Tuesday, December 11, 2012

bringing lost literature to life

Natalie Merchant's new album features songs based on children's poems from the turn of the last century. In this lovely video, she sings several, including e e cummings' "Maggie Millie Molly and May." I particularly like the opening song  (including its theatricality)

These poems have me thinking about how poetry for children has changed in the last hundred years. I love Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, but I have a hard time imagining that the full ballad-complete-with-chorus style of poem could be published today. I think people would read it, presented in the right way. Beautifully illustrated, for example.

The only contemporary example I can think of is Nancy Willard's imaginative poem-made-book The Tale I Told Sasha. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, although the poem is fair at best. Partly is the way it is broken up into pages, but it loses its narrative arc as we wander into dreamland, leaving the reader confused.

I'll have to keep my eyes out for other examples.

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