One Clover & A Bee: Whisper and Shout

Whisper and Shout

Whisper and Shout: Poems to Memorize, edited by Patricia Vecchione, was given to my daughter on her 10th birthday. It’s a book that she’s dog-eared and written in freely, habits I generally discourage. In this case, however, I have to admit it’s wonderful to look back at what she’s written about the poems over the years—the notes and tiny drawings in different colored inks are a special document of her growth and experience.

Published by the Cricket magazine folks, the book contains a variety of poems—classics by authors like Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, as well as fun nonsense rhymes and limericks—but overall, the collection is geared more for the 8-12 set. There are some serious poems here about the nature of being a human on our planet, and about heartbreak and loss. These may go over the heads of younger kids but are perfect as they start to become more aware of their feelings and need a way to sort them out.

In my opinion, one of the best things about poetry is that it speaks in many different languages—it can tell a story, make music, paint a picture and shine a light on thoughts and ideas that we might otherwise miss…or misconstrue. Depending on where you are in your life, what and how a poem speaks to you may change over and over again. Sometimes, too, you open a book and find a poem that’s exactly what you need in that moment, even when you didn’t know you needed it. I love that.

As Vecchione says in her intro:”When you find a special poem, you want to have it forever. It may speak to you about something you’ve never thought of before… If you read a poem about a grandmother, it may get you thinking about your grandma who lives hundreds of miles away. Saying the poem isn’t the same as being with her, but it will make her feel closer.”

So, even though my daughter was totally on board with suggesting this book for families, we had a little disagreement about which poem to feature for this week’s column. In the end, I’m going with her choice, a poem that spoke to her at 10 and remains important to her at 14. The poem is called” “Where Have You Gone,” by Mari Evans:

Where Have You Gone

Where have you gone

with your confident
walk with
your crooked smile

why did you leave
when you took your
and departed
are you aware that
with you
went the sun
all light
and what few stars
there were?

where have you gone
with your confident
walk your
crooked smile the
rent money
in one pocket and
my heart
in another . . .

I particularly admire how the structure of this poem works to draw us in: the short, staccato lines and the extra white space underscore the halting thoughts of the speaker as they try to puzzle out why the person they care for has left them. It’s almost as if we are following the speaker’s footsteps as they trace the path of their loss, and because we don’t know the “true” story behind the poem we bring our own experience to fill in the blanks. This allows us to understand it at a deeper level, and by the time we get to the final ellipses we get that the “why” of the poem may never be answered.

To be honest, this poem speaks pretty clearly to me, too. When I read it, I feel as if I’m looking through a window at my younger self. It helps me remember how being young is sometimes just as frustrating and complicated and mystifying as being an adult.

Say this one aloud, look through that window—see anyone you know?


Amy Dryansky

Amy’s the mother of two children who seem to enjoy poetry, for which she’s extremely grateful. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. She’s a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. In addition to her life as a poet, Dryansky works for a land trust, teaches in at Hampshire College, leads workshops in the community and writes about what it’s like to navigate the territory of mother/poet/worker at her blog, Pokey Mama. Her second book, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013.

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