cover image How I Discovered Poetry

How I Discovered Poetry

Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Hadley Hooper. Dial, $16.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3304-6

Nelson crafts a stirring autobiography in verse, focusing on her childhood in the 1950s, when her family frequently moved between military bases. Complemented by muted screen print–like illustrations, Nelson’s 50 poems are composed of raw reflections on formative events, including her development as a reader and writer. The political and social climate of the 1950s infuses the poems through references to bomb drills at school (“Everybody’s motto is Be Prepared,/ so we practice tragic catastrophes”), the Red Scare, the death of Emmett Till, and the stirrings of the civil rights movement. Nelson’s introduction to poetry reads like falling in love: “It was like soul-kissing, the way the words/ filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk./ All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,/ but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne/ by a breeze off Mount Parnassus.” An intimate perspective on a tumultuous era and an homage to the power of language. Ages 12–up. Illustrator’s agent: Marlena Agency. (Jan.)