Poet & Editor
I BOOK ORDERING
cannot remember a time when
wasn't part of my life. I still
my battered childhood copy of
Child's Garden of Verses and
well my own imagined
of Counterpane. Even now
it rains, I hear in my head
rain is raining all around,/
falls on field and tree,/It rains on
umbrellas here,/And on the
at sea" and see in my mind's
eye Alice and Martin Provensen's
nanny rushing through
city rain with her two young
childhood favorite was
Godley's "The Little
which draws to a close
"If you've got a little house,/
you keep it spick and span,/
there'll come to live in it/
tiny little man." My apologies to
Williams, but in my Tall Book of Make Believe, I drew
little man's door.
poem I dearly loved was Walter de la Mare's "Someone."
You remember it --- "Someone came knocking/At my wee, small
my childhood fascination with small creatures may not be universal,
I believe a childhood affinity for poetry is. The sound of language
that rolls off the tongue, the rhythm of meter, the joy of rhyme
--- these pleasures come naturally to young children. Perhaps
it's because they're still learning language, so poetry
has the appeal of the new and exciting; perhaps it's because they're
too young to have learned to fear poetry.
fear usually hits sometime in middle or high school, when we start
studying "serious" poetry, when poetry becomes more
difficult to understand. Unfortunately, everyone then seems to
forget that, though "serious" poetry has more sophisticated
and layered meanings, Frost, Shakespeare, Eliot still bring with
them those childhood joys of sound and rhythm and sometimes rhyme.
Those joys may be secret, may sometimes just whisper to you that
they are there, but the added bonus of finding the meter, the
rhyme, the plan can make the joy even greater.
missed that adolescent stage of disenchantment with poetry and
kept right on loving it. Throughout high school and college, I
collected poems like jewels, hand copying my favorites into finely
papered journals I bought for the express purpose of holding them.
But I kept my own verse in far less beautiful notebooks, preferably
notebooks from which the pages could be deleted without any mess,
locked in my dad's old army footlocker.
as an adult, I was shy about sharing my own poems. Though I've
written more than twenty children's books in prose (including
Molly Moves Out, Karin's Christmas Walk, My Favorite Time
of Year, and the Eagle Eye Ernie mysteries), worked
as a children's book editor with dozens of wonderful children's
poets, and written poems for my own pleasure all my life, it still
never occurred to me to write a volume of children's verse myself.
Then, in 2002, I compiled an anthology of bedtime poetry (The
Drowsy Hours). I loved doing it, so in the hope of doing
more anthologies, I suggested several themes to editor Margery
Cuyler. It was she who suggested that I try my hand at writing
a collection myself, and Squeal and Squawk was born.
I continue to write in prose, these days I'm getting special pleasure
from writing in verse. I love writing in rhyme and meter. I love
experimenting with different forms. I love hunting for just the
right word. But most of all, I love what I call the poemsearch
--- the search for the essence of a thing --- a tree, an animal,
a story, a thought --- the essence that makes a poem a poem.
Editorial Assistant, The Viking Press, New
Assistant Editor, Editor, and Senior Editor, The Dial Press, New
Editorial Director, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis
Editorial Director, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, New
Editor-at-Large, Chronicle Books, San