September 8, 1940 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Education||The High School of Music & Art|
|Notable awards||U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate (2006) (Poetry Foundation)
Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award (2007) (Washington State Book Award)
After I'd produced about two dozen pen and ink drawings, one evening I decided that they needed poems to accompany them. I still have no idea where that notion came from, but it took me about two hours to produce verses for these creatures.
I'm working now on a collection of Shakespearean sonnets, about 100 of them, that I may publish if anyone's interested. My take on life is a little different from the bard's.
I'm mostly influenced by life, what's around me, and my own childhood.
Then I decided to draw from and on my own imagination, and everything came out perfect.
I write the poems first, with only a few exceptions for odd reasons, where I'm given the illustration first.
Otherwise I don't read much adult poetry at all, because I'm not smart enough and mostly I don't get it.
Writing gives me the opportunity to explore ideas, play with language, solve problems, use my imagination, and draw on my own childhood.
Frankly, writing poetry for children is plain old fun, and I consider myself blessed to have such a delightful career.
My reading is extremely eclectic. Lately I've been teaching myself computer graphics, so I'm reading a lot about that. I read books of trivia, of facts.
I've been influenced by poets as diverse as Dylan Thomas, Lewis Carroll, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Poetry seems to sink into us the way prose doesn't. I can still quote verses I learned when I was very young, but I have trouble remembering one line of a novel I just finished reading.
I keep a guitar around while writing and will improvise music. I do this for several reasons, such as that it's fun, and sometimes it helps me with the meter.
There's not too much difference between writing a picture book and writing a collection of a hundred poems or so, except that the bigger books take a lot longer to do.
Children seem naturally drawn to poetry – it's some combination of the rhyme, rhythm, and the words themselves.
When I began writing, I didn't read any other children's poets… I didn't want to be influenced until I'd found my own voice. Now I read them all.
I invented animals and birds – I had about two dozen. After working on them for six months, I sat down and just for fun wrote two dozen poems to accompany the drawings. It was for no one to every see, but a friend sent me in to an editor.
My wife used to tell me one of my best qualities was that my feet don't smell, but I remember my brother's did when we were kids.
I would go to sketch groups and draw. I really enjoyed the subject matter, but I wasn't good at it.