HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAYS TO…

…THE ENIGMA GAME, and to Elizabeth Wein, whose book shares the excellent timing of having a book emerge on Election Day. THE ENIGMA GAME is a WWII mystery featuring a Jamaican-Scots girl, and it’s for older readers, and is All Good Things. Go, read it!

And, of course, Happy Book Birthday to SERENA SAYS!

Reviews so far talk a lot about this as a very happy book – which, with this year as it has gone, is a hopeful, helpful thing. I hope Serena’s very ordinary frustrations and celebrations remind older readers and younger readers alike of how very much the same we all are – no matter what makes up the bits that make us who we are. Here’s to having that to celebrate today, if nothing else.

{pf: the poetry peeps nab a naani}

HAPPY OCTOBER’S END!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s the time of vivid skies and shaded leaves and the sharpest fading of the light, leading to long-blooming mornings and gray blue twilight that snuffs out sharply into deepest dark. It’s the time of low fogs and high winds and swirling leaves caught up and crunching underfoot… and being tracked into the house… starting off the cycle of more vacuuming and dusting and sweeping and giant spiders from who knows where just SHOWING UP and taking over your house, and also, who invited all the earwigs this year!?!?

Ahem.Irvington 709

Right. Wonderful. We were focusing on WONDERFUL.

No matter the pumpkin spiced nonsense that comes with, Autumn is A Good Time, and it seems we Poetry Peeps decided, in our infinite 2019 wisdom, that October was going to be a good time to explore a new type of poetry – new to me, at least. The name naani is a word in a Dravidian language of the ethno-linguistic Indian people of Telugu, who live predominantly in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh. Naani sounds playful and brief, and I like the idea of a poem whose name is defined as, and which addresses “of one and all.” That means our random meanderings are welcome here – as long as we keep them from 20 to 25 syllables. This is an accessible form for most of my Poetry Peeps – check out what Liz did with it. Laura‘s is here. Tricia‘s is here, Michelle’s naani is here, and Sara’s is here, and here’s Elle’s Poetry Peeps debut. Stay tuned for more links here as other Poetry Peeps check in.

Unlike the haiku form, this poetry isn’t going to be necessarily nature-inspired, but it’s more a poetry form for what catch-all topics cross the mind – housekeeping. Earwigs. Moods. In my case this month it’s …mail. Specifically, junk mail. Political mail. I’m quite ready to be done with it.

mailbox

pen pal’s promise

(longer letter later) keeps me

through ads, bills & junk

hope holds on

circular

each clamors

slick-bright pages loud

with entreaty: see me! believe me!

unheeding, I file.

Irvington 724

(Yes, that title and last line work together to create a pun on “circular file.” You’re welcome.)

In this neighborhood we have teensy tiny porch mailboxes, the flat kind with the little lid, which means there’s limited space in there for nonsense, and each day this week the box has been simply crammed. Between the door-to-door candidates who just slip something under the door mat, and the newspaper inserts and the mail, there’s so much paper trash, all of it yammering at me for my attention and my vote. 100% of it goes into the recycle bin, 99% of it without even meeting my eyes. Surely there’s a better use of politicians’ time? I know there’s certainly a better use of MINE – not to mention our poor mail carrier’s!

But, we’re nearly there, my friends. In just days the time changes, the election will finally be over, and we’ll be free to actually enjoy these blustery autumn days – light our candles instead of just leaving them to look pretty on the hearth, drink our tea, instead of just getting it as gifts, to take the moment we’re in and fully inhabit it for joy, before the next round of minor irritations and major worries gather to bracket our days. Breathe. Be.

Even more poetry today is brought to you by Linda at Teacher Dance, who is helpfully hosting our Poetry Friday with memories of Halloween past.

Irvington 728
This kind of mail I can get behind.

{we did it! don’t miss the announcement of the 2021 Neustadt NSK Laureate!}


Laurel Snyder ♦ Cynthia Leitich Smith ♦ Mitali Perkins ♦ Laurie Halse Anderson ♦ Jason Reynolds ♦ Alex Wheatle ♦ Meg Medina ♦ Eric Gansworth ♦ Linda Sue Park

The discussions were tough – passionate, emotional, and meaningful. There wasn’t a way we could have made a bad choice — and you’ll find out tonight where we ended up. I was gratified and moved to serve with such brilliant writers – and I’m thrilled with our recipient. Tune in to the Neustadt Lit Fest for closing ceremonies to hear the announcement, or check it out on LitHub. Make sure you pick up a book from any of these brilliant authors – especially those who may be new to you.

Now, excuse me while I lie down.

{a running list of events}

Welcome to my running Author PSA to remind myself what’s going on this month, and drag you along for the ride:


FYI: the naani poetry form was created by Indian poet and retired professor Dr. N Gopi. Naani is a short form, like haiku or senryu, with a set line- and syllable-count: 4-lines with 20 syllables total. Unlike haiku, naani poems are typically written about people, or on the human condition.

{pf: poetry peeps ponder… the hippo}

Oh, September.

So much has weighed so heavily this month that the word ‘ponderous,’ which was intended as a sort of light-hearted take on feeling dragged low by the end of summertime has a much, much greater weight to it now.

There’s much, as always, for which to be grateful – for today, the air is clear, the fires are closer to reaching containment, there’s been minimal damage from any earthquakes, and while we’ve lost our Justice, a new one hasn’t been forced upon us just yet. Just for a moment, let’s take a hard turn away from the ponderous news cycle and our very literal feelings of heaviness, and concentrate on something happier… like hippos.

Of the Poetry Peeps, Laura’s usually the animal poem person, but I have had a soft heart toward hippos since seeing Disney’s Fantasia as a kid. I always cheer on the underdog, and Hyacinth Hippo was …meant to be comedic, in her ungainly grace, with her less than sylph-like size – but just like the ostriches who began the dance, she was also earnestly, beautifully dancing her best.

When Fiona, the hippo born six weeks prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, became a YouTube star, I think everyone’s love of hippos skyrocketed. Fiona is adorably full of personality, and her fans find hippos just the sweetest, hugest, splooshiest… water cows, ever. (The Afrikaans word for hippo is seekoei, which literally means sea cow… which makes sense, if their closest relative is the whale.) And, finally, I have to love hippos because I was leaping around, pretend ballet-dancing after school when I was about ten, and got called a hippo, because …Middle School.

Y’know, not everyone is a graceful seahorse. We sea cows may as well own it.

Für Fiona

Never cutting through the river
like an arrow, swift and clean –
Never poised and leaping lightly,
Not a sylph-like figurine.
Comical with weighty wallow,
In a pod they’re called a …BLOAT!
River horse, cow of the water
Amphibious anecdote.

Always barrel-shaped and ponderous
but their bite can snap canoes.
Always outclassed as a runner –
(Those jaws need no running shoes.)
Munching eighty pounds of grasses,
They cause crocs to think again
Confidence their superpower,
Hail the whale’s more deadly kin.

(I couldn’t decide if the last lines should be, They make crocodiles think twice/Though they’re graceful in the water/Mess with them, and pay the price, but I like both conclusions equally: the hippo is the deadliest land-animal in Africa, and we should be so lucky to be called a hippo.)


Want to see what our other Poetry Peeps have done this week? Liz was relieved to write about hippos instead of, say, the presidency. Tricia’s pondering hippos, while Laura’s are stepping high. Ponder Sara’s wordplay here. Check out Carol’s seaside poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee is exploring ponderous thoughts here. Stay tuned as other poets check in with their hippo-ponderous poetry throughout the day.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Jone McCulloch’s blog, where we’re invited to be both brave and mathematical. Thanks, Jone!


The finalists for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature are:

・Laurie Halse Anderson
・Eric Gansworth
・Meg Medina
・Linda Sue Park
・Mitali Perkins
・Jason Reynolds
・Cynthia Leitich Smith
・Laurel Snyder
・Alex Wheatle

The 2021 prizewinner will be announced on Oct. 20, the second night of the 2020 Neustadt Festival, which runs Oct. 19–21. Though traditionally, this Festival is held on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, this year, you’re invited to join us online! Hope to see you there!