7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #786: Featuring Richard Jones

h1 March 13th, 2022 by jules

“We keep our fire safe in a playpen / where we feed it,
mostly leftovers from the woods …”

(Click illustration to read the poem, “Fireplace,” in its entirety)


Dear Imps, pull up your cyber-chairs (and bring your best coffee and favorite breakfast dishes) to read about this poetry collection from award-winning poets Ted Kooser (former U.S. Poet Laureate) and Connie Wanek. They joined forces for Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech (Candlewick, March 2022), illustrated by Richard Jones, and the results are immensely satisfying. “The poems in this book,” Kooser writes, “are about fooling around, about letting one’s imagination run free with whatever it comes upon.” Adds Wanek: “[I]t’s fun to listen for voices from unexpected places.”

This collection of 30 poems (if you include the two bonus poems provided in the book’s backmatter) is framed by the four elements (save the opening poem, “A Disappointment”). The section called “Fire” presents a thunderstorm as someone bumbling about in the middle of the night; a secret as something you can let go of and send to the fiery stars (“It’s safe to tell a secret to the stars / aliens all”); and the crimson leaves of November as reluctant to fall, longing to “cling to summer.” The second section, “Water,” brings us an upturned boat, “waiting … peering out at the meddlesome world”; a walk after a rain as a story in five verses in which the speaker wonders what might happen “in the world without me”; and, in “Why Pets Don’t Write,” guppies as authors chronicling their hunger and fear. In “Air,” we meet flies who dare to land on flyswatters; the open air of a June afternoon; and the dust that a harpist onstage sends into “circle[s] of light.” And in “Earth,” the moon is a kind of forensics scientist at the crime scene that is a bad dream; a book is, delightfully, likened to a sandwich; and a barn is personified: “Day in and day out it wakes and pulls on / its patched-up underwear of rotten boards / beneath its coveralls of corrugated metal, / and looks out over what’s always the same, / and combs its roof straight down the middle.” (To be sure, the old barn “likes what it has, its peace / and quiet.”)

These playful and inviting free verse poems, bursting with evocative figurative language and vivid imagery and striking a wide variety of tones, awaken the senses. They create a startling, refreshing, brand-new awareness about the subjects above — and so many more. Some wise editor somewhere paired British illustrator Richard Jones to this project, and the choice couldn’t have been better. He knows precisely what to illustrate — and what to leave out in the name of allowing us readers to bring our own imagination to the table. Cases in point? The spreads pictured here today.



“… But so much happens over / immense ammounts of time, such as
365 horses turning into an engine,
and someday, if we’re lucky / back into horses.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read “Gas” in its entirety)


“… Spring on the prairie, / a sunny day, a sky reaching out to forever
in every direction …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read “Spring” in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS: TWO POETS AT PLAY AMONG FIGURES OF SPEECH. Text copyright © 2022 by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek. Illustrations copyright © 2022 by Richard Jones and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

1) Last weekend’s IBBY conference was lovely.

2) It was in the 60s this week, but this morning we woke up to snow.

3) A new song from Regina Spektor …

4) … which reminded me that she wrote one of my favorite songs ever, so I listened to it really loud in the car. (I think I’ve kicked about this before, so I apologize for the redundancy. But that melody gets me every time.)



5) I have been wearing out the new Hurray for the Riff Raff album, which is so good. On an album of unforgettable songs, it’s that last one that really stops me in my tracks. It is a plea to be heard. A wish for healing. It likes to leave a lump in my throat. (And it reminds me of another album-closer, Neko Case’s “Ragtime,” which … well, same as above.)

6) Molly Young at the New York Times’s Read Like the Wind.

7) This weekend we celebrate my oldest daughter’s 18th birthday, and I have a multitude of feelings about this.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

4 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #786: Featuring Richard Jones”

  1. Hi Imps! Hello to Richard and the poets and the pets!

    Jules: Happy birthday to her!!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Calm
    2) Recovered
    3) Pace
    4) Fuel
    5) Meter
    6) Span
    7) Comfortable

  2. Pardon me, while I go and order this poetry book! How did I not know?
    Jules, happy birthday to oldest! 18 is a big number. I have been thinking on it as well. Oldest grand turns 18 in November. Big feelings for sure. Glad the conference went well.
    Little Willow, love calm and recovered.
    My kicks:
    1. A free solid wood bookcase.
    2. Watching oldest grand play the cello.
    3. Lunch with a friend.
    4. Wine tasting on a friend.
    5. Talking about books.
    6. Taking a class.
    7. Trying something new.
    Have a great week.

  3. Love these illustrations and poems, especially the car and the horses in the car turning back into horses one day and the wolf pup in the fire.

    Jules – 18 is such a big birthday! Happy birthday to her! Yay for good music to capture a mood and get you through the week.

    Little Willow – Calm, Recovered and Comfortable are wonderful kicks.

    Jone – Hooray for wine tasting and lunch with friends. Love the cello, such a beautiful and often sad and moving sound.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Turning Red – it’s so good and so funny!
    2) The behind the scenes doc on the making of Turning Red is wonderful – it was a team of mainly women directing and creating and working on the movie and hearing directly from them is amazing.
    3) Seeing 3 humpback whales breach several times in real time on the Maui Humpback Whale Sanctuary livestream on YouTube. (I often have it streaming on the tv during the day as soothing background for Daisy and I, walked through the room while on a phone call and gasped out loud – it was amazing!)
    4) Got enough work done and client meetings done during the week so I can stay home all weekend.
    5) Put together an outdoor storage bench by myself (yes!) and now items are in the storage and not in the garage. Small thing that make me very happy.
    6) Sending an insect and butterfly house to my great-nephews for spring.
    7) Sending a surprise package to my grown up nephew just because.
    7.5) Having a lazy Sunday morning with coffee, blueberry pancakes, Daisy and good music.

    Have a great week Imps!

  4. Little Willow, these kicks tell an intriguing story! But I’m glad it all begins with “calm.”

    Jone: You’ll looove this book. And, oooh, the cello. How lovely.

    Rachel, love that third kick, and what good kicks. Glad you got to relax all weekend.

    Have a good week, you all!

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