Friday, March 16, 2007

Irish poetry for children

In honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day, I would like to showcase Irish poetry for young people. I learned about a wonderful collection of poems by Ireland’s most notable poets writing for children at last fall’s IBBY World Congress when the book was featured on their IBBY Honour List. The book is Something Beginning with P; New Poems From Irish Poets edited by Seamus Cashman and illustrated by Corrina Askin and Alan Clarke (O’Brien Press, 2004). I was so excited to discover a book of contemporary children’s poetry from another country that was written primarily in English (and wished I could read the other Honour Book poetry selections from Croatia, Greece, Malaysia, Portugal, and more. See my Sept. 22 posting.). Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to locate and purchase books of poetry for kids published outside the U.S. (This one costs $35, which seems like a lot, but only comes to about 25 cents per poem!) The anthology is also beautifully constructed, organized, and illustrated and includes:
*A helpful table of contents organized in general themes
*112 poems, most original for this anthology
*English translations provided for poems written in Irish
*Short biographical sketches provided for each poet and illustrator
*Indexes of first lines; poems; poets and illustrators

Seamus Cashman’s “Editor’s Introduction” tells us that “readers of this book will abandon good manners and muck in, slurp away noisily, happily, repeatedly, at what these poets have dished up.” He’s right! This “stream of dreams and schemes” has poems for all ages, from light and funny, to sad and serious, to tender or thoughtful, with titles such as “Dancing on the Table” and “Skinhead.” The final poem, “P is for Poetry” by Tony Curtis is worth the price of admission all by itself. Not only is this a rich collection of Irish poetry, it’s an amazing poetry anthology of ANY kind. And just to whet your appetite and give you a tiny glimpse of the startling variety of Irish poems available, here are 2 of the 112 gems in Something Beginning with P.

Txt U L8r
by Aislinn O’Loughlin

D gr8 ting bout txt msg cnvrs8ns
s dat u cn uz dese abrvi8ns.
U stp splln wrds d wy dat u auta
& drp sum vwls 2, f dat mks d wrd shrta.

Bt wot f ur so bz b/ng dat clvr
u 4gt hw 2 spll nrml wrds al2gdr?
Coz wit all d ltrs & stf dat wre luzn
dnt u tink rdng dis pom wz cnfuzn?

(p. 16)

Me in a Tree
by Julie O’Callaghan

Unfortunately, it wasn’t
a luxury tree house
with hot and cold running cocoa
or with a robin

bringing me breakfast in bed.
A squirrel didn’t toss acorns
at me when I needed to wake up.
No—that wasn’t how it was.

I hid high up in the leaves.
So many thoughts were floating,
I speared them on to twigs
to see them twinkle in the sun.

But now I realise
I named this poem the wrong thing.
It’s not me in a tree.
It’s the tree in me.

(p. 66)

Aren’t these fantastic? Contemporary Irish poetry is way more than shamrocks and leprechauns, of course. Kids in Ireland are lucky to have so many writers who value poetry and poetic expression for young people. Let’s expand the poetic options for our kids, too, by sharing these gems from across the ocean!


Andrea -- Just One More Book!! Podcast said...

OOohh! Thanks! This book looks like too much fun.

I'll have to get my hands on one...


Penny said...

I enjoyed reading your blog.