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Poetry Speaks Who I Am    edited by Elise Paschen & Dominique Raccah order for
Poetry Speaks Who I Am
by Elise Paschen
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2010 (2010)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else, edited by Elise Paschen, includes 108 poems (aimed at ages twelve to fourteen but speaking to all ages) and an audio CD of 44 poems read by 35 poets (most poets reading their own work). In a Publisher's Note, Dominique Raccah tells us that it's 'a highly unusual collection - coming-of-age moments caught next to classics next to grieving, kitchen tables, Cinderella, dragons, and school periods.'

The collection opens on Jason Shinder's Eternity, whose theme reminded me of my own all-time favorite, James Elroy Flecker's To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence. There are vibrant classics like Maya Angelou's Still I Rise and Langston Hughes' Dreams and Emily Dickinson's If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking. Keats and Shelley and Frost and Yeats are in here, as are Walt Whitman and Stephen Crane and Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, and even Ogden Nash.

Ron Koertge's Cinderella's Diary gives another take on happily ever after. More than one verse is entitled Alone. Several address aspects of friendship, love and loss, attraction and rejection, commpassion, and the fears that haunt us all. There are poems about animals, about school, about chores, about sports, and about family.

Wanda Coleman's Dear Mama (beginning 'when did we become friends?') speaks to me of the mother-daughter relationship, often turbulent in the teens, solidifying into friendship. As a mother, I appreciate Phyllis McGinley's 'A mother's hardest to forgive. / Life is the fruit she longs to hand you, / Ripe on a plate. And while you live, / Relentlessly she understands you.' I love the exuberance of Mark Strand's Eating Poetry ('I romp with joy in the bookish dark') and the whimsy of X. J. Kennedy's What We Might Be, What We Are.

Dominique Raccah gives good advice at the beginning of Poetry Speaks Who I Am - 'Poetry moves you when it's true. Find what's true for you.' Read and listen to these verses, and you'll find some that speak clearly to who you are.

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