Book Reviews

New Selected Poems
By Philip Levine
Alfred A. Knopf, 2002
ISBN: 0679740562

Rating: 5 of 5

A Double Recommendation
For A Great Poetry Read

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

There is only one source more trustworthy for a good poetry read than your favorite reviewer and that's a poetry teacher. I am especially fortunate because my most recent one is a once-in-a-lifetime award-winner. She's won many awards, but the one that counts is mine -- Favorite Poetry Teacher of all Time.

So, if I have your attention I'll give the facts here. The teacher is Suzanne Lummis, author of In Danger, and the book she recommended for class reading is Phillip Levine's New Selected Poems. There were others, of course, but this was my favorite. I even selected the poem I was required to memorize (I know, I screamed, too, but there you have it!) from this collection. (See page 54: A Sleepless Night)

Much gentler that most of Levine's poems, this one spoke to me because it is so hopeful about feeling comfortable in the world, even when we are away from home. An inveterate traveler, I think I liked it because in all this traveling I have been searching for a connection that I never had in the place where my roots were originally planted and grew. Levine's "A man has every place to lay his head" comes after some delicate imagery that sings to a soul.

I must warn a reader that much of this collection is very gritty, very urban -- something Levine is known for. But it is also varied. And it is accessible. There are very few poems in this collection that leave the casual reader scratching their heads, waiting for understanding to come to them.

A nice, fat book of poetry, I feel sure that every lover of poetry will find one in this collection to love-- maybe even to memorize.

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes

By Rose Lewis, Illustrated by Jane Dyer
Little Brown and Company, 2002
ISBN: 0316525766

Rating: 5 of 5

A New Mother Sings
Her Love to Her Adopted Child

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis is a lovely little board book destined to become a keeper for any adopted child. The author sings a lullaby in prose to her newly adopted Chinese baby, one that baby and others will treasure. Illustrator Jane Dyer captures a nostalgic 40s look that still manages to look up-to-date.

A book that is narrowly targeted to adoptive parents and children, I believe it would be most appreciated by those who have brought into their homes an Asian child. For these few, I know of no other book that will sing its song as poignantly. For adopted children of other ethnicities, the sentiments will still chime true.

I have rated this book five of five; it is truly a rare find.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson's first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.

Her newly released Harkening, a collection of stories, has won three. She tutors English as a Second Language, concentrating on helping Asian language speakers overcome their accents.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author
This is the Place has won eight awards
and Harkening has won three.
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