Friday, August 2, 2013

When Poets Were Rock Stars

I finally got inside that lovely house on Brattle Street you pass driving out of Harvard Square, when I chaperoned a field trip at the end of the school year.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, though he was a world traveler, polyglot and professor, wrote poetry inspired by experiences in his everyday life.  He wrote about the blacksmith living on his street, the chestnut trees that got chopped down, his children and the neighborhood kids.  I think about poetry now, when I am trying to turn my kids on to other types of media than the ones they see on the gadgets ubiquitous in their environment.

I made a failed attempt at the beginning of the year to read one poem a night.  January started off strong.  Once I got everyone to settle down at the table, I would read a poem, and on a good night my children would decipher metaphors and make up their own.  Poems like Maya Angelou's "I Love the Look of Words" (where she compares words to popcorn), and almost anything by Robert Frost (skip the ones about death), and Alice Walker's "Going Into the Garden" and Longfellow's "I Shot An Arrow into a Tree" are surprisingly though-provoking for kids.  My children were captivated, if only for a moment, by descriptions of a spring melt or wind's mysterious forms.   I wonder what would inspire them to want to memorize a poem the way they desperately want to memorize lyrics from Youtube.

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