Friday, December 02, 2016

NCTE 2016

I'm sure you've read posts by many others who attended the recent NCTE conference (National Council of Teachers of English) in Atlanta. It's always a great event, but this year's conference had an amazing richness of poets present! Look at all the poets who were there! And I'm probably forgetting some other names. But, WOW, right? 
I believe you can search the program for sessions by these poets here and then look for any handouts from those amazing sessions at the NCTE GoogleDoc here. On Twitter, use #NCTE16 to see what people were tweeting at the conference.

Plus, they announced the newest recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children: 
Marilyn Nelson! 

I also attended a session presented by the committee for the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children during which they present their annual list of "Notable" poetry books. That list is published annually in School Library Journal and you can find the 2016 list here. However, this year I learned that they also generate a list of "Notable Verse Novels" and somehow I had missed that previously. Apparently, they've been making that list for a few years and it is published in the New England Reading Association (NERA) Journal, but I can't find a link for that. (Please let me know if you find the link!) I was very excited to hear they were singling out verse novels for a separate "notable" list! The 2016 list of notable verse novels includes:
  • Crowder, Melanie. 2015. Audacity. New York: Philomel.
  • Engle, Margarita. 2015. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. New York: Atheneum.
  • Hilton, Marilyn. 2015. Full Cicada Moon. New York: Dial.
  • Holt, K. A. 2015. House Arrest. San Francisco: Chronicle.
  • Jensen, Cordelia. 2015. Skyscraping. New York: Philomel.
  • Rose, Caroline Starr. 2015. Blue Birds. New York: Putnam.
  • Sonnichsen, A. L. 2015. Red Butterfly. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
Look for the article because it includes reviews, curriculum connections, and related titles.
>>> I was lucky enough to present a panel on verse novels with Jeannine Atkins, Patricia Hruby Powell, Margarita Engle, and Janet Wong. 


I spoke first about the roots of the verse novel-- some say as back as far as Homer, and certainly many credit Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology as a seminal work in this form. 
I pointed out these groundbreaking books helped shape the form and build an audience for verse novels-- and it didn't hurt to win a Newbery Medal (Karen Hesse for Out of the Dust).
And that even more recent award winners (Newbery, Newbery honor, National Book Award) were novels (or memoirs) in verse.
I reminded our audience of the many pedagogical advantages of the novel in verse form and how that serves as a motivating advantage for teen and tween readers and as a natural form for performance as readers theater. 
Then we involved volunteers from the audience in performing excerpts from each of our authors' recent works, starting with Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins. Jeannine spoke about her process in researching and capturing these women's voices and persona from the past.   
More volunteers helped bring to life an excerpt from Patricia Hruby Powell's Loving vs. Virginia-- complete with a gum-smacking sheriff reader! And Patricia spoke about how this book came to be and about her path from dancer to storyteller to author and poet. 
Another small troop performed several passages from Margarita Engle's book, Lion Island, reflecting multiple characters and inviting the whole audience to chime in on the repeated word, "power!" Margarita spoke about the true story behind her work and the power of language to speak for freedom. 
Finally, we performed "Dracula" by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand from You Just Wait with the whole audience joining in on "shushing" where the poem requires it while two volunteers read the dialogue for Carmen and her sister. 
Janet spoke about her work in writing response poems to the poetry of others and weaving those poems all together to create a mini novel in verse-- or verse novella-- in You Just Wait.

She shared her poem in response to the "Dracula" poem here:

Then she shared two other examples of poems + response poems. Here's "Black Ice" by Joseph Bruchac (who was also at the conference):
Here's Janet's poem in response to "Black Ice."
Here's "Future Hoopsters" by Avis Harley, an acrostic poem.
Here's Janet's poem in response to "Future Hoopsters"-- also an acrostic poem, but one in which each initial WORD in each line (rather than the initial letter) creates a new sentence.
Now she's working on new poems in response to other poems for a new book we have in the works. (More on that later.) Janet shared one example of a poem-in-progress with the audience. Here's the initial poem, "'Break-Fast' at Night" by Ibtisam Barakat (who was also at the conference):
 Here's a draft of Janet's response poem:
Finally, we ended with this beautiful quote from First Lady, Michelle Obama, one of my favorites for wrapping things up:
What a great panel and responsive audience! You can find our complete handouts, including a comprehensive bibliography of novels in verse at the NCTE link hereThey're already soliciting proposals for next year's NCTE conference in St. Louis. Here's the link for submitting proposals (by Jan. 5).

Now head on over to Wee Words for Wee Ones where Bridget is hosting Poetry Friday! Enjoy!


Friday, November 18, 2016

Poetry Quotes +

I am a sucker for great quotes about the power of poetry! 

In fact, I have compiled tons of them and am always looking for more. I've made a whole slideshow of quotes that I often use before a presentation because I love combining powerful quotes with evocative images. And if I were a tattoo-ing kind of gal, I think I would put one on my body! The problem is: which one? There are so many I love! The next best thing? Put them on Pinterest! So, if you like poetry quotes like I do, you'll find all of my favorites here at Pinterest. And if you have more to share with me that you don't find there, please do! Meanwhile, I'll also post a few below to whet your appetite and push you to Pinterest! Enjoy!









Meanwhile, I am also happy to report that the amazing, incredible, and awesome Lee Bennett Hopkins has been elected to the Florida Artists' Hall of Fame! So lovely to see him recognized in this way in his own home state. Janet (Wong) and I offered a special tribute to him here at the NCTE conference in Atlanta:


Now head on over to Friendly Fairy Tales for this week's Poetry Friday celebration hosted by Brenda. See you there!


Friday, November 11, 2016

November BOOK LINKS: Jeannine Atkins and STEM

Have you seen the November issue of ALA's BOOK LINKS magazine? It's always such a helpful resource for teachers, librarians, and parents and this issue has a STEM focus. I was lucky enough to do an interview with the lovely Jeannine Atkins for this issue. Jeannine's work explores many aspects of science with a particular focus on the true stories of real women of science. Her latest book published this year, FINDING WONDERS, is about THREE women in history who followed their passion for science-- even from childhood. 

And here's a list of several of her books, including her book on writing:

Atkins, Jeannine. 1999. A Name on the Quilt: A Story of Remembrance. Atheneum.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2003. Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2005. How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2012. Anne Hutchinson’s Way. CreateSpace.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2012. Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2013. Get Set! Swim! Lee & Low.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2013. Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. CreateSpace.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2015. Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott. She Writes Press.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2016. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
Atkins, Jeannine. 2017. Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis. Simon & Schuster.
Atkins, Jeannine. Borrowed Names; Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters.
Atkins, Jeannine. Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneeering Naturalists.

This month's issue of BOOK LINKS is already available online, so here's the link for my article

And in case you can't access the link, here are a few excerpts.

TALKING WITH JEANNINE ATKINS

A friend told me recently that research has found that girls decide science is not for them by second grade. (See: http://policystudies.org/when-do-girls-give-up-on-math-and-science-its-all-over-sooner-than-you-think/) New England author and poet Jeannine Atkins is determined to change those perceptions and has created multiple books that put girls and women at the heart of science exploration, technological innovation, ingenious engineering, and mathematical inquiry (STEM!). Jeannine Atkins’s recent novel in verse, Finding Wonders, is one fantastic example of this with its depiction of three women in history whose passion for math, astronomy, paleontology, botany, and more is evident already in their young childhoods. In addition, Atkins’ books such as How High Can We Climb?: The Story of Women Explorers, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space, Borrowed Names reveal a real passion for science, history, and biography, particularly in mining the untold stories of girls and women who ventured into these male-dominated fields long before Gloria Steinem (or even Elizabeth Cady Stanton) advocated for women’s rights and roles. Using careful research, thoughtful storytelling, lyrical language, and powerful portraits, Atkins honors real women in history whose lives and contributions deserve to be shared and celebrated with young readers of today. “What’s lost is found again.” Here she answers a handful of questions about poetry, science, feminism, biography, and the importance of fathers as models and encouragers. You may also enjoy her introspective book, Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life.

SV: Can you describe the role poetry played in your childhood? When and how did you first discover a love for science, too?

JA: I grew up in a small New England town where I could wander in the woods, bicycle down back roads, and walk to the library. There wasn’t what we’d call a lot to do. In other words, it was a sort of golden age of childhood. In the attic of our old house, I found musty primers that I used to give my dolls lessons and memorized some poems. All these years later, some lines remain with me.

Poetry, science, and play blurred together. I cracked open rocks, made lists of birds and flowers, and collaborated with my brother on experiments using old glass cigar tubes as test tubes, but no one ever suggested I become a scientist. That’s okay. I lost most of my interest in science when cloud formations and maps of the earth’s core got swapped for abstractions. Who knows if anything would have been different if I was aware of women scientists, but I want to help today’s children know more possibilities. 

SV: How would you characterize the relationship between science and poetry, between being a scientist and being a poet?

JA: Poetry hints, explores, and doesn’t pounce onto certainty. Science is like that, too. For each question solved, another rises. Both poets and scientists may look closely at the world, make mistakes, try again, and wonder.

SV: You quote Maria Mitchell as saying, “Science needs women” and you clearly celebrate the achievements of girls and women in science in your writing. Where does this feminist perspective come from?

JA: Writing was a pleasure for me as a child, but in high school, my memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott faded under reading lists with just a few poems by Emily Dickinson and stories by Eudora Welty among bulky novels written by men. Curriculums have become more diverse, but women remain underrepresented in science. I like the thrill of the hunt to find what’s partly buried. And it’s another joy to introduce young readers to women who pursued their dreams. Reading can show us we’re never alone.

SV: What do you think biographical poetry might offer that a nonfiction prose biography might not?

JA: Biographies don’t always suggest the sense of a life in context, such as the sounds of waves, the slickness of rocks, or the scent of the night sky by the salt water where discoveries were made. Some fact-heavy nonfiction can give the wrong impression that everything has been discovered. Poetry’s compression, imagery, and omissions may create a sense of mystery that reflects the way nature keeps surprising us. 

SV: You’ve authored several different books about girls and women and science—some in verse, some in prose. How do you decide which you are writing and which story must be told in verse?

JA: There’s often more blundering than choosing, or I work my way through the wrong form before finding one that’s better. I first wrote Borrowed Names as prose, but it seemed to grow more alive under my hands when I took out words. Sometimes nonfiction can seem too long. And sometimes poems may seem too short. 

I loved writing small poems about how Jean-Henri Fabre got his children involved in his study of insects and the mathematical work of Florence Nightingale for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. A poem can be a window into a life. But for Finding Wonders I wanted to spend more time with my subjects. Verse narratives can be the perfect way to use poetry’s precision along with the wondering of “What happens next? And then?” 

Writing the linked poems let me show what led to discoveries, as well as how girls devoted to science also cared about neighbors, families, religion, a friend’s choice in shoes, whether the chowder was hot, or other everyday concerns. Sure, science needs devotion, but even Marie Curie made time to bicycle with her daughters and tend a rose garden. 

SV: Why do you think fathers are so important in the lives and stories of female scientists?

JA: It’s said that every father of a girl becomes a feminist. Maybe that’s wishful, but the fathers in the families shown in Finding Wonders wanted to share their passions, needed help with their work, and didn’t discriminate between daughters and sons. Even today, fathers are more likely than mothers to have science and engineering knowledge to pass on, and men who don’t have sons seem more likely to ask daughters to help them fix the car or plumbing, ensuring that girls feel competent with making measurements and using tools. Hurray for those dads!

TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. Read Finding Wonders aloud as a class or group book selection. Select passages can even be read readers’ theater style with volunteers taking the parts of the main characters/subjects Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, as well as their dads, moms, siblings, and friends. You serve as narrator reading the rest of the lines. Talk about each of these women and what she accomplished in her life. Then work together to add visuals so students can truly picture the era in which each of these women grew up and worked (Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717); Mary Anning (1799 -1847); Maria Mitchell (1818–1889). Check out the “Finding Wonders Timeline” at the author’s website. Collaborate to create a slideshow featuring these images and reading (and recording) a poem or two about each woman from Finding Wonders. Share during an Open House or Science Fair. 

2. In Finding Wonders, Atkins makes it clear that each woman’s interest in science, math, or engineering is rooted in her childhood explorations, hobbies, and interests (e.g., painting outside, hunting and collecting, numbers and puzzles, stargazing, etc.) In many cases, each girl had several interests (in drawing or painting AND in studying nature, for example) that evolved into true scientific inquiry. Talk with students about their hobbies and interests and point out how these may offer STEM connections. Research possible career paths that might emerge from these interests using websites like SmithsonianEducation.org/Scientist/ or ScienceBuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science_careers.shtml or Discovere.org/discover-engineering/engineering-careers or CareerCornerstone.org/muscenters.htm Invite guest speakers (particularly women) who work in these fields to talk with students about their own STEM work and the roots of their interests too. 

3. What other women have been unheralded in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? Work together to research more names worthy of exploration using books like Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky or Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh or Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee and websites such as Biography.com or FamousFemaleScientists.com or AMightyGirl.com. Students can choose a women scientist subject, then take notes or jot key words describing her and her contributions and examining what is known about her childhood, in particular. They can begin with the women featured in Atkins’s works: Maria Merian, Mary Anning, Maria Mitchell, Anna Comstock, Frances Hamerstrom, Rachel Carson, Miriam Rothschild, Jane Goodall, Jeanne Baret, Florence Baker, Annie Smith Peck, Josephine Peary, Arnarulunguaq, Elizabeth Casteret, Nicole Maxwell, Sylvia Earle, Junko Tabei, Kay Cottee, Sue Hendrickson, Ann Bancroft, Katharine Wright, Blanche Stuart Scott, Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Cochran, Jerrie Cobb, Shannon Lucid, Eileen Collins, Marguerite Perey, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Curie. Then challenge students to take those details and turn them into a free verse poem or biopoem and make a class poetry book of STEM women heroes for Women’s History Month in March, National Poetry Month in April, or for sharing any time. For more examples of poems about women in science, look for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science


I'm also happy to say that I'll be presenting with Jeannine and several other poets including Margarita Engle, Patricia Hruby Powell, and Janet Wong at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English next week in Atlanta. If you're going to the conference, I hope you'll join us and if not, I'll try to post some nuggets from the conference later. 


Meanwhile, join the Poetry Friday fun over at Jama's Alphabet Soup. She always throws the very best parties! See you there!

Friday, November 04, 2016

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with Poetry

November is national Native American Heritage Month and a good time to seek out, share, and celebrate poetry by and Native American writers. In fact, check out the recent Presidential Proclamation that beautifully describes why this is such an important celebration. I'm so pleased to feature a poem by Debbie Reese in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Debbie is a fellow academic who keeps the rich and informative blog, American Indians in Children's Literature. She is Pueblo Indian, tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico and her poem, "Making Bread," describes a beautiful family and Pueblo tradition complete with Tewa words (and a helpful pronunciation guide).You'll find this beautiful poem and 155 more in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations






For more poetry by Native American writers, look for these poetry collections.

Native American Poetry For Young People

Voices from Native American or Indian tribes and traditions offer poetry in many forms. Here is a selection of these poetry books for young people.

Begay, Shonto. 1995. Navajo; Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. New York: Scholastic.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. Between Earth and Sky. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. The Circle of Thanks. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater Books.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1995. The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land. New York: Philomel.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. Four Ancestors: Stories, Songs, and Poems from Native North America. Mahwah, NJ: Bridgewater Books.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1992. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons. New York: Philomel.
Carvell, Marlene. 2005. Sweetgrass Basket. New York: Dutton. 
Castillo, Ana. 2000. My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, the Dove: An Aztec Chant. New York: Dutton.
Francis, Lee. 1999. When The Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Geis, Jacqueline. 1992. Where the Buffalo Roam. Nashville, TN: Ideals Children's Books.
Hirschfelder, A. and Singer, B. Eds. 1992. Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans. New York: Scribner’s.
Littlechild, George. 1993. This Land Is My Land. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
McLaughlin, Timothy. Ed. 2012. Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky; Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School. New York: Abrams.
Ochoa, Annette Piña, Betsy Franco, And Traci L. Gourdine. Ed. 2003. Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming; Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Slapin, Beverly, And Doris Seale. Eds. 1998. Through Indian Eyes: The Native American Experience in Books for Children. Berkeley, CA: Oyate. 
Sneve, Virginia. D. H. Ed. 1989. Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth. New York: Holiday House.
Swamp, C. J. 1995. Giving Thanks; A Native American Good Morning Message. New York: Lee & Low.
Swann, B. 1998. Touching the Distance: Native American Riddle-Poems. San Diego, CA: Browndeer Press/Harcourt Brace.

And I'm late to the party, but don't miss the rest of the Poetry Friday posts all wrangled by Laura Purdie Salas over at Writing the World for Kids



Friday, October 28, 2016

Vote for poetry!

Yep, Election Day is around the corner and it's time to VOTE! 

Did you know that Election Day is set for the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November? It can be as early as Nov. 2 or as late as Nov. 8-- which is the date this year! It's our opportunity as citizens to make our voices heard in choosing leadership at the local, state, and national levels. Whatever your political views, it's a privilege to participate in this important process. And this poem, "Voting," by Diane Mayr from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations captures this beautiful moment (in English AND Spanish).






This "Voting" postcard is also available at Pinterest here.

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem in the Celebrations book:

1. Present children with a choice between two bookmarks and challenge them to vote for their choice. Then share the title of the poem (“Voting”) and read it aloud slowly and clearly.

2. Divide the children into three groups and share the poem again. Have each group chime in on one of the key ”constituencies” mentioned in the poem (the word: town, state, or country) while you read the rest of the poem aloud. 

3. Talk about how voting is both an opportunity to express an opinion and a responsibility to shape government in our town, state, and country—once they are 18. 

4. Pair this poem with the picture book Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion, 2003) and discuss the questions the dog and cat characters raise about the voting process that the children also share. 

5. Connect with another poem about citizenship with “A Dream Come True” by Georgia Heard (September, pages 246-247), and with poems from Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong (PoetrySuitcase, 2012).

Check out my previous blog post on "Patriotic Poetry" complete with a list of 25+ poetry books on the topic here

Now join Linda over at TeacherDance for this week's Poetry Friday fun. See you there!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

ARE YOU AN ECHO? Behind the Scenes


An Interview with Are You an Echo? Author David Jacobson and Translator Sally Ito
by Janet Wong

I am half-Chinese and half-Korean, but my father’s closest friends were Japanese Americans, Nisei. I loved visiting Little Tokyo in Los Angeles when I was a child, picking boxes of mochi at Fugetsu-Do, leafing through paper at Bun-ka Do, stocking up on senbei crackers and Botan candy at Umeya, and listening to taiko drummers at festivals. When I saw Are You an Echo? (published by Chin Music Press) and its blend of images from traditional and contemporary Japan, I was transported to my childhood and immediately full of questions for author David Jacobson (DJ) and translator Sally Ito (SI).

JW: I’d like to urge readers to order Are You an Echo? in time for Japanese Culture Day, Bunka no Hi, celebrated on November 3rd. Can you tell us about that holiday?

DJ: Though originally established to honor Japan’s Emperor Meiji on his birthday, Bunka no Hi was recast after World War II to promote the arts and scholarship. Today, many schools hold culture festivals and art exhibitions and universities announce new research projects. Also on that day, the emperor announces the Order of Culture award to those who have made significant advancement in the arts or sciences. Which is why it is so appropriate that we celebrate Misuzu Kaneko at this time. 


JW: Your book has received glowing reviews, most notably from Betsy Bird in School Library Journalso I suspect that it is already on the wish lists of many librarians, teachers, parents, and poetry fans. What would you say to convince a person to order the book now, rather than continue to wait? 

SI: Well, I am of the mind that if a book appeals to you now, you should get it immediately!  

DJ: I think this book offers so much–Misuzu’s wonderful poetry, the story of her life, the rediscovery of her work after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Moreover, it’s accompanied by Toshi’s beautiful illustrations, which give an accurate depiction of bygone Japan. All this in just 64 pages, which you can read in 10 minutes.

JW: Do you have any recommendations for how a librarian or teacher should approach sharing your book with students? Are there, for instance, certain websites or multimedia resources that you would like teachers to introduce to students before (or immediately after) they read your book?

DJ: I think the book offers librarians and teachers a choice as to whether they share her life story, or just share her poetry. Any of the poems in the latter part of the book can stand alone for use on a “Poetry Friday.” For more advanced students, teachers can read the initial narrative section of the book, then ask their students how the inclusion of poetry within the narrative adds to the effect. How do the poems help you understand Misuzu? Does their inclusion in the story change how you read the poems?

SI: Chin Music has created a website for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. In addition to that, I also wrote an essay called “Forgotten Woman” which is on the Electric Literature website.


JW: I enjoyed reading your Electric Literature piece, Sally, and learning about how you discovered Misuzu’s poetry. As you noted, “her viewpoint on the world of living things was unique”; something that her poem “Big Catch” demonstrates well. “Big Catch” might be my favorite poem by Misuzu. Which poems in the book are your favorites?

DJ: One of my favorites is the last poem in the anthology, “Day and Night.” Sally suggested this, as she wanted to include one of the more philosophical and “challenging” poems. In just a few words, Kaneko poses questions that probably occur to many children:  Where does day stop and night begin? Does time have a beginning and end? Illustrator Toshi Hajiri complements the poem brilliantly by envisioning a child jumping rope, which divides night and day.




SI: “Stars and Dandelion” is one of my favorites, as well as “Are You an Echo?”  




JW: Sally: in your Translator’s Note, you mention that you and your aunt, Michiko Tsuboi, had begun translating Misuzu’s poetry even before David contacted you with the idea of collaboration. How do you think that your book might’ve been different from Are You an Echo?, if David had not been involved?

SI: Well, it wouldn’t be in a book if David hadn’t gotten involved! Michiko and I were translating Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry for ourselves to enjoy her work, sustain our relationship and for both of us, to improve our facility in English (for Michiko) and Japanese (for me). It was David who wanted to create a book about Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry and found us. I think now that Michiko and I have had our translations published in a book, we would like to publish more of our translations in the future. Ultimately, I would like to translate all 512 of Misuzu’s poems into English which have been published in Japanese by JULA publishers in their six volume anthology.  

DJ: Though this question is not meant for me, I’d like to mention that one of the reasons I sought Sally and Michiko’s help on the book was because they already knew of Misuzu, and were so enthralled by her poetry that they were translating her poems just for the love it. Turning your question on its head, I’d say the book is very different because of their input. Sally and Michiko helped me extensively with the text of the narrative (which is why they get “editorial contribution” credit on the title page). And I helped them with the translations, though my role was more that of an editor and sounding board. We spent months communicating back and forth debating the tiniest details of the translations. It sounds cliché, but it was truly a work of love, on all three of our parts.

JW: Can you share with us a small additional nugget of information about the book?

DJ: The town where Misuzu grew up was once one of four major whaling centers in Japan, though its whaling industry had already declined by Misuzu’s time. The folks in that town had a long tradition, based on their Buddhist beliefs, of praying for the souls of the whales who had given their lives for the fishermen’s livelihood. Every year then and since, they conduct a whale memorial service, to remember the souls of the dead whales and perhaps to appease their guilt. That is the service that Misuzu writes about in “Whale Memorial.” But she brings yet another level of empathy, that of the child wondering how a child whale feels after its parents have been killed.  The illustrator, Toshi, and I visited the temple where the service is still conducted, which is the one depicted in the illustration. At that temple there is a register of special Buddhist names that were given to the slaughtered whales posthumously. It is thought to be the only such registry in Japan dedicated to non-humans.

Note: Look for Are You an Echo? at Amazon and Indiebound or ask for it at your favorite local booksellers.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
Sylvia: Thank you, Janet, David, and Sally, for sharing so many fascinating details about the creation of this book and your deep love for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. It's so rare to see any bilingual poetry for young people published, much less Japanese and English poetry, so what a unique and special contribution this is in so many ways!

Now head on over to the Miss Rumphius Effect where Tricia is gathering all our Poetry Friday posts this week. 

P.S. I forgot one important detail: I have a copy of ARE YOU AN ECHO? to give away! So please comment on this post below and I'll draw a name next week for a free copy of this beautiful book. Check back to see who the winner is because then I'll need your mailing address too! Woo hoo! Thank you, Chin Music, for donating this giveaway copy!