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This is a list of my favorite series for older children and younger adults in the realm of magic, other realities, and the richly imagined. All of these books are fantastic, many are deeply poetic, and I recommend them for all ages — I can re-read them anytime, always with wonder and fascination.
The Sea of Trolls trilogy, Nancy Farmer, 2004-2009. Along with The Land of the Silver Apples and The Islands of the Blessed, this is a brilliant quest adventure of Norsemen and berserkers, slaves, gods and ogres — an exciting, exquisitely detailed world half legend and half fantasy, complete with humor and longing and even philosophy, that should be high up in the canon of children’s and young adult literature. (Note for locals: Farmer is an Arizona native who lives in the Chiricahua Mountains. She’s won plenty of awards, but still deserves to be far, far more widely read.)
The Worlds of Chrestomanci, Diana Wynne Jones, 1977-2006. A seven-book series about a multiverse peopled by a charming cast of relatable, endearing magical characters. Written by one of the world’s all-time finest fantasy writers, the British Wynne Jones, who wrote dozens of wonderful novels and short-story collections — of which I’ve devoured almost all — before she died just a couple of years ago. Wynne Jones’ books sparkle with vigor and wit.
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, 1995-2000. This excellent fantasy trilogy for young adults, beginning with The Golden Compass, is in fact, like most of the books on this list, for all ages. Gorgeous and almost infinitely memorable, it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life, I predict, once you fall in love. There’s also a movie.
The Poetry Center’s Matinee program now brings poetry readings to schools. Local poets and authors, in addition to poets who have traveled to Tucson to participate in the Poetry Center’s Reading Series, are available to read and discuss their writing with middle and high school students. More than 1000 writers have read or lectured in the series, including most major contemporary U.S. poets, significant international visitors, and emerging artists. The following poets are available for upcoming visits.
Spring 2013 semester: Rebecca Seiferle, Tucson Poet Laureate, author of four books of poetry, and translator of Cesar Vallejo. Read her work here and here.
Fall 2013 semester: Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning, winner of the Yale Younger Series Poets Prize. Read his work here.
To reserve a matinee performance by one of the poets above, contact Renee Angle at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the name of the poet you are interested in hosting, your school name and grade, and subject you teach. Interested teachers and schools are served on a first come, first serve basis. Each poet will make one visit to one school. Most poet visits are ideal for middle and high school groups. For more infomation, please visit our Matinee page.
With winter upon us, what better way to celebrate the chilly weather than with some snow poems? Check out these wonderful poems about snow, written by students at past Family Days events at the Poetry Center. Snuggle up, get some hot cocoa, and enjoy!
Snow, Snow Wonderful Snow
Snow, snow wonderful
snow. Listen to the silence,
of the wonderful snow
falling over the town,
over the icy pond, on the
mountains over the valley.
Between midnight and
daylight. Little tiny icy gems
Glitter falling from the sky.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories.
Ice Cream Dreams
This bite is about dreams
Reba Trimbolli knew from a young age that she was an ice cream girl. She lived in Tucson all her life and the many years she had suffered under the scorching heat has given her true appreciation for the cold treat. In fact, to this day, she remembers the moment she fell in love. The pavement was hot and the sunset maintained a look that was both beautiful and passive aggressive, threatening the smoldering descent of sun and expansiveness of sky. She had gotten a cone from a little shack, and the operator turned to her, said not a word, turned back and returned with what appeared to be some kind of chocolate. He explained it was a homemade creation of chocolate, three types of nuts, and the slightest hint of cherry. As she bit into the cold, she was overcome with the joy of chocolate. And that was it. Love.
Maybe it’s the cliché poet soul-disturbance, but I could hardly find a happy winter poem. One, called “Winterpig” by Denise Levertov, is the only celebratory poem of winter, or the holidays, or the cold, that I discovered. Most are ominous, like John Haines’ immensely deep voice, making the cold months of December and January feel daunting -- not like the Tucson 70 degree days we seem to enjoy in Southern Arizona.
In spirit of the gratefulness and compassion we share in the holidays, I will now share with you poems that have nothing to do with those emotions. Most of these works are extremely short, making me think that perhaps all these poets just want winter to be over -- I can’t blame them, it’s difficult to write with chilled fingers..
I guess I need a little help this month, what are some fun winter poems you have found on Voca?
Most of his poems from Winter News do, indeed, deal with winter. The wild, cold, natural winter. Cozy up to a real wood fire, a quilt, and indulge your ears in this disturbingly low, smooth, voice.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, what better way to celebrate than with an ode to our favorite, ill-fated feathered friend? (That is, unless you’re a fan of Tofurkey). Sit back, relax, and enjoy “Ode to Turkey,” written by the 7-10-year-old class at Family Days this past Saturday, under the “turkelage” of their instructor, Kimi Eisele.
Ode to Turkey
Steaming to the top of the oven
it heats, waiting
Some sit at the table
Some peer in the oven
Some fix the salad or
mush the mashed potatoes
Some slice bread
Some butter the sweet potatoes
Meanwhile the smell of the turkey
flows and flies through the house.
Even dad watching football wiggles his nose.
The dogs salivate.
This week, in continuation with our series, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of G.C. Waldrep. Waldrep will read at the Poetry Center this Thursday, November 15th at 7:00 p.m. Waldrep’s reading will be best suited for high school students, but his poetry also appeals to a K-5 audience. Please print and read Waldrep’s poem, “Apocatastasis,” with your students, and then follow the writing prompts below. Hope to see you at the Reading!
1. What does the word “apocatastasis” even mean? Before you look the word up in the dictionary or online, write up your own creative definition for this word.
2. In this poem, Waldrep uses many nature images. Using the following images from his poem, write your own poem: spring, stone, sycamore, smoke, sky, and stem.
When I was young and falling in love with poetry, most of the poems I read were written by dead poets, but even if they lived long ago and far away, I wondered about their lives. Where did they live? What were their childhoods like? Did they have other jobs? Why did they write poetry? And so began my research. Discovering more about the lives of the poets increased my interest in and love of poetry.
Although poets don’t trend high in the celebrities we follow these days, we can find biographical notes in collections of their poetry and the occasional full-book biography. I’m encouraged that more books about poets are being published for childrens and teens, who can read about poets in picture book, middle grade, or YA biographies, and can find fictional works, too, in which the poets appear. Here are a few selected titles that provide insights into the lives and personalities of poets whose works deserve to be read and pondered. (All of the poets are dead except one.) Included, too, are collections of the poet’s work in editions targeting children or teens.
Our very own Family Days veteran, Danielle Wing, was recently featured on Arizona Public Media's "Arizona Spotlight" with Mark McLemore, reciting some Halloween poems from Family Days! Check out this link for more!
And since today is Halloween, we thought it'd be fitting to share with you some of our favorite Halloween poems on Wordplay. Each of these poems was written at our last Family Days on Saturday, October 13th. Enjoy, all ye ghouls and goblins!
Go Inside a Bat
Fuzzy felt and a flute
Tap music and a cold black
Night and an old oak tree
And Mars as bright
As the sun and a
Black light and a
Jet plane and a high
Pitch sound like a
Scream and a King
of hearts and a
Dust cloud and a key
hole and blue bells
Lightning was the bat's name
Died from a bug bite
This week, in continuation with our series, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of Carl Phillips. Phillips will read at the Poetry Center this Thursday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. Phillips's reading will be best suited for high school students, but his poetry also appeals to a K-5 audience. Please print and read Phillip's poem, Civilization, with your students, and then follow the writing prompts below. Also, to encourage your students to answer the writing prompts, we've included this Extra Credit Worksheet, which you can download, print, and hand-out to your students. Finally, as extension activites, feel free to check out this great reading and interview with Carl Phillips on PBS Newshour's Art Beat. Also, local poet and teacher, Christopher Nelson, shares his insights about teaching the Poetry Center's Reading Series in the Classroom in this great interview on Wordplay. Hope to see you all at the reading on Thursday!
1. In "Civilization," Phillips often inserts italicized snippets of dialogue into the poem. In a journal or on a piece of paper, record dialogue that you hear throughout the day. Then, write a poem, inserting bits of the dialogue that you heard in italics.