My Heart is a Poem

My Heart is a Poem
various authors, various illustrators
Little Tiger

Feelings come and go; most of us experience a plethora of them each day, some briefly, others are with us for longer. This collection of poems from twenty poets is an exploration of these emotions and the effects they have on us. Among the voices are those of Joseph Coelho, James Carter, Kate Wakeling, John Agard, Valerie Bloom and Coral Rumble. Some of the poems included are new to me, one such is Debjani Chatterjee’s No More … about finding a way to deal with a bully. It begins like this: ‘I knew the icy grip of fear, / I knew my heart beat like a drum, I felt a pounding in my ear / And courage crumbling in my tum.’ I suspect most of us have felt similarly troubled by fear of someone. The illustrator for this poem, Nabila Adani is also new to me.

No matter how you are feeling, as Elaine Laron says in No One Else, people can certainly tell you how to do almost anything; however you and only you own your feelings: ‘But no one else, no, no one else / Can tell you how you feel.’ Annalise Barber illustrated this one 

The boy in Nikki Grimes’ Stomp describes how having been subjected to a barrage of horrible words all day at school, ‘I Come home / feet about to bleed / from angry stomping. / “Boy!” says Mom. / “Quit making all that racket.” / But what does she expect / when, day after day, / haters sling words at me / like jagged stones / designed to split my skin’. He retreats to his room and takes up his journal, ‘and unload my hurt, my rage / ’til I can breathe again. / Letter by letter, / I rediscover / my power to decide / which words matter, / which words don’t, / and whose. / Calm, now, I remember: / I get to choose.’ Powerful for the boy; powerful too for the reader.

It’s interesting to consider the situations that cause a particular feeling to manifest itself and there are a wide variety presented in these poems. Coral Rumble’s Ache is the result of disappointment at never being picked to participate in a playground game: ‘But deep inside the pit of me, I ache an ache no one can see.’ So says the child who is always left alone standing by the fence.

Wherever you open the book, you are likely to find a poem that resonates with you and it will be illustrated by one of four fantastic artists whose visual images will be powerfully evocative of the emotion the poet has written about.

Brief biographies and photos of the featured poets and illustrators are presented at the end of the book, enabling the reader to feel connected with the creators.

A great book for the classroom but equally one for individuals to curl up with and ponder.

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