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Talking to the Sun: An Illustrated Anthology…

Talking to the Sun: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People

by Kenneth Koch

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If you ever want young people to become fascinated with poetry and art, this is the book for them. The poems, mostly short, wander through the world, gathering specimens from China, Japan, India, Africa and Native American and other cultures, while also including western voices from Dante and Shakespeare to Frank O'Hara and Gary Snyder. Typical for 1985, only 8 women poets are represented (minus one-half star). The poems are evocatively and exquisitely paired with works from the Met's collection, including sculpture and ceramics as well as painting, drawing and collage. Kenneth Koch was a great poetry teacher: his enthusiastic sensibility is on display here. I love this book! ( )
  deckla | Dec 28, 2018 |
Don't underestimate children. Good poetry isn't meant to be consumed in one go, nor art to be looked at just one time.

Maybe the first time you read this together with your seven-year old, pick out a few neat animal or nature pictures and read (out loud!) the poems that accompany them. Pick the one that is most fun to say, even if you don't understand it. Memorize it, or a few lines from it. Read it again a few months later. Read some of the other poems in that section.

Maybe memorize Little Fish" by D.H. Lawrence:

The tiny fish enjoy themselves
in the sea.
Quick little splinters of life,
their little lives are fun to them
in the sea.

Try to figure out the connections between the art and the poems - sometimes they're easy to spot, and sometimes you'll have to be a detective, or use your imagination to interpret a commonality. Maybe some will stump you and your child, until the child is a little older and has an 'ah-hah' moment.

Sometimes you and your child can have fun imagining yourselves in a scene, and sometimes you have to work your brains to make a guess why someone would paint or make something that seems boring, or scary, or weird. Try to figure out why the artist felt motivated to create each work. Who was the intended audience; what idea was she trying to share; what point was he trying to make?

Consider, from 1870, 'The Bathers' - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Winslow_Homer_-_Eagle_Head,_Manchester,_M...(High_Tide).jpg by Winslow Homer. Can you imagine wearing all those clothes in the water? Maybe not. But look at the women - do they make you think that the people in the 'olden days' were weird? I don't think so....

There are brief commentaries attached to many of the works to help with appreciation.

There is an index of titles and authors, and another of first lines. There are also short essays at the beginning and end that give some gentle guidance. Unfortunately, there is no way to search for works of art or artists - for example if you wanted to quickly find which page the painting by Winslow Homer is on, or whether he has any other works included.

This is a beautiful book, and I wish I could find a good home for it.

" ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Talking to the Sun is supposedly an anthology for "young people," and is shelved in the juvenile nonfiction section of my local public library,. But at 112 pages with about 177 poems, I feel it's not appropriate for its supposed age group of ages 3-8.  At those ages, I'd also want to read more kid-friendly poems to my children.  I'd target this anthology at ages 10 (grade 5) and up.

The poems selected are representative of many cultures (including ancient and native peoples), but that also contributes to its appropriateness for an older age group.  Some well-known poets are represented, but others are overlooked in favor of lesser-known poets of the same "New York School" as selector Kenneth Koch - at least 15 of the poems fall in this category.

The poems are grouped into ten sections that, according to co-selector Kate Farrell in an introduction, "suggested by the history of poetry; the book starts with ancient and primitive poetry, and ends with modern poetry."  Poems in each section generally address a common topic or are of a certain type, such as nature, spring, children, love, nonsense, animals, the universe, ordinary things, and dreams.  While the introduction and appendix (also by Farrell, on helping young people like poetry) and section introductions are good, and some of the commentary on individual poems is helpful (such as definitions of words no longer in common use), other commentary is superfluous.

Poems in the book are paired up with works from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art (which co-published the book). Sometimes the connections are obvious, sometimes they are not, but they should spark good discussions.  I loved the idea of doing this. The cover photo is detail from the image of one of those works, The Repast of the Lion by Henri Rousseau, with the book title strategically covering the lion eating his prey.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library in Texas. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Aug 16, 2015 |
Gift from Glenda Geu
  davesandel | May 12, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805001441, Hardcover)

Published in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Poems from various time periods and many countries are organized by theme and illustrated with reproductions of art works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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