Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry

Plough. Mar. 2020. 200p. Tr $24. ISBN 9780874863185.
Gr 7 Up–Peters gives 24 classic poems from the 19th and 20th centuries the graphic novel treatment. Entries are grouped into six themes (yourself, others, art, nature, time, and death), and the artwork varies in technique and texture. While Peters adopts a manga style for William Butler Yeats’s “When You Are Old,” he uses charcoal for Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers” and a crayon’s waxy patchiness for Tess Gallagher’s “Choices.” Most of the others have a watercolor aesthetic. After presenting a comic interpretation of a poem, Peters lists the full text. Within the comics, words frequently exist in the margins of the panels, sitting just above the imagery. In places where the text exists within a panel, the words occasionally follow the form of the verse, never quite becoming a concrete poem yet still changing direction, as in Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird,” which has a quilt-inspired look. Sometimes, but not always, the imagery provides context about the meaning of the verse, which those who struggle with poetry will appreciate. However, transitions between selections are at times abrupt, and the imagery slows the delivery of the lines and interrupts the natural cadence.
VERDICT Fascinating but uneven, this collection is best suited for classroom use or for libraries where new takes on classic poetry are in high demand.

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