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A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.   Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awar A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.   Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awareness and artistic inspiration along with a larger view of the world around her: racial tensions, the Cold War era, and the first stirrings of the feminist movement.   A first-person account of African-American history, this is a book to study, discuss, and treasure.


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A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.   Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awar A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.   Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awareness and artistic inspiration along with a larger view of the world around her: racial tensions, the Cold War era, and the first stirrings of the feminist movement.   A first-person account of African-American history, this is a book to study, discuss, and treasure.

30 review for How I Discovered Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    When I read that Marilyn Nelson had a new book coming out called How I Discovered Poetry, I said to myself hurray! I was thinking she might deliver a prose narrative that uncovered the background magic of why her poems touch me so. I had high expectations but when I saw the little volume with its sparse, undramatic illustrations (by Hadley Hooper) and realized the book consisted of 50 unrhymed sonnets, the sides of my mouth did sag a little bit. Marilyn! That’s not what I wanted from you! (I may When I read that Marilyn Nelson had a new book coming out called How I Discovered Poetry, I said to myself hurray! I was thinking she might deliver a prose narrative that uncovered the background magic of why her poems touch me so. I had high expectations but when I saw the little volume with its sparse, undramatic illustrations (by Hadley Hooper) and realized the book consisted of 50 unrhymed sonnets, the sides of my mouth did sag a little bit. Marilyn! That’s not what I wanted from you! (I may as well have whined). Just for that I’m putting your book to the side while I read something else! (What a brat, right?) Well, by the time I finished sulking it was nearly time for me to return the book to the public library---there would be no renewing it since another patron was awaiting this copy. I sat on the side of the bed and began to thumb through. Underneath the title of each poem was a location and a year, such as “Mather AFB, California, 1957” or “Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas, 1954.” The first poem was situated in “Cleveland, Ohio 1950” and the final poem in “Clinton-Sherman AFB, Oklahoma, 1959.” I counted at least nine different locations. There were also three photographs from the family album which had been shrunken in size for the book, so I had to squint extra hard to guess at what people’s---especially young Marilyn’s, and her sister, Jennifer’s---eyes and facial expressions might tell. At the back of the book was the author’s note, in which Marilyn Nelson explained that her father was one of the first African American career officers in the United States Air Force. I realized her family had spent the 1950s moving around the country, picking up their life and laying it down over and over again. When I laughed aloud while reading the following poem, I decided to return to the first page and re-open my heart to reading: “Church” (Cleveland, Ohio, 1950) Why did Lot have to take his wife and flea from the bad city, like that angel said? Poor Lot: imagine having a pet flea. I’d keep mine on a dog. But maybe fleas were bigger in the olden Bible days. Maybe a flea was bigger than a dog, more like sheep or a goat. Maybe they had flea farms back then, with herds of giant fleas. Jennifer squirms beside me on the pew, sucking her thumb, nestled against Mama. Maybe Lot and his wife rode saddled fleas! Or drove a coach pulled by a team of fleas! I giggle soundlessly, but Mama swats my leg, holding a finger to her lips. Ever so gently, reading poem after poem, I remember what its like being a kid; what language sounded like and where I heard it and what I thought it meant. It seems that as we become avid, mature readers and start to have more experience in the world we forget the mystery of first encounters with expressions like ,"fingers crossed", "knock on wood", or, "walking on eggshells." A laugh like a snort came out of my nose when I realized Marilyn thought she was hearing the words Kemo "Sape" for Kemo Sabe while watching episodes of “The Lone Ranger.” And like Marilyn and her sister, I, too, wanted to cry on the front lawn when their parents broke their word: saying they would only be gone “for five minutes.” But this book is about so much more than endearing malapropisms and taking the world literally. It’s about fighting words and having one’s hair grow wild during two weeks at summer camp. Its about tip-toeing to the mirror at night, testing your grin because “Some TV Negroes have shine-in-the-dark/white eyes and teeth and are afraid of ghosts.” It’s about a world of firsts and only’s; about Creek-Seminole Native Americans, whites, and blacks all living in the United States of America during the Cold War years. It’s about being a sensitive and bookish Negro girl whose family traverses the impressive landscape by car, saying hello and waving goodbye to friends in people and pets and toys and regional folkways. “The sky seems to be bigger in the West. I’m growing bigger inside to take it in.” It is about the powerful imprints made by our every-day-use of language, as well as witnessing the visual poetry of a dawn and realizing “There’s more beauty on Earth than I can bear.” The book takes it’s title from that of a poem so layered with meanings that appear, waver, disappear then reappear, again, mirage-like. I’m still thinking about it. “How I Discovered Poetry” (Clinton-Sherman AFB, Oklahoma, 1959) It was like soul-kissing, the way the words filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk. All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15, but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me to read to the all-except-for-me white class. She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder, said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo-playing darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished, my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent to the buses, awed by the power of words.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    A memoir covering ages 4-14 in the form of 50 non-rhyming sonnets by Nelson, who has been three times nominated for the National Book Award. I think it reads more for younger readers in places, as Nelson has written many books for children, so I think of this as an ideal YA text for a poetry unit, or one about African American history, or as a supplement to any text about growing up. To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on white people's experience of civil rights mid century, but it tells little about A memoir covering ages 4-14 in the form of 50 non-rhyming sonnets by Nelson, who has been three times nominated for the National Book Award. I think it reads more for younger readers in places, as Nelson has written many books for children, so I think of this as an ideal YA text for a poetry unit, or one about African American history, or as a supplement to any text about growing up. To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on white people's experience of civil rights mid century, but it tells little about the African Americans in Macomb, GA. Maybe How I Discovered Poetry could be seen as a useful book to read with Harper Lee's book in a high school classroom. It's not primarily about civil rights, though. This is also a book about growing up African American in the fifties, and will be of interest to general readers. Narrative, non-rhyming sonnets. Sweet and gentle, mostly. Likable. Here's the NPR interview, with some poems: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/08/2726548... Here's some more poems to check out: https://books.google.com/books?id=fun...

  3. 4 out of 5

    J & J

    This just didn't work for me...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Madison D

    This book is really good. Its about this girl and her family always on the road because her father is in the army. I highly recommend this book to people who like poetry or who just need a good book to read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Stunning autobiographical series of 50 unrhymed sonnets by Marilyn Nelson that tell the story of her 1950s childhood as the daughter of African-American military officer. Each poem provides a snapshot of her life; some are funny, some are poignant; all show a moment of insight or growth. I read it in one sitting and then promptly started to read it over again. Because Nelson was a military brat, this slim volume is literally set all over the country, and as such it is really a remarkably America Stunning autobiographical series of 50 unrhymed sonnets by Marilyn Nelson that tell the story of her 1950s childhood as the daughter of African-American military officer. Each poem provides a snapshot of her life; some are funny, some are poignant; all show a moment of insight or growth. I read it in one sitting and then promptly started to read it over again. Because Nelson was a military brat, this slim volume is literally set all over the country, and as such it is really a remarkably American story. And for poetry lovers, this book is a real delight, as Nelson is a formidable wordsmith.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Perfect.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Moments from Nelson's life, ages 4-14, beautifully captured in 50 sonnets.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I liked reading this book, a kind of memoir through poetry of the author's young life (ages 4 - 14), in which we see her start school, move around with her military family, and explore her fascination with words as she begins to see that she may become a poet. Some poems are heart-wrenching: 75 Bitter Apple, 93 The Baby Picture Guessing Game, 95 Safe Path Through Quicksand, and 97 How I Discovered Poetry. A favorite: 73 Africans (Sacramento, California, 1959) Mama brings Africans home from grad sch I liked reading this book, a kind of memoir through poetry of the author's young life (ages 4 - 14), in which we see her start school, move around with her military family, and explore her fascination with words as she begins to see that she may become a poet. Some poems are heart-wrenching: 75 Bitter Apple, 93 The Baby Picture Guessing Game, 95 Safe Path Through Quicksand, and 97 How I Discovered Poetry. A favorite: 73 Africans (Sacramento, California, 1959) Mama brings Africans home from grad school, like a kid who keeps finding lost puppies. She's so proud of their new independence. She brings home smooth-faced mahogany men, dressed in suits like beautiful pajamas, so Jennifer and I can shake their hands. Nodding polite answers to her questions, they go to town on her catfish and grits. Later, while Daddy drives them to their dorms, she washes and Jennifer and I dry. "Some of the greatest wrongs of history are being righted now," she says. "These are our people." As I put a plate away, I ask myself who is not my people. The author's note at the end explains some of the form of the book (for example, the poems are sonnets - I would never have noticed), more reasons to like it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I was expecting a larger time period to be cobered, but this was still a cool way to get insight about a poet's life. The illustrations added well to the poems as well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet Hewitt

    I loved these poems! Marilyn paints a picture of a young girls life growing up negro and military in the 50/60s. Her poems are thought provoking, nastalgic and funny! So happy to have discovered Marilyn. Can't wait to read more of her work!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rich in Color

    Review Copy: purchased Reading How I Discovered Poetry is like looking through a photo album with a loved one while they share memories. Here a laugh, there a tear, sometimes even an admission of mischievousness. Marilyn Nelson has crafted fifty sonnets that begin with the simplicity of a pre-schooler and progress to the complexity of the early teen years. Each sonnet is a snapshot of family life, but many also give glimpses of the cultural changes that were occurring in the wider world. What I lo Review Copy: purchased Reading How I Discovered Poetry is like looking through a photo album with a loved one while they share memories. Here a laugh, there a tear, sometimes even an admission of mischievousness. Marilyn Nelson has crafted fifty sonnets that begin with the simplicity of a pre-schooler and progress to the complexity of the early teen years. Each sonnet is a snapshot of family life, but many also give glimpses of the cultural changes that were occurring in the wider world. What I loved was the voice that truly seemed to mature. I could just see a young child asking, “Why did Lot have to take his wife and flea from the bad city like the angel said?” She is truly puzzled about that flea as she sits there in church. She has many such misunderstandings as she grows up. Over time, they become less about vocabulary issues and more about the deeper questioning she is doing concerning the world and her place in it. As she learns, grows and experiences life, the sonnets show her increasing sense of self. She begins to find her voice – the voice of a poet. There are so many ways that readers can connect to this book. Nelson throws the door open so we can see into the life of a military family on the move. There are sibling and family interactions that I know I could sympathize with as an older sister. She includes civil rights issues and instances of prejudice. With so many brief moments of time highlighted, there are many opportunities for readers to see echoes of their own life. As a military family, they move all over the country. In most of the places they are stationed, they are the first or only Negro family. This makes for a lot of what she calls “First Negro” moments. Some of the experiences are positive – like her mother being the first Negro teacher of the all white class on base. Some are negative like the racial name calling that happens. In the midst of her personal stories, she also embeds stories from the Civil Rights movement including people like Emmett Till and Rosa Parks. Humor is present here along with the serious matters. I enjoyed the poem “Fieldwork” where Daddy says, “Let’s pretend we’re researching an unknown civilian Caucasian tribe,” when they move to New Hampshire. The poet goes on to explain the eating habits and vocabulary of the locals. If you know any of Marilyn Nelson’s previous work, you won’t be surprised to find out that there is also beauty among the poems. There is beauty that she describes, but there is also simple beauty in her words. If you want a taste, be sure to read the poems from the book that are linked below. The NPR interview is excellent. It’s about seven minutes long and features a reading of the title poem at the end. Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you are a poetry lover. Even if you don’t typically read poetry, this is a great book for history buffs or those who enjoy memoirs. Besides, reading How I Discovered Poetry would be a perfect way to celebrate Poetry Month. Original review posted at Rich in Color http://richincolor.com/2014/04/review...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    "How I Discovered Poetry" is a book written by the African American Marilyn Nelson in the 50’s in America. She wrote these poems about how her life was at that time. What made this book a truly inspirational book to me was because it is written by someone that seemed to have a true passion for what she was writing about. The poems are taking place in more the nine different locations. However none of the poems in this book rhyme. I imagine many of them as short stories, in poetry form. Even thou "How I Discovered Poetry" is a book written by the African American Marilyn Nelson in the 50’s in America. She wrote these poems about how her life was at that time. What made this book a truly inspirational book to me was because it is written by someone that seemed to have a true passion for what she was writing about. The poems are taking place in more the nine different locations. However none of the poems in this book rhyme. I imagine many of them as short stories, in poetry form. Even though they are not rhyming, they have a good flow, which is why I define it has poetry. Just by looking at the titles of her poem, this author has a lot to say, and a range of different, unique topics. When I saw this book, and after reading the back, I thought it would be a book with very strong literature, as she seemed to write with passion. This feeling remained with me through every poem. Reading some of the poems, she doesn’t even mention that she is an African American. This, to me, symbolizes what I think was one of the author's purposes to writing this. You don’t need to know what skin color she has to know this is good poetry. No one has to be white to write good poems. I Relate this a lot to a movie I saw recently, about a very smart African American girl that does not get as equal rights as white people. Both of them didn’t let other people's opinions get in their way. I would recommend this to all readers, as it teaches you a lot about how it was like in the 50s for African Americans, as it also shows great literature and poetry.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Donna Merritt

    HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marilyn Nelson is a series of unrhymed sonnets based on her life and what was going on around her during the 1950s. It spans a decade, beginning with the innocent voice of a 4-year-old and ending as a 13-year-old who is still a child, but beginning to understand the world and her place in it as her father and family relocate numerous times to Air Force bases around the country. I was born on an AFB in Rome, NY, and my brothers were born on one in Fort Worth, TX. Maybe HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marilyn Nelson is a series of unrhymed sonnets based on her life and what was going on around her during the 1950s. It spans a decade, beginning with the innocent voice of a 4-year-old and ending as a 13-year-old who is still a child, but beginning to understand the world and her place in it as her father and family relocate numerous times to Air Force bases around the country. I was born on an AFB in Rome, NY, and my brothers were born on one in Fort Worth, TX. Maybe that's part of the reason I loved this book. My father got out of the military when I was young, but we continued to move around (he was always a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence person), so I understand what it's like to forever be the new kid (eight schools total and five of those before age ten). As one of Nelson's poems states, "When you die, you go to a different school." I can relate. Early on, she loses herself in books, the way I always did (and do). Marilyn's story, though, has the added layer of being the new African American family in town. At eight, she learns that "TV is black-and-white, but people aren't / There's a bad name mean people might call you…" Marilyn records her story with grace, not sinking into sentimentality or a poor-me attitude. The voice of a child is true ("That's why I'm here petting this stupid cow") as is the teenager who discovers poetry and the power of words. This is definitely a book to give a poetry lover or a child who feels different or alone. Some of my favorite lines from "Just Pick a Name": What if I left a note in a mailbox out in the boonies, far from any town, that said, I know it's hard. You're doing fine. I wonder: Would that make things different?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    This book of fifty poems about the author's childhood in the fifties took me back to my own childhood in the same decade, even in some of the same places - Denver, Colorado where my father worked at Lowry Air Force Base mentioned in one of her poems. Although I was never subjected to racial slurs and slights as the author was - even by some of her teachers, I do remember some of the slights by my teachers to this day. Why do those stick with us? Of course, I remember the wonderful and encouraging This book of fifty poems about the author's childhood in the fifties took me back to my own childhood in the same decade, even in some of the same places - Denver, Colorado where my father worked at Lowry Air Force Base mentioned in one of her poems. Although I was never subjected to racial slurs and slights as the author was - even by some of her teachers, I do remember some of the slights by my teachers to this day. Why do those stick with us? Of course, I remember the wonderful and encouraging teachers as well and my moments of "glory," but someday I must write a poem about Mme. Fuselier, my French teacher. However, that incident doesn't approach what the author was subjected to when she was forced to read a racially insensitive and demeaning poem to her class by a malicious and racist teacher. I can only hope that this book was cathartic for the author and helped to close the door on that painful episode. Marilyn Nelson was also lucky enough to have teachers who loaned her poetry books and one who told her, that one day "you will be a famous poet too!" The power of kindness, the power of encouragement - thankfully some teachers have those powers and their students are inspired and uplifted to do amazing things with their lives, to become poets, professors and writers - or simply to "flee into the arms of poetry (and) . . . take my books to bed!"

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This collection of 50 unrhymed sonnets reveals the life of author Marilyn Nelson, a young African American girl growing up in the 1950s. The poems trace her development from the age of four to fourteen, her growing self-awareness, and her experience of a world in tension. The Cold War, the “Red Scare,” the civil rights movement and women’s liberation all provide context for her poems. Nelson explains that, “each of the poems is built around a ‘hole’ or ‘gap’ in the Speaker’s understanding.” Read This collection of 50 unrhymed sonnets reveals the life of author Marilyn Nelson, a young African American girl growing up in the 1950s. The poems trace her development from the age of four to fourteen, her growing self-awareness, and her experience of a world in tension. The Cold War, the “Red Scare,” the civil rights movement and women’s liberation all provide context for her poems. Nelson explains that, “each of the poems is built around a ‘hole’ or ‘gap’ in the Speaker’s understanding.” Readers will notice the development of the author’s passions and convictions as the novel progresses. Other themes include military family life and the complexities and beauty of language. Classroom Connection: Introduce your young folks to the inspiring voice of poet Marilyn Nelson. Do an author study with your students using some of her other titles—Carver: A Life in Poems, A Wreath for Emmett Till, Sweethearts of Rhythm, Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. These books lend themselves well to writing and cross-curricular lessons.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Greg Holch

    Two books. Each about an African American girl growing up in the U.S. Each written in verse. Each by a Newbery Honor award winning author. Each published by "an imprint of Penguin Group." Each with an author whose name is incredibly similar to the other. Which one is somehow missing the titles of the author's previous work, while the other one has all the author's books listed on the front sales page along with major reviews on the back cover? Which one looks like its dreaming of winning all the awards Two books. Each about an African American girl growing up in the U.S. Each written in verse. Each by a Newbery Honor award winning author. Each published by "an imprint of Penguin Group." Each with an author whose name is incredibly similar to the other. Which one is somehow missing the titles of the author's previous work, while the other one has all the author's books listed on the front sales page along with major reviews on the back cover? Which one looks like its dreaming of winning all the awards out there, while the other one is asking politely to be shelved with the poetry books? Two books. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. Are we still judging books by their covers? Open them both. Read the first page. They both look like winners to me. -- Greg Holch

  17. 5 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    I expected this book to be about how poet Marilyn Nelson discovered poetry as a child. However, it was more about her childhood growing up in the '50s in a military family, and about the political events (civil rights, Emmett Till, riots, women's lib) happening then. I really enjoyed reading about this time period, when I myself was born. I was especially interested in what school was like then, and what she read from the library. She had a hard time understanding racism, reading because she lik I expected this book to be about how poet Marilyn Nelson discovered poetry as a child. However, it was more about her childhood growing up in the '50s in a military family, and about the political events (civil rights, Emmett Till, riots, women's lib) happening then. I really enjoyed reading about this time period, when I myself was born. I was especially interested in what school was like then, and what she read from the library. She had a hard time understanding racism, reading because she liked to read rather than because she was "tryin' to be white." In fact, Nelson states in the author's note at the back of the book that each poem revolved around something she didn't understand as a child, and this was evident. In the end, I wish the book had been longer, moving into the '60s. Highly recommended!

  18. 5 out of 5

    elissa

    It's incredible how much of a story Nelson can tell with poetry, and how clear a picture a poem can paint (certainly when Nelson is the poet). I am not a huge fan of poetry, but am in awe of all of the books that I've read by this author. I couldn't put this one down, as has been true every time I've read a book of hers. The fact that I now know Nelson's younger sister makes this all the more mesmerizing for me, but I was mesmerized by Marilyn Nelson's writing long before I met Jennifer (only a It's incredible how much of a story Nelson can tell with poetry, and how clear a picture a poem can paint (certainly when Nelson is the poet). I am not a huge fan of poetry, but am in awe of all of the books that I've read by this author. I couldn't put this one down, as has been true every time I've read a book of hers. The fact that I now know Nelson's younger sister makes this all the more mesmerizing for me, but I was mesmerized by Marilyn Nelson's writing long before I met Jennifer (only a couple of years ago). [To my UUCSS goodreads friends: I'm talking about Jennifer Nelson, if you haven't gotten the hint. :) Her sister is an amazing poet who's won both a Newbery Honor and Printz Honor from the American Library Association.]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tali

    I finally read my first book of the summer 2016! This also happens to be the first poetry book I've ever read! It was a unique experience, but I enjoyed it a lot! I found myself covering the pages in annotations. Nelson's poems are straightforward and easy to read, yet they made me think a lot afterward. I appreciate how she weaves together a complex picture of 1950's America coupled with undercurrents of racism, the Red Scare, the civil rights movement, and the cold war. The poems feet very much I finally read my first book of the summer 2016! This also happens to be the first poetry book I've ever read! It was a unique experience, but I enjoyed it a lot! I found myself covering the pages in annotations. Nelson's poems are straightforward and easy to read, yet they made me think a lot afterward. I appreciate how she weaves together a complex picture of 1950's America coupled with undercurrents of racism, the Red Scare, the civil rights movement, and the cold war. The poems feet very much rooted in 1950's America, but her themes of growing up and finding your identity were still very relatable and relevant to the present day. All in all I highly recommend this book to someone who is new to poetry (like me) and enjoys American history and a coming of age story. :)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Semi-autobiographical poems set in the 1950s. Using a narrator very similar to herself, Nelson takes readers from coast to coast with a military family and addresses Civil Rights issues such as segregation and reveals the influences that led up to Nelson's writing career. An author's note explains Nelson's approach to the collection of poetry found here and mixed media artwork supports the tone of the memoir. Recommended for grades 9 and up, especially as part of a class unit on Civil Rights in hi Semi-autobiographical poems set in the 1950s. Using a narrator very similar to herself, Nelson takes readers from coast to coast with a military family and addresses Civil Rights issues such as segregation and reveals the influences that led up to Nelson's writing career. An author's note explains Nelson's approach to the collection of poetry found here and mixed media artwork supports the tone of the memoir. Recommended for grades 9 and up, especially as part of a class unit on Civil Rights in history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I can't seem to reconcile the book's title with it's content. It is poetry yes, but it doesn't really tell us much about why she enjoys it so. Marilyn gives us little glimpses into her life growing up in the 50's and 60's but if you didn't grow up in that era the references are so vague that it will likely not make sense to you.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    "Both a snapshot of a person’s life and an unforgettable time period in American history, How I Discovered Poetry is also tribute to the power of words arranged in lines and stanzas and couplets." More at Reading Rants: http://www.readingrants.org/2014/04/1...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Precious

    How I Discovered Poetry is a strong memoir about the life of Marilyn Nelson. in this story she talks about how she had to deal with Jim Crow laws and civil rights. I believe that as she grow up she began to gain a deeper understanding of what's going on around her which sparked her beginning into poetry.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    Lovely unrhymed sonnets from Marilyn Nelson, telling the story of her childhood growing up in a military family in the 1950s. Touches on family relationships, race, and civil rights. One downside is the brevity -- just 50 poems in these 100 or so pages. This would probably work best in a guided reading as some historical elements might need to be explained to younger readers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Kahn

    Fifty sonnets cover a decade of the author's life, from age 4 to 14, as she relocates repeatedly due to her officer father's military assignments. Significant Civil Rights events occur and are processed by the young Speaker. Unique and evocative.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kaye

    For category: a memoir

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Wonderful evocative poetry that put me completely in the Speaker's shoes. Excellent range of topics and emotions and had me writing down lines to keep and remember. LOVED this!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    When I first found this book I thought it was going to be about how the author discovered poetry. As I read the book I realized it was actually about her early life in the 1950’s. Nelson's poems are easy and quick to read but after they really make you stop and think. There are a total of fifty poems all written like an autobiography that focuses on her toddler through early teen years. It mainly talks about her life growing up. She was the only black person in the school she went to and in the When I first found this book I thought it was going to be about how the author discovered poetry. As I read the book I realized it was actually about her early life in the 1950’s. Nelson's poems are easy and quick to read but after they really make you stop and think. There are a total of fifty poems all written like an autobiography that focuses on her toddler through early teen years. It mainly talks about her life growing up. She was the only black person in the school she went to and in the book she learns to find her voice as a young poet. She lives in a military family that moves all over the country. It a lot of places that they moved, they were the only or first African-American family. As she grows up she begins to see things in a different light and realizes the things happening around her which I believed is what inspired her start to poetry. Marilyn explains what it what like to live in the time period she did and she talks about her encounters with racism as well. I think this is a great book for students to read and I would recommend it to someone around the age of nine to thirteen. There’s really nothing I could think of that could improve this book because it was very well written by the perspective of the author. I really liked this author style of writing and it was easy to follow.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Marilyn Nelson explores her childhood over a ten year period in verse, beginning in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950, with the opening line of "Once upon a time" and the change that occurs when her father is placed in active duty in the military. As she explores her growing from a five year old to a 15 year old, she uses the era's civil rights movement to explain what she experienced. What I learned: I am not much younger than Nelson, and I grew up in an isolated section of Appalachia. I never remembered Marilyn Nelson explores her childhood over a ten year period in verse, beginning in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950, with the opening line of "Once upon a time" and the change that occurs when her father is placed in active duty in the military. As she explores her growing from a five year old to a 15 year old, she uses the era's civil rights movement to explain what she experienced. What I learned: I am not much younger than Nelson, and I grew up in an isolated section of Appalachia. I never remembered going to separate schools nor seeing signs of segregation (thanks to parents who did not want us to treat others differently). But I do remember seeing the jeering and the demonstrations and the ugliness on TV. It was frightening. I remember the newscasts of a six-year-old who had to go to school under the protection of the military. That too was frightening. Our childhood experiences remain very real, scary, and hurtful regardless of our age. They do shape whom we become. It is our responsibility to use these experiences to become our best persona and to try to change that which is wrong. A book I will keep and will reread.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kris Dersch

    I think this is the first memoir in poems I've ever read, but there seems no one better to do that than Marilyn Nelson, who is the master of biography in poems. First of all, it is a lovely book. She really knows how to make the sonnet form her own and taking her main character (who she refers to in her author's note as The Speaker) from ages 4-14 is something she does very well and it is not easy. And yet this book is somehow both wholly satisfying and wholly unsatisfying. It asks more question I think this is the first memoir in poems I've ever read, but there seems no one better to do that than Marilyn Nelson, who is the master of biography in poems. First of all, it is a lovely book. She really knows how to make the sonnet form her own and taking her main character (who she refers to in her author's note as The Speaker) from ages 4-14 is something she does very well and it is not easy. And yet this book is somehow both wholly satisfying and wholly unsatisfying. It asks more questions than it answers and leaves more gaps than it fills about the life of a fascinating poet. I think I picked it up hoping it would be an inspiration to teenage aspiring poets, telling them how to lead the poet's life, and it is definitely not. I have trouble categorizing it...is it YA or might it be better read by a 9 or 10 year old right in the thick of the ages covered? It spans an important decade of American history but isn't really history...and yet is. I don't know how to define this book, but I'm not sorry I read it. I love how Marilyn Nelson finds new ways to make poetry and all things literary new.

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