Writers form bonds with one another, beginning with the first words we read … and write.
When I first met Jess Stoner, it was online and in the context of poetry. Due to the distance between us—she lives in the “sweat and brisket of Austin,” Texas, while I live a couple hours west of Boston—we have never met in person, yet this has not been an impediment for me in feeling a bond with other people who write. If you “love” your favorite writer, whom you may never have met, then you know what I mean. Good writers put something of themselves in their writing for the reader to connect with, human to human.
Jess was curating a series as Writer in Residence at Necessary Fiction, including this essay on Richard Brautigan, the first poet I discovered outside the canon. In the email that I sent her, I shared a lot of personal history around finding Brautigan’s poetry—actually, having it pressed into my hands, in the form of some worm-eaten paperbacks, by an aging hippie I met in a college sculpture class at community college—and how it marked the beginning of adulthood for me. She wrote me back with her own stories. I was excited to have made a writer friend and looked forward to the chance to connect again.
Jess wrote me not long ago, asking if I’d like to “do a solid” for some kids she works with in Austin, TX:
So, as you might know, I have the best job in the history of the world. I get to give writers paying jobs to work with elementary, middle, and high school writers in Austin. We publish these young folks, in print and online. The best part of the best job in the history of the world is reading poems and stories by 4th graders (and all the other kids too, of course) all day long. Anyway, I’m “curating”, online for Badgerdog (the non-profit I work for), a bunch of our kiddos poems with commentaries this summer. And I’m writing to see if you’d be interested in reading some, seeing if one floats your boat … or basically anything you’d be interested in/willing to do. There’s poems/stories about football, hamsters, dogs, a mermaid “as beautiful as a story”, love poems to the imagination, super heroes who give the gift of sleep, and a story where both the villain and the hero are named Taco.
The poem involving tacos was an instant hit when I shared Jess’ email around with other members of The Good Men Project editorial staff. I told Jess that I did indeed want to “do a solid.” She sent me more poems, and I spent an incredibly satisfying week, matching poems by theme and laying them out in a series for The Good Life. If you haven’t yet seen them, the links to all of the poetry by kids in this series are below. Of course, if you would prefer to read some poetry by adults, we have that, too: many excellent poets responded to the call.
I began to wonder if the adults among my poets—and the poetry readers, as well—would tire of children’s voices. Kids are tremendously creative, sometimes mysteriously so, and can appear to generate endlessly with little energy exerted. ”I sweat out every poem I write and always wonder if it might be my last. Sometimes nothing comes for me for months. In the meantime, the average tyke is reeling off one great mini-masterpiece after another,” writes Rick Belden. “I think every kid is a walking poetry factory until self-consciousness sets in.”
My introductory essay to the series, The Good Life Includes Poetry, includes a table of contents of all of the poetry by adult authors that we published in this series on The Good Life. The children’s poetry is in the table of contents below. Happy reading.
Poetry by Kids on The Good Life
Two poems on identity: “Chameleon” and “How I Know I’m Duke Ellington’s ‘Fleurette Africaine’”
“I am from a smoke-filled house” / “I am from the capital city”
“People don’t like me because I’m a hot dog stand.” / “Did you join a gang?”
Even in seemingly silly and pointless stories, is a gift of what Jess Stoner calls“our secret hopes, in things inside and outside of ourselves.”
“there are slow colors in space” / “I understood that he was a dolphin who left and came back, but then disappeared.”
Children explore the limits of reality and narrative through poetry.
“Taco taco taco taco taco taco….”
“My worn out green sneakers, that’s where my sadness lies.” / “I am an awful dentist, but a great cook.”
Two poems on the future, by elementary school students.
Because his voice his banned.
The best day of my life would make me cry.
An introduction to the poetry series on The Good Life.
—Photo credit: slightly everything/Flickr