Today is the birthday of children’s author and poet Paul Fleischman. Born in 1952, Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California. His father, Sid Fleischman, was also an award-winning author of children’s books.
Fleischman graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1977, and before he became a full time writer, he worked as a bookstore clerk, library shelver, and proofreader. His work as a proofreader led to the founding of two grammar watchdog groups: ColonWatch and The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to English (1).
Fleischman won the most prestigious awards in children’s literature in 1989, the Newbery Medal, for his book Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. In Joyful Noise, Fleischman popularized a new poetic genre, the poem for two voices. Written to be read aloud by two people, each poem is written in two columns. Each reader is assigned a single column, and the two readers alternate, reading the lines in turn from the top to the bottom of the page. Reader’s join their voices whenever words are written on the same line in both columns.
How to Read a Poem for Two Voices
I’m the first reader. I’m reading
only the lines in the left column.
I’m the second reader.
As you can see, I waited my turn to read.
If words appear on the same
Line in both columns,
Both readers read them aloud, Both readers read them aloud,
One voice on the right.
Plus another on the left
Makes two voices Makes two voices
Today’s Challenge: Compose, Collaborate, Compare, and Contrast
Given poetic license, what two people, places, things, or ideas would you like to see hold a conversation? Write your own poem for two voices. Begin by brainstorming some contrasting ideas: people, places, ideas, or things. You have poetic license to give voices to anyone or anything. Here are some ideas to get you started: father and son, dog and cat, protagonist and antagonist, summer and winter, success and failure, noun and verb, football and baseball. Craft your poem in the two column format, and when you have a solid draft, work with a partner to bring the poem to life by reading it aloud. Revise and practice until you have a poem that’s ready to be shared with a larger group.
Quotation of the Day: A picture tells a thousand words. But you get a thousand pictures from someone’s voice. – Paul Fleischman