The Family

The Family

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Poems and Other Books

In the stillness of winter we will read.

And we will read books worth reading along with works of poetry.

The poems of William Butler Yeats, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and many others are included in these books of prose.

I cannot adequately describe how much Mattie loves the pictures in "A Family of Poems." When I say the word 'poems,' her chubby legs take off to her room, and she reaches for the book that sits on her shelf.

We've spent almost every day since Christmas looking through the book naming the animals. She pretends to read it to Jack and me, and sometimes to her stuffed animals, just as a young Caroline Kennedy is doing in the picture on the cover.

About a year ago I decided to learn to read poetry. I was fearful I wasn't up to the challenge. I discovered that the silliness and simplicity of children's poetry was a good way to start.

I quickly learned that the key was repetition. The more I read the poem, the more I got the feel for the rhythm and cadence.

It didn't take long before I was checking out anthologies from the library to read aloud to the children.

I've since fallen in love with poetry. So much so that I've decided to include a reading at the beginning of each day's class I will teach this spring. Even though it's not a literature class, I hope to instill in my students how the power of language and vivid imagery found in poetry will be worthwhile to mimic in their presentations. It also wouldn't hurt for them to sometimes think about including lines from well-written poems into their speeches to help solidify key points and themes.

I think Caroline Kennedy says is best when she describes poetry this way:

"Poetry captures the most fleeting moments and makes them last forever, or describes the tiniest creature and makes it huge. Poets express our deepest emotions and ponder life's biggest questions in just a few lines that we can carry with us and bring to mind whenever we need them."

I was thrilled she included some of her mother's poems in both editions. One of the poems, written in 1953, about a month after Jackie and Jack Kennedy were married, gave me goose bumps. Most women are enamoured with their husbands and have grand images of their greatness as newlyweds, but her poem expresses something deeper.

Here are her words:

He would build empires
And he would have sons
Others would fall
Where the current runs
He would find love
He would never find peace
For he must go seeking
The Golden Fleece
All of the things he was going to be
All of the things in the wind and the sea.

Remember, he wasn't elected president until 1960. She knew his path, as I think he did, so many years before it became history.

In addition to the poetry, Santa dropped off "Madeline" and "Madeline's Rescue" for Mattie. 

This past summer I read a book called "The Marriage Plot" that mentioned this classic story. I had never heard of it, but as soon as I googled the title, I knew these were books for us.

The original story, first published in 1939, has already become one of my favorites.

The first sentence reads:

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."
I can think of only a handful of opening lines that read quite as well.

And it's not just books for Mattie.

Jack is into "Lord of the Rings."

Had I known anything about the books before we started, or that "The Hobbit" was going to be in theaters this Christmas, I would have begun with it. All I knew about the books was the popular movies, which I'd never seen. We began reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" around Halloween. We finished it shortly after Thanksgiving, watched the first movie, and all Jack has been talking about since are Orcs and Frodo and Gollum and Aragorn and Gandalf.

We are currently reading "The Two Towers." Once we finish the trilogy, we'll go back and read "The Hobbit," - the book which apparently started it all.

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