Arnold Adoff, poet and anthologist, has published more than 30 books in 30 years for young people and their older allies. His books have received numerous awards: most recently, an American Library Association Notable citation for "Street Music" and an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults citation for "Slow Dance Heartbreak Blues."  His latest book,"Love Letters," has received a Blue Ribbon Award from the "Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books" and is a "Riverbank Review" Children's Book of Distinction. Forthcoming collections of his poems are titled "Touch the Poem," illustrated by Lisa Desimini, "The Basket Counts," and "Jazzicals...".  In 1988, Arnold Adoff was awarded, for the body of his work, the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. He travels around the country visiting young readers and writers in their schools, reading his poems and teaching poetry and creative writing. Commenting on his poetry, he has said, "I will always try to turn sights and sounds into words.  I will always try to shape words into my singing poems." Arnold Adoff lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

I began writing for kids because I wanted to effect a change in American society. I continue in that spirit. By the time we reach adulthood, we are closed and set in our attitudes. The chances of a poet reaching us are very slim. But I can open a child's imagination, develop his appetite for poetry, and more importantly, show him that poetry is a natural part of everyday life. We all need someone to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes. That's the poet's job.

Arnold Adoff


Arnold Adoff was raised by Russian immigrant parents in the South Bronx who valued their Jewish heritage and liberal causes, and prized the roles of women in society. He received a BA degree from the City College of New York and then, for a period of time, studied history at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. During this time he met and married author Virginia Hamilton. As a social studies teacher for twelve years in Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York, he became aware of the lack of African American literature in the schools and decided to do something about it.  At this time, he became an aficionado of Black poetry which led to his first anthology, I am the Darker Brother. This book was recently updated to include the poems of Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Ishmail Reed, and Alice Walker.  At the same time he was anthologizing others' poetry, he also was practicing his own craft. 

In talking about his work, Arnold Adoff often uses the word "music." "Writing a poem," he will say, "is making music with words and space." Or, "A fine poem combines the elements of meaning, music, and a form like a living frame that holds it together." To produce this special kind of music, he appeals to the eye as well as the ear. Anyone who has read a book of his poems knows that the way the individual words and letters are set upon the page, the physical shape of each poem, makes a vital contribution to the whole.


He has said, “Writing a poem is making music with words and space.” To make this music happen, he creates jazz-like riffs of sound and shape that entice both the eye and the ear. Using daring strokes of language and form, he challenges the reader to capture the unique beat and rhythm of his poetic scores through live performance. Drawing attention to his unconventional style, he has said, “I have incorporated the concept of time in my writing by the use of space. The millesecond that it takes the eyes to move forward is an aspect of time. Time is the music or the rhythmic force and that, I think, is a step forward in the medium.”


Arnold Adoff