I’m back with two more children’s book illustration (CBI) postcards. These come from Yvonne and Jeana [MelbourneGirl on swap-bot], mother-daughter swappers who hail from Australia. I love receiving children’s book illustrations from other countries, and Yvonne and Jeana do not disappoint. The characters and books illustrated were new to me, so I was over the moon when I received these cards.
The first card was sent several months ago for Book Lovers Congregate (BLC) CBI Swap #33; it features an illustration from The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek (1973) written by Jenny Wagner and illustrated by Ron Brooks:
One night something very large and muddy heaved itself on to the bank of Berkeley’s Creek. ‘What am I ?’ it murmured. ‘What do I look like ?’ A platypus told him he was a bunyip. But what is a bunyip? Although everyone had an opinion, no one really knew. So the bunyip set off to find out for himself. —Google Books
Of course, I had to do a bit of exploring to learn more about the book, and Google did not disappoint. Here’s a book trailer with more wonderful illustrations:
And here are detailed reviews of the book with more images: We Read It Like This or Dad Reads: Stories for Grown-ups About Stories for Children.
The second card, received for BLC CBI Swap #43 just days ago, features an illustration from another classic Australian children’s book, The Magic Pudding, written and illustrated by Norman Lindsay. The postcard celebrates 100 years since the book’s publication in 1918.
I “found” the illustrated book on Gutenberg. Happy dance! I’ll get my guys to read it with me during the Thanksgiving holiday. Hubby is a storyteller, so he’s always “game” for a good tale. In his “tweendom,” the not-so-little-one eschews anything “babyish,” but he’ll go for it if it’s a family activity.
The Guardian features a cute gallery of pictures in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the book. I learned that Lindsay wrote the book “reportedly to settle an argument with his friend Bertram Stevens, claiming children preferred to read about food than fairies.” I wonder who won???
Did you notice the postage stamp and postmark on the front of the cards? Those aren’t machine errors. They’re intentional. The cards are called maxicards; the coveted postcards feature the “first day of issue” postmark and stamps related to or identical to the images on the front of the cards. You can learn more about them via the Postcrossing blog.
These cards are just so delightful! Thanks, Yvonne and Jeana for introducing me to classics in Australian children’s literature. I’m looking forward to reading both books!
Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.
The final quote for the three-day challenge comes from one of my favorite books, Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (published as The Bridge of Beyond in English). I feel I must provide a little context–without giving away too much of the plot, of course.
In Part 2 of the novel, Télumée, the primary character, is so profoundly grieved by her husband’s desertion that she sits on a stone in her grandmother’s backyard for several weeks, speechless and unmovable, reduced to a shade of her former self. Her trauma is understandable. After being obviously head-over-heels in love with her since they were children, Elie, her husband, suddenly and inexplicably becomes cruel and abusive and kicks her out of the house in favor of another woman. The events of her life become incongruous with the reality she’s crafted and the people she and her husband are and Télumée is so broken by this unfathomable turn of events that she “loses her mind” and can no longer function.
Télumée eventually “rises,” nurtured by her community and the steady wisdom of Toussine, her grandmother –“Queen without a Name”–who had suffered and survived many griefs herself. I’m convinced it is the words Toussine instills at an earlier point in the novel that compels her to get up:
Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.
As suddenly as she falls apart, Télumée stands up to live a life different from the one she originally imagined–one that is authentic and communal and necessary.
I have always loved this quote. When I first read it, I put the book down to pause and consider it for a while. And still, several reads later, I am blown away by the tenacity Toussine suggests we must conjure up to survive wild waves of pain and sorrow–the grit it takes to position ourselves so that deep sorrow doesn’t shape our lives, define us, or guide us and the creative prowess it takes to use that sorrow to re-plot the direction of our lives.
Sometimes when the crises come one right after another and literally knock us off our feet, it seems easier to just lie down and wallow in sadness and misery. There can be healing in (temporarily) shutting down, in resting, but at some point we (have to) decide whether we will ride the horse–our circumstances–or let the horse ride us.
There is way more to say about this quote and way, way, way more to say about The Bridge of Beyond. I hope you’ll pick it up and read it. I also hope that when life becomes too much, you’ll choose to ride.
Today’s nominees are [see a previous post for rules]:
Have a restful, fun, and safe weekend!
Note about the photo: The photo above was shot by my son when he was eight-years-old. He is quite the photographer. I’m working on getting him to share more of his work. #proudmom
Like the Rita Dove piece I blogged about several months ago, the Gwendolyn Brooks portrait above is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.
Brooks (1917-2000) was a prolific writer with one novel and more than 20 volumes of poetry to her credit. She was the first Black woman to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, now called U.S. Poet Laureate (1985-1986), and the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Her book Annie Allen won for the best volume of verse published in 1950.
Sometime between the ages of 13 and 14, I fell in love with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks. I gained access to these poets (and many others) through the book collections of my older brothers and sisters.
Gwendolyn Brooks was my favorite. I still know by heart “To Be in Love,” the first poem I read by her:
To be in love
is to touch with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
you know you are tasting together
the winter, or light spring weather.
His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.
You cannot look in his eyes
because your pulse must not say
what must not be said.
shuts a door—
Is not there—
Your arms are water.
And you are free
with a ghastly freedom.
You are the beautiful half
of a golden hurt.
You remember and covet his mouth,
to touch, to whisper on.
Oh when to declare
is certain Death!
Oh when to apprize,
is to mesmerize,
To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
into the commonest ash.
I was “mesmerized” by the way she crafted language. I recall being moved by particular phrases–
you are the beautiful half/of a golden hurt
free/with a ghastly freedom
the Column of Gold/into the commonest ash.
And I was intrigued by how she used opposites and negatives to convey the beauty and pain of love and evoke a powerful sense of loss.
My own (early) poetry was very much influenced by Brooks.
Brooks would have been 101 on June 7, so in her honor, I invite you to read about her contributions to American literature as well as some of her poetry. To get started, see the links below:
- Life and Career (no poetry)
- Gwendolyn Brooks @ Poetry Foundation
- Gwendolyn Brooks @ Poets.Org
- Gwendolyn Brooks Resources at the Library of Congress
- Pulitzer Article on Brooks’ Selection
I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago that my student Courtney sent two postcards, and the second arrived before the first. I received the first postcard today!
It appropriately detailed (as much as can be squeezed onto a postcard) her early musings about her life in France. And it features one of my favorite French artists, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse.
If you’ve been following my blog for at least a few years, you might remember my sharing the work of 16 little Matisses that imitate his collage style.
La Chute d’Icare [The Fall of Icarus], from Matisse’s “cut-outs” period of his late career, illustrates the tale of Icarus, the son of Daedalus who ignored his father’s warning and with wax wings flew too close to the sun. Matisse masterfully captured Icarus’ fall through the sky to the sea.
Courtney might know I have a ‘thing” for Greek mythology (re)interpreted in art and literature. Here are a few Icarus poems worth reading:
- William Carlos Williams’ “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” and W. H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” both written in “response” to Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”
- Edward Field–“Icarus”
- Anne Sexton reading “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph”
- Saeed Jones–Daedalus, After Icarus
I think I’ll write a poem this weekend that recasts the story of Icarus in my own way. I already have a title, “Fly, Baby, Fly.” I’ll include it in my reply to Court.
I’m wrapping up the writers from the Sisters of the Harlem Renaissance postcard collection today with three women who led long and productive literary lives–Gwendolyn Bennett, Helene Johnson, and Dorothy West.
Gwendolyn Bennett, best known for her striking poetry largely composed during the decade of the 1920s, was actively involved in African American culture and the arts community over twenty years. Following graduation form Brooklyn’s Girls High, Bennett planned to become a graphic and visual artist. She entered Teacher’s College, Columbia University, taking courses in Art Education; in 1924, she graduated from Pratt Institute. While studying art, Bennett also wrote poetry; she was soon successful in both media. In 1923 Opportunity published her poem “Heritage,” and The Crisis carried a cover which she illustrated. In August of 1926, Bennett began the “Ebony Flute,” a literary and social chit-chat column featured in Opportunity until 1928. Also in 1926, Bennett served on the editorial board of the short-lived Fire!! where “Wedding Day,” her first published short story, appeared. Despite frequent absences from New York, Bennett belonged to the close-knit Harlem Writers Guild. She was a friend and associate of such figures as Langston Hughes, Aaron and Alta Douglas, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston. –Sandra Y. Govan
For more information on Gwendolyn Bennett’s life, writing, and art, see the following resources:
Helene Johnson, like her cousin Dorothy West, was one of the youngest of the Harlem Renaissance poets. Born in Boston, she first visited New York in 1926 to accept Opportunity‘s First Honorable Mention prize for her poem “Fulfillment.” After moving to New York in 1927, she met prominent Harlem Renaissance literary figures, including Zora Neale Hurston, who became her close friend, and Wallace Thurman. Thurman published one of her poems, “A Southern Road,” in the only issue of his journal Fire!! About one-third of Johnson’s poems treat themes of youthful sensuality and the joy of life; racial themes dominate many others. From 1925 through the mid-1930s, Johnson’s poems appeared regularly in periodicals such as Opportunity, The Messenger, Palms, Vanity Fair, Harlem, Challenge, ,and Saturday Evening Quill. Anthologists of the Harlem Renaissance have continued to include her works in their collections of Black American literature. –T. J. Bryan
Interestingly, it was difficult finding more about Helene Johnson online. The New York Times featured a rather detailed obituary with comments about her writing, excerpts from her poems, and the beautiful testimony of her daughter that even after the height of her literary career, she wrote a poem every day.
Dorothy West, one of the youngest writers drawn to Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, first came to New York in 1926 because she won “some little prize in Opportunity” for her short story, “The Typewriter.” Additional short stories (which she considers the perfect literary form) appeared in Opportunity, The Messenger, Boston Post, and Saturday Evening Quill during the 1920s. In 1934 she founded and edited Challenge, a literary journal, “to permit new Negroes to make themselves heard,” and in 1937 she edited a reincarnation of that quarterly, New Challenge. Her important novel, The Living Is Easy, was published in 1948 and reissued in 1982. For a number of years she wrote a weekly column for the Vineyard Gazette. –Phyllis Rauch Klotman
For more on Dorothy West, see the following resources:
- Obituary in The New York Times
- The Dorothy West Papers, part of the Black Women’s Oral History Project
Initially, I was surprised to find that the brief biography on the back of the card did not mention West’s most popular novel, The Wedding, which was made into a television movie. Then, I realized the publication of the Sisters of the Harlem Renaissance collection preceded the novel. That Dorothy West continued to write her entire life and that her novel was published in 1995, when she was 88 years old, is clear evidence that age should not be a hindrance in the pursuit of our goals.
It has been clear to me for some time that my students didn’t read what I read in high school, so it was little surprise to me that students in my Shakespeare course had no idea what I was talking about when I walked into class this morning warning, “Beware the ides of March.” I’m not teaching Julius Caesar this semester, but I couldn’t let the “ides of March” go by without acknowledging the play that made the line “famous.”
I read Julius Caesar in junior high with Mr. Elliott, an amazing English teacher. As he demonstrated in his booming voice how we should read/act out the play, he drew us into the text and into the lives and motivations of the characters.
I haven’t reviewed the high school literature curriculum lately, but I’m pretty sure students are no longer required to read what I “had” to read–eons ago. I imagine English teachers today have serious challenges providing a curriculum that embraces the traditional “canon” of dead white men and the more inclusive contemporary “canon” to a generation that cut its teeth on e-readers and hyperlinks.
Anyway, in honor of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, and my 9th grade English teacher, I’m dropping by not with a warning but with a poem about the unpredictable mid-March weather that makes us all “watch our backs.”
I shot the “foggy day” photo outside our home in New Orleans March 15, 2012–the “Ides of March” six years ago. If the poem is difficult to read on the photo, it appears below:
The Ides of March by Marcella Remund
The seer was right to warn us,
beware the ides of March.
It’s a dangerous time, peering
through iced windows at the jeweled
tease of crocus and daffodil.
We’ve weathered another season
of deep-freeze, locked up tight
in muscle and mind. We’re tired
of winter’s grey and gritty leftovers.
But this is no time to get careless,
toss a floorboard heater through
the beveled glass and go out,
where spring flashes her flannel petticoat
embroidered in pinks and greens,
leaves us gaping, breathless,
in air still cold as a knife blade,
stripping off the down.
The author, Marcella Remund, is also an English professor. I wonder if her students came to her familiar with the phrase–“Beware the ides of March.”