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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Delight and Wisdom: Books for Poetry Fans

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Robert Frost has said, "[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom."  I've read several books of and about poetry over the last few months and thought I'd share the ones that have delighted me and helped me grow in wisdom.

First, a few for younger readers:

Sky Songs,
written by Myra Cohn Livingston
and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher, 1984

This book contains fourteen of Livingston's poems about the sky -- the moon, the stars, sunsets, and more.  Accompanied by Fisher's beautiful paintings, it is a delight to look at as well as to read.


Peaceful Pieces:
Poems and Quilts About Peace,
written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines, 2011

This treasure of a book features 28 poems about peace (from peace in the home to world-wide peace) and gorgeous quilted artwork, all created by Hines.


Voices in Poetry:
Maya Angelou,
text by Patricia Kirkpatrick
and poems by Maya Angelou, 2004

Containing several of Angelou's poems, this book also provides a basic biography and personal photographs of the famous poet.  It is a great introduction to Angelou's life and words for young kids.


written by Alan Katz
and illustrated by Edward Koren, 2008

Silly poems and drawings fill this book, provoking giggles (or groans!) on every page.


Understanding Poetry:
Puns, Allusions, and Other Word Secrets,
written by Jennifer Fandel, 2005

This book explains puns, allusions, and the importance of word choice while providing examples of each with poetry from e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, and more.  I stumbled across this book at our library, and added it to my pile of books to check out without really looking at it.  Later on, I was very glad that I had brought it home!  I found the text quite interesting, filled with useful information.


I found the next two in the young adult section of our library:

Poems From Homeroom:
A Writer's Place to Start,
written by Kathi Appelt, 2002
Another book that I casually plucked off the shelf and ended up loving, this one contains more than 25 poems by Appelt (mostly free verse, but there are also a few in specific forms -- haiku, sestinas, etc.) of topics teenagers can relate to, such as first crushes, homecoming dances, passing notes, tattoos, and more.  After sharing her poetry, Appelt then describes the inspiration behind each poem.  She also offers several questions to spark writing ideas for her readers.


The Watch That Ends the Night:
Voices from The Titanic
written by Allan Wolf, 2011
A haunting, richly-textured novel in verse, this story of The Titanic is told through 24 distinctive voices, from the captain to the lookout to a gambler to a millionaire to a Lebanese refugee to the iceberg itself.  I'd read many glowing reviews of this book online and couldn't wait to read it myself.  I was not disappointed!  Though I recommend all of the books in this post, The Watch That Ends the Night is my favorite by far.  (It is now on my "to buy" list.)  I think it would appeal to many readers out there, even those who don't typically read poetry.


And these are from the adult nonfiction section of our library:

How to Read a Poem
and Fall in Love With Poetry,
written by Edward Hirsch, 1999
This "scholarly but very readable" book, which explores poetry and the emotions behind it, is brimming with examples of writing from poets around the world and through time -- Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Wislawa Szymborska, Juan Gelman, and so many more. Hirsh also offers advice on understanding and appreciating poetry.


The Poetry Dictionary,
written by John Drury, 2005
A very useful reference book for teachers, students, and writers, this dictionary contains expressive and thorough definitions for the language of poetry, from "abstract language" to "voice".  It also offers many examples of both classic and contemporary poetry, to illustrate the terms.  I think this must be the first dictionary that I've read from beginning to end!


The New Comprehensive 
American Rhyming Dictionary,
written by Sue Young, 1991
This collection contains over 65,000 rhyming words, phrases, and colloquialisms -- a helpful resource for anyone who works with language.  Up until this fall, I had never even heard of a rhyming dictionary.  Then, while reading different poets' blogs, I came across several references to them.  After thumbing through one at a bookstore to see what it was like, I decided to ask for a rhyming dictionary for Christmas.  My parents gave me this one!  I've read the introduction and the section on "how to use this book", and have flipped through the rest.  I haven't actually used it yet, but I know that it will come in very handy next time I'm in need of a rhyme!


Have you read any of the books above?  If so, what did you think of them?  What are some of your favorite books of or about poetry?  I'm always looking for recommendations!

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