illustrated by Barbara Fortin
audio CD included with "39 minutes of poetry on 55 tracks"
review copy provided by the publisher
This is probably my favorite poetry book of 2009.
In ways that are elegantly woven, Hoberman and Winston have given us a poetry book that is a science book, a science book written in poetry, and a collection of poems that can serve to teach us the arts of reading and writing poetry. All this in one volume.
As anthologists, they are collectors of poetry about the living world in the same way that naturalists are collectors of facts and artifacts about and from the living world.
This is a poetry book with a glossary in which scientific terms stand next to poetic terms: Adaptation, Alliteration, Altruism, Assonance, Cell...
Every section of the book has an introductory essay (a kind of Literary Essay for those of us who need mentor texts for students who are expected to tackle this genre of writing).
Oh, Fields of Wonder: "Both poets and scientists wonder at and about the world. Out of that wonder, scientists devise experiments to see whether they can verify what they think may be true, while poets craft language to examine and communicate their insights."The Sea is Our Mother: "The poems in this section recall life's watery origins as well as the Earth's own geological beginnings. They speak about the planet's ongoing transformations, the diverse creatures engendered in the sea, and about our own human connection to them both."Prehistoric Praise: poems about fossilsThink Like a Tree: "We wouldn't be here without plants."Meditations of a Tortoise: "In both Iroquois and Hindu legends, the earth is supported on the back of a giant turtle."Some Primal Termite: "Naturalists define fitness as the ability of a species to reproduce itself in the greatest numbers and to adapt to the widest range of environments. According to this definition, insects are the fittest of all living creatures."Everything That Lives Wants to Fly: "Along with Archaeopteryx (the earliest known bird), Darwin's finches play a key role in evolutionary theory."I Am the Family Face: poems that explore all the meanings of familyHurt No Living Thing: "It is natural for species to go extinct, but the rate at which this is happening today is unprecedented."
And every poem in this book is accessible to and readable by children. They never preach. They show, rather than tell. They introduce children to poems by children's poets as well as some of my favorite adult poets: Wendell Berry, Maxine Kumin, Ogden Nash, Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Rumi, and May Swenson. The scientific and/or poetic notes at the bottom of some of the pages are unobtrusive but informative.
The book comes with a cd that has 44 of the poems read by 20 artists. Alan Cheuse, a voice familiar to NPR listeners, reads from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
•Extensive review with lots of links at Wild Rose Reader
•Mary Ann Hoberman's guest blogger post about memorizing poetry at the TeachingBooks.net blog
•Recommended on NPR's list of Seasons Readings: Top Picks from Indie Booksellers
•Also a "Best Poetry of the Year" pick on Harriet the Blog: The Poetry Foundation
Tricia has the Poetry Friday round up today at The Miss Rumphius Effect.