Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kerlan Awards and a Poem in Your Pocket

Kate and I made it to the Kerlan Award ceremony again this year and, again, it was such a wonderful afternoon.  The catered lunch was salmon with couscous, fresh fruit, a delicious green salad and,...I can't even remember everything that was available on the long banquet tables but I do remember the apple tarts and pecan pie served with hot creamed coffee for dessert - yummmm!

Oh, yes, and then the award.  The 2015 Kerlan Award was given to Sharon Creech.  I knew of Sharon Creech.  I know of her titles.  But I had never read her books.  Honestly, I didn't really think I would like them.  But I am always interested in hearing authors speak about their craft, their process, their story.  Paris Kelvakis, a Kerlan Friends Board member, gave a speech introducing Sharon Creech.  His speech was so well written, concise, relevant and inspirational, it made me want to take the next few days off and read everything Creech has ever written.  Because, after that speech, I was convinced I would like her writing.   Even Ms. Creech's first words, when she reached the podium, were, "Wow, I'd like to meet this Sharon Creech person!"  Kelvakis remembered a passage from Walk Two Moons when Ben says he can read palms.  So Sal gives him her hand and he holds it for awhile, studying the lines and markings.  Then Ben says he has good news and bad news; bad news first is that he can't actually read palms.  The good news, though, is that he just got to hold Sal's hand for five minutes.  Kelakis said that reading Creech is sometimes like that palm reading.  You go along reading and you might be halfway through before you realize that the author is holding your hand.  (Kelvakis said it much better but I'm remembering as best I can!)

Then Sharon Creech gave her speech and told her story.  She said when she got the call from her agent telling her that Walk Two Moons had won the 1995 Newberry Award (the Newberry!), she asked her agent, "is that a big deal?  I mean, how many are given out?"  One!  Only one is given out each year.  Creech was interesting to listen to - so different from other children's authors I've heard.  And she had such great side stories and antidotes.

So, I came home, pulled Walk Two Moons off our bookshelf (yes, we even have a copy and I still had never read it) and read it straight through.  That this is a children's book is amazing.  This is how children's books should be.  C.S. Lewis once said (or wrote?):

A children's story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children's story.

I am moving on to Sharon Creech's book, Love that Dog, which is written entirely in verse.  It is a book commonly used in schools during their poetry unit and almost universally changes the minds of kids convinced that they hate poetry.  They love this book.  During the Q&A, a guest asked Creech about the inspiration for this book.  Above her writing desk, Creech said, she has all kinds of little post-its and notes tacked to a bulletin board.  One of the little slips of paper has Walter Dean Myers' poem Love that Boy on it.  And as she sat staring into space one day, half reading the little notes, half letting the words play in her head, she thought about that boy and how that boy probably loved something or someone that much also; something or someone like...a dog, maybe.  That is the inspiration story she told.  Heartbeat, another book written in prose, is next on my list.

April is National Poetry month.  And today, April 30th, is National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  At Kate's High School, there's a contest today.  If a student reads/recites a poem to any teacher, the student's name will be entered in a drawing for gifts cards from local food shops.  Cool.  What poem would you put in your pocket today, to carry around with you all day?  I've racked my brain trying to decide which one I would pick and finally settled on Emily Bronte's The Night is Darkening.  Not because it is inspirational or that it fits my mood today or any other totally valid possible reasons but only because I love Emily Bronte, this poem just sounds so like her and...I thoroughly enjoy reading it.  Every time.  The words.  The rhythm.  The imagery.  The mood.

The Night is Darkening

The night is darkening round me
The wild winds coldly blow
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot cannot go

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go

Clouds beyond clouds above me
Wastes beyond wastes below
But nothing drear can move me
I will not cannot go

I'll come when thou art saddest
Laid alone in a darkened room
When the mad day's mirth has vanished
And the smile of joy is banished
From evening's chilly gloom

-Emily Bronte

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