Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry

Plough. Mar. 2020. 200p. ISBN 9780874863185. $24.
By creating interesting juxtapositions of text, imagery, and illustration style, cartoonist Peters elevates each of the 24 visualizations of classic poems here into something much more interesting than mere translation. He highlights the timelessness of regretful longing by rendering William Butler Yeats’s “When You Are Old” as a manga about an elderly woman reflecting on her youth. In “Hopes is the thing with feathers,” he depicts a vibrantly colored bird watching over black-and-white depictions of a soldier huddled in a foxhole, an impoverished child in China, and an immigrant family entering a new land, lending a sense of universality to Emily Dickinson’s text. At the beginning of Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” dark watercolors evoke a dreary cold morning, as the speaker comes to recognizes his father’s habit of waking early to stoke the furnace as an act of love, the palette warms considerably, provoking a visceral flair of emotion.
VERDICT Peters’s virtuosity as an illustrator and keen understanding of the texts included here results in a beautiful, memorable volume.
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