As National Poetry Month comes to a close, I have a challenge for you. Try to read at least one poem. Some of you will claim to not like poetry, to not understand it, to not know what to choose. These excuses may be true, but it can be fun to stretch yourself a bit. I have some great suggestions to help you get started. Poetry can be very personal. It may bring out strong emotions – including laughter and joy. My suggestions are just suggestions; you may have to pull some books off the shelves before you find one you will enjoy.
If you’re still with me, you may have decided to give it a try. Ask yourself if you want to try something traditional or more modern? Do you want a narrative poem or a shorter work that just evokes a scene or a moment? You may want to take a large collection of poems and just thumb through to find one that seems interesting. We have poetry collections by many well-known poets: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, James Whitcomb Riley and many more. You could also try a collection of selected poems by many different poets. Caroline Kennedy edited a book of her mother’s favorite poems that is great to browse through.
You may want to try a more recent poet such as Maya Angelou or Billy Collins. As you read, keep in mind that poetry often challenges us to see the world in different ways or from alternate perspectives.
We have a very nice set of short biographies of some well-known poets. Included in the books are some of the poet’s best known poems. Perhaps knowing something about the person will help you connect with the poetry. Poets in the series are Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare.
If you want something short and sweet, and you are a nature-lover, pick up The Cuckoo’s Haiku, featuring beautiful watercolor bird illustrations by Stan Fellows.
Here are some other books to get you started. Be sure to also check out the selections from the Indiana Digital Download Center. There is a featured collection on the main menu for National Poetry Month.
April is a month I look forward to each year – not just for the springtime weather, but also for the chance to highlight some of the Library’s wonderful poetry books. This post will just cover books of poems for kids, and I’ll highlight Adult and Teen poetry in another post.
If you ask kids about their favorite poetry, they will almost always talk about the great Shel Silverstein. His books like Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are truly amazing, but Silverstein is just a beginning point. Here are some more great suggestions for kids of all ages.
Jack Prelutsky’s collections of poems are almost as funny as those of Shel Silverstein. You might want to begin with Something Big Has Been Here or It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles.
A shorter collection by Prelutsky that I highly recommend for older kids who can understand a more subtle form of humor is Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems. In addition to writing original poetry, Prelutsky has edited numerous collections that contain poems by lots of writers. He was also selected in 2006 by the Poetry Foundation to serve a two year term as the first Children’s Poet Laureate.
I also love the poetry books of Douglas Florian. He typically publishes short collections of poems that are all on the same theme. April would be a wonderful time to share Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings. Kids are guaranteed to love Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings, and I am a big fan of Poetrees.
For kids who love nature, I recommend the poetry books of Joyce Sidman. Start with Songs of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems and then move on to Ubiquitous and Dark Emperor and other Poems of the Night. All of these books contain both poems and informational text.
Don’t just read poetry this month. Try your hand at writing some; it would be a great family activity. Don’t know how to get started? We have books to help you!
During this Indiana Bicentennial year, I will be introducing you to some amazing Indiana authors. Helen Frost, a resident of Fort Wayne, is a poet, playwright and novelist all rolled into one. Writing and teaching have been the interwoven strands of her career. She has taught in far-flung locations such as California, Alaska and Scotland.
She has written over 20 non-fiction books for beginning readers, but the two shown below stand out for Frost’s descriptions of the natural world. Monarch and Milkweed explains the relationship between the butterflies and the milkweed plant in lyrical prose, and the jewel-toned illustrations by Leonid Gore help to make this one of the best monarch butterfly books you will ever find. Frost invites us to look closely at the small creatures all around us in Step Gently Out, which features close-up photography of insects by Rick Lieder.
Helen Frost is well-known for the novels-in-verse she has written for upper elementary and teen readers. Before reading one of these books, look for the author’s note that explains the poetry. Frost is always intentional in using forms of poetry that reflect the culture and characters she writes about. Her novel Keesha’s House won a Printz Honor Award in 2004 and uses sonnets and sestinas to relate a story of multiple perspectives. The Braid depicts a Scottish family separated through the immigration of some family members; the poems are braided together to represent a Celtic knot.
Diamond Willow is set in the Athabascan culture of Alaska. Frost drew inspirations for her poetry style from the scars that form when a branch of a diamond willow shrub is broken away. Look for a hidden message in the center of each diamond-shaped poem! In each of her novels, Frost uses poetry to bring deeper meaning to the stories and to enhance the reader’s experience. Salt should be of particular interest this year as a historical novel set in Indiana during the War of 1812.
Give one of these amazing books a chance, even if poetry is not something you would normally choose. You’ll be glad you did! For more information, you can watch an interview with Helen Frost posted by the Allen County Library.