A Poem for Every Night of the Year by Allie Esiri

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A Poem for Every Night of the Year by Allie Esiri

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Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Perfect for maudlin early teens who scrawl their own tragic poems on scraps of paper hidden around their rooms.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 544 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781509813131

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Poetry can feel a little intimidating, to children and grown-ups. All those school lessons of dissecting poems in order to ascertain exactly what the poet intended with every word and stylistic form tend to kill the beauty of a well-written poem. This collection is a year-long tour through a vast history of poetry, and gives the reader a new poem to try every night, with everything from Michael Rosen to Shakespeare to Christina Rosetti.

The idea of a poem for every night of the year is a brilliant one. Poems are, frequently, very quick to read, so it doesn't feel like a cumbersome task, and you know if you forget a day or two you can catch up quite easily! Each poem is introduced by a sentence or two that, helpfully, tells you something interesting about the poet, about the poem, or about the subject it discusses. The poems are not always complete, as sometimes the editor has taken just a few stanzas, for example with Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage which, thank goodness, is abbreviated to just three stanzas! It is a very literary collection and I did feel, at times, that I was being forced into a very particular kind of poetry appreciation.

As a young teenager I know I would have loved to have owned this book, but even with my own love of poetry there are quite a few of the poems that I would have dismissed as dull and, to be honest, still do now! Fortunately there are a lot of poems to choose from here, and you don't have to read one per night, if you don't want to, and can merely dip in and out finding old favourites and discovering new ones. I do think it's good to expose children to a wide range of literary styles, though it's worth being aware that some of the poems are difficult, and need perhaps a certain level of interest and literacy skill already for children to commit to reading them. Coleridge's Kubla Khan, for example, has some tricky vocabulary and imagery, written as it was after an opium-induced trance (though this book just says vaguely that it was inspired by a dream!) Or there is Keats' The Eve of St Agnes which again, isn't easy to read. These are challenges that, I feel, would put off less-able readers and those who are already pre-disposed not to like poetry.

Some of the poems are also ones that I wouldn't, personally, want to be reading just before I go to sleep. For example, Tichborne's Elegy by Chidiock Tichborne is included and is a poem he wrote on the eve of execution so includes the lines

I trod the earth, and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Not very cheery things to think about just before you sleep! There are some funny poems included, however, with works from A.A. Milne and Spike Milligan amongst others, and they come as light relief after reading several serious poems in the row. There are some contemporary poets included, such as the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy, as well as Simon Armitage and Rachel Rooney. I read quite a lot of the book in one sitting and did feel, however, that it was heavily weighted towards older (dead!) poets, and contained a vast number of those I studied on my English degree, which made it feel a little heavy as a children's poetry anthology. Yet I did discover poems that I hadn't read before, including one by Susan Coolidge who wrote the novel What Katy Did that I enjoyed very much, and also, as a lovely counter to the Tichborne poem, there is a poem by Jan Dean called Three Good Things which is about thinking about three good things before you go to sleep:

I let remembering fill me up
With all good things
So that good things will overflow
Into my sleeping self

I think pre-teen avid, confident readers, who are already interested in poetry, will eagerly grab this book and love it, as will poetic teens with a literary leaning. It is a good, full book that stretches across many different styles of poetry. As an introduction to poetry for those less inclined, well, I fear it might put them off. Perhaps the introductory paragraphs about the poems, which are very interesting and often prompt you of what to think about as you read, will maybe help to ease the way. Overall, I think if you know a child is predisposed to like it then they will, as it's a beautiful book, but if you're not sure then perhaps try it from the library first.

For more poetic joy, you might enjoy A Kick In The Head: An Everyday Guide To Poetic Forms by Paul B Janeczko and Chris Raschka and the utterly brilliant New and Collected Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy.

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Buy A Poem for Every Night of the Year by Allie Esiri at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Poem for Every Night of the Year by Allie Esiri at Amazon.com.


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