a poet’s memoir; a journey to freedom and a voice

To follow up on my MLK Day post, here’s a book for older readers.

how i discovered poetry cover imageHow I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson, illustrations by Hadley Hooper
published in 2014 by Dial Books

Marilyn Nelson’s exquisite poetry is a rare gift to all of us. Her many works illuminate dark corners, probe tender bruises, celebrate the overlooked. I have often paused, struck to stillness by an eloquent insight, rich turn of phrase, painful juxtaposition, which pierces my heart for the good.

Her memoir is a gorgeous collection

Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson

of poems spanning the years 1950 to 1959. That’s ages 4 to 14 for Marilyn. As this young girl grows up amid racial tensions and the arising Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Red Scare and a new wave of feminism, she grows in understanding herself and her society. Nelson’s miraculous ability to translate that deep, inner thoughtlife, both the initial unawareness and the spark of new realization, into words that communicate to our core, is exceptional.

mather afb 1955For each entry, Nelson also records which Air Force Base she’s writing from because as a child of one of the first African American career Air Force officers, her childhood was transient, and this, too, was a shaping force in her identity.

Apart from a golden opportunity to meet this poet on a more personal level, Nelson’s memoir offers us a striking, young person’s viewpoint of the Civil Rights movement, and a candid glimpse of the way she discovers the artist’s calling. For anyone ages 12 and up, this is a beautiful read.