Jerry Flack, University of Colorado
Struck By Lightning: Poetry and Lee Bennett Hopkins
If more politicians knew POETRY and more POETS knew politics,
I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.
John F. Kennedy
April is National Poetry Month in the United States. This representation of “Book Ends” in the Winter edition of The Kaleidoscope focuses on two vital subjects. First, hopefully readers of this article – parents, teachers, librarians, administrators, and other mentors – will particularly shine spotlights on the magical wonders of poetry in the education of gifted and talented youths at the very least during the month of April. Even more vital is a daily, year-long celebration of poetry. Second, the key poet to whom this special edition is dedicated is the most prolific poetry anthologist in the history of children's literature in both the United States and the world, Lee Bennett Hopkins. The influence of Lee Bennett Hopkins cannot be overstated. He is a poet and poetry anthologist of incredible productivity. He is noted as the inventor of the picture book poetry anthology as a literature genre. He loves poetry and children and he has been a strong advocate for gifted students for several decades. He is equally an extraordinarily kind and gracious man who has generously contributed vital answers to questions posed in an exclusive interview for this special poetry issue of The Kaleidoscope. Further, as part of the “K” interview he shares one of his original poems with Colorado readers. He speaks to those who educate gifted students, but even more to the point, he speaks directly to students. Hopefully, Kaleidoscope readers will share every single word Mr. Hopkins voices with Colorado's gifted and talented students in their homes, classrooms, and at special events (e.g., Super Saturday sessions).
Tests, tests, tests. Yes, it is crucial that ALL Colorado students be literate and understand the sometimes arcane intricacies of mathematics. But, poetry is life's breath. Where indeed would the literate world and an intelligent nation be without the poetry of Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the King James Version of the Bible, “The Star-spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” “The Gettysburg Address,” Robert Frost's “The Gift Outright,” and “We Shall Overcome”? A nation and a world without poetry is verbally impoverished; its people are word paupers.
Ballads, odes, blank verse, haiku, cinquain, limericks, acrostics, rondeaux, vers libre, stanza, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, simile, and much, much more. Many are the forms and tools that verse wordsmiths may use. What really matters is that there should always be time for poetry in homes and in classrooms. Poetry in the curriculum well serves current and future young poets.
A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms,
to be struck by lightning five or six times.
[ To read this article in its entirety, click here. ]