Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: Goodbye, Paul B. Janeczko

  Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge 
is hosting this week's round-up of poetic goodness.

I was saddened this week to read of the death of Paul B. Janeczko, a teacher and writer whose words have inspired my own teaching and writing. I went to my bookshelf in search of books and found many that I've loved over the years. I can't believe that I omitted Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems from this collection (it was turned sideways on the bookshelf). It's a favorite collection and beautifully illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I love the mix of old and new poets in this anthology.

When I read the obituary, I returned to the bookshelf,  sure that I owned A Kick in the Head or A Poke in the Eye. I found this paperback copy stuffed with sticky notes from when I was teaching.

Those sticky notes were for poets who had contributed to the poetry box project that we participated in one year.
I picked up this book in a university bookstore last month while traveling with my husband. I couldn't remember if I owned it, but the price was right! When I got home, I discovered I did have a copy. So if you're interested in the book (and live in the US), let me know in your comment and I'll do a random drawing on Monday.

I went to my old notebooks in search of my NCTE 2014 notes, pretty sure I had heard Paul present at the conference. I found my notes from a session I loved, The Lessons Poetry Teaches: A Doorway into Writing (Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Paul Janeczko). Here are some of the nuggets I jotted down from Paul's presentation:

  • Unless we read poetry, we will never have our hearts broken by language.
  • Writing poetry is like playing baseball. You get out there every afternoon and everyone can do it.  
  • Poetry is really the history of our feelings.   
We've lost a wonderful light from the poetry world, but his words will always be with us. I'm off to request his new book coming out in March, The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems.


  1. Ramona, this is a such a nourishing tribute to Paul Janeczko, especially in sharing how his poetry informed your teaching. I love how you were able to gently lay on that lovely quilt such a personal connection of his mentoring in workshops & via his poetry collections, especially A Kick in the Head with your stickies. I squealed to see Dirty Laundry Pile as that is one of his that I have found is fun to read to K & 1st grade. So many appreciations.

  2. "Poetry is really the history of our feelings." Our stories unfold in the poetry we write, Ramona. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Paul, an amazing poet. I would love to be part of your raffle since I do not own that book.

  3. A generous post and remembrance, Ramona - thank you for sharing.

  4. Ah, we could have had such fun teaching together, Ramona. I love so many of these, and you know I shared my favorites, too. I cherish them all, and love that you shared your collection, and found that "bargain". How nice that you're willing to pass it on! It feels good to read that so many of us loved, then shared, his books. Passing on "Unless we read poetry, we will never have our hearts broken by language." Thanks for a loving post.

  5. I love those bullet points from NCTE. Those are three big truths.

  6. That book full of sticky notes says so much! Don’t you love those encouraging words “everyone can do it”- for a long time I would never have dreamed that is true. “His words will always be with us” gives us good reason to write... and give to others a piece of ourselves they can keep.