Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art
ed. Jan Greenberg
Poetry. 78 pp.
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2001.
Like valentines sent from one heart to another, the poems inspired by the images in this unique collection offer a special look at art and poetry. Written by forty-three distinguished American poets, these specially commissioned poems expand on twentieth-century American art, highlighting not only the strength and diversity of the works, but also exploring the story of our national experience throughout the past century. The poems combine with the artwork of such artists as Edward Hopper and Kiki Smith to create a distinctive connection between image and word.
The paintings, lithographs, sculpture, mixed media, and photographs gathered here represent the most important artistic movements of the past century—from American modernism to abstract expressionism to pop art. Prompted by these works, the poems narrate, describe, and explore; they vary from such topics as dreams, childhood memories, and issues of race and gender to reflections on the artist and the visual structure of the images. Each poem allows the reader an opportunity to see the works from a new and exciting perspective.
Whether playful, challenging, humorous, or sad, each poem and image connects the reader and the viewer, the writer and the artist, and celebrates the power of art to affect language. Pairing the work of some of America's most prominent poets, from Jane Yolen and Siv Cedering to X. J. Kennedy and William Jay Smith with the best of American art, from works by Jacob Lawrence and Georgia O'Keeffe to Jackson Pollock and Louise Bourgeois, this book will delight and inspire readers of all ages.
Completed June 8
Initially, I thought this book was amazing and had decided I was going to get a copy for the kids to have. I really liked that you had poetry inspired by and about art. I also read this a little while after we'd finished going through a pretty solid poetry unit with the Boy.* Following that assignment, I felt compelled to find poetry books for the kids to have so that they could broaden their minds a bit and start to become intelligent and worthwhile persons. (I'm sure people who knew me when are rolling their eyes at my advocacy of poetry. Or they're on their knees repenting since The End Must Surely Be Nigh. Either or. But exposure to editorgirl will do that to you.) So I was excited when I found this book that married poetry with my other academic love—art.
Now that some time has passed, I find that my feelings of love and adoration have quelled significantly. There was more poetry in there that didn't impress than there was that did. At least in terms of what I remember. I think the organizational breakdown for the book is a good concept but ineffectively realized.
Even so, I'm pleased that this book won the Printz honor if for no other reason than it puts a book of poetry (much of which is not bad even if I'm not interested in reading it again) in the canon for kids to come across.
*Let me just say how cool the Boy is. One of his assignments was to choose his five favorite poems and write an analysis of them. Oh. But your favorite poems can't be Dr. Seuss. Or Shel Sivlerstein. Or a nursery rhyme. Or something we've studied in class. These are seventh graders, for crying out loud. As if they're truly aware of any poets aside from these. So I spent a weekend with the Boy (the weekend before the assignment was due, mind you) just trying to find poetry that he liked. Fortunately, Absent had earlier given me a picture book of poetry about dragons by Jack Prelutsky, and since the Boy lurves dragons, that took care of one.
But, to return to how cool the Boy is, I'm sure he's the only one who showed up back in class with a poem I'm sure the teacher had never studied (I don't think very highly of the intellectual prowess of the kids' teachers, truth be told), turning in an analysis of Gerard Manley Hopkins's "As kingfishers catch fire," which he chose of his own free will and volition. (Yes, I adore the poem, but he rejected heaps of poems that I adore, including some phenomenal stuff by Langston Hughes that I thought he would like.) True, he didn't select it because of its poignant religious imagery (though he did write about that in his analysis because we had a good discussion about it) or because Hopkins is a god among poets; he chose it because it has fire in it. I say, go with whatever gets the assignment done. And be cool in the process.
Oh. And he has the makings of becoming a fairly decent poet himself, should he wish to pursue that. As part of this unit, he had to write a poem. His mother and step-father accused him of stealing it from the interwebs. Fortunately, I've paid enough attention to his interests and creative writing prowess to know that this was his work.