Oog in oog in oog in oog
Love poems that are both witty and gripping
Where do poems get their power to enchant? We’ve all asked ourselves that at one time or another. The poet Eva Gerlach knows the answer, because her poems have that power. First she enchanted all the grown-ups in the Netherlands with stunningly beautiful, subtle and original poems. Now she has written second volume of poetry for children, entitled Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye. Her book consists of six sections, some of which tell a story in poems, while others explore a particular theme. More so than even in her previous book of poetry for children, Hey Mister Moose, Gerlach shows here what language can do.
In cheeky lines full of unexpected twist and turns she shows what poetry really is, without the children who are reading it being immediately aware of it. They are swept away by things Gerlach comes up with in the various sections: little sisters that fly into the air, strange children who have to wear helmets to keep too much stuff from getting into their heads, foxes in Scotland and menacing characters who want you to give them money, even though you haven’t got any. Anything can happen in these poems. Gerlach can be profound, moving, funny and bizarre, and when she wants, she is all those things at once.
The children in these poems have to relate to their environments (to the annoying little sister for example, who even fits better on dad’s lap) as well as conquering a place for themselves. The latter is not easy. In one poem a child cries out bravely that she belongs here, that she isn’t just any old kid, that she can do all sorts of things, tricks with her toes for a start - but it ends with the lament: “I keep on saying this but it doesn’t make any difference.”
The poems feature not only brave children, but also children in love, troubled children, happy children and angry children. Eva Gerlach knows that it is important to take care in choosing her words, and this is clear from the words that make up these poems. This means that language can trip up the reader: figures of speech are suddenly taken literally, but moments later they are not. It means that enjambments and spaces between lines play an important part in the construction of the poems - in short, it means that Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye is an example of genuine poetry. And all this comes with a sense of humor to boot. Speaking of enchanting… Marjoleine de Vos