Sometimes it’s hard to tell what a poet is ACTUALLY trying to say with their poems. Scholastic has made interpretting poetry a little easier with their Graphic Poetry series. The poems This is a Photograph of Me/Girl and Horse, 1928 by Margaret Atwood are beautifully illustrated to help readers make more connections while reading these classic Canadian poems.
“GRAPHIC POETRY presents poetry in a fresh way, making it more engaging and accessible for all students. Spectacular illustrations provide students with additional means of understanding surface text, imagery, figurative language, tone, and meaning. As students read, they will be able to see how the poems unfold.” – Graphic Poetry
- This is a Photograph of Me/Girl and Horse, 1928 by Margaret Atwood
- Publisher: Scholastic, 2009
- Format & Genre: Graphic Novel, Poetry
- Age Range: 11- 15 years old
- Themes: Time, Memory, Photographs
- Source: Library Copy
Teaching poetry to a group of grade sevens can be intimidating, but I was so lucky I stumbled upon this wonderful series during my first year of teaching. The Graphic Poetry series takes classic poems and illustrates them using graphic novel style cells. The books are short and very approachable to young adults and exposes them to poems they might not have otherwise read. The series is composed 21 titles, with poems from Langston Hughes, Gordon Lightfoot, Joy Kogawa, Maya Angelou and many more authors.
This particular book is composed of two graphic interpretations of Atwood’s poems This is a Photograph of Me and Girl and Horse, 1928. Both poems are centered around the story behind photographs. The poems are presented in their graphic format, with the poem plainly presented after. Because the series is intended to be used in schools, there is a short breakdown of the motifs and themes in each poem at the back of the book, as well as some discussion questions.
In A Photograph of Me, a young boy is staying in a hotel of some kind, and finds out his room is haunted by a ghost. She begins to tell the boy about the photograph that hangs on the wall, and how she is in the photograph. The boy doesn’t understand how she can be in the photo, as the photo is just of a house on the edge of the lake. As the ghost continutes, she reveals that the photo was taken the day she drowned in the lake, and she is in the picture because she is under the water of the lake.
In Girl and Horse, 1928, a young girl finds an old photograph in a box and contemplates everything that has happened since the photo was taken. The young girl in the photo will have aged, seasons have passed, and the tree she was standing in front of has been cut down. Even though all this time has passed, the memory still lives in this picture which is truly a magical thing.
Atwood’s poems by themselves are lyrical and ethereal, but coupled with the illustrations truly come to life. By pairing the poems in this way, it makes the poems perfect for young people who might be intimidated to read an Atwood poem. If it wasn’t immediately apparent that the poems were about photographs or who the speakers are, the graphics fill in the gaps for the reader. The content of the poems is not heavy but the free verse nature of the poetry make it suitable for children in grade 6 and above. The vocabulary is not difficult which means readers can really focus on the devices and imagery of the poem without having to look up obscure words. The high interest level and ease of reading make it great for struggling readers in middle school and high school.
This book marries two of my great loves, graphic novels and poetry. The music of the words and the beauty of the images make this a great way to explore great Canadian poetry. I hope you can entice your tween or teen to give graphic poetry a try!