[Poetry Friday] Yoga and Night Garden – A Janet Wong and Julie Paschkis Special

poetry friday

Myra here. It has been a while since I joined the Poetry Friday community and I am glad to be back. This is one of the kidlitosphere meme that resonates with me deeply as I try to always look at the world with a poet’s eye and sensibility. And while I am leaving for Budapest in a few hours (very late this evening, our time), I am determined to share these two beautiful picture books that spoke to me like no other. Poetry Friday this week is hosted in Carol’s Corner. Do make sure you pop in and say hello to the beautiful, talented, alluring, intelligent creatures who regularly join Poetry Friday.

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When we launched our bimonthly theme From Asia With Love, one of my resolutions was to familiarize myself with Janet Wong’s poetry which is oft-celebrated during Poetry Friday. And I am so glad I did. I found these two gorgeous books in our library.

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Twist: Yoga Poems

There are sixteen poems in all in this picture book. People who practice yoga would enjoy them as each poem highlights certain poses in lyrical verse. There is the curling chick-child in Child’s Pose remembering the “inside of an eggshell”,

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the Cat/Cow pose when one’s head is dropped down on the grass just like a cat, and one’s “hilly spine” magically transforms the cat into a cow gazing “at the heavens in gratitude.” There is also the “bow-wow’wing” position as seen in Down Dog, and of course the Cobra which pushes gradually upupup from the damp soil:

She lifts herself higher,

To dry out her heart.

IMG_7236How beautiful is that… rising from out of the darkness to rinse out one’s heart – shedding the flakes of pain and dried scars.

I enjoyed in particular how each pose magically transforms each individual into a Low Crow, an Eagle, or even a roaring Lion exhaling all the exhaustion from out of one’s throat. There is also the quiet power of nature as portrayed in twisting and convoluted poses (steady, though, strong feet, breathe) in Tree and Mountain/Volcano where “My stillness is never still.” And there is the beautiful Half-Moon when one discovers the power of flight “Grabbing hold of a star.”

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Janet also explained her creative process as she crafted each of the poems which she claimed she wrote for Julie Paschkis, the talented illustrator of this book who allowed each twist to live and breathe through her paints and dream-like illustrations:

I practiced yoga poses in my writing room while I wrote these poems. I would write a line, do the pose, jump up and write another line, and do the pose again, over and over. Sometimes I pushed myself a little too far. I looked at yoga pictures and forced my body to look somewhat the same way, even when it felt bad. Don’t push yourself too far.

I also smiled when Janet describes herself to be comfortable with the various things that she is: “especially my doughnut self.” I love doughnuts – fluffy, tasty, sweet ones with frosting on top.

I have been practicing Sivananda Yoga for the past three years now, but it has not been as regular as I would wish. I go overseas quite a lot throughout the year – which means that I would sometimes miss a month (or two, or three) of yoga practice. Fairly recently though, my instructor has asked me to move up to the Intermediate Course which means I have been doing yoga an average of three/four times a week for the past two weeks to prepare my body gradually. This book then is a gift, a beautiful find that whispered its secrets to my ears as I stretched myself further – my disassembled bones in my purple mat, their chaotic fragments breathing peace.

My absolute favorite in this book and one that I would also like to give to you as a gift is Breath. One of the reasons why I enjoy yoga so much with all its cleansing quality, making me feel like a renewed spirit after ninety minutes of sheer bliss.

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Breath by Janet Wong (all illustrations copyright by Julie Paschkis)

Breath is a broom
sweeping your insides

Smooth and slow:
You pull scattered bits of dream fluff
and heart dust into neat piles.

Short and quick:
You coax shards of broken thoughts
out of forgotten corners.

Breath is a broom sweeping you fresh.

Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams

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There are 15 beautiful poems in all in this collection. Each one calls out to the darkness and the stars in quilted softness, the sandman sprinkling its golden dust throughout the pages in all its silvery-leafy-surreal texture as seen in Julie Paschkis’ dreamlike artworks and Janet Wong’s soothing verse.

The reader feels a rumbling in one’s chest as

dreams grow wild

like dandelion weeds

feathery heads

alive

with seeds -

in Night Garden. 

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There are also the luminous eyes of people vaguely familiar but not as easily recognizable in Whose Face is This? The spirits of the dead seek out the reader’s slumber with echoes of distant past in The Ones They Loved the Most and remembrances drawn from knowledge buried deep in another lifetime in Who Knows How Long. In Flying, one is able to “soar like hawks” while Falling jolts the reader gently awake as one’s consciousness tumbles and runs, tumbles and runs.

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While there are The Best Dreams which “slip out of me/ when I am sick”; there is also the Nightmare stealthily, sneakily following the reader “down the hall to your cold dark room.”

My favorite though which is playing on-loop in my mind is finding an Old Friend if only in one’s dreams where stars align and parallel universes collide, even though technically I never forget.

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Old Friend by Janet Wong and illustrated by Julie Paschkis

I had forgotten you, friend.
Is that why you came
into my dream?
I had forgotten you.

When I fall asleep again,
will you leave your address
on my pillow?

Yoga Poems: Twist by Janet Wong and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. Book borrowed from the library. Book pictures taken by me.

Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams by Janet Wong and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000. Book borrowed from the library. Book pictures taken by me.

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A-Z Book Challenge Update: 24 of 26
(YA, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Z)

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Read-a-Latte Challenge: 127, 128 of 150

18 Comments on [Poetry Friday] Yoga and Night Garden – A Janet Wong and Julie Paschkis Special

  1. Both books sound beautiful, but I’d love to read more of Night Garden. thanks for sharing!

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  2. Welcome back! Can’t believe you are leaving for Budapest, but still found time to post- I’d probably still be washing my underwear! I’m not a yoga person, at all, but I surely did love the heart dust and dream fluff in “Breath.”

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    • Thanks for the warm welcome Carol. Yes, ‘heart dust’ ‘dream fluff’ – only Janet Wong can come up with something as gorgeous as those words.

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  3. Your descriptions of these beautiful books are very poetic themselves, Myra! I think you succeed in your efforts to ” try to always look at the world with a poet’s eye and sensibility.” .Have a good trip!

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  4. They both sound so refreshing, Myra. Thanks for your beautiful review. Enjoy Budapest!

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  5. This post is overflowing with beauty and sensitivity and affirmation — you are truly a poetic creature with a rare sensibility and an enviable ability to describe what she sees and loves.

    Both these books are just gorgeous and breathtaking — Janet and Julie are a dynamite team. So happy you shared these today!

    Have a nice trip, world traveler :).

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    • And that is only because I aspire to be you, you foxy lady you! :)
      Yes, they are indeed a dynamite team. I love Janet’s turn of phrase and Julie’s otherworldly artwork.
      Truly excited about Budapest. :)

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  6. maryleehahn // June 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm // Reply

    Thank you for shining your spotlight on Janet’s poetry and Julie’s illustrations. Can’t ever have too much of either.

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  7. Hi, Myra. I’ve been studying yoga for many years, so “Twist” is especially appealing. One of the best things yoga teaches is the importance of listening to your own body — a good message for children.

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    • Hi Laura, glad to see another yoga aficionado among the kidlit people. I’ve been practicing for three years now but have gotten even more serious with it fairly recently. I love the silence – it allows me to listen to my own body as you have pointed out. :)

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  8. These are quite lovely, I agree, Myra. I love “Breath is a broom keeping you fresh” and that Night Garden poem, “Old Friend”, so special. Thanks. I’ve seen the Night Garden, but didn’t know of Yoga at all! Janet and Julie are quite a pair! Happy travels!

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    • Hi Linda, Yoga is beautiful. I love how Janet has managed to use the name of the yoga poses and link it to each animal’s essence and strength and beauty. Thanks for the well wishes! :) Enjoy your All Write Conference too!

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  9. Thanks for sharing these beautiful books, Myra. Yoga sounds like the perfect gift for a special friend who teaches yoga.

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    • Hi Dori, I am sure your friend would love it. I am thinking of giving the same picture book to a dear friend who practices yoga three times a week! :)

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