Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Nonfiction Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes

[Poetry Friday] A Poetic Biography of Marc Chagall in “Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers”

"The Life Of Marc Chagall In Verse"

Myra here.

It has been quite awhile since I have joined the Poetry Friday community. I am glad to be back with a picturebook biography written in verse by two giants in children’s literature, Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis.

It is also perfect for our current reading theme on memoirs and biographies. Thank you, Friendly Fairy Tales, for hosting this week.

Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers: The Life Of Marc Chagall In Verse

Poetry by: J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen
Art by: Marc Chagall Published by: Creative Editions (2011)
ISBN: 1568462115 (ISBN13: 9781568462110)Borrowed the book from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have a special affinity for artists who regard the world differently. Marc Chagall, originally from Vitebsk, Russia, was one such visionary who “smelled colors” from the time of his birth (as poetically noted by Jane Yolen), until he passed away at the age of 97. And no, he was not born with seven fingers. What the title of this book means, I shall leave for you to discover.

I found it quite masterful how the poets J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen managed to weave Chagall’s life story narrative around his luminous, transcendental art. There are also a few lines after each poem providing more details regarding the art itself or certain pivotal moments in Chagall’s life.

While most painters are depicted to be polygamous and hopeless womanizers, Chagall was portrayed here as someone who was thoroughly besotted with his first wife, Bella Rosenfeld, a daughter of a wealthy jeweler. At the time of their engagement in 1909, Chagall was merely a poor apprentice to a painter and could barely afford a space of his own. Yet, somehow the marriage worked (until Bella’s death many years later, which Chagall mourned for a year), not to mention Chagall’s art which was gradually recognized by his peers.

My Poetry Friday offering touches on this tender love between Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld – whereby scribbles of colour and love are enough. I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app to infuse it with the glitter of the cosmos and Chagall’s colour of love.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: 24 of 40 – Marc Chagall is from Russia and his hometown Vitebsk has figured prominently throughout the book.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Poetry Friday] A Poetic Biography of Marc Chagall in “Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers”

  1. What a beautiful life-story. I will have to see if I can hunt it up. Thank-you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In addition to being a sweetly romantic poem, Yolen’s poem is perfect for Mother’s Day as well — a tribute to mothers who carry their family as if it were light as a paintbrush. Thanks, Myra.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a gorgeous book in so many ways–I love Chagall’s art and then having Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis team up to tell his story is verse, what a treasure this must be. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just gorgeous. I’ll have to check this out.


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