Dear Jane,

I am writing you to thank you for sending yet another perfect poem to my inbox. I wanted to let you know, as the energizer bunny of daily poetry, your well-crafted words land and stay with me throughout the days. I am so very grateful that I discovered your mailchimp missive.

I remember writing to you during March, 2019 on the heels of reading another of your poems; I wanted to excerpt a few lines to use in a blog post for that year’s Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge, but I needed to ask your permission.

In your prompt reply, you assured me it would be fine and thanked me. Today I am writing again with gratitude for your poem,”My Son on His Small Island,” and for these lines particularly:

“There the sun shines, the waves

break only themselves on the shore.”

What is it about the perfect lines that do as Emily Dickinson said,“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Your lines did that for me when I read them—do that for me as I read them now.

Your poem came on the heels of my finishing Amy Sarig King’s middle-grade novel,  Attack of the Black Rectangles, an exploration of the right to read, with you as its standard-bearing champion in its powerful climactic moment. The middle-school rebels are standing up for themselves, confronting the elimination of “offensive” language in your stunning novel, The Devil’s Arithmetic, the book their class has been reading in book clubs…with black rectangles added by the well-meaning(?) teacher.

In the scene at the public board meeting where the censorship is being hotly discussed, and it seems as if the passionate arguments of the sixth graders are being dismissed, you show up and sit in the audience. Your support is silent, but your presence means everything to these young activists campaigning for readers’ autonomy.

In her afterword, Amy Sarig King gives you, Jane Yolen, credit for your trailblazing, your steadfast example, your honest-and-true self. I am sure you communicated with her as she completed this wonderful novel; you are a hero.

And those lines:

“There the sun shines, the waves

break only themselves on the shore.”

They endure.

Sincerely, Trish

7 thoughts on “Dear Jane,”

  1. Your post in a format of a letter to someone you do not identify until the end is captivating and engaging. Your quote, however, is a keeper – in my quote box.

    1. Thanks…I do love letters—and those lines, right? Why they get me, I don’t know, but I even see the connection between the kids’ struggle to be heard and those waves—I see connections everywhere.

  2. Trish, what a beautiful post. You have done so much more here than a book review, and yet this letter of appreciation is the best form of book review. I just stopped during this comment and checked them both out on Libby. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad I came by today.

    1. Thanks, Denise. You’re one of the bloggers I’m missing reading and adding comments because I’m trying to welcome the new slicers. I miss my “familiars.”

      1. Trish, I just finished these two books this week–The Devil’s Arithmetic and Attack of the Black Rectangles. They were both so timely it seems, with the anti-Semitism that is infecting our world, and, of course, the censorship and book banning running rampant. I couldn’t help but wonder if King’s book is banned in Florida. Thank you for this blog post, and your recommendations through your letter to Jane Yolen.

  3. Letters are a great way to convey our gratitude, to someone who has done something remarkable. It conveys feelings that can’t be expressed in an email. It is much more personal. It is becoming a lost art, unfortunately. This also gives us two books to add to our TBR list.

    1. I love to get real letters, but you are so right about them becoming almost art. And if anyone would appreciate a real pen to paper letter, it’s Jane Yolan, I’ll bet.

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