Archive for February, 2008

Poetry Friday: Mark Doty’s “Pipistrelle”

h1 Friday, February 29th, 2008

Pipistrelle batI mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d seen Mark Doty at a reading at Cornell. I had only very recently been introduced to Mark Doty’s poetry, by the same friend that invited me to the reading and snuck me into the secret reception afterwards. I can never thank her enough.

If it weren’t for her, I might never have encountered Doty’s spare, tightly-wound verse, and the elegance with which he portrays the natural world.

If it weren’t for her, I might not have had the profound pleasure of hearing said verse read by the author himself, who is blessed with the perfect voice for poetry: edgy, rich, intense, and with a welcome hint of self-mockery.

If it weren’t for her, I almost certainly wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to Mark Doty in person, and find out that he was born in Maryville, Tennessee: the very same tiny town where my husband grew up, where he and Jules and I attended college, and where for a fun post-college year or two Jules and I shared a tiny old four-room farm house with an excellent porch swing and a wicked ant problem.

So thanks, Dana. And now I pay it forward, and share him with the rest of you. Here’s a snippet of Mark Doty’s poem “Pipistrelle:”

Then Charles saw the quick ambassador
fret the spaces between boughs
with an inky signature too fast to trace.

We turned our faces upwards,
trying to read the deepening blue
between black limbs. And he said again,

There he is! Though it seemed only
one of us could see the fluttering pipistrelle
at a time—you’d turn your head to where

he’d been, no luck, he’d already joined
a larger dark. There he is! Paul said it,
then Pippa. Then I caught the fleeting contraption

speeding into a bank of leaves,
and heard the high, two-syllabled piping.
But when I said what I’d heard,

no one else had noticed it, and Charles said,
Only some people can hear their frequencies.
Fifty years old and I didn’t know

I could hear the tender cry of a bat
—cry won’t do: a diminutive chime
somewhere between merriment and weeping…

You can read the entire poem here, and you can listen to Mark Doty reading it here. And to read about the soprano Pipistrelle bat, and hear it’s echolocation call, go here.

another Pipistrelle bat

Let’s Hear it for the Boys

h1 Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Oh no! You can’t get that wretched mid-’80s song by Deniece Williams out of your head now? I’m sorry. (Mwahahahahahaha).

And I’ve never even seen “Footloose.” I’m a pop culture embarrassment.

Anyway, just a quick note to say that this summer will be the introduction of a new collaborative blog, designed specifically for teen males, and it’ll be called “Guys Lit Wire.” Kelly Fineman did a short and sweet post on this a few days ago, so why mess with perfection. Here’s what she wrote:

The mission of Guys Lit Wire is to recommend books to teenage boys. The goal? At least one post every Monday through Friday by different contributors, for which a stable of at least 21 bloggers will be required . . . I will be contributing monthly columns on poetry collections for guys (and yes, they do exist and many of them are great!) Others have signed on for other sorts of columns in other categories, but additional monthly contributors are needed in order for the blog to go forward. Categories as of now include book reviews, interviews, literary commentary, and more. If you have an interest in signing on as a regular columnist, please contact colleen @ chasingray dot com.

I have committed to once-a-month postings on picture books for guys. And oh no, snap snap, you better not be laughing. Okay, so I know it’ll be difficult, but I’ll do my best to appeal to the art-lovin’ teen males, using the more sophisticated picture books. Think Christopher Myers’ illustrations for Jabberwocky or the tale of contemporary urban violence in Smoky Night.

Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Contact Colleen if you’re interested in contributing. Here’s her informative post from yesterday, updating you on the entire venture.

P.S. I could be terribly wrong about this / my memory could be failing me miserably, but didn’t this all start here or here with Sara? Even if it didn’t, don’t miss those thought-provoking posts.

Illustration Matters: Grace for President
and Ruby for White House Gardener

h1 Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

So, I just made up that title for a new series of sorts, which I also just made up: Illu-
stration Matters
(as in, concerning illustration and as in illustration is ever-so important — ah, okay, you get it and I’ll shut up now). This is when I’ll share some illustration(s) from a new picture book I love (with permission from the illustrator and/or publisher, of course) instead of waiting ’til a Sunday feature (or perhaps because our Sunday features are already filled up for a while, but there are too many interesting illustrators whose work I want to show you). Think my Charlotte Voake post from last week. Yeah, that.

This week it’s LeUyen Pham and Valorie Fisher, who have some kickin’ new picture books out.

Anyone else remember when LeUyen stopped by in October and shared a whole slew of illustrations with us? Well, one of the illustrations she shared is from her brand-new picture book, written by Kelly DiPucchio, entitled Grace for President (Hyperion), so here’s that illustration again — since the book was released just yesterday, I believe, and since I’m lucky enough to have an ARC. This also happens to be the spread which Publishers Weekly praises specifically in their review of the book: “. . . {t}he don’t-miss-it picture is at the beginning, of kids looking at a poster containing the presidents’ portraits, all of them rendered to an almost photographic likeness by Pham.”

This title, which Publishers Weekly also called a “well-timed lesson on the electoral system,” is more than just well-timed. With the female African American candidate for school president that is our protagonist, Grace, it’s almost eerie (in a good way), what with Obama and Hillary going at it for their own chance at our country’s presidency. In our October feature, LeUyen told us, “when deciding on how Grace should look, I thought an African American girl sounded ideal, and gave her as much spunk as I could. This, of course, was before Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton decided to run for president — how timely that my candidate is both female and African American!” Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews #67: Sherri L. Smith

h1 Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Here’s some food-for-thought:

“Take a minute to answer this question: If you had one last meal, what would it be? This is one of my favorite dinner party questions. The answer can tell you a lot about someone. Sure, people will ramble, name a dozen items, some of them gourmet dishes from a favorite restaurant, some of them once in a lifetime treats from a vacation overseas, but in the end, if they are like most people, they will end up naming something from their childhood. Something their mother used to make. You can understand, of course, the desire for comfort food if it is indeed your last meal. But, I think it is more than that. It’s an assertion of self, of our origins.”

Those are the words of author Sherri L. Smith, taken from her guest post at The YA YA YAs last week. Her new YA novel — Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers; February 2008) — touches upon the issues about which Sherri wrote in that guest-post: one’s origins, identity, self-assertion. The book tells the story of Ana Shen, who has what her social studies teacher calls a “marvelously biracial, multicultural family.” But to Ana, she simply has a Chinese American father and an African American mother (“Those are the bi-races. Calling them cultural or marvelous is a stretch, in Ana’s opinion. But that usually depends on the day”). Grandpa and Grandma White and Nai Nai and Yi Yi, both sets of grandparents, are in town to celebrate Ana’s big day, her eighth-grade graduation, as Ana prepares to make her salutatorian speech. But a broken pipe in the school, which shoots the roof off the building, has other plans. Read the rest of this entry �

Nonfiction Monday: Trailblazers of Swing, Strutting Their Stuff on the Bandstand

h1 Monday, February 25th, 2008

Last summer, Knopf Books released Tonya Bolden’s Take-off: American All-Girl Bands during WWII, and it’s taken me this long to review it. But that’s not because it lacks in any way: It’s a well-researched, engagingly-written piece of nonfiction. In fact, Bolden composes her narrative in true hep cat style, incorporating swing slang and a distinctive rhythm to her prose (in the introduction, while addressing the gap women filled after so many men were drafted into World War II, she writes, “{w}hat was a woman with a beat to do—a woman who’d rather riff than rivet? With scads of cats drafted and volunteering for military service, more chicks jumped at the chance to bandstand.”)

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #51: Featuring Jaime Zollars

h1 Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Jules: Eisha and I are featuring artist Jaime Zollars this week and are rather gaga over her style. Pictured here is “Little Red”, a silkscreen print. Isn’t that great? Jaime paints for galleries and commercial clients but has illustrated a picture book — intended for release this Fall with Tricycle Press — entitled Inside the Slidy Diner, written by Laurel Snyder (who has a nice-looking web site herself; you can read a bit more about the book here).

profile of Jaime from Neo Collective, used with permission from Jaime

{Profile of Jaime in the latest issue of the online international magazine
Neo Collective, which features photographers and artists}

There’s a darker element to a lot of Jaime’s work (or “melancholy,” as she puts it), which Eisha and I both like, but since Sunday is for listing kicks, we’ll start with some illustrations that have a bit less gravity to them, such as “Tranquility” and — pictured below that — “Marmalade Sky”: Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: John Frederick Nims and
the Love Poem of All Love Poems (says Jules)

h1 Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I decided to share a poem on this Poetry Friday that has always been one of my very favorites. I discovered it in college, and I am so in love with this love poem (hey, why not celebrate Valentine’s Day each day of the year?) that I thought for sure I had already shared it here at 7-Imp. But, no, a quick search tells me I haven’t.

This perfectly lovely creation sprung from the mind of poet John Frederick Nims (pictured below). Reading that link about him reminds me that this is one of those poets about which I know nothing (well, until reading that link — and this Wikipedia link in which I learned he was Editor of Poetry magazine from 1978 to 1984) and that I’ve never read any of his other works. I need to remedy that, because this poem SLAYS ME IN HALF every time I read it, particularly the final stanza (“Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses— / I will study wry music for your sake. / For should your hands drop white and empty / All the toys of the world would break.”) It makes me swoon, people.

Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents #3 (with a bonus title for devoted readers)

h1 Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Jules here. Well, it’s been almost one month since my last post for Impossibly Busy Parents, and — for any parents paying attention — I apologize. But here we are with installment number three. If you’re new to this, here’s the idea behind these posts, as I explained it in my last one: I’m going to attempt — as often as my schedule allows — posts in which I round-up seven picture book titles with reviews for the impossibly busy parents of the world. There can’t be any advance-proof reviewing goin’ on in these posts, none of that this-book-is-filthy-cool-but-won’t-come-out-for-three-more-months bit in these posts. I need to line up those titles that are new, yet should be available at your local library — or at least being processed and about to be added to the collection.

Okay, usual spiel done. So, thanks for your patience, and let’s get right to it . . .

The Surprise
by Sylvia van Ommen
Front Street
April 2007
(originally published in 2003
in the Netherlands)

This is a puts-the-very-quirk-in-quirky title from Dutch illustrator and animator Sylvia van Ommen, released in 2003 in the Netherlands and released by Front Street Books last year. This wordless picture book opens with a sheep standing on a scale and then measuring her own wool, followed by a trip to the store to purchase some red dye. Using the red dye to dye her own wool, she then shaves it off, takes it to a poodle with a spinning wheel, and then takes the material home to knit a sweater for her pal the giraffe, whose long neck is in need of some covering-up. This is the titular surprise, which unfolds delightfully for the reader via van Ommen’s heavy gouache illustrations, ones you want to reach out and touch. I admit that I wince slightly at each read when the sheep is shaving red wool off her body; the splotches of red dye all over her take my mind to blood, but perhaps van Ommen even intended this. The aforementioned spinning poodle also has a cigarette dangling from her (or his?) mouth, which I hope to the high heavens will not keep it out of school libraries, but — as the Booklist review points out — this is “an element that suggests the book’s European origins . . . and may strike U.S. readers oddly.” In other words, don’t let that cigarette keep you from showing this engaging book to children — but perhaps there will be some giggling about it during story time. At its core, it’s a truly sweet story about the act of giving and of friendship — shoot, even of self-sacrifice with that sheep giving up her very coat for her friend. And with van Ommen’s bright, wordless, uncluttered illustrations, it’s a good choice for discussing story sequencing in the elementary classroom.

Read the rest of this entry �

Sharing some art work from Charlotte Voake’s new picture book ’cause I can’t wait ’til a Sunday . . .

h1 Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I love love LOVE Charlotte Voake’s picture books. I believe her last one was published in ’06, so it’s exciting to see that she has a brand-spankin’-new one, to be published this Spring. I’m quite fond of the uncluttered design and the open spaces in her art work, the singular, airy world she creates in her mind’s eye. There is an immediate accessibility and free-spirited sense to her finespun watercolor-and-ink work as an artist, and she never pulls the sash on the window to her child readers; her books are terrifically child-centered. I love her “freewheeling calligraphy” and how what she calls her doodling goes “all higgledy-piggledy over the page” (those last two quotes come from here). And who wouldn’t immediately fall in love with Ginger (1997), which won the 1997 Kate Greenaway Medal, and Ginger Finds a Home (2003)? These books are funny, affectionate-without-being-cloying, and captivating in every way.

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I don’t know if you’ve heard…

h1 Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

… but there’s a little thing called the Cybils (The Children’s & YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards) and it’s kind of a big deal. Thursday the award winners were announced, and it’s a fine-looking crop of books if you ask us: Read the rest of this entry �