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Last Spring, we asked folks at Family Days and at the Tucson Festival of Books to type up poems on our typewriters. One of the prompts we asked them was this: "Write about noises you have heard." Here are some of their amazing poems, in response to this question. Check them out, and then write a poem of your own!
Noises I Have Heard
I have heard the organ
Heliocopters at dawn
I have heard the singing of the birds, and the wind in the willows
I have heard dogs barking in the desert sun
I have heard the birds who sing in the morning
I heard my dog bark in the morning
I have heard the musicians in the heat, in the heart
I have heard the sweet sound of babies breathing
I have heard a beautiful hummingbird in the morning
I have heard the owls sing at ducks, I mean dusk
I have heard things I love and they sound like the wind
and I have heard things I hate and they sound like angry whispers
and still I am grateful I can hear the wind and the whispers
The Animal That Drank Up Sound
by William Stafford
Illustrated by Debra Frasier
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992
It’s not often that I read a children’s book, and really have to slow down. By this I mean that many children’s books that I've read have easy, simple texts that are predictable enough to allow me to scan through quickly and understand the narrative just fine. But William Stafford’s The Animal That Drank up Sound is different. Maybe it’s because this book—like many of the children’s books that will soon be reviewed here on Wordplay—are written by poets. And, in turn, the phrasing is original, unexpected, and complex.
When the story opens, I’m struck with the driving force right away: “One day across the lake where echoes come now an animal that needed sound came down.” So I now know that there’s a mysterious animal that needs sound. And I think: okay, how is he going to get this sound? So I read on: “He drained the rustle from the leaves…and folded a quilt over the rocks…he buried--thousands of autumns deep--the noise that used to come there.” What I love about the language here are the verbs. This animal didn’t just “get” sound from doing x, y, and z, he drained and folded and buried the sound. How else did he retrieve sound? Like the title implies, he “began to drink the sound out of all the valleys—the croak of toads, and all the little shiny noises grass blades make.” The narrative plays with the sense of sound, and how one could potentially manipulate it. Stafford expanded my notion of sound and how I typically describe it. When talking about sound, I usually say: “I hear this sound…I hear that sound,” as I’d imagine most of us do. A poet, though, looks at sound differently. A poet challenges us to taste sound, to smell sound, to touch sound, and to see sound. And that’s exactly what Stafford does in this story.
The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit
by Sylvia Plath
Illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner
St. Martin’s Press, 1996
In the little town of Winkelburg, where the mountains are all capped with scoops of vanilla and where the tables are always set with tarts, Max Nix wakes each morning and wishes he had a suit. A suit to wear proudly before the grocer and the goodwives. A suit to call his own. A suit to be admired by the minister and the mayor, the tinker, and even the tailor. Such is the great dilemma for this book’s Max Nix—a seven-year-old Robin Hood look-alike and the youngest of seven sons. Like many children’s books, the premise is a simple one; however, the book’s creator is anything but.
Sylvia Plath has been getting a lot of attention these days. But, as too often is the case, it’s more about the shadows than the light—the years of mental anguish and depression, followed by her dramatic suicide at age 30. For the average kid growing up now, it’s hard to think of Plath in any way that doesn’t involve an oven. But a couple of new-ish books are attempting to change all that. The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit presents a more carefree Plath; the manuscript was discovered in the years after her death, and it was first published in 1996. Another book comes from Elizabeth Winder; it’s a bit of nonfiction called Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, 1953 (Harper Collins, 2013).
My mom is reading Winder’s book right now, and she has spent the better part of her days off lately curled up in a yellow chair, reading about young Sylvia trying to make it in the Greatest Winkelburg of all – New York City. Winder’s angle is to provide a window into Plath’s life in a very specific way, by focusing on a single summer she spent with twenty other young women, serving as guest editors for Mademoiselle. This is the time in Plath’s life that would come to be loosely represented in her novel The Bell Jar—a heady cocktail of late nights and literati, a time where she would feel great insecurity in her own skin.
Need a break from the heat? Want to see some amazing art work, being made live, right in front of your eyes? Then come on over to the Poetry Center! Our Children's Corner is undergoing a major face-lift, specifically with a new mural. Come on over to watch local artist, Sid Henderson, paint a mural of a desert bed landscape. While you're there, Sid might even let you test out the river rocks, which are made of chalkboard paint! Once the mural is finished, patrons will be able to write chalk poems and draw pictures on the desert rocks. Pretty cool, huh? Sid will be working on the mural during the week for the next few months, from around 9am - 12 pm. Come on by and watch this amazing mural in progress, right before your very eyes.
Last March, the Poetry Center took their trusty typewriters out to the Tucson Festival of Books. At our booth, we set-up a gaggle of typewriters, and asked the Tucson community to type away! One of the writing prompts we asked was this: "Describe the contents of your pockets or purse." Below are some of the responses. Enjoy!
Contents of my pocket
The contents of my pockets show the true image behind my face
the lint tells a story my mouth never will
the change of past experiences now scatter the floor
pockets now empty
new adventures await my open pockets
to be filled with time and memories from moments long forgotten
pockets change in size
my hands will always fit inside
to be emptied and start anew
When I retired for the day I empty my heavy
River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water
Edited by Pamela Michael
HeyDay Books, 2003
Today in Tucson, we had an oven-like high of 113 degrees. I rode my bike in the middle of the day, the heat of the day (a mistake), and between shouts of OH-MY-GOSH and DANG-IT’S-HOT and YOU’VE-GOTTA-BE-KIDDING-ME, a desperate question branded my brain: When will the rains come?*
This is a question, a conversation that’s common among Tucsonans. In fact, a good chunk of us abandon the city in the summer. But for the die-hard (read: crazy), we withstand the abuse because we know that the monsoons are on their way.
In light of the recent heat wave, and in anticipation of the forthcoming monsoon season, I can’t think of a more fitting collection of poetry than River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water. This collection of poems and artwork, written and illustrated by youth, is an initiative through the River of Words® program, which “trains teachers, park rangers, youth leaders, and other educators around the world on ways to incorporate nature and the arts into their own work with children.” Co-founded by U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael, the organization promotes literacy, water-shed awareness, and the arts.
Lost & Found
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
I first came across Shaun Tan’s bestselling Lost & Found when I was at The Harvard Bookstore in Boston. My co-worker’s good friend is the children’s book buyer for the store, and as we were wandering around the stacks, she playfully demanded, “You need to read this book.”
The front cover piqued my attention, grabbed my curiosity. What is that red, industrial looking machine on the cover? What kind of apocalyptic town is this story taking place? Then I flipped to the back cover. Who’s that girl carrying the metal box? Why is she surrounded in darkness? I had many questions. Luckily, the book provided answers. More than answers, Lost & Found does what great children’s literature should do: it presents challenging material to youth in a way that’s easily digestible. The book provides meditations on huge topics like depression, post colonialism, and apathy. Lost & Found is a collection of three stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. The book takes these big topics and makes them easy to swallow with imagery and metaphors. In The Red Tree, dark imagery and a bleak urban landscape speak to a young girl’s depression and isolation. In The Lost Thing, a huge, red machine that’s lost in the city is paired up with a young boy, and we read into themes of displacement and friendship. In The Rabbits, a phalanx of rabbits invade a country and meditations on post colonialism arise.
The Children’s Area at the Poetry Center is undergoing some exciting new developments. We’re adding a mural, reorganizing the books, and getting some new furniture. As a result, the children’s collection won’t be available to patrons until mid to late August. Thanks for your patience! We’ll be posting updates on the mural’s progress here. In the meantime, check out our Education mascot, Joey, who's hard at work with his hard hat and gold shovel. And starting next week, we'll have exciting new blog posts here on Wordplay. Be sure to visit us!
Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for a wonderful Spring season on Wordplay. Thanks to our awesome contributors, we had some excellent posts this Spring: Recommended Reading lists, Reading Series in the Classroom posts, Book Reviews, Voca posts, Family Days writing, and so much more.
We'll see you back here in June 2013 for a whole new line-up of exciting posts and contributors.
See you soon!
The Wordplay Blog
For this month's Recommended Reading list, Alison Deming--Director of the Creative Writing Program and Creative Writing Professor at the University of Arizona--shares her recommended list of poems for youth. Enjoy!
Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses
Among my favorite poems in this book are “Bed in Summer” and “My Shadow.”
This was my first poetry book as a child. It taught me how musical both language and thoughtfulness can be. Be not afraid of the archaic poeticisms. This book speaks to a child’s inner life.