Book Review: Poetry Speaks Who I Am, Edited by Elise Paschen

Poetry collections directed to teens are not very common; you’re much more likely to find collections of poetry for children or adults. This lack of poems for teens to appreciate is exactly what editor Elise Paschen addresses in a new collection that is part of the Poetry Speaks series: Poetry Speaks Who I Am. The more than 100 poets whose work is represented include classic poets like Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Frost as well as contemporary poets such as Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou and Kim Stafford.

Some of the poems are whimsical, such as Death of a Snowman by Vernon Scannell, while others are more contemplative, such as One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, which is about the art of losing things. Girls may cringe when reading Bra Shopping by Parneshia Jones. And of course, there are poems with rich imagery. Here are just a few lines from one of those, Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney:

“Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first just one, a glossy, purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it”

I recognized poems I memorized in high school, like Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, marveling that memorizing was much easier for me then than it seems to be now. An added bonus to Poetry Speaks Who I Am is that is comes with a CD of 47 poems being read by their authors or others. There’s something hypnotic about listening to poems being read, especially by the author, who knows where she intended emphasis and can add tone.

Blank pages in the back of the book encourage readers to write their own poetry, which could be a great activity for a mother-daughter book club. National Poetry Month-April-is coming up. Reading Poetry Speaks Who I Am would be a great way to celebrate.

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