Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Poetry A-Z: X is for Xeric

The letter X is the bane of alphabet book writers everywhere. There are many ways to cheat around the letter X (many of them not so eXcellent), but I'm going to take this bull by the horns I tell you! The word I've chosen may not be common, but it does give me some poetry books to play with.

XERIC - (of an environment or habitat) containing little moisture; very dry

When I browsed through my collection, I found a remarkable number of poetry books on the desert. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. While outsiders may view deserts as harsh, barren places, they are anything but, sustaining a wide variety of flora and fauna that are amazingly adapted to their dry homes.

THIS BIG SKY, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a book that beautifully captures the American southwest. The 14 poems touch upon everything from deserts and the hot sun to snakes and coyotes, with the landscape taking center stage in words and illustration. Mora also includes a glossary of Spanish words that appear in some of the poems. Here's an excerpt.


Old Snake knows.
Sometimes you feel
you just can't breath
in you own tight skin.
Old Vibora says, "Leave
those doubts and hurts
bussing like flies in your ears.
When you feel your frowns,
like me wriggle free
from I can't , I can't.
Leave those gray words
to dry in the sand
and dare to show
your brave self,
your bright true colors."

Sadly, this one is out of print, but you can still find copies around. It's definitely worth searching out. Also worth picking up are two bilingual books Mora has written about the desert (still in print!). The Desert is My Mother/El Desierto es Mi Madre and Listen to the Desert/Oye al desierto are both beautiful book length verses.

MOJAVE, written by Diane Siebert and illustrated by Wendell Minor, is a book-length poem about the life and landscape of the Mojave desert. It begins "I am the desert./I am free./Come walk the sweeping face of me." The illustrations and text breathe life into our views of the California desert and inspire awe at the wonders found there.

DESERT VOICES, written by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall, contains a series of 10 free verse poems voiced by different desert creatures. Readers hear from the buzzard, coyote, jackrabbit, rattlesnake, and more as they each tell of their lives in the desert. Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite poems. Can you guess who's voice this is?

I cross
the same arroyo
that I crossed
when I was young,
returning to
the same safe den
to sleep through
winter’s cold.
Each spring,
I warm myself
in the same sun,
search for the same
long tender blades
of green,
and taste the same
ripe juicy cactus fruit.

I know
the slow
sure way
my world
repeats itself.
I know
how I fit in.

WELCOME TO THE SEA OF SAND, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Laura Regan, is one in a series of 4 books Yolen wrote about different ecosystems. Sadly, this one too is out of print. A book length poem written in occasional rhyme, the text is a blend of poetry and science. In the description of the book on her web site Yolen writes "It takes a lot of research to write a poem about a place. I have been to the Sonoran desert section in Arizona several times, as well as deserts in Israel, California and Australia." In opening the pages of this book readers can travel along with Yolen and marvel at the variety of life in this very dry place. 

That's it for X. See you tomorrow with some W inspired poetry ponderings.

1 comment:

  1. THIS is an AWESOME word.
    I am helping some friends put in a yard, and having to explain xeriscape to the lady of the house, as she's wanting to put in moss and a rock garden. I keep saying, "Arid zone. Arid zone." While we're not exactly in the Mojave, we're not in moss garden country, either.

    I find desert landscapes SO beautiful, so it's fun to know there are books of poetry to support that beauty. Thanks for this.