The book and author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Dark Sparkle Tea by Tim J. Myers. We even have an author interview! Submit a response to the challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?
When you think about it, sleeping and dreaming are very mysterious. We spend a third of our lifetimes asleep, and a lot of that time dreaming. Come up with ideas about why we sleep and/or dream and use them as the basis for a piece of writing. You could perhaps write about beings who don’t sleep and/or dream, or of humans who have special powers of sleep or dreaming, or you could write about the meaning of your own dreams. There are lots of possibilities!
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Dark Sparkle Tea By Tim J. Myers
The sun is setting, the moon begins to peek out from behind a cluster of wispy clouds, grown-up eyelids grow heavy as yawns make their way into the evening…but for us kids, it always seems like there should be at least five more minutes of play-time before bed! Dark Sparkle Tea, a collection of original poems by Tim J. Myers, offers a solution to such a predicament. With silly poems about a smelly skunk family all the way to touching lullabies, Dark Sparkle Tea is bound to have something for everyone in the family…and turn the bedtime stand-off into a giggle-fest with poems and illustrations that will ignite kids’ imaginations, nurture a love for language, and send them off to a snoozy dreamland.
An Interview with author Tim J. Myers:
This book grew directly out of my in-the-trenches experience of parenthood. It’s amazing how consistently kids don’t want to go to bed at bedtime. A conflict as old as time: The parent knows the kid needs her sleep (as does the parent!), but the kid is wide-eyed and, as my wife puts it, “more than wiggly.” It’s a natural stand-off.
During the years when I went through this with my two young sons, I established a bedtime limit: two stories and then you sleep. One day I realized that, since they always wanted more, I could manipulate them, as it were, by offering a poem after the stories were done. In their lust for wakefulness they immediately agreed. So I started collecting various poems—beautiful, powerful poems, many of them written for adults—and my sons came to love them. For example, Harold Monro’s haunting “Overheard on a Salt Marsh”, which you can find here. (To this day, when one of my sons wants something he’ll sometimes say, “Give it me”).
Then I realized I could write my own poems for the bedtime ritual, an idea that warmed me to the bottom of my heart. And my first thought was—make it work for the kids AND the grown-ups. So Dark-Sparkle Tea was born, with its combination of crazy energized poems and slow, soothing, soporific ones. My main selling point is that the book is a kind of bait and switch: Pull the rug-rats in with wild and funny poems, then lull them with the lullabies.
2. It seems that each poem in this collection tells its own unique story. How did you generate ideas for each poem, and did you write them all at once or did they come together over time?
I’m always writing, so some of these poems already existed. But most were written for the book. Some came from my own experience, some from memories from childhood. Many were born, though, purely out of sound—that is, a certain beat to a line, and certain qualities of words coming together in phrases in ways that pleased my ear. That’s often what leads me into a poem.
I was also definitely influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. And my editor worked with me to trim the collection, dropping certain poems— those that were more literary, less action-oriented, dreamier, stranger.
3. What role does imagery play for you when you’re writing? And how do you translate the pictures in your head so vividly into words?
Well, first, thanks for saying that!
Imagery is—jeeze, I hesitate here, because it’s hard to specifically characterize something so fundamental. Sometimes I think poetry is like having a head full of fireworks and straining to get them onto the page. But not just huge loud fireworks— quiet glowing ones too. I love to read “Bees at Night” to an audience, both for the sound of it and because the images of homey, happy bees and the beauty of the night are so intoxicating to me. In a similar way—but with a very different result—I got a huge kick out of visualizing Frisky, my electric-guitar-playing hamster. Some of this, as I mentioned above, comes at least in part from my own childhood. I love, for instance, to visually imagine a train that comes to take you to Dreamland, as in the opening poem. If you’ve ever seen the superb animated movie Little Nemo in Dreamland, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So imagery is a huge part of my life as a writer, like an endless fountain flowing within me.
4. You use several different poetic forms in this book. Do you have any advice for young poets who might feel overwhelmed or struggle with form, rhyme, and other devices that give structure to poems?
I do have advice about that, but it’s really no different from what a coach or a teacher or a music teacher or anyone else teaching any craft will say. It’s difficult to master a form. It takes time and dedication and hard work. The trick, it seems to me, is to see the why of it. Artists tend to be those people who get so excited when they experience great art that they’re more-or-less permanently dazzled. Once you get that bedazzlement into you, it drives you—you can’t help it. You start to see all the labor as only a means to a end, a glorious end, so it stops feeling so difficult.
That’s why it’s crucial, in my opinion, that in teaching young people any craft we spend time sharing great works with them and helping them learn to love how those works affect them. Poets usually come to love form because of what it allows them to do. They don’t feel constrained by it, but liberated.
And a liberation that doesn’t come to us until we give deeply of ourselves—that’s a liberation you can trust.
5. Is there anything else you would like us to know about Dark Sparkle Tea?
There is something else—thanks for asking!
I wrote Dark-Sparkle Tea to make kids laugh and feel good, and to knock the little Tasmanian devils out. But this book comes from a deep part of me, from a place in my depths where who I am as an adult and who I was as a child aren’t separated as they are in daily life. This book is predicated on a way of seeing the relationship between children and adults. To me that relationship is utterly sacred.
Bedtime is more than just one more practical transition in a kid’s daily life. It’s a natural sacrament, I think—that is, if parents or guardians understand it and treat it as it’s meant to be treated. The world is often a hard and terrible place. But it isn’t all darkness. And at bedtime we grown-ups can give our kids a way of seeing the world, a way of feeling their lives, that’s based on all the great good the world also offers us.
At bedtime this great cosmic good takes on a small but powerful form. It’s an adult or guardian saying, “I love you. You are precious to me. You are good. And look at the good in the world.” All this can be said even if those words are never used. Because we sit close, and we share a story or a poem (or both!), and the adult gives all his or her attention to the child. For a child to feel safe and loved—this is a quiet goodness I can’t find adequate words to express. It’s a good that renews the world, not to mention what it means to the adult that child will grow up to be.
Here’s a poem that didn’t make the book. But I like it, because, even if only tangentially, symbolically, it speaks to that sense of being loved and being safe, both physically and psychologically, which is so powerful in making our children happy and strong:
This storm that roars
at our windows and doors,
like cat after mouse
as it paws our house–
Let the cat-winds boom!
Let the cat-thunder roll!
I’m safe in my room
as a mouse in its hole.
Thank you Tim J. Myers!
Dark Sparkle Tea is available on Amazon!
Look for more information about Tim J. Myers and his books here!