A couple of weeks ago I blogged about our Library Summer Reading Challenge – well, during this week’s library visit I discovered a poetry anthology edited by much loved British poet Roger McGough and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura: The Ring of Words (Faber and Faber, 1998). It is wonderful! My children have been a fan of Roger McGough before they even realised it because he was the narrator for the beautifully produced video of animated Eric Carle stories – now we are enjoying some of his own poems set among this very eclectic collection.
The title comes from a short, thought-provoking poem by Robert Louis Stevenson:
Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.
Still they are carolled and said -
On wings they are carried -
After the singer is dead and the maker buried.
Set both at the beginning and the end of the anthology, this poem brings the book full circle and each time I read it I feel I am peeling off another layer of meaning – perhaps also because of the other poems in the anthology we’ve read together in the meantime. McGough has indeed been the right person to ring this ring of words – there are poems about everything under the sun, from echoes to ghosts to a cat spinning in a washing machine – all apparently very disparate but all in harmony with each other in creating delightful surprises with words – like Thomas Hood’s “No“, so readable and “modern”, yet Hood lived from 1789-1845! McGough, however, doesn’t give any extraneous information beyond the actual poem apart from the name of the poet – so in a sense it is the perfect introduction for enquiring minds to delve into poetry.
Kitamura’s black and white illustrations shift their style subtly to the poetry – and sometimes add an extra layer of meaning – so for example, June Crebbin’s shape poem “Kite” about a kite getting stuck in a tree is stuck in a tree! It is no surprise when you look deeper into the illustrations to learn that Kitamura won the UK’s prestigious National Art Library Illustration Award for The Ring of Words in 1999.
And so we return to the ring of words and Naoshi Koriyama’s beautiful poem “Unfolding Bud”: yes, you do need to allow poetry the time to unfold -
“Revealing its rich inner self, As one reads it
And over Again.”
And I can see that we will either be hogging this book from the library for a while or we’ll have to go out and get our own copy…