Poem and illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.
Tomorrow begins one of my personal favorite months of the year. National Poetry Month. This month has been a big part of my life for several years now, since before I even began thinking of myself as a “Poet”. I started out teaching kids about poetry and how to write it, which is so much fun. Now I’m on a different quest. I’m trying to get rid of the stigma poetry has.
Poetry is not scary.
Poetry is not boring.
Poetry is not difficult to understand (okay, some of it might be, but it isn’t necessarily hard to understand).
Reading poetry can be soothing. Listening to someone else read poetry can be very entertaining.
Writing poetry has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever attempted.
So my quest, this month and, really, always, is to convince people that poetry is accessible. It’s really a part of most of our lives, anyway. When you listen to the words of your favorite song, you’re listening to poetry. And yes, I include rap music in this. (Yes, Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature.)
This month I’m challenging myself in another way, too. I’m planning to write and illustrate a haiku every day. I may throw in some other types of poetry, too, but haiku will be my main focus. I love the form, and I need practice.
At the end of the month, I plan to publish UnSong, my collection of illustrated poetry. It’s pretty much complete now, but I have some fellow poets and writers still looking it over and offering critiques. Thanks to the ones who’ve already offered their feedback, I feel pretty confident in it, but I’m still working on a few changes.
Anyway, watch this space. I’ll be back tomorrow with an illustrated haiku.
First off, the good news. I am almost finished with UnSong. Which means I’m looking for a few good…people…to read and review it. It’s in the Beta reading stage, then my art director gets to look over my illustrations and offer constructive criticism (or just fix my mistakes herself) and meanwhile I’m working on Scrivener to format it properly (page numbers and what not)…but it won’t be long before I am ready to send it out for advance reviews. Anybody interested?
Second, I’m finally ready to weigh in on the Dr. Seuss debacle (you know where the estate of Dr. Seuss took six of his books off the shelf because they contained racist imagery?). It took me a while to digest this and figure out how I felt about it because Seuss was a source of great entertainment when I was a child (though I admit I had a preference for the darker imagery of Mother Goose). Still, the Cat in the Hat was pretty creepy and fun.
Anyway, six Dr. Seuss books being yanked from stores and shelves and online dealers all at once caused a great deal of consternation among parents and teachers. How dare they? These are classics. True enough, though I couldn’t remember reading any of them except Mulberry Street and McElligott’s Pool. And though I didn’t recall any racist imagery in them, when I went back and looked, it didn’t take long to spot.
Still, surely it’s a bit of an overreaction to pull six books because of a few racist illustrations and words. Doesn’t the work itself outweigh those tiny infractions?
Not necessarily. As a librarian and a writer, I know books go out of print for a number of reasons. One of those is certainly outdated information, and Dr. Seuss’s talent for iambic pentameter and rhyme notwithstanding, his books were definitely guilty of that. Another reason for removing books from print and/or shelves is if there are other books and authors that provide the same entertainment or information value without the offensive characteristics. I can list a number of authors who can do this: P.D. Eastman, Shel Silverstein, David Shannon, Marcus Pfister, Eric Carle… If you want to broaden children’s minds rather than limit them, just Google “anti-racist alternatives to Dr. Seuss”. There are some amazing books out there for kids. And there’s always the rather dark, twisted and melancholy world of Mother Goose where children regularly break their crowns or eat blackbirds baked into a pie.
Dr. Seuss definitely played a role in my childhood. It’s possible he inspired some of what I write today. It’s also possible I’m still fighting some of what he taught me.
Worth considering, don’t you think?
By Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021
Today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating by writing, but not just writing. I’m writing whatever I want. I’m also going back and reading some of what I’ve written in the past. If that sounds like self-gratification, keep in mind that I write what I want to read. It’s the main reason I enjoy it so much.
But I wanted to share another little bit from UnSong. I’m still working hard on the illustrations, and I’ve done most of the easy ones (and by that, I mean the ones that lend themselves to illustration more easily—they have a definite image. Poetry being poetry, not all of the poems in my volume do…or the image they have is a bit difficult for a novice artist like me to put on the page.
My point is, I’m getting there. The book is taking definite shape now. And I’m using Scrivener to build it, so I’m kind of proud of that, too.
I guess old dogs can learn new tricks.