Thursday, 14 November 2019

Edgar Allan Poe knew how to have a poetry party. You know who else hosts a great poetry party? Michelle H. Barnes. Stop by Michelle’s blog Today’s Little Ditty to join in the Poetry Friday festivities.

Happy POEtry Friday, everyone.

I’m excited that so many of you are coming to Baltimore next week for the National Council of Teacher of English conference. Lucky me — I get to host Poetry Friday friends Kat Apel and Irene Latham for a few days!

To put everyone in a Charm City mood, I am sharing one of my favorite poems about Baltimore City. It’s by Steven Leyva, who I met through the local literary magazine Little Patuxent Review, which he has edited for many years.

(Insider info: I met Steven when this poem won 2nd place in a statewide contest run by LPR and the Enoch Pratt Free Library — before he became editor. And more insider info: If you have a free hour or two during the conference, visit the Pratt’s Central Library. It’s a glorious building and has been newly renovated.)

Steven’s poem stays with me because it captures the city’s grittiness, acknowledges its history, and includes a dash of Bawlmerese.

Highlandtown after the Zappa Statue
By Steven Leyva

Children of dull import, and stevedores
for life, dock work passed down
like family deeds and ground rent.
Orthodoxy burned instead of incense.

Sons of Highland Ave. know well to assuage
their Greek around the Chesapeake “O”
for the city’s charm is a snake of language
eating its own tail. And to that end, oh

Hon, nothing can be done. The men wake
to the sun running roughshod through steel mills
gutted, seasons of dead fish, and Spartan women,
unmoored in waves of row homes.

Frank Zappa’s statue is located near the Highlandtown branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.


NCTE attendees — you can take a workshop with Steven Leyva, a professor at Unversity of Baltimore, during the conference. Look for Folger Library: Poetry Immersion! A Reading and Workshop with Baltimore Poet Steven Leyva. It’s on the schedule for 9:30 am next Thursday.




Reminder: You are all invited to a Poets of KidLit dinner on Thursday (note the date change!) November 21, 7 pm, at Nick’s Fish House. Let me know if you’ll be there.

My third middle grade novel will be out in May!

And if you’re looking for me at NCTE, here are my panel and signing times. It’s my first official event with Saadia Faruqi, my co-author for A Place at the Table, which publishes in May. We are very excited!

SATURDAY, November 23

Panel Sessions

8:00-9:15am Dismantling the Patriarchy: Girl Power in MG Fiction
Room 328
With Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Barbara Dee, Saadia Faruqi, Hena Khan, Laura Shovan, Elly Swartz, and Becky Calzada — moderator

11:00-12:15pm First Generation Stories: Stories of First-and Second-generation Americans
Room 330
With Saadia Faruqi, Nalini Krishnankutty, Minh Le, Laura Shovan, Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace, and Emma Otheguy — moderator


1:00-2:00pm Laura Shovan and Saadia Faruqi signing A Place at the Table in the HMH Booth, #711

3:00-3:45pm Laura Shovan signing Takedown in the Random House Children’s Booth, #1110

19 responses to “Poetry Friday: Welcome to Baltimore”

  1. Linda says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Steven’s poem. I was born in Baltimore, and lived there until I was eleven. I lived just outside of Baltimore until 7 yrs. ago. Although I live in PA now, I still feel like a Marylander. There is much to love about Baltimore. I won’t be able to attend the dinner, but I’ll be at NCTE on Friday. I hope I get a chance to see you there! xo

  2. Linda Baie says:

    Have a wonderful time, Laura. I’ve loved going to conferences in the past, know it will be both exhilarating and exhausting! The poem reminds me of cities in so many places, in “dock work passed down
    like family deeds”, others might replace ‘dock work’, but that’s the legacy, isn’t it? Love the grit of Steven’s poem.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It’s true — Baltimore is a port city and that history is part of its fabric. Thanks for reading the poem. I admire Steven’s work.

  3. Linda Mitchell says:

    What a great welcome! I love the “Spartan women.” Ha! I wish I could join you. Maybe next time. Enjoy every moment and take lots and lots of pics to share!

  4. Thank you for posting this powerful poem. “And to that end, oh/Hon, nothing can be done.” Such tragedy felt in it. I am going to NCTE, have never been and am a little overwhelmed but I hope to meet you and other poets.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Janice. I’m so glad you’ll be here. If you want any tips on visiting Baltimore, feel free to send me an email. There are so many great sites and things to do right on the Inner Harbor.

  5. Tabatha says:

    I especially like “the city’s charm is a snake of language/eating its own tail.”
    I met my husband when he was going to Johns Hopkins (and I was going to school in Virginia) and the first time I visited him, I got very lost in Baltimore. A nice lady who I met at a gas station, of all places, came with me and we walked all over to find his address. I was touched that she took the time to help me out.
    I’ll be seeing you on Tuesday and Thursday!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      That’s a sweet story, Tabatha — maybe a poem in the making? Can’t wait to get together. I’ll email you about details this weekend.

  6. I knew that Kat was staying with you, but Irene too? It’s going to be a crazy busy week for sure, but SO. MUCH. FUN.! The NCTE hostess with the mostest without a doubt. Thanks for introducing me to Levya—love the grittiness (as you aptly called it) of his poem. (PS… VERY excited about the comment you left on my post. Will email you this weekend!)

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Michelle. Yes! And an educator friend too. We love hosting people, but Irene and Kat will be the first non-family guests at our new place. I’ll look for your email.

  7. Ramona says:

    Oh, I would love to attend the Girl Power in MG Fiction panel. But I’m not coming this year. Enjoy every moment with Irene and Kat!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Ramona. We’re going to do the panel again at Texas Library Association in March. Do you go to that event?

  8. Laura, thanks for sharing Leyva’s poem. Since I am arriving on Wed. night with my colleague I would like to attend the early Thurs. morning session with Leyva. Thanks for sharing that information. I am waiting to hear how we will all be traveling to Nick’s Fish House. I am glad that you chose that restaurant because I have been wanting to go there. Love this line in the poem, “for the city’s charm is a snake of language
    eating its own tail”. Thanks for organizing the dinner with Kat.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Wonderful! I’ll probably be there, but if not do tell Steven I sent you. See you on Thursday for CRABCAKES.

  9. jama says:

    Thanks for sharing Steven’s poem. Have a great time at NCTE!!

  10. Tara says:

    Well, I wish I were attending NCTE, just to be able to attend those sessions you are in, Laura – so timely and I can just imagine the thoughtful and provocative conversation. Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful poet, too

  11. I especially like the mixed meanings in this part of Steven’s poem,
    ” assuage
    their Greek around the Chesapeake “O”
    for the city’s charm is a snake of language
    eating its own tail.
    Have a wonderful time a the conference, thanks!

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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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