Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 13, 2010

Poetry Speaks Who I Am edited by Elise Paschen

I liked this anthology edited by poet Elise Paschen, with advisory editors Elizabeth Alexander, Joy Harjo, and Brad Leithauser, and each of these esteemed poets has work included. Most of the poems were written with an adult audience in mind, but were chosen for their probable appeal, as well, to pre-teens and teens. We begin with Jason Shinder’s “Eternity” and Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” and end with Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Writer.” We get Robert Frost’s roads, Shelley’s Ozymandias, Yeats’s pilgrim soul, Emily Dickinson’s hope with feathers, Langston Hughes’s dreams, and Shakespeare’s mistress with eyes nothing like the sun. There’s often a pairing on a theme, for instance the compelling narrative poems “In the Fifth-Grade Locker Room” by Rebecca Lauren and “Bra Shopping” by Parneshia Jones or two poems titled “Alone,” one by Poe and another by Siegfried Sassoon.

I wish the book looked different. The black and white graffiti on notebook paper you see on the cover feels like someone’s trying too hard to be cool. I wish the paper didn’t seem designed to look gritty with ink block print illustrations, and at the back are copies of various kind of notebook paper that again feels like an overeager adult pointing out: hey you can write your own poems here. Less would feel like a whole lot more, but I do love the book and accompanying c.d. It’s always interesting to hear a poem spoken in the voice of the poet or another reader, and most of these readings show the richness of varied breath and shifts in a voice. I felt puzzled by the tone of Marilyn Nelson’s “How I Discovered Poetry,” so was glad to hear her read it, even if I still wasn’t quite sure what to think. Although 39 of the poems were original recordings, I liked how that the same format wasn’t always used: some poets introduced themselves, a few gave a few statements, and some were read without even a name mentioned. Hearing Richard Wilbur read “The Writer” and Nancy Willard read “Houses:” worth the price right there.

For Poetry Fridays links, please visit:



  1. This book *sounds* wonderful but I agree: it looks unappealing. I’d never pick it up with that Keri-Smith-Trash-This-Journal look. Still can’t judge a book by its cover!

  2. Poetry Speaks

    I ordered this anthology and it’s in a box waiting for me when I return to school this month. Very excited. I’m a poetry anthology nut…I love discovering and collecting them. I hope this one works out for me. I’m glad “How I Discovered Poetry” is included, as it’s one of my favorites. And now that I think of it, I’m going to have to add it to my Mix Tape that I posted this week. Hopefully you’ll check it out…

    Great post!

  3. Interesting thoughts on the cover and format. The colors are eye-catching, though.

    “Bra Shopping”…..yikes!

  4. from Laura @AuthorAmok

    I love this anthology — filled with some great poems well chosen for ‘tweens. The “fill me with your poems” back pages are a little precious, you’re right. I haven’t listened to the CD yet, but now I will! Thanks.

  5. I walked past this book several times, then picked it up and was enchanted by the excellent selection.

  6. Re: Poetry Speaks

    Thank you! And I will check out your Mix Tape!

  7. There were actually two poems on that subject, and both were “yikes” in a very poetic and harrowing way: capturing the reality.

  8. Re: from Laura @AuthorAmok

    I, too, loved many of the poems, and the cd adds a great element. I bet you’ll love that Richard Wilbur poem: his voice reveberates.

  9. I’m glad to hear you say you had to work a bit to love this book. I’ll go back and give it another try. Probably need to listen to the cd.

  10. I knew there were great poets, but was really put off by black and white lip prints etc. What’s wrong with a poem on white paper? It was the cd that sold me, and, not always the case in anthologies, the poems each sound very much their own voice, but don’t jar when you move from one to the next. Yes, give it another try!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: