Karen at Karen Edmisten* has hosting duties today. She's featuring a fabulous poem by Ted Kooser. Today I am interviewing Charles R. Smith, author of Soccer Queens which is a terrific book like his previous Hoop Kings and Hoop Queens series.
Thanks to Anne Irza-Leggat, Candlewick Press, you have an opportunity to win one of the four books by the four authors I have interviewed this month. You have all month to comment on the interviews. At the month's end I will select four names for the four books.
JRM: Did you have an idea for this book or did it evolve as you watched all the hours of soccer play, learned the positions, and the rules?
CRS: The idea for Soccer Queens actually came from my editor since she's a big soccer fan. I had previously done Hoop Kings 1 and 2 and Hoop Queens 1 and 2 so I thought it would be a great addition to what is now a series.
JRM: In the Poem Notes, you mention being drawn to the Women’s Soccer team in 2019 as they defended their World Cup crown. What was the process you used to figure out which women to include in this book as well as the arc of the book?
CRS: In watching the 2019 World Cup I got to see the sport played at it's highest level and the atmosphere that created. Certain players stood out because of their position so they were easy to include, like Alex Morgan. But for the book, I had to make sure I had every position represented so as I looked for the top players at each position, I got to learn more about the game, which helped me to write about it. As for the arc, my editor wanted to include the '99ers since they inspired many of today's best so I wanted to give them a fitting tribute to show how they planted the seed for what the sport is today.
JRM: Were there players you researched and wrote about that didn’t make the book? CRS:At the beginning of any of these Sports Royalty projects I first focus on who will be on the "roster". Because if they make the roster, they make the book.
JRM: Would you consider another book for them?
CRS: Most certainly! Not only because the others now have a volume 2, but because by the time the book comes out, there are already new players making a name for themselves.
JRM: Would you have an early draft of a poem and then the final draft so readers can take a peek at the process?
CRS: I thought I had SOMETHING around but sadly I do not since most of it was written on paper that likely got tossed after being transferred to the computer.
JRM: I noticed you started in photography transitioning into writing. Can you share about that process, were you always a writer? As a photography hobbyist, I’m curious about how you got started in photography.
CRS: I was a writer long before I was a photographer. I got introduced to photography when I joined my high school yearbook staff in 11th grade. I signed up to be a copywriter, but since our staff was small, everyone did everything. The photographer who did our school portraits gave us a photo bootcamp and I was actually the worst one when our pictures came out! But I was also the only one who was really looking through the viewfinder. I got up in a tree and shot down. I laid on my belly and shot up. I was the only one doing that because I really enjoyed pointing a frame around how I saw the world. The fact that my photos weren't exposed properly only added to my excitement to learn and get better at. As I improved I then determined that I would move, go to photography school at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California after I graduated high school and then move to NY to eventually work as a pro. And two days after I graduated, that's what I did. I got back into writing when I was photographing the burgeoning spoken word poetry scene in NYC. I connected with the poets as their performances inspired me to start writing again. With their encouragement, I got better and continued writing. I was able to merge the two when a series of basketball photographs would become my first book, Rimshots, which I also wrote.
JRM: This term I have been working with future school and public librarians about bringing poetry into the library. We have been discussing the power of performing poetry. You perform many of your poems. How and why did you decide to create videos?
CRS: The type of poetry and writing I enjoy, begs to be heard out loud. Having photographed some of the best spoken word poets let me see how poetry can be brought to life. The fact is, many people don't enjoy poetry because they treat poems as museum art. They know it's something special but they don't get it or understand it. They make it bigger than it needs to be. There are poems out there for everybody so if someone doesn't "get it" or like it, they don't have to feel obligated to understand it, they can just look for something else. Many of the poems that do catch our ear, take on a life of their own when read out loud or performed and can add a whole different level of enjoyment. As for the videos, my goal is to show the power of performing poetry, and to provide some assistance on the instruction and appreciation of poetry.
JRM: What additional suggestions about performing poetry?
CRS: I always recommend to anyone reading poetry, to read it out loud. Since wordplay is a tool of the poet it can get lost when words aren't actually spoken, but just read. I also tell budding poets to read what you wrote out loud to yourself. This helps define your line breaks and helps you find a natural rhyme pattern and rhythm.
JRM: What is your next project?
CRS: My next big project I'm working on is top secret lol but I have plenty more books coming out over the next few years starting with a biography in verse on the Black bicycle racer, Major Taylor. I will also have Hoop Queens 2, Black Diamond Kings (for Negro League baseball), and World Soccer Kings all coming out over the next few years to add to the Sports Royalty series. I also have a picture book on Mae Jemison that focuses on how she fell in love with space. And somewhere in the midst of all that will be the top secret project...so I better run to get working on that.
JRM: Thank you so much for this interview, especially answering questions about performance poetry.
Listen to Charles R. Smith, Jr. read his work.
Soccer Queens Alex Morgan: "Automatic:
Soccer Queens Megan Rapinoe: "Rocket"
Shout out to the Texas Women's University students who have been gracing my blog all month. I hope you have had a chance to watch some.
All photos and poems in these blog posts are copyrighted to Jone Rush MacCulloch 2006- Present. Please do not copy, reprint or reproduce without written permission from me.
2023 Progressive Poem
April 1 Mary Lee Hahn, Another Year of Reading
April 2 Heidi Mordhorst, My Juicy Little Universe
April 3 Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 4 Buffy Silverman
April 5 Rose Cappelli, Imagine the Possibilities
April 6 Donna Smith, Mainely Write
April 7 Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche
April 8 Leigh Anne, A Day in the Life
April 9 Linda Mitchell, A Word Edgewise
April 10 Denise Krebs, Dare to Care
April 11 Emma Roller, Penguins and Poems
April 12 Dave Roller, Leap Of Dave
April 13 Irene Latham Live You Poem
April 14 Janice Scully, Salt City Verse
April 15 Jone Rush MacCulloch
April 16 Linda Baie, TeacherDance
April 17 Carol Varsalona, Beyond Literacy Link
April 18 Marcie Atkins
April 19 Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in My Orchard
April 20 Cathy Hutter, Poeturescapes
April 21 Sarah Grace Tuttle, Sarah Grace Tuttle’s Blog,
April 22 Marilyn Garcia
April 23 Catherine, Reading to the Core
April 24 Janet Fagal, hosted by Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference
April 25 Ruth, There is no Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town
April 26 Patricia J. Franz, Reverie
April 27 Theresa Gaughan, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits
April 28 Karin Fisher-Golton, Still in Awe Blog
April 29 Karen Eastlund, Karen’s Got a Blog
April 30 Michelle Kogan Illustration, Painting, and Writing