Wednesday, April 21, 2010

African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways by Avis Harley

Ms. Harley uses one poetic form, the acrostic, to explore animals of the African continent.

What I thought: Stupendous poems. They read well and look even better on the page. Love the photographs—they really capture the animals’ vitality. I liked the “lesson” at the end pf the book on the form. Teachers will appreciate this book. Kids like animals, especially exotic ones. Could there be a better way to teach poetry?

The acrostic was the form I cut my poetic teeth on. During freshman English in high school, we had to write acrostic poems. I don’t even remember if the teacher named the form. He just explained what to do. I amused myself long after the assignment was over writing acrostics about everything from animals to holidays. Incidentally, one of the first acrostic poems I wrote was about an African animal, the elephant. Here it is in all its juvenile glory:

Everlasting memory of the
Long drifting plains of Africa
Elongated trunk marks a regal beast
Playing in the river
Halting only as the sun sinks beyond
After dusk he roams
Never resting, marching
To the sound of the wind

(Photographs by Deborah Noyes. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009)

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