I am delighted and grateful to learn that Naomi Shihab Nye is our new Young People’s Poet Laureate. If you haven’t yet read everything she’s written, both poetry and prose, you have absorbing hours ahead of you. She’s a wonderful writer.
When I was three years old, my mother gave me Helen Ferris’ Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. It was a brand new book then. I couldn’t read. Mom did not read poetry for herself so I will always wonder why she felt it important to make sure I had a book of poetry, to read those poems to me. I read Favorite Poems from cover to cover and dipped into it on many occasions … I still do.
There are 700 poems, many that we would consider classic. Hughes, Tagore, and Naidu are included in the section From All the World to Me, but this is primarily a volume of poetry by Western Caucasians. Giving this book today, I would be sure to pair it with a modern book encompassing diverse poets.
I am grateful to Helen Ferris, and my mother, for instilling a wild love of poetry in me. Poetry is a golden thread in the tapestry of my life.
Poetry has always sung to me, ever since I first read it in Highlights magazine at the dentist’s office. (Odd that I remember that so clearly.) Later, I asked the school librarian if poetry was available in books. Poetry felt like treasure to me, something exalted above mere words.
In high school, I encountered e.e. cummings’ poetry, which felt closest to the heart. Considered an avant garde poet, he usually wrote without capital letters and often without punctuation and his syntax was outside the norm, all of which appealed to my teen self. “At the time of his death, September 3, 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost.” (poets.org) A complicated and controversial person, I am grateful for e.e. cummings’ poetry, which still causes me to stop, savor, consider, and wonder.
“i thank You God for most this amazing
day for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes”
from “i thank You God for most this amazing” (1950)