Thursday, July 06, 2006

Poetry Friday: A Writing Kind of Day by Ralph Fletcher

A Writing Kind of Day by Ralph Fletcher. Illustrated by April
Ward. Boyds Mill, 2005 (1-59078-276-3) $17.95; (1-590878-353-0)
$9.95 pb

"It is raining today,/a writing kind of day." (Here too: a reviewing kind of day.) This is the book of a young poet, a collection of poems that encapsulate what it's like to be a young poet. There are poems about family, poems about school, and poems about words and ideas and thoughts that can become new poems:

"When I look at Julia
her little bald head
reminds me of the planet Earth.

I put that in my writer's notebook
to maybe write a poem later on;
it feels like money in the bank."

And indeed, the next poem is called "Earth Head."

I like the range and openness of this book, how it is not afraid to attribute complicated images and emotions to its young poet, yet also not afraid to be very simple and straightforward, as in the poem "Bill of Sale," which is about reading a poem about a girl, "the same age as me," who was sold as a slave. There is no apparent attempt to mold the poet's horror into subtle words; it just spills out:

"In a country like America
how could this ever happen?
How can I go on with my life?"

Black & white illustrations treat each poem as an individual piece, with styles ranging from scrawls and doodles at the bottom of a notebook page to elegant photographs muted behind the words. It's perhaps too sophisticated a design for a book that is so much about openness and sincerity. (8 & up)