Friday, July 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: Review of Becoming Billie Holiday

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2008. Becoming Billie Holiday. Art by Floyd Cooper. Wordsong publishers. October 2008 Release.

Becoming Billie Holiday is a "fictional verse memoir" that "imagines her legendary life from birth to young adulthood." (This quoted from the author's afterword.) The author notes that she ends the story before "heroin and hard living took their toll." After reading Becoming Billie Holiday, I'd venture to say that not much in her life was easy. The things this child, this teen, this woman endured on a day-to-day basis are in many ways unimaginable to me. Heartbreaking in many many ways. Yet with her voice, she was able to make lemonade with all of life's lemons.

The titles of each poem Weatherford has written are taken from the songs Holiday sang throughout her career. I'm not sure if all readers would have caught on to that--or at which point they would have caught on to that--but I thought I'd point it out. (While I didn't know most of them from exposure to Holiday, I did *know* quite a lot from my exposure to other jazz/swing musicians of the era.)

I Wished On the Moon

I may have been poor,
may have been orphaned
half the time,
but for five cents
I could lose myself
in a bargain matinee.

Sitting front-row center
at the colored theater,
I imagined myself
a damsel in satin,
dripping in diamonds,
safe in the hero's arms.

Those movies
may have been black-and-white,
but my dream was Technicolor.
I left the dark theater,
squinting in broad daylight,
stars in my eyes.

Trav'lin' Light

I toted my songs
like a satchel and felt most
at home when I sang.

The poems are well-written, it's true. But the art by Floyd Cooper is just amazing. It's beyond good.

A note about the art taken straight from the book but found to be ultra-fascinating to me so I thought I'd share: "Floyd Cooper's art for this book was created with a subtractive technique, using erasers to make shapes from a ground of paint. The shapes were then enhanced with mixed media, mostly oil-based, layered in a dry brush fashion."

120 pages.

Round-up this week is at A Year of Reading.

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Sarah Miller said...

Holy wow. I heart Billie and Carole Boston Weatherford. MUST READ.

October?! *cries*

tanita✿davis said...

Oooooh, the artwork.

Oh, the poetry.

Agreed: MUST READ. Don't let us forget in October!

Unknown said...

Nice! Great poetry!

Mary Lee said...

Until October, we'll have to keep ourselves occupied by listening to jazz and swing!