Poetry Friday: Talking Turkeys

Friday, June 5th, 2009

The last time I wrote a Poetry Friday post, I featured a book for young adults by Dennis Lee called SoCool. While I was in the UK this spring, I found another great book of poetry for teenagers called Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah. Zephaniah is a rap poet. His poems are a wonderful zany treat of language served up colorful, tasty, and rich. In “Vegan Delight,” you can really hear the sound of the words in a multicultural stew of rhyme:

Ackees, chappatties
Dumplins an nan
Channa an rotis
Onion uttapam

To give you a ‘flavor’ of this rap poet’s performance, you can see him recite the title poem of this book on video. Many of Zephaniah’s poems have a satirical, slightly polemical, edge to them but not without being entirely entertaining at the same time. Textually, on the page, the poems sing and laugh the same way they are read aloud, utilizing funky fonts and pictures to accompany the lines. There are some wonderful examples here of concrete poetry at its most accessible.

I have to say my favorite poem of all was “Who’s Who” with its wonderful ending stanza “I used to think poets/Were boring,/Until I became one of them.” Zephaniah is definitely one poet that is NOT boring, and as such is the perfect poet to introduce to teenagers. My son giggled and snickered through “Talking Turkeys,” enjoying its humorous rhyme. If the young adults in your household think poetry is the stuff and nonsense of boredom, give them a little taste of Zephaniah and they’ll be sure to change their minds.

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Sara Holmes at Read, Write, Believe.

Poetry Friday: Poetry for Young Adults

Friday, April 17th, 2009

April is National Poetry Month in Canada and the U.S. so poetry will be my focus for this post this month.  As one of my creative writing students gleaned from an exercise she found in Maxine Hong Kingston’s To Be A Poet,  poetry is about feeling and seeing, and of course, putting all that into words!  Adolescence is a time of life where one is particularly aware of, and sensitive to, sights and feelings, and it is a conducive time for many for the writing of poetry.  How wonderful then for the fine model of a book put out by well known Canadian poet Dennis Lee (of Alligator Pie fame) called SoCool (illus. Maryann Kovalski.)   The book covers the range of adolescent experiences in that distinctively playful way with words Lee has always exhibited in his poetry. There are humorous poems about acne like “Popping Pimples in the Park” and “Pimples and Zits” and wistful poems about impending adulthood like “Back When I Never Knew.”  There are poems about sexuality like “French Kissing with Gum in Your Mouth” and “The Ultimate Sensual Experience.”  But the poems I liked best were the ones that spoke  about living in the present like “Enough.” In “Enough,” after writing a short list of wonder-ful things like a ‘lungful of air,’ a ‘handful of friends’ and a ‘tongueful of music,’ Lee ends the poem with this stanza:

If I ever lose
The knack of wonder
Just shovel a grave
And dig me under.

Having the knack of wonder is what being a poet is all about and Lee has captured this essential truth in this poem.  What is so wonderful about SoCool is this kind of zany Lee wisdom, befitting the audience to whom the book is addressed.

This week’s Poetry Friday host is at Becky’s Book Reviews.