I'm very excited to present our first Guest Interview here on our blog! In honor of National Library Week & National Poetry Month, we are talking with author, educator, and
Pegi Deitz Shea!
You may know her from such great books as:
But we are here to talk POETRY today!
Q: You've written historical fiction, YA, biography, picture book (wow!) Do you write poetry?
A: I began my “career” writing verse for my family and friends way back when I was 8 (1968). I won my first contest in 5th grade—a whopping prize of $2. At my Rutgers Commencement (1982), I won the Evelyn Hamilton Award for Creative Writing—another whopping prize of $35. (I soon learned that writing journalism, PR, advertising and books paid better than poetry.) I continued writing and publishing poetry for adults, but it took a back seat once my children’s books took off.
However, my first and third children’s books are poetry. Bungalow Fungalow (Clarion, 1991) is a narrative of poems about a boy’s week with his grandparents at my beloved Jersey Shore. New Moon (Boyds Mills Press, 1997) is a narrative poem, and won the Patterson Prize for poetry in children’s literature. My board book, I See Me, (HarperCollins, 2000) was rhyming verse. So poetry has always been dear to me. In fact, I’m applying for a grant to go to a multi-day poetry workshop to re-ignite my poetry writing for all ages.
Q: I read on your website that you and your family are big into sports. Have you ever been able to connect your love of sports with poetry, and how?
A: You know what? I haven’t! Thanks for giving me an idea for a new book of poetry! In the ‘90’s when I was just learning to write novels, I wrote a series of girls sports novels called Teammates. Editors liked the books, but didn’t see a market for them. I should dust them off and revise them, because there sure is one now.
A: Until the Internet and self-publishing recently rejuvenated poetry distribution, poetry was hard to find outside of academia. The small presses have small runs (1000 copies), the major bookstores only stock the “biggies” such as Frost, Angelou, etc. and most poetry events take place in large cities where there is usually a university or two. But creative writing MFA programs have taken off, and I’m glad to see a lot more poetry being written as well as distributed in new ways.
Q: One of the few poems I can recite in full is "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost, solely because I was a tween when the Outsiders movie came out. What is one of your favorite poems and why?
"Charge of the Light Brigade" by Lord Alfred Tennyson
A: When I was a tween, it was “Charge of the Light Brigade!” Which might hint at my pacifist, human rights bent. A much easier question to answer is who are my favorite poets? I was lucky to spend an evening at UCONN (along with other Irish studies folks) talking with Seamus Heaney, who’s delightful on top of being incredibly brilliant. I studied with Alicia Suskin Ostriker and she remains one of my faves. I wrote my honors thesis on H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). I also love the Romantic Period poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, etc.
Q: I recently read something on NPR online about the relevance of poetry today, and if it still mattered to today's youth. How do you think poetry can enhance the lives of today's youth? And do you know of any particular online sites or authors that are good for budding poets to check out?
A: We are so lucky to have many fabulous poets for children: Marilyn Nelson, Joyce Sidman (both of whom are friends), Karen Hesse, Jane Yolen. In addition to those below. I’d also like to share the humorous rhyming verse of my fellow writers’ group colleagues, Joan Horton and Janet Lawler. Their books are a hoot!
Q: Will you be carrying around a poem for Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, and how do you choose?
A HUGE thank you to Pegi Deitz Shea for talking with kids@rml!!!