St. Paul teacher/poet launches second collection of poetry.

St. Paul poet and teacher Stan Kusunoki announced publication of his second book of poetry. Kusunoki said, “This collection is more wide ranging than my previous book, 180 Days. It begins with my parents’ and grandparents’ experiences, including the internment of Japanese Americans in prison camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

In other sections, Kusunoki writes about a neighbor boy who was abused, imagines the experience of a young Syrian immigrant, pays homage to notables in his life, and recalls the budding friendship with “the girl across the street.”

Since much of the work is topical, Kusunoki thought it would be novel to set the book up in a newspaper format.

“My undergraduate training was in Journalism,” he says, “and it’s fun to work with that style and format again.”

“Stan Kusunoki has a remarkable ability to transport us and see ourselves in his poems. In Items in the News, he explores his family’s distinct American story in its pain and joy. He also examines the lives of Prince, Leonard Cohen, Maya Angelou, and the students he teaches. He brings his gifts of observation and reflection to all that he chooses to write about, and in doing so, he expands our sense of what is possible. These poems are news that stays news, exactly what we need now.”

—John Coy, author of Gap Life, Their Great Gift, and other acclaimed books for children and teens.

Why a book of teacher poems?

I was a poet in the schools before becoming a full-time teacher, so it just seemed natural to document my observations and reflections in poems. After nearly ten years as a teacher, there seemed to be enough poems that passed muster to think about a manuscript. That became more real when I went to a book release celebration for my friend, mentor/advisor, Carolyn Holbrook. She asked me where my manuscript was, and when I gave some lame excuse, she just said "well I am going to let my publisher know to expect something from you." Then she made it very immediate by adding that North Star Press was taking submissions and their deadline was the end of October (this was mid-September!) So the scramble was on... Along the way, I started to think about the contents...sure there would be poems about being a teacher, but that seemed just one facet. I have attended workshops with some of my students at  Success Beyond the Classroom's "Young Authors Conference" and have included poems that were born in those sessions--"the teacher as continuing learner". Then, I had written a poem for one of my faculty friends when she had her first child. I had intended it to be private, but didn't she just read it aloud during the staff baby shower! Since then, life events within the faculty here have come with the expectation of a "Stan poem". So, teacher as colleague and documentarian. Finally, as a teacher, I thought it was necessary to include the work of students--many cultures have a tradition of the master/teacher including works of their students/proteges  and I am delighted to continue that custom.

Then, the art. What image would convey what the book was about? A school? classroom? students? all those images felt too obvious--and then I hit on an acorn and the process of growth. The pencil sketches by Margarita Sikorskaia captured the idea wonderfully! Jay Monroe added the finishing touches to the cover by a adding color and the swirl of oak leaves. There is a visual insider's joke, but I'm not telling. The only hint is that I am of Japanese ancestry. The other lovely inside joke (not so "inside" now that I am spilling the beans), is that my school is Red Oak Elementary.

“Every section in 180 Days: Reflections and Observations...,
indeed every poem, moved me deeply.
Here is a book whose reflections on teaching is truly a work of art,
one that should be read by teachers and parents, past, present and future.”

CAROLYN HOLBROOK, FOUNDING DIRECTOR of S.A.S.E., The Write Place
AND WINNER OF THE MN BOOK AWARDS “Kay Sexton Award” 2010.