Friday, June 19, 2009

My Five Fave Poetry Books

Enjoy all of the delicious books we've been talking about this summer—and if you buy them, please BUY LOCAL. Find your local bookseller here.

The folks in these stores are paperback promoters, kidlit campaigners, poetry proponents, school supporters, chapbook champions and author advocates.

They hand sell, They create community. They read and recommend. They carry crazy amounts of inventory so we can walk in and touch before we buy.

So please don’t browse in their stores and then buy it “cheaper” online. Because it’s not cheaper if you put them out of business. Independents offer us so much more than books.

Okay, now…here my five favorite poetry books. Note that my favorites are always changing…these are TODAY’s favs--ones that influenced my writing and my life.

1. On my thirteenth birthday, my older sister’s friend gave me A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I was stunned and flattered that she thought I was adult enough to understand these beat poems. Some of the poems took my breath away.
I loved “Dog,” which I performed in a modern dance solo. I recited the poem as I moved dog-like across the stage in a black leotard and tights, wearing our family dog’s collar. Picture that for a minute! Now read “Dog” here.

Just as Anne Frank’s book showed Mary Ann Rodman that she, too, could become a writer, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s little book taught me that my hidden journals filled with poetry might one day become something more than journals.

When I was an adult, Ferlinghetti signed my copy. I burst into tears.

2. My mentor Myra Cohn Livingston recommended All The Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth, filled with poems about every day objects. Myra constantly said, “Tell me something new—or tell me something old in a new way. Make it fresh.” She said that the poet’s challenge was to get someone to see something as they had never seen it before.
Worth’s small poems make me tilt my head and look at things from another perspective…I’ve never looked at safety pins quite the same way after reading Worth’s poem “Safety Pin” with its “surprised eye.”

3. Many years ago, Gale, the company that publishes the reference guide Something About The Author, commissioned me to write my autobiography for this series. Up to that point I had only written picture books, so the prospect of writing something long was daunting.

I read lots of autobiographies, trying to figure out how I wanted to tell my life. Finally, I came across Calling The Doves—el canto de las palomas by Juan Felipe Herrera.This exquisite collection is about growing up in an itinerant farm worker family…in only 18 poems. It was revolutionary to me to realize that readers don’t need to know everything to be able to follow a storyline. This book inspired me to freely include poems in my own autobiography, which is in volume 26 of Something About The Author (in the reference department of most libraries) and also on my website.

4. The enchanting poetry book about the artist’s process, That's How it is When We Draw, written and illustrated by my dear friend, Ruth Lercher Bornstein, has taught me (again) that less is more.Ruth’s writing is unfailingly simple and clear. She can walk the tightrope of childlike writing…never allowing it to become cloying or sweet.

5. I found This is Just to Say—poems of apology and forgiveness, by Joyce Sidman when I was searching for books to add to my list about forgiveness and apologizing, to tie into the publication of my new book, New Year at the Pier—A Rosh Hashanah Story, which deals with these issues.
Sidman’s is a wonderful collection of poems about a classroom of students who write poems of apology—and receive poems back from those they hurt.

So for today, those are my Fav Five!

Here’s a poem about the pleasure of books which Lee Bennett Hopkins has accepted for a forthcoming anthology:

by April Halprin Wayland

I stand on our couch
closing windows,
pulling down shades,
shutting out shouting streets.

Wheels, squeals and dust driven past
Those constant distant drums outside
are gone.

Inside I sit close to Mom.
I lay my head against her.
Listen to her heart
Listen to the words.

Listen to the whisper
of each

© April Halprin Wayland
WRITING WORKOUT by April Halprin Wayland

1) Choose a poem you like.

2) Read it to yourself.

3) Read it aloud.

4) Write it in your own handwriting.

5) Now—write your own poem that does one of the following:
a) answers this poem
b) imitates this poem in content
c) imitates this poem in structure
d) takes one phrase from the poem and uses it in a completely different way.

6) Write with joy!

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