These are not your grandmother's poems

April 17, 2009|By CATHERINE HALL

April is National Poetry Month. If that made you cringe, then you need to keep reading.

Poetry does not have to be dull, dense or dreadful. It can be funny, easy to read and wholly entertaining.

The fun of poetry is in the sound of the words, because it is typically meant to be heard out loud. Try reading children's poetry out loud to children, to adults or to yourself. You might find you never gave poetry the chance it deserves. Now is the time to make amends.

Come by the Washington County Free Library Children's Department and browse the 811s, or ask a librarian to help you find one of these sure-bet books of poetry:

Children's poetry books with CDs:

"Poetry Speaks to Children," compiled by Elise Paschen

The volume features 95 poems by 73 poets including W.B. Yeats, Richard Wilbur, Ogden Nash and Nikki Giovanni. The works of 52 of these poets are read on the accompanying CD.


"Hip Hop Speaks to Children: a Celebration of Poetry with a Beat," compiled by Nikki Giovanni

Hear a musical interpretation of Sterling Brown's poem "Long Track Blues" and a youth performance of Elizabeth Swados's poem "Me" plus much more.

"A Child's Introduction to Poetry," compiled by Michael Driscoll

This wide-ranging journey through the history and highlights of the world's poetry covers everything from epics and odes to nonsense verse and haikus, and is filled with examples of every style.

Children's poetry books for learning to love poetry:

"Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue" by Jon Agee

Thirty-four different poems are included, many of them inspired by classic, English-language tongue twisters.

"For Laughing Out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone," compiled by Jack Prelutsky

These nonsense verses combine the domestic and the gross, deadpan and slapstick, with a lilting rhythm and satisfying rhyme.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein

Irreverent, hilarious and wildly popular, Silverstein's collection of verse is hard to put down. His black ink drawings are an integral part of the poems, which range from funny to gross to introspective or tender.

"Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets," compiled by Naomi Shihab Nye

There are 100 poems in this book by 100 poets who wrote their poems when they were in grades one through twelve. These poets are not famous. They are now dentists and dancers and teachers and students and construction workers. They could be you.

Children's poetry books for the family to read aloud together:

"Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices" by Paul Fleischman

Written to be read aloud by two voices - sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneous - here is a collection of irresistible poems that celebrate the insect world, from the short life of the mayfly to the love song of the book louse.

"Knock at a Star: a Child's Introduction to Poetry," compiled by XJ Kennedy

A treat for the eyes as well as the ears, this diverse selection of poetry is matched with works of art culled from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort," compiled by Georgia Heard

In September 2001, New York poetry anthologist Georgia Heard was asked to compile a collection of "poems of comfort" for schoolchildren in lower Manhattan. They are paired here with original art by children's illustrators.

"The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury," compiled by Jack Prelutsky

There is a lot to like in this collection. Jack Prelutsky knows poetry for children, and it's fun to take a tour with him as guide.

Catherine Hall is children's librarian with the Washington County Free Library.

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