The Supreme Court outlawed

The Supreme Court outlawed
segregated schools in 1954,
but a decade later
the world of children’s books
had not even arrived
at “separate but equal.”

This situation damages
Black and white children alike,
since literature is one
of the important vehicles
through which we socialize children
and transmit our cultural values
to them.

White children,
finding in the pages of books
only others like themselves,
come to believe
in an inherent
“rightness of whiteness”
that grants
to other races
no important place
or function
in society.

Exposed only to ludicrous
or pathetic images
of Blacks,
white children absorb

even more deeply
the poison of racism—
and grow to perpetuate
this evil
for another generation.

For Black children
the absence
of positive images
in children’s books
was a clear signal
that they themselves
had little worth
in the society
that these books
reflected.

We are no longer
where we once were,
but we are not yet
where we ought to be.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Sims, Rudine. “Whatever Happened to the ‘All-White’ World of Children’s Books?” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 477-484.

It’s difficult

It’s difficult
to hear
the songs
of more than one world
at any one time.
and yet
sometimes
it’s necessary
to forget the songs
of one world

    I could be pompously wise.
    I could be inscrutable.
    I could be the dependable sidekick.
    I could be one of the howling fanatics.
    I could be sadistic, cruel, and cunning.

and learn
the songs of another,
especially if you’re Chinese-American.

Whatever I write,
I’m always aware
that I’m not quite alone.

If I listen
long enough and hard enough,

I just may be able to hear
a few fragments
of a chord of music
or a few broken notes,

and I know
that if I wait long enough
those few broken notes
or those few fragments of a chord
will regenerate themselves
within my own unconscious
and they’ll grow
until the song is once again
made whole.

And I think
the deepest pleasure of writing
is joining
my own voice
with the voices of the past
as they sing
their world
into existence once again.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Yep, Laurence. “A Chinese Sense of Reality.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 485-489.

My folks were immigrants

My folks were immigrants
with no time or money
for books.

Then I found out about
the public library,
a jumble of old red brick downtown,
full of books
you could take out
for nothing.

What I liked most
were adventure stories
that took me
out of my skin.

Often the world
in my books
was more real to me
than the life
around our kitchen table
or on our street

The family
and the neighborhood
you took
for granted.

The children I went to school with
were the first generation
to be born in America.

The public schools were dedicated
to Americanizing us.

Drop what makes you different.
Forget where your parents came from,
what they brought with them,
their own feelings and experiences,
their own beliefs and values.

Jane Addams understood
how wrong this was.
The public school, she said,
too often separates
the child from his parents
and widens the old gulf
between fathers and sons
which is never so cruel
and so wide
as between the immigrants
who come to this country
and their children who have gone
to the public school and feel
that they have there learned it all.

It is the business
of the school
to give to each child
the beginnings of a culture
so wide and deep and universal
that he can interpret
his own parents
and countrymen
by a standard
which is worldwide
and not provincial.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Meltzer, Milton. “A Common Humanity.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 490-497.

For the translator

For the translator
there is always
this haunting conflict:
Do I translate literally,
following each word,
staying as close as possible
to the text,
or do I follow
the spirit
of the story?

Yes, children’s books keep alive
a sense of nationality,
but they also keep alive a sense
of humanity.
They describe
their native land lovingly,
but they also describe faraway lands
where unknown brothers live.
They understand the essential quality
of their own race,
but each of them is a messenger
that goes beyond mountains and rivers,
beyond the seas, to the very ends
of the world
in search
of new friendships.

Every country gives
and every country receives—
innumerable are the exchanges—
and so it comes about that
in our first impressionable years
the universal republic of childhood
is born.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Carus, Marianne. “And the Whole Earth Was of One Language.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 498-505.

We’re here

We’re here
to speak for
and against
rubbish.

Books are fun. Books
are wonderful. They
make me feel
at home
in the world. They
tell me things
I want to know, and
then I ask more
questions.
The more curious
I am, the more
they tell me. They
make me want
to do,
to be. They
let me be
myself and someone else
at the same time. They
make me
laugh. They make me
cry. They
make me
sing with joy,
with loving, with living.

What children admire
they emulate.
Through good books
and the characters
met in them,
children may learn
patterns of kindness and gentleness,
realize that they can be courageous
and strong without violence,
identify themselves with independence
and achievement,
feel a desire
to cherish and protect,
which is the greatest element
of love.

One age’s rubbish
may well become
another age’s classics.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Heins, Ethel; Field, Carolyn W.; Sedney, Frances V. “For and Against Rubbish.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 506-515.

When you write

When you write,
you put yourself,
what you think

and your underlying attitudes,
both conscious and unconscious
on the line.

To write now,
at this particular period,
is to write at a time
when opinions, discussions, and arguments
over and about children’s literature
are reported
bountifully,
noisily,
and frequently.

And no matter what
viewpoint your books reflect,
you can be certain
you’ll displease someone.

You put yourself
both conscious and unconscious
as pieces of fiction

not as tracts
to guide the young
and growing mind.

The writer finds him- or herself
defending not the quality of a book,
but the inside
of his or her own mind.

Writers project outward
the perceptions and assumptions
that make up their myths.

Dissent does arise.

Accept the controversy,
because to be
without controversy
is to be silent,
or afraid,
or dead.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Holland, Isabel. “The Impact of Controversy on Popularity.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 516-521.

Shouldn’t we

Shouldn’t we
play a part
in making it
comprehensible?

Do not let children read anything
that you have not read yourself.

Read to them,
and teach them
to look for allusions
in books.

Give children something
they are growing up to,
not away from.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Heins, Ethel. “”Go, and Catch a Falling Star’: What Is a Good Children’s Book?” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 522-532.

I remember

Another mountain for one day
I lonely

I say it’s only the sea
Once upon a drive

Together we could steal time
Love will conquer

We stood so high
The sea will help us

Maybe we’re lying
There’s nothing

We can be enough
We can just for one day

I wish you
Only mountains and the sea

We can lose
Nothing greater

Shame was on the other side
Forever and ever

You will drive them away
Just for one day

Overflow with all
Your one day

Just for heart
We can keep us together

We could be safer
And nothing believe

In a haystack of despair
We kissed

As though nothing could remember
(I remember)

/ / /

This is a found poem. Sources:

David Bowie. “Heroes.” Heroes, 1977.
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/heroes.html

Prince. “Mountain.” Parade, 1986.
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/prince/mountains.html

Put your thinking cap on

Put your thinking cap on
Come get a hit

Syncopated rhymes are out
You rock ‘n rollers

When u hear my music
You won’t leave this

Thought in the air
And face the strange

In the gallows of my mind
A flow and a spray

My eyes dream big
More mouth than manure

Immune to your consultations
Expect the inner forces

Those who oppose
Never caught a flow

I am funky
Turn may change me

Aware they’re going
I won’t leave this town

Too much seekin’
It’s gettin’ tricky

Makin’ a stand
I say better way

Call upon the beat
That I’m rockin’

I don’t wanna be non-stop
I still don’t know what

Changes fascinating me
‘Cause I’ve seen the line

I’m not sayin’ I’m better
Time may change me

I give it this passion
Without a pistol, without a gun

I don’t play the one and only
Let’s get this running

I put my foot in
Turn and face the strange

Where’s your shame
Better may change me

Tell the truth
But never that

A groove with feeling
And so I turned myself

/ / /

This is a found poem. Sources:

David Bowie. “Changes.” Hunky Dory, 1971.
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/changes.html

Prince. “My Name Is Prince.” Symbol, 1992.
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/prince/mynameisprince.html

constellations never fail

constellations never fail
to light the face close to mine

i find my comfort
in the sea of tranquility

heart is bright enough
cross the stars

far out / my destiny
in a moonage daydream

your space / on a sleepless moon
arms are wide enough

when / we’re worlds apart
stars / in the heart

shine on both of us


/ / /

This is a found poem. Sources:

David Bowie. “Moonage Daydream.” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972.
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/moonagedaydream.html

Prince. “The Arms of Orion.” Batman, 1989. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/prince/armsoforion.html