Archive for January, 2009

Poetry Friday: Wondering at the Wonder . . .

h1 Friday, January 30th, 2009

My husband and I have finally made our way to season six, the final season, of The Sopranos. Today’s Poetry Friday entry is inspired by a poem one of the characters on the show reads to another character in one of the early episodes of this season, which we watched just the other night. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone (though I know we’re slow in getting to the show and the rest of the country has seen it, I’m sure), so I won’t name names, but it may or may not have been during an existential crisis of sorts that one of the characters was having. In fact, this character was experiencing his own visions of life after death when the poem was being read.

Now, I am convinced that I think about life after death more than a person should (not in a morbid way, but in an enormously curious way) and that I’m, likely, terribly abnormal in this regard (as in, a total weirdo). But to me, it’s Life’s Greatest Mystery, and I think one reason I don’t mind aging at all in this wild life is that, each day, I’m one step closer to finding out the big answer. To say I claim to have no answers on the matter is a big ‘ol understatement, but I hope the atheists are wrong and that, in the words of Peter Pan, to die will be an awfully big adventure. All of that is to say that, well…you give me a book or a movie or a whatever that deals with the issue in an intelligent way, and I’m so hooked. This is one reason the poem really intrigued me. The character only reads the first two lines of the poem before the camera cuts away (to the other character’s ongoing journey through what you figure out is his own afterlife — not that he necessarily stays there, mind you), but my interest was piqued nonethless. (And the first show of this season opens with William Burroughs’ spoken word recording, Seven Souls, which was OH MY a TERRIFICALLY captivating way to open a season, but that’s a Poetry Friday entry for another day.)

Jacques Prévert—who wrote this poem, who is pictured here, who was born at the turn of the last century, and who is new to me—was a French poet and screenwriter. Evidently, he was an active participant in the Surrealist movement and also often wrote of sentimental love, even creating poems that were eventually set to music by the likes of not only many French vocalists, but also folks like Joan Baez.

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Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…

h1 Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I finally just finished my library copy of Sonya Hartnett’s The Ghost’s Child, originally published in Australia in 2007, I believe, and published last year in the U.S. by Candlewick. Remember when Sonya stopped by in ’07 and said quite determinedly that she doesn’t like her books to be pinned down when it comes to labels (such as “YA”)? Well, she’s done it again (I see here in The Guardian that Linda Newbery wrote last year in her review, “{e}mphatically, The Ghost’s Child has the quirkiness and the sense of being true to itself that often marks out fiction not written with any particular readership in mind”). This time she’s crafted a contemporary fable of sorts—an ethereal, lilting, poetic one at that—about the very nature (and very complicated nature) of human love. Or it could be a modern-day fairy tale? I dunno; I’m still thinking about it. And there I go, trying to categorize, too. Anyway, I wasn’t so sure about this book at first, though I’m a huge Hartnett fan, but I have to say it suddenly endeared itself to me, invited itself right in and took a seat in my mind, refusing to catch a cab and head home. It made itself some coffee and settled in to stay.

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Laurie Keller

h1 Monday, January 26th, 2009

Laurie KellerDevoted Readers of 7-Imp With Good Memories may recollect that, back in November of ’07, author Jack Gantos stopped by and sung the praises of author/illustrator Laurie Keller. Well, what a good reminder that was that I’d love to chat with her one day. Over one year later (hey, sometimes I’m just really slow) and after the birth of the handy-dandy seven-
breakfast illustrator interview, here we are.

Laurie’s here to join me for breakfast, and can I just tell you how fun it is to chat with her over a cyber-breakfast and how much I wish it were a REAL, in-person breakfast in her cottage in Michigan? Any hugely huge fan of Waiting for Guffman, a movie I’ve seen PRECISELY seven blajillion times and can probably quote to everyone’s great irritation, is a friend of mine. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #99: Featuring John Hendrix

h1 Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Welcome, everyone, to this week’s Kicks post. And welcome to John Hendrix, our featured illustrator for this week. If you’ve been following the Cybils nominations, or if you just happen to like good picture books, you may have already encountered his work in Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) by Deborah Hopkinson (Schwartz & Wade Books, September 2008), which has made it into the list of finalists for the Fiction Picture Books category this year. If you haven’t read it, check out the image above and the two below for a sneak preview.

Doesn’t seeing young Lincoln up there, being all heroic and brave and stuff, make you feel a little patriotic? Doesn’t it fit in nicely with this week’s inauguration awesomeness? We thought so too.

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Poetry Friday: Another Inaugural Poem (well, two, really)

h1 Friday, January 23rd, 2009

The land was ours before we were the land’s…Wasn’t it nice to have poetry during the inauguration again? I thought so, too.

Do you know who the first President to have poetry read during the inauguration ceremony was? John F. Kennedy. And in case you didn’t know who he chose, it was Robert Frost. A natural choice, being a fellow New Englander and all. But – stop me if you’ve heard this before – there was kind of a hitch during the reading.

Frost had composed a poem especially for the occasion, titled “Dedication.” Here’s how it starts:

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Random Illustrator Feature: Viviane Schwarz

h1 Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve done a totally random illustrator feature (as in, the Illustration Junkie just sometimes can’t wait ’til the usual Sunday illustrator feature), but here I am today with German (but London-based) author and illustrator Viviane Schwarz, whose books I’ve never even seen. But I stumbled across her site (thanks to Canadian illustrator Eric Orchard), liked what I saw, and asked her to stop by. (This is the way I roll sometimes, for good or bad. Emily Gravett has sung Viviane’s praises before as well, as I see here, so hey, I’m in very good company in liking what I see.)

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Two Things: Rock Obamo and the 7-Imp Mad Tea Party

h1 Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Jules: Yes, Rock Obamo. This is what my four-year-old daughter calls him.

Because Eisha and I are so excited about today’s inauguration, we’re sharing this song, which is by Maddy Wyatt, whom Eisha says she actually kinda knows:

Also, not appropos to that at all…7-Imp has a new mad-tea-party image, all thanks to author and cartoonist Ray Friesen, whom we featured Sunday at our kicks post. And we’d simply like to share it with you. He created this just for our blog, and he even put me and Eisha AT THE TABLE with Alice, the Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse! I could even argue that I’m drinking coffee there at this tea party. (Right? Right. Let’s just pretend anyway.)

Ray was trying very hard to finish it for Sunday’s post, but he sent it after we had already posted. He also said he intended to fully color it, too, but time just slipped away from him (hey, he was having way too much fun at a book-signing, including free cartooning classes for kids, which is way more important than an image for our blog anyway, I’m sure you’d agree). But you know what? We like that coloring.

In the book, Alice might think it’s the stupidest tea-party she ever was at in all her life, but we love this cartoon so much. I believe Eisha’s words when she saw it were: “We’ve been cartoonified by a professional! Into an Alice tea party! I think I can die happy now.” We plan to add it to the header of one of our site’s pages, such as we’ve done here and here previously with those mad-tea-party images.

We thank Ray heartily.

Happy Inauguration Day!

Seven Questions Over Breakfast
(and Pass the Cigars) with John Manders

h1 Monday, January 19th, 2009

Illustrator John Manders is here for seven questions over breakfast (there he is with Sherman and the day’s first cup of coffee). He can’t linger for too long, since he and his wife just moved into an old farm house in November and have a ton of work to do. And, since John has only been able to answer interview questions “in between plumbing emergencies, appliance deliveries, demolition, unloading and unpacking, and—of course—billable work,” as he put it, I’m even more grateful he took the time to stop by. In fact, about the picture above John told me that behind him and Sherman is the void to be inhabited eventually by a refrigerator. Seeing as how he also just installed a new copper pipe to replace a decrepit old iron hot water line (er, John did…not Sherman), he says that he can be a plumber if the bottom falls out of the children’s book biz, but I hope that doesn’t happen, because I like the energy he brings to his illustrations way too much.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #98: Featuring Ray Friesen

h1 Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Jules: You know we like to mix things up here at 7-Imp. Last week, we featured contemporary paintings and photography, and today we switch gears big-time and welcome author and cartoonist Ray Friesen (the cartoon version of Ray greets us here), who draws a series of humor/adventure graphic novels for young children. Pictured above is one of the many characters he’s created, the timid superhero Captain Cautious, whom I chose randomly from Ray’s site, since I’d like to have the superpower of creating a vortex into the ice cream dimension, which Captain Cautious can do.

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Poetry Friday: Elizabeth Alexander

h1 Friday, January 16th, 2009

Well, I’m excited about next week’s inauguration. How about you?

In celebration of poetry’s return to a presidential inauguration—this is the first time that poetry will be featured at the ceremony since Bill Clinton’s second swearing-in back in 1997—I’m featuring a poem by Elizabeth Alexander today. Alexander, Obama’s choice as the inaugural poet, is also an essayist, playwright, and teacher, born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C. She has published five books of poetry and currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Yale University. As you can read here, she’s “completely thrilled and deeply, deeply honored” to have been chosen.

“…Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there…”

That’s from Alexander’s “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe,” and the full version can be found here at her site. Also of interest: Alexander’s “The female seer will burn upon this pyre,” archived over at The Poetry Foundation.

Lastly, this is well-worth your time: The Poetry Foundation’s 11/25/08 episode of Poetry Off the Shelf discusses “poets in the age of Obama,” or “how the Derek Walcott-toting, June Jordan-quoting president will affect poets and poetry.” For approximately nine minutes (audio only), Curtis Fox discusses with Ms. Alexander how Obama will affect not only our current intellectual culture, but the world of poetry as well. Here’s the link.

As of Thursday night, I’m not sure who’s hosting the Poetry Friday round-up, but we’ll get it straight soon enough, I’m sure.

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Friday-morning update: The round-up will be hosted by Karen Edmisten over at her blog with “the shockingly clever title.” Thanks for rounding-up, Karen!

Jone has some more thoughts on Ms. Alexander over at Check It Out.