“Color City,” paper collage by Adhi Sukhdial, 7
Illustration for “The Juggle Man,” a poem by Analise Braddock, 7
Published April 2019
A note from Emma Wood
Although I love to read in all genres, I am always particularly excited to read the poetry submissions to Stone Soup since I am a poet. For me, the “wow factor,” the main thing that makes me sit up straighter in my chair as I read poetry submissions, is not beauty or even emotion but strangeness.
The poet Wallace Stevens once said, “A poem must resist the intelligence almost successfully.” What does this mean to you? To me, this means that a poem should operate just on the edges of reason and rational thinking. It should tell me something that I don’t quite understand. The poem should force me to spend time with it, to read and reread it, and, with each rereading, to come closer to my own understanding of it.
When I was in school, I was taught to see a poem as a puzzle I had to decode. I’m not advocating for that kind of reading. However, the best poems are the ones you want to reread, and that grow and change as you do.
With this in mind, I wanted to highlight a poem from the April issue: “The Juggle Man” by Analise Braddock, who wrote it at age seven. You can scroll down to read it at the end of this letter. “The Juggle Man” is dark and funny and weird. It is separate from my reality—from the world I live in and the way I think. It is up to something… but what exactly? That is a question I am still asking myself. I didn’t understand this poem when I first read it, and I still don’t—even after reading it maybe 30 times. It was precisely because I didn’t understand it that I knew I needed to publish it.
But what does it mean to “understand” a poem? In school, we tend to learn that this means “finding” a “hidden message” or moral. We want to get something out of a poem—some wisdom or an idea. We want to use the poem. But, as another poet, William Carlos Williams said: “Don’t try to work it out; listen to it. Let it come to you. Sit back, relax… Let the thing spray in your face. Get the feeling of it; get the tactile sense of something, something going on…Don’t attempt to understand the modern poem; listen to it.” And as Stevens also said, “People should like poetry the way a child likes snow.”
This weekend—the first weekend of National Poetry Month!—I encourage you to read some poems, and I give you permission to simply enjoy them. Whisper them to yourself. Declaim them to your parents after dinner. Sing them to a tune of your own making. Try to really feel and hear the language.
Only after that should you try to write your own poem. One place you might start is with your own dreams. Dreams, like poems, operate within their own unique world, filled with bizarre images and nonsensical rules. Start by describing a dream, and see where the poem takes you from there.
Once you’re done, send what you’ve written to us at Stone Soup.
To celebrate National Poetry month we are offering a discount on the wonderful Stone Soup Book of Poetry, a collection of 120 poems published in Stone Soup between 1988 and 2011.
And, for more poetry ideas, don’t forget to visit the Academy of American Poets’ website–especially, check our their “Dear Poet” initiative.
Our spring contest and partnership news
Write for a podcast: Closing date April 15
Our current contest, in partnership with the By Kids, for Kids Story Time podcast, to write a short story about climate change or other environmental theme. Your work could become a dramatized reading, broadcast on the podcast, and be published in an issue of Stone Soup! All the details about entries and prizes are on our website contest pages.
Summer writing mentorship program for 9th-graders and up: Application deadline April 15
We’ve partnered with The Adroit Journal, a literary magazine for teens. The applications for their Summer Mentorship program, which takes place from June to August, are open now. This program pairs young writers in grades 9 through 12 with an experienced writer who helps them learn more about the creative process. We know this is for an audience older than ours, but if you are a former reader or contributor, or know any teenagers who are aspiring writers, encourage them to apply!
Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
Rizwan takes us through A Day in the Life in the Amazon Rainforest. Macaws, jaguars, ants and more! Click on the link to read Rizwan’s account a day in a bustling ecosystem.
In Being a Fan, Thomas describes the emotional experience of watching his favorite team compete in the Copa America: “A sinking feeling tried to penetrate my confidence, but I wouldn’t let it. I had believed in this team for too long for them to let me down now.”
From Stone Soup, April 2019
By Annalise Braddock, 7
One day I went to the juggle place and on a shelf sat the juggle man.
He said to me you took a juggle now give it back to me.
The owner of the juggle place said to go home and then she called the police.
The police said outside there is young poor Sally with balls in hand but cannot juggle.
Then the police said on a Monday you took a suitcase on Tuesday you took a toothbrush and on Friday you poured milk.
What a bad girl you have been.
You can hear Analise talking about how she came to write her poem at Souncloud
Stone Soup’s advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky