I love book sales, particularly library book sales, and last week I hit a gold mine at the annual Plano (TX) Public Library used book sale. Of course, I’m always digging for poetry, but I rarely run across any volumes that I do not already have. But this time… bingo!... I found nearly 30 fabulous out-of-print titles. This is a bittersweet moment, because I’m sad that they’re no longer on the library shelves and I wonder how often (or whether they’ve been) checked out and shared. But I’m tickled to give these orphans a home and will pore over them to enjoy poems that are new to me, even if the books are old.
In particular, I bought several collections written and/or edited by the Grande Dame of poetry for children, Myra Cohn Livingston, including:
No Way of Knowing; Dallas Poems (1980)
--can you guess why I love this collection and was so excited to get my own copy? Myra lived in my city for 12 years (1952-1964), and the poetry here is a tribute to a local woman and the African American community here
Poems of Christmas (1984)
I Like You, If You Like Me; Poems of Friendship (1987)
--although Myra published plenty of her own poetry, she was also a gifted anthologist who assembled beautiful collections with amazing range, like these two
Worlds I Know (1985)
--a child’s point of view on spending time with family, especially grandparents
--Peter Sis illustrates every page with tiny sketches of the perfect boy, Higgledy-Piggledy, lampooned by a contemptuous peer
Sea Songs (1986)
--if I remember correctly, these “song” collections (also Earth Songs, Sky Songs, Space Songs) were some of the first anthologies to appear in picture book form with double-page spread art (expressive paintings by Leonard Everett Fisher). Very visual, with only one poem on each double-page. [UPDATE: I am wrong about that. I have since learned that there were indeed illustrated picture book poem collections in the 1970's-- such as Do Bears Have Mothers, Too? by Aileen Fisher and illustrated by none other than Eric Carle (1973).
There Was a Place (1988)
--such poignant poems from the child’s point of view about living with divorced parents or in “broken homes” and coping with separation
If I had to pick only ONE of these to reissue, I think I’d go with this one. The short, rhyming poems are so true, so direct, and sadly timeless. Kids worry so much when their families hit a rough spot—sometimes we forget how much they observe and feel. Here’s the first poem from the book, just as a sample:
by Myra Cohn Livingston
When I came home
and you weren’t there
worried—tell me where
and why you
I’ve called and called.
Why are you gone?
Why did you leave?
Where did you roam?
When will you sniff your long way home?
from: Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1988. There Was a Place and Other Poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, p.1
Why are these wonderful books all out of print? Why is nearly impossible to find nearly any of Myra’s books in print? It’s just crazy! So many of today’s poets learned at her feet. And so much of her poetry (and her collections) feels so timeless.
Her birthday is coming up soon (August 17), and although she is no longer with us, please dig around for her work on the library shelves and in anthologies. (Check out my Aug. 17 posting in 2007 for a more thorough tribute to Myra.) By the way, the Children's Literature Council of Southern California presents a Myra Cohn Livingston award for outstanding poetry each year. Lovely legacy!
It's not too late to check out the Poetry Friday gathering at The Miss Rumphius Effect.
Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.
Image credit: tularepubliclibrary.wordpress.com