Friday, April 8, 2011

A Nature Celebration

Poetry is about savoring the moments. Haiku celebrates moments to be savored in nature. Bob Raczka’s Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, captures small events worth celebrating: the discovery of a penny on the train tracks, the decision not to put worms on the fish hook but to use hot dogs instead, the realization that the temperature is warm enough so the snowman won’t hold his form—spring has arrived. Raczka and Reynolds conjure moments so specific that they become universal experiences of childhood. We can all relate to and connect with them. Raczka wrote a stirring acceptance speech when he won the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award at the Bank Street College of Education about preserving the sanctity of childhood play, outside in nature.

I love that Raczka says in the title that this is a book for boys. Love that Dog by Sharon Creech stars a boy who comes to love (and write) poetry. Often a boy’s instinctive response to poetry is “ewww.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Raczka and Creech make a great case to boys that poetry is written for them, too. (Girls will also enjoy these, but they also tend not to be put off by poetry. By the way, Raczka assures us that he is working on a book of haiku for girls next: Herku? Galku?)

Poems are a way of rediscovering the familiar. What a cool idea—that you can be an explorer in your own backyard or the woods down the street or the pond by the school. Yes. That is the gift of poetry. The best poetry inspires you to see the world differently and to write about it, too. So here’s my advice, via one of my favorite poets, Karla Kuskin:

Write about a radish.
Too many people write about the moon.

The night is black
The stars are small and high
The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune
Hills gleam dimly
Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.

(from Moon, Have You Met My Mother? by Karla Kuskin [HarperCollins])

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