Friday, May 8, 2009

More Color Poems

PART I
In an earlier Wild Rose Reader post in which I wrote a review of Joyce Sidman’s wonderful new collection of poems about color titled Red Sings from Treetops, Joyce and I invited my blog readers to write and share their own color poems with us. Rebecca took up the poetry challenge. Here is her poem about PINK:

Pink is the color of a warm embrace,
a kiss from Grandma,
a baby’s face.
A wash of color on a sunset sky,
a flush of fever,
a happy sigh.
A cozy cuddle on a cool afternoon,
fragrant blossoms,
a song-bird’s tune.
Pink is all puffy and happy and proud,
bright as the sun,
soft as a cloud.

Jone’s students also wrote some color poems. Jone shared the poems at her blog Check It Out in the following post—Poetry Friday: Color Poems.

I also wrote and posted four original Color Poems.

PART II: Some More Color Poems for You
From Color
by Christina Rossetti

What is pink? a rose is pink
By a fountain's brink.
What is red? a poppy's red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro'.
What is white? a swan is white
Sailing in the light.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Yellow Sonnet
by Paul Zimmer
Zimmer no longer wishes to write
About the dimming of his lights,
Recounting all his small terrors.
Instead he tells of brilliance,
Walking home from first grade
In springtime, light descending
To hold itself and dazzle him
In an outburst of dandelions.
You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Colors Passing through Us
by Marge Piercy

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

You can find the children’s poem Taste of Purple by Leland B. Jacobs here.

Part III: Books with Color Poems

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
Written by
Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin, 2009

Read my review of Sidman’s book here.

Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People
Written by
Jane Yolen
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2000

The poems in this collection focus on the colors one sees in nature: the greens of ferns and trees and grass and leaves; the orange of a sunset sky and lichens growing on rocks; the pink of a thistle flower; the yellow of an autumn leaf; the reds of berries and butterfly wings. In her Note from the Author, Jane Yolen explains how she had asked her photographer son Jason Stemple to find her colors in nature when they discussed collaborating on this book. Stemple shot pictures in the hills of Massachusetts, the mountains of Colorado, and the desert of the Southwest—for two years. Jane then selected the photographs she liked the best to serve as inspiration for the thirteen poems included in this collection.
The pairing of Yolen’s poems with Stemple’s pictures create unified expressions of the different colors written about in the text. In addition to the poems and photographs, words that name the variety of hues in which a color may be found in nature are printed horizontally and vertically in large letters on the pages. For example, on the two-page spread with the poem about purple, readers will find the color words amethyst, orchid, lavender, plum, violet, and wine. Yolen suggests readers write poems from her son’s photos in the book. She says that she included the “extra” color words as an added “incentive.”

The book’s first poem, GREEN, begins…

Whichever angel had the task
of naming greens, squatting
on the hard new ground,
robe guttering at his perfect feet,
did not do his work well.
He gave us chartreuse, olive, leek,
emerald, ivy, beryl.
But they are not nearly enough
when the world is so much green.
Ferns, trees, grass, stems,
petals, limbs, leaves…

How great it would be to share this poem with students and then have them search for different shades of green on the playground at recess, in their own yards, on a walk through a meadow or the woods in the springtime. It would be a fine way to help children learn to become more careful observers of the world around them.


Color Me a Rhyme includes rhymed and unrhymed poems—including four haiku. Pink: A Haiku provides an excellent example of how a poet can perceive an object in nature in a truly imaginative way. Yolen “sees” a thistle flower as a punk hairstyle.

PINK : A HAIKU

A surge of sunlight
Shocks through stem and thistle hairs.
A punk pink hairdo.


The collection closes with Crayons: A Rainbow Poem in which Yolen speaks about a crayon box containing “the wash of blue sky/spikes of green spring/a circle of yellow sun.” the box also holds human diversity: my pink/and your chocolate/and her burnt sienna/and his ivory skin/In it are all the colors of the world.” That’s a fitting way to conclude this fine book of color poems.

Classroom Connection
Color Me a Rhyme would be an excellent springboard for a cross curricular writing/science/photography activity. Students could be asked to look for/point out certain colors in nature while on a walking field trip—or even after school. The children/the teacher/the children's parents could take photographs of leaves, tree bark, soil, flowers, insects, spider webs, etc. Once the photographs were developed or printed out on a computer, children could use them as inspiration for writing their own color poems. Then the teacher could help the children compile their own photographs and poems in a class Color Me A Poem anthology.




Hailstones and Halibut Bones
Written by Mary O’Neill
Illustrated by John Wallner


Hailstones and Halibut Bones was first published way back in 1961. In 1989, it was republished with lovely new illustrations done by John Wallner. This is a book of rhyming list poems about twelve colors—including black, white and gray. In the poems, O’Neill talks about the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that she associates with particular colors:

Time is purple
Just before night…


Gold is the sunshine
Light and thin
Warm as a muffin
On your skin.


Brown is the color of work
And the sound of a river…

You can hear blue
In wind over water…



Pussywillows are gray
In a velvety way.


Red is a hotness
You get inside
When you’re embarrassed
And want to hide…
And when you’re angry
Red runs through your head.

Green is the coolness
You get in the shade
Of the tall old woods
Where the moss is made.

Think of what starlight
And lamplight would lack
Diamonds and fireflies
If they couldn’t lean against
Black….


Sharing poems from Hailstones and Halibut Bones with children could serve as a good way to get them to talk about/discuss the different things that come to mind when they think about certain colors.

Click here to see a double-page spread from Hailstones and Halibut Bones.

Hailstones and Halibut Bones Lesson Plan (Scholastic)

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Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.


5 comments:

Yat-Yee said...

Perfect selection of poems for a beautiful spring day. Must check out some of the books you recommended, especially Yolen's.

jama said...

Thanks for this bountiful rainbow of poetry goodness. I'm inspired now to make my own list of different greens (my favorite color). :)

Mary Lee said...

I need to get a new copy of Hailstones and Halibut Bones. The original fell apart from use! Thanks for reminding me!!

Kelly said...

What a wonderfully colorful post! Enjoyed the original poems, and I so want to read those books!

POET!! said...

So i made a poem:
Back is the color of the dark night sky, The color of a cold glare, darkness and crime. The color of pavement as bare feet hit the road, the color of my cat, furry and fierce. This is the color that I fear most, This is the color-Black