Wednesday, January 14, 2009

YA poetry

If you think young adults won't read poetry, take a look at this book. I just finished reading The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson, Wordsong, 2008. Marilyn has written poems in response to the story of Venture Smith, son of a prince from Guinea. Venture was enslaved as a boy in the early 18th century and eventually bought his own freedom and others', also. Opposite the amazing poetry, Venture's own words tell his compelling story in the text, A NARRATIVE of the LIFE AND ADVENTURES of VENTURE, a NATIVE of AFRICA.

The narrative is compelling by itself, but twenty-five poems place the heart-breaking details of Venture's life under a microscope. We see, hear and feel with Venture when he is captured, sails to the New World and learns to serve his masters.

We feel the back-breaking work to purchase his freedom in a brilliant poem, "December Moonrise," that evokes Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:"

"My bones so weary, I could near about weep."

We feel his love for his wife Meg, who he purchases after many years, in a poem named for her:

"This is the hour of stars and of the night, dreaming
where she lies on a hill of clouds, wrapped in a length of milky-way cloth."

The Freedom Business is an historical account opened up for the reader by Nelson's poems and Deborah Dancy's evocative art. It is wonderful!

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