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Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else (A Poetry Speaks Experience) Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6–10—This extraordinary collection is alive with pathos, sensitivity, humor, beauty, controversy, and insight. The more than 100 poems are by prize-winning authors and relative newcomers. Familiar classics and contemporary selections sing out with profound ideas and simple truths. To define "who I am," there are selections about racial and ethnic identity; about ordinary and lofty ideas; about love, friendship, and family connections. They exhibit compassion, confusion, and anger. The poems are at once personal and universal, each told in a voice that speaks candidly to the target audience. The accompanying CD includes readings by many of the poets, and some of them describe the inspiration for their work, creating an intriguing perspective and connection to the piece. Blank pages at the end of the book invite readers to compose selections of their own. The variety of poems could easily hook youngsters on the genre as a comforting, accessible art form. This special book will enrich poetry sections.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From baseball to first kisses to family, friends, community, love, and anger, the subjects in the 108 poems that make up this lively anthology will appeal to young people. The editors mix classic and contemporary selections, from Langston Hughes' “I Loved My Friend” and Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken” to Sherman Alexie's “Indian Education” and Julia Alvarez's “How I Learned to Sweep,” and the spacious, inviting design will encourage teens to dip in, browse, and then linger. Another draw is the accompanying audio CD, on which many poets read their own work. Kids will recognize the familiar scenes in many poems, such as the torture of bra shopping for the first time and the fun of browsing in a used book store. Just as compelling are the selections by Shakespeare, Rilke, Dickinson, Whitman, and other classic poets. This makes a strong companion to poetry collections for youth compiled by Ruth Gordon, Paul Janeczko, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Grades 6-9. --Hazel Rochman
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There is an accompanying CD, meant to be listened to as a read along. However, this CD is missing from my library copy so I am unable to speak to its value.
Now... Publish it.
It’s all pubescent vampire dreams and fears of getting your period in public. It’s for “young adults” if you consider immature and emotionally overwrought girls to be “young adults”
I don’t buy into this nonsense. Poetry books for children should teach them to experience their emotions as adults. Set a better example. Don’t wallow. Publish worthy things, please.
108 poems. A range of different poets. In this book big themes are tackled headlong aside smaller concerns. "I Am Black" by Gwendolyn Books on one page. "The Germ" by Ogden Nash on another. These poems discuss love, parents, death, animals, and more. They try to make sense of our world. You will find Shakespeare on one page and Billy Collins on the other. Poets of every race and ethnicity have their say until by the end you've the feeling that every person reading this book could find at least one poem in here that speaks to them. One poem in here that will help them figure out who they are, and what they can be. Includes a CD of many poets reading their own works.
The editing job on this book is pretty fabulous. Selecting the right poems in the first place couldn't have been a picnic. Let's say you want to include one work of Shakespeare. How do you decide which poem is the most accessible? I happen to agree with the editors that Sonnet 130 was the right way to go, but I'm sure there are folks out there who'd disagree. Still, each poem in this book feels especially chosen. This is borne out by the particular thematic pairings you run across as you read. Wendy Cope's "Valentine" alongside Myra Cohn Livingston's "An Angry Valentine" is particularly fun since the two play off of one another. There's the strange math at work in both Rita Dove's "Flash Cards" and Carl Sandburg's "Arithmetic". And the angry siblings of "A Boy in a Bed in the Dark" by Brad Sachs and "The Talk" by Sharon Olds. Wonderful pairings all.
Then I had to consider the age of this book when I read it. It says it's for tweens as well as kids in their early teens. True? Well, there are poems like "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou that ask, "Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I've got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?" And sure "The Skokie Theatre" by Edward Hirsch mentions briefly a girl touching a boy below his belt, but they are fleeting allusions. Older kids won't be shocked. Their parents might, but those parents probably won't be handing this book to their ten-year-olds anyway. So there's that. And many of the poems in this book are about kids themselves. Do poems about kids necessarily mean that they are for kids? Not always (not originally either) but a lot of the time it works just the same.
Part of the allure of any book of poetry is that you can pick and choose where to begin and where to end. Kids may read and reread their favorites and eschew the others in the book, only to stumble across them later and find, to their surprise, that they love them. Reading the book cover to cover has its advantages, though. The editors begin with poems about poetry. "Eternity" by Jason Shinder and "Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo have that feel. Halfway through the book you run into "From For a Girl Becoming" by Joy Harjo (again), which offers advice on how to live. And at the end is Richard Wilbur's "The Writer", about a kid writing on a typewriter. Typewriters are gone now, but you can tell that the book hopes that kids will find inspiration here to write their own poems next.
How kids make this collection their own stands to be considered. Certainly the book bends over backwards to be accessible. There are blank pages in the back for writing one's own poems. The size of the book is comfortable, not too big, and not too small. The layout looks part notebook, part zine, with scribbled and scrawled drawings in the margins. And then there is the CD. The accompanying CD of poets reading their poems piqued my curiosity. It is possible that it will primarily be used by teachers wishing to make a daily lesson in poetry a little more interesting. But will kids listen to this CD at all? Do kids even listen to CDs these days, I wonder. Many do. And there may be some that take the CD and place selections from it onto mix CDs or put it on their mp3 players for easy listening. We can't predict how a kid will deal with something like this, but I'm fairly certain that it will find a use. Not everywhere. Not with everyone. But for a couple kids, they'll make it their own.
It is true that you will find many races represented on these pages. It irked me a little that the same could not be said of sexualities. Admittedly, this is a book for tweens and teens and coming-of-age sexuality is the stuff of older fare. Still and all, it felt like a gap. I don't know what the solution would have been, but there are enough love poems in here discussing folks of opposite genders to include just one by folks of the same, don't you think? I had high hopes for Edward Hirsch's "The Skokie Theatre" until the Chris in the story turned out to be a girl. Doggone it. So maybe not all kids will find themselves represented here after all.
I run a bookgroup for kids between the ages of 9 and 14. They're good kids, but such a strange range of ages that sometimes it's hard to find materials for all of them. They tend to want to read fantasy or realistic fiction titles. I look at Poetry Speaks Who I Am, though, and I think of how great it would be to do this book with them. Even kids who don't like poetry could find one or two in here to enjoy (my favorite turned out to be Paul Muldoon's "Sideman"). It's been created for the purpose of getting kids to actually enjoy and identify with poems. It doesn't pressure them to "get" anything. It doesn't quiz them or force them to like or not like something. It's just a fun book built to be enjoyed. All we can hope for is for it to get into the right hands. And that's where the adults come in.
Ages 10 and up.
Poetry Speaks Who I Am has many poems that will apply to every feeling and thought, put words to what we can't find words for, and prove that yes, there are other people out there who feel like you do now, you're not the only one. You're not alone. These poets talk about everything from the awkwardness of changing and showering in the fifth grade locker room to embarrassing bra shopping with mom, to a first kiss. There's poems about segregation and ethnicity, homework and math class, sports, clothes, and even the emotions brought forth from reading poetry itself.
Not only does it have the poetry, there are pages in the back of artistic inspiring blank pieces of paper for the reader's own poetry. The CD contains many of the poems read by the poets the way they were intended to be read.
Poetry Speaks Who I Am is a fantastic collection that every young lit-lover should have on their shelves.
Recommendation: Boys and Girls ages 8+