Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

Image of Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
Release Date: 
March 13, 2017
Reviewed by: 

In a striking package of 20 inspired poems and vibrant artwork, Out of Wonder honors the spirited work of poets from a range of eras and origins.

Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander (The Crossover, 2015) teams up with poets Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth to offer an alluring array of poems that echo the style, ideas, or themes of such poets as Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, e.e. cummings, Terrance Hayes, and Naomi Shihab Nye. As noted in Alexander’s lucid preface, “Poems can inspire us . . . to write our own journeys, to find our own voices.” For this invigorating venture, the three poets spotlight interesting writers whose work they love.

The collection’s uplifting title springs from poet Lucille Clifton’s observation that “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” The fresh poems illustrate just the kind of playfulness that might spur young people to explore the liberating potential of this genre.

Divided into three sections—“Got Style?,” “In Your Shoes,” and “Thank You”—the collection shows off sundry styles, ideas, and poetic devices. Wentworth’s “In Every Season” displays a thought-provoking riff on Robert Frost’s famous “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” With unhurried language, she depicts the measured pace of a walker confronting a world crusted with doubts: “I have stopped to shake the dry snow/ from the branches and watched the outline/ of each bare tree sharpen like stone/ and considered that quite often/ life is too much like a pathless wood.”

Readers will encounter both familiar and less-known poets. Alexander’s “I Like Your” mimics the quirky line breaks and exuberant style of e.e. cummings, while Chris Colderley, in “For Our Children’s Children,” conveys the reverence for the Earth evoked in the work of Chief Dan George, who became chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in Canada.

And all along, Caldecott Honor-winning artist Ekua Holmes, (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement written by Carole Boston Weatherford), elevates the poems with her bold, energetic mixed-media images. She beautifully complements Alexander’s “Hue and Cry,” a pithy poem for Gwendolyn Brooks, with a bravura multitextured collage featuring a blues singer at an ebony grand piano.

Although the collection does not provide titles of source poems, it does include crisp biographical notes, as well as a list of the referenced poets and their era and nation of origin.

This lively collection will brighten any room—and any mind—it inhabits.