Poetry Monday: The Poetry Friday Anthology Poet-a-Palooza!



featuring the prolific producers and some poetry stars of


AMUSE BOUCHE: Introduction to Grazing
What Makes This Anthology So Delicious?
DESSERT: Four slices of video poetry pie in four flavors:
CORDIAL: Meet the PFA Poets!
DOGGY BAG: A tasty giveaway of The Poetry Friday Anthology


AMUSE BOUCHE: Introduction to Grazing

You know when people ask you what your favorite band or book or author or color or animal or food is? I will never ask you that question. That question makes me crazy because I do not have a favorite anything. Much more appealing than a sit-down meal, a buffet allows me to putter around the pâtés, sashay past that seafood station, chew the fat at the cheese table, and dawdle over dips and desserts. Everything is beautiful at a buffet, where I can stick my toothpicks into lots of different things and, yes, maybe even double-dip.

That is why I am such a big fan of BIG anthologies. My wrinkly, coffee-stained, undergrad edition of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women — where I first read Jane Eyre and met the likes of Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, Flannery O’Connor, and Toni Morrison — is still one of my most prized books. Anthologies contain a multitude of worlds, an exuberance of voices, a cornucopia of possibilities…and all that between two little covers!

So imagine how pleased I was about the publication of The Poetry Friday Anthology, the latest venture by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell that needs to be on every teacher’s desk.

APPETIZER: What Makes This Anthology So Delicious?

Well, I suppose it could be the generous dollop of incredible poets that the book features…seventy-six of them, in fact. Poets like X.J. Kennedy, Sara Holbrook, Jack Prelutsky, Allan Wolf, Joan Bransfield Graham, Michael J. Rosen, Betsy Franco, and Margarita Engle.

Not to mention the familiar names and new friends who have made appearances on No Water River — fifteen from this book alone! — like Julie Larios, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, J. Patrick Lewis, Irene Latham, David L. Harrison, Laura Purdie Salas, and so many other talented and inspiring writers.

Or it could be the gigantic spoonful of delectable poems those poets wrote in dozens of different subject areas, from pets and school to family and food. That’s a year’s worth of freshly baked poems — over 200 of ’em! — for every Friday and for every grade level K-5.

Or maybe it’s the precisely measured seasoning of learning activities anchored in the Common Core standards (or TEKS standards in Texas). Doled out in sensible portions, the Take 5 activities help teachers share each poem with their students in fun and imaginative ways…a little buffet of extended learning, to be sampled and savored at will.

 Whatever it is, I can assure you that it’s a lip-smackin’, finger-lickin’ recipe.

 ENTRÉE: A Meaty Interview with 


Janet Wong

Janet and Sylvia were kind enough to let me open their fridge and peruse the raw ingredients. Here’s how they cooked up the feast!

Why did you create The Poetry Friday Anthology?
In professional workshops we’ve met lots of teachers and librarians who are uncomfortable with poetry—usually because of the way it was taught (or not) when they were students. Many of those same teachers and librarians really want to teach poetry to their students—or now need to teach it because of the Common Core (or state-adopted standards such as the TEKS in Texas). We created this book for them—to provide fun and easy guidelines for teaching and sharing poetry.

Besides the 218 poems, the book also contains the “Take Five” feature, which provides five activities for each poem. Could you tell us a bit about how these activities correlate with TEKS and/or the Common Core standards? Why did you decide to include these tie-ins?
There are so many demands on classroom time. We knew that we could create the best poetry curriculum book ever, but if it were too complicated to use, or took too much prep time, it might never be used. We decided that the most important thing was to provide a clear and consistent framework that was easy to follow and could be squeezed into a teacher’s busy day. A teacher can open our book, follow the Take 5 steps, and lead a valuable and memorable lesson in 5 minutes flat. Curriculum standards and skills like identifying alliteration, understanding free verse, or discussing metapor are gently folded in to these activities, but the focus remains on enjoying and exploring the poems together.

Sylvia Vardell

Is this an anthology that kids can enjoy on their own? What do you hope kids take away from this collection?
Kids definitely can read this book on their own, enjoying the poems and completely ignoring the Take 5 activities that we designed for teachers. There are very few books like ours, with more than 200 poems in them on a wide a variety of topics. If you’re a kid who likes sports, we have poems for you; if you like dancing, there are poems for you; and everyone likes poems about pets! Most of all we’d like kids to read (or hear) poems in our book and think, “Wow! A poem can be about ANYTHING!”

You’ve put a mini-grant program into place for the anthology and already have quite a few PFA “ambassadors” around the country. Could you explain what this program is and how people can participate?
Our Poetry Friday Ambassadors are teachers and librarians who are extra-motivated to teach poetry. Some have had decades of wonderful poetry experiences (with students who want to decorate cakes with poems and mow poems into lawns) and others are like the teachers that we described above, teachers whose poetry backgrounds were not positive but who want to change that for their students. This is a group of educators that we’d like to treat as a focus group; we hope that their feedback will help us design great follow-up support for teachers that we can post on our Poetry Friday Anthology blog.

Can you tell us a bit about the poet-wrangling stage of the project? What challenges and/or joys did you face?
In the beginning we had just one goal: to assemble 216 or so poems–a poem per week for the whole school year for each grade, K-5–and to write curriculum connections for each poem. When poems came in, we found ourselves immersed in the joys and challenges at the same time. Some poems easily fit into certain categories, but other favorite poems didn’t align with enough other poems to form themes. Omitting poems was extremely painful. There were at least a hundred poems that we wanted to use but there simply wasn’t room. As it is, the book is 288 pages long!

The Poetry Friday Anthology is not your first joint foray into self-publishing, as you previously published the PoetryTagTime e-book series and, for Janet, even a collection or two of your own poems. What prompted your excursions into self-publishing
We’d love to be able to do what we’re doing with a traditional publisher, but it would be impossible. With our first book, our primary goal was to make quality poetry affordable—less than a cup of coffee. The only way this could be achieved was by making e-books, so we created the PoetryTagTime e-book series—PoetryTagTime, P*TAG (for teens), and Gift Tag (holiday poems). (And note: This would’ve been impossible to do without the generosity of our poets, who agreed to an extremely modest royalty rather than flat permissions fees for their poems.)

You started your publishing venture, Pomelo Books, in part to fulfill your dream “to produce 5-10 quality poetry books each year.” Will Pomelo’s focus be on more projects like The Poetry Friday Anthology, or do have an eye toward becoming a small press publisher of poetry?
Perhaps our proudest accomplishment with The Poetry Friday Anthology is the way we were able to feature poems by prominent and beloved poets who haven’t published much in the past decade. Some of our finest poems are by X.J. Kennedy, Patricia Hubbell, Deborah Chandra, Constance Levy, and Monica Gunning, poets with important collections that are now out of print. One of our goals is to bring back favorite poems from the past several decades and introduce them to a new generation of readers in anthologies with curriculum connections that will enable teachers and librarians to share those poems in a focused way.

How are you handling the particular challenges that come with self-publishing, especially distribution, marketing, and even getting the word out about the mini-grant?
We’re handling the distribution and marketing as best as we can—with a lot of help from blogger friends like you! Seriously, the word-of-mouth on our books has been extremely positive and helpful. Teachers tell friends in other districts, parents buy books as gifts for their school libraries, librarians tell booksellers. Any author, whether self-published or published by a traditional publisher, needs to think about marketing issues today. Not just “needs” to, but should WANT to think about these issues. If you are writing to communicate, teach, or entertain (rather than simply to express yourself), your books need to find their way to your readers! We were particularly pleased to get a great review in Reading Today, published by the International Reading Association.

Is there anything you learned along the way that you wish you’d known before you started?
We wish we’d known how tremendous the demand for a middle school version of this book is—maybe we would’ve made it a K-8 edition instead of K-5. (We’re working on a middle school version now.)

What advice would you give to budding anthologists?
Be willing to try new things and experiment. This is a very exciting time to be involved in the world of books!

What can we expect next from this dynamic duo?
After the middle school version of The Poetry Friday Anthology, after producing curriculum connections for the PoetryTagTime series, and after bringing some favorite out-of-print poems back to life, who knows . . . How about a poetry app? 

Where’s the best place to pick up a copy of the anthology?
Right here at Pomelo Books, where we have various versions available, from the complete anthology to single grade-level versions to e-books.


Learn more about: Janet and Sylvia
Book Website: The Poetry Friday Anthology blog
Publishing Website: Pomelo Books
Facebook Page: Pomelo Books
PFA Reviews: Reading Today, ALSC Blog, Paper Tigers
Interview on Cynsations: “Celebrating Poetry: Sylvia Vardell on Teaching, Awards, Trends, Challenges & New Releases” 
Guest post on Katie Davis: Janet Wong’s “How to Publish a Poetry E-book in 7 Simple Steps”

DESSERT: Four slices of video poetry pie in four flavors

This is the Poet-a-Palooza part of the post, in case you were wondering! And I apologize in advance for making you sit through my repetitive intros, but these sweet treats are going directly from here into the permanent NWR Poetry Video Library, so the intros had to be done. I infiltrated an archeological site of newly dug Roman ruins (you can see a bit behind me), so just enjoy the view until the poems start.

And what poems they are! I am beyond thrilled to welcome four of the poets from The Poetry Friday Anthology — and boy did they go above and beyond the call of duty to bring you these videos. Each poet reads multiple poems — some with special effects! — to give you a drool-worthy sampling of the flavors this book offers. I have included the text to one poem for each poet, as a little something to feast your eyes on as well. Tie your napkins around your necks and dig in!


…is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction — over 300 books in all, including the popular Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Recent poetry collections include Take Two! A Celebration of Twins and Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, both co-authored with J. Patrick Lewis, and Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems.

Jane Yolen’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award, among many others. Learn more about Jane and her work at JaneYolen.com. (Bio from the author’s website.)


First take a noun:
Follow with a verb:
Embolden it:
Stretch it:
……………………………………towards the sky;
And you have a sentence
followed by a period
……….of time:


…is a poet and special education teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, currently in his sixteenth year of teaching. When not teaching or spending time with his kids, he can be found pursuing his other passion as a children’s poet. Ken’s poems have been used in fundraisers, school functions, and cookbooks, as well as in The Poetry Friday Anthology. Ken also enjoys performing poetry in an occasional bookstore, coffeehouse, or library, and facilitates an after-school poetry club called “Poetry Rocks.” (Bio provided by the author.)


The Woodland Vole
prefers to stroll,
walking leisurely.

A tiny soul,
the Woodland Vole,
don’t chase it, let it be.

The Woodland Vole
just doesn’t know,
when fleeing fast and free,

how very slow,
the Woodland Vole
can seem to you and me.


…is a former teacher and children’s book editor, and the author of over 100 books for children, ranging from concept books to poetry to nonfiction books about dogs. Some of her most popular titles include Dinner at the Panda Palace, a PBS StoryTime Book; The Principal’s New Clothes; Jazzmatazz; Late for School; Oopsy, Teacher!; Ollie’s School Day; and May I Pet Your Dog? Her poetry is described as “joyously exuberant” (Kirkus); “whimsical and lively” (SLJ); “a rainbow of sound…a bright syncopated jazz session” (Kirkus), and “sure to grab the attention of even the littlest listeners” (SLJ). Visit Stephanie at her website for more info and reviews: StephanieCalmenson.com(Bio provided by the author.)


They call it science.
I call it why-ence.
Why is the sky blue?
Why do I look like me and not like you?
Why can’t I see the sun at night?
When water turns to snow, why is it white?
Why isn’t there butter in a butterfly?
Why don’t they call it why-ence?
I like to ask “WHY?”!


…is the author, editor, or illustrator—sometimes all three!—of some 100 books for young readers and adults. For 35 years, he has been working with kids and teachers across the country, sharing his creativity, humor, passion, and wild imagination. His recent books of poetry are Running with Trains: A Novel in Poetry and Two Voices (Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press); Sailing the Unknown: Around the World with Captain Cook, a blank-verse journal of Young Nick, a boy aboard the ship Endeavor (Creative Editions); and Chanukah Lights, a celebration of the Festival of Lights with Robert Sabuda’s majestic pop-ups (Candlewick Books). Visit Michael at his website: www.fidosopher.com(Bio provided by the author.)


Your upper arm, the humerus,
has no idea what’s funny:
slip on a dropped banana peel,
invent something punny,
make your hand and armpit squeal–
how can it tell what’s humorous?

Even though your humeri
have biceps with a belly
they’re not for making belly laughs.
That name is simply silly!
Did someone on the O.R. staff,
thinking it’d be humorous

in the midst of a humorless
dissection, to make a pun
about the bone and how it hurts
like crazy when you stun
that tender elbow nerve that blurts
out PAIN and, more or less,

turns you into pancake batter?
That bone’s no laughing matter.


How great was that? Thank you, poets, for contributing to this poet-a-palooza and sharing your wonderful work with us!

CORDIAL: Meet the PFA Poets!

And here they are, all seventy-six of them! Click the links to see their work and find out more about these talented folks.

Allan Wolf
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 
Ann Whitford Paul
April Halprin Wayland
Arnold Adoff

Avis Harley
Betsy Franco
Bobbi Katz
Brod Bagert
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Carole-Ann Hoyte
Carole Boston Weatherford
Carole Gerber
Charles Ghigna
Charles Waters
Constance Levy
Cynthia Cotten
David L. Harrison
Debbie Levy
Deborah Chandra
Deborah Ruddell
Eileen Spinelli
Esther Hershenhorn
Gail Carson Levine
George Ella Lyon

Georgia Heard
Graham Denton
Greg Pincus
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Heidi Mordhorst
Heidi Bee Roemer
Irene Latham 
Jack Prelutsky
Jaime Adoff
Janet Wong
Jane Yolen
Jacqueline Jules
Jeannine Atkins
Jen Bryant
Joan Bransfield Graham
John Grandits
JonArno Lawson
Joseph Bruchac
Joy Acey
J. Patrick Lewis
Julie Larios
Juanita Havill
Kathi Appelt
Ken Slesarik
Kenn Nesbitt

Kristy Dempsey
Laura Purdie Salas

Lee Wardlaw
Leslie Bulion
Lesléa Newman
Linda Ashman
Linda Sue Park
Lorie Ann Grover
Margarita Engle
Mary Lee Hahn
Mary Quattlebaum
Michael J. Rosen
Michael Salinger
Michele Krueger
Monica Gunning
Nikki Grimes
Patricia Hubbell
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Robyn Hood Black
Sara Holbrook
Stephanie Calmenson
Steven Withrow
Susan Marie Swanson
Susan Taylor Brown
Terry Webb Harshman
X. J. Kennedy


DOGGY BAG: A tasty giveaway of The Poetry Friday Anthology

Janet and Sylvia have kindly offered to send a Poetry Friday Anthology to one lucky reader. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on this post. You will all be spun in the salad spinner, then one lucky name will be scientifically extracted by one or more very small hands. The winner will be announced here and on Facebook on Monday the 29th. (PFA poets, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t include you as we’re looking to spread the poetry goodies around!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look inside the marvelous and important Poetry Friday Anthology. It really is a treasure for teachers, students, and grazers like me!

Many, many thanks

to Janet, Sylvia, Jane, Ken, Stephanie, Michael, and all the PFA poets for joining me at No Water River and for creating this scrumptious poetry resource! 


A poem a day
keeps the blues away.
Write one.
Read one.
Do you really
need one?
A poem a day
keeps the blues away.

–Stephanie Calmenson

See more poems in my poetry video library.

All poems copyright (c) 2012 by their respective authors.