One of the reasons I love children’s books is because I am such a sucker for nostalgia, and this weekend was one of those rare and beautiful times when the whole country grew nostalgic together, sharing stories of where they were ten years ago, growing silent and sullen together as they envisioned the Twin Towers falling, and then rekindling that sense of strength, unity and hope that followed.
Between the contagion of that nostalgia and several friends sharing their poetry with me recently, I was moved to revisit some old poetry of my own. I became both disappointed and immediately inspired when I realized that I have not written a poem in years. Here is a short one from a few years ago that seems appropriate to the subject of nostalgia:
She is an invisible parrot on my shoulder,
smelling of patriotic quilts hanging in yard sales,
four men smoking pipes on a wood bench,
a hilly landscape whose dips
are easy to settle into.
I have grown accustomed to her weight
and forget sometimes that she is there at all
until a friend stares at me wondering
why something I have said sounds so strange
and unlike myself
and I have to explain that it was
my hometown talking.
I once played basketball once with one of my Ultimate Frisbee teammates, and after I shot the ball she laughed, “You shoot a basketball the same way you throw a Frisbee.” At the time, it seemed ridiculous – shooting a basketball and throwing a Frisbee are entirely different physical actions. But there was something about the way I moved my body, my style of throwing, that I carried through both, and I think the same could be said about my style in poetry and children’s fiction. Over the next few weeks, I plan to do some ‘cross-training’ and work on poetry, both to give myself a break from thinking about picture books and to develop my style in ways that I can apply to writing picture books.