Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poetry from around the world

I’m posting from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair where I have been immersed in the amazing literature for children being published in countries all across the world. I thought I was a bit of an expert in this area—until I came here! How humbling it is to mix with publishers, promoters, authors, illustrators, and others who create and support this field of literature for kids in Korea (a featured country), Italy (our gracious host), Spain (in four languages no less) and beyond. And of course, there is poetry in every place, too.

I was representing Bookbird, the journal of international children’s literature at the IBBY booth (the International Board on Books for Young People) and I met many, many people who share the same goals as we do (literacy and literature for all). The booth next door featured the International Youth Library based in Munich, the site founded by Jella Lepman (creator of IBBY too) and they were showcasing their recently announced “White Ravens” list, their selection of the best 250 books from over 48 countries (in 32 languages) published in the last year or so. This may be the ultimate “best children’s books in the world” list!

And what is the best children’s poetry in the world? Here’s the list of nearly a dozen books gleaned from their roster. (Although I examined each one, I couldn’t read them all, of course, since only 4 are in English. How I wish I could!)

Wright, Danielle (Ed). 2008. My Village; Rhymes from Around the World. Wellington, NZ: Gecko Press
*Bilingual rhymes presented in various languages and English in a colorful, inviting, multicultural context

Sayer, Viv (Ed). 2008. Poems of Love and Longing. Llandysul: Pont Books.
*Perfect small teen-friendly size with a range of mostly serious poems by ten British poets

Cheng, Andrea. 2008. Where the Steps Are. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.
*Verse novel for younger readers about a class and their yearlong efforts to save their school

Weston, Robert Paul. 2008. Zorgamazoo. New York: Little, Brown.
*A new kind of zany novel-in-verse featuring Lemony Snicket-type adventures in Dr. Seuss-like rhyming stanzas

Rimbaud, Arthur. 2008. Les poings dans mes poches crevees. Choix de poemes. (My hands in my torn coat pockets. Anthology of poems) Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse,
*Excerpts from classic Rimbaud poems grouped in helpful categories and illustrated with delicate color sketches

Giarratana, Sbrina. 2008. Amica terra. (Friend earth). Firenze:Fatatrac.
*Gorgeous, deep colors saturate double-page spreads with an earth poem on the right hand side

Tognolini, Bruno. 2008. Tiritere. (Twitter). Modena: Panini.
*Sturdy and colorful board book of verses for the very young child

Colasanti, Marina. 2008. Poesia em 4 tempos. (Poetry in four time). Sao Paolo: Global.
*Delicate watercolor illustrations accompany short poems in this paperback collection.

Lujan, Jorge. 2007. Oh, los colores! (Oh, the colors!). Mexico, DF: Ed. SM.
*Inviting picture book collection of one-color-per-poem works ala Hailstones & Halibut Bones.
P.S. I just found out that Groundwood has published a bilingual (English/Spanish) edition of this book: Lujan, Jorge. 2008. Colors! Colores! Illustrated by Piet Grobler. Translated by John Oliver Simion and Rebecca Parfitt. Groundwood Books / Libros Tigrillo. ISBN 0-88899-863-5

Tuwim, Julian. 2007. Wiersze dla dzieci. (Poems for children). Warszawa:Wytwornia.
*Amazing, poster-sized book of selected poems by noted Polish poet juxtaposed against wild, surrealistic art

Neydim, Necdet. 2008. Sen islik calmayi bilir misin? Siirler. (Can you whistle? Poems). Istanbul: Gunisigi Kitapligi.
*What a fun paperback collection of everyday poems in big print with just-right pen and ink and watercolor sketches

(Please forgive the absence of proper diacritical marks—or ignorant errors—as I am posting without all my usual tools handy.)

And of course I must share a sample poem. This one, in particular, touched me. It’s from the British collection, Poems of Love and Longing and is the final entry in a mini-group of poems that conclude the book.

by Susan Richardson

Spirit, use me today,
not in some miracle

that would make others marvel

and would make me proud.

Not in the word of wisdom

that would stay in the mind

and make me always remembered.

Not in the heroic act

that would change the world for the better

and me for the worse.

But in the mundane miracles

of honesty and truth

that keep the sky from falling

In the unremembered quiet words

that keep a soul on the path

And in the unnoticed acts

that keep the world moving

slowly closer to the light.

Sayer, Viv (Ed). 2008. Poems of Love and Longing. Llandysul: Pont Books, p. 66.

The complete annotated list of these and all the 250 titles is (or will soon be) available on the IYL Web site ( Read more about this amazing repository of 600,000 of the world’s children’s books in a historic castle in Germany. (They also offer fellowships for scholars who want to study there!)

This week’s Poetry Friday gathering is hosted by poet Julie Larios at The Drift Record. Thanks, Julie!



Julie said...

Thanks so much for posting from Bologna, Sylvia - Ché mondo meraviglioso (e piccolo)! I am headed over to the IYL site you mentioned to take a look at their fellowship program.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for coming by, Julie. Do check out the IYL. It's amazing!

Color Online said...

Love this! Please do come by Color Online. Might be linking to this. At the very least, saving the link for reference.

Years ago I worked in publishing. Best job I ever had, and it could be humbling, but that was a small price for the joy and learning I experienced mingling with publishers, editors and educators.

I am equally impressed and envious. You take me back to the times I attended trade shows.

I'm babbling. Pardon me. I'm excited about your post.

Mary Lee said...

Lucky, lucky you! And what a GREAT poem! I'm going to print that to put by my desk as a daily reminder.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

This is delightful! I'm so glad to hear about the conference and all those wonderful books. I LOVE the poem too and want to print it out. Keep us moving toward the light...

multiple monitors said...

very nice...thanks

Stella said...

what an amazing collection of international work! Thank you so much for compiling all these and sharing with all of us. And as Mary Lee says, Lucky you!

tess said...

Oh, how I needed to pause for that poem. Thank you.

laurasalas said...

Your post is a welcome reminder that the U.S. is just one country in the world, and that there's amazing children's literature all over. How fun to post from Bologna--I'm so jealous. I know you must be both soaking up a lot of new knowledge and sharing your own, too. Thanks for that lovely poem.

Jane Singleton Paul said...

Tomorrow is the beginning of National Poetry Month - hurray! My goal is to be in Bologna next March so I was very excited to read about your delight in having been there. Seeing children's literature cross borders is a cause that is dear to my heart.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you all for your kind and generous comments. I am SO gratified to see such a response to the topic of global poetry! Pretty cool, isn't it? :-)

Adrienne said...

Richardson's poem is like a new version of St. Francis' words: rather than be understood, let me seek to understand, rather than be consoled, let me console... (I'm paraphrasing). I copied it into my anthology. Thanks for sharing it.

SUPER PC said...
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