Poet Feature: Jack Prelutsky
As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we're featuring the work of a wide variety of poets. Today's featured poet is Jack Prelutsky!
Jack Prelutsky was born in 1940 in the Bronx. He had no youthful aspirations of being a poet, much less a prolific and much-loved children's poet. In fact, he was less than fond of school in general, and, thanks to an unenthusiastic teacher, he had a particular dislike of poetry. Prelutsky says his teacher "left me with the impression that poetry was the literary equivalent of liver. I was told it was good for me, but I wasn’t convinced."
He finally gained a chance to shine when his teachers noticed he was musically inclined and encouraged him to attend a high school with advanced programming for young artists. Even at an early age, Prelutsky had a fine voice and studied classical music, planning to become an operatic tenor and performing folk music in his free time. After dropping out of Hunter College, however, he worked a string of odd jobs, expressing his creativity by drawing fantastical animals in his free time. He showed a collection of these drawings, accompanied by short poems he'd jotted down at the last minute, to Susan Hirschman, an editor at Macmillan. To his surprise, she was interested not in his artwork but in his poetry. With her encouragement, Prelutsky's first book, A Gopher in the Garden and Other Animal Poems, was released in 1967.
Since then, Prelutsky has written over 70 volumes of poetry, largely for young readers. He's worked with illustrators such as Marc Brown, Arnold Lobel, Mary GrandPré, and numerous others. In 2006, he was appointed the first Children's Poet Laureate by the National Poetry Foundation, and his works have been selected as Library of Congress Book of the Year and received Parents' Choice Awards and various Notable Book awards, among many other accolades. He was even featured on the children's animated television show Arthur.
Today, Prelutsky lives in Seattle with his wife, where he continues to write and perform his work.
Author photo via jackprelutsky.com