Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Be the Change You Wish to See

edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate
National Geographic, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Today begins the three-day 100 Thousand Poets for Change event: "...a demonstration & celebration of poetry, music & art to promote social, environmental & political change...a global celebration of solidarity for peace & sustainability."

I'm aiming a little lower than the grand goal of 100 TPC, under the assumption that every little bit counts.

The change I want is for poetry to be a natural part of every child's life. My corollary wish, the one that's necessary for the first to happen, is that poetry is a natural part of every parent's and teacher's life as well.

How best to make that happen?

Give J. Patrick Lewis' newest book, the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry to every new parent, and put a copy in every classroom!

This book is a treasure of poetry (and some pretty spectacular photography). It's as if Pat went through my classroom collection of poetry and plucked a favorite from each book -- Kristine O'Connell George is there with her polliwog commas, and there's Douglas Florian, David Elliott, Julie Larios, Jane Yolen, Arnold Adoff, Janet Wong, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Mary Ann Hoberman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marilyn Singer, Jack Prelutsky, and Joyce Sidman. PLUS some of my favorite poets who are usually for adults have poems here -- Kay Ryan, Ogden Nash, and Hilaire Belloc. AND there are "classic" poets -- Walter De la Mare, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson.

In his introduction, Pat writes about the possibility that animals "appreciate most of all the simple joys of exploring their worlds." This book is a poetic exploration of the natural world.

He invites us to wander through the pages: "This book is not for reading straight through. Pick it up anytime. Choose a poem and then read it out loud: You want your ears to have as much fun as your mouth is having...Once you have opened it, you are likely to find words that are not so much a description as a revelation."

If you  haven't gotten your hands on a copy of this book, CHANGE that! If you want a few more peeks and reviews, check these out:

Julie Danielson at Kirkus Reviews and Seven Imp

Marjorie has today's Poetry Friday roundup of posts at Paper Tigers.

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Addendum -- What I Learned About the Quote in the Title of This Post

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Ghandi

"Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like ... a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.

Sure enough, it turns out there is no reliable documentary evidence for the quotation. The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Here, Gandhi is telling us that personal and social transformation go hand in hand, but there is no suggestion in his words that personal transformation is enough. In fact, for Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence." from Falser Words Were Never Spoken by Brian Morton in the New York Times, August 29, 2011.


  1. That sounds a wonderful idea and I will look out for the anthology. And also interesting to read about what Ghandi did and didn't say...

  2. I need to get this book for sure! Thanks for highlighting it. And I have always heard that as a quote from Gandhi- it was painted on the wall at the last school I worked at. I'm surprised to learn it's been so edited and rearranged. Good to get it straight!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful addition to or classroom library, Mary Lee. Also, thanks for the clarification of the Gandhi quote - interesting that the real deal is so much more subtle and meaningful than the bumper sticker.

  4. I will be putting the book in my virtual cart as soon as possible! I too believe every child needs poetry, it is in all of us and it is everywhere if you look.

  5. Have heard such great things about this anthology. Can't wait to see it!

  6. The book does sound wonderful, Mary Lee, & thank you for illuminating "the" quote. Mostly people make of words what they will, don't they, no matter what is the truth? I did some searching, & some of the quote sites have it right there, for all to believe.

  7. The book sounds wonderful, and the other book, Falser Words Were Never Spoken, is going on my wish list too!

  8. This is definitely going to be very useful and enjoyed in our school. The Carl Sandburg poem was particularly memorable. My wife and I love history and Falser Words looks like a great find.
    Thanks, Mary Lee!

  9. Hi, Mary Lee. This book looks great. Thanks for posting the information about that Gandhi quote. I loved the recent book "Inspiration" about the nature of creativity. But it turned out the author tweaked and even made up some quotes "from" Bob Dylan. Ugh.

  10. Another book I must check out. Thanks for keeping me up-to-date.

  11. Wow, the poetry book is already on my list, so what gets me here today is your info about the not-quite-Gandhi quote. Any time a quote turns trendy, we should be skeptical... thank you.

  12. This book is being sent out to me TODAY! I really can't wait to get my paws on it. :)

    Interesting about the non-Ghandi non-quote. There was one quote in my Yeats post that I wasn't sure about, so I took it out. You just can't trust bumper stickers any more!

  13. Mary Lee - As always, I am grateful for your sharing, your teaching, and your honesty. Thank you for all three! Happy week ahead...Poetry Monday it is today!


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