Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kids and Poetry

Since last week, I've been working on a chapbook for the winners of this year's annual poetry contest at the Boys & Girls Club where I work. The theme was Summer Sensations, and there were the requisite pool party, barbecue, and picnic entries, as well as various odes to the sun. Some are just lists of summer activities, with a smidge of description tossed in to satisfy the poetry requirement.

It's challenging to teach children to think like poets, not just to fill in the blanks in an existing poetic form. Their versions of free verse are often point-blank and clunky, but there are "Wow!" moments of unexpected beauty and even wisdom. An autistic child wrote, "I can feel the sun flat on my face/It's like a kiss/Just too good to waste."

That's it. A three-line poem. Ain't it great?

Another child wrote a trio of haiku, each describing a different aspect of summer.

Two young brothers who had never written poetry before dictated their poems about a favorite uncle who visits every summer--one brother won third place, and the other received an honorable mention--and another boy rhymed about his first time diving off the 10-foot board (first place).

First place in the teen group was a short free-verse embrace, a description of Mom, candles, and ice cream in a twilight backyard.

After this chapbook (which will be given to the sponsor, the judges, and to each winner at the awards ceremony on Saturday), I have grand plans for an anthology of kid literature, artwork, and photography. We have cartoonists, photographers, storytellers, poets, all in miniature and going to elementary school. I wonder who among them will grow up to produce newspapers, glossy magazine ads, absorbing fiction, National Geographic adventure articles.

It's cool to witness the future in action.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Werewolves and Stuff

So, I recently watched Blood and Chocolate, a pretty good werewolf flick based on a young adult novel by the same name. Teenage girls keep telling me I have to read the book; funny, few guys seem to even know it exists. I love to read--I'm a writer; how could I not?--but I'm not compelled, in this instance, to go get the book in order to compare it to the film.

The same goes for The 13th Warrior, any of the Harry Potter movies, or Ludlum's Bourne series. I'm probably one of the few in the world who actually likes The 13th Warrior, but would rather not read The Eaters of the Dead, on which it is based. And, because I enjoy the current films, I don't feel the push to read the Bourne books. There may be no logic in this, but I have no one to please but myself.

Although I own two sets of The Lord of the Rings books, I wasn't terribly bothered by Peter Jackson's changes to the story, and I bought the special extended editions of all three films (far superior to the theatrical releases, in my opinion). Yeah, there were a few things I wish he'd done differently, but I enjoy the trio as a whole.

However, as much as I liked the book Timeline by Michael Crichton, I was disappointed in the film version (though I do own the DVD). It was made during a relatively small gap in a larger schedule, so I can appreciate how much was accomplished in so short a time and on a modest budget. Still, I wish more of the story--as it appeared in the book--could have been presented, and with greater depth.

Anyway, back to werewolves: Blood and Chocolate got me thinking again about a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago, concerning wolves. It needs expanding, and greater depth to the characters, and better (though brief) explanation of the backstory that leads to the twist at the end. I like the characters, but I need to make the pair of villains even nastier. After all, how impressive or interesting is a hero/heroine if there's not much chance to be heroic?

Parting thought...
Vivian, Blood and Chocolate:
"What we are not is what we are taught to fear."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

After Effects

I'm a day late in posting a remembrance of September 11, 2001 (Patriot Day), because I was ill yesterday, and not able to focus on the screen, let alone fumble much with the keyboard. What I now present are my thoughts and strong opinions, in brief.

For those of you who, like me, refuse to forget what happened that day and how much we need true patriots--true heroes, true statesemen, true soldiers--as much now as we did when this country first came into being, here is an online anthology of poems, courtesy of Poems After the Attack.

Below is an excerpt from "911" by Ken Adams:

i run past the weeping, hands to wetted heads
as pillar two sinks to its death
extracting in its molt the last of morning sun

impaling forever yesterday's assurances
as i close my eyes and tumbleweed
down the sidewalks of Nagasaki
replaying newsreels shamelessly displayed

©2002, Ken Adams aka Dudley Appleton

This excerpt is from "An American Soldier" by Mary Hamrick:

I am a soldier, your sweet protector
(where old terrors mingle) creeping on until their
Sign of life,
as I carry the world piece by piece.

©2001, Mary Hamrick

I wrote pages and pages in my journal that day and for many days thereafter, my dreams seared by the sight of people falling and jumping to their deaths in order to escape death. I remember the heart-clutching helplessness of listening, watching, unable to do anything, being one person and so far away.

Since the fading of the first flush of altruism and American spirit, we've descended into political games, absurd conspiracy theories, and even outright treason (in WWII, such acts and such speech would have been tried in court; now, it's glossed over as Constitutionally protected free speech).

What seems to be reported over and over in the media are all the failures or missteps, all the goals that are so long in being achieved. What we the people rarely hear about are all the plots since then that have been foiled, all the enemies of our country who have been caught. We want special rights--AMERICAN RIGHTS--given to our enemies, to terrorists, to enemy combatants. I don't understand how we can invite them to do once more what their brothers did that day.

What their brothers did to ours.

There are times to turn the other cheek. 9/11 was not one of them.