Synopses & Reviews
Q& A with Lee Bennett Hopkins
Q. How do you find the poets whom you choose to anthologize? Are you drawn to certain genres of poetry or styles of writing?
A. One of the hallmarks of my anthologies is that they include both well-known works and newly published works by some of today s most prominent authors. I have a group of people around the country I fondly refer to as my " Take-Out Poets." I send them the theme I'm working on, and they reply with brand-new poems.
Q. Your latest book, Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins: Creature Poems, is a magnificent celebration of the diversity, mystery, and beauty of the animal kingdom. How were you inspired to create this book?
A. The inspiration for "Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins: Creature Poems came from Stephen Alcorn s impressive, majestic drawings of animals. In this collection each poem was commissioned from a top contemporary poet. Each poet studied a particular print before attempting to write a verse for the subject. Hoofbeats gives a new dimension to the world of creatures and to the world of poetry for children.
Q. What challenges did you face when finding poems for young readers in the I Can Read book of poetry Sports! Sports! Sports!: A Poetry Collection?
A. In "Sports! Sports! Sports!, as in any of my I Can Read poetry books, the challenge is to find works that will appeal to the audience they arebeing done for— young readers. Again, I blend published works with works never before seen.
Q. In "Pass the Poetry, Please!, you ve created a classic reference book for teachers that helps make poetry come alive in the classroom. What is the main thing you hope teachers will gain from this book?
A. Teachers should read Pass the Poetry, Please! and come away with the understanding that poetry is reachable, is teachable, and should come to children as naturally as breathing! One needn t ask hundreds of questions about poems, nor dissect or analyze them to death. Just read poetry, love it to pieces, and enjoy it to the fullest.
Q. You used to be an elementary school teacher. What advice would you give to those teaching poetry to children? What advice do you give children who aspire to be poets?
A. Children must read and read and read. Reading comes first. . .then comes writing. Poetry should be read every single day of the year, at all times, for all times.
Poetry is magical, mystical. I maintain that more can be said or felt in 8 or 10 or 12 lines than sometimes an entire novel can convey.
"From the catchy nonsense of X. J. Kennedy's 'Snowflake Souffle' to the simple, surprising imagery of Valerie Worth's 'Sun' to Hopkins's own onomatopoeic 'Thunder,' the short lines, satisfying rhyme, and physicalness of the words can lure beginning readers—and also younger listeners—to the joy of sounds that make sense."—BL.
About the Author
Lee Bennett Hopkins was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on April 13, 1938. As a child Mr. Hopkins read little other than comic books and movie magazines until a teacher inspired in him a love of the theater and of reading. He credits this teacher with his lifelong interest in education.
Mr. Hopkins began teaching sixth grade at a public school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in 1960. He enjoyed his job, and in his third year at Westmoreland School in Fair Lawn, he became the school's resource teacher, providing curricular support materials for the elementary school teachers. It was while serving in this position that Mr. Hopkins first used poetry to help children with reading problems.
In 1968 Mr. Hopkins became a curriculum and editorial specialist atScholastic, Inc. His career as a writer soared. More than two dozen of his books were published during his eight-year tenure there. In 1976 Mr. Hopkins left his job at Scholastic in order to become a full-time writer and anthologist.
Mr. Hopkins is widely recognized as the nation's spokesperson for Children's Poetry. He has edited and written numerous books for children as well as several professional texts, including Pauses: Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children's Books and Pass the Poetry, Please!, and his column, "Poetry Plus," is a regular feature in Creative Classroom magazine. Mr. Hopkins has been honored with the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for "lasting contributions to Children's Literature."
Mr. Hopkins served on the Board of Directors of the National Council ofTeachers of English (NCTE) from 1975 to 1978; NCTE Commission on Literature(1982-1985); and NCTE Children's Literature Assembly (1984-1987); andhe twice chaired the NCTE Poetry Award Committee. He is also the donor of both the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented by Penn State University, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award.
The recipient of a Christopher Award and the University of Southern Mississippi's Medallion for "lasting contributions to childrens literature," Mr. Hopkins lives in Westchester County and Greenwich Village, New York.