Archives: J. Patrick Lewis

Poetry Friday: The Poetry of US

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!

5 Questions for the Author: Stacy Mozer

It was the solstice this week, Poetry Friday friends. Summer is here. I’m not a hot weather person, but there is one thing I will go outside for: baseball.

I love going to Camden Yards for an Orioles game on a hot summer night, eating crab cakes, drinking beer or Icees, and spending time with my family through the long innings.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sports in the past several months as I finish up work on my next book, Take Down, which is set on a middle school wrestling team. Visiting me today for an interview — and to share a poem for Poetry Friday — is Stacy Barnett Mozer, one of the authors behind the blog Sporty Girl Books.

Stacy’s latest book is The Perfect Trip, about Sam (Samantha) Barrette, a girl who has just made the boys’ travel baseball league.

Thanks for joining me for 5 Questions for the Author, Stacy!

1. THE PERFECT TRIP works as a stand-alone novel, but can you fill us in on Sam’s first story, THE SWEET SPOT? How has the character grown and changed since that book?

In the first book Sam is struggling to find her place as a thirteen-year-old female baseball player. At the beginning of the book she learns that her coach feels she has an attitude and that the only way he’ll recommend her for travel baseball is if she gets a good performance at baseball camp. But when she arrives they expect her to be a boy and place her on the team with weaker and younger players and it goes downhill from there. As in this book, Sam’s family plays an important role in the story. At the start of the book Sam sees her stepmother Nancy as the enemy and is completely forgiving of her never-present birth mother. She has to learn to sort those relationships out too.

2. One of my favorite scenes in THE PERFECT TRIP takes place at a pick-up baseball game at a campground. A group of older boys is sure they’ll win against their younger brothers, even more so when Sam joins the younger boys’ team. I love the dramatic irony of this scene. Can you talk about how girl athletes challenge expectations?

Thank you for picking up on that scene. My two books were originally written in the reverse order and it was when I wrote that scene at the campground that I discovered the real motivation of my real main character. As an elementary school teacher, there have been many years that I have watched girls being undervalued when they want to play sports at recess. I used to be able to name on my hand the ones who were able to persevere and fight for the respect they deserved on the field. Fortunately, I do feel that trend is currently on the upswing. There has been more attention given to women and sports in the news and the boys don’t seem as surprised to see the girls playing with them. I don’t think it hurts that they all know about my book as well.

3. I loved the relationship between Sam and her younger half-sister, Deborah. Would you describe how you drew these sisters and made their moments of love, annoyance, and betrayal so believable.

My younger sister and I always had a very close relationship. Even though she is as different from Deborah as I am from Sam, I definitely put the emotion behind our relationship into the story. We had mostly good times, but there were those moments. Deborah also has in her some of my daughter Annie. Annie was Deborah’s age when I wrote the book and I would pluck some scenes and conversations from observing her behavior and interests. Then I would place myself in the role of her older sister to see how I would react.

4. Sam’s real name is Samantha — a name she doesn’t use much. One of the main characters in my upcoming book is a girl wrestler, and I played around with names and nicknames too. She’s Mikayla at home, but “Mickey” on the wrestling mat (on the advice of her older brothers). Why are names so important? When female athletes play on co-ed or male teams, do you think names impact how their teammates and opponents view girls and women?

When I first wrote The Perfect Trip Sam’s name was Zoey. When I realized I wanted the people at baseball camp to think she was a boy, I needed a unisex name. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted, so I took it back to my third grade class. They voted for Sam. I don’t think that names should matter, but in this case it was important for the mix up.

5. Who was your female athlete hero when you were Sam’s age? What was important to you about her?

I can’t remember any particular female athlete heroes from my childhood, but there were two movies with female athletes that I’ve never forgotten. The first was Quarterback Princess with Helen Hunt as a female football player. The second is a lesser-known movie called Blue Skies Again, which is about a female baseball player. I remember watching both movies over and over and thinking how amazing it was that these girls were fighting for their right to play with the boys. When I was older, I admired Mia Hamm, which is why I had Sam’s best friend Tasha give her a few shout outs during The Perfect Trip.

School’s out for Heidi Mordhorst! She’s hosting the first Poetry Friday of summer at My Juicy Little Universe.

Please stop by Stacy’s website to read her full bio. I had no idea we were both NYU grads!

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I asked Stacy to recommend a poem to pair with THE PERFECT TRIP.

Her choice? The perfect poem! Here is “First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis — shared with Pat’s express permission.

 

 

First Girls in Little League Baseball

By J. Patrick Lewis

December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.

The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”

Posted with permission of the author.