Poetry Friday: Everything Is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis


Don’t you just love getting those wide, thin boxes in the mail?

One of them arrived for me recently, and inside was a new treasure of a book by former Children’s Poet Laureate  

J. Patrick Lewis


Due out on August 19, Everything Is a Poem (Creative Editions) is a “best of” collection featuring 59 poems written between 1982 and 2010. One of Pat’s many specialties is writing knowledgeably on every topic known to man, so of course the collection highlights this fact with selections in a range of categories including nature, people, animals, sports, riddles, and epitaphs.


Here’s what Kirkus Reviews had to say: “In the foreword to his latest collection, the award-winning author of 85 picture books and former economics professor admits he discovered poetry only after turning 40 and prides himself on not having a distinctive poetic style or voice. For Lewis, “the poem is always more important than the poet,” and the varied subjects of these 60-odd poems underscore the sincerity of his belief. Here, with Italian illustrator Pritelli’s arrestingly evocative airbrushed acrylic spreads, Lewis offers light glimpses into the realms of animals, places, people, nature and reading, as well as a delightful mix of riddles and epitaphs. Taking his cue from the likes of Carroll and Lear, Lewis thrills in nonsense, imploring readers, “Please bury me in the library / with a dozen long-stemmed proses,” or neatly summing up on a baseball-glove–shaped tombstone the truncated life of a pitcher: “No runs, / no hits, / no heirs.” In more serious moments, Lewis employs his masterful descriptive abilities to capture natural phenomena such as fireflies—“The speckled air / Of summer stars / Alive in jars”—while repeatedly making use of his exquisite ear.”


I asked Pat which poem he’d like to share, so here is the Author’s Choice: the title poem, “Everything Is a Poem” (2010). (Click images to enlarge for reading.)  


That last stanza gets me every time. It’s a honey of a poem, ain’t it?

For Blogger’s Choice, I zeroed in immediately on “A Tomcat Is” for its beautiful imagery and inventive language. Pat tells me this was his mother’s favorite as well, so I’m especially pleased to share it.



Marshmallow paws! Every stanza in this poem was a little revelation to me, a new way of looking at cats (and I’ve looked at a lot of cats!). Pat is a master at creating those exquisite poetic moments when you think, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is! Why didn’t I ever notice that before?” Good stuff.


Pat was one of my first guests when I began No Water River in 2012, and I was excited to discover that the poem he shared on video back then is also in the book. That means it’s time for an encore performance of “Mosquito” — huzzah!



Many thanks to Pat and Creative Editions

for allowing me to share excerpts from this wonderful new addition to Pat’s opus and the world of children’s poetry!


Coming Soon!

Although several large projects have kept me away from blogging these past few months, it looks like I’m back in the saddle again. Yeehaw! I have truly missed Poetry Friday. And boy, what a marvelous backlog I’ve accumulated. Take a gander at who and what’s coming up… 

      • The NCTE Poets Series with Lee Bennett Hopkins: Lilian Moore, Valerie Worth, Arnold Adoff, and more!
      • Wong and Vardell’s The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science Poet-a-Palooza, starring videos from Linda Sue Park, Buffy Silverman, Bobbi Katz, Mary Lee Hahn, April Halprin Wayland, Kristey Dempsey, and Suz Blackaby
      • Nikki Grimes
      • Deborah Ruddell
      • Douglas Florian
      • B. J. Lee
      • Linda Ashman
      • and more!

Heidi is hosting Poetry Friday today at My Juicy Little Universe.

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See more poems in my poetry video library.

All poems © J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrations © Maria Cristina Pitrelli. All rights reserved.

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  1. Pat is definitely one-of-a-kind, and these were some perfect examples of his talent to share! (I still can’t get over ‘marshmallow paws!)
    Thanks for sharing, and good to see you back!

  2. I just requested JPL’s new book from the library! Thanks for giving us a sneak peak. I especially like his Mosquito poem as I posted a mosquito poem today, but mine is much shorter and just plain “bad”. Good to “see” you back on Poetry Friday, Renee. = )

  3. Thanks for sharing Pat’s new book, Renee. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I’m also excited about all the goodies you have on the way for us! Have a great weekend!

  4. I MUST have this book. (I’ve had the Amazon tab up on the computer ever since you mentioned it over at Alumni.) Now to fix hubby a yummy filled supper and then POP the question about ordering it.

    Sounds like you have a lot in store for us. I cannot wait! xoxo

  5. It’s on my list, Renee. Talk is spreading around already! I love the ‘canvas of emotions’ in the first poem. The illustrations are gorgeous too, aren’t they? Your list of coming guests is awesome! Thank you!

  6. I am completely in awe. Pat has described the life of a cat in such beautiful language that rolls off the tongue. I’m an instant fan and will have to get the book. Thanks for the great post Renee and I look forward to reading the others.

  7. So happy to read this post! I’ve read many books by JPL, but the three poems you featured were all new to me. I’m off to order the book from my favorite Indie bookstore. I’m so excited about your list of what’s coming up.

  8. Did anyone else notice how the last stanza of “Everything is a Poem” echoes “The Song of the Honey-Eating Old Man” on Tabatha’s blog? I think we have to stop calling him J. Pat and start calling him Zhongshu!

  9. I seem to be trailing after Heidi today, echoing her thoughts, calling out, “Hear, hear!” 🙂 I love the serendipitous connections among the poetry choices throughout the blogosphere this weekend. I thought the same thing about the final stanza of Everything is a Poem and Tabatha’s pick from Zhongshu!

  10. Loved reading about Pat’s new book. He is a master. Pat’s mosquito poem is one of my all-timte faves from your video library! He has that hint of mischief in his voice as he reads it which makes it all the funnier.
    How fun to have you back blogging! And what a lineup for future posts! Yay!

  11. Several of JPL’s books are in special spots on my shelves including GOOD MOUSEKEEPING & THE SNOWFLAKE SISTERS. Now thanks to No Water River, I have an additional splendid title, with this great preview of entire pages, to whet my appetite for more.

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