In Memory of Lee Bennett Hopkins [Poetry Friday]

It’s a sad Poetry Friday today. (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

NOTE: Some readers are commenting and not seeing their own comments show up, even though they are showing up for me and others! I don’t know what’s causing this and am hopeful the WordPress or other platform gods will figure out how to solve the problem sometime soon. Meanwhile, please know that I AM seeing your comments and replying to them.

I wasn’t posting this week for Poetry Friday, but poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins died yesterday morning. In the 1990s, when I first thought, Hey, what’s this children’s poetry stuff?, it was Lee’s anthologies that invited me into the genre. In his books, I met some of my very favorite poets. I learned so much about the range of form and emotion and beauty that children’s poetry could take. What a blow for children’s poetry!

Me and Lee in 2007

At my first ALA Poetry Blast, Lee and Rebecca Kai Dotlich held my hands to calm my nerves before I read. Lee’s invitation to submit poems for I Am a Book led indirectly to my own book, BookSpeak. His poetry master class in L.A. introduced me to many poets to learn from. I wrote poems for two of his anthologies, Dizzy Dinosaurs and Lullabies and Kisses Sweet. And I contributed this poem to Dear One: A Tribute to Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Lee was a force of nature, and all of his considerable energy went toward advocating for poetry. One more star  has blinked out this week, but Lee’s legacy of poetry remains to guide the way.

For more poetry (and I’m guessing many more tributes to Lee), don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone.

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29 Responses

  1. What a beautiful poem, Laura. It’s just like Lee. Perfect. I know this giant will be missed terribly.

    I am one that cannot see my own comments here. Kinda weird. I hope it gets worked out soon.

    1. Thanks, Susan. His poems have inspired so many teachers, writers, and readers. Sigh…

  2. “Stays fresh forever” says all that is needed, Laura. I love the poem. Despite this sad loss, Lee’s books will be there for us and for the children they are for.

  3. I love your poetic tribute to Lee, Laura. And I, too, feel such gratitude for his contributions to making poetry such an integral part of children’s experiences with language and books. He was such a wonderful human being.❤️

  4. Oh Laura, it is such a loss to our community and the wider community of all poetry-loving teachers and children and their families. I came late to the poetry community and have been welcomed and encouraged. I am slow to accomplish my goals, but my heart is in it even if life-events get in my way. And Lee, well, somehow he saw something in me, got to know me and while we never met in person we did on Skype at Rebecca Dotlich’s workshop at Highlights, two times. Then we had quite the fb connections. That led to him reaching out to me with gifts for Laina and book gifts and then an invitation to write for his just published anthology, I AM SOMEONE ELSE. He was so good to so many new poets. He believed in me when I was not sure I could do it since I have my hand in a couple of different “worlds”. (My free verse poetry that I write for myself but that older kids can relate to, but I doubt publishers would want.) I didn’t realize, but should have, that he was so influential in your life and journey as a poet and writer and you do such amazing work. I am going to keep on bringing him to life in my school visits, just like I have done, even before I knew him, and I know he loved that I brought poetry to kids. Such sadness in my heart. His is a life to emulate, he has done so much and with such integrity and love and wise planning. Thank you for sharing your connection to Lee, he was everywhere it seems. I love your poem you wrote for Dear One. And of course your other work is among my favorites! Big hugs to you and to others who are grieving this loss.

  5. Laura, Lee’s light was extinguished today but a flame will remain in the literary world for this poetry giant who guided so many of us. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe poem.

    1. So true, Carol. And those he inspired, like you, will continue to inspire others:)

  6. That last line, “Serves the world. Stays fresh forever” describes Lee, himself, to a T! I can so easily imagine him and Rebecca holding your hands at the ALA Blast, Laura. (I imagine that memory will stay fresh forever, as well.) Hugs…

  7. Oh, how I LOVE your poem! The “or not.” The frequent licking of the spatula. (Secretly.) The final stanza.

    I’m so glad you met Lee and that he inspired your career. Because of him, we have you, and for that I am so very thankful.

    1. Aw, thank you for the warm fuzzy, Mary Lee. It’s so inspiring to see YOUR poetry growth over recent years. You are a force! Can’t wait to buy your books one day.

  8. “Reduce to almost nothing.…Briskly whisk what’s left behind.” Too late I am appreciating, UNDERSTANDING, Lee’s genius. While less is more, there can be never too much love for Lee.

  9. What a lovely tribute, Laura. I never met Lee in person, but he was welcoming and lovely to me on social media. He was truly the best, and we’re all better for knowing him and his work.

  10. Your recipe for a poetry book is so delicious! Thanks for sharing it. I’m regretting that I never met Lee. The tributes all make him sound like a gentle soul. Surely a star in the sky!

  11. Your poem is a beautiful tribute! I love the recipe poem–the playfulness and fun just shine

  12. So glad you got to know Lee, and spend time with him Laura. Thanks for sharing this lovely poem and tribute, I’m sure his poetry goodness will continue to shine through you and so many others, xo

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