"Forest News" starts out like this:
I stop to read
the Forest News
in mind or fallen snow.
Articles are printed
by critters on the go.
And I must say that "stopping to read Forest Has a Song" is well worth the stop! Ms. Vanderwater captures the treasures of the forest in poems, short and long, breathtakingly.
When we talk to young writers about "naming" and "noticing" and "marking their day" it's having wonderful poets like Amy that make our jobs so much richer. Our own writing so much richer. The patience in "Waiting for Deer," the tapping in "Woodpecker," the honking of geese in "Song"... each poem leaves you a little closer to the sights, the sounds, and the songs of the forest. It's the exact kind of close observation that we want to encourage in our young poets and young writers.
My favorite poem in the collection is "Snowflake Voices."
I like to walk
in winter woods
behind my home.
I close my eyes
to softly hear
sings my name
No two sound the same.
One of my favorite books on the teaching of poetry is A Note Slipped Under the Door by Shirley McPhillips and Nick Flynn published by Stenhouse (2000). On page 37, it says, "Poets live wide awake in the world. They 'eavesdrop," watching and listening in the moment, letting things catch their attention. They wonder and ask questions, letting what they see and hear inform their lives. Sometimes a poet will notice the exact words that people use. These 'found' bits of speech can be a springboard for new ideas or a backboard against which to bat ideas and test them farther. Just by listening closely to what people say, to the very words they use in their everyday speech, the world around us can be revealed. We can be moved by the words themselves at the moment we hear them, yet we don't know why. But, as poets, we keep them, believing these words can hold new meaning."
In our work with young writers, I can imagine that books like Forest Has a Song can be that springboard for writers. It can help create meaning. It can expand writer's lives into the forest... even if they've never physically experienced the sights and sounds and songs that Ms. Vanderwater invites us to visit. All it takes is a close read... close your eyes, ponder. Poetry like hers can't help but increase the background knowledge of young writers and invite them to notice their "world" and the poetry that hides within it (be it city, country, subway, or dirt road).
Ms. Vanderwater is a writer's mentor. Forest Has a Song a newly found treasure. And in all the hustle an bustle of our teaching, we can't neglect poetry. "Helping writers find their song..." now that's a goal, eh? Thanks, Amy, for the reminder.