Poems and Drawings children's poetry Allan Wolf New Found Land: Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery children's poetry The first stanza of the poem had previously been published in Carroll's self-composed periodical Mischmasch in under the title "Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Gertrude Thompson's Twelve Fairy Fancies. Trends and Patterns in Contemporary Children's Literature, pp. American Library Association , Egoff argues, " [ i ] n the work of the best children's poets there remains that ineffable property which cannot be explained, which mysteriously slips into the poem, transfiguring a technical structure from a work of merely superior craftsmanship into an intellectual, imaginative, and sensuous unity.
When I began to read the nursery rhymes for myself, and, later, to read other verses and ballads, I knew that I had discovered the most important things, to me, that could be ever. There they were, seemingly lifeless, made only of black and white, but out of them, out of their own being, came love and terror and pity and pain and wonder and all the other vague abstractions that make our ephemeral lives dangerous, great, and bearable … though what the words meant was, in its own way, often deliciously funny enough, so much funnier seemed to me, at that almost forgotten time, the shape and shade and size and noise of the words as they hummed, strummed, jugged, and galloped along.
The recollections by Dylan Thomas of his own discovery of poetry express something more fundamental than a poet's awakening to his muse—that childhood and poetry have a natural affinity for one another. Poets have played with language since the dawn of time, carefully choosing words for their quality of sound, meaning, and musical rhythm to create what may loosely be grouped under the name of poetry: All these are identifiable through form or content, but poetry itself remains an enigma.
No single definition of poetry has ever been found to satisfy readers, poets, or critics. Walter de la Mare writes in the preface to his arresting anthology, Come Hither Poetry has been described in terms of structure, musicality, concentration of language, intensity of emotion, and the splintering and reshaping of human experience. It has also been suggested that poetry is recognizable by instinct, that it elicits certain primal, physiological responses in the reader.
According to Emily Dickinson: If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way? Why do I like it if it makes me shiver? In turning to that poetry written specifically for children, one quickly encounters the nagging issue of distinction between adult and children's literature. Is poetry for children a separate territory, or is poetry always simply itself, existing like folklore as a shared ground, held in common by both children and adults?
Despite attempts by adults to construct well-intentioned barricades, children continue to seek out poetry, whether children's or adult, that kindles imagination. Perhaps it is the ongoing development of that imagination and an intuitive response to emotion that enable children to take delight in poetry far beyond their conscious understanding. It is revealing to consider some definitions of poetry given by children themselves in Chrysalis , Harry Behn's lyrical study of childhood and poetry.
Way out in the woods. Like Robert Frost waiting in a snowstorm with promises to keep. The shorter the better. One … is only, Clink, Clank, Clunk. It's about a carpenter pounding nails in a new house. Certainly the full impact of some poetry escapes children when it deals with experiences particular to the adult world; nevertheless, children take what they desire, leaving the rest until some moment of fruition at a later point in their lives.
Authentic poetry operates on many levels, offering portions of itself to all readers of whatever age. Although children can appreciate much mature work, they also respond to poetry that perceives the world with the vibrant curiosity and wonder that is natural to childhood. Indeed, many poets have claimed that the thrust of their work is to recall something left behind in childhood—a sense of direct living, of unity, of the joy in constant discovery that goes far beyond mere nostalgia.
Much of the work of William Blake and Walter de la Mare expresses this in vivid and wholly realized poetry deliberately aimed at children. Such work is often the result of a combination of disciplined art and creative play. The poet who keeps alive the intense memories of childhood will create poetry suffused with respect for children's intelligence, imagination, and perceptions.
This will be a poetry that is not a nostalgic reminiscence about childhood for adults, but rather a celebration of childhood, as gritty and stimulating as it is, for all children. There also exists the questionable category of "children's verse," that poor cousin of children's poetry which through sheer quantity and numbing mediocrity has always threatened to drown out the music and delight in authentic children's poetry.
Children all too often are given verse that is flawed in language, awkward in rhythm, labored in rhyme, and infused with condescension and sentimentality. This superfluity of doggerel generally is offered them because their capacity for mental and emotional response to fine poetry is underestimated. One of the most common pitfalls in the writing of children's poetry is the choice of a nostalgic, subjective tone which too easily slides into a cheaply sentimental romanticization of childhood.
Equally dangerous is the tendency toward bombastic didacticism, patronizing moralism, or simply shoddy entertainment.click
If you Should Meet a Crocodile
The notion that certain types of subject matter and tone are universally appropriate to children's poetry has led to the continued survival of antiquarian, outmoded verse based on preconceptions of childhood which were specious even in their own era. This is not to say that children's poetry should contain only lofty, so-called "high poetry" as distinct from popular or light verse. One does not expect the insight and transformation of lyric poetry in a light-hearted jingle, which has its own, quite different, values of humor, drama, and musical fun.
A child's response to poetry is instinctive: Echoing the rise and fall of the ocean and human breath, rhythm begins for children in the womb, with the first heartbeat, and continues in mother's arms, with rhythmical rockings, soothing lullabies, and lilting Mother Goose rhymes. It is present in the infant's instinctive patterning of cadenced cries and body movements. As they grow older, children greet musical language with an exhilarating swaying of heads, hands, and feet, marking tempo and measure with their bodies and voices.
Poetry comes first to children through the oral tradition when it is read and sung to them by adults.
TEACHING CHILDREN'S POETRY
Generations of adults and children are linked together through the shared literature of the nursery which is universal to all cultures. English nursery or Mother Goose melodies are enduring survivors of the oral tradition. Genuinely meant to be sung or recited aloud, they constitute a potpourri of easeful lullabies, robust jingles for infant dandling, riddles, and the catches of old tunes.
Rich in music, drama, and humor, they are the miniature poetry of early childhood. And they also provide for children, as Walter de la Mare points out, "a direct short cut into poetry itself," 3 as does this traditional lyric crammed with vivid images, one of many in Iona and Peter Opie's The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book I saw a peacock with a fiery tail I saw a blazing comet drop down hail I saw a cloud with ivy curled around I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground I saw an ant swallow up a whale I saw a raging sea brim full of ale I saw a Venice glass sixteen foot deep I saw a well full of men's tears that weep I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire I saw a house high as the moon and higher I saw the sun at twelve o'clock at night I saw the man who saw this wondrous sight.
In almost every art style, the best illustrators of each succeeding generation, from Randolph Caldecott to Nicola Bayley, have taken a hand at interpreting the ample images of Mother Goose. Since , an extraordinary number of new versions of Mother Goose rhymes has been produced, emphasizing experimental art styles, unusual thematic structures, international variants in translation, feisty street rhymes, folk songs, and single illustrated rhymes.
The transition for children from folk poetry to the original, literary writings of children's poets generally follows a distinct pattern of development. It begins with the irrational musical play of nonsense verse and the stylistic virtuosity and geniality found in humorous and light verse. Proceeding through the dramatic suspense of narrative poetry, the process finally arrives at lyric poetry's melodic intensity.
This pattern of growth in children's appreciation of poetry is observable also in the brief history of poetry deliberately written for children. Like children's literature in general, it has only existed in any quantity for the last two hundred years. Prior to the seventeenth century, that addressed specifically to children was didactic, offering advice and counsel on earthly behavior until the advent of Puritanism.
Then concern for children's spiritual education became evident in any poetry written for them. Except for some of the best works of early writers, a number of Isaac Watts 's hymns, a few poems by the Taylor sisters, and William Blake's joyous lyrics, little poetry of merit survives from earlier eras. Curiously, it was the staid Victorian period that produced in the lunacy of nonsense verse a canon of memorable work. As a secular and playful poetry, it was a reaction to the sentimental morality of most verse then available to children.
Chief among the practitioners of this new poetry were those bachelors of nonsense, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Carroll's mathematical precision and satirical wit and Lear's zestful individuality and remarkable syntactical play come together in their capacity to create nonsensical universes perfectly believable and consistent in every detail of their inner laws. Illustrated with his own quirky, naive artwork, Lear's blithe, sly limericks, silly narratives, and sorrowful lyrics reveal a gaiety of language paradoxically married to a deep underlying melancholy.
They never came back! They never came back to me! A second strain of children's poetry developed in the domestic lyric and light verses of Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, and A. This reflected a new awareness of childhood as an entity apart from the adult world and capitalized on chil-. Rossetti's poetry of epigrammatic charm and melodic poise in Sing Song conveys a haiku-like appreciation of the tiny details of nature and emotion which occupy the young child. Her images of warm family comforts are the precursors of those of Stevenson and Milne in their portrayal of a safe, secure childhood while yet conveying the self-absorption of the individual child.
Stevenson's empathy toward children's thoughts and feelings and his ability to recall with swift intensity the immediacy of experience in childhood enrich his energetic and tuneful poetry in A Child's Garden of Verses So pervasive was Stevenson's influence that a host of children's poets copied his mannerisms without capturing his essence. From the work of Eugene Field and James Whitcomb Riley in his own time, to that of innumerable, faceless imitators in the early half of the twentieth century, children's poetry mimicked that of Stevenson.
Even Milne's poetry in When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six —extended by Ernest Shepard's droll pen-and-ink illustrations—is similar to that of Stevenson in the descriptions of nursery life and the use of the natural speaking voice of the egocentric solitary child.
Milne's own individual talent, which distinguishes him from Stevenson, lies in a keen-edged, comic delight in excessive word play and witty rhyme and an adroit skill with metric patterns. Most early twentieth-century children's poets imitated these writers, until the emergence of Walter de la Mare brought forth a fresh, original talent.
Here at last was a true poet for children, one who could never be successfully mimicked or replaced. He seemed to appear out of a void, but his roots go back to Blake's intense lyricism. A profound identification with children and a transcendent enchantment illuminate his work. In his Peacock Pie , the poems range from wry nonsense and brightly colored nursery verse, as in "Alas, Alack" which spiritedly begins: The richly varied forms created by de la Mare form a body of work which provides a touchstone for evaluating all children's poetry.
With the exception of de la Mare's work, children's poetry has been marked by its conservatism in comparison to other, more dramatically changing genres of children's literature, having broken less with tradition than, for example, the children's novel. This limitation applies to the work of those poets in the early half of this century following the appearance of de la Mare.
Most are forgettable, although a select few, such as Eleanor Farjeon and Elizabeth Coatsworth, produced memorable work. The traditional forms of nonsense, fairy lore, nursery life, and nature verse had competent interpreters, but nonetheless poetry for children had slowly fossilized into formulae by the mid-fifties.
This rigidity was bolstered by the practice of passing down cherished poetry without re-evaluation from one generation of parents and educators to the children of the next. Despite the varied and individualistic responses of children to diverse forms of poetry, it was all too quickly assumed that they are conservative in poetic taste. Whether from acceptance of the theory that children dislike experimentation in form or from a deep rootedness in tradition itself, many children's poets of the past few decades have continued to write in the modes of preceding generations. The constant awareness of the work of the past and the conscious choice to build on its strengths, are more evident in British children's poetry—in the work of James Reeves, Ian Serraillier, and Robert Graves—than in that of North America.
Indeed, the theory of intrinsic conservatism was exploded by primarily American poets of the sixties and seventies who repudiated such an assumption and set out to explore subjects and styles reflecting the reality of their own era. A new generation of children's poets began claiming that the poetry of the classic "child's world" reflected only a stereotypical white, middle-class, secure, and unquestioning vision of childhood and society in the complacent voice of a super-annuated Stevenson or Milne.
Their reaction against this sacrosanct subject matter created a new mandate to explore themes of their own time, the social concerns and predicaments of today's children who are no longer secure in a stable world, but who have joined the society of adults living in a harshly realistic, problematic, and volatile world. The new poets arraigned themselves with the beats and such sixties poets as Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti , and LeRoi Jones, and so allied themselves to rock music and social protest. As in other genres of children's literature, especially the realistic novel, children's poets now wrote of anxiety, alienation, racial and social injustice, war, technological overload, and the dangers of urban life.
In the best of the sociological poetry, this grim naturalism is tempered with satire and humor, as in the works of Eve Merriam and Robert Froman. In Finding a Poem , Eve Merriam's dexterous handling of blank verse, free verse, and verbal nonsense is allied with social satire and a fierce political conscience. Contemporary sociological issues are the subject of ironic, angry, sometimes didactic or simply nonmusical flat verse, as expressed in these lines from "The Wholly Family":.
Baby's got a plastic bottle, plastic pacifier to chew; plastic pillows on the sofa, plastic curtains frame the view; plastic curlers do up Mama, Mama's hairdo plastic, too. Praise of plastic thus we sing, plastic over everything keeps us cool and safe and dry: As well as conveying social satire, the images of city life in Robert Froman's concrete poetry in Street Poems present dark, frightening pictures such as that in the question-mark-shaped " The City Question.
Fear of and anger toward oppressive city dangers are expressed in "Scare," in which a noise in the night may be a junkie, burglar, or "hater man," but is ironically the refrigerator. Although the visual play of Froman's concrete poetry is ingenious and his social concerns sincere, in general, his language and ideas never rise above the level of "agitprop. The new realism is also manifest in cultural pluralism.
Numerous poets are writing out of specific ethnic and national focuses, speaking with their own authentic cultural voices. This significant growth of the regional voice—its sense of time and place—and the concommitant involvement with translation of poetry from other languages and cultures into English is shared with adult poets, among whom are James Dickey , James Wright, and W. Especially absorbing are the numerous poets, typified by June Jordan , Nikki Giovanni , and Lucille Clifton , who articulate the black American experience for the young.
June Jordan 's complex poetry is not for young children, but it gains power from the picture-book format in which it is presented. Her single long poem, Who Look at Me , is illustrated with twenty-seven paintings of black people reproduced from the works of distinguished artists. In flowing, musical, mostly free verse that uses black English dialect as well as formal and colloquial speech, the poem marks the sorrow, rage, courage, and dignity of the black experience in America.
It is unblinking in its testimonial to history:. Sometimes America the shamescape knock-rock territory losing shape the Southern earth like blood rolls valleys cold gigantic weeping willow flood that lunatic that lovely land that graveyard growing trees remark where men another black man died he died again he died. This new realistic poetry possesses at its best a fresh candor, and at its worst, an extreme naturalism and pop-political sociology that is also seen in the American problem novel.
But unlike it, realistic poetry has not fallen prey quite as blatantly to the lure of social didacticism; its condensed form seems to favor the cri de coeur over that of polemics. It has certainly altered the face of children's poetry. Although there still exists poetry extolling the traditional in subject matter, it is now treated with a recognition of the social concerns and sophistication of today's children. For example, the once blithe interpreters of nature have been displaced by those who explore their subject with a greater seriousness, even a probing of the darker side of existence.
One such poet is Ted Hughes , who reveals his lyrical but stark vision in Season Songs In his poems of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, he uses carefully measured, musical cadences, common speech, arresting images, and incisive diction. His serious, even grim, philosophic tone is rooted in concrete images. As vividly involved in the natural world as Thoreau, Hughes carefully describes his experiences and observations of the seasons' passings, animals, and the growing earth.
But unlike traditional nature lyrics, his work also explores the desperate, predatory side of the wild world with a dispassionately observant eye. His dry humor adds dimension to the poems, as in this description from "A March Calf":. Right from the start he is dressed in his best—his blacks and his whites. Little Fauntleroy—quiffed and glossy, A Sunday suit, a wedding natty get-up, Standing in dunged straw. Under cobwebby beams, near the mud wall, Half of him legs, Shining-eyed, requiring nothing more But that mother's milk come back often. The sophistication of his writing is extended by Leonard Baskin 's mature illustrations which have a subaqueous, darkly steaming quality well suited to a book that, for all its intrinsic beauty, seems more a collector's item for adults than children.
That mainstay of children's verse, the comic and nonsensical, has continued also, but in a very much altered strain. The cutting edge of Lewis Carroll's and Edward Lear's pointed Victorian wit, somewhat blunted in the gentler light verse of the early twentieth century, has been rehoned in the poetry of Dennis Lee, John Ciardi, and Shel Silverstein. Like the traditional nonsense verse of Lear or Carroll, their work is both a release of pure pleasure and a tool of acerbic social observation. But contemporary nonsense differs in its development of a deeper sophistication; there is in it a touch of surrealism, satire, or irony that was not present in most children's light verse prior to In his light burlesque of manners, The Monster Den, or Look What Happened at My House—and to It , John Ciardi parodies the traditional cautionary tale and satirizes the spirited mischief of children from the vexed parents' point of view.
The collection reads as one long narrative, a satirical family saga. Many of the episodes have a mock epic quality reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc 's parodied adult-child battleground, as seen in these lines from "And Here's What Happened Next or Those Three," in which the abandoned parents receive a letter from their runaway children:. They wrote us from India next to say How happy they were they had run away. It is good to be rid Of all those things we never did— Minding and manners and baths and bed.
Small Benn has warts. Miss Myra's head Is full of wool. My, he looks proud! And none of us ever mind anymore. And we drop our things all over the floor. And we never ever go to bed. Well, thanks for the shoes. Edward Gorey's pen-and-ink illustrations have a satisfyingly grotesque, urbane Victorian aura suited to the poems. Ciardi's other collections of nonsense verse are written with the same piquant candor and jaunty gags. Many of his books such as I Met a Man and You Read to Me, I'll Read to You are innovative experiments with controlled vocabulary designed for beginning readers.
Another group of nonsense poets takes a casual, popular culture stance.
The cartoon breeziness of Shel Silverstein's poems and line drawings in Where the Sidewalk Ends are riddled with slang, pugnacious, teasing energy, and wry social commentary, reminiscent of children's street verse. Also exercising the colloquial diction and vernacular of contemporary children's street verse is Dennis Lee, a respected Canadian poet for adults as well as children. His work at times reflects a specifically Canadian physical and emotional geography. His three collections of nonsensical, domestic, and lyric poetry, Alligator Pie , Nicholas Knock , and Garbage Delight , create a poetry of pure play, jumping with puns and molding the oral language and codes of childhood into original verse.
He writes with a fluid sweep of language suggestive of Stevenson, Milne, and Mother Goose, whom he acknowledges as his models. His marked rhythms, cumulative phrasing, internal rhyme, and incessant word play are seen in "Alligator Pie,". Alligator pie, alligator pie, If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die, Give away the green grass, give away the sky, But don't give away my alligator pie.
Two other noted adult poets have turned their attention to children's light verse, but the results are curiously disappointing. Unlike Lee, neither Conrad Aiken nor Ogden Nash reveal the teasing and nonsensical child surviving within the adult poet. Nash is dryly amusing and precise in his most successful collection of poems for children, The New Nutcracker Suite and Other Innocent Verses , but he runs the risk of poetic parody, failing to capture any real childlike emotion in his uneasy mixture of sly adult satire and child-song lyrics.
His historical understanding is tinged with wicked black humor in "German Song" that feels uncomfortable and incongruous in a poetry collection given a picture-book format:. The German children march along, Heads full of fairy tales and song. They read of witches in their reader, They sing of angels in their lieder. I think their little heads must swim; The songs are jolly, the tales are Grimm. But unfortunately it degenerates into oddly flat, adult irony with little base in children's responses to poetry or humor and is often contrived in invention and word play. On the whole, contemporary nonsense poetry seems most compelling and convincing the more closely it aligns itself with traditional humorous poetry.
Children revel in certain styles of poetic satire, but it appears that the more experimental and surrealistic forms slide too easily into adult indulgence and wry, self-contained witticism, forming long, overextended jokes which often preclude children as an audience. Of all the traditional poetic forms, narrative verse has changed the least. It continues to attract poets, primarily British, who use it in various ways. Ian Serraillier, in retelling such medieval ballads and romances as The Challenge of the Green Knight and Robin in the Greenwood , retains a vigorous pace, and with dramatic character and costume captures an authentic medieval tone in modern diction.
Also writing with a contemporary nakedness of speech is Charles Causley, whose incantatory literary ballad The Hill of the Fairy Calf is a piece of modern folk art:. Causley's rich diction, clean imagery, tight rhyme scheme, and meter are underpinned in this and other works by more metaphor at the heart of the story than in earlier narrative verse for children. And his herdsman's quest for power over the faery queen is, of course, humanity's search for meaning in life. The poetry's magical, fairy-tale quality is matched by the primitive, dreamlike illustrations of Robine Clignett which recall the paintings of Chagall.
Poetry Books for Children
Like Serraillier and Causley, Robert Graves emphasizes formal structure and stylistic technique in his narrative verse. But his poetry has a wider range of themes including folklike narrative romances that resemble literary fairy tales, nursery-rhyme lyrics, and nonsense jingles. His short set pieces of dialogue-oriented dramatic poetry are unlike any found in the work of modern children's poets. The poems in his collections, Ann at Highwood Hall: Poems for Children and The Penny Fiddle: Poems for Children , evoke the atmosphere of an earlier century. Self-consciously old-fashioned, exotic-sounding diction and cadenced melodies are evident in the nursery jingle, "The Sewing Basket":.
Needles and ribbons And packets of pins, Prints And chintz And little bodkins— They'd never mind whether You laid them together Or each from the other In pockets and tins. For packets of pins And needles and ribbons Or little bodkins And chintz And prints, Being birds of a feather Will gather together Like minnows on billows Or pennies in Mints. Graves's period pieces have distant companions in the poetry of childlife. There are still poets writing of the child's immediate world, but they now encompass a broader range of life experiences and portray diverse social and cultural groups of children.
But, despite attempts at contemporary relevance, they are closer in spirit to Stevenson or even Graves than to the pop sociology of Merriam or Froman. Various poets follow this tradition, mixing nonsense and light verse with poetry of a more serious lyric and narrative power in an attempt to speak from the center of the child's everyday and imaginative worlds. Livingston's collections, including The Malibu and Other Poems , are rich with droll, musical verses which reflect, in a skillful variety of styles, children's active, sensuous lives.
Inevitably, new themes are paralleled by new styles: Children's poets have adopted the stylistic flexibility and experimentation with form of twentieth-century adult poetry, but their work nonetheless remains at least a generation behind contemporary adult writing. On the whole, adult poetry of the sixties and seventies has been less influential in style than in subject matter, compared to that of the preceding half-century. Their emphasis on introspective abstraction renders it inappropriate as an influence on children's poetry.
A more fruitful resource has been the poetry of colloquial, idiomatic speech developed by Walt Whitman , W. Auden, and William Carlos Williams. Their intense exploration of language is visible also in the work for children by such poets as John Ciardi, June Jordan, Ted Hughes, and Theodore Roethke —all of whom are significantly also writing poetry for adults.
They are searching for a natural, illuminating imagery, and an intimate common speech as expressed through free, blank, and projective verse. This quest for a spoken language drawn from both the adult's and child's time and place is accompanied by a return to the oral tradition—to poems made to be spoken and read aloud rather than to remain mute and fixed on the printed page, and to the time-honored role of the poet as bard who recites and sings his work to people assembled at readings or through recordings.
Outstanding among these modern-day bards is Theodore Roethke , whose style is a mixture of free and formal verse. He employs pointed imagery, a modulated tone, and rhythms that embody specific emotional tensions. He has stated that "rhythmically, it's the spring and rush of the child I'm after. The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle; At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle. You beat time on my head With a palm caked hard by dirt, Then waltzed me off to bed Still clinging to your shirt. Its intuitive mix of fear, memory, and love evokes a powerful response, as do others of his mature, affectively memorable poems.
Other practitioners of stylistic change whose work involves a more spontaneous improvisation of forms created by the active imagination include May Swenson, David McCord, Eve Merriam, and Robert Froman. Recognizing that children are not bound rigidly to neat, regular meter and rhyme, they have shared with them delight in the playful visual, aural, and intellectual concepts of shaped verse, concrete poetry, found poetry, and a host of collage and typographical verse forms.
May Swenson, in Poems to Solve and More Poems to Solve , interprets language through riddle and game poems, visually shaped pattern poems, and word puzzles. Eve Merriam also challenges readers to involve themselves in the fun, accentuating the playful communion between poet and reader. In Finding a Poem , she imaginatively explains language terminology, poetic devices, syntax, and grammar, as found in her poem, "Markings: She similarly manipulates poetic forms so that they describe themselves, illustrating their structure within the context of the poem itself.
Her emphasis on snappy, linguistic wit the clever wordplay is evident in such collections as It Doesn't Always Have to Rhyme David McCord possesses a quieter, less satiric humor than Merriam, and a deeper base of emotion and theme, ranging from bold nonsense to meditative lyricism. But he shares with Merriam the same attentive care for words and the interest in droll language games and stylish illustration of poetic structure.
His concern with technical expertise and rhythmic flair is evident in the antic poem, "Sometimes" from For Me to Say: Rhymes of the Never Was and Always Is The clouds are full of new blue sky, The water's full of sea; The apples full of deep-dish pie, And I am full of me. My money's full of pockets too, My teeth are full of jaw; The animals are full of zoo, The cole is full of slaw. How full things are of this or that: The tea so full of spoon; The wurst so very full of brat, The shine brimful of moon.
McCord's entire output has been collected in One at a Time: His Collected Poems for the Young , a beguiling book of poetry that is predominantly light and playful, but sensitive to childhood's need for wonder, curiosity, and dreaming. The fascination with verbal play in the poetry of Swenson, Merriam, and McCord is carried one step further in the anarchistic approach to syntax and the visual movement of language of Robert Froman in his concrete and shaped poetry.
A Book of Poems , and Street Poems , Froman's simple street-haiku take life from optical tricks with typography and typewriter design; they become visual and verbal puns and acrobatic word arrangements in which the printed shapes support the words by accenting theme. Influences on modern children's poetry have been eclectic, ranging from the futuristic vision of concrete poetry to the classic control of traditional Japanese haiku. The contemplative tone, compact form, clear humor, empathy with nature, and immediacy of experience of haiku render it inviting to children, and many children's poets have attempted modified nature, street, or nursery haiku.
But there is usually lacking the quality of timeless precision and serenity of the Zen spirit typical of traditional haiku, such as is this poem from Harry Behn's collection called More Cricket Songs Stylistic influences also feed back into prose from poetry. The flexibility of contemporary poetry has transformed works of modern children's fiction even more than much of children's poetry. Many prose writers, among them June Jordan in the black English musicality of His Own Where , Alan Garner in the extended poetic construction of The Stone Book quartet , and John Rowe Townsend in the Blakeian allusions of Forest of the Night have made sensitive use of poetic structure, diction, and imagery, along with symbolism and surrealism, transforming their fiction into highly charged verse forms.
Like the modern picture book, poetry for the very young has increased in astonishing quantities since Recognizing that young children's natural love of rhythm and rhyme make them irresistible targets, poets and illustrators have blended their talents to create a new genre, the poetry picture book. There has always been poetic prose in picture books, but never before have so many skilled poets involved themselves in the picture-book genre as have Elizabeth Coatsworth, Aileen Fisher, Jack Prelutsky, Karla Kuskin, and Norma Faber.
The phenomenal growth in the publication of single illustrated poems and col- lections of poetry in picture-book format follows the trend of the ubiquitous single illustrated song and Mother Goose rhyme. The threat in poetry-picture books of over-illustration, stripping the power of children's personal visual imagination and detracting from the poem's innate images is very real, for often the illustrator's interpretation conflicts with the poem's mood.
But generally, illustrators have resisted using the format as a mere vehicle or showcase for their artwork. On the whole, the subject matter and style in these works for younger children remain traditional. A collection of short, spicy verses, it reflects the spirit of American folk culture amid the changing beauty of the Vermont countryside. The wit and musicality of Watson's poetry is effectively matched by the sly details and extended storytelling lines in Wendy Watson's cartoon-strip drawings.
The pastiche quality of some of the rhymes is balanced by their charm, as in this verse with its echoes of "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross":. Ride your red horse down Vinegar Lane, Gallop, oh gallop, oh gallop again! I've seventeen children but none I can spare. Particularly successful as a single illustrated poem is Randall Jarrell's A Bat Is Born , a long, lyrical, free verse poem excerpted from his short story , The Bat-Poet.
In murmuring cadences, darting rhythms, and sharp imagery, the poem describes the beauty of a newborn bat:. A bat is born Naked and blind and pale. His mother makes a pocket of her tail And catches him. He clings to her long fur By his thumbs and toes and teeth. And then the mother dances through the night Doubling and looping, soaring, somersaulting— Her baby hangs on underneath.
John Schoenherr's sweeping, fluid sketches perfectly illustrate the bat's grace and character in expressive double-page spreads of the night sky. The poetry-picture book form also has been employed as a vehicle for poetry and illustration suitable for older children by such poets as Natalia Belting, Richard Adams, Charles Causley, Robert Frost , and June Jordan. The presence of so many adult poets such as Jarrell and Causley in the province of children's poetry is strong evidence that it has come of age, that it is now sophisticated and noticeably complex, controversial, and experimental.
The distinction between adult and children's poetry is no longer as sharp and separate as it once was. More poetry written primarily for adults is used in children's anthologies, and many books of poetry, among them Ted Hughes's Season Songs, may be published for children and yet have an ardent adult audience. Also, innumerable selections from the works of adult poets have been made for children since A growing faith in the ability of children to appreciate mature poetry has persuaded publishers to issue works of adult poetry edited for children to serve as enticing introductions to the complete works of those poets, among whom Robert Frost is the prime example.
Frost's work has been acknowledged as appealing and provocative to children, not only in picture-book format as exemplified by Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening , but also in such collections as You Come Too: Favorite Poems for Young Readers His deep, bold lyrics and narratives of country life attract children with their simplicity, easy-flowing idiomatic language, and understated wisdom.
Langston Hughes is another who speaks with immediacy and freshness to children, and his poetry has been selected for them in the collection Don't You Turn Back His work expresses black pride, anger, and courage in the musical rhythms of black speech and the blues. With all their ironic humor, bluntness, and gravity, his poems are still universal in their treatment of elemental human emotions, offering Blake-like nature lyrics, murmuring lullabies, and poignant confessions such as "Mother to Son":.
Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on, And reachin' landin's, And turnin' corners, And sometimes goin' in the dark Where there ain't been no light. So, boy, don't you turn back. Don't you set down on the steps 'Cause you finds it kinder hard. Don't you fall now— For I'se still goin', honey, I'se still climbin', And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
In earlier days adult poetry was available to children primarily through selections in general anthologies. With the new abundance of poetry publications of all types and formats, it is of some significance that the anthology still retains its prominence and popularity. Anthologies for children today, those "gatherings of flowers," are overwhelming in their sheer number. Some few excellent ones convey distinctive textures, tones, and original points of view, but an even greater number of bland, eclectic collections pad real poetry with the pap production of hacks.
Traditional anthologies—general, encyclopedic collections similar in structure to enduring treasuries from the past—still abound. Recognizable by their chronological survey treatment which concentrates on the "high spots" of children's poetry, they are often entertaining, as is Iona and Peter Opie's The Oxford Book of Children's Verse , but unfortunately most are static, changing little from decade to decade. In addition to these overviews, there is a glut of anthologies that concentrate on a theme, as does William Cole's collection, A Book of Animal Poems ; on a poetic genre such as narrative verse in Rising Early: Then too, paralleling the modern realistic children's novel, many of the collections emphasize bold, colloquial, and experimental language, such as is found in Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle … and Other Modern Verse , while others probe the intoxicating and tragic experiences of urban life as depicted in On City Streets: An Anthology of Poetry Like contemporary historical fiction for children which excels in its exploration of prehistoric life, anthologies of primitive poetry for children are abundantly anthologized; one, Out of the Earth I Sing: Poetry and Songs of Primitive Peoples of the World , compiled by Richard Lewis , returns children's attention to the primal dream roots of poetry from the often ironic, self-conscious, and overly cerebral verse being written for them today.
These chants and songs from the childhood of the human race find distant music in much of children's own poetry. In a minor key, it echoes the more complex poetic imagery of primitive peoples in such qualities as openness, vulnerability, and intense concentration on living. Children's natural ease in the poetic form has been recognized as never before in the sixties and seventies. There has been as well a growing movement of encouragement in the schools and libraries of the inner-city ghettos and of the suburbs to bring children together not only to read, but also to write, poetry. Beginning with the pioneer work Miracles: Poems by Children of the English-Speaking World , compiled by Richard Lewis , voluminous amounts of their work have been enthusiastically published.
Although much of that poetry has not been worthy of the acclaim, it definitely holds for children a therapeutic value, providing them with an experience of language enrichment and an insight into the creative joy involved in self-expression. It also is helping to restore the spontaneous and natural connection children develop with poetry in their early years, a connection that is often broken as prose becomes the accepted language of reality and purpose.
Poetry is now approached in schools and creative writing workshops in a more spontaneous and oral celebration of the art. The best of the poetry children write reveals a fluid play with language, a depth of emotion and imagination, and an uncanny ability to achieve, without practiced technique, natural poetic effects such as those of the self-taught bat-poet who "just made it like holding your breath.
Much of the poetry written by children today seems a far cry from the fresh, primarily lyric and nature images of Miracles, and even farther from the exuberant street and game rhymes invented by children in the oral tradition of childhood's subculture. While still brash and startling in poetic language, the subject matter is likely to be the misery, anger, and courage of ghetto and minority life in the inner city, not surprisingly paralleling that of adult poems for children.
Poems in I Heard a Scream in the Street: Poetry by Young People in the City , selected by Nancy Larrick, range from those with a musing, introspective tone to those with a stronger, more muscular language and challenging spirit. They vary in poetic craft from the skilled to the naive, but in subject matter they almost invariably speak in anguish of alienation from and despair of their environment.
An urban ghetto limits a child's experience. The book should be required reading for all administrators of large cities.
Like Ann Frank's diary, this collection is a gripping testimony of children's capacity for courage, endurance, and compassion in unflinching poetry and shadowy expressionistic drawings that depict the fear, horror, and brief moments of hope or beauty experienced by the condemned Jewish children.
The poetry of children is perhaps more interesting to adults than to other children, because it gives them an insight into children's thoughts which are more candidly realistic and colloquial than the artificial, first-person confessional of the problem novel and more authentic and tough in statements of emotional needs than Albert Cullum's disingenuous attempts at a first-person, child lament in the ironic, nihilistic poems of The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On Despite the amount of pressure from the adult world, children can still write with a living sense of wonder, as in this six-year-old's poem of a whale's birth in There's a Sound in the Sea … A Child's Eye View of the Whale I have just taken birth out of dark hot mother.
I know I have because I can feel the cool water below me. It is not a nice day because I can feel the drops of rain on my back. My tail was all cramped when I came out. Richard Lewis, who consciously brought children's poetry to world attention with Miracles, speaks of all children when he writes in Miracles that it "will serve as a testament to the power and value of the poetic vision that is an integral part of childhood. Recognizing the spirited continuation of tradition from the past, it is intriguing to speculate on the future of children's poetry.
Ian Serraillier discusses its changing role, which he sees as shifting from the printed page in a return to oral tradition through the electronic media of radio and television:. All art forms, if they are to survive, must adapt to new conditions, and poetry is no exception. If, … this is to mean some measure of escape from the printed page, that is no bad thing: If he's still around in the distant future, whatever the outward changes, he will probably still be a curious mixture of creator, interpreter and craftsman.
Poetry written for children at this time in its history has never been so much a part of poetry in general; poets and parents, along with critics and educators have finally put into practice the belief that adult and children's verse are indistinguishable. One may well agree with Naomi Lewis's claim, "Today we think that it is not necessary to write special verses for young or old; a true poem has something for all readers. Children's poets today work in any or all forms, adapting them to suit their particular mood and intent. Scanning their works one is struck by the sheer number of competent craftsmen in the field.
But while competent skills may offer moments of delighted surprise, flashes of beauty, and unity of music, emotion, and thought, they do not always provide the haunting, quotable memorability which is the hallmark of strong poetry. Despite its various formats, subtlety, and inventiveness, modern children's poetry suffers from an impersonal sameness of style, content, and theme—a lack of distinctive, immediately recognizable voice and vision.
Attempting to speak energetically, to articulate the human experience for children in powerful tones and emotions, it often falls short of its goals. It is undercut by its emphasis on the self-consciously relevant subject matter of pop sociology and its tendency to verbal games and jokes that seem condescending toward children's perceptions.
Forfeited are the tantalizing original thought and glorious music of language that make poetry memorable and quotable. Ironically, the very freedom of form so vigorously sought has made poetry today more closed; the experiments in style, typography, format, and illustration have fixed poetry to the page, so that its words do not linger to haunt the imagination. There is a sprinkling of poets, among them Charles Causley, Theodore Roethke, Ted Hughes, and David McCord, whose work is of a caliber far beyond the overwhelming mass of quantity and mediocrity that constitutes contemporary children's poetry.
But even these substantial talents do not achieve the universality of childhood vision and musical power that bestowed upon Walter de la Mare the title of "the children's poet. Robert Frost's definition of poetry as a voyage of discovery beginning in delight and ending in wisdom still applies to contemporary children's poetry, although today's voyage may be more turbulent and hazardous than in the past. In the work of the best children's poets there remains that ineffable property which cannot be explained, which mysteriously slips into the poem, transfiguring a technical structure from a work of merely superior craftsmanship into an intellectual, imaginative, and sensuous unity.
Re-entering the charmed circle of Dylan Thomas 's images, one realizes that in children's poetry, as in all poetry, "you're back again where you began. You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.
Scott, Foresman, , p. Walter de la Mare, "Introduction. Faber and Faber, , , p. Ian Serraillier, "Poetry Mosaic: Writers on Writing for Children Harmondsworth: Kestrel, , p. Bodley Head, , p.
Cats and Bats and Things with Wings: Drawings by Milton Glaser. The Mother Goose Treasury. The Hill of the Fairy Calf. Drawings by Edward Gorey. A Book of Animal Poems. De la Mare, Walter. Embellished by Alec Buckels. The Faber Book of Nursery Verse. A Book of Poems. Lettering by Ray Barker. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Favorite Poems for Young Readers. Wood engravings by Thomas W.
Digital version – browse, print or download
Ann at Highwood Hall: Don't You Turn Back. Woodcuts by Ann Grifalconi. Pictures by Leonard Baskin. I Am the Darker Brother: Drawings by Benny Andrews. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: A Bat Is Born: I Heard a Scream in the Street: Poetry by Young People in the City. Macmillan of Canada, Pictures by Frank Newfeld. Nicholas Knock and Other People: Poems by Children of the English-Speaking World.
Out of the Earth I Sing: Poetry and Songs of Primitive Peoples of the World. The Malibu and Other Poems.
lizbrownlee – poet
For Me to Say: Rhymes of the Never Was and Always Is. Drawings by Henry B. One at a Time: His Collected Poems for the Young. It Doesn't Always Have to Rhyme. She has responded with enthusiasm to invitations from schools and libraries throughout the UK, and has toured from Orkney to Oklahoma, and particularly enjoyed running writing workshops in Ibiza and Majorca.
She is constantly in demand to contribute to collections and anthologies, and one of her poems was included recently in the anthology Wonderland: Alice in Poetry , edited by Michaela Morgan Macmillan. He is a frequent visitor to schools, libraries and festivals as a poetry performer. If you'd like to follow my poetry blog, or Lola the alert dog, enter your email address and receive notifications of new posts by email. Thank you for visiting! Feeling very happy about this, today. My first true love. I bury my face in your fur, Black, now streaked with white. You smell of sunshine And golden days of play.
You manage to lift your head And look at me with trusting Amber eyes. A part of me forever. Kind hands lift you from me. I will be with you until the end, boy. You will live In my thoughts, the happiest wet-nosed memory of all. But first the pain. Who knew unhappiness Could feel like this?
You thump your tail on the stainless-steel table. My heart-bursting wish, Trough burning eyes, To turn back time. Moira Andrew Moira Andrew was born and educated in Scotland, became a primary teacher, worked her way up to Assistant Head, then lectured in education at Craigie College of Education, Ayr before moving to Bristol where she was Head Teacher of a primary school. His tail would be a river, silver in the sun. For his head, the secret green of forests and deep seas. Deborah Alma Deborah Alma is the Emergency Poet in her vintage ambulance which she takes to schools and libraries and festivals.
A scented geranium, red and jaunty in a terracotta pot. A smug cat, a cosy cat, a passing cat. Here is one of his fabulous poems: Here is her poem! Point was I had the whole place to myself, put telly on, took a bath, rearranged a shelf. Yeah, yeah, fair cop. Pencils and paper are fine, To draw cat faced butterflies But I really need that glitter For the comets that blast through the skies.
Here is one of his poems: Clare Bevan Clare fell in love with poetry when she was very young. Who will bring me the hush of a feather? Who will bring me the shadows that flow? Debra Bertulis Debra Bertulis wanted to be a writer all her life. Monday built our Snowman Sitting proud and fat Tuesday gave him a football scarf And the warmest woolly hat Wednesday gave him button eyes Thursday a carrot nose Friday gave him sticks for arms And Saturday more clothes But Sunday gave bad weather The sky began to cry Sunday took our Snowman We never said goodbye.
Cynthia Cotten Cynthia Cotten has been writing fiction and poetry for young people for more than 30 years. More powerful than the smartest phone, more powerful than a tv remote, more powerful than a hundred apps, my library card unlocks the world and more with a single scan. Paul Cookson Paul has worked as a poet for nearly thirty years and visited around schools, libraries, festivals, front rooms. And he is a National Poetry Day Ambassador.
Everton Football Club commissioned a poem for their season ticket campaign and the Everton Home poem which can be found online and has been played on the big screens at Goodison Park. His latest collection — The Very Best Of Macmillan is out now and contains many of his signature poems — including the favourite, Let No-one Steal Your Dreams — alongside other favourites and new pieces.
Where is my red bike? The rag bone man took it to sell for his supper. Who bought its shine? The rain took that to polish its tears. Who bought its bell? Time took that to mark out its years. Who bought its tyres? The wind took those to carry its clouds. Who bought its seat?
The mountain took that to help the sky rest. Who bought its chain? The river took that to pull all its fish. Who bought its journeys? I kept those for when you no longer visit. Here is one of the puzzles: Here is the giant jigsaw: And here is the book: Hope to see you there! Here is a poem from John written when he was 18! Note to an English Teacher. You bump along the woodland track your babies clinging to your back: Here is one of his lovely poems: Vivian French Vivian was first published in , after careers in the theatre, counselling and storytelling.
This wonderful poem by Vivian is the one in the above anthology: The Crocodile and the Undertaker. Our dog ran the London Marathon in under one hour. He raised over a million pounds For the Dogs Benevolent Society. Our cat went on Master Chef. He was knighted by the Queen And became Prime Minister. Our rabbit helped Superman beat off an attack of mutant aliens. He became King of the World, and lived until he was years old. This one did, I said. Reaching the Stars, Award! Join 2, other followers. Poems, magnetic poetry, videos, poetry animations Poetry Roundabout Matt Goodfellow: Lola, my Medical Alert Dog!
Lola in the Fields! Copyright Please note all content on this website belongs to Liz Brownlee except where stated.