Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

brown girl

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

In this deeply moving collection of autobiographical poems, Jacqueline Woodson reflects on her childhood as a Southern-born, New York-raised African American girl in 1960s and 1970s America.

While every passage is memorable and moving in its own way, as a librarian and educator, I found stevie and me particularly poignant.

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books. We need to look beyond reading levels and lexiles and strive to connect young readers with books that speak to them, motivate them, and inspire them.

We need to do more, because our kids deserve nothing less.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.

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Poetry Friday: Poetry on Transit

Imagine if you will a rainy day in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Is it the 20th consecutive day of rain, or the 21st? You’ve completely lost count.

It’s a weekday afternoon and you’re crammed cheek to jowl with countless other soggy, steaming Vancouverites on a rush hour train out of town. You’ve got a wet wool coat pressed into your nose, and a sharp umbrella poking into your leg.

You have seen better days.

stitch

Bored and frustrated, you look up, and slipped in between the adds for laundry detergent and upcoming films you spot it. A poem. It’s short – only a few lines long, but as you read it you suddenly find yourself transported. You’re not a sad, soggy sardine, but a captivated poetry reader, swept away by words. The feeling only last a moment, but it’s enough to make the miserable commute just that bit more bearable.

Since 1996, the Poetry in Transit program has placed poems by B.C. poets on trains and buses across the Lower Mainland. Each year, 16 poems are selected and placed on cards where commuters would otherwise see advertisements.

Image result for poetry in transit

The project, developed by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia and Translink, helps draw attention to the rich, diverse B.C. poetry scene, while connecting local residents and visitors with inspiring, engaging poetry.

What I find so fantastic about the Poetry in Transit program is that it helps makes poetry accessible, breaking down barriers and challenging assumptions and stereotypes. Poetry isn’t a rarefied pursuit, accessible only to the elite. Poetry is by and for everyone, and should be accessible to everyone, wherever they live and whatever they do. Placing poetry in prominent places not only helps normalise poetry, but also helps reinforce the feeling that poetic expression is valid and important.

So, thank you Poetry in Transit for filling our everyday lives with poetry, and here’s to twenty more years of celebrating B.C. poets!

brown girl dreaming

I recently bought my ticket to see the inspirational Jaqueline Woodson speak in Vancouver on May 8, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I recently picked up Woodson’s free-verse memoir brown girl dreaming, and words cannot express how deeply moving this beautiful, beautiful book is.

brown girl

I have been sharing one of my favourite passages with everyone I’ve come across, particularly my fellow library staff:

 

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

 

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

 

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

 

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

 

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

 

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

 

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books.

 

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.