Thursday, 12 April 2018

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.”

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

a final score
have ended


no more.

No more
tossing a ball–

No more
rising up from a fall.

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!



15 responses to “Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!”

  1. Linda Baie says:

    The poem is just right, “They’re over. That’s all.” Sometimes everyone needs that lesson most of all. It’s a lovely tribute to Lee that one poem kept you working on that writing, making it “just right’.

  2. I love reading the connection between this particular poem of Lee’s and your new work, Laura – thanks for joining the party with a unique celebration over here! :0)

  3. Hi Laura, It’s so like Lee’s poetry to go beyond the obvious & isolate the unexpected. Although I haven’t read any of your
    TAKEDOWN poems yet (hint, hint for an ARC when available…) I can follow the idea about stepping off the mat or going to the sidelines of the court & just breathing, being, knowing all the effort is over & “that’s all.” So much love in this post.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Jan. There are a few poems in TAKEDOWN, but it’s mainly prose. Still, Lee’s poem gave me a lot to think about — exactly what a good poem can do!

  4. Alice Nine says:

    Thanks for sharing this connection of LBH’s poem to your book TAKEDOWN. I’m always fascinated by what influences our writing. I think your background clip shared here is a great example for students that writing is influenced by many sources in our lives.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Alice. There are poems that have a way of sticking with us forever. This is one of those poems for me.

  5. jama says:

    Thanks for sharing Lee’s poem — had not seen that one before. Nice to hear how his book influenced your own writing.

  6. Love that you turned to Lee’s poems to inspire your prose!

  7. “Opening Days Sports Poems,” looks like a really rich book I took a peek at it online. I like how “Final Score” quickly reflects and ties all together–good model to take from, Thanks Laura!

  8. I loved reading how Lee’s poems influenced your own writing. Not only is a good poem a pleasure to read, but it continues to influence when it gives us something to think about and carry out into the rest of our lives.

  9. Brenda says:

    I can hear the echoes of a novel in Lee’s poem, too. He has that magic that allows the reader to hear their own voices clearer than ever. Lovely post.

  10. Never really thought about that “moment after,” Laura, but you’re right that it holds a lot of power in its quiet realization. I also quite like “Chair Lift” from that collection. Looking forward to TAKEDOWN!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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