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Carver: A Life in Poems

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  932 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
George Washington Carver was born a slave in Missouri about 1864 and was raised by the childless white couple who had owned his mother. In 1877 he left home in search of an education, eventually earning a master's degree. In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to start the agricultural department at the all-black-staffed Tuskegee Institute, where he spent the rest of ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Front Street, Incorporated (first published April 23rd 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,921)
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Jan 23, 2009 Rian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
Summary: This novel of poems tells of the events and the influences of the life of George Washington Carver. The poems reflect the different places Carver lived and work as well as the different people who knew him; they are accompanied by photos and artifacts from his life.

Response: I would not have thought of telling a biography through poetry, but Carver comes across as such a quiet, reflective, inner person, that the poems become the perfect way to learn about him. I felt I was able to under
Hannah Hudson
Apr 24, 2007 Hannah Hudson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: poets, historians
What an unusual and compelling take on a biography. Nelson has such an amazing grasp on her use of language and imagery. I found myself writing down lines from the poems for their sheer beauty: “At the feet of every listener who hears/ the promise of dawn in the wilderness,/ the peach-luscious, unashamed curves/ of naked ambition.” Peach-luscious, unashamed curves! How wonderful. It was helpful for me to have the facts at the bottom of each poem, though—the one obvious trade-off of doing a biogr ...more
Carver: a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson

This book follows the life of George Washington Carver from his childhood to his old age. Each poem is from a different perspective following the chronological order of Carver's life. Some poems have visuals and a short background statement, which allows for extra explanation of the poem. What I particularly enjoyed were all the perspectives; at times, it was as if I had a mystery of a man in front of me and I was to parse out the meaning of all these doc
Dec 04, 2014 Allison rated it did not like it
This book is a beautiful and exciting way to learn about an important man in the history of America, and of course in the history of African-Americans.

Don't be fooled by the initial appearance of this book. I know you've probably read about tons of other people who were considered extraordinary, but this book is special because we feel like we get to know Carver on a personal level.

The two most important tactics to use whilst reading this book: remembering context/seeing things from Carver's pe
Dec 08, 2011 Casey rated it really liked it
1. Genre: poetry, junior books

2. Summary: This book of poems tells the story of George Washington Carver, the amazing botanist and inventor who became famous for his peanut plants. Carver was raised in the 1860's by white salve owners and eventually set out on his own to receive an education earning his master's degree in agriculture.

3. Critique:

a.) For me, the strength of these poems are the information that are introduced.

b.) Unfortunately, the only thing I really ever knew about Carver is tha
Jan 05, 2009 Eileen rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-memoir
I knew next to nothing about George Washington Carver before reading this book – just a vague recollection about peanuts. Reading Carver: A Life in Poems was a wonderful revelation. The poems were beautiful and provided a rich portrait of an amazing man. This book was much more revealing than an ordinary biography. The small black and white photographs perfectly complement the poems. One of the poems notes that Carver always had a fresh flower in his lapel, even in winter. In many of the picture ...more
Mar 02, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
It’s a challenge to review this wonderful book. It is a beautiful biography and equally lovely verse novel? For poetry, which sometimes seems slim, Marilyn Nelson manages to include not only the facts of this scientist, but his consistent passion for learning, for his God and his people, and for the arts. Even in school I learned of his tireless and genius work in the use of peanuts, but I did not know he drove miles on country roads, teaching poor sharecroppers how to make the best of their cro ...more
Cara Byrne
Jan 27, 2016 Cara Byrne rated it really liked it
"When I die I will live again./By nature I am a conserver./I have found Nature/to be a conserver, too" (95). What a wonderful way to memorialize and create a new vision of George Washington Carver's tremendous life and gifts. Paired with photographs and a timeline, each poem captures Carver's spiritual and intellectual commitments and the thoughts, fears, and meditations of those around him. Wonderful.
Jun 10, 2014 Charlene rated it it was amazing
An excellent telling of Carver's life through poetry . . . I don't think I would have appreciated or understood this book as a middle-schooler but as an adult, who admires Carver, I enjoyed how well the author is able to convey personality and life story through poems. Carver's accomplishments were even more amazing than I realized; his creativity extended to art as well as science. My favorite poem was "1905" reminding us that Einstein and Carver were contemporaries and both geniuses. Booker T. ...more
May 06, 2012 Nancy rated it it was ok
Nancy Price - Poetry: Carver a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson

I’m not one for reading poetry but this book does a very nice job of telling a story through verse. Each of the poems contained in this book tells the story of an important part of the life of George Washington Carver. He was born a slave sometime around 1864 and was raised by the white couple that had owned his mother. The very first poem tells how his mother had run away and the Carver’s sent someone out looking for the slave girl a
Apr 14, 2012 Kesha rated it it was amazing
It is well known the impact and importance of George Washington Carver's life, but the details these poems share about his rise to significance are insightful. The poem that truly imparts enlightenment on his true magnificence is entitled "Green - Thumb Boy." When a new boy to the college attempts to shun Carver with dramatic flair and ends up suffering the fate he attempted to dish out, it reflects the charm and overwhelming charisma Carver displayed, not to mention his ingenuity. He lived a tr ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it
Poetry Book #2 In an extremely inspirational series of prose poems, Marilyn Nelson shares details from the life of George Washington Carver, an African American botanist, inventor, scientist, teacher, and artist. The 60+ poems cover key moments in Carver's life beginning with his rescue from slave-nappers as a baby and ending with his death almost 80 years later in his rooms at Tuskegee Institute. Along the way, we learn of the opportunities offered to him by the slave owners Susan and Moses (Un ...more
Andy Zell
Jul 29, 2015 Andy Zell rated it really liked it
Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson is exactly what its title would make a reader expect: a biography of George Washington Carver in poetry. And it works. While I would be unlikely to pick up a prose biography of Carver (not because he led an uninteresting life, quite the opposite, but because there are too many biographies of interesting people that I will never pick up), I decided to read this volume because I knew and liked Nelson’s poetry (her much anthologized sonnet “How I Discovered ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it
George Washington Carver was born 1864 in Missouri. He was born a slave and raised by a childless white couple. Later on, he left home in 1877 to get educated and eventually he earned his master’s degree. In 1896 he was invited by Booker T. Washington to start an agricultural department at the all-black-staffed Tuskegee Institute. Here he spent the rest of his live looking for solutions the poverty he observed among landless black farmers by developing new uses for soil-replenishing crops.
One o
Nov 19, 2014 Rll52014_barb_zachwieja rated it it was amazing
I am so glad that I got this book for my book club pick. This book really connects to all of my passions: I like to read and write poetry, I like to learn about history, and I love biographies of fascinating people--especially unexpected heroes like George Washington Carver. We all hear about his background in agriculture and how he helped develop peanut farming--but this man had an amazing mind that could improve just about ANYTHING he put his mind to accomplishing. I loved that through the poe ...more
Feb 18, 2011 Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: kids, 2011
I really enjoy the poems in this book, and think it is a wonderful companion piece to any biography of George Washington Carver. Each poem tells his life story from a different perspective. The only reason I don't give the book four stars is because I don't think it is truly accessible for intermediate readers. My students enjoy the poems, but would not be able to do so without my support and a strong background knowledge of GWC.
Lizzy Miller
Mar 22, 2015 Lizzy Miller rated it really liked it
Poetry 3-5
This is the life of George Washington Carver written in many poems written by many people, including Marilyn Nelson.
The poems depicts specific times in Carver's life and there are often time life references included. The book shows so many people's perspectives of Carver throughout his amazing life and is extremely interesting.

-This book could be used in a poetry unit to begin to understand how to read poetry and it meaning. This book would be good for this because for each poem we a
I *loved* this book. Marilyn Nelson is a wonderful poet, accessible, channeling the voices of historical figures, and telling their stories. I can feel love coming through, love and care, respect. I also loved her Fortune's Bones. I learned much about Carver (and was inspired to read more about him elsewhere). She's done him a great honor, and given us a marvelous portrait.
Laura Brenneisen
Title: Carver: A Life in Poems By: Marilyn Nelson Copyright: 2001 Number of Pages: 112 Lit Require: Poetry #3

This poetry book was so creative and detailed it not only helped me visualize what was going on during that particular poem, but to feel like I was there at that moment in time. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but the flow of these poems made it so much easier to read. Also, this book is a biography about George Washington Carver so it would make for an excellent resource while studying sla
Jan 13, 2016 Ann rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The poems were well done, in my uneducated opinion. I didn't know much about George Washington Carver going into it, other than that he had something to do with peanuts, and the book definitely piqued my interest to find out more. It was frustrating sometimes because the poems intentionally were set up to give an, impression of thing that happened, which meant I was often left wishing for more context or more information about par ...more
Sep 23, 2007 elissa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone in middle school and up
I've never read anything else like this. I learned a lot about Carver through this poetry-biography, and was just blown away by Nelson's writing. I recommended it to a mom who came to get a book about Carver for her 11 or 12 year old, but warned her that it was slightly graphic.
This was an incredible and eye-opening book. Unsurprisingly I learned nothing about Carver in my history classes and I’m pretty sure no one is explicitly studying him in any of our current social studies curriculums. Such a shame because he was a fascinating figure. While relegated to terrible jobs on chicken farms because of the pervasive racism at the time he did some incredible research into soil science and farming. All of it was inspired by a desire to help poor black people raise themselve ...more
Jan 07, 2010 Josiah rated it it was ok
"I never have to grope for methods;
the method is revealed
the moment I am inspired
to create something new."

—George Washington Carver, Carver: A Life in Poems

Marilyn Nelson uses beautiful language to tell the graceful story of George Washington Carver, a figure in American history who, thanks to focused nationwide efforts at teaching black history during the month of February, has become nothing short of an icon.

This style of biography via poems is an interesting idea, and does well in quic
Jan 21, 2009 Lynne rated it really liked it
Marilyn Nelson’s collection of poems gives insight to George Washington Carver’s experiences growing up. Each poem illuminates key moments in Carver’s life through the perspective of those that crossed paths with him. Nelson's peoms chronologically follow Carver through his life and various poems include photographs or further factual information regarding Carver.

This text can be used to provide knowledge as we learn of his original path to become an artist while studying at Simpson College in
Jan 25, 2011 Nicolewinter2011 rated it really liked it
Publisher: Front Street
Published: 2001
Reading level: Middle School- Adult

Nelson writes poems that span George Washington Carver's lifespan. I kept wanting to have poems from his perspective. However, I respect the creativity of trying to write poems from the various perspectives of those in Carver's life. I think that could lead a fantastic assignment for students to consider when learning about the life of a historical figure. My favorite poem from the text that came across as a tone that I rem
Aug 10, 2016 Natalie rated it it was ok
Recommended to Natalie by: Mrs. Soper
Shelves: english-ed
This book is a compilation of free-style poems building up to a biography of George Washington Carver. It goes through his unlikely infant-hood, where he is taken in and saved from the auction block with his mother. Then the poems jump to his upbringing, neither son nor slave in a home. His amazing awareness and artistic ability when it came to plants, nature, and cleaning things is expressed throughout the entire book as he does whatever he can and has to, to get by and continue his education. ...more
Paul  Hankins
What is my excuse for having not seen this book prior to this? It's 2001 release date (the same time I had entered into undergraduate studies--as a nursing major)?

Whatever I might come up with here is no matter now. I found this book in the West Clark Community Schools warehouse the other day, remembering that I had this on my "to read" list for some time here at Goodreads.

A Sunday morning provided opportunity to dig into this collection of poems from Marilyn Nelson (whose own father was one of
Joan Innes
George Washington Carver is one of the most fascinating American lives; really brilliant, inventive, and multi-faceted in his talents. Looking at the photographs in this book, one gets the sense of what a gentleman, well dressed and well spoken, that Carver was.
What made this book unique is that the theme is little anecdotes from Washington's life and the world around him written in poetic form. Little vignettes such as a lace maker in a late sunday morning working the threads around pins give
Sep 29, 2010 Rachel rated it it was ok
This book was very interesting, it was not one of the worst books I have read but it is not at the top of the list wither. I feel that at some point it could be used as a history text book, with ideas demostrated through poetry. The poetry in the book demonstrates different scenarios that has happened in Carver’s life, what happened to him and how he felt about the different circumstances. This book could possibly be very relatable to many students. The poems are pretty self explainatory but, if ...more
Lauren Kramer
Feb 19, 2012 Lauren Kramer rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult-2012
This was such an interesting poetry book; I have never seen one produced as this one is. This book written by Marilyn Nelson took me through the biography and life of George Washington Carver, explained all through poetry. There are 59 poems and ordered chronlogically; starting from when George was a slave and being raised by a white family to George's ending days reflecting on his achieved life. The poems explain through its order of how he got to where he ended up in life, including: earning h ...more
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Marilyn Nelson is the author of many acclaimed books for young people and adults, including CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a Printz Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She also translated THE LADDER, a picture book by Halfdan Rasmussen. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

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“How sweet it is to let God purge our souls of ego and bitterness, and to have a little taste of heaven here on earth.” 12 likes
“I did not have to learn to love you: You were chosen for me. I knew that the first time I saw you.

—George Washington Carver”
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