Sunday, April 24, 2016

F. Isabel Campoy: Interview series with California poets for young people

Happy Monday! We are so lucky, as a community of parents and educators, that so many artists share their visions of a better world with our children through their words and illustrations. Today, I would like to continue my series of interviews featuring California poets--please welcome F. Isabel Campoy.

Isabel Campoy is the author of many children’s books, both in English and in Spanish. She is an educator specialized in the area of literacy and language acquisition, who also has published both academic articles and teaching guides. For young children, Pio Peep! and Muu Moo! are wonderful collections of traditional Spanish nursery rhymes and songs, in both Spanish and English. Older children, especially in grades 5-8, especially respond to Yes! We Are Latinos, with its nuanced, personal poems showing a range of distinctive Latino cultures.

Campoy's newest book is utterly delightful: Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood. I absolutely agree with this starred review from Kirkus: "An inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb."

She infuses all of her work with a sense of her loving, smiling outlook celebrating both what makes each of us unique and what brings us together. It is a true pleasure to share her poetic advice here.
F. Isabel Campoy
1. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?

I write poetry as a way to recognize people, landscapes, feelings, objects as beautiful elements in our universe. I think we are extraordinarily lucky to be alive, and poetry allows me to spend time with all that I love and admire. Each poem expands my horizon.

If I write about the sea, my heart travels to its shore and I invite my readers to come close, hear, smell, feel the ocean. If write about an object, I make it visible to the readers. If I write about a feeling, I embrace those who have ever felt the way I do.

I would answer your question saying that my mindset is getting as close as I can to my humanity, my very humble, loving, inner self. There, sometimes I think, I ask myself questions (not always serious questions, like: “Do cats laugh?”), or I simply share my observations (like: What is my dog thinking when he hides a bone in the garden?). Some other times I write about the injustices of racism , (as in my two line poem: What color do blue eyes see the sea?/ How do brown eyes see it?).
Poetry is my way of being.

To young poets I would simply say: LOOK! Look around and admire, question, reflect.

2. I love sharing descriptive words with kids. Is there a word that’s been on your mind lately that’s particularly delicious?




3. What are three books of poetry you’d like to see in every child’s home, for them to dip into whenever they want?

I could mention a thousand. I think children should have in their library a good anthology of folklore, where they can remember the songs and poems of their childhood. And then… the world. I think it is important that children read poems from writers of all cultures, all experiences. Voices that will bring to them a broader perspective of life. And as they grow, they should add books that appeal to their age and gender. But… here are some I like:

Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
A Pocketful of Poems, by Nikki Grimes
Been to Yesterdays, by Lee Bennet Hopkins
Animal Poems of the Iguazu/ Animalario del Iguazú, by Francisco X Alarcón

4. Is there a poem that you have memorized that you can share a snippet with us? Maybe it’s something you say to yourself when you need encouragement or just when you want to delight in the power of words.

I begin my poetry workshops reciting a poem by Eloise Greenfield that has become my great companion. There, in very simple language and with very possible metaphors, Eloise teaches a lesson of identity, of pride, of faith, of perseverance, that serves always as a reminder of how important it is to know oneself, and embrace who you are. This is the poem:

--Eloise Greenfield

When I’m by myself
And I close my eyes
I’m a twin
I’m a dimple in a chin
I’m a room full of toys
I’m a squeaky noise
I’m a gospel song
I’m a gong
I’m a leaf turning red
I’m a loaf of brown bread
I’m a whatever I want to be
An anything I care to be
And when I open my eyes
What I care to be
Is me.

Thank you Mary Ann for bringing me to your students.

Oh, Isabel, thank YOU for taking the time to share your inspiring words with us. I can't wait to share your newest book, Maybe Something Beautiful, with students throughout Berkeley. Friends, this would make the most perfect gift for teachers next week during Teacher Appreciation Day.

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©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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