One of the things most precious to a poet is what is called his or her "voice" -- that particular, unique quality that distinguishes the language and tones of her poems from everyone else's. Voices is the title and the central theme of Barbara Brenner's collection of Poetry and Art from Around the World from the National Geographic Society. It's a generous-sized and generous-hearted selection of distinctive poems, that begin with Uvavnuk's, an Inuit woman's, description of how she is so stirred by the forces of nature -- the sea, the sky, and especially the wind that "it carries me with it / so I shake with joy." Illustrated with brilliant works of folk art and fine art, we have poems about work and play, about life's quiet discoveries and large mythical subjects, like "The Song of the Loom" from Ghana. There are poems from Ireland and India, Mali and Machu Pichu, poems about tigers and the smell of tortillas, violet mist and a child's vision of herself in the mirror -- told to us in voices from far away and long ago, and in today's voices from the next valley over, voices that stir us with their amazing music.
Betsy Franco introduces us to some voices that we normally don't listen to in You Hear Me? Poems and Writings by Teenage Boys, from Candlewick Press. Ms. Franco has collected these remarkable poems from inner-city classrooms and through web-site postings, through ads in creative writing journals, and through word of mouth. That's how these poems travel best, aloud, chanted, rapped, sung, like Ronnie Ross's lines about the girl he likes, "She makes my heart skip like/a street beat, happy." These poems don't hold back in their declarations of love and loss, or in their bravura acts of rebellion and independence. "He shaved his head," Rene Ruiz writes, "to release his imagination." It is in these cries of the heart that the book reaches its most powerful and moving crescendos. Twelve year old Quantedius Hall, who calls himself "Son of Reality," writes:
Time Somebody Told Me
Copyright © 2001 by John Cech
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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:23:57 EDT