Although April is National Poetry Month, poetry lovers relish poetry throughout the year. A lovely woman who’s a poetry lover and an extremely effective poetry advocate is my friend Sylvia Vardell. Not only does she write inventive books with ideas for sharing poetry, she proposes sessions and conferences to build an audience for poetry. Sylvia is awesome!
SV: What a thrill to be invited to participate in this creativity focus. Thank you!
Am I correct that you invented a poetry tag on-line? How do you create such imaginative projects to excite others about poetry?
SV: Yes, the idea of “Poetry Tag” was mine. I enjoy approaching learning from a “game-like” point of view because I know that children learn from play and I see no reason to stop playing just because we grow up! I try to think of new ways to approach old things and keep it fun and participatory. That’s one of the things I love about poetry, in particular, it is naturally participatory.
Do you speak more than one language and if yes, has that affected your interest in words?
SV: Yes, my parents were German immigrants and my first language was German. We learned English together. I do think this has tuned my ear to be more aware of words and how they sound—which has translated into a real delight in the aural qualities of poetry.
What sessions are you chairing this fall that connect educators to poetry?
SV: I love doing conference presentations, particularly about poetry which lends itself to ORAL presentations, it is a great way to showcase poets (who are not always invited to the party), and injects some variety into the conference docket. I have three coming up in November. First, I’m sharing poetry selections from our university “Librarians’ Choices” project of best 100 books every year. That will be alongside two of my doctoral students and will be at a local conference of early childhood educators.
Then, I’ll be at the biennial YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) symposium in Albuquerque with a wonderful panel of poets that includes Jen Bryant, Ann Burg, Margarita Engle, Betsy Franco, Pat Mora (!), and April Halprin Wayland. We’re trying something different for this audience of teen services librarians—I’ve planned a series of “interview” questions that poets will answer (like “If you were to pair your poetry with music, what music would you choose?”) and then we’ll have time for a “Poetry Improv” exercise where the poets will share poems in response to prompts (i.e., “No one “gets” me” or “My current Facebook status”). It should be fun!
Finally, I have a session at NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) in Orlando along with two fellow poetry bloggers (Tricia Stohr-Hunt and Elaine Magliaro) and 4 poets: Lee Bennett Hopkins, Pat Mora (!), Jame Richards (her FIRST time!), and Marilyn Singer. We three bloggers will be featuring the poets on our blogs for 2 weeks before the conference, inviting reader participation. Then we’ll share the results as well as other strategies for using technology to connect kids with poets and poetry. Finally, we’ll share the conference highlights on our blogs afterward, as well. It’s a new model for conference presentations that I’m excited about and extends the conference for people who can’t be there.
I do think of myself as a creative person, although oddly enough I have no aspirations to write poetry myself. I see my writing ABOUT poetry and my teaching and presentations as legitimate creative acts, too. I like making things— books, blogs– but to the outside world they may seem like practical products, rather than creative objects. Either way, I love doing it—and that’s the key, right?!