Sunday, April 17, 2011

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

Written By: Paul Feischman
Illustrated by Eric Beddows

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the minds of insects?  I do not think that I ever have.  In my adult years, I consider insects to be a nuisance.  Sure they are helpful to the environment—but I can’t help not wanting them anywhere near me.  I sometimes wonder when my opinion of bugs changed.  When I read stories like Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe or, When Lightening Comes in a Jar, by Patricia Polacco, and most recently, poetry books like Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman and Joyful Noise, by Paul Fleischman, I am reminded of the summertime when I was a child.  I used to spend my time outside chasing fireflies, running around barefoot, digging in the dirt, and picking up worms.

After reading Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, I am reminded of how fascinating nature is.  Fleischman carefully crafted fourteen different poems each from the perspective of a different insect.  He creates a rhythmic beat between the two voices—begging for the poems to be read aloud. 

The poems are simple and easy to understand yet incorporate a variety of literary techniques.  For example, the use of alliteration can be seen in the poem, Fireflies:

“We’re fireflies/flickering/flitting/flashing/fireflies/glimmering/gleaming/glowing”

Fleischman also incorporates rhyme in poems like The Moth’s Serenade:

“Porch/light,/hear my plight!/I drink your light/like nectar…”

In addition, Fleischman uses repetition between both voices as well as in each individual part.  For example, in Requiem, Fleischman repeated the words, “Light undying” several times in each individual part as well as in both voices.  He also repeated the phrase, “Cave crickets/mole crickets/tree crickets/field crickets” between the two voices in what seemed almost like a Row Your Boat type of round.

Fleischman enabled me to visualize and make inferences through his choice of language.   For example, through the Honeybees poem I pictured in my mind the different roles of the Queen bee and the Worker bee.  It was especially interesting to read two different perspectives within the same poem.

Accompanying each poem were simple pencil drawings by Eric Beddows.  The simplicity of these illustrations added to the interpretation of each poem without taking away from the language used in the poem itself.  The illustrations give us a more detailed look of what each insect looks like, although there is still the fictional appeal.  I do believe though that the illustrations are detailed enough to help identify the real deal.

Reading this book of poetry silently was a challenge and I could not convince anyone nearby to read aloud each one with me.  As a result, I tried to see if I could find any of these poems read aloud online.  I was lucky enough to find a YouTube video with the poems read aloud by Opera singer Louis Lebhertz and storyteller Judy Peiken.  What a difference it made to listen!  Both Lebhertz and Peiken did a beautiful job bringing the rhythms and sounds to life as Fleischman intended.  For example, in the poem, Water Boatmen, the readers rolled every “r” in the poem—adding a new dimension of rhythm.  The music that accompanied the reading of the poems added to the mood of each poem.

After reading and listening to the poems of Joyful Noise it will be difficult to not think twice before swatting at an insect that has crept into the house.  I cannot say that I will be found outside chasing fireflies, running around barefoot, or playing in the dirt--but, Fleischman did manage to give me a new perspective on insects in this brilliant collection of poetry.


  1. I liked reading your blog on this one. I really felt you enjoyed this story, and that you are now one with nature. :)

    We should all try to read this one together in class!

  2. Great job analyzing this, Janelle. Well said!