Authors: The Nightingale-Bamford School
A Special Collection of Poetry
E. L. Doctorow â¢ Allen Ginsberg â¢ David Mamet
Tom Wolfe â¢ Joyce Carol Oates â¢ Stephen Sondheim
Kurt Vonnegut â¢ Elie Wiesel â¢ And many more
Introduction by Anna Quindlen
Arcade Publishing â¢ New York
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Contributors (in alphabetical order) and their selections:
The inspiration behind this project, which was begun in 1992, was an Irish poetry anthology called
consists of a collection of letters and poems sent in by well-known figures in Ireland at the request of a group of Dublin students. These students found a publisher for the book, which they dedicated to the “children of the Third World,” then donated all their royalties to organizations that might assist these children.
Our thought was to do something in the same spirit and to the same purpose. At Nightingale-Bamford, poetry is an integral part of the fifth-grade curriculum. In addition to writing their own poems, the students read and memorize a variety of poetry during the year, culminating in a recitation for their parents. Moreover, when students enter the middle school, they become involved in class projects dealing with social service. It therefore seemed very fitting to combine the fifth-grade social-service project with part of their English curriculum. We wanted the students not only to be awakened to a world of poetry through other people's choices, but to become aware of a world of need outside their immediate communities, one to which they could in some way contribute. We decided the proceeds of our project should benefit the International Rescue Committee, and more specifically the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children (a division of the IRC). The students were already familiar with this particular organization because Mary Anne Schwalbe, staff director, had come to the school and talked about her experiences with refugee women and children on several occasions.
For two years, the students wrote to well-known people in all fields. Every day, they awaited the mail with eager anticipation. When a reply arrived it was greeted with curiosity and excitement. Each letter and accompanying poem was read in class, and the poem and poet discussed. We greatly enjoyed finding out why people had selected a particular work, and we learned from what they had to say about it. What most struck all of us was how important poetry had been in the lives of the contributors, who had turned and returned to poems for amusement, solace, wisdom, and, perhaps most importantly, to find some part of themselves.
We are extremely grateful to all those who took the time to send in their thoughts and poems. We would also like to thank Timothy Bent, our editor at Arcade, who had such faith in the project; Mary Anne Schwalbe of the International Rescue Committee; The Nightingale-Bamford School teachers and administrators; and, most of all, the students of Class V from 1993 and 1994, whose names appear at the end of the volume.
by Anna Quindlen
Yusef Komunyakaa won the Pulitzer Prize, but he does not expect to become a household name, and not because his name itself, phonetically simple once parsed out bit by bit, looks at first glance so unpronounceable. Mr. Komunyakaa won the prize for poetry in a world that thinks of Pound and Whitman as a weight and a sampler, not an Ezra, a Walt, a thing of beauty, a joy forever.
It's hard to figure out why this should be true, why poetry has been shunted onto a siding at a time, a place, so in need of brevity and truth. We still use the word as a synonym for a kind of lovely perfection, for an inspired figure skater, an accomplished ballet dancer. Many of the finest books children read when young are poetry:
The Cat in the Hat, Goodnight Moon
, the free verse of
Where the Wild Things Are
And then suddenly, just as their faces lose the soft curves of babyhood, the children harden into prose and leave verse behind, or reject it entirely. Their summer reading lists rarely include poetry, only stories, “The Red Badge of Courage,” not Mr. Komunyakaa's spare and evocative poems about his hitch in Vietnam:
He danced with tall grass
for a moment, like he was swaying
with a woman. Our gun barrels
When I got to him,
a blue halo
of flies had already claimed him.