Friday, March 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poems About Fire

Some of you may know that I'm a sales rep for a book company out of San Diego. I am in and out of schools throughout the year helping teachers, literacy coaches, and librarians find what they need to meet our Georgia Performance Standards. Twice a year when the new lists come out from educational publishers, I get book samples. It's great fun, as these are books that we usually don't get to see. They never hit the bookstores. Occasionally an award winner will show up in Barnes and Noble, but they usually go straight to schools.

This year my territory expanded when another rep nearby retired. So a few weeks ago I met her and she loaded up my car with her book samples. Don't ask where I put them when I got home. There are still some I haven't figured out. I generally troll through them, checking pub dates, exploring them for concepts that fit my needs and those of my clients. If they are over
three years old, I no longer include them in my sample buckets when I go into schools. It's always preferable to show the newest books available.

Once I collect all the "old" books, I start making give away bags. Some of my schools get practically no money. They are caught in the middle. Not poor enough to get federal money; not wealthy enough to have a PTA that supplies their needs. I love delivering these goody bags of books. This might be my favorite part of the job.

And of course, as I'm going through those "old" books, if something strikes my fancy, I claim it for my own shelf.

That's what happened with this book, "Poems About Fire." It's one in a series of books called the Elements in Poetry. The other books are poems about water, air, and earth. They are published by Cherrytree Books. This is a UK publisher whose books are distributed in the States by Black Rabbit Books. I love Black Rabbit. They exist in the educational market, but defy the rules in some sense. They are different. Higher reading levels. Unconcerned about fitting into the Accelerated Reader box. Offering information that is often not included in books for children. You can see some of their philosophy here.

Since "Poems about Fire" is written by UK poets and compiled by Andrew Fusek Peters, the flavor of the book is not standard fare for us. Poems focus on the great fire in London, instead of the San Francisco fire. Excerpts from classic writers come from Robert Louis Stevenson and John Dryden. "Corroboree" by Oodgeroo Noonuccal weaves a story of Aborigines dancing in firelight. "Hang-Gliding over Active Volcanoes" by Brian Moses says it was "like surfin' in a furnace" where he "got singed from my eyebrows to my toes."

This is one of my favorites from the collection. It's a shape poem, and the shape of the flame doesn't show up here on Blogger. So imagine....

Looking into a Fire
by Jim Hatfield

Ago when
The coal in this
Grate was a tree;
The sun shone upon its
Leaves and they held
Tight hold of that
Light for more years
Than you might ever
Count. Tonight,
Looking into the
Crimson glow,
We can feel
The sunlight

There's more Poetry Friday at A Wrung Sponge.


  1. Loved this post, Dori! I liked having a glimpse into your process at work, Hatfield's poem is a keeper, and Black Rabbit sounds great.

  2. Thanks, Tabatha. There are days when my office really does look like that picture. And my car rarely has a place for another person to sit!

  3. I think fire is a fantastic subject for a poem! The tree limbs letting go makes me think of the way trees pop like gunshot when they shatter from extreme cold. I've never actually heard that sound, but Gary Paulsen (whose prose is often like poetry) writes of it often. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! What a great poem. I love the idea of the fire holding a word picture of a different time.

    Sounds like you have a really great perks to your job. I think I would love delivering those book bags too. It is so fun to hand gifts to those who need them.

  5. Any poems in the book dealing with the fire of a blacksmith's forge????

  6. I do like my job, Carlie, but about March I literally burn out (a little fire fun, there!)I'm ready for some intensive writing time when I don't have to think about sales.

    No poems about a blacksmith! It's a very unusual compilation, Gail. There's a poem on Prometheus and one on Icarus. Poems on Diwali, candles of Hanukkah, and the Trinity. One on Santa Claus, avoiding the chimney, of course. Not what one might expect.