Thursday, 25 October 2018

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Kay McGriff at A Journey through the Pages.

Happy Friday, poets and poetry lovers!

Autumn has arrived in full force. We had our first frost in Maryland this week, but I’m still thinking of the sunny days of summer.

Last Friday, I brought you with me on a visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital on the Florida Keys. Today, let’s visit the beach.


I was thrilled when J. Patrick Lewis invited me to contribute a poem to his wonderful new anthology, The Poetry of US, which contains “More than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States.” The book is published by National Geographic, so it’s no surprise that the photographs on every page are gorgeous.

My assignment was to write a poem about New Jersey.

People laugh when they hear that Jersey’s nickname is “The Garden State.” All they’ve seen of my home state is highways — and the factories and airports that surround them.

In fact, for a small state, New Jersey is geographically diverse. Its long eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean. It contains the Pine Barrens, part of the Appalachian Trail, and many state forests.

You *may* also have some thoughts about New Jersey if you ever watched the infamous reality TV show, “The Jersey Shore.”

When I sat down to write my poem, I wanted to show people the other side of New Jersey. I thought about summertime trips to the beach when I was a child, and how some of the places we loved best had been devastated by Super Storm Sandy in 2012. There’s a video showing the damage to our favorite boardwalk in Seaside Heights here.

Most of the time, my family avoided the bustle and busy-ness of the boardwalk and amusement parks. Instead, we would leave early, early in the morning to find a spot at Island Beach State Park. This is a preserved, undeveloped barrier island with beautiful, spare beaches.

I always loved running along the path, over the dunes, and catching that first glimpse of the Atlantic.

Beach Day
Island Beach State Park, New Jersey
by Laura Shovan

 We leave home before dawn, our car packed
with towels, sunblock, coolers of food.

There are closer beaches,
but they’re for boardwalk people.

We smile when we reach the park gate.
No hotels here. No tourist shops.

Can you smell the salt air? Mom asks.
The beach stays hidden behind miles of dunes.

At last, Dad finds a spot. We tumble out of the car,
race down a path through the scrub.

There! I am first to glimpse the wide, white beach,
first to stick my toes in the icy Atlantic.

I stretch my arms and spin. All I see are the dunes
and the ocean.  All I hear is the music of the waves.


Search the subject index of The Poetry of US and you’ll be sure to find places and people that are dear to your heart.

I have good friends in Albuquerque, and loved discovering Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ concrete poem, “Mass Ascension: At the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.”

Mary Lee Hahn’s poem “Bessie and Amelia,” about female aviators Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart, reminded me of reading Pat Valdata’s book, Where No Man Can Touch. You can read my post about that book — all persona poems spoken in the voices of women pioneers of flight — right here.

Have fun exploring The Poetry of US!

11 responses to “Poetry Friday: The Poetry of US”

  1. Linda Baie says:

    I am often wishing I could rise early to drive to the ocean, but this reminds me that we did this often, but drove to the mountains instead. How wonderful that you wrote about your memory, Laura, that first glimpse, that “first to stick my toes in the icy Atlantic.” The book is filled with good memories.

  2. Kay McGriff says:

    Your poem brings back memories of my childhood trips to the beach–further south on Topsail Island. Parts of the island at that time had little development, and I loved those sandy expanses that seemed to stretch forever.

  3. I am so happy and proud of the Poetry of US. I visited a beach with dunes in Florida this summer. There is an effort to preserve the dunes. Is there one in Jersey? I love the twirling girl so happy to be the first at the beach.

  4. jama says:

    Fine poem, enjoyed hearing the backstory too. This anthology contains a wealth of goodness. 🙂

  5. I’ve loved going to the beach since before I can remember. Thank you for this virtual visit–you captured the excitement and all the ways the ocean is in the air. Those visits are worth the drives!

    And how wonderful that you and this lovely poem are part of J. Patrick Lewis’s newest beautiful anthology! Congratulations!

  6. Can take the kid out of Jersey
    Can’t take the Jersey out of the kid…
    I love your Jersey family beach time tribute, Laura.

    Having myself, grown up among deer fields,
    turkey trails,
    red covered bridges
    the village with the oldest Quaker meeting house
    farmland between Cherryville and Quakertown
    a few miles distant of the Delaware river
    I moved as a kid to bustling tourist-packed
    Florida to learn
    …I had come from an ugly place

    Appreciations for this post which
    speaks so much to me.

  7. And I loved discovering YOUR poem, Laura! I don’t think I knew you grew up in New Jersey. Having grown up in NY, we used to pack up the car and take a long day trip each summer to the Jersey shore. Along with the towels and sand toys, we always had a bucket of KFC. 🙂 In later years, we used to return to the same B&B each summer at Cape May and spend a few days. Such a pleasure reading your poem and recalling all those memories!

  8. Your family clearly was not “boardwalk people!” Wonderful images in this one, and nice to hear what inspired it. Other than the smell of the salt air, Beach Day reminds me of our many trips to Lake Michigan, crossing the dune trail to reach the wide white beach.

  9. What I love about Beach Day is that there is a distinction between your family and “Boardwalk people” I know that Beach Day for you is something you and your family know as authentic…that the icy cold water and the dunes and the scrub are all special and part of the experience to be treasured. Wonderful poem. It also brings back memories of some of my childhood–when beach time was time with my grandparents. There was nothing to do with any kind of boardwalk scene. It was truly time with the sand and water and sky.

  10. Thanks Laura, your poem brought me right there to this gorgeous white, sand scrubbed beach. Loved having the visual too–I can picture you running through the sand over to the water’s edge. Reminds me of beach-day-trips we took our kids on–a white sand beach in Michigan about 90 miles from Chicago. Congrats on the poem!

  11. […] I’m back with a third poem from The Poetry of US, J. Patrick Lewis’ newest anthology with National Geographic. I originally wrote this poem for one of my books for teachers, Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems. Other than family, the only thing I miss about Florida is the beach. So lots of watery, beachy poems made it into that book. It is so lovely to see my Delaware poem paired with this gorgeous National Geographic photo. And I’m sharing a page with Laura Shovan’s fabulous “Beach Day!” […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.

Learn More