Poetry Friday: What the Heart Knows – Joyce Sidman at NCTE

Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol @ Carol’s Corner
There was such a bounty of poetry offerings at NCTE this year, that I was only able to attend one of them – but, lucky me, that turned out to be a very special one:  The 2013 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children which was awarded to Joyce Sidman in a lovely ceremony.
Sidman’s luminous poetry has long been a personal favorite – and my sixth graders seem to naturally gravitate  towards her beautifully illustrated collections in our classroom’s poetry corner, books such as these:


In her acceptance speech, Sidman spoke of knowing from a very young age that she wanted to be a poet, that she “wanted to see the world as beautiful and holy and funny and terrifying all at once, and to find the words to describe it.”  She spoke movingly, too, of her work to bring the gift of poetry to classrooms, so that children could give voice to their own thoughts of beauty, fear, loneliness, awe, and humor. 
 I love the stories she told of these classroom visits, the conversations she’d had with children, and the way in which poetry opened doorways to their souls – she shared some stunning poems that were powerful reminders to the teachers in the room: we need to keep poetry in our curriculum, and give our students opportunities to explore and craft poems often and with consistency.  Poetry is worth fighting for.
I loved, too, that the entire committee, pictured below, shared favorite poems from Sidman’s many collections – poetry read loud by poets is so fabulous!  And poetry read aloud by Poetry Friday “peeps”? There’s nothing better than that!
Joyce with her  wonderful NCTE Poetry for Children Award Committee: (l-r) Nancy Hadaway, Katie Button Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Mary Lee Hahn, Terrell Young, and Darcy Bradley.
Joyce Sidmanwith the NCTE Poetry for Children Award Committee: Nancy Hadaway, Katie Button, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Mary Lee Hahn, Terrell Young, and Darcy Bradley.
Best of all…Sidman shared the inspirations behind her latest collection, What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings.  

I had ordered a copy just before leaving for NCTE, and was thrilled to discover that it had arrived in my absence…and now I seem to carry it with me wherever I go, leafing thorough its gorgeously illustrated pages (that would be the work of the immensely talented Pamela Zagarenski) and feasting on the poems…especially this last one:
 (photograph taken from my copy of Sidman’s book)
Thank you, Joyce Sidman, for all you do to keep poetry in our children’s lives, and thank you NCTE for recognizing this wonderful poet.

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: What the Heart Knows – Joyce Sidman at NCTE

  1. (Hmmm. My comment keeps vanishing in cyberspace!) So glad you got to attend this session, Tara. Joyce's newest book has topped my TO GET list since it came out! Will remedy that soon. One of these years I will have to crash the NCTE party – what a great group of attendees on the Poetry front, as well as such a wonderful award recipient. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This was indeed a very special session! Hearing Joyce share her poems and her process was a highlight of NCTE for me. I shared "Blessing on the Smell of a Dog" to a table full of dog lovers after dinner on Thursday, and have been savoring the rest of What the Heart Knows ever since. It was wonderful to meet you, Tara! Thank you for sharing these memories.

  3. I savored every moment! I love Butterfly Eyes and the poem that was read, "In the Almost Light", is my favorite! But the others are close seconds. It was an honor to simply be there among what had to have been poetry lovers of Joyce's work and poetry people in general. Here's a wonderful link to Renee La Tulippe's post last spring about Joyce and her work: http://www.nowaterriver.com/poetry-month-2013-the-ants-by-joyce-sidman/ Most of you may have seen this, but I think it is too wonderful not to share again. Thanks, Tara, for writing about this NCTE moment! It brings it back more vividly and helps me to be able to think about the words again. It was lovely to meet you! PS Don't you love how the book has the ribbon book mark? It was a sweet little "find"! Janet F.

  4. I remember saying, "Wow!" when I first saw Joyce Sidman's book SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN, and I've said "Wow!" to every single one of her books ever since. How lucky you were to hear her acceptance speech! Big thanks to that committee for selecting her for the award, and thanks to you, Tara, for sharing details about the event.

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