George Washington Carver has completely captured by imagination, so it is fitting that I picked up a volume of poems about his life this National Poetry Month. I hardly know what to say about it. It is good–really good, in that sharp-intake-of-breath kind of way. It’s written from a multitude of perspectives, from the man hired to rescue George Washington Carver and his mother, also a slave, from their kidnappers to a white school teacher who was apparently in love with Carver (and was rumored to have committed suicide years after they parted ways) to “an Alabama Farmer” who solicits Dr. Carver’s instruction on “what maid [his] cotton grow.” One of my favorites is titled “Clay.” Here’s an excerpt:
To Carver’s eye, the muddy creek banks say
Here to be dug up, strained, and painted on,
is loveliness the poorest can afford:
azures, ochres. . . Scraps of discarded board
are landscapes. Cabins undistinguished brown
bloom like slaves freed to struggle toward self-worth.
Beauty is commonplace, as cheap as dirt.
Marilyn Nelson holds Carver’s life up to the light in this volume and shows what a multifaceted jewel it is. Reading this Newbery and Coretta Scott King honor book has made me hungry to know more about this man. Highly Recommended. (Front Street, 2001)
More about George Washington Carver at Hope Is the Word:
George Washington Carver Museum in Tuskegee, Alabama
Tuskegee University (includes pictures of Carver’s gravesite)
Children’s books about George Washington Carver
I’m adding this book review to this month’s Award Winning Books database at Gathering Books. I’m also joining in the Poetry Friday round-up at Random Noodling.
It’s a great book, isn’t it! Thanks for the additional links.
This looks really great. Yet another one to add to the list TBR one day. 🙂
“Beauty is commonplace, as cheap as dirt.” Great line!
Wow, sounds like a fascinating book. When I was a kid, we had an annual speaking contest, where we had to write ‘speeches’ and deliver them. I wrote about George Washington Carver one year and remember what a fascinating and brilliant man he was. (He invented numberless ways to use the peanut, didn’t he?)
I’ve just looked at this book on Amazon, and the poetry really is good. I’m still not clear on who wrote it–did Marilyn Nelson write the poems, or just collect them? Some seem to have authors, but others don’t. Amazon isn’t clear about whether this is a work entirely by Nelson, or whether these are all poems by various people who knew him, or by later authors putting themselves in the place of people who knew him. I’m curious, because, as I said, they’re great poems!
Amy, I believe these are all by Marilyn Nelson. I don’t have the book in front of me now, though, to double check.
Myra from GatheringBooks
Hi Amy, I actually borrowed this book from our library, hoping to feature it as well for the AWB Reading Challenge, but I never got around to reading it, sadly. I am so glad that you included this in our database. I have always admired Nelson’s writing. Shall pin this as well to the AWB board on pinterest. 🙂
I enjoy hearing about Carver’s life so much. Our Christian radio station has played a drama of his life put out by Moody Bible Institute that was really good, at least the parts I heard.