Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April is National Poetry Month!

April is my favorite themed month - National Poetry Month! My fellow bookseller Shara and I have huge, squishy soft spots for poetry, to the point of reading and reciting poems to each other, and fawning over each new poetry anthology that comes in. We hope you come in this month, especially on Poem in Your Pocket Day (the 14th!) and swap poems with us. For some inspiration, here are some of our newest and most favored poetry books.

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Spinster Goose, Mother Goose's sister, reforms wayward, bad-mannered children. This tongue-in-cheek collection parodies well-known nursery rhymes with such poems as "Peter, Peter, was a cheater" and "The Fibber," which begins, "Mary had a little lamb./She said it was a horse." This collection blends manners mores a la Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales and Bad Child's Book of Beasts with Jon Scieszka's darkly goofy humor style in The Stinky Cheese Man.

For even more hilarious nonsense, one need go no further than Edward Lear. Even though these poems are from the Victorian era, like Lewis Carroll's stories and poems, their unexpected rhymes and pure ridiculousness are still popular. A new collection, His Shoes Were Far Too Tight, edited by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Calef Brown (who has many wonderful poetry books of his own), has just been published this month.

Do you know what April 14th is? (Other than "I did mail my taxes, didn't I?" day)? It's Poem in Your Pocket Day - a day to carry about your favorite poem, share it with friends, co-workers, or your neighborhood's barista, and swap it for the poem in their pocket. To fill your pockets with odes and sestinas, there is Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets, edited by Bruno Navasky with the Academy of American Poets, which has 100 poems on tear away pages. Poets in the collections run from Grace Paley and Naomi Shihab Nye to e.e. cummings, Langston Hughes, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Great Poems for Grand Children, edited by Celestine Frost with illustrations by Brian Cronin, is the kind of collection that belongs on every nursery and teenager's bookshelf. Divided into topical sections including "nonsense verse," "animal friends," "fairies, witches, goblins & company," and "seasons of life," this collection features a range of poets from Shakespeare and Walt Whitman to Jack Kerouac and Galway Kinnell. I especially enjoy the inclusion of traditional standards, hobo ballads, and Native American songs.

One of our new books just in this week is a picture book biography of a famous Chilean poet: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. His life story and the inspiration for his poems are supplemented by Paschkis's rich paintings with English and Spanish words woven into the scenery.

After lyrical picture books and gorgeous anthologies of poetry, why not explore novels in verse? One of our book buyer's very favorite books is Sharon Creech's Love That Dog. Jack's new teacher, Miss Stretchberry, is teaching his class about poetry - which Jack resists fiercely until he discovers Walter Dean Myers and the power of a poem to confront and release powerful emotions. In the back of the book you can find the original poems that Jack is responding to.

And one last line to leave on: this September, HarperCollins will release a posthumous collection of previously unpublished poems and drawings from Shel Silverstein, called Everything On It.

1 comment:

janny said...

In honor of National Poetry Month, introduce your students to a variety of poetic forms. Assign one or two students each day as "poet of the day" for the month of April. Then provide students with several models for creating different forms of poetry. You might use Shape Poems, Acrostic Poems, Diamante Poems, or Instant Poetry Forms to do this.