Some of you may recognize the title of this piece as a quote from the poem Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. That was one of the first poems I memorized as a child other than Mother Goose rhymes. April is National Poetry Month and that has me wondering if children still memorize poems in school. Poetry was an important part of entertainment before television and radio. Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables acted out the Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson with her friends. She also recited poetry as part of a “concert” night of entertainment. One of my most memorable gifts from my parents was The Poetry of Robert Frost for my 16th birthday. I still have it. But do children today learn to love poetry as Anne Shirley did?
Even though one of my children was an avid fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books, I don’t think I instilled a love of poetry in any of my children. The Anne of Green Gables fan did memorize the poem “Homework, Oh Homework” by Jack Prelutsky in 2nd grade. (She’s now a school librarian/teacher.) I think I did all the “right” things to attempt to instill a love of poetry in my children: I read to them, I sang silly songs with them, I recited nursery rhymes to them. They all love to read. I think the culture has changed to the point that “poetry” isn’t considered necessary. I guess it’s a good thing that music is a form of poetry. That part of our culture still believes in meter, repetition, rhyme and storytelling. Those are all important parts of learning language.
So, my challenge to you is to go enjoy some poetry this month: read your favorite poet, learn a new poem, go to a concert, listen to the radio. (Country, hip hop, jazz, rock . . . it doesn’t matter. They all have rhythm and rhyme.) You could attend the Poetry Slam at the Main Library in meeting room A next Wednesday, April 16th at 7:00 p.m. Performances are to be given by poets in grades 9-12 and it is open to the public free of charge. (If you’re bringing younger children, be advised that the language is supposed to be clean, but the subject matter may be for older audiences.) Find a way to experience poetry as a part of the rhythm of your life and as part of your rhyme and reason for being.
“Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll get you