On this day in 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrated the electric light successfully. Celebrate with this poem.
Poem to Be Read at 3 A.M.
by Donald Justice
(excerpted from American Sketches)
Excepting the diner
On the outskirts
The town of Ladora
At 3 A.M.
Was dark but
For my headlights
And up in
One second-story room
A single light
Was sick or
As I drove past
Is for whoever
Had the light on
For more poems about light, look for Joan Bransfield Graham’s collection, Flicker Flash (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). Joan Bransfield Graham’s poetry books are wonderful examples of shape or concrete poetry in which the words of the poems are laid out on the page to suggest the subject of the poem. In both Splish Splash (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) and Flicker Flash, the graphic illustrations combine with the verbal descriptions of water or light in their many, varied forms.
The rhyming shape poems of Flicker Flash explore the different ways that light appears in our world, from the flicker of birthday candles to a flash of lightning. The ingenious illustrations by Nancy Davis feature bold graphic images that play with shape and type in creative ways and add to the impact of each poem. These are perfect selections to incorporate into science or art lessons. Read them aloud by flashlight for added effect. In particular, read “Lamp” seated with the book near lamplight to demonstrate the poem’s “lamp-shine.”
A natural complement is Anna Grossnickle Hines poetry book, Winter Lights (Greenwillow, 2005) or Marilyn Singer’s Central Heating: Poems About Fire and Warmth (Knopf, 2005). Her poem “Lights Out” is ideal for sharing with Graham’s “Lamp” poem—both about reading by the light of a lamp or flashlight. One note: several of Graham’s poems in Flicker Flash deal with fire, including candles, matches, campfires and fireworks. Each is beautifully described and illustrated and can lead to a helpful discussion of both metaphors as well as fire safety! Be very clear about proper procedures for handling fire-related objects like matches and candles, of course.
Here are a few more poetry collections that feature poems about light in its various incarnations, either directly or indirectly.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1996. Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Bruchac, Joseph. 1992. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons. New York: Philomel Books.
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 1998. Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Esbensen, Barbara Juster. 1984. Cold Stars and Fireflies: Poems of the Four Seasons. New York: Crowell.
Fisher, Aileen. 1980. Out in the Dark and Daylight. New York: Harper & Row.
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1999. Flicker Flash. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Hines, Anna Grossnickle. 2005. Winter Lights: A Season in Poems & Quilts. New York: Greenwillow.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1983. The Sky is Full of Song. New York: Harper & Row.
Levy, Constance. 1998. A Crack in the Clouds. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Lewis, Richard, comp. 1988. In the Night Still Dark. New York: Atheneum.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1984. Sky Songs. New York: Holiday House.
McCord, David. 1962. Take Sky: More Rhymes of the Never Was and Always Is. Boston: Little Brown.
Merriam, Eve. 1986. A Sky Full of Poems. New York: Dell.
Moore, Lilian, comp. 1992. Sunflakes: Poems for Children. New York: Clarion Books.
Moore, Lilian. 1980. Think of Shadows. New York: Atheneum.
Mora, Pat. 1998. This Big Sky. New York: Scholastic.
Ochoa, Annette Piña, Betsy Franco, and Traci L. Gourdine, Eds. 2003. Night is Gone, Day is Still Coming; Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
O’Neill, Mary. 2003. The Sound of Day; The Sound of Night. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Rosenberg, Liz, ed. Light-gathering Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Singer, Marilyn. 2005. Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth. New York: Knopf.
Singer, Marilyn. 2000. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Atheneum.
Kelly Fineman has more gems at the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.
Picture credit: home.cogeco.ca