First, I want to congratulate and share a link to the Cybil's Finalists in ALL the categories. What a tremendous amount of work the Round One Panelists had to do, although the reading is a pleasure! I have the honor of serving again this year as a second round judge in poetry, and look forward to examining the following wonderful books, although it's always so hard to "eat" just one. Congratulations to the poetry finalists, wonderful to see!
Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, illustrations by Josee Masse
Poems to Learn by Heart edited by Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jon J. Muth
Pug: And Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrations by Steve Jenkins
The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses By Lisa Wheeler, Illustrated by Zachariah OHora
When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders By J. Patrick Lewis gorgeous artwork by five different artists
Forest Has a Song: Poems Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrations by Robbin Gourley
What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
I taught middle school aged students for many years before I moved into the part-time position of literacy coach. We read and wrote much poetry together, and I always searched for more good books to share and to find poems that were accessible to these young adolescents, but that also lifted their ideas of poetry into new possibilities. One of my favorites was Naomi Shihab Nye’s and Paul B. Janeczko’s collection, I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You. This collection’s sub-title is “Paired Poems by Men & Women.” Each double page offers a poem by a man, and then a woman. And there are many in this book! You can take a large peek at more than one poem on Google Books here!
One poem that I have kept in a journal where I save favorites seems appropriate for this beginning of 2014. It is by Edith Södergran, called a Scandinavian modernist. Her publisher, Marick Press, writes this about her: If there is, in this world, a possibility for an entirely free and pure poetics, a state of writing from an unbounded spontaneity carried as if entwined with the present moment, then that might have been the poetics of Edith Södergran. She once wrote: “There are words I have never heard, but I need those words. Perhaps your own heart could give you or tell you those words. But have you ever believed your own heart? Sadly, she died on Midsummer’s Eve at the age of 31.
Here are beginning lines of Södergran’s poem, “On Foot I Had To Walk Through The Solar Systems”:
I had to walk through the solar systems,
before I found the first thread of my new red dress.
the rest is here!
My students also liked this, feeling that it represented forming themselves, growing up. To me it can be the representation of any new thing, a year’s beginning, a change in a job or a home. I wanted my students to participate in the poems by connecting their lives with the words. This poem was elusive enough to intrigue them, and I have loved it too for a long time.
Happy New Year Everyone!