Poets present imaginative verse for children

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By Rosalie MacEachern

For The News

The poetic imaginings of George Elliott Clarke and Sheree Fitch, combined with unique and vibrant illustrations, provide young children with wonderful entertainment and moments of reflection as we while away winter evenings.

Lasso the Wind: Aurelia’s Verses and Other Poems (Nimbus Books, $24.95 hardcover) capture the whimsy and wonder of childhood play while touching on the secret struggles of growing up and briefly addressing the sad realities of our times.  

“Can you burn down the sun? Can you darken the moon? Can you drown a mountain? Can you bid stars to swoon? Can you lasso the wind? Can you whip it a-gale? Can you make the oceans bend, To cradle each lost whale?” Clarke writes.

In another poem he reflects on the potential of a child’s backyard.

“Pirates with parrots voyage all around, Eyeballing islands where gold can be found, Without looking – or digging – very hard; But I measure treasure in my backyard.”

Dedicated to his daughter Aurelia, the collection is the Nova-Scotia born poet and playwright’s first published work for children. His dramatic imagery is beautifully coupled with richly colourful and evocative drawings by well-known Nova Scotia artist Susan Tooke who is equally adept at reflecting Clarke at his grimmest.

“When governors order brand new jails, Voters should expect to cram those cells: Imprison their children and their spouses, And empty out their cribs, beds and houses,” he writes, as Tooke provides the balance in shadows of grey and brown. 

Skin colour is addressed in another poem.

“Each human face is skin and bone, With colour added “just for show,” A stainless tint, a painless tone, That beautifies the thoughts below. Ebony and ivory, the piano, Whips up melody from black ink and snow.”

Singily Skipping Along (Nimbus, $19.95 hardcover) is Sheree Fitch’s continuation of her unique word play which created such treasures as Toes in My Nose, There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen, Sleeping Dragons All Around and Mable Murple. Written for very young children, this one is all about movement – how children move their bodies like great swinging trees, rollicking whales and drifting clouds.

“There’s no other you like you, There’s no other me like me, Quackily stickily, Squeakily squirmily, Trickley prickly, Huggily happily, Singily skipping along,” she writes.

As is often the case with Fitch, the way the words are presented on paper contributes to their impact. Some are carefully splayed across a page to reflect the beating of a drum and others curve over another page to capture the ebb and flow of a sea wave.

Singily Skipping Along has an added texture provided by rug-hooking artist Deanne Fitzpatrick of Amherst who hook stitches the background and frolicsome characters of the book, using strong greens and blues with lively reds and yellows to fashion a perfect visual balance to the energetic poetry.           

Geographic location: Nova-Scotia, Eyeballing islands

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