Coffeechug Reads: How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

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Book Description From Booklist

In this fictionalized memoir in verse, renowned poet Nelson lyrically recounts her passage from ages 4 to 14, from numerous military base homes; through friends, schools, and dogs; and from developmental stages of initiative through industry to identity. Chronicling the decade of 1950s America, a young self-aware speaker connects national events to daily life experiences. In the author’s note of her self-ascribed “portrait of an artist as a young American Negro girl,” Nelson disclaims that the “I” in the title is she. Rather, her autobiographically inspired collection of 50 nonrhyming sonnets is enhanced by research and imagination. The title poem comes near the end and is breathtaking in the perverse cruelty the young speaker experiences from an educator. Hooper’s line-and-shade illustrations, along with Nelson’s family photos, set a quiet and respectful tone and offer readers the feeling of taking an unsolicited peek behind a heavy curtain. For fans of Nelson’s impressive body of children’s and adult poetry, including the brilliant A Wreath for Emmett Till (2005), this insight into her modulated memories gratifies that heartfelt belief that here writes a woman of great substance. Grades 7-12. –Gail Bush


Coffeechug Thoughts

I have not read YA in a long time. I have been nominated to be a Cybils judge for the YA Non-Fiction category this year. I will be posting many book reviews in this category and I work though what books I think are the best in this category. I will not share which ones I think are best, but will be offering honest reviews of what I am reading.

This is a short book of poetry, however loaded with so many powerful verses. What I value in quality poetry is that it is not the words that are written but the empty spaces that fill your brain with thought, ideas, and questions. Marilyn Nelson writes through the voice of a kid growing up during Civil Rights. I am amazed by how adults can speak a genuine voice of adolescence.

These are poems that need to be read slowly so that the reader can process the time period, the emotions, and how kids see the world. Through their eyes that are naive the world of serious conflict does not seem so massive, but still influential.

Reading this book has reignited by passion for reading other poetry. This would also be a great addition to a classroom that studies this time period.

You can read more and purchase the book here. If you do buy the book and use my Amazon Affiliate link the money will go towards building a school in Africa.

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