Sunday, April 17, 2011

Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood

Poems by Cynthia Rylant
Drawings by Stephen Gammell

Cynthia Rylant typically draws from experiences she has had as inspiration.  In Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood, Rylant writes a collection of poems inspired by her experiences in Beaver, West Virginia.  Rylant moved to Beaver with her mother at the age of eight and experienced sorrow, joy, love, loss, fear, disappointment, and death while she was there.

Even in this short group of poems by Rylant, we are given a glimpse into Rylant’s personality and style.  It is no wonder that Rylant has a gift for poetry—she always writes poetically even in prose.  Free-write poetry seems like a natural step for Rylant to take.  Her language does not necessarily follow any rules, but it is simply beautiful. 

This book is recommended for readers who are eleven years old and up.  I agree.  The content initially seems rather simple because all of the things are things that kids may deal with growing up.  At the same time however, a certain maturity is needed in order to interpret and appreciate the poems—especially since the poems go beyond what an eleven-year-old experiences.  For example, the later poems talk about going steady, dating, and leaving home. 

The pencil illustrations that accompany the poems almost look as though someone has spilled water on them—making them look like black and white watercolor.  They provide a glimpse into Beaver, but also leave significant details out—allowing the reader to make up their own pictures in their mind.
This group of poems allows us insight into Cynthia Rylant’s personal life and thinking—yet, we do not feel like we know everything there is to know about her when we finish.  As an adult who has read several Cynthia Rylant books, this poetry collection makes me want to learn more specific details about her childhood.  I am looking forward to reading her autobiography. 


  1. I like what you said about her language not following any rules, but is beautiful nontheless. As elementary as this sounds, I always enjoyed listening to poems when they rhyme, but this one was different and I'm glad I experienced this style (and liked it).

  2. After reading reading more of her work and these poems, I am really getting to feel like I am understanding Rylant and her background and how much it influences her writing. I too am eager to read her autobiography.