Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kenn Nesbitt, Children's Poet Laureate ~ Part 2 ~ by Patricia Toht

Today I'm welcoming back, KENN NESBITT, poet extraordinaire and current Children's Poet Laureate! (If you missed Part 1 of our interview, scroll back to yesterday's post.)

So pull up a chair, GROG readers. In honor of Kenn's taste buds, today we're enjoying a cup of coffee, along with a slice of toast and Marmite. (Okay, maybe Kenn will enjoy the Marmite - I'll be nibbling around the toast edges...)
Yeast extract on toast, anyone?
PT: What is your process for writing a poem, Kenn?

KN: The hardest part is always finding some quiet time, free from distractions, and sitting down to write. Once I get in that place, I have a folder full of ideas and notes that I have jotted down previously. I sift through my notes until I find an idea that seems like a fun one to work on. Sometimes I may only write a few lines or a part of a poem before moving on to another idea. In this way, it may take anywhere from an hour to several months for me to finish any given poem.

PT: Newbie children’s writers are often discouraged from writing in rhyme. What advice do you have for them?

KN: The reason for this is that meter (poetic rhythm) is an integral part of writing in rhyme. Without solid meter, rhyme is not a pleasurable to read. Moreover, beginning writers may be more likely to use "forced" rhymes. My advice is to go ahead and write in rhyme, but just as a learning experience; not for publication. I recommend picking up a book such as Derek Attridge's Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction to learn how to establish rhythm as well as rhyme. And I suggest doing a little reading about what forced rhymes are and how to avoid them. I have an article about this on poetry4kids.com that budding children's writers may find useful.

PT: And finally, did you read poetry when you were young? Can you recall a favorite poet or poem from your childhood?

KN: When I was a kid, my father used to recite poems, often to pass the time while driving on family road trips. He had memorized poems by Rudyard Kipling, Robert Service, Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and many others. Listening to these was my first introduction to poetry. My favorites were the nonsense poems, such as "One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night" and "They Dying Fisherman's Song." I never imagined, though, that I would one day write such poems myself. I feel very lucky to be able to introduce children to kind of poetry that I so enjoyed when I was young.

PT: Thank you, Kenn, for your insights into writing and sharing poetry with children! We wish you the best in your continued role as Children's Poet Laureate.

And thank you for joining us again today, GROG readers. I highly recommend that you explore Kenn's website, Poetry 4 Kids. The "News" section, in particular, has scads of helpful articles for poets.  You'll also find a list of Kenn's books and anthologies and written and recorded interviews with other children's poets. Visit the Poetry Foundation website for information about the honor of Children's Poet Laureate and other poetry resources. 


  1. Pat , what fun to hear about Kenn's father reciting poetry on family drives . Thanks for the links and info .

    1. Isn't that wonderful, Janie? So much better than squabbling with your sibs.

  2. Patty,
    Really enjoyed reading the conversation with Ken. He has done many good things for poetry and I am excited to explore all the valuable resources you and he shared.

    1. You're welcome, Todd. His website seems to be never-ending!

  3. Bravo! Kenn. & Brava! Patty.

    Hope to return & dwell in both sections of this interview.

    Thanks for bringing it to us.

  4. It makes me feel quite in august company to have these visits with Kenn Patty. Thank you so much.
    I smiled when I saw that he keeps paper files (at least I think that's his modus) of items & thots, because I have catchall old fashioned paper folders like that for the good ones too. And I'm making note of Derek Attridge's book. Sounds like a mighty fine resource.
    Can imagine that family poem sharing he loved as a kiddo.
    My mother & her aunts were great recitation ladies of ballads, classic poems & the fun limericks & stuff.
    This post is making me smile back & forth & all around.
    Finally, I feel that it's empowering & a reflection of what must be his gentle nature, that he gave sound & round advice about rhyming. I love the idea to go ahead & rhyme all the tyme. Just be thinking about the joy it brings you & not be running away with your drafts to publishers until you crawl inside Rhymology 501 (not 101) & come out a winner.
    Brava to Pat & Bravo! to Kenn.
    Thank you with your favorite alphabet letters on top, for this.