Welcome to the 6th blog tour stop for David L. Harrison’s new book:
AFTER DARK: POEMS ABOUT NOCTURNAL ANIMALS,
And Book Giveaway!
Today I’m happy to feature David L. Harrison’s intriguing new Children’s Book, AFTER DARK: POEMS ABOUT NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. A marvelous poetry book chockfull of twenty-two creatures who are all busy at night–insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, and reptiles–and they all have found a place in his rich collection as moonlit characters. I’m going to share three of these creatures–their poems, and art: the Mexican Free-tailed Bat, the Luna Moth, and the Common Eastern Firefly.
But before we look at the poems, let’s take a peek into David’s past and find out where his fascination with these nighttime creatures began and how it inspired this book…
My fascination with nighttime creatures goes back to my childhood. I was always thrilled when I found myself close enough to observe any wild thing, day or night, but somehow the dark made encounters more mysterious and exciting. Sooner or later I needed to write about my love for this subject.
As David was growing so grew his fascination with collections…
Let’s move into some of these creatures…
How did you decide to pick the individual creatures, and specifically the Mexican free-tailed bat, Luna moth, and Common eastern firefly?
I began with a list of animals that came easily to mind but the number of candidates grew as I read more about my quest for creatures that are most active after the sun goes down. Many species move about during the day as well, so I concentrated on those who show a strong preference for night. The individuals you ask about are all favorites of mine.
When I was a boy living in Arizona, my parents took me to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico to watch the bats come out for their evening hunt. It took my breath away to watch hundreds of thousands of them blasting out of the cave at dusk like a living volcanic explosion. I’ve never gotten over that image or my fascination with bats.
(MEXICAN FREE-TAILED BAT)
Bat awakes, knows
it’s time to hunt, goes
in zigzag flight,
for dark night, swirls
into the sky, unfurls
a black cloak
on the air.
Bat is there.
© 2020 David Harrison all rights reserved.
My love for the Luna Moth also goes back to my youth during the ten years or so when I collected butterflies and moths. There is simply nothing more majestic than the splendid-tailed royalty of the North American moth world. To see one is to never forget the sight. How does anything that beautiful exist? The answer is, not very long. I had to include it in this collection.
David also shared a personal nighttime story while collecting moths…
During my insect collecting days I sometimes hunted for moths at night by draping a sheet over a clothesline and illuminating it with a lantern. All sorts of night flying creatures were attracted to the light, including large, magnificent Polyphemus and Cecropia moths. My heart always beat faster when any of these giants of the insect world came to my camp, but on rare occasions a Luna Moth would soar out of the darkness and circle the light. That is an image you carry with you forever.
Like regal monarch of the night
or fairy in the airy light,
richly robed in ermine white,
winged in velvet royal green.
Suitors you have never seen
find you here in woods serene.
You’ve much to do before the dawn
so when your fleeting life is gone,
future queens can carry on.
© 2020 David Harrison all rights reserved.
I wonder if any insect has inspired more poems than the firefly. Kids everywhere watch them, chase them, capture them in jars to watch them glimmer off and on, but not many will ever know that the firefly is a beetle and many kinds are carnivores, especially in their larval form. There is much to know about the firefly!
(COMMOM EASTERN FIREFLY)
polka dot the lawn.
Looking for a mate
before they’re all gone.
watch from the grass,
checking each flash
as suitors pass.
Checking how bright,
how long it lasts,
watch from the grass.
polka dot the lawn,
might find a mate
before they’re all gone.
© 2020 David Harrison all rights reserved.
I also asked David to share with us his choice to use rhyme, internal rhyme, or none at all, in the three poems here…
I try to fit each poem to the subject. In Bug Patrol (Mexican Free-Tailed Bat), I wanted to blend speed with a sense of darting quickly this way and that as bats do when hunting. End rhyme and internal rhyme helped keep the telling tight and short lines varying in length mimicked the zigzagging flight of the hungry bat.
By contrast, the foreboding descriptors of the bat – patrol, dark, night, swirls, unfurls, smoke, cloak, beware – would not do justice to the regal Luna Moth. Here I wanted to capture the sense of serenity that seems so much a part of this creature’s persona. Rhyme helped here, too, but the choice of words and the cadence itself needed to be different. The short lines of the bat poem wouldn’t do. Here I needed a more stately tetrameter with four accented syllables per line. The pattern of rhyming became fixed and the choice of words reflected the subject – queen, regal, monarch, fairy, airy, light, robed, ermine, white, velvet suitors, dawn.
The firefly is another story. Like the bat, the firefly also flits here and there, appearing and disappearing across our lawn on warm August evenings. But unlike the bat’s chase after insects, fireflies are looking for love. Their signals are date bait, visible evidence of an urgent need to mate before it’s too late. These thoughts drove the poem to include two refrains – Blinker off…/blinker on – and looking for a mate/before they’ll all gone. I also wrote in a variety of meters (firefly flashes = trochaic), (looking for a mate = trochaic and anapestic), etc. to draw a word picture of how the insect itself keeps speeding up and slowing down as it examines the grass below, seeking a friend for the night.
And in closing, David shared about his submission process…
If you take a box with several jigsaw puzzles in it and dump all the pieces on a table, you have the makings of a poem. Move enough pieces around and scraps of pictures begin to form, an ear here, a lilac blossom there. Through trial and error you discover which parts might fit together to form a full picture. In my case, as my thoughts finally begin to coalesce so that I can understand what I’m trying to say, I begin to take away pieces of the puzzle that don’t fit my need. Draft follows draft as the picture becomes less cluttered, a process that may happen fast (in two or three drafts) or more slowly (I’ve had more than 20 drafts on rare occasions). My poems are never finished. I finally quit and turn away.
Finding the right editor is another story. We all know the basics of how it works but we keep rediscovering the hurt and frustration of rejections over and over. Why did we ever get into poetry anyway??
Thank you David for this cornucopia-filled look into your new book, your writing process, and your keen collecting history. What a wonderful journey you’ve shared and fascinating new poetry book you’ve given us! And speaking of collections, this is David’s 97th book–and along the way he’s collected numerous awards including the Society of Midland Authors award for best children’s nonfiction book, 2016; Missouri Pioneer in Education Award; and Missouri Library Association’s Literacy Award. Being both an artist and writer myself, I have to mention that I was quite taken with the beautiful art by Stepahanie Laberis, together they’ve created a perfect wedding between poem and pictures of these fascinating nighttime creatures…
AFTER DARK: POEMS ABOUT NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
By David L. Harrison
Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Published by Wordsong
An Imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane
Available February 25, 2020
And David’s interest in seeking nature continued…
The publisher has graciously offered to Giveaway a copy of David’s book for one lucky reader of this post (within the US). For the Book Giveaway please leave a comment below, and include your name and email address by midnight (CST) Monday, February 24, 2020. You can also follow the #AfterDarkBookTour, where many of the other bloggers are offering book Giveaways.
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Michelle, what a lovely post about my new book. I appreciate this very much. You’ve spent a lot of time putting this together and I loved reading it. Many, many thanks!
Thanks David, your book feels like a kindred spirit to me! I also appreciated your generously sharing so much about yourself and your writing process!
I think lightning bugs are my favorite! I miss them now that I live in northern Colorado. Every now and then I’ll get lucky and spy one here. The climate just isn’t right.
Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories and insights from David!
I love lightning bugs too, they mean summer to me and David’s poem brings out that light! Wish we could send some your way, thanks Susan!
Good morning, Su. Last year we saw a few stragglers blinking their way nearsightedly across the back yard well into September. Some guys just don’t know when to quit.
What a wonderful interview, Michelle! You asked all the right questions to get some fascinating answers!
Thanks Jane, David’s book is a real gem, and his responses made it shine even brighter!
And I thank you again for your wonderful post, Jane. I have never been in better hands.
What a beautiful book!
Hi Sue, yes it truly is—thanks for stopping by!
Thank you, Rhonda. I love how Stephanie Laberis handled each scene in a way that kept the darkness while illuminating the subject. Just beautiful.
What a wonderful interview, Michelle! David, I love learning more about your new book, your childhood fascination with the world around you, your collections and your writing process as I follow your blog tour. I can’t wait for your book to arrive. Also it will be so much fun to show your beautiful book to everyone and say, “Look what my ‘cousin’ wrote! Isn’t he an amazing poet!” And seriously, you are!
Thank you, cousin Pamela. I’m glad you enjoyed Michelle’s post. I loved it, too, and enjoyed responding to the questions she posed for the post. Hugs all around!
Michelle, I really enjoyed hearing more about David’s deep dive into creating this anthology. Thank you for the way you designed this sneak peek into David’s book, Stephanie’s artwork, and David’s back story on how his book came from such deep-seated memories.
Carol, I can’t imagine how I got so lucky to have so many wonderful host posts along the tour. Every day I feel honored again.
Oh, a generous, really superb post on many levels. Your inclusion of David’s rhyme and process choice explanations so helpful, the photos of old collections, and young fisherman, David plus the inclusion of Bug Patrol….which I’ve not seen…..are a delight. Both of you deserve kudos, hugs and thanks. I can tell this will be a favorite of many kids!
Thanks Janet, I enjoyed learning more about David, his poems, and writing process!
I’m glad you enjoyed this wonderful stop on the blog tour. Am I in good hands or what!!
I hope you’re right that this one will become a favorite with many kids. It has already become a favorite of mine.
Very nice review. I finally got to it! The photos of his collections and of his sports endeavors and travels were wonderful. He’s had quite a life of exploration! No need to worry about putting me on the giveaway list.
Thanks to you and my other wonderful blog tour hosts, I’ve had an opportunity to explain more about myself and why/how I write than ever before. I’m forever grateful.
Such a well done and fascinating interview, Michelle! Those collections—OMG! I also loved the story about collecting insects with an illuminated sheet. Magical. And of course the three poems about such very different night-sky flyers. I’m loving all of these wonderful blog posts, David!
Michelle, many thanks for your encouraging thoughts. I’ve been extremely honored by so many people along this blog tour I hardly know where to begin thanking everyone.
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