October 7 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside for all of those professional and private poets to unleash their imaginations and create poetry! As the name of the holiday suggests, these poems can be random – random subjects, random format, written or spoken in a random place. If writing isn’t really your thing but reading is, take a little time to read a favorite poem or poet or discover a new one! 

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: ‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way).”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and  eye-catching typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is an inspiring choice for their home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

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Grow a Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find enormous SMALLNESS at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 7 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

About the Holiday

Today is the day to unleash your inner poet – without thinking twice about it. What are the words in your heart or in your imagination? Write them down! You don’t have to be Shakespeare for your words, lines, thoughts, jottings – your poems – to have meaning and value. Then share them with family, friends, or even strangers. To celebrate today’s holiday you can also attend a poetry reading or enjoy a volume of verse – like today’s book!

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

Written by Julie Fogliano | Illustrated by Julie Morstad

 

Sometimes you wish for just the right words to express a moment in time, a skip of the heart, or a glimpse of color that truly captures the elation, sadness, or awe you feel. Those words live on every page of When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. Each month of the year is represented by three to five dated poems that expose a nugget of inspiration or a spark of recognition about the natural world and our place in it.

Spring begins its reawakening in the poem dated march 20, on which “from a snow covered tree / one bird singing / each tweet poking / a tiny hole / through the edge of winter / and landing carefully / balancing gently / on the tip of spring.”

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Image copyright Julie Morstad, text copyright Julie Fogliano. Courtesy of us.mcmillan.com

Spring is slow in shaking off its winter coat, however, and march 22 finds “just like a tiny, blue hello / a crocus / blooming in the snow” Even though the days continue to dawn chilly and rainy, early flowers long to see the sun. On march 26: “shivering and huddled close / the forever rushing daffodils / wished they had waited.”

With the onset of April and no reprieve from the weather, everyone it seems is tired of the persistence of winter, which sticks around like a party guest who doesn’t know when to go home. On april 3 “today / the sky was too busy sulking to rain / and the sun was exhausted from trying / and everyone / it seemed / had decided / to wear their sadness / on the outside / and even the birds / and all their singing / sounded brokenhearted / inside of all that gray.”

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Image copyright Julie Morstad, text copyright Julie Fogliano. Courtesy of us.mcmillan.com

At last summer comes and on june 15 “you can taste the sunshine / and the buzzing / and the breeze / while eating berries off the bush / on berry hands / and berry knees.” The warm days also bring swimming holes and fireflies, and by july 10 “when green becomes tomatoes / there will be sky / and sun / and possibly a cloud or two…” and summer bursts with all the wonder that makes it such a yearned for season. 

Then as summer wanes and the nights grow dark, september 10 makes you look into that deep vast space and think “a star is someone else’s sun / more flicker glow than blinding / a speck of light too far for bright / and too small to make a morning”

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Image copyright Julie Morstad, text copyright Julie Fogliano. Courtesy of us.mcmillan.com

A nip in the air means Fall has come around again. It’s time for sweaters and pumpkins, and for the trees to rest. If you listen carefully, you may hear on november 2 “more silent than something / much noisier than nothing / the last leaf / when it landed / made a sort of sound / that no one knew they heard.”

Then on december 21 “as if one day, the mountain decides / to put on its white furry hat / and call it winter” the season has changed, bringing with it crackling, cozy fires and snow, snow, snow. But this too offers its own enchantment on december 29: “and i woke / to a morning / that was quiet / and white / the first snow / (just like magic) came / on tiptoes / overnight.”

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Image copyright Julie Morstad, text copyright Julie Fogliano. Courtesy of us.mcmillan.com

When Green Becomes Tomatoes begins and ends with a poem dated the same day—March 20, the vernal equinox—giving this book a cyclical form that echoes the passing of time. Julie Fogliano’s delicate and gentle poems are a perfect tonic for the busy, non-stop days the year becomes. Instead of letting the surprising, profound, or beautiful moments pass us by Fogliano gives readers a reason and a way to stop and fully enjoy them.  

In Julie Morstad’s gorgeous watercolors of nature and the changing seasons, readers can almost feel the warm sunshine that feeds the vivid spring and summer blooms, the icy breeze that loosens the last leaf of autumn, and the fluffy blanket winter tucks around the earth. The multiethnic children in Morstad’s paintings are thoughtful, charming, and enchanted with the world around them, actively experiencing the marvels of each changing day. 

When Green Becomes Tomatoes contains such lovely verses that readers will want to revisit them over and over – the way the seasons recur and we are always glad to welcome each one back. This volume of poetry would make a wonderful gift and a terrific addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Ages 6 and up (adults will enjoy these poems too)

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1596438521

You can connect with Julie Fogliano on Facebook!

You’ll find a gallery of picture books, prints, and other illustrations on Julie Morstad‘s website!

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

 

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review