Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marilyn Singer and Monday on the Mississippi

A while back I was looking for some poetry books to use in a geography unit in came across the book Monday on the Mississippi, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Frané Lessac.

Here's what Marilyn had to say about this book.
Guide books can be interesting and useful. Tours can be engaging and fun. Could there be such a thing as a poetic guide book, a lyrical tour? I thought so when I wrote NINE O'CLOCK LULLABY (Harper) and ON THE SAME DAY IN MARCH (Harper), trips through the world's time zones and weather. I liked researching and writing those and wondered what my next poetic trip could be? Well, why not a path steeped in story and history--the Mississippi River?

I'd been to New Orleans, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. My first glimpse of the river was at the latter location, as my husband and I drove from Wisconsin to Minnesota, and I recalled how excited I felt, seeing this famous river road. To write the poems for this book, I used those recollections and I also took another excellent road trip, stopping at Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin; Dubuque, Iowa, where there's a great river museum; Gutenberg and McGregor, Iowa to see the barges; and Effigy Mounds State Park, also in Iowa. I wish I could've visited every place I wrote about, but I could not, so for research I turned to reading, films, and correspondence/conversations with folks who lived in or spent time in those places.

In 2006, the American Library Association conference was held in New Orleans, the first big convention following the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. Each year at this conference, I co-host the ALSC Poetry Blast, a reading by children's poets, and that year, I read from MONDAY ON THE MISSISSIPPI. It was a poignant moment for me and the audience and it made me appreciate even more strongly how poetry can not only entertain and enlighten, but unite and strengthen writers, readers, and listeners.
I love poems that introduce and explore places, particularly places I've never been. Here's a poem about a stop on the east bank of the river.
Friday on the Mississippi
Memphis, Tennessee

At Mud Island, where their brothers admire
the perfect miniature model of the Mississippi--
its tiny towns, its little twists and turns--
two sisters want to sit quietly by the real thing,
listening for Martin Luther, B.B., Elvis,
and all the others that would've been,
should've been,
or never could've been.
They want to sit and hear the river that rings
with the voices of Kings.
One of my students wrote a nice little review of this title. You can read it here.

If you are interested in more poetry about places and using poetry to teach geography, consider these links.
Poem ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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