Friday, March 30, 2007

HEY YOU! A Poetry Friday book review

We interrupt this book review to bring you the following announcement:
Last year, on my blog at Live Journal, I put up daily posts for National Poetry Month. I will again be posting poetry-related material daily during the month of April. Unless I miss a day, but that's not the plan. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:


Hey, you! Yeah, you! Wanna read a cool new anthology chock-full of poems of address?

I'm guessing you do. But that first, you might want a brief reminder as to what a Poem of Address is. It is a poem written as if addressing a person, place or thing. Think Robert Burns's poem "To a Louse: On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet, At Church". Only in this case, more updated, with less Scots in it, and suitable for kids.

And poetry anthologist extraordinaire Paul B. Janeczko has pulled together quite a collection of poems of address in his latest offering, illustrated by Robert Rayevsky:

HEY, YOU!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes and Other Fun Things



Many of the poems are paired by related subject matter. Thus, X.J. Kennedy's "To a Snowflake" is paired on a two-page spread with "Hat Hair" by Joan Bransfield Graham. Emily Dickenson's "Bee, I'm expecting you!" is with "Straight Talk" by Nikki Grimes (which also addresses a bee). Penny Harter's "Buffalo" is with Kristine O'Connell George's "Bison" (one of the only illustrations I have an actual quarrel with -- the Bison looks quite angry based on how its eyes were rendered, yet the poem reads (in part) as follows:

Yet, when I look
into your cloudy eyes
you seem to be trying
to remember something,
something important
you need to tell me.


"Cloudy eyes" to me are soft, not hostile. Yet the bison looks more like a regular bull, ready to charge, than like one of the gentle giants from the central plains. Ah well.)


Two of my favorite poems in the collection are on facing pages of lovely blues and greens, since they are ocean-related poems. The first is Ogden Nash's "The Octopus," the second is Douglas Florian's "The Sea Horse".

So you can compare and contrast:

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those arms, or is they legs?


with

You're not a colt
Nor mare
Nor filly.
You're called a horse.
I call that silly.


Of course the full poems are longer, but you can get an idea of style and content from the excerpts here.

Definitely one to amuse kids, and to get them thinking about poetry in a whole new way. I'm sure many readers will write their own poems to their books, sneakers, stuffed toys, and animals after reading the poems in this anthology. And knowing Paul Janeczko's enthusiasm for getting kids to write, I'm sure that was the point.

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