Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Biography in Poetry



Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
by G. Neri
illustrated by A.G. Ford
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Last Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, Monday we looked at nature in poetry. Yesterday, the focus was on history in poetry, and today we'll take a look at biography in poetry. In one final post in this series, we'll have fun with imagination in poetry.

I grew up listening to my parents' Johnny Cash albums, and his Greatest Hits CD (The Essential Johnny Cash) is one of my go-to "setting up/cleaning up/putting to bed the classroom" sound tracks. I didn't know that much about his early life until I read this collection of poems.

Here is an excerpt from the final poem, "The Man in Black:"

"Hello,
I'm
Johnny
Cash"
is how he started
every concert from then on.
that simple statement
said it all.

Johnny Cash,
the poor country boy
from the cotton fields,
traveled the world
many times over,
where he sang
for presidents
and the homeless,
businessmen and farmers,
soldiers and prisoners alike.
It didn't matter how famous he got,
he never forgot
what it felt like to be cold,
miserable, and hungry.
Momma didn't have to
remind Johnny
that his gift was special.
He knew he was not its owner
but its caretaker.

Here's Johnny Cash in 1958, singing "I Walk the Line." Check out that wink at about the 50 second mark! **swoon**

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