I have perused “Worlds Enough: Poems for and about children (and a few adults)” several times and have yet to get my fill of the sometimes wild, sometimes subtle, always colorful poems and illustrations.
Years ago, when I was teaching poetry to middle school kids, I was having so much fun because the kids were having fun. They went wild with clever thoughts and rich illustrations as we tackled each type of poem or poetic device one by one. The results were working albums, each unique to the teenager who created it.
“Worlds Enough,” written by Scott Owens and illustrated by Missy Cleveland, is an adult version from my middle schoolers’ collections. The book of 57 poems and even more illustrations is fun, vibrant and unique in its explorations of some of the simplest subjects, such as hiccups, kites, earthworms, leaves, stars and flowers. shadows as well as heavy problems: time, choice of words. , friendship and breakup. “Worlds Enough” introduces children – and probably some adults – to poetry, to the enjoyment of reading, to the value and enjoyment of illustrations, and to making connections with the opinions of others.
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I spoke to Scott and Missy about their book, recently published by Catawba Valley Community College’s Redhawk Publications, and found out how “Worlds Enough” came to be.
You may know Scott. He and his wife Julie Owens own Taste Full Beans in downtown Hickory. Scott is also a professor of creative writing at Lenoir-Rhyne University and an award-winning poet, having completed 16 books of poetry before writing Worlds Enough, his first children’s book. “Most fun I’ve had writing a book,” he offered with a smile.
Scott said he had worked with a photographer before, but this was his first time teaming up with an illustrator.
Missy is a self-taught artist, a muralist who also creates small painted and multimedia works. She co-founded the famous artist shop Bottega on Union Square in Hickory and currently produces custom commissioned canvases for the public and for the Old Hickory Tannery, a Newton furniture company. “Worlds Enough” represents Missy’s inaugural venture as a book illustrator. She said she enjoyed the process and was looking forward to doing it again if the opportunity arose.
Scott said he had written many children’s poems over the years, but never pursued publication because he did not have an illustrator. Then one morning, walking through Taste Full Beans, a specialty gift shop as well as a cafe, “this painting of Missy was on the wall,” Scott explained, “and it resonated with a poem I had just started. A poem about plurality, about the fact that we are not always the same person and that our faces reveal who we are at any given moment.
Said Missy, “I painted this piece probably two years ago and in the same spirit.” The faces in the painting are upside down, sideways, multicolored and representative of various moods.
“I have five of [Missy’s] paintings in my house,” Scott continued. “I looked at them and realized how wonderful they would be in a children’s book of poems.”
Thus, the book ended up containing poems from Scott’s distant past, including one from high school; his nearer past, especially the subjects and verses inspired by his daughter Sawyer; and just a few weeks before publication, some of Missy’s paintings inspired him to write poems about them.
Likewise, Missy had existing paintings that fitted naturally with some of Scott’s poems, and she painted or used markers, pen and ink, pencil or oil pastels so that new accompany other poems. An example is “I Bet I Can Make You Cry”, a poem about the power of chopped onions. Because she likes to put humor and color in her work, Missy created a painting of a lovely onion woman and a dapper onion man.
Along with free verse and traditional poetry with rhythm and rhyme, “Worlds Enough” features haikus, riddles, lots of fun poems, and a few stories. “If kids can think poetry is fun, then they’ll keep going,” Scott said.
Missy said she considered the book a great graduation gift, “just like [Dr. Seuss’s] ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’”
” There is so much [Scott’s] written in this book that resonates with all ages,” Missy said.
Speaking of his daughter Sawyer as the inspiration for many of his poems, Scott shared the story behind “The word for what only 4 year olds can see”. After Sawyer’s maternal grandmother died, Sawyer spoke to her, Scott explained. He said he asked her who she was talking to, and Sawyer replied, “Grandma.” Scott told her he couldn’t see Grandma and she told Scott he was too old. He asked her what else she could see that he couldn’t, and she listed a number of things, “giving them made-up names”, he said. Sawyer coined the term effluctress to name his special ability.
As Scott and Missy talked, it was clear that the creatives were backing up all of their designs, ideas, and materials. Scott said he tells his students not to throw anything away, that they never know when they’ll need it. Missy agreed. “I can’t throw anything away,” she said.
Regarding the title “Worlds Enough”, Scott said it came from “To His Coy Mistress” by 17th century poet Andrew Marvell, the first line of which is “Had we but enough world and time”. “We have enough people and enough time,” Scott said. “We just have to recognize the joy and the opportunities around us.”
Missy agreed and added, “I know what the art in books did for me when I was a kid. With a bit of luck [this book] might have a similar effect on other kids there the same way it had on me.
“We really want to get the book into the hands of kids and people who spend time with kids,” Missy continued. “We will donate at least 200 books to the community.” She thanked the United Arts Council of Catawba County for supporting the publication of the book with a grant, allowing free books to be distributed to various institutions and individuals.
One person who has already received a free book is a middle-aged woman who stopped by Taste Full Beans and while waiting for the restroom to be unoccupied picked up the book and started looking through it. The toilet cleared, but the woman continued to read. Twenty minutes later, she was minding her own business and leaving, the copy of “Worlds Enough” in her hands – a gift from Scott.
Finally, here is an excerpt from the poem “Of”: “Poetry is contrary to productivity. Poetry encourages idleness. Poetry stands at the window because it is curious about flowers, this flower with its face fringed with yellow around its single brown eye. … Poetry comes and goes in a field that goes nowhere. …Poetry thinks it’s okay to look at the same sky day after day, sometimes minutes at a time, sometimes with no other purpose than to remember the blue.
“Worlds Enough: Poems For and About Children (and Some Adults)” is available for $15 from Taste Full Beans, 29 Second St. NW, Hickory; www.redhawkpublications.com; and Amazon.