Friday, April 22, 2011

"A Poem As A Gift:" Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

"A poem is like a globed' fruit," a poet once said, and some special books of poetry give the same feeling: full and ripe, rich and beautiful, and offering much in the way of experience. Such a book is Julie Andrews' book of poems and songs.

Being, as she says in her preface, always aware of the natural music in poetry, Andrews and her co-selector, daughter Emma Hamilton, have seamlessly blended hymns, ("All Things Bright and Beautiful,") venerable pieces ("Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman, "There Is No Frigate Like A Book" by Emily Dickinson," "When in Disgrace with Fortune" by William Shakespeare, and "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins) modern children's authors ("Sick" by Shel Silverstein, "September" by John Updike, "Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face" by Jack Prelutsky, "Skyscrapers" by Rachel Field,) and song lyrics ('Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" and "A Cockeyed Optimist" by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and "My Ship" by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill.)

Combining Johnny Mercer and John Masefield together, or William Blake, A.A. Milne, Edward Lear and Robert Frost, or Ogden Nash and Robert Louis Stevenson, for that matter. Andrews includes, along with some surprises such as Stephen Sondheim, most of the noted children's (and adult) poets--Longfellow, Tennyson, Eugene Field, Mary Ann Hoberman, Nikki Grimes, and Langston Hughes, and even sneaking in a few of her own poems along the way.

Divided into sections (All Things Bright and Beautiful, Talk to the Animals, Sea-Fever, et al), this is a balanced collection, lyrical poems with limericks and lullabies, humor and the joy of living in The Wonderful World from whatever source, with the common thread of good taste and the premise that, with or without music, well-chosen words can sing.

Artist James McMullan's lovely paintings set off the selections in a way which augments rather than distracts from the poems themselves, and an accompanying CD of Andrews reading some of her selections is appended. If you add just one poetry anthology to the bookshelf this April and haven't already gotten this one, Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and LullabiesChildren's Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths Anthologies) (Little, Brown and Company) is the one.



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