By Author / Illustrator
Caboodle Books Limited
Paperback / softback
His approach is to meet young people where they are and engage them with the style and attitude they are familiar with. This collection reflects on his journey of growth from childhood to adulthood through the lens of Hip Hop culture. Rhythm and Poetry (otherwise known as RAP) is by Hip Hop artist and poet Karl Nova. The beauty of rap lyricism and Hip Hop influenced poetry is displayed with wit, humour and positivity. His approach is to meet young people where they are and engage them with the style and attitude they are familiar with. This collection reflects on his journey of growth from childhood to adulthood through the lens of Hip Hop culture.
This is Hip Hop artist and poet, Karl Nova's first collection of poetry for young people. Aptly titled Rhythm and Poetry, it offers insights into Nova's life, recounted energetically in rap (hence the acronym from the title). Almost as important as the raps themselves, are the illuminating commentaries that he provides. Arguing that rap, at its best, is 'one of the highest forms of poetry and is the voice of this generation', he goes on to say 'I am now an artist myself that participates in the culture and art form of stitching and weaving words together to tell my own story'. And very good stitching and weaving it is too!
The opening poem - 'Poetry?' (p.8) - is an exuberant celebration of his coming of age as a rap fan: 'It's like I woke up / from being fast asleep / everything seemed to slow down / I felt my heart leap /. Read in conjunction with 'Rhythm and Poetry' (p.55), rap's transforming quality is celebrated. Look also at 'My address' (p.10): 'in conversation I'm soft spoken, very calm / but I speak with strength when the mic is in my palm /'.
In the introduction Nova says 'I use poetry to say what is hard to say in any other way...to make sense of all the thoughts in my head and feelings in my chest..'. The idea of making sense recurs in poems recalling childhood incidents; 'The Chase' (p.20) and 'The Puddle' (p.21) both chart unresolved memories: was he really chased by a dog? Who did push him (at the age of 7) into a puddle?
Calling his poems 'lyrical pictures', Nova explains that he wants to 'capture moments like when I take photographs'. Indeed in 'Rhythm and Poetry' (p.55) he makes an apt analogy: 'like Banksy I'm a street artist / peep my graffiti / I make 'em with pens and pads / not spray cans, do you read me?/'. The vivid picture he captures of a breakdancer in New York ('The Dancer', p.17) is a wonderful example of such a lyrical picture: 'He was spinning on his head / then suddenly he paused / He twisted his arms and legs to the rhythm / He was popping and locking / to beats from a sound system /'. Joseph Witchall's depiction of the dancer - in common with others in the collection - is edgy and angular: these are illustrations with attitude. Young people will empathise with the light-hearted tone of 'Homework' (p.13): 'I'd rather be on Facebook / or chatting on WhatsApp / then scroll through Instagram / or spend time on snapchat/'. Direct engagement: 'have YOU done YOUR homework? And what are YOUR distractions?'. On a more serious note, 'Peer Pressure' (p.33) addresses a significant issue for pupils: 'The fear of being left out is what it is all about / No one wants to get laughed at or be the odd one out /
Touchingly, the final poem in the collection is actually 'My first rap verse ever' (p.94). Written when he was 14, he comments that he doesn't think the piece is good but it was important because 'We all have to start somewhere and that was my starting point'. We are glad he did start. For a collection with verve and vigour, look no further.
96 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.
Suggested Reading Age 11+