Tag Archives: Poetry

Mythology and Poetry

I have been reading right along this past month or so, but I have not taken the time to tell you all about it. Here are two brilliant offerings for those looking for a break from novels.

Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology

Neil GaimanWhat could be better in the deep midwinter than to read tales of the frigid North country? Here are many of the ancient songs, retold by a master storyteller. Sure, you could go see Thor in 3-D, but Gaiman shows him in all his pre-Spandex strength and bluster. Loki is despicably charming, whether he is truly helping the other gods or just saving his own unworthy hide, and all the characters speak in conversational, contemporary English. Although this is a friendly introduction to the Scandinavian tales, it is not for children. The gods, after all, were grown-ups, and they were not always—in fact, they were rarely—virtuous.

Devotions, by Mary Oliver


mary-oliver-c-mariana-cook-2012-1-I had come upon Mary Oliver’s poetry in other collections, including Kwame Alexander’s Out of Wonder, reviewed here, but I had never read an entire volume by her before. I couldn’t decide among her many books, and so I was glad to start with this collection of poems from her entire body of works (so far) called Devotions. Most of Oliver’s poems are meditations on nature, and here they are collected from newest to oldest. They are simple and evocative, sometimes drawing upon her Christian faith, and the words flow from a long lifetime of living outdoors. The ocean figures largely here, but lest you picture a Caribbean island, Ms. Oliver and her partner live in chilly New England, with its hardy wildlife and pebbly beaches. Her poetry spoke to me so deeply that I asked for and received a copy of her latest volume, Felicity, for Christmas.

Disclaimer: I own a copy of Norse Mythology, and I read a library copy of Devotions before I received my own copy of Felicity. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.


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Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander

Out of WonderKwame Alexander is a poet, and I am not. Not that I don’t love poetry, but I am just distressingly left-brained. A mystical friend of mine once visited us when we lived in Kentucky. She walked out my back door, took in the spectacular view, flung out her arms, and made up a poem on the spot. I was awestruck—first, because she could put words together so beautifully, and second, because she had the chutzpah to say them right out loud.

Mr. Alexander and his co-authors, Chris Colderley and Marjorie Wentworth, can put some words together, as well. In this volume, they have chosen some of their favorite poets, and, as an homage, created new poems in each poet’s style. Some are poets you know from school: Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson. Others may be new to you:  Okot p’Bitek or Chief Dan George. Although it is a delightful treat to see how these writers have replicated their heroes’ styles, the new poems are luminous in themselves. One of my favorites is Marjorie Wentworth’s offering in the style of Mary Oliver. Here is the first verse:

Each day I walk out
onto the damp grass
before the sun has spoken,
because I love the world
and the miracle of morning.  (p. 24)

Can’t you just feel the dew on your feet?

Ekua Holmes has filled the volume with bold, earth-toned paintings. At the end of the book, there is a short bio for each of the featured poets– home educators and teachers, take note! There are such riches here for mining. Your students could read the original poets, then the Out of Wonder verses. What did the new poet see that made him write his poem as he did? Of course, the next part is having your kids write their own poetry. Some are ancient poets—history! Some are from far-flung parts of the globe—geography!

This is one of the many new titles out from Kwame Alexander. He is a Renaissance man! Be sure that your children make his acquaintance soon.

Very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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