How I Discovered Poetry
There are some books I can't put down even if I start them very
late at night. Marilyn Nelson's How I Discovered Poetry is surely one
of them. Each piece was so evocative, I simply had to read the next.
Nelson is an English professor emeritus and the winner of
seriously impressive poetry prizes. But back in the 1950's she was
the child of a military dad and a teacher mom. This meant she moved
around a lot. She was also black in a time when proponants of
segregation and Jim Crow were fighting to hold onto their way of life.
How I Discovered Poetry is a set of fifty poems--vignettes--of
Nelson's life during that decade. They evolve from hazy and family
centered to introspective and world aware. When we meet the narrator
she is a sleepy four-year-old, aware of her little sister's sleep
breathing and the murmurs of their parents in the next room. In the
final poem she's wondering what her true identity is and searching for
a message she can give the world.
One of the overarching themes in the book is constantly having
to move due to Nelson's father's different assignments.
"Tonight might be the last slumber party
I'll giggle through with my best friend,
Tomorrow I'll feel lonely as Sputnik.
She is eleven then. The image of a last slumber party is a poignant
allusion to a lifestyle of always leaving chums.
Another theme is changing awareness of larger world events. In
1952 Nelson and her classmates duck under desks to hide from "drajen"
"Everybody's motto is Be Prepared,
so we practice Tragic Consequences,
hoping they won't come..."
Of course there are allusions to racial issues like school
This book would be perfect for intergenerational reading. A
parent or grandparent of a youngster in the target demographic could
greatly expand on some of the events alluded to and bring them even
more to life.
On a personal note, I've decided not to go to the state Democrat
convention. I actually looked at the schedule. Most of it's
committee reports and strategy briefings and speeches I wouldn't get
on the bus to Bangor for, never mind paying $60 plus fancy restaurant
prices for every meal. I can take the money I would have spent and go
A great big shout out goes out to the people who are going. Have fun.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod