Friday, July 1, 2011

Family Curmudgeons: Sharing the Seasons

I'm still sharing as many of my Cybils challenge books as possible with my kids, but only my fourth grader will put up with the poetry with me.  We read a page or two a night, with him groaning and wailing, and I try to put up a cheerful front, but honestly most of the poems leave me cold.  They don't make me see hear or feel anything that prose cannot, so why make them poems?  They are very short essays, most of them.

The latest Cybils Poetry Finalist, Sharing the Seasons, an anthology selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by David Diaz, rarely spoke to us.  The illustrations were a bit evocative, but we felt they would have been better in a shorter book; it seemed a bit repetitive.  Most of the poems left us pretty empty, which is probably a fault in us rather than the poems, but still didn't make us rush out for more.  One insight P enjoyed was my recounting of a technique Frederik Pohl used when he was writing poetry for a magazine that paid by the line -- break up his longer lines in two and double his income!  P picked out several poems where lines seemed to be as short as possible for reasons unrelated to the poem's meaning.  We both have allergies towards list poems, which tend towards this brief line technique.

I did have a favorite poem, to prove I'm not a complete philistine.  In the Spring chapter I liked April Halprin Wayland's "Budding Scholars."  The classroom/spring garden dichotomy amused us and gave a fresh look at spring, a season we didn't see much of this year in the Pacific northwest.  Perpetual winter is the watchword here.

Welcome, Flowers.
Write your name on a name tag.
Find a seat.

Raise your leaf if you've taken a class here before.
Let's go around the room.
Call out your colors.


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