Friday, July 30, 2010

Fancy poetry, for kids!

If you're a devoted reader of this blog you will know that I am more or less obsessed with this collection of children's poetry, Poetry Speaks to Children, which features a ton of amazing poems by heavyweight poets, many of which are not written for children but which have great appeal for the little ones. So you've got your Jane Yolen and Margaret Wise Brown an also Galway Kinnell, Shakespere, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and yes, Lewis Carroll. We've been listening to it in the car for years, and the kids' interest waxes and wanes but there was a period where they had me play The Jabberwocky on repeat play for WEEKS. They both absolutely adore the poem. Which led me to do something super-pretentious and get them air-brushed T shirts from Walmart, one which reads "Beamish Boy" for Primo, and "JubJub Bird" for Seconda.

Here's the thing with the Jabberwocky, and with much poetry and art and music in general. The kids have as good a shot at "understanding" it as we do. At first Primo asked me "What does it mean?" and I told him that alot of the words were made-up words that don't really exist so he can guess as much as I can as to what its about. They don't have all of the baggage that adults bring to reading poetry - the drive to decipher and the feeling ignorant when we feel like we can't -- and so they can enjoy it. Primo, and Seconda too, only two years old, got that it was a story about a battle with a beast, a boy hero, about a proud mother. They absolutely luxuriated in the language.

So I was DELIGHTED to read this article by Robert Pinsky on Slate which basically says that I was totally right all along, I'm Mother of the Year and my kids are brillant. Its actually a really great piece about what makes great kids' poetry and Pinsky -- dreamy dreamboat that he is -- makes a great case for reading kids poetry which isn't pat or mawkish but which has a respect for all that the childhood experience encompasses, including the darkness. I fully plan on reading the poems he recommends to my kids, especially the Lear which I know Primo will love. We will, however, definitely be skipping the Walter de le Mare, which are a little "Twilight Zone," a little too "Twin Peaks" for Primo's sensibilities. prompting him to be up all night pondering profound existential things wihch the kid doesn't need to think about quite yet.I know for a fact he'd be asking me over and over again if it is indeed possible to be disappear into a wrinkle in time.

Happy Reading!