Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kristine O'Connell George: Poet Interview

 Kristine O’Connell George

is one of today's finest poets for young people. She has garnered many awards for her books including: The Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Young Poet Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award and most recently the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award from the Bank Street College! Best books, starred reviews, Parents Choice Awards, we all agree that Kristine's fabulous books deserve to get into the hands of young readers!

Illustrated by Debbie Tilley

 Little Dog and Duncan
Illustrated by June Otani

Illustrated by Maggie Smith

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems
Illustrated by Kate Kiesler

Little Dog Poems
Illustrated by June Otani

Old Elm Speaks
Illustrated by Kate Kiesler

The Great Frog Race
Illustrated by Kate Kiesler

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristine about poetry, and I'm excited to share with you her thoughtful words.

Which poetry books most influenced you as a writer?

Although I read voraciously, I really can’t point to any single poet or book as a major influence; I learn something surprising from almost everything I read. However, I do love THE PEDALING MAN by Russell Hoban and repeatedly checked it out of the library. It’s out of print, so I was thrilled when I finally found a copy at a second-hand bookstore.

What comes first most often for you: the image or the words?

I’m usually struck first by an image. The words seem to come later. 

Why do you think poetry speaks to people in a more private, intimate way than say, a novel?

 I think that both poetry and prose can touch our inner hearts. Perhaps, the immediacy and the distillation that is a hallmark of poetry reach us more directly and give us a handful of words to carry with us—words that address a truth we may not have perceived before.

Can you give your fans some idea of how you put a collection together? Do you, for example, brainstorm a list of possible themes?

I don’t consciously sit down and brainstorm themes. Instead, my poetry evolves over time (usually many years) and seems to acquire a theme somewhere along the way, often with guidance from my editor. I try not to be influenced by the market (which favors strongly themed collections) and write about whatever happens to captivate me.

Your mask poems are so vibrant and lovely! (My favorite: “Old Elm Speaks” from the book of that title) Do you have any hints for young writers on this technique?

Thank you! Mask poems have always fascinated me. I encourage young writers to imagine that they are the subject and to try and see the world from the subject’s point of view. Along the same lines, I also suggest that young writers try speaking directly to their subjects and write what are called “apostrophe poems.” POEM-MAKING: WAYS TO BEGIN WRITING POETRY, by Myra Cohn Livingston, is a wonderful resource with examples of both mask and apostrophe poems.

Your website has such terrific guides and resources for writers and teachers. Do you manage it by yourself?

Yes, I manage it myself. I only wish there were more hours in the day to implement some of the intriguing ideas I have bubbling around in my head.

Click here  to hop on over to Kristine's Poetry Corner (go get a soda and put your feet up, you won't be leaving anytime soon!)

Will you always write poetry or can your fans expect to see you write in another genre?

I like challenges and will confess to working on a novel.

 Thanks so much for sharing!

 You’re welcome!
Good luck on your new book—I can’t wait to read SKETCHES FROM A SPY TREE!