Diverse Verse

What a wonderful year for poetry, with Naomi Shihab Nye as our Young People’s Poet Laureate, and Amanda Gorman reading aloud the inaugural poem!

A personal milestone for me – two of my poems, Undone and Whenever You See a Tree, were published in the March 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine! I said that in my post last month, but it means so much to me that I’m saying it again. As my friend Rene Saldana Jr. (brilliant author and poet) said in a congratulatory note, “… YOU HAVE POETRY APPEARING IN POETRY!!!!!!!!!! … Oh. MY. GOODNESS! … the last is a dream for us all, and you’ve done it!”

All of this spurred me to put into action an idea that’s been marinating in my mind ever since the pandemic began: Diverse Verse.

Diverse Verse is a website and a resource for educators and diverse poets and verse novelists, as of now; but I hope it will grow into a supportive writing community and a podcast, as well. I reached out to many poets I respect (including Jacqueline Woodson, Janet Wong, Carole Boston Weatherford, Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle and Joseph Bruchac) as this idea took shape. I also discussed it with many dedicated advocates of diversity and with educators I admire (Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ellen Oh, Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, Stacey Lee, Traci Sorell, Floyd Cooper, Mitali Perkins, Uma Krishnaswami, Tracey Baptiste, Miranda Paul, Sylvia Vardell, Lisa Krok, Sarah J Donovan, Alaina Lavoie, Pernille Ripp, Matthew Winner, Donalyn Miller, John Schumacher, Yangsook Choi and the Authors Take Action and WNDB communities).

We now have a small diverse verse team (Ruth Behar, Reem Fauqui, Edna Hoku Moran, K. A. Holt, Aida Salazar, Rene Saldana Jr., Ray Anthony Sheppard, Anindita Basu Sempere, Lisa Stringfellow, Ari Tison). I’m happy (and a little bit scared), that together with the AuthorsTakeAction team, we’re doing an official launch event tomorrow (Tuesday, April 20; please read the details, so you can respectfully amplify a BIPOC poet’s voice if you wish to participate in the event). This is just the beginning and I am hoping that our brilliant team members will help to build this resource.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I wrote a post with 10 lesson plan suggestions (on using poetry to spark respectful discussions and speak out against hate crimes). I also started a padlet with a BIPOC poet directory, to which, I am so grateful that Janet Wong, Lisa Stringfellow, Rene Saldana Jr. and Traci Sorell have contributed.

Looking forward to adding more (from guest bloggers and team members, in addition to myself) in the next few months and years…

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