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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

WordsWithWingsI first read Nikki Grimes back around 2004 when I read Bronx Masquerade and really liked it. Funny thing is, I haven’t read her since, until just now with Words With Wings. We’re Facebook friends so I read her poetry almost daily, which is what prompted me to borrow Words With Wings. BronxMasqueradeIt is a scant 83 pages, about Gabriella, named after the angel Gabriel, a strong personality. Gabriella is going through changes. Her parents split and she’s moved across town with her mother. Always a dreamer, she’s become more immersed into her daydreams, doing so in class, at home. Her mother, her teachers don’t know what to do.

Where others saw raindrops, Gabriella saw a rainbow. “Where I see red and purple and bursts of blue, everybody else sees black and white.”

The question is, Where would we be without dreamers? They are the people who write beautiful poetry. They’re the ones who envisioned us flying, soaring into space. They’re the ones who compose melodic symphonies.

So, Words With Wings, in my opinion, pays homage to those who dream. And, if there was a way to follow Gabriella’s life, I assume she would achieve great things.

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A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver and I seem to have one thing in common: we both love the ocean, as you can see in her short poem, The Poet Compares Human Nature to the Ocean From Which We Came:

The ocean can do craziness, it can do smooth

it can lie down like silk breathing

or toss havoc shoreward;  it can give

gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth

like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can

sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,

and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

Or the poem Tides:

Every day the sea

blue gray green lavender

pulls away leaving the harbor’s

dark cobbled undercoat.

But that is apparently where our similarity ends, Mary’s and mine, because she can put into words those feelings whereas I can’t. I’m not a poetry lover, generally, but Susan and I were introduced to Mary Oliver via a Beth Kephart book and Susan became an avid fan. I like simple poetry, short poetry, poetry that conveys thoughts and feelings in a sparsity of words. Maybe that’s why I like Mary Oliver.

In A Thousand Mornings, she discusses age, life, joyfulness, sorrow, dissatisfaction such as In Traveling to Beautiful Places she says

…But it’s late for all of us,

in truth the only ship there is

is the ship we are all on

burning the world as we go.

Whatever it is about the way Mary Oliver expresses her thoughts and feelings, she seems, in many ways, to have captured mine, as well. See if Ms. Oliver captures your feelings.

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Two years ago, at a librarian conference, I had the unexpected pleasure of hearing Natalie Merchant sing. I didn’t really know much about her, since I wasn’t much of a 10,000 Maniacs fan, but I was blown away by her performance of poetry put to music and since then I’ve taken advantange of any opportunity to hear her. (But I digress from my point.)

Natalie Merchant loves words and she used to recite poetry to her young daughter. In 2010, she recorded a CD, Leave Your Sleep, in which she put to music 26 poems of poets known and obscure. It was the culmination of years of research, finding the poems, digging out biographical information on the poets, some of whom wrote poetry as a sideline or hobby. The result is a marvelous listening adventure; one I constantly go back to.

But, Ms. Merchant didn’t leave it at that because she understands that sometimes artistry is enhanced by the combination of mediums. Today I received my copy of Leave Your Sleep, the picture book, illustrated by the award winning Barbara McClintock. It is a beautiful book in which 19 of the poems on her CD are written out with colorful illustrations. It is a delight for the eyes.  Along with the book is a CD of Ms. Merchant singing these songs. In her introduction, Ms. Merchant writes “Poetry speaks of so much: longing and sadness, joy and beauty, hope and disillusionment…But poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard.” Or accompanied by illustrations. Leave Your Sleep, both the book and the CD, are the perfect blend of media to bring out the best of these poems.

On December 1, I’m going to hear Ms. Merchant sing some of these songs accompanied by an orchestra. What a perfect way to hear poetry!!! Leave Your Sleep is the perfect gift for a child of any age.  That’s why I treated myself.

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I told you about the Oldbooks antiquarian bookstore in Unionville, NY and its owner, William McDonnell, who told me about Decorative Designers, one of many firms that designed bookcovers between 1890 and 1920 before paper dust jackets put them out of business. You probably realize that we book lovers need the most feeble of excuses to collect books.  So, I’ve been on a mission to find books (affordable ones) that have covers designed by Decorative Designers. The interlocked Ds is their logo.

I borrowed this copy of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, published in 1907, from Wagner College on Staten Island. Who knows when it was last taken out, but it’s got one of those card stock borrowing cards stuck in the front flap with only one name on it. I would hope it was taken out more than once since 1907. It’s back cover is faded on the top, like another book was laid on top of it so the sun only hit the top inch of the cover. But it’s in great condition.

What you can’t appreciate from this photo is the shininess of the gold on the cover, the beauty of the script of the title and the delicacy of the design. You can’t imagine the gold on the top of the pages and the uncut fore edges (I think that’s the proper term). And you certainly can’t visualize the decorations by Franklin Booth on each page surrounding Browning’s beautiful poetry. These designs are variations on the the cover design, but each distinctive on its own. And you can’t conjure up in your mind the marvelous illustrations by G. C. Wilmshurst.

Regardless of whether or not you love Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the 1907 edition of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship is a masterpiece on its own and I understand there’s an 1885 edition that’s quite special. But I’ll stick to Decorative Designers. Books as art…something we’ve lost.

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