By Mallory Jensen

poembookreview

Have you heard of Annie Peck? How about Maria Sibylla Merian? Or Zheng He? If not, don’t feel bad — they were brave explorers of the past, but many people don’t remember them. In Trailblazers, a book of poems by Bobbi Katz, you get to meet them and more than sixty other men and women who traveled far and wide to see new things and meet new people.

The idea of a historical poem might seem strange, but Katz speaks in the voice of the explorer or someone who met or traveled with the explorer, making the poems less like history lessons and more like powerful descriptions of the time and place.

In “Genghis Khan,” Katz puts the words of two of the Mongol emperor’s army commanders side by side to make you feel like you’re part of the action. In “John Ross and James Clark Ross,” a Polar Inuit woman in the North Arctic describes her feelings as the British explorers arrive in her land.

The poems are ordered chronologically, from Adam and Eve and Queen Hatshepsut of ancient Egypt to Sylvia
Earle, a deep-sea explorer still working today.

Reading the poems might make you want to know more about the explorers, so you will be happy to see short biographies of each explorer in the back of the book. You may want to know even more about a few of them and be inspired to research them. By combining poetry and history this way, Trailblazers is an enjoyable and unusual chance to be introduced to a group of courageous explorers.