Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature
Ted Kooser & Connie Wanek
Walker Books, 2022
72pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99
There have been a number of books reviewed on this site over the last couple of years like The Secret Signs of Nature that have encouraged young readers to explore their immediate environment with critical, sensitive eyes to discover the detail hiding in the big picture.
But what if, as well as their senses and science brain, they also took their imagination out to play? And what they saw really did become a clown on the top of the hill, up on one leg, juggling a pie, rather than just a winter tree with a long-vacated squirrel’s nest on the end of a branch?
The subtitle of the US version of this book by former US poet laureate Ted Kooser and and poet Connie Wanek is ” Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech” and while a bit dull, nevertheless, it sums up this stunning collection of blank verse poems perfectly. By letting their imaginations out to play, and using similes and metaphors and other literary devices beloved of English teachers, a thunderstorm becomes something that has become lost in the dark of the house, not wanting to wake us but crashing into walls as they stumble about, occasionally striking a match to see their way; tadpoles become commas making them “the liveliest of all punctuation” ; and a book is transformed into a sandwich with all sorts of goodness between its folded pitta covers!
Organized by the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth and accompanied by distinctive, sparse illustrations that interpret the words but which don’t interfere with the picture created by the reader this is an intriguing anthology to dip and delve into, for letting the imagination roam free, wander, and stay healthy. So while we understand that a fire has no stomach, is “never full, never satisfied” and thus must never be set dree, it is an entirely different story for our imaginations.