May is a terrific month for poet birthdays:
2 Bobbi Katz
5 J. Patrick Lewis
6 Kristine O’Connell George; José-Luis Orozco
7 Michael Rosen
8 Constance Levy
12 Edward Lear
17 Eloise Greenfield
25 Joyce Carol Thomas
We can celebrate their work all month long! And today, in particular, I’d love to highlight the lyrical and often subtle work of Contance Levy. I’ll share a bit of info about her excerpted from my book, Poetry People. Levy is a former teacher and a frequent speaker at schools and educational conferences. She has won many honors including Bank Street College’s Children’s Book of the Year, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award, American Booksellers Pick of the List, several National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book in Language Arts citations, New York Library’s Select 100 Titles for Children’s Books and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for the best poetry book of the year for Splash! Poems of our Watery World.
Many of Levy’s poems use “nature” as a theme and depict everything from butterflies to weeds with a sense of wonder and playfulness. Her poetry collections include:
I’m Going to Pet a Worm Today and Other Poems (McElderry 1991)
A Tree Place and Other Poems (McElderry 1994)
When Whales Exhale and Other Poems (McElderry 1996)
A Crack in the Clouds And Other Poems (McElderry 1998)
Splash!: Poems of Our Watery World (Orchard 2002)
So many of Levy’s poems link beautifully with picture books of fiction and nonfiction. Their directness and effective use of first person or question/answer format invite engagement and interaction. For example, her collection, A Crack in the Clouds, includes a gamut of “cloud” poems that convey the awe and adventure experienced by Lindbergh in the first transatlantic flight in Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh by Robert Burleigh (Philomel 1991). Gather other factual books about flight and airplanes (such as Seymour Simon’s The Paper Airplane Book, Puffin 1976) and invite the children to create displays of clouds, paper planes, and matching poems.
For younger children, take a step outside to look at real clouds and share the classic picture book, It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw (HarperCollins, 1988). Read aloud some of Levy’s cloud poems and then have students tear white paper into corresponding cloud images and mount them on blue paper—imitating the illustrations of Shaw’s book.
The poems in her award winning collection, Splash! Poems of our Watery World, offer a similar smorgasbord of poems, but this time the topic is water in its many forms. Two of the poems, “Flood Line” and “River Games” describe the river as a living thing, almost with a personality. Tie these together with Jane Kurtz’s picture book poems, River Friendly, River Wild (Simon & Schuster 2000) about a young girl’s ordeal during North Dakota’s Red River Valley Flood in 1997. Or children may enjoy connecting Levy’s “water” poems with the concrete poetry about water in Joan Bransfield Graham’s Splish Splash (Houghton Mifflin 2001). They can try creating their own water, flood, or river poems on shaped paper. Here’s one sample poem to demonstrate Levy’s gift for sound, image, and rhythm:
by Constance Levy
Wave after wave,
This Earth's old wild heart
Constance Levy offers more nature poems in A Tree Place and Other Poems (McElderry 1994) and I’m Going to Pet a Worm Today and Other Poems (McElderry 1991). Her style compares nicely with Kristine O’Connell in her poetry collection, Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (Clarion 1998) or Aileen Fisher’s Sing of the Earth and Sky: Poems about Our Planet and the Wonders Beyond (Boyds Mills Press 2003). For a fun follow up activity, share “Birdseed Song” from I’m Going to Pet a Worm Today and provide materials for making small, individual bird feeders. For example, spread peanut butter on the outside of a pine cone and then roll it in birdseed and hang it outdoors on a string as a homemade bird feeder. Be sure to look for her work in many anthologies as well as in her own, small delicate collections.
Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.