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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 6 years, 6 months ago

1 December 2013 HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marilyn Nelson and Hadley Hooper, ill., Dial, January 2014, 112p., ISBN: 978-0-8037-3304-6 


"Bomb Drill

(Lackland AFB, Texas, 1952)


Nothing belongs to us in our new house

except Mama's piano and our clothes.

I'm the new girl in Dick and Jane country,

the other children faceless as grown-ups.

I read through recess and take some books home.

I read to Jennifer while Mama plays.

I read while the television talker

talks about career and the hide drajen bomb.

Mama says she's going to vote for Ike.

Daddy says, 'Woman, you just think he's cute!'

We ducked and covered underneath our desks,

hiding from drajen bombs in school today.

Maybe drajens would turn into butter

if they ran really fast around a tree."


Marilyn Nelson spent the nineteen-fifties -- from age four to age fourteen -- living at a never-ending series of U.S. military bases with her parents and her younger sister.  In the classroom, she was so often the "one bay in a room full of palominos." 


During these years of the Civil Rights Movement, her parents speak of Emmett and Rosa and other pivotal events taking place in the country.  The focus of the fifty unrhymed sonnets in HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY flows from the hopes, prayers, dreams and fears of a little girl, and the thoughts and actions of a growing and well-read black tween who is learning not to put up with the racism that so often bubbles to the surface, a young woman who sees herself, maybe, as a budding poet.


"Queen of the Sixth Grade

(Kittery Point, Maine, 1958)


There was an accident in school today.

I shudder when I remember the crunch

of tibia and fibula and wood

as Jamie tried to get off the seesaw

and got her forearm accidentally

caught under her own weight and the up-kick

on the other end, increased the force

Ellie and I used pushing her end down

so her seesaw seat slammed the blacktop hard

two or three times before she realized

what a mistake it was to say that name

she learned in some civilian school down South

before they got transferred and she came here

to this school, where I'm Queen of the Sixth Grade."


The uniqueness of the 1950s setting -- both the ever-changing military bases that the young girl calls home, and the fact that she is growing up the daughter of "one of the first African American career officers in the Air Force," as well as the power of the poetic form employed here, make this a unique tale among the many excellent books out there about the Civil Rights Movement era.


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/



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