Everyday Poetry

One of the most excellent things about children is that they're—for the first little while anyway—without preconceptions. So when you take out a book of poetry, they don't have read it differently from how they read anything else. Which is a simply not true of me and most other grownups I know. We just don't pick up the random book of poetry when we're at the library or at the bookstore the way we do other books. We just…don't.
One of the first books I got for our family once we'd had Diana, was a variation on my own favorite anthology for kids from my youth.

The semi-dorky sentimentality of the cover should give you an idea of the general aesthetic, I guess. For myself, I am completely incapable of telling whether it's any "good" in an objective, "Wow, great anthology" sort of way. In fact, I suspect it might not be good at all really. But I loved it when I was a kid, and Diana loved it in turn. It's strange and hokey and old-fashioned. It presents Emily Dickinson's poems in their old, pre-em dashed form, where someone has "fixed" the meter. But I loved it then, and the truth is that I love it still. It groups the poems in bizarre categories, starting out with the seasons, then veering to Animal Poems, Silly Poems, Creepy Crawly Poems, etc etc. And for every cheesy fairy rhyme there's Shakespeare and Browning and A.A. Milne for good measure, and they're all jumbled happily together, as if it were perfectly natural to just browse through a book of poetry and see what takes your fancy.  Which seems to me sort of perfect. It's ordinary and matter-of-fact, and it brought tons and tons of all sorts of poetry into our lives, which seems right, somehow. It's like a goofy aunt who's irritating and trite and also very brilliant, and you never know which side will turn up, but you're very pleased to have her in your life.

4 thoughts on “Everyday Poetry

  1. I love reading poems with my kids as well. My favorite anthology is “Sing a Song of Popcorn” I love little short poems that we can memorize and say around the house. Especially ones for big occasions like the first time is snows….


  2. Our favorite book of poems is known locally as the Fishy Poems. It is officially called “Fishing for a Dream” collected and illustrated by Kate Kiesler.
    You can’t go wrong at bedtime with a poem that rhymes splish swish fish wish. (Fishes’ Evening Song by Dahlov Ipcar.)
    It also includes Sweet and Low by Tennyson, which I had previously known only from reference in one of my childhood books (Ramona? Judy Blume?) in which the school choir sings a musical version of that poem and all the kids go silent on the word “breast.”


  3. Madeleine: It’s Blubber, by Judy Blume, fearless chronicler of horror, when all the kids but Blubber go silent on the word breast.


  4. Right! The horror.
    Speaking of horror, I recently got “Harriet the Spy” for Snuggly Girl, and I expected to hear back from her about the losing friends dynamics. I remember that being really upsetting. But she had nothing to say. “Yeah, it was good.”


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