Out Of Wonder
"A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to
reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in
ways you never imagined. There is a feeling of connection and
communion--with the author and the subject--when we read a poem that
articulates our deepest feelings. That connection can be a vehicle on
the road to creativity and imagination. Poems can inspire us--in our
classrooms and in our homes--to write our own journeys, to find our
Kwame Alexander (quoted above) discovered the magic of poetry
early in his school years. Later on in his education the kinds of
poems that made his heart sing vanished from the curriculum.
Fortunately for us, he rediscovered the enchantment in college. In
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, he, Chris Colderly, and
Marjory Wentworth teamed up to give today's young readers the same
mystical experience he had so enjoyed and been influenced by.
The trio chose twenty poets, ancient to modern. There were two
criteria: they had to be interesting people who wrote highly
inspiring poems. "...The poems in this book pay tribute to the poets
being celebrated by adopting their style, extending their ideas, and
offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration."
Langston Hughes was one of the Harlem Renaissance's most famous
writers. Much of his poetry was in a speech like cadance and bore the
influence of the jazz and blues that were popular. He dwelt a lot on
the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of everyday black people.
Alexander's Jazz Jive Jam celebrates an event Hughes would have
been very familiar with--the rent party. It starts out:
"On Saturday, my mama sang
a song that sounded blue.
Then Daddy made his trumpet cry--
I guess the rent is due.
'Round midnight came a band of neighbors
swinging soul to soul.
The landlord even cut a rug
and let the good times roll..."
Can't you just imagine the crowd dancing up a storm while
passing the hat to collect enough money to allow a family to keep a
roof over their head? This day and age we sure could use that kind of
Maya Angelou had to overcome a lot of adversity beginning
early. She was abused as a child in the segregated rural south. By
seventeen she had a child of her own. Having the strength to do a
whole lot of overcoming helped her to lead a truly extraordinary
life. Many of her poems included motivational and inspirational
The beginning and ending of Alexander's Majestic are as follows:
into the wonder
Be a rainbow in the cloud.
Be a free bird on the back of the night wind.
Shine on, Honey...
Shine on, honey!
I can't imagine a woman reading that without picking up at least
a little pride in her heart, a smile on her face, a spring in her step.
And those are only two of the twenty. Dig in and enjoy!
On a personal note, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my
life as a poet Saturday night. I was with the Young African Leaders.
They had made an incredible barbeque featuring African foods. They
and guests had spent hours feasting and talking. We were later going
to dance well into the night. Anyway I had written a poem to honor
their visit. When they learned that they turned off the music and
gathered to hear it, giving me their total attention. Twenty-five
leaders from 18 nations. I put my heart and soul into reading it.
After they all hugged me and said it had touched their hearts. I feel
like my feet aren't yet touching the ground.
When I got home my husband was sleeping. We celebrated our 28th
anniversary a day late Sunday by having supper at Ruby Tuesday and
shopping at Goodwill where I found--are you ready for this--a tee
shirt with Africa on it. At home I had a bottle of wine I had been
given by my new African friends.
Sunday I also learned that a proposed ugly woman contest (men
performing) had been cancelled. I had voiced serious objections. It
would be so wrong in a world where girls and women are pressured to
strive to meet impossible standards of "beauty." Others then also
urged cancelling. I was so pleased that we weren't ignored.
A great big shout out goes out to my new African friends who are
headed to Washington DC before going home and my husband who is cool
enough to understand the innocence of my late nights.
Sent from my iPod