Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Poem as Big as New York City

Edited by Teachers Writers Collaborative; illustrated by Masha D'Yans
2012 (Universe Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Poetry Friday at Poetry for Children

A poem as big as the millions of people tuning in to watch the ball drop
when all time stops at Times Square on New Year's Eve.
A poem as big as the Manhattan skyline viewed from the farthest ends of Brooklyn.

Schoolchildren, who participated in a series of 75 workshops sponsored by Teachers and Writers Collaborative, wrote about their poetic view of life in New York City. These efforts have resulted in A Poem as Big as New York City. The poem travels throughout the boroughs of the Big Apple, capturing the sights and sounds of this great city. In the Bronx, it is the Yankees that capture the imagination with the roar of 60,000 screaming fans. The subway is a cavalcade of sounds like those of elephants and rhinos and looks like a metallic snake that chews people up and "spits them out at another station." The poem celebrates the diversity of the people that live here:

the Soul of a Poem as Big as the City,
a soul as loud as millions of voices coming into One, 
a poem written to make people laugh and have Fun,
a poem that whispers in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian,
Chinese, Japanese, and Punjabi,
a poem that sounds like You and Me.
a poem as big as the City.

These young writers's voices are so vibrant. This sprawling love song to their city has the potential to inspire other young poets in other cities and towns. You could take sections of this poem and have your students write poems about parts of their city or town. In my small town, I could imagine students writing about the main street that runs through the center, the cemetery next to our school, and the courthouse that is a hub of activity. 

Illustrator Mashe D'Yans's artwork is amazing. Watercolor pictures of different cityscapes provide the backdrop for the poem character who is shown by small repeating words inside the shape of the letters P-O-E-M. These are some of my favorite pieces of artwork that I have seen in 2012 children's books. 

A Poem as Big as New York City provides a vivid picture of one of our greatest cities. It's exciting that children are embracing poetry and creating work like this. 


  1. Hi Jeff! Welcome to Poetry Friday! This sounds like an amazing book. My family and I just visited New York middle of June. I have a feeling that this book would resonate with my ten year old who has fallen in love with the city.

  2. It made me want to go back to NYC. Thanks, Myra!

  3. It is fun. Thank you for stopping by, Mary Lee!

  4. I just found your comment, Jeff. It looks like we visit several common memes (Poetry Friday & It's Monday, What Are You Reading). I enjoy hearing about this book & agree, it could happen in any city, parts of the city, etc. I just wrote a post a week or so ago about taking my students to write at a nearby cemetery, as you mentioned. It's a rewarding writing experience. Thanks for telling about this new poetry book!

  5. Jeff - We're delighted that you like A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY and found it inspiring for your own work. For more ideas about engaging kids in writing poetry about their communities, check out the Teachers & Writers Collaborative website: And let us know about your community poetry projects so we can spread the word via our website. - Amy Swauger, Teachers & Writers Collaborative


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