The musical cadences of poetry appeal to children in a way that unrhymed stories do not, and when poetry also tells a story, it's so much fun to read the poems together and discuss them. Kids want to hear their favorites over and over. I still have Ogden Nash's "Tale of Custard The Dragon" memorized along with "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," and "Casey at the Bat." Who could forget the wonderful Dr. Seuss books that every child has memorized. One of my children's favorites was Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" ...by the shores of the Gitche Gumee, by the shining Big-Sea-Water. Hiawatha is a big undertaking though, it's a whole book...one very long story poem.
The classic children's poetry is truly wonderful, but much new poetry is being written for children that parents and grandparents should review and add to their kid's library.
There are many forms of poetry besides the traditional rhymed poems. Charles Albano, the author I interviewed this month, writes poems for children and teens in several different forms including Haiku and rhymed story poems; some are funny, and some will give you things to think about for hours of discussion.
I recently talked with Dr. Charles Albano about what makes a children's poet tick. Here are his thoughts on writing.
Dr. Albano: I think we learn about ourselves in the course of living. With the passage of time, trials posed present new arenas for self-examination that become grist for the mill of self-understanding. The journey is never really completed. What is equally important is that our understanding of others begins with, (and is limited by), this foundation.
My first book, entitled Transactional Analysis On the Job (1974), American Management Association, dealt with interpersonal and social psychology. For several years afterward I taught community adult evening classes in Understanding Self and Others. Transactional Analysis puts a great deal of emphasis on childhood as the origin of the self concept. Frankly, I don't know of anything more important to the quality of one's life as self-esteem.
Bev: "Dr. Albano, you are a very busy man. I typed your name into my favorite search engine and discovered a great many sites that either had very intellectual writings, like "Strategic Thinking Mindset," and "Adaptive Leadership," or your poetry for adults and for children. I don't know of any other writer whose works cover such diverse fields. As a university professor who teaches management and organizational behavior, how did you get started writing children's poetry? What was your greatest motivation?
Dr. Albano: As a parent of four children and a grandparent to five, I have tried topass on values, insights and understandings through poetry and short stories. But the reason I got started writing for children was self-defense. Each child in turn, year after year, insisted I make up stories, or story poems for them. Well, never wishing to show favor toward any child over another, I found (and still find, with my two youngest grandchildren), I must tailor the work to each one's interests. Since they all differ in personality and interests, I am stretched and under siege to this very day! Kids are weaned to expect a lot. They are conditioned as well as jaded by slick presentations on television, in the movies, in ads, and video games. You need fresh entry points to retain their interest and make an impact, so when the going gets tough.........
I want to entertain, and I want to teach some important foundation concepts, concepts that further self respect, human relations, an appreciation for humor, and the wonders of nature and living. I tried to engineer varied approaches to get through. As the collection grew, I fond myself wanting to preserve them in publications, to broaden the readership and hopefully to leave behind an enduring heritage of thoughts and perspectives. My poetry for adults addresses these kinds of themes too, and is similarly motivated, but the scope, of course, is much broader.
One of my "drivers"
is to communicate, to connect. I try to avoid excess verbiage, obscurities
and trite expressions because they stand in the way and in my mind are
not artful. Part of the pleasure I find in writing is the personal satisfaction
I get when I sense I have succeeded in doing this through fresh themes
and fresh expression.
Bev: Can you tell us about yourself? Who is Dr. Charles Albano, Ed.D.?
Dr. Albano: If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality type profile, you will recall the terms "introvert," "extravert," "sensor," and "intuitor." As far back as I can remember, my inner life and my behaviors have remained consistent. Basically I'm an "Introverted," "Intuitive," "Thinking" person. I think constantly, am introspective and generally aware of my thoughts and their underpinnings. I have a sense for future possibilities which my imagination explores from many angles in maters that interest me. I think my profile goes a long way toward explaining the source of my writings (reflections on internal experience). I am a seeker. I love mysteries and find excitement in the search for answers. I like to pose questions to children and adults to foster thought. Charles Johnson, Editor of The Home Tribune, a New Jersey newspaper publication, commented on that in his recent review of my poetry book, "Turn The Sandglass Over."
We are all different, and it doesn't matter that profiles differ. It is good that they do differ. I am making this point because I feel strongly that kids need to have a sense of their own strengths and uniqueness and an appreciation for who they are. This can enable them to bear the pain of non-conformity where appropriate and emerge from youth with their self esteem intact along with a strong sense of identity, confidence and sense of purpose.
I quit high school in the tenth grade to manage my father's business after he had a heart attack. When he returned, I went back to high school, but I couldn't adjust to a learning environment I came to regard as droll and divorced from "real life." Only the Writer's Club and independently initiated inventive activities compelled any interest. So I quit school again, this time to join the army where I completed a GED program and earned some college credits from the University of Maryland. Notwithstanding the fact that I "dropped out," I was never a drop out. I always valued true learning and creativity. In part, it had to do with finding myself at the time and following my own star. Today I can look back on many challenging and enjoyable years of teaching in universities, adult schools, government agencies and corporations.
All of this plays into my writing today. I cherished my childhood and youth. Despite some discontinuities and false starts, it was a precious period of my life. When I address children and teens I try to recall the internal struggles and instincts of my youth, and this reservoir of experience comes through. I truly enjoyed childhood and have not forgotten what its ups and downs felt like. I think this compassion shows in the messages I directed to teens in "Fires Burning, Deep Inside."
Bev: I read and reviewed two of your books, "The Cloud Shaman," and "Fires Burning, Deep Inside" for this November Children's section of MyShelf.com...and read many of the poems to a flock of grandchildren. What other books have you published?
Dr. Albano: When I address adults, I tap a broader base of experience to include passages through the life cycle, family, education, career, competition, and the community. My latest book of poetry, entitled "Skyline Drive: A Poetic Journey Through Business Life," will be published very soon. It is one of only a handful of poetry books to ever focus on business. With the growing emphasis on balancing family and career, in light of recent world events, and an appreciation of what is good and right in our lives, it may come to enjoy an audience that really hasn't been there in the past.
I think I have mentioned all my books to date but one, "One Summer, A Thousand Days." It is a book of HAIKU poetry featuring over six-hundred poems addressing nature, Man's nature, Man's impact on nature. Included is a special section on a new form of HAIKU popular in the Western world, called "SciFaiku."
Bev: Tell us about SciFaiku. That is a new addition to my vocabulary... what in the world is it?
Dr. Albano: Scifaiku is a form of Westernized Haiku that has fantasy and science fiction as its focal themes. Traditional Japanese Haiku confined itself largely to the topics of nature, Man, and the seasons. Haiku poems, in the purist Japanese tradition, follow a form of seventeen syllables dispersed across three lines--5-7-5. That pattern can be used in SciFaiku, too, but in the West, it may take a free form with fewer syllables and lines, or more. The main difference is in the topic-science fiction, not a part of traditional Haiku at all. The poems may address aliens, space exploration, man's imagined future in space and, for that matter, on the Earth in the future. My books,"One Summer, A Thousand Days," and "Fires Burning, Deep Inside," both contain a chapter of SciFaiku,
I seek to document it all. No experience fails to teach. Nothing learned is without value. There is no waste as everything learned is always of potential value.
I am given to think by association and analogy. It seems to be wired-in so that any thought that emerges gets quickly associated with another, and so on. It doesn't matter where I am. When I am in the mood to compose, I have found myself dictating poetry to a tape recorder while driving or scribbling notes wherever I am.
My poetry is diverse
because the environment is diverse. I feel that anything we encounter
inside or outside of ourselves merits attention. I let the subject-focus
determine the form of expression. I don't really
In posting poems on the Internet I have detected a preference for free verse, prose poems. Personally, I enjoy and respect all forms of poetry rhyme and meter, free verse, Haiku, etc. To me, poetry of any genre or style that resonates with something deep in my experience brings a unique satisfaction. I can recall the essence of poems that touched me deeply and left lasting impressions. Sentiment, nostalgia, insight, beauty, romance -- are all wonderful contributions, and I have been moved by those things again and again. But, if I had to say what the greatest strength of a poem could be, I would say it has to do with changing one's thinking. A poem that introduces another paradigm altogether and turns thinking around.
Bev: I'm amazed at the great amount of poetry that you have written, encompassing several different types of poetry from rhyming, funny poems to Haiku. Your books also contain some short stories for children. Which type of writing do you most enjoy? Do you have to be in a different frame of mind for each type?
Dr. Albano: I enjoy poems over stories. I like the challenge of saying a lot with a few carefully selected words and analogies.
As to frame of mind...I think I "feel" a difference from one form to another. Free association comes into more play when I write prose. It involves divergent thinking, a search for alternate ways of expressing ideas. While rhyming poems also involve free association, I think there is a stronger element of left brain functioning at play because the mind must use more (convergent thinking) in order to find words that not only rhyme but convey the precise meaning intended.
Bev: What type of books do you read for recreation? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Dr. Albano: Well, my reading habits are broad - history, mythology, science, archaeology, paleontology, psychology, and of course, management. I read more nonfiction by far than fiction, not a great deal of poetry and rarely a novel. I read a lot of poetry when I was young and still admire Whitman, Frost, Dickinson, Teasdale, Gibran, poets, Loren Eisely, essayist and Joseph Campbell, mythologist.
Bev: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Dr. Albano: Yes. Some of it lies in what I have said indirectly in this interview. First, I think it is important to reflect on your experiences. Find the meaning in them and allow yourself to experience your reaction to them. You don't have to be aged to do that. Put pen to paper and give it expression. Don't undervalue your perceptions, feelings and insights.
Above all, it is important to stay in touch with your inner self and heed its vision. That vision may be secret and unexpressed, half articulate, or cowered by fear of exposure. But you must have faith in yourself, respect that voice that knows soul deep who it is, who it can be--the "you" that you can be.
That individuality is the most precious thing we can lay claim to. I think it is a tragedy when it is abandoned to conformist fears, left behind and sold out.
Learn and practice
the known and proven techniques of creativity. I did my doctoral dissertation
on the mental processes involved in invention and creativity. Many argue
that creativity can neither be taught nor learned --they are WRONG.
That sort of belief alone can prevent it from emerging.
Bev: Thank you Dr. Albano, for sharing your thoughts with us.
Next Month: Interview with John Snyder, author of the christmas story, The Golden Ring.
This is an ambitious collection of over 400 poems of all kinds including
Haiku, rhyming and prose poems for older children.
This is a lively collection of poetry for preteens that ranges from
four-line chuckles to longer rhyming story poems; great for parents
and children to read together. It will bring up many topics for open
discussions and exchange of ideas.