ALA Annual 2011

The pure pleasure of poetry

A shining moment in my memory of #ALA11 was the pure pleasure of the ALSC Poetry Blast. Although I was tired and spent after a long weekend, listening to these poets renewed me with energy and enthusiasm for sharing poetry with children of all ages.

As Joyce Sidman says, we all need time to ponder, “Time alone, without noise and distraction.  This is when ideas come–when things sort themselves out, when you see visions and solutions.  Not just for writing, but for life.” The ALSC Poetry Blast brought a bit of this pondering time to me on Monday afternoon. I was able to listen and be transported to place within myself that has room for just this sort of pondering.

Stephanie Calmenson started the afternoon by sharing poems for the very young. She captures the voice and thoughts of youngsters perfectly, reading with enthusiasm and pure joy. Her poems for babies, toddlers and preschoolers are filled with irresistible energy, and hearing Stephanie read them woke me up and spread a smile across my face as she made me remember reading to my own children when they were very young.

I have long admired Nikki Grimes, and so it was a special honor to hear her read a selection of her poems, especially ones inspired by her own parents. She read from Dark Sons, from A Dime a Dozen, from her upcoming Planet Middle School, and more. I am continually amazed how she is able to capture the voice of tweens and teens, whether it’s the young tween smiling secretly as her mother whispers mushy Puerto Rican on the subway, or the confusion of middle school as friendships seem to change on a daily basis.

I made sure to go to this event because I had been receiving weekly updates on Facebook through the Fans of the ALSC Poetry Blast page – yes, social marketing in this new age really has an impact! Make sure to check into Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful blog Poetry for Children; over the next several weeks, she will be sharing videos and more from this wonderful event. Even from home, you too will be inspired to share the pure pleasure of poetry with children.


  1. Jeanette Larson

    I too saw much evidence of the impact of social marketing. Several people came to my book signing because they saw it on Facebook.

  2. Sylvia Vardell

    Thanks so much for the shout out! I share your enthusiasm for the ALSC Poetry Blast, too– what a terrific event– and am posting videoclips of it on my blog shortly.

  3. Kristine O'Connell George

    Thank you for sharing Joyce Sidman’s quote. Joyce is so right — poetry can be a portal to that quiet, contemplative place where we can go for both writing inspiration and to center and align our busy lives.

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