Thursday, September 4, 2008

Carver: A Life In Poems by Marilyn Nelson

Nelson, Marilyn (2001). Carver: A Life in Poems. Asheville, North Carolina: Front Street, 103 pages.

Before I give a summary of this book, you must know that I was biased to begin. I've heard praise of this book from many sources and was expecting to enjoy it. In fact, I found it nearly flawless. It was refreshing to read a work so artfully written.

Nelson tells the life of George Washington Carver, using vivid poetry. Rather than focusing the poetry on Carver's agricultural accomplishments, she emphasizes the type of person he is. I felt a bond with Carver by the time I was finished. Rather than just saying that Carver was a well-rounded man who broke through many barriers for his race, it was almost sung. The imagery was beautiful. In one poem a woman refers to Carter as a "sepia boy" describing his color. Another poems says "Beauty is commonplace, as cheap as dirt." And again, "history is a jetsam of stardust." I rarely read such well-written works.

There are many things about this book that I loved, but the emphasis on Carver's faith in God was probably my favorite. He was criticized by the science community for claiming that inspiration helped him in his work. But Carver was a great example of a man who believed in God, and Nelson freely included this in her poems. Nelson quotes directly in the poem about Carver's bible class "Your Creator, he said, is itching to contact you." Communication with God is described as a "vast broadcasting system."

To sum this up there are very few people to whom I would not recommend this book - peanut lover or not. It brings together important information, excellent storytelling and real poetry.

"A personal relationship with the Great Creator of all things is the only foundation for the abundant life. The farther we get away from self, the greater life will be."
George Washington Carver

*One of the labels of this post claims that this is a novel. It is not a novel, but in this case uses verse to tell a true story.

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