Friday, September 22, 2006

Poetry around the world

I’m in China this week for a conference and it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s made me think about the role of poetry in various cultures, both in its oral and written forms. One conference speaker closed his remarks with a poem (in Mongolian) and another featured session considered the best children’s books from around the world, over a dozen of which were poetry books (in multiple languages). The only poetry book on the list that is available in English is entitled Something Beginning With P: New Poems from Irish Poets. I was able to look at a copy at the conference and it’s on my “buy this” list as soon as I return home. Other poetry books honored came from:

Croatia (Djecje oci),
Greece (Piimata gia paidia),
Malaysia (Semerbak puisi: Kumpulan puisi kanak-kanak),
Portugal (Palavra que voa)
Russia (Bulagam shigirler)
Spain (O pais de amarnos)
Ukraine (Vsio naoborot)
Venezuela (Chamario: Libro de rimas para ninos)
Brazil (Cambalhota)
Estonia (See, kes lustib)
Lithuania (Kas kiemely daros)
Poland (Bialy niedzwiedz: Czarna krowa)

(Please forgive the lack of diacritical marks unique to each language and appropriate for each book title cited.) What an amazing list this is, isnt’ it? And if you work with children who are native speakers of these languages, what an opportunity to seek out new, current books of poetry selected as being one of the best their country has to offer. I only wish I could read each one in its original language. Meanwhile, if internationalism interests you, please check out the excellent organization, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) which holds an annual World Congress every two years in different parts of the world. The next event will be in Denmark in 2008. And the national section of IBBY in the United States is USBBY. (Yours truly is President of USBBY this year!) USBBY also holds a biennial regional conference highlighting international children’s literature. Our next event is scheduled for Tucson, Arizona in November, 2007.

World peace through children’s poetry!

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