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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.
Everyone suggests Shel Silverstein. My daughter, Zoe, 7, got her third copy for Christmas this year. You can’t go wrong with Where the Sidewalk Ends but everyone already knows that. Then, there are the books the kids love and ask me to read over and over like Goodnight Moon, Curious George and Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See? But I assume you have all those books memorized too.
The books I want to showcase are the books that I think play with language the best. I want to read books that make me say how did they do that? That make me wish I had written that. That let words linger on my tongue like butter and lemon. I want to read books to my kids in the same way I want to read books to myself. Because, wow. Words are awesome.
I picked up a copy of Owl Moon at Bookman’s for no reason except I like owls. I didn’t know that this book would make me and my daughter go walking in the night in the forest behind our house saying whoo whoo to the trees. But it did. The author, Jane Yolen, writes a poem that doesn’t seem like a poem because there’s adventure and story and owls but the way she uses linebreaks and repetition remind me every time I read it how poems work:
With Family Days right around the corner this Saturday, March 16th from 10-1 p.m., what better way to pre-party than with some Family Days writing? Check out these stories about imagined cities by Family Days students!
The City of Shellopolis
There was a city named Shellopolis. There were two different kinds of creatures: the bloobees and the airbees.
The bloobees looked like smashed potatoes. The bloobees are blue, and they smell like trash. Yuck! They lived underwater and spoke two languages. The languages were google and bla-bla.
Airbees flew across the sky using their eyes. The eyes were long and pointy. They rapidly spun like a pinwheel. The airbees are red. They looked like a roll of toilet paper.
I’m a big believer in presenting advanced but appropriate work to young people; I find that they respond positively to being treated as equals in potential (if not experience). That being said, only the first three selections and the last one are age specific, while the rest of the books can be used with students at any level. You’ll find some “traditional” or “expected” authors and books alongside writers who will challenge and inspire young readers to work with new ideas.
1. I Looooooove You, Whale! by Derrick Brown (Preschool through 4th grade)
DB is a master of everything he tries, from slam-poetry tours to filmmaking to publishing. Here he applies a poet’s imagination to a charming story about non-traditional friendship (and do check out DB’s other work through his “Write Fuzzy” project).
2. Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose by Dr. Seuss (Preschool through 4th grade)
This is one of the lesser-known Dr. Seuss offerings, but its crisp verse and engaging narrative make it a huge hit with young people. While the climax is one of the more violent (though gently treated) of his works, it provides a wonderful lesson on the very real consequences of not being honest with yourself and others.
Poetry can be found in the most mundane, every day objects: a water bottle, a post-it note, an envelope. If we look deep enough, peaking into nooks and crannies, we can find beauty in everything. The following poems are a testament to this point. Check out these poems from youth at Family Days, and then try writing one yourself at our next Family Days this Saturday, February 16th from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. In addition to fun writing activities, we'll have a art activities, yoga, dance, typewriters, storytelling, games, and a Book Club featuring The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. See you there!
The bike traveled to Texas
and then it saw the sea
and it reminded it of San Diego
The Rope tied around the bike
and at the top, there was a machine
that pulled up anything.
There was a person named Rhyme
who rode on the bike.
Rhyme rode the bike all the
way back to Tucson.
Last Saturday, the Poetry Center, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures teamed up in a big way. We kicked off our first Family Days of the Spring 2013 season with a miniature themed extravaganza! Using paint, mini canvass boards, and Q-tips, Stefani Hewitt, Tucson Museum of Art intern, led the students in creating mini pointillist paintings:
The Poetry Center’s Matinee program now brings poetry readings to schools. Local poets and authors, in addition to poets who have traveled to Tucson to participate in the Poetry Center’s Reading Series, are available to read and discuss their writing with middle and high school students. More than 1000 writers have read or lectured in the series, including most major contemporary U.S. poets, significant international visitors, and emerging artists. The following poets are available for upcoming visits.
Spring 2013 semester: Rebecca Seiferle, Tucson Poet Laureate, author of four books of poetry, and translator of Cesar Vallejo. Read her work here and here.
Fall 2013 semester: Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning, winner of the Yale Younger Series Poets Prize. Read his work here.
To reserve a matinee performance by one of the poets above, contact Renee Angle at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the name of the poet you are interested in hosting, your school name and grade, and subject you teach. Interested teachers and schools are served on a first come, first serve basis. Each poet will make one visit to one school. Most poet visits are ideal for middle and high school groups. For more infomation, please visit our Matinee page.
Joy Acey, the Princess of Poetry, has won many prizes for her poems and has published in several small journals and anthologies including HIGHLIGHT'S High Five magazine. She is a performance artist and conducts writing workshops for children and adults. She's hopped a freight train and rode in a boxcar over the world's second largest wooden trestle bridge. She was on a TV game show and won enough money for a trip to Australia. She has lived in England and Japan. She has walked across a volcano in Hawaii and a glacier in New Zealand. She has gone swimming with iguanas in the Galapagos and was in Ecuador during a revolution. She recently returned from a trip to Peru where she visited the rainforest. Always looking for new adventures to write about, she currently lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and a welsh springer spaniel named Spot. She has a blog www.poetryforkidsjoy.blogspot.com where she daily posts an orginal poem for children and a writing exercise.
10 books of poetry...
Sarah Minor is an MFA candidate in non-fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Corbett Elementary.
On a warm Saturday morning this September I headed to the Poetry Center to lead my first Family Day activity. The event fell during the Poetry Center's Speak Peace exhibit and we had planned peace themed activities combining visual art and writing for the families to participate in. Having only worked with high school and college-aged students before I was, of course, terrified of young children. Not young children exactly, but the idea of inspiring young children to sit down and write, to come up with a message about peace--a topic adults have a hard time discussing--all while overcoming the limits of spelling and handwriting. What if the activity was too simple? What if they grew bored quickly or couldn't sit still? And how old were third graders again?