Spring Books: Poetry

by Barbara Theroux

Poetry has come a long way in the past decades. Gone are the school “punishments” of memorizing poems, or the insistence of rhyme. Poetry slams and readings draw large audiences and thanks to programs like Poets in the Schools, young people are learning to appreciate and write their own poetry.
New volumes to consider adding to your collection include:

pictographPictograph: Poems by Melissa Kwasny
“If you would learn the earth as it really is,” N. Scott Momaday writes, “learn it through its sacred places.” With this quote as her guiding light, Melissa Kwasny traveled to the ancient pictograph and
petroglyph sites around her home outside Jefferson City, Montana. The poems in this collection emerge from these visits and capture the natural world she encounters around the sacred art, filling it with new, personal meaning: brief glimpses of starlight through the trees become a reminder of the impermanence of life, the controlled burn of a forest a sign of the changes associated with aging. Unlike traditional nature poets, however, Kwasny acknowledges the active spirit of each place, agreeing that, “we make a sign and we receive.” Not only do we give meaning to nature, Kwasny suggests, but nature gives meaning to us. As the collection closes, the poems begin to coalesce into a singular pictograph, creating “a fading language that might be a bridge to our existence here.”

Klink-ExcerptsfromaSecretProphecy-250x375Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy by Joanna Klink
Joanna Klink has won acclaim for poetry of bracing emotional intensity. Of her most recent book, Raptus, Carolyn Forché has written that she is “a genuine poet, a born poet, and I am in awe of her achievement.” The poems in Klink’s new collection offer a closely keyed meditation on being alone—on a self fighting its way out of isolation, toward connection with other people and a vanishing world.





this present momentThis Present Moment: New Poems by Gary Snyder 
The first book of new poetry in ten years is a collection of poems about grieving, renewal and growing old. Gary Snyder finds himself ranging over the planet: journeys to the Dolomites, to the north shore of Lake Tahoe, from Paris and Tuscany to the shrine at Delphi, from Santa Fe to Sella Pass, Snyder lays out these poems as a map of the last decade. Placed side-by-side, they become a path and a trail of complexity and lyrical regard, a sort of riprap of the poet’s eighth decade. And in the mix are some of the most beautiful domestic poems of his great career, poems about his work as a homesteader and householder, as a father and husband, as a friend and neighbor. A centerpiece in this collection is a long poem about the death of his beloved, Carole Koda, a rich poem of grief and sorrow.


please excuse this poemPlease Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation by Brett F Lauer and Lynn Melnick
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation is a diverse collection of voices, styles, and backgrounds and points of view. Anthologists Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick have their ears to the ground, and have crafted a book that is sure to be carried in backpacks, hip pockets, and into the
classroom. A cross section of American poetry as it is right now—full of grit and love, sparkling with humor, searing the heart, smashing through boundaries on every page. For those wanting to know the future of poetry this anthology is a must read. Poems by Prageeta Sharma, Joanna Klink and Thomas Sayers Ellis are part of this collection.


Verse narratives are as old as the epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and The Odyssey. Two young adult titles have received awards bringing new attention to verse-form:

brown girl dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
In vivid poems, Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. Raised in South Carolina and later New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place, and describes the reality of living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing
awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.
Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories—something she’s always loved to do, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Readers will delight in witnessing this gifted author discover her love of stories and storytelling. Brown Girl Dreaming won the 2014 National Book Award in the Young Adult category.

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexande
“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, Fourteen-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood. Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their father ignores his declining health. The Crossover was the 2015 Newbery Medal Winner and 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner.


For the young poetry lovers, two books to encourage them to recite and write:

otto the owlOtto: the Owl Who Loved Poetry written and illustrated by Vern Kousky
Otto the owl would rather recite poetry than hunt mice. The other owls don’t understand why he makes friends with the forest mice and spends his time reading books. Their taunts make Otto unhappy, but he refuses to change and instead strikes out to woo the world with poetry. Soon he has most of the forest charmed, and eventually even some of the owls, who come to appreciate his passion when he recites a rousing version of Emily Dickinson’s “I am nobody, whooooo are you….”



ExplorePoetry_Cover Explore Poetry! With 25 Great Projects by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Bryan Stone
Poems can be silly, serious, or fun, just like kids. Whether it’s the sing-song rhythm of a limerick, the magic of a found poem, the deceptive simplicity of a haiku, or the easy familiarity of an acrostic poem, children are charmed by poetry. And what’s more fun than reading poetry? Writing it. In Explore Poetry! With 25 Great Projects children have fun learning about different forms of poetry while delving into different literary techniques such as personification, metaphor, and alliteration, all of which are discussed in a simple and accessible way. Activities include creative writing exercises designed to reinforce language arts skills, plus art projects that encourage children to visualize concepts and definitions. Short biographies of important poets reinforce the concept of poetry as an important part of society. Poetry can be personal or met to share. Try tucking a book of poems into your backpack and celebrating spring with words.

Barbara Theroux is manager of Face & Fiction bookstore in downtown Missoula.

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