My son and I spent Saturday morning in the community garden on campus pulling weeds. Growing weeds seems to be my forte, while growing vegetables ... NOT SO MUCH! My garden partner and I have planted radishes, broccoli, two kinds of basil, squash, and sunflowers. We're waiting a bit to put in the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I do love fresh vegetables, so pulling weeds will be tedious and highly annoying, but I have to keep reminding myself of all the good things that will come in the end.
Given my recent experiences, this seems like a particularly appropriate time to write about poetry in the garden.
Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, is a collection of poems that provides an unusual view of the garden and its inhabitants in all their (sometimes disgusting) glory. It begins:
Once upon a garden rotten,When the temperature rises, all manner of oddhoppers (bees, beetles, crickets, fleas, etc.) come out of the woodwork! There's a beetle on his back (kicking to right himself), a snake in the grass, katydids, a walking stick, stinkbug and, more. Here's one that always makes me smile and makes listeners wrinkle their noses in delight.
Twice forlorn and half forgotten . . .
Drip--drip--cold and wet.
Winter isn't over yet.
Always dripping, never stopping.
Drip--drip--sound of thunder
Wakes a weevil way down under.
Wait for spring. Go back to sleep.
Bugs are digging--scoop it out.The rhythm of the text, the cadence that propels you forward, the hidden jokes in the illustrations--all artfully combine to make this one thoroughly enjoyable book. Perhaps most of all I like that Oddhopper Opera is a handsome invitation for young readers to explore the world of the garden and its inhabitants on their own time, while getting down and dirty with some real live bugs.
Move it, boys, let's hack it out!
Front feet, back feet, scrape it out.
Dig we must.
Excuse our dust.
Black muck, brown muck, mix it up.
Watch it, boys, it's breaking up!
Punch it! Pat it! Patch it up!
Bless my soul--
It's time to roll.
Dung balls rolling--move 'em out!
I Heard it From Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden, written by Juanita Havill and illustrated by Christine Davenier, is a collection of poems by turns both whimsical and scientific, Juanita's first poetry book (though far from her first published work!) is a magical collection about growing things. Here's the poem that opens the book.
When I Grow Up
In the still chill of a winter night
seeds on the gardener's bench
rattle their packets
"When I grow up,
I'm going to be . . . "
"The biggest watermelon."
"A rutabaga round as the world."
"An everywhere zucchini vine."
"Cornstalk so tall I touch the sky."
with big plans,
except for one,
not a murmur from his packet.
Hey, little seed,
what about you?
What will you be
when you grow up?
In the still chill of the winter night:
"I'm going to be FIRST!"
And the radish is right.
Poem © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
Given that seeds and plants "talk" in this collection, readers will find all manner of garden gossip, and what fun it is! However, I'm still quite fond of this very simple poem.
Plant seeds early in the spring
when the ground is warm,
two inches deep in well-tilled soil
where they'll be safe from harm.
Let the sun and rain pour down.
Be careful where you hoe.
A miracle is taking place:
Seeds split and start to grow.
Poem © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
Juanita followed this book of poetry with Grow: A Novel in Verse. It is the story of Kate Sibley, a twelve-year old girl and Berneetha, a teacher who decides to plant a community garden on a vacant lot that has long been neglected and is strewn with trash. While folks at first just watch Kate and Berneetha work in the garden, soon they join in to help. Just as the garden begins to take shape, Randall Conn, the owner of the lot dies, and troubles ensue when his son decides to turn the lot into a parking garage. Will the garden survive?
The story is deftly told in a series of poems that allows readers to watch both the characters and the garden grow. But more importantly, readers really get to know these characters inside and out. They are well drawn and utterly human. Here's an excerpt from the poem "About Berneetha."
She does things:
even the quiet things
like sitting still
and staring at frost
on the window in winter
or counting cricket chirps
when the summer sun sets (p. 13)
Here's another excerpt, this time from the poem "Harlan's Favorite Flower."
Once he asked Berneetha
how a whole plant
can sprout and grow and flower
all from a sliver of seed.
What was it
in that seed
that made it grow
in the dirt
and bloom yellow, white,
purple, orange, maroon,
like a conjure man had spoken
a spell over it?
we all start as seeds--
each of us different,
each of us beautiful. (pp. 58-59)
Poems © Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
In Our Backyard Garden, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Marcy Ramsey - Set in the garden and around garden events, this is a collection of poems all about family that is filled with love and laughs.
on the garden.
my baby brother.
the last of
a last bouquet
Aunt Sissy and I
take one last
to places we have
Poem © Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.
That's it for today. See you tomorrow for another mystery post and a wrap-up. Where has April gone?!