Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Click here for a Printer friends list of Rebecca's poetry books!
Librarians and teacher note: budgets are limited, but this is a gem! Makes a great spring birthday present too!
1. I LOVE your new book: OVER IN THE PINK HOUSE. Can you tell us about its creation?
As a young girl, I was dizzy with jump rope fever. Jumping rope after dinner, under the stars, with all my neighborhood friends was Heaven. I loved learning, reciting, and making up new rhymes. And one day, not too long ago, I heard a new jump rope rhythm in my mind. It sort of just danced its way right in. And the words came, too. Absolutely joyful. I started quickly jotting down ideas; words and images that had fanciful or folk like flavor -- similar to those included in traditional nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and original jump rope rhymes. From there, one came right after the other. It was the quickest, easiest, most playful book I've written.
2. What is your favorite thing about poetry?
Simply the way it makes me feel. How a tiny package of words can erase sorrow, confusion and frustration! It's absolutely wondrous. Poetry, for me, is one of those things like hot chocolate, fresh blueberries or crisp apples. Who can describe it, really?
3. What advice would you give young poets?
To realize that writing poetry is a craft. It takes time. Don't expect too much now. Do not be hard on yourself. Realize that your place in the universe right now is to read, read, read; to drink in everything you can. Read every poetry book, every good poem you can get your hands on. Keep a journal. Copy your favorite poems into it and study them. Read them again and again. Practice. Try and write a poem similar in content or rhythm to a poem you love, either for the way it makes you feel, or because it is just too beautiful, the way those words have been placed together "just for you." (And that IS what a good poem does.) And then, down the road, if you still want to be a poet, reach for the stars.
4. What are some revision techniques that you use?
I start out with a draft that is often times quite awful. But I start. Somewhere. Then I cross out words; lines. Insert new ones, try them on. Ten more, a hundred more. Use the thesaurus. A Rhyming Dictionary. Change the form, play with line breaks. Doodle in the margins. Let the poem sit (simmer) over night or even a week. Come back to it. Play some more. Read it out loud. Listen for the music. Make sure it says what I want it to say. All of that is revision. (I also have a few poet friends who take a look, then offer good suggestions now and again.)
5. What are some of your favorite poetry books and poets? How have they inspired you?
I have always been inspired by poetry and poets. And it is so hard to name just a few. I always loved Sandburg and Millay, Yeats and Auden. Frost. A. A. Milne. Ogden Nash. Lewis Carroll. Today, so many of our well-known, contemporary children's poets are bridging the invisible gap and proving "good poetry for children" to be, simply, "good poetry." Many of those inspire me, and for many reasons. For their dedication to story, to language, to wordplay or imagination. For attention to their craft and for their honest, individual voices. There's magic there.
My favorite poetry books are collections; anthologies of poetry -- because I love to wander through, page by page, finding buried treasure; different poets and varied voices on every page Lee Bennett Hopkins, X. J. Kennedy, Jack Prelutsky and Paul Janeczko (among others) have collected poems and poured them into marvelous books that both include and highlight contemporary poets writing today.