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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blog No. 37-- On the Other Side of Tomorrow by California Poets in the Schools

GENRE: Poetry

Title: On the Other Side of Tomorrow:
California Poets in the Schools Statewide Anthology
Editor: Lucia Lemieux

Bibliographic Information:
Pub. Date: September 2008
Publisher: California Poets in the Schools
Format: Paperback 133pp
Age Range: 13 and up
ISBN 0939927241, 9780939927241


Reader’s Annotation:
If you love poetry, you will love the 36th edition of California Poets in the School’s Statewide Anthology called On the Other Side of Tomorrow. This edition features poems from nearly all of the 38 counties in California where the organization sends poets to work in the classroom—children from K-12 are represented, as well as some poems from their adult teachers.

Plot Summary:
In 1964, California Poets in the Schools—an organization that beings professional poets into K-12 classrooms and after school programs—began its mission to spread the love of poetry by teaching children to write it. For 45 years, they have made this mission a reality. In 1972, the organization published their first anthology featuring student poets of all ages from all over the state. This 2008 edition, On the Other Side of Tomorrow, continues that mission with some of the best poetry submitted since the organization began. This book, a testament to truth as viewed through the eyes of young people features a Foreword from then poet laureate Al Young, and an introduction from YA author Stacey Goldblatt, and is strongly an anti-censorship, anti-war volume that reflects the dissatisfaction—both conscious and unconscious—of the eight years of concern under the Bush II administration. It is amazing to read how the consciousness of the world at the time is reflected into the wise words of the youngest children, and the rapt concern of the older high school students.

Critical Evaluation:
This would be difficult for me to objectively criticize, as I am the editor of this book; however, I can tell you that it was a labor of love and concern about the world that we have lived in during the first part of the millennial decade. This concern is reflected in the voices of the children, who felt it all yet found it easier to articulate through metaphor.

One only has to read the foreword of California Poet Laureate Al Young, or YA Author Stacey Goldblatt, to see how important this book is to Californians, and Americans. From the youngest of voices—the Kindergarteners whose group poem “If I Were President” aptly describes concerns about the world that most adults need to hear, to the high school works about peer pressure, the environment and our very survival as not only a nation but as a world, the book reflects on what the other side of tomorrow will look like if we act with responsibility--or if we don't.

Many have claimed this is among the finest of the anthologies California Poets in the Schools has ever published. As editor, I take great pride in that. As a librarian, I hope more people will read CPITS anthologies and get a pulse on what our youth feel and say about their lives, their country and their world.

Reading level/Interest Age:
Although there are poems in this book written by students as young as five and as old as eighteen (as well as some poems by their adult teachers), I feel this is a YA book. Young students will understand poems at their grade level or younger, but it is the YA audience that will best comprehend the overarching message in this book: that truth in all its forms are important to hear, should not be suppressed and often, must be taken to the next level of action. The wisdom of the young people featured in this book is amazing.

Information about the Organization and the Editor:
California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) is a statewide organization of professional poets formed to help cultivate the imagination of children through the writing of poetry. CPITS poets are professional, published writers from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, trained to teach poetry to children. These poet-teachers serve as living models committed to creating images through words -- images which communicate emotions, observations, or simply, a moment in time. The poet-teachers provide a creative environment and education not typically possible in the regular classroom: an environment in which individual feelings, perceptions, stories and truths are encouraged, supported, and in fact, given priority over grammar. This approach enables the students to give voice to their internal selves, and let their muses fly without the pressure of competition or fear of failure. CPITS began in 1964 at San Francisco State University as the Pegasus Project, placing poets in the classroom to read to children. These poets soon began teaching children to write poetry, and the program evolved from passive to participatory. From 1964-1985, CPITS was an affiliate of San Francisco State’s Poetry Center, although the organization expanded to cover the entire state of California in the mid-1970s. By 1985, CPITS became an independent, non-profit community literary arts organization administered through its own Board of Directors. Today, more than 200 poets are working CPITS programs in 35 California counties, reaching nearly 30,000 students from K-12th grades. Since 1964, CPITS poets have introduced nearly one million children to creative writing.

Lucia Lemieux served as Ventura County Area Coordinator of CPITS from 1999-2009, and taught more than 5,000 children to write poetry in various schools and after school and community programs. She is a widely published poet who has read her work throughout California and in many other places in the U.S.

Curriculum Ties:
This book is used by teachers all over California and in other states as an adjunct to poetry curriculum. Besides providing great examples of children’s and young adult poems to other children, there are lesson plans in the back that help classroom teachers bring poetry to their own school sites.

Booktalking Ideas:
This book is a great example of poetry written by young people, as will motivate all teens to write their own wonderful words. Read it and be inspired!

Challenge Issues:

Why I Included This Book:
I firmly believe in the mission of California Poets in the Schools, and I am very proud of the work I personally did on this anthology. If more people become familiar with CPITS, more will support it and their wonderful mission can continue. Librarians—you too can bring a CPITS poet into your library! Contact http://www.cpits.org/ for more information.

Cover image courtesy of: Ray Lemieux Photography.

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