Lee Bennett Hopkins is recognized as “the world’s most prolific anthologist of poetry for children” by Guinness World Records. He has received the Christopher Award for his BEEN TO YESTERDAYS: POEMS OF A LIFE (Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong). Among many other honors include the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, the Regina Medal, and induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for all ages. I have written professional books, picture books, novels, poetry, and have compiled over 120 anthologies, including the first I CAN READ POETRY BOOK, SURPRISES (HarperCollins).
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book, WORLD MAKE WAY is a collection of especially-commissioned poetry, all inspired by art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, and the world’s most encyclopedic art museum. I was thrilled when I was approached by Abrams Books for Young Readers to engage in this project.
Henry: Who wouldn’t be thrilled?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Looking at artwork by such masters as Mary Cassatt, Fernando Botero, Winslow Homer, and the contemporary work of Kerry James Marshall, and reading poems written from hearts of America’s greatest poets writing today including Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Carole Boston Weatherford, brings together an aesthetic experience for readers of all ages to appreciate. It is of utmost importance we bring the arts into children’s lives.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Writing of any kind is challenging. Poetry, in particular, is among the most difficult genre, being able to create brief stories with limited words that must fall in place like chords in a symphony. Not only does each word count, each syllable must be thought out.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Reaching children to bring books into their lives is not only a powerful lesson, but a powerful responsibility. Reading is powerful. It can change minds, hearts, and generations of being.
Henry: True. “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
My life has been blessed with so many memorable experiences. To reach the age of 80 and have a book such as WORLD MAKE WAY appear is like an out-of-body experience. To be in the Met! To bring poets’ words into the Met! To pair their work with artistic masterpieces. It is as Julie Fogliano writes in “Cat Watching Spider” based on a work by Oide Toko, ‘…all prowl and prance/and teeth and claws”. Centuries after art was produced poets are writing about the artist’s work. What a tribute to our culture.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read, read, read. It will help you find your own voice.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
A favorite quote of mine comes from Langston Hughes’s poem “Dreams: Hold fast to dreams…”. I truly believe if we do hold fast, dreams will come true. Thanks, Lang, for your insight.
Henry: On a first-name basis, are we? Impressive.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?
Not really. I am very intense at whatever I’m writing.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To bring peace to the world, to have each and every person treated with respect and dignity, to be a world of one.
Henry: You have my vote.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. We could possibly change the world before dessert.