April 12, 2016

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse (Walk Two Moons)

Happy Poetry Friday! It's still summer. Let's enjoy some late summer fruit today, wild blackberries warmed by the sun.

Blackberries grow wild in Maryland.

Today's Poetry Friday host is Irene Latham
at Live Your Poem. Live it up today -- stop by
Irene's blog for more poetry links.
This is the sixth post in a series called Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse. Guest bloggers and I are pairing books we've read this summer with a poem that complements the novel.

So far, we've paired:

Shared by guest blogger Janet Wong

I've been working a lot this summer. The educational consulting office where I work part-time is 40 minutes from my home, so much of my summer reading has been audio-books in the car.

Here is my Public Service Announcement for today. Do not listen to Sharon Creech's classic MG novel WALK TWO MOONS on your way to work, especially if you are wearing mascara. You may, like me, find yourself listening to the final chapters of the book, wondering whether you should pull over because you are crying so hard, and eventually arrive at work a bleary-eyed, mascara-smeared, emotional wreck.

Which cover do you prefer?
There are many middle grade and YA novels about a child who is either searching for a missing parent or in search of information about a parent who has died. WALK TWO MOONS sat on my shelf (yes, I have a paperback copy) for years. Maybe I wasn't ready to read about a grieving child. Maybe listening to the book felt more comfortable.

Did I love WALK TWO MOONS? Yes! I loved the story-within-a-story structure. I loved the voice of Sal (Salamanca). I loved the rich descriptions of settings, people, and first kisses. And grandparents in love -- how sweet is that?

It's those grandparents-in-love that made me enjoy the book, despite my messy tears. Because Sal spends most of the novel with her grandparents, the reader *always* knows that Sal is loved and supported, even though she has lost her mother.

Poetry appears in WALK TWO MOONS. Sal and her class discuss Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls." While some students love the musicality of the poem, Sal and her friend Phoebe (whose own mother is missing), focus on the character of the traveler. Sal and Phoebe are angry that their class is discussing a poem that romanticizes death or suicide. (My HS students often had the same reaction when we studied Romeo & Juliet.)

However, I'm choosing something else to pair with this novel. Blackberry poems. Why blackberry poems? Because of this section of the novel, which helps characterize Sal's mother so beautifully:

One morning when I awoke very early, I saw my mother walking up the hill to the barn. Mist hung about the ground, finches were singing in the oak tree beside the house, and there was my mother, her pregnant belly sticking out in front of her. She was strolling up the hill, swinging her arms and singing...  

As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her-back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly.

Later that day, I examined this tree trunk... I looked up at where her mouth must have touched the trunk. I probably imagined this, but I thought I could detect a small dark stain, as from a blackberry kiss.

Creech takes this moment and builds the blackberry kiss into a symbol that runs through the rest of the novel.

I have three delicious blackberry poems.

1. Read "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath at the Poetry Foundation

2. Listen to "Blackberry Eating" by Galway Kinnell

3. A poem I share with my elementary school students is "Blackberrying" by Crescent Dragonwagon. This poem appears in the (sadly, out of print) anthology FOOD FIGHT: Poets Join the Fight against Hunger with Poems to Favorite Foods. I am only sharing a portion of the poem here, but I hope you will get a copy of the book and read the entire poem.

Available at ABEBooks.Com
Great for teaching food poems!
by Crescent Dragonwagon

the green arched bramble branches hung thick
with blue-black berries,
summer Christmas trees,

catching at us, we bent to pick
(and only our backs got sunburned)
catching at us, scratching (and we got mosquito-bit too)

now there's a shelf full of blackberry jam
and that night, pie

next winter it will be cold
we will spread that sharp sweet dark
on breakfast toast
and think we remember what hot really felt like

Enjoy the rest of August and the last of the season's blackberries.

Do you have an idea for Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse? I'm still looking for guest bloggers. The series will continue until summer ends on Monday, September 22. For more information, find a full explanation of this series and a sample Chapter & Verse pairing at this post.


Margaret Simon said...

Last year one of my students read Walk Two Moons and we had a discussion about Longfellow's poem. I would love to show her your blackberry poem connection. As I remember it, we do not know until the end that her mother is dead. That got me, too.

Diane Mayr said...

Who knew there were so many blackberry poems! I especially like Kinnell's fabulous words--like squinch!

I'd volunteer to do a pairing, but I only read adult contemporary suitable for book discussions! A little restrictive, but awfully good reading.

Joyce Ray said...

The blackberry poem connection makes me want to re-read Walk Two Moons, which I read long ago. I love the Plath poem-"blood sisterhood" - and the earthy sound of Kinnell reading his blackberry poem. Thanks for this series!

Irene Latham said...

Love the impact Walk Two Moons had on you -- and that you waited until you were ready to read it. I love when that happens! Also, I am a big fan of blackberries, and blackberry poems. Chiggers, which so often accompany blackberry brambles at least hear in the south, not so much. Thanks for the post! xo

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Loved the poems! Crescent's was particularly relatable, as we pick so many around here that grow on our property and along the road, and the only thing left of them by winter is the preserves!

Julie said...

Love those blackberry poems, and the whole idea of pairing book and poem. My favorite berry poem is Seamus Heaney's Blackberry Picking. If anyone wants to read it here's the link:

Linda B said...

Sorry that I've missed some of these, Laura. I love Sharon Creech, and our students do, too. This is a particularly poignant book, and sometimes I am careful about the student to share it with. The Blackberry poems are beautiful, and I am only familiar with the Plath one. Thanks for all-will look for that book! I will try to find a good pairing for you, would love to be a part of this idea!

jama said...

What a rich post. Now I must reread Walk Two Moons. I'd heard of Food Fight and have been meaning to pick it up. Love all the blackberry poems. :)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

You are seriously the connection QUEEN, Laura. Thanks for mascara-alert for Walk Two Moons. I am embarrassed by the number of times I have turned myself into a blubbering idiot in the car. Also, that last poem you shared is as delicious as poet's name: Crescent Dragonwagon... I'll have to see if I can dig up the rest of it.

Tabatha said...

Yes, I love the Heaney blackberry poem, too, Julie. A tasty collection you made for us today, Laura. I will write a guest post for you -- thanks for the extension.

Linda said...

I read Walk Two Moons several years ago. Your blackberry poem connection makes me want to read it again. Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

Tara said...

I'm saving these brilliant pairings, Laura - such a thoughtful way to extend the thinking of each book. Walk Two Moons has long been a classroom favorite, now I'll have these gorgeous poems to share with my kids, too. Thank you!

Shari Green said...

I picked blackberries beside the sea today (and yesterday, and the day before). They might be the very best part of August.

Loved the Crescent Dragonwagon poem! Delightful. I'll have to find that book....

Thanks for this post. :)

GatheringBooks said...

This is such an inspired idea - pairing YA novels with poetry. Gorgeous. I have a copy of Walk Two Moons - and I like you it's been languishing in my shelves for the longest time. Maybe it will find me too very soon. :)

Bridget Magee said...

Walk Two Moons is one my favorites, but it has been too long since I've reread it. I'm inspired to pick it up again after reading your post. I especially want to pay attention to the blackberry thread. Mmm, delicious blackberry poems as well. = )

Keri said...

What a rich post -- so much to think about. Walk Two Moons made me weep too, so I can empathize with your mascara situation. Lots of heart in Creech's work.