Copyright 2015 Linda Martin Andersen
“Frogs, Poems, and a Princess” by Linda Martin Andersen
April is Frog Month. It’s also National Poetry Month. And since Joy Acey is “The Princess of Poetry,” she seemed a natural for an interview that combines frogs, poems and a princess. Thank you for accepting this invitation, Joy Acey.
Please give Joy a big Writer’s Playground welcome!
Q: When did you begin writing poetry, Joy?
A:I think I’ve always written poems and little rhymes.
I probably was pushed out of the womb on an iambic pentameter beat. In Junior High my English teacher encouraged me to enter a Scholastic writing contest and one sponsored by the American Red Cross. I didn’t win, but the rhyming was just a fun thing to do. I invented little songs and had fun experimenting. But I didn’t study poetry until I met Bernice Cullinan, editor of Wordsong, the poetry imprint of Boyds Mill Press. I was standing next to her waiting for a bus at Chautauqua while two other women chatted with her. Bernice turned to me and asked about the poetry I wrote. I hadn’t said anything about writing poetry to her, she somehow intuited we should talk about my writing. She took my poetry seriously and that made it OK for me to take it seriously too.
Q: What a great way to come into the world. I know you’re called “The Princess of Poetry.” When were you dubbed with this title?
A:The “Princess of Poetry” title came when I was working with children in the Durham County Schools. We lived for a year in Great Britain and it was interesting to me how the locals were fascinated with the Royals. The citizens took responsibility for helping to raise the princes and princesses. So, I wanted the Durham students to know they could be princes and princesses too. All they had to do was try everyday to do their very best (so striving to be better becomes a habit.) As the Princess of Poetry, it was their job to help me try to do my very best. If I wasn’t doing something right, I needed their help to do better. Actually, once I accepted the title, I needed a tiara and I had a good time shopping for just the right one. I wore my tiara when I wrote. This turned out to be a really fun thing. I got several published articles out of the process.
Q: Joy, I love that you invited your audience to be princes and princesses too. I enjoy reading and following your blog post. I am amazed that you write and post a poem daily at http://poetryforkidsjoy.blogspot.com/ How and when did “Poetry for Kids Joy” begin?
A:I really have to give credit to Bridget Magee for my blog. I had been thinking for a couple of years about starting a blog, but I just couldn’t get a handle on what I knew that would be of interest to someone else. Bridget was doing daily poems at that time at www.weewordsforweeones.blogspot.com
When I saw what she was doing, I realized I could do a blog for children’s poetry. I started on April 20, 2011. I named the blog Poetry for Kids Joy because I wanted poetry to make kids happy. The title still fits. In fact, you’ll find a little poem I wrote in third grade at that first post. I can’t believe I didn’t include an introduction or a welcome. There isn’t even an announcement for a new blog. I started the blog because I wanted to force myself to write a poem daily. I journaled daily, and now my journaling includes a poem and my poetry has gotten better with the practice.
I just checked the statistics on my blog and I’ve posted over to 1450 poems and have had over 180,000 page views. There are folks in Canada, England, Australia, Italy, France, Africa, Russia, China, South America and lots of places I’ve never been, who follow my blog. This is so much fun. I have met so many interesting people on my blog.
Q: Impressive stats, Joy. You’re so dedicated. What poetry groups or workshops have inspired your writing journey and in what ways?
A:I’m a firm believer in professional growth. I’ve attended poetry workshops at The Frost Place, The Vermont Studio, Breadloaf, Wildacres, Georgia State College, NC State College, Pima Community College, Chautauqua, Highlight’s Educational Foundation. I made the decision early on that I wanted to focus on Poetry—Poetry for Children. In general, I skip the workshops that cover all genre because I don’t want the work watered down with fiction and nonfiction. Poetry is my thing.
Q: Please name three favorite poems by current poets.
A:Poems, 1, 2, 3 are all in this year’s Newbery winner THE CROSSOVER written by Kwame Alexander. This is a brilliant book that includes wonderful poems and great life lessons for kids. If you haven’t read this book yet, you must.
Here’s a piece of trivia for you. What children’s poet collects frogs? The answer is Jack Prelutsky. Everything he’s written is worth reading.
Q: I’ve got to read The Crossover. Where have your poems been published?
A: I have poems in all of the POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGIES. The most recent is the PFA for CELEBRATIONS. My poem “Camping”is for June’s National Camping Month. The Poetry Friday Anthologies are compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong for Pomelo Books. There are 115 poets and 156 poems presented in English and Spanish in the CELEBRATIONS Anthology. Just reading the Poetry Friday Anthologies is a great way to find out the current state of poetry for children. I’ve learned a lot from these books.
Q: An anthology is a great addition to a home library. Just for fun…Have you ever kissed a frog? Have you considered it? Have you been asked this before?
A:Actually I have kissed a frog (a lot of two legged toads too.) My daddy used to go frog gigging in the summer and I’d go with him occasionally. I’d play and joke with the frogs. If you pull the leg tendons you can make a dead frog kick. I tortured my sister with the dead frogs. I’d help my dad dress the frogs by pulling the leg skin off. No one has ever asked me this before.
Q: Loved your sense of adventure. Would you share a frog poem or two that you have written?
A: I can’t believe that I’ve written at least 10 frog poems posted on my blog. (Maybe I need to work on a collection of frog poems.) Poems aboutpoisonous dart frogs, about dancing frogs, or little boys with frogs in their pockets.But the post your readers might enjoy most (sorry, I can’t help myself) is one with lots of frog jokes posted on August 23, 2011. Or they might enjoy
Sings a frog,
While he sits
Upon a log.
He watches, listens
and he sighs–
Out darts his tongue,
Art and poem: Copyright–Joy Acey
Thank you for all you shared, Joy. You’re one special lady and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. A real JOY! And as the frogs would say: Ribbet-ribbet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Gkn9hvejY
Thanks for having me Linda. This has been fun.
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