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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2004

all the small poems and fourteen more by Valerie Worth with pictures by Natalie Babbitt. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994. ISBN: 0374302111

I don’t read a lot of poetry, which is a shame, certainly. But much of my day-to-day reading, as demonstrated here in this blog, is strictly for purposes of escapist entertainment, and poetry doesn’t fulfill that role very well. But here is a book of poetry for everyone, or anyone. Thanks to my good friend Sheila for pushing it on me. Almost every poem is short enough to fit on a single page; a few actually require two. The lines are short and brief, often only one to four words each, and many poems consist of only a dozen lines or so. Not only that, they are inevitably clever, profound and almost invariably manage to touch the very essence of their subjects.

Here’s an example:

cow

The cow
Coming
Across the grass
Moves
Like a mountain
Toward us;
Her hipbones
Jut
Like sharp
Peaks
Of stone,
Her hoofs
Thump
Like dropped
Rocks:
Almost
Too late
She stops.

Having grown up on a farm with dairy cows, I remember this experience very well from my early childhood. The poem captures it almost exactly. One wasn’t afraid of cows, well, not exactly. But you hoped they wouldn’t come too close on those hot summer afternoons when crossing the pasture on the way to the creek for a dip.

These days, living near the Pacific ocean, here in Tillamook, Oregon, my wife and I have taken up the pastime of collecting beach pebbles, and tumbling suitable candidates (agates and jaspers, mostly) to a brilliant polish in our garage. This is certainly one of the things we’ll miss the most when we leave Tillamook. This poem speaks volumes, at least to me, and I’ll leave it as my final reason as to why you should read this book:

pebbles

Pebbles belong to no one
Until you pick them up—
Then they are yours.

But which of all the world’s
Mountains of little broken stones,
Will you choose to keep?

The smooth black, the white,
The rough gray with sparks
Shining in its cracks?

Somewhere the best pebble must
Lie hidden, meant for you
If you can find it.

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