cover image Popcorn: Poems

Popcorn: Poems

James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books, $16.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15261-1

Like Stevenson's Sweet Corn, this inviting companion book of poems is graced by loose watercolor and black-ink sketches, skewed and inventive typography and clever layouts. A touching sequence about a dog named Chelsea and a wistful, nostalgic poem or two are balanced by the humor of poems in which the language is more playful and unexpected. In ""Dredge,"" for instance, ""The dredge dredges sludge:/ Sludge like fudge,/ Sludge that won't budge,/ Sludge you wouldn't care to tudge."" The especially amusing ""My New Bird Book"" contains footnotes with references to nonexistent pages. Nonetheless, many of the entries here seem more pensive and reflective than those in Sweet Corn. In the ""Picnic Table,"" for example, devoid of ""the paper plates, the ketchup/ The napkins.... The table waits/ For next time."" Another poem looks under the hull of a beached ship, quietly noting that ""Where dolphins rolled,/ A golden dog lies sleeping/ In the shade."" These unrhymed, free verses seem like yellowed snapshots, loving pictures of the ordinary world carefully preserved by a close observer but lacking substance. More successful poems present a fuller thought--how the poet notices that a spring crocus ""no bigger than a baby's thumb/ Just arrived from the center of the earth, bearing a message:/ Soon,"" or how the husked corn's ""threads of yellow silk"" in ""zig-zags, scribbles, loops, and swirls"" spell out ""What a party!"" Ages 8-up. (Apr.)