I can’t help myself! I’m on a roll reviewing new poetry books published this spring and I just can’t stop. I’m attending the annual convention of the American Library Association in Anaheim this weekend (road trip!), and hope to see several new poetry works planned for fall. Meanwhile, here are my thoughts about a new collection that is a companion to a previous ALA award winner. Jan Greenberg’s Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art (Abrams, 2001) won a Printz honor in 2002 and now has a partner book, Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World (Abrams, 2008), another elegant volume for older kids and teens.
Similar in design, this slim volume packs potent poems created to accompany distinctive and varied works of art, something I learned is called “ekphrasis”-- poetry inspired by art. Greenberg’s excellent introduction frames the collection and is “must” reading to appreciate the collection fully. She explains that artists from 33 countries on 6 continents are represented here (their locations indicated on a map in the backmatter). Poems created in response to each work of art are grouped in four sections—stories, voices, expressions, and impressions with each original poem appearing in the poet’s native language, as well as in English—a powerful effect. Greenberg also includes biographies of the poets and translators, and an index. It’s a fascinating pairing of art and word worthy of close study and a great model for aspiring writers to imitate. Here’s one poem that I liked especially.
by Lo Ch’ing
Translated from the Chinese by Joseph R. Allen
[The Chinese poem appears alongside this translated version.]
Out of the cat’s dream
floats a lavish mouse banquet
As mice sleep deep
in that aroma-soaked dream
From: Greenberg, Jan. 2008. Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World. New York: Abrams, p. 60.
*SIDE NOTE: There is another poetry collection with a similar title edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins: Side by Side: Poems to Read Together (Simon & Schuster, 1988). In this case, there are pairs of poems to be read by adults and kids, if my memory serves me. It might be interesting for kids to compare the two books or to talk about the selection of poetry book titles. What titles might they choose?
Other books of ekphrastic poetry that pair fine art and poems:
Koch, Kenneth, and Kate Farrell, comp. 1985. Talking to the Sun; An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People. New York: Henry Holt.
Nye, Naomi Shihab, comp. 1998. The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings From the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuster.
___, comp. 1995. The Tree is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Panzer, Nora, comp. 1994. Celebrate America in Poetry and Art. New York: Hyperion.
Rochelle, Belinda, comp. 2001. Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art. New York: HarperCollins.
Sullivan, Charles, comp. 1994. Here is My Kingdom: Hispanic-American Literature and Art for Young People. New York: H.N. Abrams.
Sullivan, Charles, comp. 1989. Imaginary Gardens; American Poetry and Art for Young People. New York: Abrams.
Volavkova, Hana, ed. 1993. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944. New York: Schocken Books.
Whipple, Laura, comp. 1994. Celebrating America: A Collection of Poems and Images of the American Spirit. New York: Philomel Books.
TO FOLLOW UP: Invite kids to visit art museum Web sites to select favorite art works as prompts for their own ekphrastic poetry writing. Or encourage aspiring writers and aspiring artists to pair up to create original art and accompanying poems for their own “Side by Side” exhibit.
Picture credit: SchoolLibraryJournal.com