Saturday night I had the good fortune of listening to Paul Janeczko speak at Hollins. I was looking forward to hearing him speak out of all of the speakers this summer, and he did not disappoint.
Paul Janeczko is a former English teacher. Paul Janeczko wasn't a good student but as a young child was a collector. He thinks that paved the way for his obsession of collecting poems. He has written novels, nonfiction, poetry collections, and edited over 20 poetry anthologies.
He says he travels around to preach the gospel of the possibilities of poetry. He wants kids to know that poetry doesn't have to rhyme, have a certain form, or be long, boring, and stupid.
He is probably most famous for his numerous poetry anthologies. With each anthology he is always wanting to show a new way of looking at things.
He talked about several poetry anthologies:
1) Poke in the I--A collection of concrete poetry illustrated by Chris Raschka. Concrete poems are typically in the form of a shape. They play around with language and white space. Some don't read like a regular poem, and in fact, they would be hard to read like a regular poem. Some do read like regular poems, but they are arranged differently.
2) Stone Bench in an Empty Park--A collection of haiku set in the city. He wanted students who lived in big cities to know that they could write haiku. Some kids thought since they didn't live in the middle of the country (nature) that they couldn't write haiku. He said they needed to see that they could write haiku, they just had to slow down and pay attention to their life and their surroundings. This haiku collection is illustrated in black and white photographs.
3) Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku (my review of this book here)--He cowrote this with J. Patrick Lewis. This book is actually a collection of senryu, a type of Japanese poetry that has the same form as haiku, but instead of being about nature, it's about human nature.
** On a side note--I personally use the three poetry anthologies above ALL of the time. I highly recommend them to use with young writers.
4) Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices--This book is full of persona or mask poems. These poems are written from the point of view of an object.
5) Hey You!--This is a collection of poems of address. They are talking to something or someone. This one is brand new and I can't wait to get ahold of it!
One of the books he spent a lot of time talking about was a collection of poems he wrote about a circus tent fire in Connecticut in 1944. The book is entitled Worlds Afire. Each poem is told from a different person's perspective. Each of the people were in some way involved or affected by the fire that killed many. He did a lot of research for this book and was able to see his poems performed on stage at a local theater in Maine.
His advice to promising poets:
1) To get your foot in the door, send poems to magazines. It's a good way to get started with some publishing credits and gives you some credibility when you send off a collection of poems.
2) Read a LOT of poetry. Read as many poets as you can get your hands on. Then you can start to see which poets you really like and study them.
Paul Janeczko is getting reading to update his website. He is in the final proofreading now. So stay tuned for more.