July 23, 2021

Poem in My Pocket

Written by Chris Tougas
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Kids Can Press
24 pp.
Ages 4-7
June 2021
Gone are the days when poetry was the amusement only of romantics and the learned. With poet laureates and spoken word artists becoming part of the vernacular, everyone should feel comfortable to carry poems in their pocket and be inspired to share them. But what if a poem escapes before you're ready?
From Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
Before Chris Tougas's story really begins, readers will see a child composing text, their earlier efforts discarded on crumpled papers littered around them. As they walk away, the finished poem, folded in a back pocket, begins to edge its way out of the ripped bottom. Witnessed by their companion, a white chicken, the child soon realizes that the words and thoughts, emotions and rhymes have flung themselves out into the world, scattering across
landscapes of colourful homes and businesses, into the sky and across a wild setting of cacti and yucca. 
From Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
With language as colourful as their surroundings, the child tries to retrieve the letters, some mixed up into nonsense words, others forming playful puns and most elusive to their efforts to retrieve them.
Scribbled thoughts were scattered–
there were letters here and there.
Mixed-up words were whipped about
and mingled in midair.

From Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
When the child does finally gather some words up, they try to recreate the verse but are unable to do so before the words are sowed into the soil with rain to germinate into something even grander.
From Poem in My Pocket by Chris Tougas, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
The letters and words of this child's creative imaginings may have escaped into the world but Chris Tougas shows us that how fortunate that accident truly was. The child may be bereft initially at having lost the structure of their poem, but the search to retrieve the bits and pieces carries them to many locations where the words play and inform and enrich. With their exodus, they have fostered the beginnings of new poetry in the form of a poetree. 
Though illustrator Josée Bisaillon has given us a South American flavour to the story, as hinted with the llamas, vegetation and food, this could be the story of an aspiring poet anywhere. The vibrancy of her digitally-rendered artwork carries the reader through communities of busyness into the quiet of the wild, manifesting the very nature of poetry. It can be solemn or angry, bright or clouded. It can speak to and about people, animals, plants or intangibles like emotions. The words may be the basis for the poetry but the creator's originality to mix and manipulate, sculpt and express gives it its unique form. 
When National Poetry Month comes around next April, get your own poem into your pocket and share it with the world. It doesn't have to be your own, though that would be cool. It's the act of sharing that inspires.

No comments:

Post a Comment