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Poetry Foundation names Kenn Nesbitt its children's poet laureate

The Poetry Foundation announced Tuesday that "Revenge of the Lunch Ladies" author Kenn Nesbitt will be its next children's poet laureate, a position the foundation created in 2006 to recognize that "children have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience." The two-year appointment comes with a $25,000 prize.

This honor is not related to the U.S. poet laureate, who is named by the Library of Congress. Nor is it connected to regional poets laureate, such as Eloise Klein Healy in Los Angeles or Juan Felipe Herrera, California's poet daureate.

Nesbitt succeeds J. Patrick Lewis as the fourth poet to hold the position.  His numerous books for children -- all of them full of child-appropriate silliness -- include "The Tighty-Whitey Spider," "My Hippo Has the Hiccups," and "My Foot Fell Asleep." In an interview with outgoing laureate Lewis, Nesbitt listed influences including Lewis Carroll, MAD magazine, and "that greatest of all children's poets, Anonymous."

The Poetry Foundation created the office of children's poet laureate after its study, "Poetry in America," showed that "a lifelong love for poetry is most likely to result if cultivated early in childhood and reinforced thereafter."

"Good children's poetry can distill an idea or an emotion into a short and memorable 'package' that can broaden a child's perspective on the world," Nesbitt told Lewis. "Poetry is perhaps the most playful of all exercises for building children's growing brains and minds."

Nesbitt's poem "Swimming Ool," from his collection "Miles of Smiles," is playful indeed:

"Swimming in the swimming pool
is where I like to 'B,'
wearing underwater goggles
so that I can 'C.'
Yesterday, before I swam,
I drank a cup of 'T.'
Now the pool's a 'swimming ool'
because I took a 'P.'"

More of Nesbitt's poetry can be found on his website Poetry for Kids.

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