Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.
~ Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (“Keep a Poem in Your Pocket”)
So begins J. Patrick Lewis’s brand new poetry picture book, in which he pairs 13 classic poems on a variety of subjects with his own inventive parodies. Beatrice Schenk de Regnier’s opening poem sets the tone by touting the delights of the imagination, while Lewis’s poetic response (“Keep a Pocket in Your Poem”) advises us to think up wondrous, concrete objects (“red hawk feather,/silver penny, pinkie ring”) to spark the creative process.
In his introduction, Lewis explains that writing a parody is the best way to pay tribute to someone else’s work. He’s clearly a poet who likes to tweak, twist and tinker — not only with words, but with ideas, thoughts, and emotions.
As old poem faces off against new, it’s interesting to see the different directions Lewis has taken as he echoes, mimics, and counters. With this side by side format, young readers are given great examples of how one might imitate a well-known poem, whether they choose to express a similar sentiment (Lewis’s “Winter Warmth” in response to Langston Hughes’s “Winter Sweetness”), or contrast the original (Lewis’s “Rats” vs. Rose Flyeman’s “Mice,” or Lewis’s “Hail” vs Carl Sandburg’s “Fog”).