Poems Born from Wonder

Poetry Friday logo by Linda Mitchell

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.) This is another fairly long post–sorry! Feel free to skip down to just the image poem if you only want a quick poetry hit. But if you want to know a bit more about the process behind writing poetry, whether it’s a gorgeous new printed collection or just the result of a 2‑hour poetry group zoom, then read all the bits :>)

Last week, I shared about Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard’s new collection, Welcome to the Wonder House.

Because Rebecca and Georgia both were kind enough to answer a couple of extra questions, I thought I’d share those brief replies here before I share my poem this week.

Laura to Rebecca: I’m very glad you credited each poem. Sometimes in co-authored poetry collections, the individual poems aren’t credited. Did you discuss whether or not to credit the individual poems? 

Rebecca’s reply: [A]s I remember, this came about naturally and maybe [editor] Rebecca Davis made this decision.  But we all liked the idea of the reader not being left wondering who wrote which poem.  And also, for any possible permissions in the future it makes things much easier for the anthologist.

Laura to Rebecca: For me as a reader, this collection made me think of connection, impermanence and how the world is always changing (although extremely slowly in many cases), empathy, perspective, and intimacy. What key words or themes (in addition to wonder, of course) did you talk about as you crafted this magnificent collection?

Rebecca’s reply: Curiosity, Discovery, Magic, Amazement, Imagination

Laura to Rebecca: Thank you for not shying away from the occasional dark thought. So many kids wonder about death and very hard things, and in Rebecca’s poem in “Room of Mystery,” the speaker wonders about dinosaurs’ final day after the meteor strike. I think this kind of wondering builds readers’ empathy muscles, and it’s also just so powerful. Was there any hesitation between you about including a darker poem?

Rebecca’s reply: Not at all.  We both thought, along with Rebecca Davis, our wonderful editor, that these types of emotions and questions are necessary to address to the young reader.  Because they are wondering about these things already.

Laura to Georgia: Would you share what went into your decision to not title the poems?

Georgia’s reply: Right from the start, we decided to use the theme of the Rooms of Wonder as the title for the poems, instead of giving each poem its own title. We felt that giving individual titles to the poems might take away from the main idea of the Wonder Room theme.

Laura to Georgia: What do *you* wonder about the world? About life? About this book?

Georgia’s reply: I wonder about so many things. These wonders aren’t necessarily specific questions I have, but more about being amazed by the beauty of the world, especially nature. I’m fascinated by the melodies of birds, the presence of trees, and the shapes of clouds. When I’m filled with this sense of wonder, I try to put it into words in my mind. I don’t want to put a precise label on it, instead I try to describe what I’m experiencing. Just the other morning, I was staying at my family’s house, and I heard a hermit thrush song. It brought me such a feeling of joy. I think the feeling associated with wonder is joy, and I hope our book will inspire children to keep wondering and experience the world with awe.

Thank you, Georgia and Rebecca, for the extra answers! It’s so lovely to read about your thoughtful approach to this book and to life.

After I’d received a review copy of this book, I shared a spread with my tiny poetry group, and we brainstormed wonders–silly, series, logical, surreal. Then we did a series of quick exercises using word lists and other games/techniques/rules to draft some fast poems. My starting wonders were:

  • I wonder why stars die.
  • I wonder what life without sugar would be like.
  • I wonder how origami artists do what they do?
  • I wonder where our soul goes when we die.
  • I wonder when I became an adult.
  • I wonder why we hide so much of ourselves from each other.

In my first exercise, I wrote a draft that began:

She wonders if her mother’s soul forgot
that it had places to be.

My second exercise was a found poem from a word list of the words in one of Georgia’s poems in the Room of Place, inspired by my wonder about when we become adults.

That draft was:

When Do We Become Adults?

Child,
cradled by the world,
falls like rain,
drop by drop,
in to the sea—
umbrella spinning by…

The third exercise was to write about a wonder using sounds. Here’s my first draft from that exercise:

Origami sounds like

a breath of haiku
and a steel knife blade–
dancing silently
across the clouds

Finally, we took anything we wrote that day and revised, combined, mashed up, recreated it into a new draft. Here’s mine. I initially had the final line as “She rises from the foam.” But that rises felt too cliched and epic here. So I tweaked it while making the Canva. It’s still very much a poem in progress, but I like it. And I love that we really focused on letting our minds wander in wonder for a couple of hours!

Two more things:

  • Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten is on sale this month for the Kindle edition for $2.49. Check it out!
  • For the Sealey Challenge this week, I was really noticing wonder in other poetry collections. Here’s what I read and shared. If you want to see the poems/bits I shared, you can find my posts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
    • Swing Around the Sun, by Barbara Esbensen, is one of the first collections that made me want to write kids’ poetry. Rereading it today (esp the beautiful 25th-anniversary edition) rekindles my appreciation for concrete, sensory words and finding magical ways to write freshly about the same topic several times.
    • I dipped into Poems to Lift Your Up and Make You Smile, I could use uplifting, & several poems I read this morning did the trick. Here’s part of a favorite, the ending from “Everything about Egypt,” by Edwin Romond. I read 20 pages from 40 to 60. The poems that I liked best were weekend plans, give me maps, the feeling of Earth on my fingers, everything about Egypt, and snowy owl snarls traffic in Saskatoon. All full of excellent real life details rather than cliches. Although a few of the ones with cliches I liked as well 🙂
    • I revisited the light-hearted scary poems of Scarum Fair. Jessica Swaim wrote such clever and funny poems, full of wordplay and wackiness. I love them! Here’s “Coffin Race.”
    • I read from Jane Kenyon: Collected Poems. There’s so much to admire about her work. But because it’s been a rough spring & summer, personally, or perhaps it’s just today’s particular poems, but these poems are filling me with melancholy…
    • I love the text to text cnxns popping up in my reading for #theSealeyChallenge. 1 of yesterday’s Jane Kenyon poems (stanza in pic 3) sent me to shelves for today — a collection I absolutely adore: Joyce Sidman’s This Is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. A masterpiece!
    • I read the Stanley Kunitz selections in The Poets Laureate Anthology. So much about a person’s past, our history, how we encounter and experience love and awe and death. Here, a couple bits from “The Wellfleet Whale.”
    • The Tree That Time Built, co-edited by Mary Ann Hoberman (just one bit of her legacy). This anthology feels like it could be the worldly, loving big sis of Welcome to the Wonder House!
    • I read the Robert Pinsky selections in The Poets Laureate Anthology today. For me, his poems feel both concise & stream of consciousness. They’re full of lists, harshness, technology, & electric narrative jolts. And TV is a “Terrarium of dreams and wonders.”

And for lots more wonderful poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with photographer and nature lover extraordinaire Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone.

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15 Responses

  1. Such wonder here, Laura! Thanks for sharing all the exercises that led to your poem. I love the ending of your poem, especially the lines “folded like origami from the paper hurricaines of childhood” — just a beautiful metaphor for stepping into adulthood.

  2. Thank you so much for all of the work that went into this post, for sharing additional insights from the authors of Welcome to the Wonder House, and for the peek into your writing process. Grown is so thoughtful and beautifully written!

  3. So much to think about here, Laura! I enjoyed your interview questions with Rebecca and Georgia who I greatly admire and your “Child, cradled by the world/ Falls like rain” was a beautiful way to begin a poem. Thanks for all the book titles. Great post.

  4. Oh, Laura, I haven’t shared yet, but now have read this new poetry book by Georgia and Rebecca. It, as you’ve so beautifully shown, is an inspiration. It would be so wonderful to share with students of any age. For your poem, watching my granddaughters growing up and now my grandson grown, I love the idea of “wander in wonder” during their years and also “umbrella spinning away”. It’s another lovely response to this book!

  5. It did feel like a long way around to your poem today, Laura, but I guess you couldn’t have got there otherwise. There is not a line that doesn’t intertwine with others in multiple ways, an unfolding fortune teller of everyday triumph. We grow up.

  6. This post is such an invitation, Laura, and thank you for extending it! I could linger here for quite some time…and will come back later. I’ve already ordered “Welcome to the Wonder House” because of your review last week. I love seeing how you used it as a starting place in your writing. (Thank you so much for sharing all the fascinating process pieces!) Your final poem is just lovely and I was wowed by ” folded like origami/from the paper hurricanes/of childhood” and that final “stepping” from the foam. Fabulous post!

  7. Laura, being a former Wonderopolis Ambassador, the whole train of thought on wonder leads to joy flows through your post from the interview with Rebecca and George to your final poem. The title of your poem is explored beautifully in your poem. Your mind wandered in wonder to the final product. Continuing wandering and wondering through life.

  8. Whoa, that wondering workshop really sounds so lovely. I appreciated reading your thoughts, wonders, process. Thank you, Laura. I really like the way you captured becoming an adult: “she is grown / folded like origami / from the paper hurricanes / of childhood” and I like how you tweaked that last line. I do like it better too.

  9. What fun you and your poetry group had! Thanks for the (what I’ll take as an) invitation to play along!

  10. Laura, I’ve really enjoyed your “conversations” with Georgia and Rebecca in your last two posts. It gives me a delightful feeling of intimacy in hearing more about their process. I now have my copy and am enjoying daily dives into each room. I am going to take a page from your exercises and give myself a poetry date to sit in my own wonder room and write “in conversation” with these two beautiful poets.

  11. Such a rich and overflowing post of poetry Laura, 💙 your GROWN poem, and the work and poems that fed into it, moving imagery too, thanks for all!

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