cover image Mr. Ferlinghetti's Poem

Mr. Ferlinghetti's Poem

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, David Frampton, . . Eerdmans, $18 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-5290-8

Frampton (The Song of Francis and the Animals ) handsomely illustrates a childhood memory recalled in a poem from Ferlinghetti's 1958 collection A Coney Island of the Mind . An awkward framing device introduces the poem ("Mr. Ferlinghetti remembers/ a long hot summer in/ Brooklyn/ when he was a kid./ .../ Sometimes Mr. Ferlinghetti/ writes a poem about the things/ he remembers"). But Frampton's stylized woodcuts, in an earth-toned palette, boldly contoured with thick black outlines, will likely charm readers. Ferlinghetti ruefully recounts a childhood summer day when the firemen turned on their hoses for "a couple dozen of us," or "maybe only six of us." Finally, owning up, he guesses that he and his friend Molly were "the only ones there." Frampton cheerfully depicts a thriving immigrant neighborhood, with a diverse array of kids jumping, dancing and splashing in curlicue waves. Period details—round-fendered cars, perambulators, a big old radio—augment the bygone-era feel. The lines "with the water squirting up/ to the/ sky" accompany a spread of kids reclining, arms behind heads, buoyed atop a veritable geyser. In another, a dog looks on as the young hero cavorts in his birthday suit. Children won't get Ferlinghetti's ennui-infused subtext, but perhaps the poet's ease in simultaneously evoking childlike and adult perspectives obviates any glitch. Frampton provides a few biographical details about the author in an endnote. A sweet slice of nostalgia, exuberantly served up. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)