Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poetry Book Review: "Biographical Poetry"


Hemphill, Stephanie. 2007. Your own, Sylvia: a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN#: 9780375837999.


This poetry book details the events of Sylvia Plath's life in the viewpoint of those who knew her best. Stephanie Hemphill comprises these viewpoints and creates poems that illustrate Plath's life. The poems expressed in this book show the events that took place from Plath's birth to her death.

Hemphill uses the technique of viewpoints to illustrate how Plath was viewed. In Your Own, Sylvia the points of view are from Otto Plath (father), Aurelia Plath (mother), Warren Plath (brother), Ted Hughes (husband), and many neighbors, classmates, doctors, nurses, and acquaintances.

By using these different viewpoints, the reader gains a great understanding of how Plath was viewed in her lifetime. The author writes in the style of Plath to show an authenticity. Hemphill researchers thorugh letters, journals and biographies to do so. In addition, Hemphill uses historical information that she learned from those who knew Plath. She uses this information within the poetry to give it more truth.

Another benefit to Your Own, Sylvia are the added annecdotes and information below each poem. These paragraphs show historical information about the poems written. Having this added information helps the reader to understand more about Sylvia Plath's life.

Poem: "Winter's End"

Imagining Sylvia Plath
In the style of "Edge"
February 11, 1963

She is determined, ready as a knife,
Her letters sealed.

The hall light smiles, a halo calling her
To flame. She wings into the kitchen,

Spreads mustard on their crustless bread,
Pours two pure white glasses of milk.

She kisses the children's foreheads,
Folds over their sheets.

The streetlamp clicks off.
She opens the window to dawn,

Wedges a towel under the children's door.
Righteous, happy as a rose,

She knows her place in the garden.
Her black petals curl underground.

She tidies her desk, leaves her manuscript,
Ariel and Other Poems, to the moon,

To the world of bone. The sun breaks
Like yolk. It is time.

She unlatches the over door. The gas
Fills her nostrils, sweet as blood, pungent as a sword.

Introducing the Poem:

This poem is a rendition of Sylvia Plath's "Edge". "Winter's End" is very similar to the last (rumored) poem that Plath wrote before ending her own life. The above poem shows the motions that she took in the last hours of her life.

This book is more suitable for young adults. I would introduce this poem to the class after showing "Edge" by Sylvia Plath. Next, I would open the classroom up for discussion about the two poems to talk about similarities and differences.

I would follow up with the students picking a particular poet that they are interested in and pick a specific poem. Finally, the students would be assigned a task to produce their version of the poem in the way they would view the particular theme. This follows a similar path that Hemphill took.

By introducing the poem in this way, students will be able to see how the poem can change with a different perspective. They will also be able to relate to a particular poet. This biographical poetry book is beneficial for students to read because it opens them up to the life of poets.

Poetry Book Review: "Social Studies Poetry"


Volavková, Hana. 1993. I never saw another butterfly: children's drawings and poems from Terezín Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN#: 0805241159.


This poetry book examines the horrific past of the concentration camp of Terezin from 1942 - 1944. I Never Saw Another Butterfly is a true work of art because it preserves the history of children with the concentration camp with poetry and drawings.

Many of the poems are about the hopes and fears of the children there. They wonder when they will get to return to their homes. The pictures show the past as they remember it, as well as, what they see happening at the camps. Their poetry examines the deaths that they witness and the abuse upon them. I Never Saw Another Butterfly is an award winning book that many will be influenced by.

This social studies poetry book is a great historical tool to teach children about the past, in a perspective that they can understand. Before the poetry begins there is a brief historical sections describing the conditions of the children within the book. This poetry book is not suitable for all ages of children. I would only introduce this book to young adults.

Many of the poems are anonymous because the children never signed their names. The poetry in this book is of high quality, not for literary reasons, but for the experience of these children. There is a raw emotion that is apparent in the pictures and words.

Poem: "I Am a Jew" by Franta Bass

I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
never will I submit.
I will always fight for my people,
on my honor.
I will never be ashamed of them,
I give my word.

I am proud of my people,
how dignified they are.
Even though I am suppressed,
I will always come back to life.

Introducing the Poem:

This poem promotes so many topics with social studies and poetry. It shows history, experience, power through words, life lessons, culture, and poetic imagery.

I would introduce this poem with a pairing of books. In high school, most students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I would pair this poem before assigning the book reading. Another great book about this occurrence is Night by Elie Weasel. (This was assigned in my high school class.) I would assigned one of these great works and talk about the book as the students are progressing.

After the books are finished I would reintroduce the poem "I Am a Jew" to the class and open it up for discussion. Finally, I would read more examples from I Never Saw Another Butterfly to show the students more personal examples from this horrible historical occurrence.

By giving first hand examples from critically acclaimed works, nobel prize winning works, and young adult poetry, these young adults will have a great understanding to these historical times.

Poetry Book Review: "Science Poetry"


Hopkins, Lee Bennett, and Virginia Halstead. 1999. Spectacular science: a book of poems. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN# 0689812833


This book of poems shows science wonders that children learn in the classroom. Most of these lessons and topics are not fully understood by children and are illuminated through the poetry. Children will benefit from the fun and involving poetry about various science related topics.

Spectacular Science explains complicated science topics such as seeds, microscopes, light, magnetism, dinosaur bones, rocks, metamorphosis, snowflakes, wind, stars and skies. These areas of science are being taught through poetry in this book. The reader will not realize that these lessons are within each line. This will entice children with learning science through poetry in a fun way.

This science poetry books also shows works from a variety of great poets like Lilian Moore, Aileen Fisher, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carl Sandburg, David McCord, Valerie Worth and more. These different poet bring different poetry styles for different science subjects. This diverse creativity enhances the book and keeps you excited for the next poem.

The visual imagery in Spectacular Science is great for children. Poets use different rhyming techniques and stanza lengths. However, all poets show science in a fun, information way. Each page has vivid illustrations that enhance the science poetry.

Some of the topics in this book are really relatable. I personally found some of the poems to discuss science topics that even I wonder about! These topics are lifelong science wonders that children and adults will be curious about.

Poem: "The Seed" by Aileen Fisher

How does it know,
this little seed,
if it is to grow
to a flower or weed,
if it is to be a vine or shoot,
or grow to a tree
with a long deep root?
A seed is so small,
it stores up all
of the things it knows?

Introducing the Poem:

This example demonstrates some thing simple and complex, such as seeds. Growing plants is an everyday occurrence with nature and something that could also qualify as a phenomenon. (Especially for children.)

I would introduce this poem near springtime when plants, flower, etc are starting to grow. I might even demonstrate planting seeds and watching them grow. This usually takes place in science classes for children.

First, I would let the children learn about planting seeds and nurturing them to grow. Next, I would introduce the poem and ask the children how they think that the seed grows. Once the seeds grow into plants and flowers the children well have an example to pair the poetry with.

By introducing the poem with an actual science lesson children will have a paired understanding of both poetry and science. This is a great way for them to learn because it illustrates imagination, curiosity, poetry, science, and demonstration.

"The Seed" expresses questions that are similar to the wonders of a child. Introducing this poem will create imagination for children.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Poetry Book Review: "2011 Poetry Book"


Golio, Gary, and Marc Burckhardt. 2011. When Bob met Woody: the story of the young Bob Dylan. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN#: 9780316112994.


In this new 2011 release, When Bob Met Woody, poetry is changed in the form of lyrical words. While there not be much recognizable poetry, this book illustrates how to create poetry in the form of music. With its beautiful illustrations it will captivate students into following their dreams.

This book shows the story of young Bob Dylan (Bob Zimmerman) as a small kid growing up in Minnesota. He eventually goes to the New York City where he follows Woody Guthrie as his mentor.

When Bob Met Woody shows the hardships involved with being a kid, being Jewish, wanting to be a musician and following your dreams. This is a great story to share with kids because these messages are what they can relate to. It is also a beneficial story to read because it is based off true life and children can relate to it.

There isn't much poetry that is obvious, but there is some within the story. Several lines of lyrics and quotes are within the story. In addition, the character Bob is inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas. Because of this, he changes his name to Bob Dylan.

With all the influences in his life (Elvis Presley, Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, Dylan Thomas) he was able to shape his.


Songs about real life,
Hard times, and hope.

Songs that moved people to
Speak out and stand up.

Songs abotut he struggle
For peace and justice.

Songs in a new voice,
For a new time.

Introducing the Poem:

Even the poetry brings messages about change that Bob Dylan experienced. This book as a whole shows struggles that appear in Bob Dylan music.

I would introduce this book before showing music from Bob Dylan. This would show the children background of the musicians. Once they hear the lyrics they will be able to relate. This will teach them how to learn the lyrical meaning of songs. In doing so, they will be learning poetry.

Another way to introduce this poem is to show the difficulties that Bob Dylan experienced. Then, try to involve the students in figuring out their mentors and who inspires them. From that, they have creative influences that can help them with writing poetry, music, art, etc.

Poetry Book Review: "Verse Novel"


Holt, K. A., and Gahan Wilson. 2010. Brains for lunch: a zombie novel in haiku?! New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN#: 9781596436299.


This poetry books is very different from others. It uses poetic form of haiku with verse novel. The viewpoint is that of a middle school student who is a zombie or "z" names Loeb. In this book Loeb experiences interest in his librarian and a "lifer" (human). This book illustrates difficulties that a middle school student may experience.

Since the theme is of zombies, the reader will instantly be drawn to it. By having these zombie nature, readers will enjoy the jokes and cleverness before understanding its lessons. This also helps to draw the reader into poetry.

Brains for Lunch also draws kids into reading about common problems within that middle school age group. The "lifers" and zombies illustrate different groups within the school. Loeb also shows crushes on a Librarian and a "lifer", who he is not supposed to like. This book, while comical, shows situations that male students may face in school.

It also draws to male students with its gross nature. This verse novel brains, guts, maggots, death and other elements that boys would more than likely by drawn to.

Brains for Lunch touches different areas of school such as lunch, library, hallway, detention, girl's lav, and the final contest location. Loeb is encouraged to participate in a poetry competition. While he doesn't think that he can accomplish this, he gains support in doing so. This is great for kids this age because it shows the hardships that they go through with a comical aspect that they can laugh about.

Poem: Hallway

Eye poked out again
Bottom lockers really suck
"Hey Mags! Wait for me!"

"This Zs gotta pee."
"So you ARE talking to me?
Another Eye roll''

Catch it, hand it back
"What did I do this time, Mags?"
A withering look

She doesn't scare me
Her wither's worse that her roll
"She's married, you know."

Mags cuts to the chase
It sure took her long enough
"Who? Mrs. Fincher?"

"Who else, you moron?"
I'm putrefying again
"The way you flirt, Barf."

Introducing the Poem:

This portion of "hallway" shows Loeb and Mags talking about Loeb's crush on the librarian. It shows that he is embarrassed by it and the girl makes fun of him. This shows a common theme among that age group- embarrassment.

Introducing this poetry book could be more difficult than others because of its strange nature. It shows haiku in book form. I would introduce this book in sections. One day I would read a few lines to get them interested and then read the rest on other days. Since the book has several sections this would keep their interest heightened.

This book also shows Loeb trying to get involved with school activities. I think introducing this character and his struggles would help other students accomplishing a specific activity as well. This book could be read to the class over a period of time and with the last section the class could practice haiku or try to involve themselves in a specific activity.

Poetry Book Review: "Poetic Form"


Janeczko, Paul B., and Henri Silberman. 2000. Stone bench in an empty park. New York: Orchard Books. ISBN# 0531332594.


An introduction to this book describes a brief history and guidelines for writing haiku written by Paul Janeczko. I particularly find this helpful because it shows the reader exactly what the poetic form of the book is. Haiku qualities are outlined for the reader to understand in the introduction.

The themes of Stone Bench in an Empty Park take place in major cities and show certain aspects from various writers. These aspects include, tollbooths, newspaper stands, rain, parks, buses, trees, carnivals, baseball, jumping rope, music, pigeons, sidewalks, construction, skyscrapers, and many seasonal themes (summer, spring, snow, rain, icicles, etc).

Different writers have come together to publish this book; each poem illustrates a theme from a particular writer. Many well known poets include Myra Cohn Livingston, Nikki Grimes, Paul Janeczko and Alan Pizzarelli.

The audience for this book is slightly higher being ages 10+. The themes are more mature and the individual poems do not have titles.

This poetry book collects the guidelines for haiku (syllable count, nature themes, etc) and channels it into the the surroundings of a city atmosphere. Each poet write about nature as it applies to the city. While haiku have strict guidelines, some of the poets go outside the standards so that their message can be heard.

By showing themes of the city with haiku the poets are trying to reach out to the reader in noticing that your surroundings can be part of nature. Instead of traditional themes such as hills, trees, and mountains, the poets use themes that the reader can relate to. In doing so, their haiku standards are slightly altered.

Poem: by Anita Wintz

full moon shining
squeezes between skyscrapers


Introducing the Poem:

You can see by this haiku that the writer chose to go outside the guidelines for haiku. She did this because she wanted to illustrate a quality of skyscrapers to the reader through "fluorescent". She also wanted to add something extra to the poem.

I would introduce this poem before a field trip somewhere. Many children are drawn to the themes of the city and any poem from this book would be great.

Particularly, this poem shows the poet breaking away from the standards of haiku. I think another way of introducing this poem would be before poetry studies. You could teach the students about haiku, and they could learn the guidelines. Since most children don't get excited about haiku, you could show examples from this book to inspire them. They would enjoy "breaking the rules" like the other poets have.

Many poems in this book could be illustrated through out the school year because they mention spring, summer, and winter. This would be a great poetry book to have because it mixes the seasons with aspects of the community.