Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Shh! Welcome, but come in quietly. It’s a Poetry Friday surprise birthday party.

As a debut verse novelist, I was thrilled to meet Lee at a 2016 library conference.

The guest of honor? Lee Bennett Hopkins! (Whoops — no exclamation points. We’re trying to keep this party a secret.)

Lee is not only a wonderful children’s poet and Guinness World Record holding anthologist (really — the citation is here), he has also been a mentor to many, many poets — including me.

I love sports poetry. That’s why, even though my new middle grade novel is not written in verse, I kept Lee’s anthology OPENING DAYS close to my desk while I was writing TAKEDOWN.

The rhythm, quick pace, and word-bursts of poetry are a great way to communicate the action and emotion of sports.

To help celebrate Lee’s birthday, I’m sharing his poem from OPENING DAYS, “Final Score.” Note: the book is illustrated by Scott Medlock.

This poem was one I returned to over and over as I wrote the story of two sixth grade wrestlers, a boy and a girl, who are struggling to figure out who they are on the mat, and — more importantly — off the mat.

What I find so compelling about this poem is that it’s not about the competition. It’s about the moment after. It’s a pause in the motion.

I tried — in some scenes from TAKEDOWN — to capture that same sense of quiet, of emptiness and release after the last buzzer sounds. This is what Lee masterfully portrays in “Final Score.”

FINAL SCORE
By Lee Bennett Hopkins
From OPENING DAYS, Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Eventually
there’s
a final score
when
games
have ended

when
they’re
over–

no more.

No more
batting
kicking
tossing a ball–

No more
stumbling,
fumbling,
rising up from a fall.

Games
have been played.

They’re over.
That’s all.

***

Where is the surprise party happening? At Life on the Deckle Edge. Robyn Hood Black is this week’s special Poetry Friday/National Novel Writing Month/Lee Bennett Hopkins celebration host!

Happy birthday and lots of love, Lee!