Welcome Precious

Welcome PreciousWhere do ideas come from? It’s not always easy to say. Take Wel­come Pre­cious. One day, someone—I don’t remem­ber who—said “You should write a baby book.” I snick­ered. I had exact­ly zero inter­est in writ­ing anoth­er baby book. Years ear­li­er, I’d done one for Essence Mag­a­zine. That one was a work-for-hire, but still. Sure­ly one baby book was enough, right?

Ideas are stub­born things. Like seeds, once plant­ed, they tend to grow and take root. In no time, I found myself think­ing about nurs­ery rhymes, and lul­la­bies, and good­night books. Soon there­after, I was ask­ing myself, “Well, if I were to write a new baby book, what would my focus be?” I mulled that one over (for days? for weeks?), then hit upon an idea that held some appeal: I could write a text wel­com­ing a new­born into the world of sen­so­ry delights.

childOnce that was decid­ed, I need­ed a name for my book’s baby, and Pre­cious sprung to mind. After all, every new­born that comes into the world, with­out respect of race, cul­ture, or gen­der, is pre­cious. That idea was impor­tant to me because I was not craft­ing a book specif­i­cal­ly for black babies, although obvi­ous­ly women of col­or would find it espe­cial­ly appeal­ing. Rather, this was intend­ed as a book cel­e­brat­ing the sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences of all babies. Of course, if you’re going to fea­ture a black baby in a book, who bet­ter to bring on board than artist Bryan Collier?

I was so excit­ed when Bryan agreed to be the illus­tra­tor. As it hap­pened, right about the time he signed the con­tract, he had just learned that he and his love­ly wife, Chris­tine, were about to have their first child. Soon, Bryan would have his very own per­son­al frame of ref­er­ence to guide him as he worked on the paint­ings for Wel­come Precious!

Tim­ing, as they say, is everything.

babyIn most of my sto­ry told through poet­ry, I write a series of indi­vid­ual poems, woven togeth­er by plot or theme. In this case, how­ev­er, I want­ed to cre­ate the feel­ing of, well, not a lul­la­by exact­ly, but some­thing of a lyri­cal text. A book-length poem seemed to be the way to go this time around. As I wrote the piece, I imag­ined myself hold­ing a new­born, and read­ing this book to him or her, enjoy­ing the taste and feel of the words in my mouth. I heard myself singing, rather than say­ing, each line. With that in mind, the text very near­ly wrote itself.

This book has become a pop­u­lar baby show­er gift in my cir­cle, and per­haps in oth­er cir­cles, as well. Have you read it, yet? I’ll leave you with one of my favorite passages.

Wel­come Precious …
ChinaWel­come to sun-sparkle and moonlight.
Wel­come to the cool delight
of ice cream,
the sticky joy of peanut butter,
and the hint of honey
in choco­late fudge.

Wel­come to the warm circle
of your dad­dy’s arms,
the slip­pery kisses
of your gid­dy grandmother,
and the cool tickle
of Mom­my’s nose
rub­bing against your
bel­ly button …
Wel­come, Precious …

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