Posts Tagged ‘Lemony Snicket’

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jacqueline Woodson was scheduled to speak at the Books for Children luncheon at NCTE. I bought a ticket. In the hallways of the NCTE convention, there was a buzz about the National Book Award. Jacqueline Woodson had won for her memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming. We had all read it.

Brown Girl Dreaming

You see, to English teachers, authors are our heroes. The words we say to our students are important, but the words we read aloud from authors are magical. When I read aloud Each Kindness By Jacqueline Woodson, the room became completely silent. How could it end? How could the new girl disappear with no way to make amends for the meanness?

When I learned of the offhand, stupid comment that Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) made at the National Book Award Ceremony, I was appalled. How could someone who values words, who uses words as a way to reach into the hearts and lives of young people, be so flippant and capricious? At the luncheon, Jacqueline spoke of this “joke” abstractly and told us that her response would be in an article for the NY Times. The article appeared on Saturday.
Jacqueline Woodson’s New York Times article, The Pain of the Watermelon Joke.

Jackie Woodson

Jackie Woodson

I have lived in the deep south all my life. I was raised in a time of racial turmoil. My school desegregated in 1971, and I was bussed across town to a strange area, strange school with a strange curriculum (Remember the open classroom concept?) However, I knew this was necessary. For too long, black people in the south were given second best. Neighborhood schools resulted in segregated schools. My new fourth grade teacher became Mrs. Love, a loving and warm African American woman. I remember how much I loved Mrs. Love.

The next year in 5th grade, I walked into the classroom holding the hand of my new friend. The teacher (a white woman) looked at our hands and said, “Don’t do that.” I knew her reprimand was due to the difference in our skin color.

Things have changed. In my small community, we have black leaders. In my school, I have black colleagues. I really hadn’t taken note of this until race became such a hot point these days. One of my close friends is black, and just yesterday we talked about how we don’t even notice it.

Things have changed. My students don’t see color. They love each other (and argue with each other) equally. When I talk about race, they don’t “get it.” I have to tell them the history.

When Obama became president, I heard Will Smith tell Oprah, “We don’t have any more excuses.” I believe none of us do. There are no reasons to ridicule anyone for their heritage, whatever that may be. As Jacqueline Woodson so eloquently put it in her speech, “We are all every day people.”

It is time for us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is time for us all to live in love and kindness. It is time for things to change.

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See more Poetry Friday at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

See more Poetry Friday at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Most students in the middle grades know the name Lemony Snicket, so when I introduced his article from Poetry magazine, they were primed to listen. In this article, Lemony Snicket introduced adult poetry to children. He says, “Poetry is like a curvy slide in a playground — an odd object, available to the public — and, as I keep explaining to my local police force, everyone should be able to use it, not just those of a certain age.”

We read aloud the whole article. My instructions for writing were simple, “Steal a line that you like and write from there.”

The poem I wrote is a Cento, in which I took a line from each of the poems in the article.

An open door says, “Come in.”
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
I’m in the house.
I’m still here?
There is no need for you to come and visit me.
You are food. You are here for me to eat.
There will never be enough.
Nothing anyone could do to stop it coming.
The next obvious question:
“Does anyone want to be my sack of potatoes?”
Think of a big pink horse.
There are monsters everywhere.
What is it the sign of?
It is what it is.
That’s Poetry to me.
Thank you, I have enjoyed imagining all this.

Some student samples:

If I would be walking
down the road that
you told me to imagine,
would it be full of gumdrops,
and rainbows covered
in sprinkles and chocolate
fudge on a marshmallow
cloud that tastes like
strawberry icing or maybe
chocolate ice cream on the
hottest day of the year,
or would the road be
full of dark nights, but no stars
and gravestones, with lost kids,
and a grey, lonely path with
cracks in the middle
that can swallow
me up in one bite, with
eyes looking at me in
every direction?

If I would be walking
down the road you told
me to imagine,
which road would I be walking?
If I would be walking
the road you told me
to imagine, would my road
include you?


Electric green and red tears
reflected like rainbows over water in the daylight
right before rain
a warning of good fortune
telling us it’s okay

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See more Poetry Friday with Diane Mayr at Random Noodling

See more Poetry Friday with Diane Mayr at Random Noodling

Ava Leavell Haymon, Louisiana Poet Laureate

Ava Leavell Haymon, Louisiana Poet Laureate

“Somewhere, out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and right-doing,
there is a field.

I will meet you there.” –Rumi

Thus is the epigraph that opens Ava Leavell Haymon’s latest work of poetry, Eldest Daughter. Ava is the most recently appointed Louisiana Poet Laureate, and she is coming to New Iberia next weekend to a Fall Poetry Night. (Fist-arm pump) Yes! If you met Ava, the thing you would remember about her is her laugh, and she laughs often.

Ava’s poetry is masterly crafted, yet easily accessible. Lemony Snicket selected one of Ava’s poems, The Witch has Told You a Story, to feature in his article, All Good Slides Are Slippery for Poetry Magazine. Mr. Snicket says that “poetry is like a curvy slide in a playground — an odd object, available to the public — and, as I keep explaining to my local police force, everyone should be able to use it, not just those of a certain age.” I shared this article with my students this week. We wrote our own poems by stealing a line from one or more of the poems in the article. This was a great activity and produced some funny poems. Stay tuned.

Ava has given me permission to share two of her poems with you. This first is from the collection Why the House is Made of Gingerbread. I love this collection. Who would have thought that the classic Hansel and Gretel would have yielded such moving and thoughtful poetry?


You are food, she said.
You are here for me to eat.
Fatten up, and I will
like you better. Your brother will
be first. You must wait your turn.
You must feed him yourself.
You must learn to do it. Take him
eggs with yellow sauce, and muffins,
butter leaking out the crooked break
in the sides. Fried meats
later in the morning and sweets
in a heady parade from the oven.

His vigilance, an ice pick of hunger
pricking his sides, will melt
in the unctuous cream fillings.
He will forget. He will thank you
for it. His little finger stuck every day
through the cracks in the bars
will grow sleek and round,
his hollow face swell
like the moon. He will stop dreaming
the fear in the woods without food.
He will lean toward the mouth
of the oven, the door
that yawns wide every afternoon
to better and better smells.
–Ava Leavell Haymon, all rights reserved

The second poem comes from Ava’s latest work Eldest Daughter. I haven’t read them all yet, but the ones I have are so full! Full of childhood fears, sensibilities, and humor. LSU Press says “she combines the sensory and the spiritual in wild verbal fireworks.” And to hear her read them, you see the fireworks glow in her eyes. She is a delight, and I can’t wait to introduce her to my town.


with a caul
the child who eats the skin that forms on scalded milk
the child who bites cuticles instead of fingernails
the child who sucks her hair at night
the child who sings in her sleep
the child who does not mind the squeak of blackboard chalk
the child who swallowed a blue bead
the child who will not throw up
the child who refuses to listen
the child with the gristle knob at the arch of her ribs
the child who knows where the matches are
the child who looks too long at her father
the child who likes to spit
the child who looks in the eyes of the dog
the child who sits for hours
the child who sometimes laughs when she’s by herself
the child whose cold hands
the child who eats clay
the child who can look cross-eyed
the child who starts fires
the child who hides in a chinaberry tree
the child who listens
the child who grows quieter and quieter
the child who can be trusted with knives and scissors
the child who never reaches under her bed
the child who goes where no one is
the child who cuts things out
the child who hums little songs no one can recognize

Ava Leavell Haymon, all rights reserved

Fall Poetry Night will be Saturday, November 16th at 6:00 PM at A&E Gallery. Other poets reading will be Mickey Delcambre, Suzi Thornton, Diane Moore, and Margaret Gibson Simon.

Ava reading from Eldest Daughter on YouTube (This one is for adults only despite what Lemony Snicket may say.):

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