Friday, December 4, 2009

Buying poems for the holidays

I've been making a list of poetry books for Buy Books for the Holidays, because giving someone a book of poems as a gift can be romantic, or at least different. I've checked to see that all of the books on my list are available new, and have only included two that seem to be currently available only in used editions.

for children:
Starting a child out with a love of rhyme and rhythm can give that child a love of language for life. One of the books I read to my children from infancy on was
Jan Pienkowski's Little Monsters.
You should also be reading books by Dr. Seuss to babies, of course. And
Mother Goose.
Toddlers should have A Child's Garden of Verses, by R.L. Stevenson, read to them.
Also A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six.
Children from toddlers to 5th grade will like Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic.
Elementary-age kids will like Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children and
Edward Gorey's rhyming ABC book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Sometime during the elementary years, you should get your children reading poetry out loud, and Fleischman and Beddow's Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices is good for that.
Also to read out loud to children:
Robert Service, Collected Poems
101 Famous Poems, Roy Cook
a book that my children and I loved is, sadly, no longer easily available except in used editions, Roy Blount Jr.'s Soup Songs.
Here is one of my favorites from it:

Green Pea Lover's Sad Song
I tried to eat my English peas.
The peas they had their own ideas.

and here is my other, slightly longer, favorite (it comes with an illustration and a related quotation):

Song to Catsup
If every food your parents hatsup
Tastes like something to matsup
With something not even a buzzard would snatsup,
Add catsup.

Catsup will fix up all kinds of yuck.
You'll find a way to pour it on your turnips with luck.
And if you can't--
Since children can't
Turn turnips down--
Find a way to pour
Your turnips on the floor.
And if your mother sees you, move to another town.

Catsup makes you well.
It's tangy, gooey, red.
Pour it on your shirt and tell
Your parents you are dead.

for young adults:
There are book versions of Poetry 180, edited by Billy Collins, and also
180 more. These offer short, easily understandable poems appropriate for most people of middle and high school age.
Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley, offers a mix of new, translated, and classic poems. Recommended for the teen girl, mostly because the cover photo shows a female face.
Various short poems that tell a book-length story are available; my daughter's hands-down favorite since she was in sixth grade is
What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones.

for adults:
If you think a person might like a particular poet, get the Collected Poems.
The Norton Introduction to Poetry provides a wide-ranging selection of mostly British and American poetry.
Great Sonnets, edited by Paul Negri and available in a cheap Dover edition, is a selection of famous short (14 line) poems.
For some fun with poetry, try the Norton Book of Light Verse
or, for the recent swine flu victim, The Pig Poets by Henry Hogge.
One of my favorite fun collections is now only available used,
Unauthorized Versions: Poems and their Parodies, edited by Kenneth Baker.
Here's a sample:

Original poem: Robert Browning's Home-Thoughts, from Abroad (quoted in Noel Streatfeild's British children's story Apple Bough)

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffink sings on the orchard bough
In England--now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops--at the best spray's edge--
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups the little children's dower
--Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Unauthorized version, entitled Home Truths from Abroad:

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees some morning, in despair,
There's a horrible fog i' the heart o' the town,
And the greasy pavement is damp and brown;
While the rain-drop falls from the laden bough,
In England--now!

And after April when May follows,
How foolish seem the returning swallows.
Hark! how the east wind sweeps along the street,
And how we give one universal sneeze!
The hapless lambs at thought of mint-sauce bleat,
And ducks are conscious of the coming peas.

Lest you should think the Spring is really present,
A biting frost will come to make things pleasant,
And though the reckless flowers begin to blow,
They'd better far have nestled down below;
And English spring sets men and women frowning,
Despite the rhapsodies of Robert Browning.

Those are my ideas for some poems you could give as gifts. If the person you're shopping for has definite tastes in poetry and you're not sure which poets he or she particularly likes, there's always Poetry Comics (Dave Morice) or magnetic poetry, which are sure to produce a grin from all but the most pompous poetry-lovers!


lemming said...

"A Time To Talk" by Robert Frost

There may be much to be done, but there is always time for a conversational visit

Harriet said...

Another popular poet with the child in our house is Jack Prelutsky. AJ and I will be starting our annual reading of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales shortly. As for grownups, a few years back I was handing out copies of Robert Hass' Human Wishes. But mostly, poetry gifts are a highly individual and personal affair.

edj3 said...

I want to enjoy poetry the way you do. Honestly I really do. But I don't, I think I must be too linear and lacking in imagination.

FreshHell said...

I am not much of a poetry person but for your children's list, I'd add Edward Lear.

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Jeanne said...

Lemming, Frost is always good to introduce kids to poetry. And I can still sing "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway."

Harriet, yes, Prelutsky is especially popular with elementary-age boys. My list was taken mostly from books we own, and we read him from the library.

Elizabeth, maybe it's like foods you don't like; you have to keep trying them until you develop a taste? I learned to like hot and sour soup that way over the last 2-3 years.

FreshHell, oh yeah, I can't believe I left out Edward Lear--except that I'm pretty sure he's in some of the "light verse" collections. Still, he's great for kids and should be on their list.

I deleted a post because it was in character-writing. As I've said before in previous comments, if it's not in an alphabet I can read, I'm going to delete it.