Friday, April 6, 2012

Painting and Poems: Self Portrait With Seven Fingers

The Cybils Poetry finalists are always a hard sell with my family, since somewhere they developed a severe poetry aversion.  Even as little kids they avoided rhymes. I think my awful singing voice may have influenced this, but it meant that getting P to read J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen's Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: The Life of Marc Chagall in Verse with me took effort, persuasion, and bribery.

In the end, we both felt a bit unsatisfied, because the book is trying to do three things -- show samples of Chagall's paintings, deliver a biography, and respond in poetry to the paintings. And what we wanted from a given page often didn't match up with what appeared -- the poem would address different emotional beats, the biography would skip over the questions we asked, the painting wouldn't match the timeline we thought we were on.

Again P and I treated this as a picture book so we could avoid the "poetry" thing, although I thought the poems themselves did a good job in capturing the emotional journeys in Chagall's history. It did feel like a collection of poems to me, although I attempted to conceal this from my son. I liked all the pieces of it, but I'm not sure they cooperated with each other enough.

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