Rebecca Kai Dotlich

  • 4 min read
1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read books and poems? 
When I was 9 I loved to read. I also loved to ride my bike, roller skate, and make things.  We did not have a library in walking distance (& my mother didn’t drive), but a bookmobile came to our neighborhood.  I loved reading mysteries, biographies and fairy tales.  I wasn’t introduced to much poetry when I was small.  The poetry I knew and loved came in the delicious rhymes from books like Jack and the Beanstalk: Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman ….
And The Gingerbread Man: Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man.
Those still stay with me.  
2. What was your favorite book, poem or author?
My favorite would have been the Nancy Drew mysteries and Pippi Longstocking.
3. How did you become a poet?
I wish I had an easy answer.  Looking back, the way I saw the world was always a little different.  I was enchanted with words and sounds and song lyrics.  I began to write rhyming lines and couplets in my diaries and on notebook paper and to my friends and family.  I wrote poetry in High School, then college, and when my children were babies I tried to get published as a poet.  But I think I was a poet all along.
4. Is it hard to come up with poems?
Not the topic, not the idea.  I can’t write them all in a lifetime.  But to make them be as good as I hope, as I want, as I expect, that is the hard part.  So I work and work and revise and change and cross out and polish each one as best I can.
5. What is one of the coolest things that has happened with one of your poems – like book or famous person reading it?
Hmm.  Well sometimes you will see things on the internet that you don’t even know about.  I’ve seen a book of mine being read by a governor to a group of children but I do not remember who or what state and I’ve happened upon a few of my poems being turned into songs.  
6. Do you have a favorite children’s poetry book or poet?
Honestly, I have many.  It truly would be hard to choose just one.  I wish I had a better answer.  
7. Why do you think kids should read poetry?
I don’t know if they should, but I sure hope they end up wanting to. I think a poem is a small package of words that can surprise, delight, make you feel joy, and make you feel not as alone.  I love how you can flip through a book of poems and read whatever first line or title catches your heart.
8. How did you come up with the Cherry Tree poem that I love so much?
I actually went to Washington D.C. to see them all up close and personal and blooming all over like tiny groups of pale pink and white paper umbrellas.  I took my notebook and wrote down words & images I thought of as I stared at them.
9. Do you have any advice for a kid interested in poetry?
Read as much of it as you can.  Open a book of poetry.  If one poem doesn’t grab your curiosity or wonder or attention, move to the next.  Copy the ones you love in your own notebook.  (Remember to write the poet’s name.)  Try writing your own poems by observing what it is you want to write about (a puppy dog waking from a nap?  The moon in a night sky?) and always, always write down what is in your heart.  All the things that give you joy, all the things that make you want to cry, all the things that make you wonder and ask questions.  All the things that make you, you.

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