|The first ever U.S. Children's Poet
Laureate tells us about himself.
"The first ever U.S. Children's Poet Laureate tells us about himself."Want to learn
more about me? Well, you've come to the right place. Kids all over
the country have asked me questions about who I am. Here are my
you grow up?
I was born on September 8, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York. I grew up
in the Bronx in a working-class neighborhood made up of Jewish,
Irish, and Italian families. My father, mother, younger brother,
and I lived in a six-story apartment house where everyone knew everyone
else, just like a small town.
your favorite book when you were a kid?
It's difficult to single out any one favorite book, but among those
I loved were Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson
Seton and stories about Robin Hood and King Arthur. Another one
I liked was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Are you married?
Do you have any children or pets?
My wife's name is Carolynn, and we've been married since 1979. We
don't have any children, and we're temporarily between pets. We've
owned a couple of dogs and have had several cats.
What do you
do in your spare time?
I have many interests besides writing poetry. I enjoy photography,
carpentry, and creating games, collages and "found object" sculpture.
Lately I've been teaching myself to draw and create multimedia on
the computer. I also collect art, children's poetry books, and frog
miniatures. I studied classical music as a young man and still attend
the opera and symphony whenever I get the chance. I also love to
How did you
become a writer?
I'd always enjoyed playing with language, but I had no idea I would
be a writer. I discovered writing as a career only by accident when
I was about 24 years old. I had spent months drawing several imaginary
animals, but one evening I decided to write a little poem to go
with each drawing. A friend encouraged me to show the poems to an
editor, and when I did, I was astonished to find that the editor
Susan Hirschman thought I had a talent for writing verse. Susan
told me I was a natural poet and encouraged me to keep writing.
She published my first book and, 30 years later, she's still my
I have a studio in my house, which contains my writing desk, computer,
library of reference books and children's literature, as well as
my frog collection, many windup toys and just a lot of stuff. I
can't seem to throw anything away. A large window over my desk lets
me see trees and many kinds of birds.
you get your ideas?
Everywhere! Everything I see or hear can become a poem. Several
toys in my studio have turned into poems. I remember things that
happened when I was a kid, like the day my new baby brother came
home with my mother from the hospital. Or I write about things I
like or don't like. I love spaghetti and wrote a poem about it.
Did you always
No, in fact there was a time when I couldn't stand the stuff. In
grade school, I had a teacher who left me with the impression that
poetry was the literary equivalent of liver. I was told that it
was good for me, but I wasn't convinced. When I rediscovered poetry
in my twenties, I decided I would write about things that kids really
cared about, and that I would make poetry delightful.
do you have for young writers?
READ! READ! READ! and WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Keep a notebook and write
down things you see, hear, and think about. Ideas disappear quickly
unless you jot them down. When you have an idea for a poem or story,
write down anything you can think of that has to do with that idea.
Study your list and you'll start to see connections among certain
items. If you are writing poetry, don't force rhymes. It's better
to work on what you want to say and create a feeling for the poem
than to try to make up things just to make the poem rhyme.