Academic journal article Language Arts

How I Discovered Poetry

Academic journal article Language Arts

How I Discovered Poetry

Article excerpt

How I Discovered Poetry Written by Marilyn Nelson Illustrated by Hadley Hooper Dial, 2014, 103 pp., ISBN 978-0-8037-3304-6

"I'm the new girl in Dick and Jane country,/ the other children faceless as grown-ups" (p. 10). Marilyn Nelson crafts a compelling and rousing civil-rights-era memoir in a collection of 50 poems that reexamines her life from age 4 to 14. The verses, unrhymed sonnets, are written through the lens of a younger self-a young girl from a military family-and detail her emerging consciousness to the changing world around her and her self-discovery as a poet. Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Nelson chronicles an everyday 1950s experience within each poem. Readers will discover firsthand accounts of self-awareness and artistic awakening situated within a larger sociopolitical context of racial tensions, the Cold War, and the launching of the civil rights movement. Among the final poems in the collection, Nelson writes, "She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,/said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder/until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo-playing darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. …

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