Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Poetry Club

 I met Ken several years ago.
He's a great guy.
But I didn't know then how great.
Read on . . .
Guest Author, Ken Slesarik

 So tell me a little about yourself.

Writing poetry for children is my passion. My poems have been used in fundraisers, cookbooks and school functions. I also facilitate a poetry club at Esperanza Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona and our e-book “Poetry Rocks 2012” is doing very well on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing or teaching poetry I occasionally perform at coffee shops or bookstores while looking for my niche in children’s poetry. Currently I am writing a humorous collection of desert wildlife poems as well as a collection about Big Foot.

What gave you the idea to put out an e-book of poems written primarily by children?

I read an article by children’s author Janet Wong that talked about e-books and the possibilities they present. I was especially impressed by her enthusiasm for the genre. As a teacher and aspiring children’s poet, that got me thinking about how I could promote poetry at my school. The idea was to facilitate an after school poetry club with the eventual goal of publishing an e-book. We also decided to open it up to the entire school to submit poems. The profits from the book would be used to possibly fund author visits, poetry book give-aways and in general promote a culture of poetry at our school.

Describe a typical club meeting.

Well, we would meet directly after school in my classroom and I would usually start by introducing an element of poetry such as a basic couplet, rhyme, line arrangement or word stress.

That led to some lively discussions and it was very rewarding to see reluctant writers find their voice. We found that we had time to write in our poetry journals and implement what we learned but I also think performing poetry and actually speaking the words aloud is important, so we would take turns reading our work or the work of published poets. I insisted upon absolute respect as an audience as I wanted the students to feel safe. Occasionally, I would bring in recordings of poets such as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky and we were lucky to have poets Joy Achy and Jeanne Poland visit us on two occasions.

What memories from the project stand out?

We shared a lot of laughter here and for some of the regular attendees I’m certain this new found appreciation for poetry is most likely to stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I have several clear memories of when a particular student just “lit up” with pride and accomplishment as they understood a particular concept or finished a poem. One such  student, named Dylan, after seeing the finished product and his poem in the book, asked me if I wanted his autograph. In retrospect, I actually think he was serious and he is probably shopping agents now! As I look back, the whole project was a lot of work but at times it seemed much more like play.

Do you have a favorite poem or poems from the collection?

Our book has some very strong poems but I want to mention that I accepted just about all the poems submitted by the students and although that may contribute to an uneven tone, it definitely added to the sense of community that Janet Wong recently mentioned when commenting on our book.

Horse Apples
By Hannah Jensen

Horse he likes the food
“mmm” he said.
He ate an apple
big and crunchy.

Horse he likes the food
“yum” he said.
He ate a carrot
big and crunchy.

Horse he likes the food
“gulp” he said.
He ate a third grader
big and crunchy!

 How can we find the book?

You can find it by doing a search of “Poetry Rocks 2012”. It is available in both Nook and Kindle versions. I’ve been surprised to learn that many people don’t realize you don’t have to have an e-reader to purchase the book but can get it delivered to your computer or smart phone by first getting the appropriate free app. It’s easy!

Poetry Rocks 2012-Poems by the students and staff of Esperanza Elementary School. Compiled by Ken Slesarik
Poetry Rocks 2012 is a compilation of 52 poems submitted by students and a few staff in an effort to encourage an appreciation of poetry on campus.

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