Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 25, 2010

Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

Since none of the names of the young poets in this book were familiar to me, I started reading here and there before going to the beginning and working my way through. Unlike most anthologies of verse by or for the young, every poem was written in free verse. I like free verse, but initially I thought this lack of variety might not be the best way to invite in a wide readership. I changed my mind when reading, though. There are enough variations in the outlooks that having generally colloquial voices, and poetry based primarily in imagery, helped me move from one poet to another twenty-six times (apparently there was a math glitch at selection time, and the editor’s generosity won over her allegiance to a number). All the voices are unique, but because strong rhythms and structures don’t clatter against each other, there was a sense of voices at least on the edge of a chorus.

I enjoyed several poems about writing. “Evolution of a Writer” by Lauren Stacks has five numbered stanzas. I love the sequences beginning with “staring out dirty train windows,” to eavesdropping on strangers, imagining yourself as someone else, to brainstorming, including “Come up with really bad ideas.” The final stanza tells us: “Know that when an idea hits, you will inevitably be/ in the wrong place…”

Mary Selph’s “My mother decides to seek candidacy as a Methodist minister” also uses numbered stanzas, each offering a different look at her mother’s history: the cathedral in which, as a girl, she “prayed to be holier than Mary Magdalene,” “Wednesday evenings my grandparents toted me/ like a spare set of keys to a tiny white church,” then her mother taking her to various denominations, to the final stanza of togetherness: “Later, older, we woke up early one Sunday/ morning to drink coffee together.”

Perhaps my personal favorite poet, for her honesty, self-awareness, and creative ways of documenting harsh experiences, is Emma Shaw Crane. Her “poem for my name” took my breath, and “kitchen witness” relays ways of learning to be a woman with her grandmother eating standing before the sink while her grandfather sat, a harrowing story told by her tía of bargaining, on her knees, with an attacker, and an anorexic cousin’s “daily battle towards self-elimination.”

I liked the shyness and boldness, the confidence and hesitation of many of these writers, and hope Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 finds its way into many middle school and high school classrooms and libraries.

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  1. from Laura @AuthorAmok

    Hi, Jeannine. I’m looking forward to reading this one. Naomi Shihab Nye has been so generous in helping and highlighting young authors. I hope she’ll be at the Dodge Poetry Festival again this year!

  2. Love those snippets. The “books I must read” list grows longer…

  3. I so love anything Naomi Shihab Nye does, be it her orignal works or her collections. Thanks for sharing this. On my TBR pile as well. Jone

  4. Re: from Laura @AuthorAmok

    You seem to get the best poets at this festival. I would love to hear her read!

  5. Anything with Naomi Shihab Nye’s name on it gets into this house. I particularly love Honeybee, a mix of poetry and prose, which was published last year. Just in case you want to add even more to the pile!

  6. Yes to that first sentence: me, too! Thanks for stopping by, Jone.

  7. What a lovely review for what sounds like a marvelous book. I’m adding it to my list too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jeannine,

    What a wonderful post! I like your turn of phrase: “All the voices are unique, but because strong rhythms and structures don’t clatter against each other, there was a sense of voices at least on the edge of a chorus.”

    25 Poets Under 25 is on my growing list!

    Laura Evans
    all things poetry

  9. Thanks

    Thanks for the heads-up about this book, Jeannine!

  10. Thanks for reading!

  11. Thank you, Laura. I hope summer brings you time for your growing lists and piles. I wonder if I’ll ever catch up with mine…

  12. Thanks for the preview. I have this book but haven’t dipped my toes in yet. I’ll keep a special eye out for Emma Shaw Crane.

  13. I think the many many people who, like me, love the work of Naomi Shihab Nye, will also enjoy many of these poems. You won’t have to keep much of an eye out for Emma Shaw Crane: she cannot be missed!

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