There’s no better way to celebrate poetry at a school than to let the students meet a “real” poet – so we did just that. Yesterday, Paul Janeczko visited Inly and spent the day with our students talking about the importance of playing with words. He told them about poetry anthologies, encouraged them to keep a journal, and of course, signed his name on pieces of paper that had been ripped from their notebooks. As I watched one child walk away with her prize, I thought maybe it would be some kind of talisman, something to pin up on her bulletin board to look at and be reminded of the poet who told her that her words matter.
When Paul and I sat down to eat lunch, I was ready with my first question. “What,” I asked the creator of A Poke in the I and many other wonderful books, is your connection to Ohio?” I don’t think he expected that one, but prior to his visit, I read that he had been a teacher in Ohio. As a person who loves Massachusetts, but is loyal to Ohio, I had to know more. As it turns out, Paul taught in a school in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland. That’s different. Growing up in southern Ohio, Cleveland didn’t really seem like Ohio to me. It’s almost in Pennsylvania!
The other thing I asked Paul was the “desert island” question. I know that asking some version of “what books/music would you take to a desert island?” is hardly original, but when I meet someone who reads a lot, I want to know what they like. Of course, I suppose these days you could bring an e-reader to the island, but that ruins the game. Anyway…if you land on a desert island and see Paul Janeczko sitting under the one tree that always appears in the cartoons, here’s what he’ll be reading:
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
You might be thinking the same thing. The first three I expected. No surprises there. But the other two – wonderful books – but just not what I expected. I loved Paul’s reason for choosing them. Desert island days are probably long. You would experience different moods. You need to be prepared for them.
While Paul was talking with kids in the library, it was pouring outside. Thunder, lightening, dark and gloomy. At first, it kind of bummed me out. But, as I sat there and listened to the rain and heard Paul talking with our students, I wouldn’t have traded the moment for a beautiful sunny day. It was poetic.