Discovering New Old Poems: Karla Kuskin

When I visited my parents this winter, they presented me with a thick brown file labeled Cathy: School Papers which they had uncovered in the process of decluttering the attic. Inside I found lots of stories and worksheets, plus some art gems like these:

The Ballous in watercolor

The Ballous in watercolor

Self portrait, age 5


 Self portrait, age 5

While it was pure fiction that I ever owned a pony or a gorgeous Indian headdress, I guess my Dad once smoked a pipe and shared genetically odd ears with my older brother.

Among the kindergarten pile, I found a lovely poem entitled “Catherine.”

Spring zoo 2013 107

I didn’t recognize the handwriting.  My grandmother?  My teacher?  It was a really well-written poem, and it was about ME and my love of making mud pies.  How sweet!  I filed it away and made a note to ask my mother if she knew where the poem had come from.

Then recently on Facebook, I “overheard” a conversation between two poet friends recommending books to one another. Karla Kuskin, they agreed, was a must-read. So I added her books to my library list with nary a second thought.

Karla Kuskin books

Karla Kuskin books

Lo and behold, in BOTH of the books I brought home was the poem “Catherine.”

Thank you Karla Kuskin, and whomever gave 5 year old me a poem they knew I would enjoy. Just goes to show how important it is to cite the author and publication date when sharing poems, stories, photos, etc.

I’m going to go make some mud pies, and read more Karla Kuskin poems!

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About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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34 Responses to Discovering New Old Poems: Karla Kuskin

  1. Wow, what a treasure trove of little Cathy Ballou artifacts. I just love this. And what a fun coincidence that your “Catherine” poem is by Karla! Destiny.

    Was that my conversation with Amy you overhead? 🙂 My mom is bringing my Karla Kuskin book to me in person next week. Yay!

    • Yay! A visit from Grandma for the boys!

      Yes it was your conversation – and Thank You! I’m so happy to have Karla’s poems to enjoy.

      What else will she be bringing you from the good old US of A?

      • The only other thing she’s bringing is Myra Cohn Livingston’s POETRY MAKING. She’s packing light. Oh, and she’s bringing my sister!!! Actually, reverse that — my sister will be in Rome for a week as part of her PhD-equivalent nursing program, then a week with me. She’s never seen the boys in person. It’s hard to be far away!

        Anyway, from what I’ve seen of Karla’s poems thus far, I believe she will be my new mentor in absentia. They just speak to me – her language, her perspective. LOVE!

  2. rnewman504 says:

    What a special find! I love the drawings!

  3. Sue Wang says:

    This is so sweet and refreshing. I see the artistic talent too -now I know where Grace gets it 🙂 I have Noah’s “bad mommy bad daddy” notes. Treasures. And a treasure from a sweet person about you and your mud pies!

  4. I want to jump in this post and giggle with you, because I bet you were giggling when you wrote it! And probably still are. So much fun and luck in those finds, and – yes – talent in those portraits! And your friends have excellent taste, and, though you didn’t know it, in Kuskin!

  5. Catherine Johnson says:

    What a beautiful story. I’m going to look for those myself now. Love those cute paintings, Cathy.

  6. I want to find the poems, too! Cathy, what a great post. How cool is it that you have your school papers. I saved all of my son’s “special” papers and am thinking of scanning and making a photo book. You should scan yours so that you have them preserved. They’re a real treasure.

  7. ‘Serendipity’ was just what I was going to say, too! It’s funny how things connect and intersect sometimes, or maybe it’s just that we latch onto the things that have particular meaning for us in the moment, and make our own serendipity. Anyway, I am 100% for saving old papers. 🙂

    • Yes, so true. Is it the way our attention is focused at the time, or something more…? If I had typed “Catherine” into Google, Kuskin’s name would have popped up. But somehow it is so much more special to have discovered her this way!

  8. danacarey1 says:

    I love attics. And talk about things coming full circle! Nice post, Cathy.

  9. What an adorable story.

    And your dad was Mr. Potatohead? How cool!

  10. laurimeyers says:

    You could illustrate a PB with your drawing of your Dad. I may use that as a photo prompt!

  11. izatrapani1I says:

    What a wonderful coincidence! And I adore your drawings- especially your Dad with the pipe! Fun surprises 🙂

  12. tinamcho says:

    What a precious discovery!

  13. WOW! You drew really good at age 5 (I STILL can’t draw that well!)!!!

  14. Becky says:

    What fun! I sometimes imagine the treasures my mom would unearth if she were to ever decide to de-clutter. She rarely throws anything away, so I’m sure she would find plenty of things we made in school (the ones that aren’t already on the walls).

    I have Moon, Have You Met My Mother? I discovered in in the library at the school where I used to work. Love it!

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