Poetry Month 2012: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


[heading style=”1″]Poetry Month 2012: EPISODE 2[/heading]

Today I’m excited to present a poet who has been trampling through the hay with her Icelandic sheep for, oh, about a week now, just so she could share this video with us. I continue to be amazed and delighted by the gung-ho attitude of all these wonderful and funny poets.

(And if you’ve ever wondered why I make us all stand out in the woods, I explain it here.)

Now look at these sheep! Look closely, because these guys and gals inspired the poem you are about to hear. What do you think it will be about?

NaRae, ReRa, and Nora
Hi! We're NaRae, ReRa, and Nora, sheep muses to the stars.

If you guessed “the migrating habits of tree frogs,” you would be wrong. No matter, because we’ve got just the poet to clear up the mystery.

So let’s get BAA-ck to the poetry!

Please welcome

Amy’s work appears in many Lee Bennett Hopkins anthologies, including his recently released Nasty Bugs, as well as in the e-anthology PoetryTagTime selected by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. And as we speak, Amy is patiently awaiting the release of her first two books of poetry, Forest Has a Song (2013) and Reading Time. Not at all a slacker, Amy spends her spare time writing even more poetry for her blog The Poem Farm, where she is currently poetizing her way through a Dictionary Hike, leaving a delicious trail of words behind her…

…and today she brings us her poem

“Spring Sheep”

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Spring Sheep

Take me.
Make me naked.
It’s awfully hot
in here.

I’m full of wool
but I’ll feel better
once I’m not
a walking sweater.

Give my coat
to bird and nest.
Knit yourself
a cozy vest.

My fleece is yours
to card and spin.

Shepherd —
get your shears.
Begin!

[/column] [column size=”1-2″ last=”1″]
Fuzzy lambs!

Not enough sheep for ya? Amy’s got some more at the farm, and they’re not baa-ad at all!

New Lambs
Rams in Snow
Animals All Know

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 [heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Amy Ludwig VanDerwater[/heading]

What’s Up with Amy

Amy: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
I live on Heart Rock Farm in Holland, New York, and am a wife, a mom, a writing teacher, and a person who has loved words ever since I was a little girl when my mother would load up my sister and me with library books each week. I remember writing a poem about mothers in Mr. Fron’s sixth grade class. He let us mount our poems on construction paper, he hung them in the hall, and I never forgot that. “Mothers” is still tucked inside my baby book.

I began writing regularly about 13 years ago, and I have been fortunate to have Lee Bennett Hopkins as my generous mentor. Lee teaches me about eliminating extra words, tightening ideas, and knowing when to push and when to praise. I draw on Lee’s “tough love” voice when I mother, confer with children, and work with teachers.

Your sheep seem downright desperate to get down to their skivvies! Did the idea for this poem come to you while you were sweating to the oldies in a cable-knit sweater?
Hee hee! No, it actually came from thinking about spring and sheep and how hot it must get inside those coats. Our Icelandics grow very woolly fleeces, and when springtime comes, we can actually peel the wool from their bodies. This is called “rooing,” and it’s so surprising to strip a sheep down to its skin by rolling the wool back and away. Icelandics have the longest wool of all sheep, and when it’s gone they are truly naked! (Eek! But I think roo is my new favorite word, I do!)

Keeping notebooks has taught me that our whole world is one big nest of ideas. Anything I see or wonder about, anything that elicits a sigh or a giggle makes me think, “Ooh! I could write about that.” And often I begin writing with no idea of what will fill the page. Again and again, I am enchanted when ideas come from simple work. Sometimes I think, “Now where did THAT idea come from?” I love tracing the family tree of a poem; it’s like following the pieces of a dream back through waking hours.

You’ve written two books of poetry, Forest Has a Song (Clarion), due out in 2013, and Reading Time (WordSong), date TBA. Will there be more animals in their birthday suits in those books? And how long did it take you to trample the path to publication?
Forest does include some animals as the book is a journey through the woods that includes visits to a chickadee, a deer, a cardinal, a spider, a squirrel, and a woodpecker. But the animals in this book all keep their fur and feathers on!

Reading is not an animal book, but there are a few mentions of animals such as in “Book Dog,” a poem about an animal-loving but petless child who adores the dog in the book she reads.

My publication story begins with many of Lee’s anthologies and the sale of Forest several years ago. The long book-wait inspired me to begin my blog The Poem Farm as a way to connect with children and teachers and other writers. So while I was at first sorry that Forest was taking so long, I am now glad it happened that way. For 365 days in a row, I wrote and published a new poem and lesson each day at The Poem Farm, and I was forever changed by that year. Had Forest been published quickly, I never would have taken on such a writing adventure!

Reading Time just sold this past February, so I am in the early stages of discovering what twists and turns its life will take. It’s fun to watch one’s little poems grow up into books…it feels like being a mom all over again!

What is your favorite part about being a children’s writer, other than denuding sweaty sheep?
I am thankful that writing for children has allowed me to stay friends with the little-girl-me. I once read that every person has an internal age that s/he feels and stays forever. For me, this age is seven years old. Reading others’ poems and working with children is a great inspiration and gift.

Ooh, I like that about the internal age! I’ve been twenty-eight for almost two decades now, and I feel great!

Now for some super-serious questions…(seriously)

Do you have formal training in writing poetry, or are you just a natural?
I always loved reading poetry, and I took one poetry class in college. Our professor, Wes Kennison, told us, “To really see a forest, take a young child with you. The young child will point out everything you miss.” I still carry those words. In graduate school, I studied poetry with Susan Pliner where we wrote a poem each week, shared in community, and studied poets. This touched me deeply.

In 2001, I attended a Highlights Foundation workshop with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and the exercises and wise guidance she gave us sing on. I return to these great teachers in my mind, listening again and again to their counsel and encouragement.

As I mentioned before, Lee Bennett Hopkins continues to help me strengthen my writing. He taught me to revise and reread and care about every single word.

Every time we read good poems, we train our ears. I learn to write by reading and trying on others’ techniques. It is a lot like playing dress up.

What is your best advice for kids who want to write poetry?
Fall in love with the world and with people. Unplug from TV and video games and the Internet. (Our family does not have a television.) Get outside and fill your heart and soul with as many sounds and tastes and smells and questions and feelings and curiosities as you can. The most important work we can do as writers is to live full and generous lives. Lie under a tree and close your eyes. Listen to old people; they have much to teach us. Protect your mind and heart from things that deaden you and make you unkind. Give and let others give to you. Tell and listen to stories, and let these stories stir you. Be good to your poems and take care to know when they need help and when they need adoration.

What’s your best advice for poets who want to get their poetry published (other than don’t bother)? 
Keep at it. Getting published is a completely different job than writing poetry. You must keep your poet-self safe so that s/he will keep writing. But you must develop a business mind too. If you send work out and it is rejected, be ready to say, “Oh, good! Another rejection! That means I’m closer to getting published!” This only works, however, if you are mindfully always developing your craft, working to lift the level of your writing, stretching and working and acting as your own kindly demanding reader.

If you could recommend that children read one book of children’s poetry, or one children’s poet in particular, which or whom would it be?
I cannot do this, for each voice offers something new. I will say this: read your favorite poems aloud. Reading aloud etches rhythms into our bloodstream, and those rhythms come back to us when we write. And don’t lose sight of poets who are no longer living. David McCord, for example, can teach you how to write forever…but you must find his delightful out-of-print books on your own.

Finally, Amy, can we come visit you and peruse your wares? (Online, of course, not at your house! Unless you plan on knitting us ski sweaters, in which case we’ll send our neck sizes and stop by to pick up our order. But put those nekkid sheep in the barn, for heaven’s sake!)
Well, you are welcome to come and visit our home and see the sheep! We could knit together. Or we could make cider or stomp around in the creek and find salamanders. (Yay-iss!) I will make you some green tea, and you can take a cat home if you like. (Double yay-iss!) If you don’t live ‘round these parts, you may come and visit me at these online spots:

Author website: Amy Ludwig Vanderwater
Poetry blog: The Poem Farm
Notebooks blog: Sharing Our Notebooks
Facebook author page: The Poem Farm on FB
Twitter ID: @amylvpoemfarm

Amy, it has been such a pleasure getting to know you and your work. Thank you so much for rounding up the sheep and adding “Spring Sheep” to the video library here at No Water River. I hope it becomes a great resource for kids and teachers, and I appreciate your taking the time to  be a part of it. 

Thank you, Renee, for this chance to visit you at the beautiful No Water River. I love that both our blogs describe places in nature! (Tree huggers, unite!)

[heading style=”1″]More Stuff About Amy[/heading]

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities: “Spring Sheep”[/heading]

Amy's poems are in these books!

[heading style=”1″]Coming Up Next![/heading]

LAURA PURDIE SALAS
will entertain us on Monday the 9th!

Here’s the whole schedule:

April 2 ~ Kenn Nesbitt 
April 6 ~ Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 
April 9 ~ Laura Purdie Salas
April 13 ~ Deborah Diesen
April 16 ~ Greg Pincus
April 18 ~ Charles Waters
April 20 ~ Irene Latham
April 23 ~ Julie Larios
April 27 ~ Lee Wardlaw
April 30 ~ J. Patrick Lewis

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Video Location: Sheep territory, Heart Rock Farm, Holland, NY.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
 
“Spring Sheep” copyright © 2012 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

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48 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your sheep poem Amy and what amazing sheep they are. I’ve never seen any so big and majestic.

    Thanks Renee, for introducing Amy. I am learning so much through your interviews, thanks a lot!

  2. What a beautiful poem! And I love the sheep grazing so contentedly near you, Amy. My husband’s family raised sheep (for mutton not wool, alas) but they always ran away from me (tucking their tails behind them) when I tried to take their pictures. Lovely interview, and Renee, thanks so much for including the Baa Baa Black Sheep lesson plan. Ewe are the best!

  3. Love love love this! Great sheep poem, Amy. Like how you arranged for the wind to blow in the background while you were reading :). Enjoyed the wonderful interview, too. Thanks, both of you!

  4. I loved your sheep poem, Amy–and those are some sheep! They are beautiful. I stop by your Poem Farm frequently to enjoy your poetry. I am loving the A-Z dictionary hike that you are doing for the month of April. 🙂 I look forward to reading throughout the month. 🙂

  5. I love your sheep poem, Amy. Fun and really begs to be read aloud. I enjoyed getting to know you, your work and your sheep– very impressive specimens!
    Much thanks to you and Renée.

  6. Adorable – all the way around. I must hit those links to find out more about ‘rooing’ season! What a word! What a method!

    Love all the resource links – my dear Gracie will be painting up some clothespins to make the sheep from Inadvertant Farmer for Easter dinner placecards.

    Wonderful to meet Amy and learn about Poem Farm!

  7. I am going to be the hit at the next party when I can talk all about rooing! I loved the poem and the sheep. Thanks for the interview too. I liked the advice for children wanting to write poetry.

  8. Thanks for the poem and the interview answers, Amy. I love what your Professor Kennison said about the way kids notice things adults miss – so true!

    And thanks again, Renee, for this great addition to your Reading and Interview series. Hearing the poet read the poem makes such a difference in my understanding of them. And those links and activity extensions are a real bonus!

    1. I agree, Julie. As I said to Amy, I have been surprised — in the best way — by every single video the poets have sent, because none of them have been what I imagined – either the reading or the poets themselves! It’s been like Christmas over here, unwrapping each poem and hearing how the author feels it. It’s a whole ‘nother experience…

  9. Sheep are fabulous, my favorite animal ever. Ethan would like to know why Amy was reading to the sheep and if they liked it. (Their reaction on film seemed a bit ambivalent) We enjoyed the video and really enjoyed reading the poem out loud!

    1. Amy’s traveling today, but she did tell me that the sheep were over the moon (with the cow) about the poem. They’re just not the type to jump up and down and scream like schoolgirls, that’s all.

  10. What a fun poem, Amy! And it is so wonderful to see my online poetry friends reading in person (well, you know what I mean). It’s really a different experience than just reading the words on the page or screen. I feel like I just got to know you so much better, though I look forward to seeing you in real live person again at some conference in the future!

    Thanks, Renee, for this feature. I don’t watch many videos online, but I’m going to have to drop by periodically and watch batches of poems!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Laura. You pretty much described why I do the videos – to give a whole different experience to the reader (or listener). As I said in another comment, each video has been a little surprise party, giving me something completely different from what I imagined.

  11. Fun interview! AJ just helped his friends with shearing on their farm last week. I think the herding dog, Roy, and the barn cat Mini might have more poems than the sheep on that farm!

  12. Amy, thanks for your wonderful contribution to Renee’s Video Poetry Library. Your poem sings! Also, I loved the interview. I’m excited about learning a new word…rooing! Love it!
    Renee, you are making National Poetry Month extra special with your guests. I am so new to this world that I didn’t even know about The Poem Farm. My first visit (just a moment ago) was a treat!!!

    1. Everyone loves rooing! Thanks for your kind words, Penny, and I’m glad you’re getting to know new people and places. You can really get lost in all the goodies at The Poem Farm…

  13. Thank you, Renee and Amy! I also truly love getting to see/hear these guest poets read their work. Though, hafta say, the sheep just about stole this show in this one. Amy, I love the idea of “the family tree of a poem” – :0)

  14. “I love tracing the family tree of a poem; it’s like following the pieces of a dream back through waking hours.” Fabulous quote, and so true! Thanks for this great post!

  15. What a wonderful interview! Thanks so much for sharing! Amy, your sheep are gorgeous! And I especially love that your line about taking a young child to walk in the woods with you to show you everything you miss – it’s so true and a good reminder 🙂

  16. I’m late, but didn’t want to miss this interview & video of Amy, Renee. It was fabulous all the way through! Amy has so much to teach us all about poetry & gives wonderful advice every single day on her blog. The sheep are so sweet to see! Thanks for all, Renee & Amy.

  17. Thank you so much, everybody, for you generous comments on the interview and our funny sheep! Renee sure knows how to throw a party full of kind people, and I feel very grateful to have spent a couple of days here!

    Ethan – Honestly, I am not sure what the sheep thought of the poem. Maybe we should read to them more frequently? My friend Bill says that their wool might grow better if we do!

    I cannot wait to read the rest of these interviews and to watch the videos…so much to learn…so much to enjoy! Thank you, Renee!

    a.

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