Jan 20, 2013

Poems That Squeak, Soar, and ROAR!

 Picture a child you know (or have ever known, including yourself) who does not love animals of one kind or another.

 Think hard now, I'll wait.... 

Can't do it, can you?. 

I'm convinced that animals are soulmates of the young, and many of us are lucky enough to not outgrow that link. 
The subhead on the cover of this musst-have poetry anthology is:
200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar, and ROAR!
National Geographic Society, 2012

With poems like that and phenomenal images by some of the world's best photographers this book stands tall as a new classic and is destined to have a long shelf life.
Start with a title page grasshopper who appears able to take on the terminator, scan the table of contents which reveals stellar poets and titles, then consider the way in which these two hundred poems have been organized:

the big ones
the little ones
the winged ones
the water ones
the strange ones
the noisy ones
the quiet ones
final thoughts

Each section features poems by recognized literary superstars and some other surprising sources, superimposed on absolutely breathtaking photography.

The introduction by Lewis says, "This book is not for reading straight through. Pick it up any time. Choose a poem and then read it out loud: You want your ears to have as much fun as your mouth is having." 
Good advice for any poetry anthology.

Yet with this book I encourage readers of any age to start at the cover and take time with it, savoring page after page, all the way through to page 169. Slowly. Let the images speak to you. Absorb the visual power captured in this book. I doubt anyone will be able to resist reading at least a few poems along the way. For example: 
What is a butterfly?
At best
He's but a caterpillar
-Benjamin Franklin

Whether you reach the end of the collection or not, take time for the back matter. There are pages of advice on writing your own poems, resources for further advice, a title index,  a poet index,  a first line index, and a subject index.
Finally, there is this dedication: To poets, animals, and animal poets everywhere.

Farrar, Straus, Giroux (BYR), 2007

The wide-ranging reach of poets included here is likely to spark an interest in reading other collections, so here's one that is a worthy place to start:

ANIMAL POEMS, by Valerie Worth with pictures by Steve Jenkins

Since animals never fail to inspire, try writing some poems of your own. Or just write a comment here about a favorite poem or animal of your own. 

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