Jules: In a continued celebration of National Poetry Month, this morning 7-Imp welcomes author and poet Jane Yolen and freelance photographer Jason Stemple, who happens to be Jane’s son. Jason’s photography has illustrated over ten of Jane’s previous titles, and their latest artistic collaboration is the beautifully (and cleverly) designed, A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection, released this month by Wordsong. The book features twelve poems, along with Jason’s nature photography, which reflect upon (excuse the bad pun) the doubled images and patterns created by the reflective nature of water. “The first mirror was water: puddles, pools, lakes, quiet rivers,” Jane writes in the opening author’s note.
Pictured here are some wood storks, the only stork species, the book notes, that breeds in North America, and a bird on the endangered species list. Below is Jane’s poem about the wood stork, followed by one more poem-photo pairing from the title, as well as the book’s cover image (a blue heron):
I chatted briefly with Jane about the book (and a couple other items), since it’s National Poetry Month, and that is below. I gave Jason the chance to talk a bit about his photography, too, but I believe he chooses to let his beautiful art work speak for itself. But I will intersperse more of his photos amongst my brief conversation with Jane — more of his nature and wildlife photography, as well as some photos he took of his “adopted hometown,” Charleston, South Carolina.
Jules: Tell us what collaboration was like on this book (did you see Jason’s photographs first or write the poems first?)
Jane: All of the books with Jason (except three) have been photos first, and I then responded to them. The three that were different were not poetry books — two autobiographies, A Letter from Phoenix Farm and On the Slant, out this year and both from Richard Owens, and the historical book, House/House (Cavendish).
Basically, whenever I go for a visit to Jason’s—he lives in South Carolina, and I live in Massachusetts—I take some time to go over the new work he has been doing. I then come up with thematic groupings: Aha! He has a dozen or so pictures with birds and animals mirrored in water. . . why not a book about reflections! Look at all those egret photos—why not a book about an egret’s day? Armed with about three or four such themes from me, Jason mentally adds them to his shooting schedule. A book with photos has to be overshot, needing many more photos than just the ones he already has. But, of course, unlike posed pictures, he has to get what he finds. Still, as Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” And as my late husband, Jason’s father, used to say—and he was known by his ornithologist friends as a “lucky birder”—“you can only see the birds if you are out there looking every day.” Jason is out shooting wildlife and nature every day.
Jules: What’s the secret to raising such talented kids?
Jane: Good genes (their father!), hard work, modeling behavior, and letting them follow their own bliss. Oh, and insisting they get a good agent (mine!).
Jules: What are you working on now?
Jane: I have eight books coming out this year, including poetry, a novel, and an autobiography for young readers. Jason and I have The Egret’s Day coming out from Boyds Mills this Fall. And another bird book from them, Birds of a Feather, as well as a book of bug poems in the next couple of years. We are working on a bunch of other things. He is working on something with his sister, Heidi Stemple. His brother, Adam, and I are writing a new novel that will have song lyrics (another kind of poetry).
Other poetry projects of mine, all with long lead times, are Wee Poems (Simon & Schuster), a collection of my poems for very young children; Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (Charlesbridge, with J. Patrick Lewis); Twinspiration, also with Pat Lewis (our poems about twins for Candlewick, because he is a twin, and I am a grandmother of twins); also with Pat: A book for Creative Editions that are poems about Chagall. With Andrew Peters, my co-host of Here’s a Little Poem, we have done a companion anthology of lullaby poems that Brian Karas is illustrating right now. And a bunch of picture books in rhyme, including Scarecrow’s Dance (out this Fall from Simon & Schuster) and My Father Knows the Names of Things (also Simon & Schuster), Not All Princesses Wear Pink (with daughter Heidi, from Simon & Schuster), and a bunch more How Do Dinosaurs… books. I love writing poetry!
Thanks, Jane. And many thanks to both of you for stopping by.
Jason Stemple’s work can be seen at jasonstemple.com and the new site he just launched, charlestonstockphotography.com. And here is Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s recent interview with Jane. We’ll close with an unpublished set of poems from Jane in celebration, again, of National Poetry Month (and in anticipation of summer)…
I turn the knobs of peonies
and the door to summer opens.
The garden had been all spring before,
green, lush, inviting to rabbits
lounging on the mossy lawn
as if in their own parlor.
But now, at my invitation,
summer marches in
through the open door
decked in full regalia,
bright red epaulets on its shoulders,
clutching a dozen pink roses,
not minding the thorns.
If peonies were an instrument,
I would say: trumpet.
See them blare the news
That summer has finally come,
Stepping briskly, despite the winds
Into my garden.
Tan-tan-ta-ra, the trumpet spits
And a dozen new flowers
Spring into life,
Taking the place of dying poppies
And capturing the garden’s unbroken walls.
Peonies 3: A Haiku
Peonies in bloom
Need no silly metaphor,
Already a poem.
As a reminder, our 7-kicks are our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. So, let’s kick it up. Absolutely anyone is welcome to list kicks — even if, or especially if, you’ve never done so before.
1). The photographs. The poetry.
2). When I interview my favorite illustrators (or author/illustrators), I always wrap up our correspondence by inviting them to stop by 7-Imp any time and share new art work. Julie Paschkis took me up on that. Below is an illustration from Summer Birds by Margarita Engle, to be released next year. Click on it! Click on it! And be amazed.
3). I co-presented on Friday, kinda last-minute, at the Tennessee Library Association 2009 Annual Conference with a professor from The University of Tennessee, who has done research on blogs as it relates to collection development in libraries. She asked me to talk about blogging and the best YA blogs out there, so the ears of many talented bloggers were burning that day. I was out there evangelizing, yo. The presentation went well, I think, and…
4). I also got to see friends from East Tennessee at this conference, even having a nice, leisurely, kid-free lunch with a good friend whose son is my five-year-old’s age and we totally have an arranged marriage between the two of them in our heads. (And, Eisha, I turned around, and THERE WAS STANDING JASON EZELL! I believe I yawped loudly in happiness and surprise.) Also…
5). We all survived another round of cyclones here in middle Tennessee, even all of us conference-go’ers having to sit on the bottom floor of the Nashville Marriott for a bit that day, as a tornado-churnin’ storm was right above us. I’m grateful my family and house are okay—and Eisha’s family—as tornadoes touched down close to where we live and destroyed homes and even took lives.
7). Keeping up. For different reasons, but mostly because it’s National Poetry Month, I turned around and realized I’d promised many folks that I’d post certain things this month, despite me deciding last summer to not be so schedule-y about blog posts anymore. I am constitutionally incapable of breaking a promise to someone, though, so if I said I’d post it in April, I will. I’m glad I’ve pulled it off thus far, and I think I’ll sloooow down in May.
1* More than anything, I am so glad my mom, my brother and his family; my aunts, uncles and cousins; and my BFF Jules and her family were not harmed by the tornado that did THIS to my hometown (photo by George Walker IV of The Tennessean). The damage it did is unfathomable to me, and I am so very sorry for all those who have suffered damage to their homes, injuries, or have lost loved ones.
2* Today’s photography and poetry is a real breath of fresh air.
3* That gorgeous illustration by Julie Paschkis up there. In-freaking-credible.
4* I finally read the first volume of Fables, the graphic novel series by Bill Willingham. The premise is kinda like Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm books, or Sarah Beth Durst’s Wild books – fairy tale characters in exile, trying to get along in the real world – only a bit more grown-up (i.e. more sex and violence). Also, obviously, more pictures. Good stuff. Thanks to the Poets Upstairs for loaning it to me.
5* The Strunk & White Elements of Style exhibit went up early in the week, and I’ve made a dent in the towering to-do pile that had gathered during its construction.
6* Random kick: I just found out in looking up the EoS link that Cornell has an Annual Dragon Boat Indoor Regatta. Hubba-wha? I’m… pretty sure that’s not possible. But whatever. GO TEAM!
7* This was quite the week for funny videos. Jules sent me the Jon Stewart link above, David Elzey posted this story on the conservative “teabagging” movement (serious!) on Facebook, and my husband sent me this (below). It’s the extended version of a commercial I hadn’t seen because we don’t have that elusive magical force you people call “TV reception.” Anyway, it’s Burger King’s latest attempt to sell burger & toy combo meals. TO CHILDREN. WHO DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO SIR MIX-A-LOT IS.
There’s so much wrong here I don’t even know where to begin.
But it cracks me up anyway.
BONUS KICK: I just now found out that SurLaLune, the fabulous fairy tale website, has a CafePress shop. I can get t-shirts and coasters and whatnot with Arthur Rackham illustrations on them. Or Jessie Wilcox Smith. This is a very dangerous thing for me to know. However, YOU should all know that my birthday is in August. *hint*
What are YOUR kicks this week? And Happy Easter from 7-Imp! May you have good chocolate — and happiness in your heart.
A MIRROR TO NATURE © 2009 Jane Yolen, illustration © 2009 by Jason Stemple. Published by Wordsong, Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Posted with permission of publisher. All rights reserved.