Friday, July 20, 2007

Eve Merriam Day

Yesterday, July 19, was poet Eve Merriam’s birthday. Despite her publishing fresh and engaging poetry for children for over thirty years, I find many young people don’t regularly encounter her work any more. And that’s a shame. I’d like to take this moment to highlight some of my Merriam favorites (and share an excerpt from my book Poetry People about her).

Eve Merriam began writing poems at age seven. As a teenager, she wrote poems for her high school magazine and newspaper. Merriam began her career as a copywriter and later as a radio writer for Columbia Broadcasting System and other networks. She also worked as a fashion copy editor and then as a free-lance magazine writer, book writer, and poet. In her later career, Merriam focused on writing adult plays. She was a frequent speaker and promoter of poetry for young people and was honored with the National Council of Teachers of English Award for excellence in poetry for children for her entire body of work.

Eve Merriam’s writing comprises a wide variety of works including poetry, plays, and nonfiction for adults, to approximately 40 picture books and nonfiction titles for children, as well as over 20 poetry books and anthologies. Many are out of print, but may still be on library shelves; some are being reissued, sometimes as poem picture books. Her poetry is characterized as smart, playful and lively and often explores the sounds and origins of words. In her later works, she tackled social issues and topics of racism, sexism, and environmental concerns. A partial listing of her poetry for children includes:

There Is No Rhyme For Silver (Atheneum, 1962)
It Doesn’t Always Have To Rhyme (Atheneum, 1964)
Catch A Little Rhyme (Atheneum, 1966)
Finding A Poem (Atheneum, 1970)
Out Loud (Atheneum, 1973)
Rainbow Writing (Atheneum, 1976)
A Word Or Two With You: New Rhymes For Young Readers (Atheneum, 1981)
If Only I Could Tell You: Poetry For Young Lovers And Dreamers (Knopf, 1983)
Jamboree: Rhymes For All Times (Dell, 1984)
A Sky Full Of Poems (Dell, 1986)
Fresh Paint: New Poems (Macmillan, 1986)
A Poem For A Pickle: Funnybone Verses (Morrow, 1989)
Chortles: New And Selected Wordplay Poems (Morrow, 1989)
The Singing Green: New and Selected Poems for All Seasons (HarperCollins, 1992)
Higgle Wiggle: Happy Rhymes (Morrow, 1994)
Blackberry Ink: Poems (HarperCollins, 1994)
You Be Good and I’ll Be Night: Jump On The Bed Poems (Turtleback, 1994)
Halloween ABC, re-released as Spooky ABC (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Check out The Singing Green for a sampling of several of Merriam’ poems from previous out-of-print collections, including “The Poem as a Door,” one of several poems Merriam has penned that try to describe what poems are and how poets create poetry.

The Poem as a Door
by Eve Merriam

A door
is never
A door
is always

You cannot skip over,
you cannot crawl under;
walk through the wood,
it splits asunder.

If you expect it to be bolted,
it will be.

There is only one opening:
yourself as the key.

With a sigh of happiness
you pass through
to find on the other side
someone with a sigh of happiness
welcoming you.

Look for other Merriam poems about poetry such as “Where is a Poem?” from There is No Rhyme for Silver, “How to Eat a Poem” from A Sky Full of Poems, and “’I,’ Says the Poem” from A Sky Full of Poems. These gems are often included in general poetry anthologies and are wonderful examples to introduce a poetry lesson or label the poetry book area.

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