Story by Walter Stormont
Photos by Ezekiel Espanola
In the Children’s Section of the Beale Memorial Library there is a colorful little amphitheater that people might overlook as they head toward other destinations. Not so an excited group of youngsters, parents and other adults who gathered April 21 for a Kids’ Open Mic as part of National Poetry Month.
“It’s something new for us,” said Library Associate Ariel Dyer. “Next year, definitely, let’s do it again.” She organized the experience along with Portia Choi.
The Open Mic kicked off with an appearance of children’s author Shirley Castro who has written a series of books about the Pelican Family, illustrated by her son Chris. Shirley brought a huge pelican puppet to the library.
But the kids were the stars today, and Shirley invited Makenna Moon and Ally Price to take turns reading from one of her books. And a wonderful job they did, bringing applause from the captivated audience.
Up stepped Coco Chapman, complete with not one, but two original poems. The first was an acrostic using the first letter of each line to spell out the title…
By Coco Chapman
Arms graceful and elegant,
Laces tied, neatly tucked,
Leaping then landing,
Every ballerina on her
Toes seeks applause.
The next poem in Coco’s repertoire was titled “Swinging,” a concrete poem, shaped like the topic. Coco had made copies available to the audience. “See the swing?” she asked. Sure enough, the words of the delightful poem were arranged to resemble a swing: the first and last lines being the ropes or chains, and the middle five lines as the “seat.” So, imagine that as you read:
By Coco Chapman
Like a bird in the sky I fly high,
like a kite in the wind I glide by, as I sing to and fro,
back and forth, high and low… Like a branch in the breeze
I sway low, like a leaf in the fall I drift slow, as I spring
down and up, upside-down, right-side up… I see the trees,
I bend my knees, I kick the air, I flip my hair. I dip and tip, I
soar and rise, all the way up to paradise!
It’s probably no surprise that Coco, the daughter of Richard and Lora Chapman, is also an accomplished piano composer.
Portia then came to the mic and asked for help reciting a poem by the great Maya Angelou titled “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” This holds true for Ally who returned to trade lines with Portia. While propping the book open, Portia quipped, “I’ve had 65 years of learning to read upside down!”
When Ally capped off the poem with, “Life doesn’t frighten me at all,” Portia threw out the question, “Anybody want to share what you’re frightened of?” For example, she said, she was afraid of the dark when she was a little girl in Korea.
A hand shot up… “I’m afraid of snakes!”
“Black widow spiders!” offered another youngster, to which Portia said, “You can run away or stomp them with your feet.” Coco countered, “Not if you’re barefoot!” A wonderful creative moment.
Near the library’s sign proclaiming, “Reading Books is Awesome,” Makenna stepped back up and recited a poem called “Lonely Flies the Wind.”
As all this was going on, Ava Fernandez was looking for something to recite from a stack of poetry books. She settled on a selection from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. In her clear, expressive voice, Ava did a fabulous job with “The Dentist and the Crocodile.”
During an interview, Ava was asked if she writes any poetry. “I read poetry,” she answered, adding that she does plan to write in the future. She showed that she’s truly a modern poet when she commented, “Rhyme doesn’t matter.”
With recitals done, Ariel from the library announced the second phase of the day’s festivities: “You guys want to make poems?” Arranged on a table were sheets of paper, glue sticks, and hundreds of single words trimmed out of magazines.
Coco, Iris and Jaden stayed for at least another hour, focused intently on looking for the right words amid all the possibilities. They were literally mining for rhymes. But, as previously noted, rhyme doesn’t matter, as evidenced by Jaden, who pieced together a rhythmic tale of Dinosaurs, Giants and Amazing Bots.
Iris, who completed several works, filled in with crayon where a few words were needed:
The young artists had great fun reciting, chatting, concentrating and creating in celebration of National Poetry Month. In the end, Coco was the last one sitting, having found the final piece to her poetic puzzle:
“A WILD TALE”
I LOVE TO COOK
LET’S READ A BOOK
BUT WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?
I BIT OFF MORE THAN I CAN CHEW