Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Video

Vampire Rabbit
Illustration by Julie Rowan-Zoch
V is for video. Today, children's writer and poet Renee LaTulippe is joining us. Thanks Renee! Thanks Julie for another fabulous illustration. 

I met Renee through the 12x12in12 challenge (a picture book writing challenge hosted by Julie Hedlund). Being relatively new to writing children's poetry I was thrilled when I came across her blog, No Water River. Her blog is full of fun poems for kids and the best part each poem is accompanied by a video. She is going to share one of her fabulous poems today minus the video. But don't fret you can head over to her blog and watch many of her fun videos. 

Renee,  why do you write poetry? 
Mainly because it’s fun! I have always loved words and wordplay, so I get a kick out of putting together sounds and syllables and arranging them just so, so they are fun to read and dance to. At least, that’s the aim. Whether I succeed all the time is a whole ‘nother question. (Sometimes, though, writing isn’t fun at all – it’s even a torture for me. In those cases, I agree with my pal Dorothy Parker: “I hate writing; I love having written.”)

What kind of poetry do you write? 
I write children’s poetry, probably aimed toward the younger set and pretty much always in rhyme. I especially like to create weird little characters and write poems about them that are little stories in themselves. I didn’t start with children’s poetry, though. Back in the day, I was all about adult poetry in free verse, but it turns out that’s not where I should be hanging out (I mean…really). I do plan on playing with free verse and different forms in my kids’ poems, though.    

What inspires you to write poetry? 
Absurdity. I love absurd happenings and humor, twisted looks at normal things, the possibilities of “What if…?” Plain old silliness/being silly inspires me. Penguins. And my husband, who is also a literary type and a master at wordplay in Italian. Not only is he my brainstorming partner, but he also has a little hobby of thinking up book and poem titles that are often so funny or bizarre or thought-provoking that they make me wonder “Now what would that book/poem be about?” In fact, the name of my blog No Water River came from one of his titles in Italian (Il Fiume Senz’acqua).   

Who is your favourite poet? Why? 
I don’t have a favorite anything because my tastes are so varied. I might adore one poem or book by an author, but detest every other word that author has ever set on paper. What can I say, I’m fickle! My favorite tends to be whoever I happen to be reading at the moment. Right now that person is Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, who is brand new to me and whose poetry I have just fallen in love with. At other moments in my life it has been Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and every other great female poet, and of course I love and admire Dorothy Parker for her wit and humor – her poetry is a bit morose, but she kills with her one-liners! For the guys, I like Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Billy Collins for their gifts of observation and beautiful writing that is accessible to all.

What is your favourite poem? Why? 
See above! Oh, all right, let’s see if I can name one or two. Since I am a theatrical type who prefers her poetry read out loud, I am drawn to poems with juicy words or emotions or characters. That’s why I like Plath’s “Daddy,” Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” (as I wrote about on Katie Davis’s blog), Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” anything by Shakespeare, Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain,” and Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Told you my tastes run the gamut!   

 A piece of advice you would like to share with your fellow poets? 
As I’ve written elsewhere…get on your feet during the writing process! Say the words at full voice, not under your breath – but be wary of falling into the same speech rhythm over and over. To avoid that, pick a different imaginary audience to read to each time (your peers at a café, bigwigs at an awards ceremony, kids in the park, a group of attentive penguins) and in different situations (a rap concert, a church, the middle of an Oscar Wilde play). I swear, nothing helps me hear the hiccups more in the early stages of writing than getting out of the chair and giving voice to the words. Later, of course, it’s a good idea to give it to other people to read aloud – they won’t have your rhythm already in their heads, so you’ll get a “truer” reading and hear what doesn’t work.    

Why do you create video poetry? 
I simply believe that poetry is a living thing that’s meant to be heard and savored orally and aurally, not just dissected on paper and left there with its guts hanging out. I am especially adamant about this when it comes to sharing any literature with kids – whether it’s a poem or Huck Finn – because, for me, appreciation (of language, story, character, and craft) must come first. In fact, I’m pretty sure that “formal text analysis” happens naturally if you just let kids live the literature and get excited about it – I mean, who wants to analyze something she doesn’t first feel in her bones or heart? [Off soapbox, exit stage right]

So yeah…I do poetry videos because I want kids to see that poetry is alive and fun and not scary and waiting to be slurped up with a straw.

Can you share a tip or two about making poetry videos or reading poems out loud?  
Sure! When you’re making a video or just reading a poem aloud, the most important thing is to make sure your audience can understand what you’re saying! That means using good diction and being aware of voice production, which takes practice. The goal is to avoid speaking from your throat by centering your voice on your front palate and supporting it with good breathing technique. Like I said, this takes practice, but quickly becomes second nature. Good vocal production will give your voice a pleasing resonance and prevent you from “swallowing” your words or losing the ends of sentences in your throat.  

Another tip comes from the oral interpretation unit of the public speaking course I taught, and that is to go through the poem many times, marking up the “script” in whatever way makes sense to you. I use musical notation, or a system of underscores, circles, slashes, and highlights to mark pacing, pauses, emphasis, loudness/softness, gesture, movement, and so on. This is called “scoring the script” (as an actor might do with a play script) and will be your roadmap to a layered reading.  

Of course, these are just quickie tips. Anyone interested in learning more will find lots of info just by searching the terms “basic vocal production,” “oral interpretation,” and “scoring the script.”

Any recent publications and/or accomplishments you would like to share with us?
I’m currently sharing my poetry on my blog at No Water River, via print and video, and am working on pieces for submission. In the meantime, I am thrilled to continue writing poems and stories for the early readers published by All About Learning Press. It was for AALP that I wrote and recorded 42 kids’ poems for the book Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new – and what a “frabjous” project that was!

I've said this before and I'll say it again.  Renee, I would have loved to have had you as a teacher! Thanks for coming on my blog today. Now a poem by Renee. 

Ugly Pants from Lizard Lou
Ugly Pants

I have a pair of ugly pants
with rips around the knees.
They have pink stripes and polka-dots
and smell like moldy cheese.

They’re made of fleece and burlap,
and they’re weird and warm and snuggly.
If I wore them to a costume ball,
I’d win the prize for ugly.

I wear them every weekend,
though the other kids may tease,
but I just love my ugly pants
for climbing in the trees.

I know I shouldn’t boast or brag,
but I can say this smugly:
no one has a pair of pants
so perfectly, beautifully ugly!

(“Ugly Pants” by Renée LaTulippe. Licensed by All About Learning Press, Inc. Copyright © 2010, 2012 All About Learning Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated, or otherwise used without the express written approval of All About Learning Press, Inc.)

--Since poetry is meant to be performed when you write your poem today, I want you to perform it. No, you don't have to create a video, but try performing your poem in front of your kids, spouse, or a trusted friend! Try writing a poem about something that is absurd like a vampire rabbit!  Or
--Use today's word "vampire" to write a poem. 

If you liked this post please let others know with a click of button below. Tomorrow, author Debbie LaCroix will be joining us to talk about the W's. I hope you come back for that.

Remember you can always connect with me on Facebook and Twitter, or Pin me in Pinterest, link up on LinkedIn, and add me to your Google Circle.

Do you want to catch up or re-visit earlier poetry posts? Here are the most recent poetry posts:
A former English/theater/communications teacher and wannabe starlet, Renée is the editor at All About Learning Press and a children’s writer. She also blogs on language and grammar at AALP (often under the guise of her alter ego, the Chipmunk of Doom), and composes silly poems for her own blog No Water River. Renée holds a BFA in acting/directing from Marymount Manhattan College, an MA in English Education from New York University, and a Ph.D. in…oh, wait, no, that’s it. 

To read and hear more of Renee's fabulous poetry head over to her blog No Water River

Julie Rowan-Zoch graphic designer morphed by motherhood into super-volunteer, spun into a pre-pubbie cocoon, soon to emerge writer and illustrator of children’s books! To learn more about Julie check out her fabulous blog by clicking here or find her on Facebook by clicking here. Stay tuned to see more illustrations from Julie. 


  1. Oh! Soooo much fun. Talent just oozes out of you, Renee. You are so articulate and so silly at the same time. It's an endearing combination! Can anyone tell I'm a Renee fan???? I think No Water River is a generous gift that all educators should be using in their classroom.
    Start the day with Renee! (a little rhyme in itself)
    I really appreciate all the advice you have given today about performing your poem...which scares the ugly pants off of me. And speaking of ugly pants, which are meant to be kept on, your poem is your usual brilliant! Any kid who thinks they don't like poetry only needs to find your website.
    Ok....I'm through gushing about your talents. Keep writing!
    Rena...thanks for the A to Z it!

    1. Aw, Penny, thank you so much for the gushing! You made my day! Don't be a-skeared of saying your poems out loud - you will be fabulous, darling, because you have great material to work with!

    2. Thanks Penny and I agree with you 100%!

  2. Can somebody please buy the lady some PENGUINS already? heehee :) Loved the interview!

  3. Rena, thanks so much for having me on your blog today. I must say I had a lot of fun answering your questions!

    And although I was not able to keep up with the challenge, I've been stopping in every day to see what y'all are up to, and it's been inspiring!

    1. Thanks Renee! I appreciate you coming on my blog today.

  4. Natalie beat me to the punch...I was already googling Italian zoos to find the most attentive penguins available for the next installment at NWR.

    Renee, we are all going to be boasting one day "I knew her when..."

    1. A penguin poem is in the soon as my creativity comes back. Total slump!

      Yeah...I knew her when she was just like she is now, haha!

  5. Wow you've got your finger in many pies Renee, a great champion of words who gives so much of your time to help other writers and that poem is lovely.

    1. Maybe that's why I gained so much weight...too much pie! Thank you, Catherine!

  6. Great interview! Renee, your video poetry project is a breath of fresh air. I love your message about poetry being read aloud and shared. It's so simple, and yet so easy to forget as we sit hunched at our computers... Please keep reminding us!

    1. Thank you so much, Carrie! Now go share a poem (if even with yourself, aloud)!

  7. Thanks ladies! Rena this poetry ride has been so much fun!
    Sublime rhymin' Renee - tastes good slurped with a straw!
    Excellent energy boosting advice: 'get on your feet' and 'start the day with Renee'!

    1. Thanks, Julie - and nice job on the evil vampire bunny! I love the clean lines you use. :)

  8. I enjoyed the interview ladies. Renee, loved your answer on what inspires you to write poems :)

  9. Love the poem and the interview and Penny is right, you are a great combo- articulate and silly!

  10. You ladies are all inspiring me to jump into the deep end! I'm working on a found poem this afternoon during nap time. Fun!

    1. Ooh, fun! I recently did one with lines I stole off Twitter, and I love how it came out!

  11. Awesome interview, Renee! I love No Water River - the content and the title! Thanks so much to the two R's!

    1. Thank you, Lori!! We need to talk about you + NWR one of these days!

  12. Forgot to mention Ugly Pants - hysterical!

  13. Julie your artwork is great! I think I could readily identify some of your work. Renee, what can I say. You are a master at what you do and this was a great interview! I'm with everyone else about the advice you've given. Useful, common sense stuff that we don't ordinarily think of. By the way, who doesn't own a pair of ugly pants? Good one, ladies!

    1. I'm sure I have pictures somewhere proving I own a pair of ugly pants!

    2. Thank you, Pam. I will never forget the two plaid "suits" my mom sewed for me when I was about ten -- one green, one purple, matching jacket and pants. I loved those suits!

  14. Happy birthday Renee! And great interview. I don't think I have a pair of pants that can compete with your ugly pants, but I do have plenty with holes. What a delightful poem!

    1. Thanks, Hannah! But your kids must have plenty of ugly pants by now -- I know mine do!

  15. So finally, my vampire poem:

    Dark Shadows Returns

    In shadowy hamlet of Collinswood

    where otherworldly spectrals stood

    vigil o’er the coffin__ of Barnabas,

    Is the wraithlike enchantress, Angelique.

    Tortuous love, tenuous, weak

    proved fatal for the soul__ of Barnabas.

    Necromancer with a Temptress’ wile

    felt betrayed and so did beguile

    the former mortal known__as Barnabus.

    Her schemes to contrive, and conjure desire

    drew only contempt, scorn and ire.

    Now cursed, his nights are long and ponderous

    Roaming Collinswood as the Vampire__Barnabas

  16. Renee! "Ugly Pants" cracked me up! It was such a treat to read all about YOU, you who spends your time so generously snickerviewing others and listening so graciously. Thank you for the good reading advice (which I'll definitely share) and for your very kind words here. I've never been a favorite poet before, and to be yours for an hour or a week is an honor. Happiest of birthdays! xo, a.

    1. Ha! "I've never been a favorite poet before..." Love that line! And you'll be a favorite much longer than just a week, I'm sure. Thanks for the daily inspiration!

  17. Thank you, Rena and Renee! (Hey - that's fun to say together.) I'm finally catching up on a few great posts I missed this past week. What a terrific feature here! Renee, I'm kinda wishing you were a little closer to the states. Or maybe I'll finally make it to Italy someday? Thanks for sharing such great insight and tips. Oh, and I've been writing about penguins this morning for a little nonfiction project. I'll definitely try reading my next poem to an imaginary colony of them!

    1. Penguins! How I love them. Actually, I kind of wish all of you were closer to Italy! Thanks for your kind words, Robyn!


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