How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, Hadley Hooper (Illustrations)
If I did not already love poetry, this collection would have tipped me head over heels into it.
Each poem is a snapshot in time from one decade, (1940 to 1950) in Marilyn Nelson's life. We see her grow from a young girl of four to a teenager. I loved all of them. I loved that we see the world, through how she saw the world, based on her age. For example, in Bomb Drill (Lackland AFB, Texas, 1952)
We ducked and covered underneath our desks,
hiding from the drajen bombs in school today.
Maybe drajens would turn into butter
if they ran really fast around a tree.
I made many personal connection to these poems, especially the ones that reference her interactions with her sister. Sibling life, irrespective of time and skin colour, is universal. Paper Dolls (Kittery Point, Maine, 1958)
And again with Sinfornia Concertante (Fort Worth, Texas, 1959). I remember playing the viola and how "my squawks" set everyone in my family's teeth on edge.
One of my favourite lines comes from Africans (Sacramento, California, 1959).
"Some of the greatest wrongs of history
are being righted now," she says. "These are
our people." As I put a plate away,
I ask myself who is not my people.
While Nelson's poems reflect her personal coming of age and awareness of her identity, they also mirror the issues of the day. Readers see the impact of McCarthyism, fear of the atom bomb, racism, the civil rights movement, and even the beginnings of the women's movement. In addition, there is the constant upheaval and sense of rootlessness in the poems that reveals the universal reality of all children who live in military families.