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  • Writer's pictureCharles Waters


Hey Poetry Peeps. Happy National Poetry Month! Here the latest from Uncle Charles.

On March 27th I made a return visit to the Viola L. Sickles School in picturesque Fair Haven, N.J. I did five workshops while spreading the joys and importance of children's poetry. Some of the students poems were so good they about knocked me sideways. Many thanks to my dear friend Kathleen Foderaro, 2nd grade teacher at Sickles and Kerry Maguire of the Fair Haven PTO for bringing me back to Monmouth County.

On April 5th and 6th I performed and did workshops for the students at P.S. 276 Battery Park School in New York City. I was super chuffed to have included a new portion into the show called The Family Set which captured everything from sibling rivalries to mothers and fathers finding relief from a grinding workweek thanks to laughter to being put on punishment and the consequences of all that entails. Thanks, Basia Tov, Librarian at P.S. 276, for the invitation.

On April 6th I met Carol Hinz, the esteemed editor from my upcoming book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship at the Bank Street College of Education Awards Ceremony. The book that Carol edited SACHIKO: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson won The Flora Stieglitz Straus Award.

According to the Bank Street College website:

The Flora Stieglitz Straus Award was established in 1994. It honors Flora Straus who led the committee for many years. The award is presented annually for a distinguished work of nonfiction which serves as an inspiration to young people. Flora Straus stood for the values of courage, hard work, truth and beauty, while adapting to a changing world. She believed that books about varying cultures enrich and help all children in their growth. She championed diverse opinions and points of view. She was a person of high principles, unfailing courtesy and deep understanding, and was an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing her.

Also in attendance at the ceremony, which honors a wide swath of children's literature, was Selina Alko, one of the co-illustrators of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? I'm SO happy to finally meet Carol and thank her for taking a chance on me and encouraging Lerner to publish my first book.

On April 29th I performed for Play Area Association (PAA) as part of their celebration of National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day.

PAA is a volunteer social organization run by dedicated parents associated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medical College, their affiliate institutions, and alumni of these training programs. There are more than 250 families, with more than 450 children, who benefit from this organization.

I would like to thank Allison Anderson and Lyle Vivolo for inviting me to participate in this vital organization that helps so many families.

Okay, so almost two years ago I had an extra free ticket to see Marlo Thomas in the Off-Broadway play CLEVER LITTLE LIES. I asked my friend, who shall remain nameless, to accompany me to the show, my friend said, "Yes." We had a great time, afterward this friend offered to treat me to a pizza supper, I accepted. While eating, talking about the show and catching up, I talked about, among other things, how I had something like seven checks from work that hadn't arrived in the mail and how frustrating this was for me. So, after our meal as we're about to go our separate ways, my friend said, "Here your go," stashed a double Ulysses in my hand then dashed off before I could respond. I was simultaneously flummoxed and grateful. I wasn't asking for money by any stretch. All I did was vent a little to a pal, I mean, the checks were in route, all I didn't know is when they would arrive. So, fast forward to March of this year, I finally had the money to give back to this generous human. I waited until after our meal when it was just the two of us and slipped the double Ulysses to my pal, who immediately pushed my hand away and said, "No." I couldn't believe it. I said, "Well, as far as I'm concerned it's not my money, it's yours." My friend's head shook from side to side. "No. That's sweet of you to do, but I don't want it." It was at the moment I decided to pay it forward and spread out the green paper to different groups that I'd been wanting to donate money to, yet never had the funds to do so.

With this in mind, I decided use that money to start the Poetry Time Foundation. P.T.F. in its infancy will donate money and/or free books to a host of organizations and schools determined to make a difference in this fractured world. So far I've given away books and/or sent cash donations to: Hyde Square Task Force, Grassroots Artist MovEment (G.A.ME), The Imagination Library/United Way of the Ozarks, i, too arts collective, Highlights Foundation, Chilis On Wheels and an underfunded, understaffed school in New England. I've been thinking about this for years, throwing positive thoughts out to the universe about doing more, not only with my life and acting career, but in the children's poetry community as well. I thought, instead of talking about it, why not start small and build from there? I wrote down my poetic and acting goals last year and I have BIG plans, especially when I hit the financial mother lode. By the way, when I told my generous friend about this idea the grin on my pal's face let me know this was the right thing to do.

With National Poetry Month wrapping up shop I decided to participate again in the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem 2017. This is when Poetry Friday bloggers create a poem by one children's poet adding a new line everyday in April creating a string of diversified poetic though about ... anything! Here's the list of poetic peeps participating this year.


3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty

5 Diane at Random Noodling

7 Irene at Live Your Poem

8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

9 Linda at TeacherDance

10 Penny at a penny and her jots

12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

14 Jan at Bookseedstudio

18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog

20 BJ at Blue Window

21 Donna at Mainely Write

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

26 Renee at No Water River

28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan

29 Charles at Poetry Time

30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

Here is the poem, with my line in bold. It was a pleasure to participate in this collective children's poem of flash, whimsy and heart.

I’m fidget, friction, ragged edges– I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle, stories of castles, of fires that crackle, with dragonwords that smoke and sizzle.

But edges, sometimes, need sandpaper… like swords need stone and clouds need vapour. So I shimmy out of my spurs and armour facing the day as my fickle, freckled self.

I thread the crowd, wear freedom in my smile and warm to the coals of conversation. Enticed to the stage by strands of story, I skip up the stairs in anticipation.

Flip around, face the crowd, and freeze! Shiver me. Look who’s here. Must I disappear? By hook or by crook, I deserve a second look! I cheer. Please, have no fear. Find the book.

But wait! I’ll share the lines I know by heart. Mythicalhowls, fierytones slip from my lip Blue scales flash, claws rip, the prophecy begins Dragonworld weaves webs that grip. I take a trip…

“Anchors aweigh!” Steadfast at helm on clipper ship a topsail schooner, with sails unfurled, speeds away As, true-hearted dragon pirate, I sashay with my wise parrot, Robyn, through the spray.

“Land Ho!” (“Land Ho!”) We’ve hooked the whole crowd. So it’s true what they say: the play IS the thing. Stepping back from my blocking, theatre grows loud… I draw my sword, while shielding the BOOK–the house din dies.

With rhythmical wordplay, I unleash a surprise ...

I leap into my book, bid my readers "Goodbye!" (Goodbye!)

Here is the overview of the exhibit from the New York Public Library website:

Highlights include costumes and masks from Disney's THE LION KING; the original costume designs from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Maria Björnson shown alongside the costume worn by a recent West End PHANTOM; a celebration of the international hit, A CHORUS LINE; and the original set models for IN THE HEIGHTS, ARCADIA, and WAR HORSE. Film clips from notable theatre productions from the V&A’s National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) and NYPL’s Theatre on Film and Tape archive (TOFT) are embedded throughout.

Open now. Ends June 30th, 2017. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.

What an education of theatre that was for me. I was especially knocked out at seeing clips of the original A CHORUS LINE and of Sir Ian McKellen performing as Salieri in AMADEUS. Watching him transform convincingly from an old man to a young one the help of a new costume and the removal of a wig, all within seconds.

I saw the the Broadway musical IN TRANSIT at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

The creative team that brought you PITCH PERFECT and FROZEN spin a tale delving into the lives of 11 New Yorkers. Their stories are told in a cappella by a plethora of outstanding artists including Justin Guarini, who finished second to Kelly Clarkson in the inaugural season of AMERICAN IDOL. As a New Yorker I recognized all the "in jokes" especially about the sometime inconsistency of the subway system, as well as the sometimes turbulent journey about fulfilling one's potential and reaching your destiny. I left the theatre with a smile on my face and a pep in my step!

Read-a-Poem or R.A.P. My rallying cry to bring children’s poetry to every human being in the world continues rolling along. Not every book I mention has to be about children’s poetry, but that’s the main thrust. I have read:

A SUITCASE OF SEAWEED: And Other Poems by Janet S. Wong.

THINGS TO DO by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chen.

ANY ME I WANT TO BE: Poems by Karla Kuskin.

A SONG I SANG TO YOU by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Margo Tomes.

FEEL THE BEAT: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Kristi Valiant.

CATCHING A STORYFISH by Janice N. Harrington.

UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT: Poems For All Your Pockets by Bobbi Katz, illustrated by Wendy Watson.

VOICE FROM AFAR: Poems of Peace by Tony Johnston, paintings by Susan Guevara.

THOSE SHOES by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones.

THE SCARECROW'S DANCE by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas.

I leave you with the poem I used in this year's Madness! Poetry contest. Enjoy!


Streams of sunlight signal nature opening

its eyes from a nightlong slumber

while I admire my footprints against

the squishy, oatmeal colored sand.

As crashing waves turn into blankets

of frothy billows, baptizing my legs

in a homemade bubble bath, I hear the universe

whisper to me, “Good Morning.”

(c) Charles Waters 2017 all rights reserved.

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