Poetry Friday: Jacqueline Woodson’s “on paper”

“I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called Now.”
Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to be in the audience at NCTE’s Annual Convention last November when Jacqueline Woodson read this passage from Brown Girl Dreaming, her award-winning memoir in verse. Woodson’s work has always had a place in my classroom, and I am thrilled that she has been named the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature This role will allow her to travel around the country sharing her message that “books can drive change and instill hope in young readers.” She summed up her vision as ambassador as “Reading = Hope x Change.” You can hear Woodson talk more about this vision in this NPR interview

During her speech at NCTE, students from around the country asked questions via pre-recorded video. One student wondered why Woodson chose to write Brown Girl Dreaming and her recent novel Another Brooklyn in verse. Woodson’s brilliant response? “I wrote it in verse because that’s how memory comes to us.”

In “on paper,” from Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson shares this memory:

The first time I write my full name

Jacqueline Amanda Woodson

without anybody’s help

on a clean white page in my composition notebook,

    I know

if I wanted to

I could write anything.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Woodson reminded the teachers at NCTE that “everybody has a story, and everyone has a right to tell that story. Encourage students to tell their stories.” It’s clear that Woodson’s work springs from her own story, her own memories. But her writing also shines with her love for her fellow humans. She urged her NCTE audience to remember that community is so important. We need to know who we are going to walk through the world with.” I am happy I’m walking through the world with Jacqueline Woodson.

Please be sure to visit Jan Godown Annino at Bookseedstudio for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Jacqueline Woodson’s “on paper”

  1. Thanks for reminding me of Jackie Woodson’s words. I wrote this morning in response to Brenda Power’s letter on Choice Literacy challenging us to write our belief. I wrote, “When you honor a student’s story, you can reach, teach, and move them forward.” Her words must’ve embedded into my soul somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful writer & person, whose words inspire. So generous of her to be encouraging us in this important leadership position, which is a lot of work. Appreciations for all the links. Like you I felt fortunate that I heard Jacqueline Woodson read. This was from her earlier novel, FEATHERS. More thanks! f

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve just started a small notebook of quotes and I am definitely going to add Jacqueline Woodson’s words. Her quote made me think of Brenda’s poem today which reminded me of the importance of valuing the Now. Somehow I have yet to read brown girl dreaming–I think sometimes books wait to be read for a reason. This one has been sitting on my nightstand for months, maybe even closer to a year. Perhaps the perfect time it’s been waiting for is Now. Thanks, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

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