Friday, July 11, 2014

Walter Dean Myers, Poet

Poetry by Walter Dean Myers
"Summer" from Brown Angels
As you've probably heard, the great Walter Dean Myers passed away recently and his impressive and significant body of work has been recognized far and wide-- as it should be. His mastery of every genre was amazing and I would like to take a moment to highlight his POETRY for young people, in particular. I was fortunate enough to feature him in my "Poetry Round Up" at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association in 2005. Hearing a poet read his/her own work aloud is the ultimate treat and Walter's reading was such a perfect example. His deep, resonant voice sticks with you. Perhaps because of his own struggle with spoken speech, his pacing in his poetry is so thoughtful and meaningful. Just look at these many, wonderful examples. 

Although much of Walter's work is poetic and rhythmic, I believe his poetry first emerged in Brown Angels which paired his words with his collection of antique photographs of children. More followed with Glorious Angels and Angel to Angel, a beautiful trilogy.

Then, Here in Harlem built on this photo-poem format to create a multi-voice poetry collection-- perfect for YA. (Do NOT miss the audiobook adaptation of this book, but more on that later!)
Glorious Angels

Then came the stunning picture poetry books that showcase Walter's poetry alongside the powerful art created by his son, Christopher Myers, especially Harlem, Jazz, and We Are America.

Myers, Walter Dean. 1993. Brown Angels:  An Album of Pictures and Verse. New York: HarperCollins.  
Myers, Walter Dean. 1995. Glorious Angels:  A Celebration of Children. New York: HarperCollins.  
Here in Harlem
Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem: A Poem. New York: Scholastic.
Myers, Walter Dean. 1998. Angel to Angel. New York: HarperCollins.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2003. Blues Journey. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2004. Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2006. Jazz. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: Holiday House.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2009. Amiri and Odette: A Love Story. Ill. by Javaka Steptoe. New York: Scholastic.
We Are America
Myers, Walter Dean. 2009. Looking Like Me. Ill. by Chrisopher Myers. New York: Egmont.
Myers, Walter Dean. 2011. We are America: A Tribute from the Heart. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York: HarperCollins.

Here, Walter and his son, Christopher, talk about the creation of his last work of poetry, We are America.

And I absolutely must mention the audiobook adaptations of several of these books, all brilliantly produced by Live Oak Media (often with multiple narrators and original music):
Blues Journey
Here in Harlem
Looking Like Me
We Are America

I was honored to serve on the very first committee to select the Odyssey Award for excellence in audiobook production and the first winner was… Jazz by Walter Dean Myers. Here's just a clip:

I think a fitting tribute to the wonderful Walter Dean Myers can be found in his own work. Here's "Good-bye to Old Bob Johnson" from Jazz, based on the traditional New Orleans funeral parade. Find the Odyssey winning audiobook adaptation of this book and listen to this heartbreakingly beautiful version of this poem, complete with musical soundtrack.
RIP, Walter Dean Myers. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. 

from Jazz by Walter Dean Myers
For more poetry moments this Poetry Friday, head over to Linda's place at WriteTime.


jama said...

Thanks so much for this, Sylvia. Appreciate the list of his poetry books and all the great links!

LInda Baie said...

I've ordered Brown Angels from my library, but there's a wait-a great sign I think. Others are reading his work too. Thank you for every title, Sylvia. We have many at school, but not all.

Linda said...

Sylvia- thank you for this heartfelt tribute. I own many of his books, my favorites are Brown Angels and Glorious Angels. His words made a difference.

BJ Lee said...

thank you, Sylvia, for this great tribute for a great poet. I'm grateful for the comprehensive list as I don't own all of his books.

Tara Smith said...

This is a wonderful resource, Sylvia - thanks so much! He will be missed.

Mary Lee said...

A beautiful tribute. Thanks.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Lovely tribute, Sylvia - thank you. I heard him speak once (and even got to share an elevator ride!) and will never forget that deep, rich voice. Many thanks for sharing this list of titles.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you all for stopping by and for your lovely comments. It's so sad to lose Walter, but what a treasury of wisdom and love he has left us!