The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers

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Sitting by the barbecue

waiting for sausages and hot dogs

..........

I see a tiny spider

..........

a silver speck

glistening

at its mouth,

climbing the invisible ...

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Overview

Sitting by the barbecue

waiting for sausages and hot dogs

..........

I see a tiny spider

..........

a silver speck

glistening

at its mouth,

climbing the invisible ladder

—from "Dinner Together" by Diana Rivera

This anthology of poems by America's best poets glistens too, and offers its own silvery ladder for readers to climb.

Liz Rosenberg, herself an accomplished poet, wanted to make contemporary poems for adults accessible to a broader readership. She searched for works which, in both feeling and expression, could reach from one age group to another. Then she asked the poets to write about the links between poetry and childhood, and to send photos that showed how they looked when they were young, and who they are today.

The Invisible Ladder is a gift from everyone who contributed to it: a hand extended from those whose art is crafting words to a new generation of readers and writers.

Features such poets as Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Nikki Giovanni, and Galway Kinnell by including photos, selections of their work, and comments on their poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This anthology combines modern American poetry with commentary by the poets and photos of them as children and adults. Like...other fine YA anthologists, [Rosenberg] introduces many exciting new adult voices to young people."—Booklist, boxed review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Celebrated poets such as Rita Dove, Galway Kinnell and Stanley Kunitz preface their poems with commentary and black-and-white photos of themselves in childhood and adulthood in The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers, edited by Liz Rosenberg. The anthology introduces readers to an admirable range of poems written for adults but accessible to a YA audience. The poets' seductively personal and iconoclastic explanations of how they got hooked on their craft are likely to nab new converts.
VOYA - Patti Sylvester Spencer
Teachers and researchers often discuss links between reading and writing, connections we hope students make in our classrooms and in their own lives. Poet Liz Rosenberg designs a collection to help readers make connections to their own writing-connections which encourage experimentation, freedom, thought, and development of personal style. Readers meet forty poets through two black-and-white photographs each, one from childhood or young adulthood, one from the present. Each writer then talks informally with readers about his/her relationship with words, reading, and poetry while growing up. Those intense or humorous comments and anecdotes are followed by one to five poems, selected to introduce readers to each poet. Biographical notes at the end of the volume refer readers to whole books of poetry. Meet Marvin Bell, who acknowledges "... I went through high school thinking poetry was written in the language of earlier times, expressing flowery sentiments in ways certain to embarrass any red-blooded American boy or girl." Meet Martin Espada through "Courthouse Graffiti for Two Voices:" "Jimmy C./Greatest Car Thief Alive/Chelsea '88 // Then what/are you doing/here?" Meet Alice Walker, Robert Bly, Kyoko Mori, delight in their words, search for more of their work, and write poetry. Write more poetry. In "Ways to Use This Book," Rosenberg talks with readers about eavesdropping poetry, first love poetry, political poems, observing carefully, and breaking free as writers. In a warm farewell, she invites readers to write to her, sending their poetry. What a treasure to share with young people! Rosenberg's philosophy, selections, and respect for students as intelligent readers and developing writers create a volume of pleasure and endless possibility. Index. Photos. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Rosenberg states in her introduction that she has drawn together this collection of contemporary American poetry to counter "peanut-butter-and-jelly anthologies-books full of bouncy rhymes too stupid for any adult to put up with..." Her premise flies in the teeth of books by people like Nikki Giovanni (included in her collection), X. J. Kennedy, and David McCord, whose rhymes were never stupid, and results in a sophisticated and somber collection. The compiler has chosen strong poems with accessible images like Galway Kinnell's blackberries ("which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well/in the silent, startled, icy, black language/of blackberry-eating in late September") or Maurya Simon's night ("the moon in its chalky house/lights its translucent fire and swells./All the feathered songs are quiet..."). Several of the entries have purely adult viewpoints, such as Maxine Kumin's "The Retrieval System" ("Fact: it is people who fade,/it is animals that retrieve them. A boy/I loved once keeps coming back as my yearling colt"). Like Paul Janeczko does in Poetspeak (1983) and The Place My Words Are Looking For (1990; both Bradbury), Rosenberg pairs poems with that poet's personal reflections. Black-and-white photos of each poet as a child and as an adult add to the attractive format. However, unlike Janeczko's titles for adolescents, the offerings do not astonish readers with their freshness. These poems do not create the sense of discovery the compiler says she hopes for-"the aha! of a friend unexpectedly met, familiar and surprising at the same time." This ladder has interesting rungs but does not reach the stars.-Kathleen Whalin, Greenwich Country Day School, CT
Kirkus Reviews
A striking array of poems by "living poet[s]" who do not write in a "children's poetry ghetto," including Robert Creeley, Carolyn Kizer, Nikki Giovanni, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Bly, and W.D. Snodgrass.

"Most poetry anthologies for young readers," Rosenberg (Heart and Soul, p. 224, etc.) writes in her introduction, "are . . . books full of bouncy rhymes too stupid for any adult to put up with (as if children were tone deaf or didn't know any better)—or poems by the dead and the very dead." Some of the featured poets cite as sources of inspiration long-dead and recently dead poets, as in "The Mystery of Emily Dickinson" by Marvin Bell: "While the others wrote more and longer,/you wrote much more and much shorter." The poems range in subject from the power of love to the mysteries of math (from Kyoko Mori: "If x equals y,/is it like putting apples into/cole slaw, the way a tomato/is really a fruit?"); there are stinging poems of advocacy, from Alice Walker's "I am the dark/rotten-toothed girl/with the wounded eyes/and the melted ear" to Martín Espada's defendant "ordered/to remove his tires/from the halls of civilization" and David Chin's Sterling Williams who "shows us he knows how to bleed." The contributors are arranged alphabetically, with commentary and photos of themselves both as children and as adults, followed by one or more of their poems. A section called "Ways to Use this Book" precedes biographical notes on the poets.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805038361
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 210
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.52 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Liz Rosenberg

Liz Rosenberg is a teacher of children's literature at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She has published two collections of her poetry for adults, as well as a number of highly praised picture books for younger readers. She lives with her husband and their son in Binghamton, New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    best anthology for ages 6 to 106

    I love the poem selections here, and I also love, love the photos of the poets both as children and as adults, and finally I love the poets' commentary on the connections between poetry and childhood. As a teacher of middle school kids I find it absolutely indispensable but I have given it as a gift to friends in their 80s and 90s who love it just as much. This one is a keeper for the permanent collection shelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2009

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