Each week we will briefly introduce you to (or reacquaint you with) a poet whose work is enjoyed by kids and/or teens. We will start with the winners of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children before moving on to other poets, past and present. Some poets you will encounter here are already familiar and popular; others are less widely known yet their poems deserve to be shared and remembered. Links within the profiles will take you to additional information about the poet.
“…a good poem contains both meaning and music.”
Eve Merriam began writing poems at age seven. As a teenager, she wrote poems for her high school magazine and newspaper. Merriam began her career as a copywriter and later as a radio writer for Columbia Broadcasting System and other networks. She also worked as a fashion copy editor and then as a free-lance magazine writer, book writer, and poet.
In her later career, Merriam focused on writing adult plays. She was a frequent speaker and promoter of poetry for young people and was honored in 1981 with the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for her entire body of work.
Merriam’s writing comprises a wide variety of works: poetry, plays, and nonfiction for adults; approximately 40 picture books and nonfiction titles for children; and more than 20 poetry books and anthologies for children. Many are out of print but may still be on library shelves; some are being reissued, sometimes as poem picture books.
Her poetry is characterized as smart, playful, and lively and often explores the sounds and origins of words. In her later works, she tackled social issues and topics of racism, sexism, and environmental concerns.
Check out The Singing Green for a sampling of several of Merriam’s poems from previous out-of-print collections, including “The Poem as a Door,” one of several poems Merriam has penned that try to describe what poems are and how poets create poetry:
The Poem as a Door
By Eve Merriam
You cannot skip over,
you cannot crawl under;
walk through the wood,
it splits asunder.
If you expect it to be bolted,
it will be.
There is only one opening:
yourself as the key.
With a sigh of happiness
you pass through
to find on the other side
someone with a sigh of happiness
From The Singing Green by Eve Merriam (HarperCollins). Copyright 1992. All rights reserved.