Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mary Ann Hoberman Announced as the Second Children's Poet Laureate

Mary Ann Hoberman Named Children's Poet Laureate

Below is an excerpt from the article on the Poetry Foundation's website:

The best children’s poets look at the subjects most parents are terrified of introducing to their little children—death, for instance—and invite them, gracefully, to dance. A rather Williamseque lyric on mortality, Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Mayfly” couldn’t be simpler, because eloquent simplicity is the key to writing poetry for children:

Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
The day
The Mayfly
Both of those. A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.

But of course the poem could be simpler—it could unfurl without all of those unpredictable rhymes, tumbling us along with inevitable momentum, like life’s arrow itself, ending only when it ends, but launching us past those sudden, chilling moments of realization (“To live and die”) and on to the next moment, the next brief day. Hoberman, author of over 40 children’s books and the new Children’s Poet Laureate, is a consummate channeler of children’s sensibilities. She is clearly a writer who takes children’s verse very seriously—as well she might. One could imagine, especially if one isn’t a parent, that writing children’s poetry would be easier by an order of magnitude than writing “adult” poetry; one could even presume that virtually any bare-boned rhyme or sweet turn of a single-syllable phrase would suffice for the average child reader. But this is famously untrue: children’s poetry requires precision tools, a childlike ear, a capacity for spirited irreverence, and a scrupulous lack of pretension. What’s more, its intended readers have only their inner metronomes and innate sense of the absurd to inform how they react to a poem, not a wealth of experience or literary-cultural know-how, and their native antennae cannot be easily bamboozled. Writing well for children can be as mysterious and difficult as learning to make falcon calls. Read more...

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