Books

Books
and children,
I love them!

Sometimes I love
the worst of them
and always, I hope,
the best of them.

I love what some
literary critics
call trash—
well, sometimes
I do.
It’s a sometimes-yes
and sometimes-no.

That critical line
is one that most of us
walk gingerly along,
mentally tossing books
to the right (accepted)
and to the left (rejected).

But the children,
thank God,
cross that critical line.
They hang

trapezelike
from it,
and they dip
or dive
into the bounty
of books
on both sides.
And that’s good.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Sedney, Frances V. “On Being a Parent.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 438.

I may like coming home

I may like coming home,
but when it comes
right down to it,
I prefer going away.

Indeed, every book
is for me
an excuse
to travel,
a chance to incorporate
more places, more times,
more people into a sense of home,
which, over the years,
if you’re addicted enough
to journeying,
becomes indistinguishable
from a sense of self.

“Pray that your journey be long,
Filled with adventures, filled with wisdom.”

Poems exist to set the blood racing,
to shake you out
of old, worn patterns,
to force you
to face life afresh.

Life itself throws
islands of evil
across our paths.

Again and again
I have found in my journeys
that the real joy
invariably takes you
by surprise.
Always, you must
be alert
to possible diversions,
be ready
for spontaneous interruptions,
be willing
to step aside
without inhibition.

“Happiness is not
the reward
man seeks.
His soul
is in the journey.
He was born
for the struggle,
and only tastes his life
in effort
and on the condition
that he is opposed.”

It is time
for me
to get up
and go
again.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Fritz, Jean. “Journeying.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 457-463.

T. S. Eliot has made it to Broadway

T. S. Eliot has made it to Broadway,
and calculus hasn’t.

I have seen those trousers rolled
on tired women and retired men.
I have seen old men
with their hair parted
just behind the ear
with a few thin strands
stretched across their pate.
I have seen them walk
along the beach
and not dare to eat a peach
or a slice of red roast beef
or drink a cup of decaffeinated coffee
after 4:00 p.m.,
and I wonder—
when does caution become reason?

And I wonder,
did any of these men,
did any of these women ever ask,

Do I dare disturb the universe?

It takes more courage
to disturb the neighborhood
than it does
to disturb the universe.

Those who disturb
the universe
have a need
for solitude.

When I examine myself
and my methods of thought,
I come to the conclusion
that the gift of fantasy
has meant more to me
than my talent
for absorbing
positive knowledge.

Perhaps, some day
solitude
will come to be
properly recognized
and appreciated
as the teacher
of personality.
The individual
who has experienced
solitude
will not easily
become a victim
of mass suggestion.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Konigsburg, E. L. “Between a Peach and the Universe” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 464-476.

The Supreme Court outlawed

The Supreme Court outlawed
segregated schools in 1954,
but a decade later
the world of children’s books
had not even arrived
at “separate but equal.”

This situation damages
Black and white children alike,
since literature is one
of the important vehicles
through which we socialize children
and transmit our cultural values
to them.

White children,
finding in the pages of books
only others like themselves,
come to believe
in an inherent
“rightness of whiteness”
that grants
to other races
no important place
or function
in society.

Exposed only to ludicrous
or pathetic images
of Blacks,
white children absorb

even more deeply
the poison of racism—
and grow to perpetuate
this evil
for another generation.

For Black children
the absence
of positive images
in children’s books
was a clear signal
that they themselves
had little worth
in the society
that these books
reflected.

We are no longer
where we once were,
but we are not yet
where we ought to be.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Sims, Rudine. “Whatever Happened to the ‘All-White’ World of Children’s Books?” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 477-484.

It’s difficult

It’s difficult
to hear
the songs
of more than one world
at any one time.
and yet
sometimes
it’s necessary
to forget the songs
of one world

    I could be pompously wise.
    I could be inscrutable.
    I could be the dependable sidekick.
    I could be one of the howling fanatics.
    I could be sadistic, cruel, and cunning.

and learn
the songs of another,
especially if you’re Chinese-American.

Whatever I write,
I’m always aware
that I’m not quite alone.

If I listen
long enough and hard enough,

I just may be able to hear
a few fragments
of a chord of music
or a few broken notes,

and I know
that if I wait long enough
those few broken notes
or those few fragments of a chord
will regenerate themselves
within my own unconscious
and they’ll grow
until the song is once again
made whole.

And I think
the deepest pleasure of writing
is joining
my own voice
with the voices of the past
as they sing
their world
into existence once again.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Yep, Laurence. “A Chinese Sense of Reality.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 485-489.

My folks were immigrants

My folks were immigrants
with no time or money
for books.

Then I found out about
the public library,
a jumble of old red brick downtown,
full of books
you could take out
for nothing.

What I liked most
were adventure stories
that took me
out of my skin.

Often the world
in my books
was more real to me
than the life
around our kitchen table
or on our street

The family
and the neighborhood
you took
for granted.

The children I went to school with
were the first generation
to be born in America.

The public schools were dedicated
to Americanizing us.

Drop what makes you different.
Forget where your parents came from,
what they brought with them,
their own feelings and experiences,
their own beliefs and values.

Jane Addams understood
how wrong this was.
The public school, she said,
too often separates
the child from his parents
and widens the old gulf
between fathers and sons
which is never so cruel
and so wide
as between the immigrants
who come to this country
and their children who have gone
to the public school and feel
that they have there learned it all.

It is the business
of the school
to give to each child
the beginnings of a culture
so wide and deep and universal
that he can interpret
his own parents
and countrymen
by a standard
which is worldwide
and not provincial.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Meltzer, Milton. “A Common Humanity.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 490-497.

For the translator

For the translator
there is always
this haunting conflict:
Do I translate literally,
following each word,
staying as close as possible
to the text,
or do I follow
the spirit
of the story?

Yes, children’s books keep alive
a sense of nationality,
but they also keep alive a sense
of humanity.
They describe
their native land lovingly,
but they also describe faraway lands
where unknown brothers live.
They understand the essential quality
of their own race,
but each of them is a messenger
that goes beyond mountains and rivers,
beyond the seas, to the very ends
of the world
in search
of new friendships.

Every country gives
and every country receives—
innumerable are the exchanges—
and so it comes about that
in our first impressionable years
the universal republic of childhood
is born.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Carus, Marianne. “And the Whole Earth Was of One Language.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 498-505.

We’re here

We’re here
to speak for
and against
rubbish.

Books are fun. Books
are wonderful. They
make me feel
at home
in the world. They
tell me things
I want to know, and
then I ask more
questions.
The more curious
I am, the more
they tell me. They
make me want
to do,
to be. They
let me be
myself and someone else
at the same time. They
make me
laugh. They make me
cry. They
make me
sing with joy,
with loving, with living.

What children admire
they emulate.
Through good books
and the characters
met in them,
children may learn
patterns of kindness and gentleness,
realize that they can be courageous
and strong without violence,
identify themselves with independence
and achievement,
feel a desire
to cherish and protect,
which is the greatest element
of love.

One age’s rubbish
may well become
another age’s classics.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Heins, Ethel; Field, Carolyn W.; Sedney, Frances V. “For and Against Rubbish.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 506-515.

When you write

When you write,
you put yourself,
what you think

and your underlying attitudes,
both conscious and unconscious
on the line.

To write now,
at this particular period,
is to write at a time
when opinions, discussions, and arguments
over and about children’s literature
are reported
bountifully,
noisily,
and frequently.

And no matter what
viewpoint your books reflect,
you can be certain
you’ll displease someone.

You put yourself
both conscious and unconscious
as pieces of fiction

not as tracts
to guide the young
and growing mind.

The writer finds him- or herself
defending not the quality of a book,
but the inside
of his or her own mind.

Writers project outward
the perceptions and assumptions
that make up their myths.

Dissent does arise.

Accept the controversy,
because to be
without controversy
is to be silent,
or afraid,
or dead.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Holland, Isabel. “The Impact of Controversy on Popularity.” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 516-521.

Shouldn’t we

Shouldn’t we
play a part
in making it
comprehensible?

Do not let children read anything
that you have not read yourself.

Read to them,
and teach them
to look for allusions
in books.

Give children something
they are growing up to,
not away from.

/ / /

This is a found poem. Source: Heins, Ethel. “”Go, and Catch a Falling Star’: What Is a Good Children’s Book?” Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature, compiled and edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1987, pp. 522-532.