A Poem for Lee Bennett Hopkins

 

Maybe you’ve heard that Lee Bennett Hopkins, gifted poet and anthologist, was officially awarded NCTE’s Excellence in Poetry for Children Award the weekend before Thanksgiving? I couldn’t attend the Philadelphia conference because I was in Atlanta for a joyful family wedding, and it sounds like I missed a fantastic event. You can read Sylvia Vardell’s post about it here.

Sylvia and poet Janet Wong did some anthologizing themselves, inviting children’s poets (especially any who have worked with Lee) to submit a poem for a book in his honor. I was honored to be asked…and intimidated, too. I heard Harry Connick Jr. on the Graham Norton show talking about how he was so nervous performing at Frank Sinatra’s 75th birthday party that he forgot the words. That’s kind of how I felt. How do you write a poem for an iconic poet?

But over at The Miss Rumphius Effect, I had just done a few recipe poems for that week’s Poetry Stretch. So I decided to do one for this anthology, too.

By the way, you still have a chance to win a copy of this anthology, Dear One, with everyone’s tribute poems in it by visiting Sylvia’s blog right now and leaving a comment!


Recipe for a Poetry Book

(for Lee, who reinvents the recipe for every feast he makes)


Pour hot ink from soul to bowl.
Combine with rhyme?

or not.

Mix in scarecrows, diamonds, dirt.
Splash with history, sunrise, socks.

Add a dash of salty tears.
Leaven with feathers, with clouds of hope.

Sift in sounds of sirens and leaves,
slamming doors, violin strings

Heat until mixture tumbles and boils,
trying to climb the sides of the pot.

Reduce to almost nothing.
Secretly, frequently lick the spatula.

Briskly whisk what’s left behind.
Whip a weightless world of words

Spread on artful glossy sheets.
Bake for barely-passing years.


Savor in country fields, battlefields, bleachers, and tents.
Serves the world. Stays fresh forever.

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

 

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