Quirky Books: Tai Chi Morning by Nikki Grimes

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tai Chi Morning by Nikki Grimes

Market Executives produced this book. From selecting an Asian illustrator, Ed Young, to repeatedly mentioning how Grimes wrote these poems on a vacation to Tienanmen Square, before hostilities broke-out, cover-to-cover is an example of marketing madness.

Copyrighted in 2004, Grimes visited China in 1988. The introduction and a few of the summaries allude to how poems were written about China, before the world became aware of the rising tension. Young based illustrations on sketches from previous vacations to Asia. Between the faux linen paper and ink drawing, it is largely commercial.

Hardly any of poems are related to Tai Chi; therefore, it is a clever title to lure people into buying it. One poem "Tai Chi Morning" alludes to a young woman and her grandfather going through the basic form together. The overall feeling portrays a foreigner appreciating the culture. The impression is innocent, yet it lacks a hearty message.

Grimes and Young both focus on regular people like street sweepers and people riding their bikes to work. In "Huang Shan and the Great Wall" she alludes to how the Great Wall is more appreciated than the Huang Shan, the great mountains surrounding the Great Wall. Implying the Great Wall shouldn't believe it is so wonderful. One might think she is casually observing the uprising though she looks happy in all the pictures.

The overall book is interesting. However, it was challenging to find a deeper meaning within any poem. It is difficult to determine if promotion subdued the poetry or the poetry was not strong enough to stand on its own. Overstocked with standard markings of a collectable book marketing aspects kills this book. It is reminiscent of a boutique or gift shop novelty. The poetry is overshadowed by cliche and arbitrary information related to current events.

Many poems are observational. Often lacking deeper meaning, parable or other topical relationship it often comes across as though the reader should be interested in this because the poet is an Afro-American in China; or because the vacation took place before the incident in Tienanmen Square. Perhaps we should infer meaning, because Grimes is way too innocent. Raw descriptions of people, places and things are hardly interesting within themselves.

People who are interested in current events and housewives will appreciate "Tai Chi Morning" the most. It is intended for children; however, the message is fairly universal. It is doubtful anyone would shun this gift, yet it might end up a paper weight. Perhaps, one day, it will find its way into historical documentation.

Poetry Breakdown
Tai Chi Morning by Nikki Grimes