Poetry Friday: In Memoriam

“Poetry and I fit together.
I can’t imagine being without it…
It is food and drink, it is all seasons,
it is the stuff of all existence.”
~ Lee Bennett Hopkins ~

The death of Lee Bennett Hopkins yesterday leaves a gaping hole at the heart of the children’s poetry community. Lee was a visionary. His books, both his own and the countless anthologies he edited, are treasures. Although I never met him in person, Lee has had an enormous influence on both my teaching and my writing and his work will continue to inspire students and poets for years to come.

Coincidentally, Been to Yesterdays, Lee’s 1995 autobiographical poetry collection, was on my desk this morning. After reading the sad news, I reread many of my favorites from this book, including this one. Lee did indeed make this world a whole lot brighter.


this world
a whole lot

grow up
a writer.
write about
some things
I know–

how to bunt
how to throw…

a Christmas wish
a butter dish…

a teddy bear
an empty chair…

the love I have inside


this world
a whole lot

grow up
I’ll be

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Please be sure to visit my friend and critique group partner, Molly Hogan, at Nix the Comfort Zone for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!


Today, the KidLitosphere is celebrating poet and anthologist extraordinaire Lee Bennett Hopkins‘s 80th birthday. Although I’ve never met Lee, he has been a guiding light to me for years. Pass the Poetry, Please was one of the first professional books I purchased when I began teaching, and the poetry section of my classroom library is filled with anthologies Lee has edited over the years. More recently, Lee’s wise words have helped me write and polish my own poetry.

It was impossible for me to choose one favorite Hopkins book or poem to share today, so I created a found poem using the titles of some of Lee’s books.

To Lee Bennett Hopkins, on his birthday:

Pass the Poetry, Please!

Good Rhymes! Good Times!
Days to Celebrate:
Hanukkah Lights,
Christmas Presents,
Halloween Howls,
Morning, Noon, and Nighttime, Too!

Wonderful Words:
Hand in Hand
Jumping Off the Library Shelves

I Am the Book
Blast Off!
The Sky is Full of Song,
Full Moon and Star

Sky Magic
Sharing the Seasons
On the Farm
A Dog’s Life,
A Pet For Me

My America
Home to Me
Amazing Places
City I Love

World Make Way
Time to Shout:
Happy Birthday!

Please be sure to visit Robyn Hood Black at Life of the Deckle Edge for a special Poetry Friday Roundup of birthday wishes for Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Slice 21 of 31: A Book Spine Poem


National Poetry Month is just around the corner, and although I teach and use poetry all year, I do make a fuss about all things poetical in April. This book spine poem really wrote itself as I revisited some of my favorite resources:


Pass the Poetry, Please!

Take Joy

For the Good of the Earth and the Sun

Wondrous Words

Awakening the Heart

Poetry Matters

I’ve written before about using poetry with students (here, here  and here) and I know I’ll be writing about it again. For now, here’s a snippit of the wisdom contained within each of these excellent resources.

9780064460620Originally published in 1972, Lee Bennett Hopkins’ book is a classic resource for sharing and teaching poetry. Here is a comment he shares from poet David McCord:

“Poetry is so many things besides the shiver down the spine.” (p. 7)


Jane Yolen is one of my all-time favorite authors. In Take Joy: A Writers Guide to Loving the Craft (Writers Digest Books, 2006), her wisdom and passion for writing permeate every page.

“…poetry, at it’s most basic, is a short, lyrical response to the world. It is emotion under extreme pressure or recollection in a small space. It is the coal of experience so compressed it becomes a diamond.” (p. 87)


For the Good of the Earth and the Sun: Teaching Poetry (Heinemann, 1989), by Georgia Heard, is filled with practical advice and inspiration. In chapter 5, “Language:  The Poet’s Paint,”  she offers this:

“Sometimes I pretend a word is like a geode: rough and ordinary on the outside, hiding a whole world of sparkling beauty inside. My job as a poet is to crack the words open to find that inner treasure.” (p. 74)


Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom (NCTE, 1999), by Katie Wood Ray, was a revelation to me. Here were the answers I’d been looking for about how to teach writing. Ray’s thoughts about read aloud confirm what we know in our hearts:

“Our students need to be…fortunate enough to be read to every single day by someone who values wondrous words and knows how to bring the sounds of those words to life in the listening writer’s ears and mind and heart.” (p. 69)


Georgia Heard offers more thoughts about teaching poetry in Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School (Heinemann, 1999).

“One of the most important life lessons that writing and reading poetry can teach our students is to help them reach into their well of feelings–their emotional lives–like no other form of writing can.” (p. xvii)


Ralph Fletcher wrote Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out (HarperTrophy, 2002) for kids, but it’s one of my favorite books about the craft of poetry. Speaking directly to children, he advises them

“There is poetry everywhere. [Write] What you wonder about. In my book A Writer’s Notebook, I wrote a chapter on ‘fierce wonderings’ and ‘bottomless questions.’ These are the kinds of haunting questions you can live and ponder but never really answer. Not surprisingly, these ‘wonderfull’ questions provide great grist for poems.” (p. 51)

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this Slice of Life Challenge!