Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects

The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Walker Books)
HC RRP $24.95
ISBN 9780763669638
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This stunning collection follows the evolution of poetry through time and objects. The introduction gives an historical overview of the changing periods of poetry. Beginning from the Early Middle Ages, 400-1000 and ending in Contemporary times, a great many objects are used as a single theme or themes in every poem.

Great preparation and research has been conducted to compile these 77 pages of poems by a variety of authors from all over the world. Included are Rumi, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, Tennyson, and many that are not well known names, but whose poetry is highly commendable.

As in all collections, there are always poems that stand out from the others for some related reason or other. The Death of the Hat by Billy Collins, which comes close to the end and is the title poem, is clever and thought-provoking. It speaks of times past and habits lost. Stick and Hat by Emporer Le Thanh Tong from the Renaissance Period offers wisdom and insight into the use of two common objects and their versatility.  Boxes and Bags by Carl Sandberg, Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath, and An Hymn to the Evening by Phillis Wheatley are also poems  I’ve chosen for their specific messages.

Readers will find their own favourites and perhaps all the poems will fall under this heading for some. No poetry enthusiast will be disappointed with the selection Paul B. Janeczko has chosen. Illustrations in watercolour and ink support each poem and add beauty to the rhyming and non-rhyming verse presented in this production for the 8+ age group (which includes adults of course).


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