One of the benefits of being part of a community is the ways we offer our interests to one another. April in the U.S. is National Poetry Month.
The love of poetry skipped a generation in my family and landed firmly on my nieces. To see what I mean, I received the following email a couple of years ago from my oldest niece. In it she expresses herself in a way that never in a million, billion, zillion years would occur to me: poetry. As a point of reference, I am The Math Fairy (the back story will have to wait for another day) and share the following with her permission.
The subject line read: Math Fairy I Need You
Dear Math Fairy,
I am in desperate need of your help! I wrote a poem about math to help you understand my feelings towards it. Hope you enjoy it :-(.
What Math is to Me
Math is evil,
Math is hard to understand.
Math is way worse than a first-grade band.
Math is hated,
Math is hard for me.
Wow. I have never written a poem to express my feelings about anything without it being assigned. Clearly, she has strong feeling about Math and TMF (The Math Fairy) wrote the following response:
(This is Math speaking, by the way, I’m borrowing Aunt Amy’s computer),
I thought I’d start off with a poem about what you are to me.
What Emily is to Me
Emily is kind,
Her smile warms me.
She helps people
and her laugh is like listening to a cool summer brook
She is loved.
I want her to be my friend
Hey, what was Math doing on here? This is now Aunt Amy …. looks like Math wrote something. Let me see what she said. (I’m back now, I scrolled up) I agree with Math’s poem about you! It seems that Math knows you well and that it’s a little hard for you to know math. Is that another way of seeing it? (She’s not really evil, you know. Not like a wicked step-mother in Cinderella!)
I am seriously sorry that math is so FRUSTRATING for you. But know that Math WANTS you to “get” her. She’s not playing hide and seek or being mean. She likes you. Not as much as I do!!!!!! But she DOES like you.
And I LOVE you :)!
Through this exchange (and the subsequent emails) I discovered that Emily has a poetry notebook and often writes poems to process and express her life. That’s right. Poetry. Take that all those who fuss about “the youth of today.”
So, how does this love of poetry become instilled whether young or old? After dinner I asked my mom, sister, and nieces if they’d share their favorite poetry books with us (come back tomorrow).
A buzz started to stir.
Girls went off in search of books and it was like I was at the most bizarre word party where suddenly everyone became a bit tipsy. Girls returned clutching books to their chests, someone would start to quote a poem and beam at others at the table, squeals of joy at old friends rediscovered.
And I thought to myself, Maybe I have misjudged you poetry. Maybe you are not dry and long and dull. Maybe, just maybe, we can be friends.
Lest you think they are just “exceptional”
or freaks, and you or your children could never become poetry nuts aficionados, I asked my nieces, ages 13, 11, 9, and 7, what had helped them love poetry — to the point they will memorize them on their own to perform at holidays, memorize a poem as thank you instead of writing a note, choose “poetry” for kindergarten show and tell, or process their experiences in poems. Their responses were poetically simple.
- Receiving poetry books each April for Poetry month (insert Grandma’s influence).
- Listening to poetry a lot when we were little (especially Mother Goose) and later reading it to ourselves.
- Growing up with it.
- Grandma quoting poetry. Mom reading it to us. We were influenced by the things around us.
So, it basically comes down to exposure. Were they born with a special penchant for poetry? No. It was more about nurture and poetry woven into life. In a similar vein, this week we are going to share poetry resources, ways that poetry is used in the Bible, and give you a chance to express yourself in poem. Exposure, baby!
Get your iambic pentameter on! Find your inner limerick! Or if need be, lament with those who mourn. Our God is one of vast creativity and we will explore and celebrate the poetic way he expresses himself as we, as image bearers, follow suit.
Do you like poetry? What poems hold a special place for you? What makes you tipsy with joy?
A version of this appeared last year on Velvet Ashes