Friday, June 4, 2010

Poetry Friday & Poem #65 - Poems Talk

Today I feature three poetry books that read well as narratives.  It's fascinating to see the different types of poetry collections out there:  anthologies grouped by theme, collections of a style of poetry such as mask or concrete, books which feature a variety of poems by one poet...

Most of us don't read poetry aloud often enough.  But these volumes of sparkling jewels deserve a place in our laps too, every day.  Here are three poetry books we can read front to back, just like stories. While each poem stands strongly on its own, if we read the poems in these books in order, we come to know characters more deeply with every page- turn.  Three such poem-story books I admire are:  Oh, Brother! by Nikki Grimes, Hummingbird Nest by Kristine O'Connell George, and River Friendly River Wild by Jane Kurtz.  All three of these offer us beauty and understanding through both word and image.  I recommend each very highly for every family or classroom collection.

Oh, Brother!, by turns poignant and joyful, takes us on the journey of two new stepbrothers negotiating this tricky territory, each trying to make his way in a blended family while holding onto his own sense of identity.  Nikki Grimes captures boy feelings and talk sensitively, and readers come to identify with and care for both.  Excellent for students in any kind of family, this book also demonstrates that poem ideas can sprout from difficult times.  Oh Brother! was vibrantly illustrated by Mike Benny.

In River Friendly River Wild, illustrated by Barry Moser, we follow the story of a hummingbird building her nest and raising her young.  We watch a girl, pets, and the especially this little bird very closely.  Written in journal style, day-by-day, Kristine O'Connell George paints tiny wonder-portraits of this "hummer" at work.  In her extensive author's note, Kristine explains that she really did keep a journal when hummingbirds built a nest in the ficus tree on her California porch.  Those journal entries led to this book, a great connection for young writers about how our notebooks feed our published work.

In this book, a young girl and her family experience the effects of flooding after the Red River flooded Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1997.  The image-full poems give readers a window into the emotions and realities a flood leaves behind.  Jane Kurtz experienced the Red River flood herself and also garnered a 2001 Golden Kite award for this collection.  This book was softly and evocatively illustrated by Neil Brennan.  For those who have experienced natural disaster and for those who have only heard about it on the news, this book opens all of our hearts and is very timely in the wake of recent events.

Reading poem-story books aloud allows us to tell a story and also to reap the gifts of many small packages of writing, each poem structured and layered with carefully-chosen words, each a published piece.  As we read many poems about one family or character or animal, we build a multi-faceted relationship with the characters, just as when we read a narrative book.

Do you have a favorite such book, a poem book which can be read front to back as a narrative?  If you do, please leave the title in the comments, and I will share the list in an upcoming post.

Head on over to The Cazzy Files for everything Poetry Friday!

(Please click on COMMENTS below to share a thought.)


Author Amok said...

Thanks for these book recommendations. Your post reminded me of an anthology we love, "Once Upon a Poem" -- all narrative poems for kids.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Love your poem. Very clever

maclibrary said...

Love your poem. You have inspired me to write one a day during the summer.

Amy LV said...

Thank you for the recommendation. It is now on my order list, and I look forward to sharing it with my children and here too!
Thank you! It was fun when I realized that I could write each poem in its own voice.
Your dragonfly poem has me wanting to go hunting for them this weekend.
Dear Ms. Mac,
Oh, please stay in touch over the summer with your poems. It will be good to have a friend in this craziness! Thank you for the compliment.

all things poetry said...


Thanks for the lovely poem!I can't believe your stamina at writing a poem a day! I think Emily Dickinson did it, but then she never married or had children.

Thanks for the new books (read the lovely Hummingbird book already).

Laura Evans

Linda said...

I love the way you worked the forms into your poems. I agree with Elaine, very clever! Now, I'm off to read more of your poems!

Amy LV said...

Dear Laura,
Thank you so much...I may be completely crazy, but it has been simply exhilarating to do this. You'll love those two other books.
Dear Linda,
Thank you so much for your note. I hope you had fun here!

Toby Speed said...

This is a wonderful poem! I'm glad I discovered your blog, Amy.

Amy LV said...

Dear Toby,
Thank you! I'm so glad I discovered yours too...I know I'll be learning a lot from you.

Mary Lee said...

Amy, I LOVE how the poetic forms become characters in the story in your poem! Their personalities perfectly match their forms!

Julie Larios said...

Perfect form-and-function poem! Will you keep going with other forms?John Hollander wrote a book you might like - Rhyme's Reason.

Amy LV said...

Dear Mary Lee,
I'm glad you think the personalities match. I love that little Haiku soul.
Dear Julie,
That book is for me...I can't wait to read it. You know, I have thought about carrying this on with other forms, and now maybe I will. Thank you for the nudge!