Saturday, April 10, 2010

"I don't really, um, like poetry."

I hear the above confession a lot, often from people with a really healthy love of literature. It's often a sheepish admission, but it needn't be. Really.

Personally, I've spent a lot of time celebrating poetry and making it part of my everyday life. My thoughts tend to get set to whatever meter I've heard recently. When I hear a good rhyme in a song, I point it out. I've driven others a little crazy with my observations on what songs' lyrics fit to other songs' melodies. ("Mary Had a Little Lamb" to "Go Down, Moses," anyone?)

See a pattern here, though? A lot of my interest in poetry is related to rhyme and meter. That's not to say I don't like any unrhymed poetry; I do, and that includes both children's and adult poetry. But I know I'm unlikely to rush out to read oblique (or bleak) postmodern free verse.

And that's what's great about poetry. It's lots of things. I've found the things I like, so I'm able to declare that I love poetry even if I don't love every poem out there. If a young reader says he or she doesn't like poetry, it might be worth asking, "Have you read anything by Douglas Florian? Joyce Sidman? JonArno Lawson? Helen Frost? Marilyn Singer? Read any haiku, any verse novels, any dirty limericks?" (I'd save that last one for not-too-young readers, of course.)

Poetry isn't supposed to be stressful, and I think it is for many people. Here's hoping you can find what you, yes, you love about it.


  1. ("Mary Had a Little Lamb" to "Go Down, Moses," anyone?)

    Okay, I had to try this.. Are you skipping the repetitions of "little lamb"? Because I'm doing:
    When Israel was Egypt land = Mary had a little lamb
    Let my people go = Whose fleece was white as snow
    Oppressed so hard they could not stand = And everywhere that Mary went
    Let my people go = Her lamb was sure to go

  2. Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing; I think I skipped the repetition sort of unconsciously. And isn't it fun the other way around?

    When Israel was in Egypt land,
    Egypt land,
    Egypt land,
    when Israel was in Egypt land,
    let my people go.

    (This is what I love about the people I know, btw. When I brought up this correspondence at a Passover seder, some of those present may have rolled their eyes at me, but others burst into song.)