April 10, 2014

October Mourning by Leslea Newman

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:31 am by suebe2

October Mourning:
A Song for Matthew Shepard
by Leslea Newman
Candlewick Press

Oh my goodness.  Read this book.

I could begin and end my review right there.  It is simply that powerful, but I sense that some of you may need a bit of convincing.

I chose this one because April is National Poetry Month and this is a story told through poetry.  No, it isn’t a novel in verse because this is a true story. Or as true as it can be.  When Matthew Shepard was beated to death, Newman, like many people, mourned that he had died so alone.  How would anyone ever know the truth of what had happened?

Then, thinking like a poet and a writer, Newman noodled.  The fence held Matthew throughout the night.  A doe may have lingered by his side.  Stars, moon and the convicted.  All had been there and could tell the story.

Each poem in this book is told from a different perspective — that of the fence, a deer, one of the police officers, the judge. Bit by bit we learn about what happened and how Matthew’s life, and death, shaped his community and his world.

The poems take many different forms including:

  • “Every Mother’s Plea” is a deceptively simple haiku.  I say deceptively simple because it goes beyond simple syllable counting (5-7-5) to end with a realization, much like the traditional form.
  • “Signs of Trouble” is a found poem created by road signs that were never meant to speak to us through such a poem.
  • “Class Photo: Me in the Middle” is an alphabet poem combining youthful alphabet play (A to Z) with chilling reality.

This book will give you some idea of the range of what can be accomplished through various poetic forms as well as how a story can be told through poetry.

A daring teacher could use this book in the classroom — I saw daring because there would almost certainly be a parent that would complain.  I would love to think that the complaint would be about the heartless violence Matthew suffered but, sadly, it would most likly focus on his sexuality.  Sad, but true.

Frankly, I think it is a book everyone should read.  Why?  Astonishingly brief, its effect will echo through your mind for days.



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