NPR Poetry Month: Andrea Davis Pinkney
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now for some poetry. As we celebrate NPR Poetry Month, we've noticed that our Twitter hashtag - #nprpoetry - has attracted some young poets. And we know that teachers around the country sometimes use our Twitter callout to get their students writing. So with that in mind, for our guest poetry curator this week, we called Andrea Davis Pinkney. She is an award-winning children's book author and a poet herself, and she is with us now from our bureau in New York to tell us what tweet-length poems caught her eye this week. Andrea Davis Pinkney, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us once again.
ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY: Thank you, Michel. Thank you. Nice to be here.
MARTIN: OK. So start us off.
PINKNEY: Well, this came from Jaguar Reader (ph), also known as Jefferson Elementary. This was a first-grader.
(Reading) Spring is like a pencil getting sharpened on the tip because it keeps on growing and growing - flowers.
MARTIN: That's sweet. I love it.
PINKNEY: Pretty nice for a first-grader.
MARTIN: All right. OK. How about another one?
PINKNEY: Well, here we can see teachers really getting embraced by poetry and embracing it themselves. This is from @ReadLit247 247.
She says, (reading) I ask them to climb mountains, to slay dragons, to spread their wings, to soar above the clouds. They ask me, is this on the test?
PINKNEY: So she's right in there with them.
MARTIN: You know, that actually leads me to something I wanted to ask you about. You know, when kids are little, a lot of us read or recite, you know, Mother Goose rhymes. But when they get older, it seems like that falls away some. So do you have any thoughts about keeping kids interested in poetry even after they've, you know, outgrown the rhymes that we can all probably still recite by heart?
PINKNEY: Michel, poetry is like a hug on paper. So you're exactly right. We get it from the very earliest days, and it can fall off as kids get older. But I think the beauty of poetry is that, a lot of times, it is read aloud. And so the beauty of reading aloud, I think, is a great tool for keeping young readers engaged.
MARTIN: Now, you've written books for kids that profile African-American historical and cultural figures like Sojourner Truth and Benjamin Banneker and Alvin Ailey, but you also write poems. You write verse. For example, I remember the last time we talked, we talked about "A Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats, which features a little African-American boy, and you wrote a book about it, "A Poem For Peter." So how do you decide when you're going to do poetry and when you're going to write a book? Is it something that just strikes you? Does - you know, how do you decide?
PINKNEY: Well, in the case of a book like "A Poem For Peter," I was thinking about, what would lend itself to musicality? And in that case, it was, you know, that young Peter, that boy in the snow. I have a new book called "Martin Rising: Requiem For A King," and that chronicles through a series of docupoems the last days of Martin Luther King's life leading up to his assassination. So I thought that poetry would be a great way to invite readers into that experience and to insulate them from some of the sad things that happened and then also invite them into the transcendence that happens after King's assassination.
MARTIN: Do you have any advice before we let you go for inviting young people to continue to work in poetry? Do you have any thoughts about how we can continue to invite our young people to try to experiment or just put some words on paper?
PINKNEY: Absolutely. I mean, the beauty of poetry is that you can do it with a friend. You know, sometimes poetry has a reputation of being quiet and contemplative, but it can be loud and interactive. And you can enjoy it with a buddy. And so I encourage kids, as they get older, to find a friend, make some poems and share them.
MARTIN: So do you have one more to share with us?
PINKNEY: Yes, I do. So this is a poem from a teenager, and it's from Samaya (ph).
Samaya says, (reading) he sits in silence, ear buds in, isolated from the world, staring off into space. I wonder, what is he thinking?
MARTIN: (Laughter) She must be spying on my house.
PINKNEY: And mine.
MARTIN: That's children's author and poet Andrea Davis Pinkney. Her latest book, as she just told us, is "Martin Rising." It's out now. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
PINKNEY: Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: And April is still with us, so if you've been thinking hard all month, working on drafts, finalizing that last perfect line in a Limerick, now is the time to tweet it out. Use the hashtag #nprpoetry, and while you're there, check out the other listener poems we've been getting all month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.