Poetry Friday: Charlotte Zolotow and the Poets

The recently deceased children’s author Charlotte Zolotow was also an editor and a poet herself. She edited many of the most gifted authors of poetry for children of the twentieth century during her tenure at Harper and Row.

Lee Bennet Hopkins wrote of his editor Charlotte Zolotow: “Charlotte was editor-supreme. Her respect for an author, her insight, foresight, her vision of what could be — become — has been a highlight of my career. Lucky is one to be caught in the true Charlotte’s web.”

Paul Fleischman, winner of the 1989 Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices was also edited by Ms. Zolotow. In a tribute to her editorial skills, he says: “In matters of larger scope, her vision was truly exceptional. She was an astounding discoverer of talent. Once she’d found you, she didn’t rewrite you any more than she did your sentences. Ideas for books weren’t thrust upon you. The latest trends in publishing were never bandied about. Charlotte operated on the theory that the best book you had inside you was the one you most wished to write, no matter what happened to be selling at the moment.”

61AjTymBiWL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Poet Karla Kuskin, also a friend and protege of Ms. Zolotow, wrote a poem for a 1990 celebration of Charlotte Zolotow’s work:

There is that smile
that warms us like the sun.
There is the ouevre
(fine work done,
fine work yet to come).
There is all this, and more
with that well honed and stainless
steel trap mind…

Mind and imagination combined made Charlotte Zolotow a formidable and talented author and editor and poet. Here are a couple of poems by Ms. Charotte herself:

51CA533HDML._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Ladybug by Charlotte Zolotow

Little ladybug
With your
Glazed red wings
and small black polka dots
you look like a porcelain statue
until suddenly

People by Charlotte Zolotow

Some people talk and talk
and never say a thing.
Some people look at you
and birds begin to sing.

Some people laugh and laugh
and yet you want to cry.
Some people touch your hand
and music fills the sky.

Poetry Friday: David McCord

Children’s poet David McCord was born on November 15 (or December 15 or 17), 1897 in New York City. (Most internet sources say December 15th or just 1897.) He grew up in New Jersey and Oregon, and went to school at Harvard, where he later worked as a fundraiser for the Harvard College Fund.

He once said about writing poetry for children:

“Whatever may be said about this small but graceful art, three things should be remembered: good poems for children are never trivial; they are never written without the characteristic chills and fever of a dedicated man at work; they must never bear the stigma of I am adult, you are a child.”

“McCord said he developed a love of words and a fine sense of rhythm from reading aloud the Bible to his elderly grandmother.” (Obituary, Harvard Gazette, April 17, 1997)

This poem is the one by Mr. McCord I remember reading over and over again until I practically had it memorized. I used to read my library books while perched in the mulberry tree next to my house, so I suppose this poem was something close to my own experience.

51VY32VQ2hL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
I scrape a leg
Or skin a knee
And every time I climb a tree
I find some ants
Or dodge a bee
And get the ants
All over me.

And every time I climb a tree
Where have you been?
They say to me
But don’t they know that I am free
Every time I climb a tree?

I like it best
To spot a nest
That has an egg
Or maybe three.

And then I skin
The other leg
But every time I climb a tree
I see a lot of things to see
Swallows rooftops and TV
And all the fields and farms there be
Every time I climb a tree
Though climbing may be good for ants
It isn’t awfully good for pants
But still it’s pretty good for me
Every time I climb a tree

Lee Bennett Hopkins discusses David McCord and his poetry.

Poetry Friday Roundup this week is at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. I can’t think of a more poetical place to visit on a crisp November day.