his body . . . He only knows one letter: ssssssssss.” There’s also a whale that dances “In a dazzle of bubbles.” Sheer delight!

The poems vary in mood from playful (a dog’s wagging tail “fans wild happiness/into the wild world”) to peaceful and evocative (“Out of the darkness/an owl hoots./An echo./The night train/is leaving”) to ethereal (“I am a fish in the sea of dreams”).

(click to enlarge)

I really love the CAT:

Fat cat
naps on a map.
When she gets up
s  h  e     s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s
from Arequipa to Zanzibar
and her belly bumps  Topolobampo.
Elastic cat.



La gata gorda
se duerme en un mapa.
Cuando se levanta
s e    e s t i r a
desde Arequipa hasta Zanzibar
y su barriga choca contra  Topolobampo.
La gata elástica.

Isn’t ‘Topolobampo’ the best word ever? Even if we didn’t know it’s a city in Mexico, we get a good sense of how the cat’s moving in that winsome alliterative line, so much fun to read aloud. Flutter and Hum truly celebrates words, languages, and instinctual creative expression. It certainly contributes to our appreciation of how and where poems might emerge, and it’s fun to imagine Julie playing with both Spanish and English and exploring some of the magical places in between.

(click to enlarge)

As someone who loves hand lettering, I fairly swooned over Julie’s gorgeous paintings. As words slither on long blades of grass, swirl in the ripples of pond water, ride atop the backs of crows (“crass/brash,” “craven/crooked,” “brujo/brusco”), float in clouds, adorn both halves of a juicy strawberry (“fresh, blush, ripe, giddy, gozo, julio, frivolo”), and stream in dark ocean waves (“nightfall, fill, flow, flung, luna, lustra, bunco, oscuro”), we hear these juicy words spark and sing, bask in their collective serenade, feel the heart quicken. Her careful choice of words, as well as how they are paired or juxtaposed, creates a new energy, another poetic revelation.

Readers will also enjoy the little touches of humor: the parrot is “cheery, cheeky, beaky,” the whale, “buoyant”/”oh boy,” and that irresistible cat,  “now/then,” “here/there.” Surprise gifts in the fine details, a veritable feast of words. Perfecto!

I know you’ll enjoy hearing more from Julie herself, and we thank her for visiting today, and for creating this treasure of a book. Perhaps the turtle should stash a copy in her shell? :)


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The Alphabet Soup Mini Library is now open.

Please help yourself to a yummy fig bar book compliments of the Teddy Town Bears. They made them especially for you to celebrate the recent release of Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015), a very cool collection of 15 poems selected by master anthologist, author, poet, editor, educator and eternal hotTEA Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Two words make me instantly happy: LOVE and LIBRARY. They’re kind of synonymous in my mind, and truly, could any of us thrive without either one?

Wahiawa Library front entrance.

The public library in my small country hometown of Wahiawa, Hawai’i, was my safe haven while growing up — a true home away from home where I discovered the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and Sydney Taylor. It was a quiet place to think, read, dream, wonder, learn and imagine – a place where I could travel new roads, discover new worlds within the pages of a favorite book, the place where it first occurred to me that anything can happen, anything is possible.

Wahiawa Library Children’s Section

The poems in Jumping Off Library Shelves joyously celebrate the singular experiences that make any library a magical place, from the breathless anticipation of first entering “the sweet kingdom of story,” to getting one’s first library card, to cozily snuggling up with a good story, to basking in the power and privilege of choosing books and being transported and transformed. Who would not thrill at the prospect of so much knowledge, so many good stories right there for the taking?


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Slip into your silks and satins, your high powdered poufs, your diamonds and tulle. Rouge your cheeks, flutter your fans. Today, a deliciously decadent slice of Marie Antoinette courtesy of Northern New York-based poet Christie Grimes.

I first tasted Christie’s sensual, sensory rich poem in the recently published food anthology, Joys of the Table: An Anthology of Culinary Verse (Richer Resources, 2015). Sweets are often considered a self-indulgent extravagance, and I like how the flavors of Christie’s images are enhanced with a subtle subtext of 18th century notes. How fine the line between berries and blood!


via Glorious Treats

via Glorious Treats

by Christie Grimes

She calls it simply Marie’s,
fills her large store front window
with red velvet cupcakes,
raspberry crescents, cherry turnovers,
loves the clash between sweet and tart
the way it cleaves her tongue in two
seems like it will linger forever
but in a moment,
just the time it takes to blink
or swallow,
it is gone.
Only the remnant
of a seed
or the soft jelly coating

People come through the door
ask for coconut crèmes,
flourless chocolate torts,
lemon meringue
but she refuses to supply them.
“Eat these cakes I have made,” she tells them
as she waves her hand at the window.
There are strawberry preserve cookies,
boysenberry crepes and cranberry blintzes.

She can’t help it.
She loves working the red fruit between her hands,
the way the juices stain her cuticle beds,
deepen the creases of her palms.

When she is baking,
she licks the spoons and spatulas
sucks on her fingertips,
savors the smooth syrup of the crushed berries,
the way they pop in her mouth
or burst under her fork,
darken the side of her bowl.
And, after they are all in the oven,
as she scoops the batter into her mouth
she always runs the edge of the spoon along her lip
indulging in the short slide of steel.

~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2015 Christie Grimes. All rights reserved.

via Bridget Davis

via Bridget Davis


via Turnips 2 Tangerines

Bumbleberry Pie via Turnips 2 Tangerines


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Today I’m doubly pleased to welcome poet and author Nancy Tupper Ling, who’s here to tell us all about her new book Double Happiness (Chronicle Books, 2015), a heartwarming story about a family moving from San Francisco to the East Coast.

Beautifully told through a series of lyrical poems in the alternating voices of Gracie and her little brother Jake, Double Happiness deftly captures the mixed emotions of leaving loved ones behind, traveling across country, and seeing one’s new home and surroundings for the first time.

It is especially hard saying goodbye to Nai Nai (Grandmother), Auntie Su and Uncle Woo. To help ease the transition, Nai Nai gives each of the children a special box, suggesting they fill it with four treasures “leading from this home to your new.” She explains that when she was young she had her own “happiness box,” which enabled her to keep special memories close.

(click to enlarge)

Jake is as much excited, adventurous, and playful as Gracie is apprehensive, reflective, and sad. The treasures they add to their boxes (panda, marble, lucky penny, leaf, snake) mark specific moments in their journey with attendant feelings and impressions.

Both Gracie’s and Jake’s voices ring true, and the poems seamlessly keep the engaging storyline moving forward. Alina Chau incorporates cultural elements (Chinese calligraphy, Jake’s mystical dragon, first dinner) in her charming soft watercolor illustrations, illuminating this gentle gem of a story that will surely resonate with young readers.

(click to enlarge)

In Chinese tradition, “double happiness” is usually associated with weddings, but Nancy’s story artfully extends the concept: two homes, two coasts, two cultures, two boxes, the old and the new, two children, a dragon and a phoenix, two halves of a perfect whole coming full circle in the blessed harmony of family.

I know you’ll enjoy learning more about how and why Nancy wrote this book. And yes, she’s sharing a favorite recipe! Enjoy!

*   *   *


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“There is such a thing as magic, and the Beatles were magic.” ~ Paul McCartney

All illustrations © 2015 Adam Gustavson (click to enlarge)

I remember February 9, 1964 like it was yesterday — the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show!

There, in my aunt’s living room, I tried to process the heart-swelling moment, the excitement, the energy, the burst-wide-open-never-be-the-same-again feeling. Just look at them! Those Edwardian suits, black pointy boots, cool haircuts! They were good looking, different, charming, revolutionary. I could barely breathe as Paul sang, “Close your eyes, and I’ll kiss you . . . ”

My uncle bought “Meet the Beatles” for me from a record store downtown. I plastered the walls of my bedroom with Beatles pics I had cut out from teen magazines. I collected Beatles bubble gum cards and read everything I could get my hands on about John, Paul, George and Ringo. I began writing faithfully to a new penpal who lived in Liverpool, dreaming of the day when I could set foot on British soil.

I still count my lucky stars that I was just the right age to experience the onset of Beatlemania. As I grew up, so did their music. None of us could have foreseen the lasting impact they’d ultimately have on music history, composition, production and pop culture. Half a century later, they’re still number one.


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