Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My Name is Jason. Mine Too.

My Name is Jason. Mine Too. is a mixed media poetry extravaganza for teens. Authors Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin were college roomates. One is a poet and one is a painter. They've worked together on a number of projects including a big coffee table-style book called SELF and they're about to debut a new stage show called Graduation.

The first thing that really caught my eye about My Name is Jason. Mine Too. (subtitled "Our Story. Our Way.") was the artwork. From the cover's mix of paint and photograph to the scribbly drawings on the initial pages, it's apparent right off the bat that Jason Griffin is a very talented artist (I think...I kept getting my Jasons confused). The illustrated autobiographical poetry book contains all sorts of media from watercolors to pen and ink, collage, paint, and pencil. Most of the images are busy, overlapping and highly interesting. There's plenty of detail to mull over and tease out on almost every page.

Reynolds' poetry is pretty straightforward and a good read for the younger set. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of hidden meaning--it tells the guys' story. They moved to New York to follow their respective dreams, they lived in a small apartment and subsisted on Ramen noodles and peanut butter, and they eventually made a life for themselves. The poetry chronicles all of those emotional, intellectual, and physical struggles. The good stuff as well as the bad.

One of my favorite poems is one in which Reynolds discusses a foray into teaching poetry. He writes:

"A Poet"

He walks in
His hair everywhere
His clothes not so neat
But he's comfortable
And confident

He walks in
Books in his hand
Words running around
His mind like children
Playing tag on a snow day
He's ready

He walks in
Introduces himself as a poet
And their professor

Each student wondering
Where his corduroy blazer was
Where his horn-rimmed glasses
And corncob pipe were
And when was his beard going to turn white

He walks in
As himself and
Teaches his first lesson
On cliche

While I found some of the poetry to be a little bit forced and awkward at times, overall I thought the book was a lot of fun. I admire authors and artists who take risks, and this book certainly pushes "literature" in fun new directions. It's not a graphic novel, it's not solely an art book, it's not just poetry. It's an innovative hybrid work by two guys that seem to have a great deal of humor to give and certainly a good deal of talent.

To see more of the book's artwork and read up on the authors, visit their blog at

I'll definitely count this book for My Year of Reading Dangerously!

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