April 20, 2018

“Poetry reflects on the quality of life, on us as we are in process on this earth, in our lives, in our relationships, in our communities.” — Poet Adrienne Rich

April is, among many other celebrations, National Poetry Month.

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Pablo Neruda, the late Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, said: “Poetry is an act of peace.” It is in this spirit that I want to share poetry for our youth that comes from across the globe and speaks to the differences and commonalities of our human condition. 

If you ask a student to name a poet, they may well tell you Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky. The copies of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” on most library and classroom shelves are worn and bedraggled, loved nearly to pieces by generations of students. And loved they should be. However, poetry takes so many different forms and can be a gateway to culture and community, history and more. 

In this month’s Teacher of the Year column, I would like to share titles and authors that will excite young readers and expand their understanding and appreciation of the many forms of poetry. Many of the authors listed have more than one title, so I hope you will explore their other collections of poems and novels.

Multicultural Poetry

  • “Around the Word in Eighty Poems,” selected by James Berry
  • “Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship,” by Irene Latham and Charles Waters
  • “Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing,” by Marilyn Singer
  • “A Full Moon is Rising,” by Marilyn Singer
  • “My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads,” by Hope Anita Smith
  • “My Village: Rhymes from Around the World,” by Danielle Wright
  • “A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices,” by Sally Derby
  • “Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown,” by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
  • “This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World,” selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “Under the Spell of the Moon,” edited by Patricia Aldana

African/African-American Poetry

  • “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life,” by Ashley Bryant
  • “Haiti My Country,” by Roge
  • “Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat,” edited by Nikki Giovanni
  • “In the Land of Milk and Honey,” by Joyce Carol Thomas
  • “Jazz,” by Walter Dean Myers
  • “Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph,” by Roxane Orgill
  • “Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout, Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!: Games, Songs and Stories from an African American Childhood,” by Patricia McKissack
  • “One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance,” by Nikki Grimes
  • “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets,” by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth

Latinx Poetry 

  • “¡Bravo! Poemas Sobre Hispanos Extraordinarios,” by Margarita Engle
  • “Confetti: Poems for Children,” by Pat Mora
  • “Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/ Poeme Familiares para cada día de la semana,” by Francisco X. Alarcon
  • “Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/Salsa: A Cooking Poem,” by Jorge Argueta
  • “This Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings,” by Artistsselected by Naomi Shihab Nye

Asian Poetry

  • “One Leaf Rides the Wind,” by Celeste Mannis
  • “My Chinatown: One Year in Poems,” by Kam Mak
  • “Beyond the Great Mountains:A Visual Poem About China,” by Ed Young

Native American Poetry

  • “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons,” by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London
  • “Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming: Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults,”edited by Annette Piña Ochoa, Betsy Franco and Traci Gourdine
  • “When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans,” editor National Museum of the American Indian

Middle Eastern Poetry

  • “19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East,” selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East,” selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

In addition to more traditional forms of poetry, there has been a surge of titles that can be described as verse novels. These books are written using the form of poetry, but in a way that the poems all together tell a complete story. This format can be a very powerful way for reluctant readers to engage in sophisticated content, but with a lighter word count. 

Author Jason Reynolds speaks to the importance of poetry and verse novels to engage reluctant readers in short video titled “How Poetry Can Help Turn a Fear of Literature into Love. You can access the video here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/video/145225/how-poetry-can-help-kids-turn-a-fear-of-literature-into-love

Middle Grade Narrative Poetry Novels

  • “Borrowed names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madame C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters,” by Jeannine Atkins
  • “Home of the Brave,” by Katherine Applegate
  • “Inside Out & Back Again,” by Thanhha Lai
  • “Looking for Me … in This Great Big Family,” by Betsy R. Rosenthal
  • “Red Butterfly,” by A.L Sonnichsen
  • “The Red Pencil,” by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • “Serafina’s Promise,” by Ann E. Burg

YA Narrative Poetry Novels

  • “All the Broken Pieces,” by Ann E. Burg
  • “Blue Birds,” by Caroline Starr Rose
  • “The Braid,” by Helen Frost
  • “Brown Girl Dreaming,” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “Caminar,” by Skila Brown
  • “The Crossover,” by Kwame Alexander
  • “Full Cicada Moon,” by Marilyn Hilton
  • “How I Discovered Poetry,” by Marilyn Nelson
  • “Libertad,” by Alma Fullerton
  • “Long Way Down,” by Jason Reynolds
  • “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard,” by Leslea Newman
  • “The Poet X,” by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • “Shanghai Messenger,” by Andrea Cheng
  • “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick
  • “Sweetgrass Basket,” by Marlene Carvell
  • “A Time to Dance,” by Padma Venkatraman
  • “Up From the Sea,” by Leza Lowitz
  • “Words with Wings,” by Nikki Grimes

Biographies of Poets

  • “Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko,” by Misuzu Kaneko and David Jacobson (translator)
  • “Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” by Laban Carrick Hill
  • “Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings,” by Matthew Burgess
  • “Langston Hughes: American Poet,” by Alice Walker
  • “Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People,” by Monica Brown
  • “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” by Don Tate
  • “A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams,” by Jen Bryant
  • “A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet,” by Kathryn Lasky

Do you want to become part of the spoken word community in Indianapolis? Here are some organizations to contact to find out more!