Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for hosting the Poetry Friday Community this week. Her post is up and includes the Inklings challege for November: “Write a poem that includes the idea of percentage or percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way.” Thanks, Linda Mitchell for the idea. #inklings
Do you like challenges?
The Poetry Sisters have an invitation:
You’re invited to join our challenge for the month of November! We’re writing an Ode to Autumn. An ode is a lyrical poem, a way of marking an occasion with a song. Whether you choose an irregular ode with no set pattern or rhyme, or the ten-line, three-to-five stanza famed by Homer himself, we hope you’ll join us in singing in the season of leaf-fall and pie, and sharing on November 26th in a blog post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
I've been reading GOOD LUCK GOLD and MORE by Janet Wong. This is her re-issue and expanded collection of poems from her DEBUT book in 1994. I have the original book signed by her.
I highly recommend this book be in every elementary and middle school for sure. These poems are timeless. I remember reading them twenty-seven years ago and being astonished by the treatment given to the author and now reading them they still give me pause at how some humans treat others. The “story behind the story” or “story after the story” additions are powerful and provide such a good bridge to talk to students about racism.
In preparing for this blog post and next week's post, she and I put together that I attended a joint library conference for Oregon and Washington in the late 1990's. At the time, Janet used a chop with the ancient Chinese pictogram for good luck (not the contemporary Chinese character). Janet would encourage people to make their own pictogram showing what their personal vision of good luck (or a lucky day) would be. Mine lucky day would be reading all day (sun + moon + head + book). She drew two versions of a book, traditional and simplified. I must have also said that being able to nap outside was another lucky day. (sun + moon + head and body in bed).
JRM:What were your favorite books as a child? How aware were you that books about Asian characters weren’t available? (I’m thinking how there are students I know that would love to read this book and see themselves in it. I remember getting it for the library when it first came out)
JW: I was totally oblivious to the lack of Asian faces in the books I read—but part of that was likely because, as a very young child, most of my favorite books featured animals. The Story of Bubbles the Whale was my tip-top favorite; I had fallen in love with the pilot whale Bubbles on trips to Marineland. When we talk about diversity and inclusion and children being able to “see themselves” in a book, I worry that we sometimes think too restrictively. If anyone had pressed me to talk about it, I would’ve identified as much as a “Bubbles fan” as I did as an Asian American. That being said, if there had been a book featuring Bubbles AND a short, plump Asian American girl who loved watching TV and eating shrimp chips, that would’ve been PERFECT.
JRM: Wow, I remember Marineland and I was a tiny bit sad to learn it no longer exists recently.
GOOD LUCK GOLD was your debut book for kids in 1994. What was it like to take a class from Myra Cohn Livingston?
JW: Myra Cohn Livingston mentored a whole generation of children’s poets in her Master Class in Poetry. This was a UCLA Extension class that was offered only to those Beginning Class alums who were invited by Myra; there was seldom an opening. As a result, Myra’s Beginning Class was full of students who had taken it five or more times and were not beginners at all: Monica Gunning, Kristine O’Connell George, Joan Bransfield Graham, and more.
Some people who took Myra’s classes were published picture book writers who wanted to know more about poetic techniques: Alice Schertle, April Halprin Wayland, Ruth Bornstein, and Tony Johnston, for example. Earlier this year I was invited by Julie Hedlund to speak with the 12x12 group, and I felt like I was channeling Myra with my emphasis on assonance, consonance, and internal rhyme.
Myra died in 1996, but you can still learn from her book Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry (now out of print, but you can find it at a library).
JRM: How long did it take to write the forty-two “story behind the story” or “story after the story”? Did you go back through old journals and notes to write the new additions?
JW: It took about six months. It was a difficult project because several of the poems are about unpleasant topics such as racism and bullying. It was really important that the prose pieces and writing prompts were engaging enough to draw the reader in. I hope this book helps families and teachers and librarians to get kids talking about important issues—and working toward change.
JRM: What surprised you when you were writing the additional content?
JW: I was surprised by how vividly I remembered details from some things that happened when I was in my 20s. I still remember the “ching chong Chinaman” taunting from when I was in law school as clearly as if it happened last week. And yet I had blocked out my childhood memories of those similar incidents.
JW: Sylvia Vardell and I plan to continue with our Anthologies 101 and 201 courses next year, working on books similar to the THINGS WE DO book of ekphrastic poems with your fun poem "ZOOM,” Jone. People can learn more about these workshops at our website here. [link: https://pomelobooks.com/anthologies-101] Next up for the January/February 2022 Anthologies 201 group is THINGS WE EAT, a topic near and dear to my heart (and stomach). One of the photos that Sylvia and I have selected features a Korean restaurant scene and the word "kimchi." I am super excited for that book—you could even say I’m hungry for it!
JRM: Ooh, I love this idea. Food is such a great topic to write about. I did that as a topic for National Poetry Month in 2020.
Next week, I will have the second half of Janet Wong's interview. I'll be sharing about why 100% of the proceeds of the book will going to #StopAsianHate and bystander training.
BONUS: Janet is offering six books for prizes. Three this week and three next week. Comment on this blog post. Win a copy of GOOD LUCK GOLD and MORE. Janet will generously send one to the winners. Good Luck!
11/4/2021 07:36:36 pm
Thanks so much for this post, Jone! I loved your questions and it was neat to be reminded of the way I signed the book with the chop (carved with the ancient pictographic symbol for good luck). There will be THREE book winners this week and THREE winners drawn from comments to next week's post. GOOD LUCK, everyone!!!
11/15/2021 05:45:31 pm
Thank you, Janet. I enjoyed it as well.
11/5/2021 06:53:05 am
Dear Jone, thanks for this special interview with Janet, more background, sad to hear of the taunting. I loved your 'Zoom, zoom' poem of a few weeks ago and now Janet's 'Noise'. I have a 'now grown' Korean niece and I know about this, wishing that I didn't! Looking forward to more next week!
11/9/2021 03:53:40 pm
Linda: Please take a look at the "Korean Poems" section of A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED & MORE! (As with this book, the "& MORE" version is essential.) I think you'll find a lot of things to talk to your niece about there!!
11/15/2021 05:46:29 pm
I agree with Janet. Her book, A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED & MORE! is a treat.
11/5/2021 07:33:58 am
This is such an important book. I bought three copies -- one for my former teaching team, one for the school library where I volunteer, and one for me. Janet is such a force for good in the world, and this book takes that to a whole new level with her honest writing about racism, and her probing questions for more consideration.
11/9/2021 03:58:05 pm
THREE copies! Mary, you are a TRIPLE force for good!!! I do think that this book can take a discussion about racism to another level. Even just talking about the topic is a step forward, right?
11/15/2021 05:47:14 pm
It is a very important book for sure.
11/5/2021 02:26:43 pm
I had no idea Janet's first book had been out so long ago! What a neat background to her beginning with poetry. I look forward to the rest of the interview, and finding the book for myself.
11/9/2021 03:59:22 pm
How funny, Tanita—yes, the first book came out a LONG time ago! (about 200 gray hairs' worth of time!!!)
11/15/2021 05:47:51 pm
Isn't it, Tanita.
11/6/2021 03:45:27 am
Thank you, Jone AND Janet for this lovely interview. I now have TWO copies of this wonderful book thanks to Janet's tip to look for it at AASL. So, I will boost this book giveway. And, wow...to be in a master class of the type that Janet describes. What an amazing opportunity and experience that must have been. I love how Janet (and Sylvia) make poetry sound so possible...so....of course. A little bit of Janet in a tweet or post or video or zoom call gives me positive energy to go write. Thank you for that too!
11/9/2021 04:06:40 pm
Linda, I am flattered that you're able to take my tidbits and turn them into inspiration to write—especially because I know how incredibly BUSY you are! We loved having you in our Anthologies 101 "Pumpkin Cohort" and we hope to see you in Anthologies 201 sometime in the future, whenever things slow down for you. Maybe you'll have time this summer? Check here (https://pomelobooks.com/anthologies-101; scroll down to the 201 section) when you find yourself with time to breathe!!!
11/15/2021 05:49:55 pm
I can appreciate the feeling of no time, Linda. Teaching and writing and creating is a challenge for sure.
11/6/2021 05:37:29 am
This is such an important book. I'm delighted to say that it features prominently in the upcoming Nov. 21 article I helped to write for Language Arts Journal with members of the NCTE Poetry Award Committee about Janet's selection. GOOD LUCK GOLD deftly hits that spot between harsh reality and hopeful humanism that kids need to help all of us move forward. Thanks for this interview, Jone!
11/9/2021 04:58:41 pm
LOVE this line: "deftly hits that spot between harsh reality and hopeful humanism that kids need." YES, Heidi! (And looking forward to seeing the article in Language Arts!!!)
11/15/2021 05:50:54 pm
Doesn't this book address challenging issue so well. thanks for stopping by.
11/9/2021 05:06:43 pm
Thank you, Ruth! Re the interview: Jone and I have known each other for a long time, and I think it shows, right?
11/6/2021 09:42:10 pm
Hi again, Jone. It was great to see you today at our last Anthology 201 class. ZOOM is pre-K gold! What a lovely post and interview with Janet Wong. The excerpt from Good Luck Gold & More is compelling. Thank you for posting and for boosting this book with a giveaway!
11/9/2021 05:09:52 pm
Yes, you're right, Marty: Jone's poem "ZOOM" in THINGS WE DO is definitely pre-K gold. AND your poem "SIGN" is, too! I also really appreciate the way you wanted to make sure that Sylvia and I were informed about sign language and respectful of the deaf community. Thank you for being part of the THINGS WE DO project!
11/15/2021 05:54:48 pm
Thank you. It was really fun sharing with students this past week.
11/7/2021 02:41:46 am
Oh. This is a delightful interview - because even though it covers tough topics, Janet, your lovely personality bubbles through. Your account of you/your mum's interaction about the childhood taunts struck me. One of my books is inspired by things that happened to my son, many years ago, and he was flicking through it recently, and commented, 'Wow, Mum. You make that sound traumatic.' I was gobsmacked - because what he expressed in real life was worse that anything I'd worked into the book. But he truly didn't remember.
11/9/2021 05:17:15 pm
Isn't it interesting, Kat, how people (especially children) can take a traumatic experience and "get rid of it" by talking about it with someone they trust? Thankfully you were there for your son. For kids who don't have that kind of family support, hopefully GLG & MORE will help them make sense of these experiences.
11/15/2021 05:57:26 pm
I loved reading the connection you made with Janet's story about her mom and how something that happened to your son inspired a book.
11/7/2021 06:35:42 am
Thanks for publishing this great interview with Janet! It makes me think of her friendliness when I first met her in the late 1990s at a conference. She’s fun and approachable and her writing just hits me where it counts!
11/9/2021 05:20:26 pm
Nita, I am so glad that we were able to attend all those fabulous conferences and do our volunteer committee work together for the Notable Books for a Global Society. We were part of the GOLDEN age of literacy events!!
11/15/2021 05:58:35 pm
Thank you for stopping by today.
11/7/2021 11:29:13 am
Hi Jone, Thanks for sharing this interview with Janet. I enjoyed learning more about Janet, especially now that I've learned so much from her in Anthology 101 and 201. I would love to get my hands on a copy of Good Luck Gold! It's nice that you and Janet have had a long standing relationship, too! Thanks, again!
11/9/2021 05:23:38 pm
Thanks for your comments, Carol. You are so right that Jone and I have had a LONGstanding relationship. But I feel that I know you very well, too, even though we've only spent time via Zoom and emails for Anthologies 101 and 201. It is my hope that deep friendships will form among the poets who took those classes!
11/15/2021 05:59:26 pm
Thank you, Carol.
Janet Clare F.
11/7/2021 02:15:40 pm
This is a fantastic interview with the incomparably wonderful Janet Wong. Thank you for helping us to learn so much more about her. The good and the sad. But she is turning this into something that will hopefully open eyes and hearts. I agree with Mary Lee and will be sharing this book with many friends and school. I, too, love your Zoom poem from Things We Do, and am so glad we were in both Anthologies classes together.
11/9/2021 05:27:27 pm
It's probably been about 9 years since I first met you at NCTE; is that right, Janet? It seems like I've known you for decades! And yet people who HAVE known me for decades (such as my best friends from college) have never called me "incomparably wonderful." I'm going to need to bookmark this blog post and read your comment for a little boost now and then! 🤗🙏
Janet Clare F.
11/15/2021 06:17:26 pm
I think it may have even been fall of 2011 at NCTE in Chicago! You and Sylvia were hosting a poetry night gathering and Alan Wolf was there. I won a door prize because I knew the Poets Laureate. It was at the Hilton in Chicago. And then you and Sylvia were presenting I think in a room at the Hilton and I ran and got you a plug that might have helped your tech needs, but I am not sure it did. I know the Poetry Out Loud winner recited there and Amy LV, Heidi Mordhorst and Elaine Magilaro were there. I was SO excited to be meeting poetry royalty I had only begun to know/know about. I LOVED it so much!!!! I felt I had found "my people" after years in the desert and it was truth. Joyce Sidman spoke at the breakfast at the Palmer. Sylvia was one of the organizers I think it was CLA and I really knew very little of what was going on, but I was so happy to be part of it! You were so warm and friendly to everyone, me included. I loved it!. ILA would have been in the spring of 2012, I think, back in Chicago but all the sessions were at the convention center. Though it does get muddled for sure and you go to way more than I do!!
11/15/2021 06:01:37 pm
Thank you, Janet. I'm glad we're sharing poems in a books and in class together. I read Wave to students and they loved it.
Janet Clare F.
11/15/2021 06:05:48 pm
Me, too, Jone and thanks for letting me know about Wave !!! Your Zoom poem is terrific and full of energy!!!
11/9/2021 05:28:59 pm
Elisabeth, did you buy the book via Amazon in Germany or Italy? Because there isn't Amazon in Switzerland, right? I'm impressed that you managed to get a copy of GLG & MORE already and am so happy that you like it!!
11/15/2021 06:02:53 pm
I was happy to have the interview with Janet.
Comments are closed.
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.
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