I’m really happy over the fact that my daughter is starting to appreciate poetry now. Almost every night for the past 4 weeks, I’ve been reading children’s poetry to her before going to bed. I know she’s not able to understand all of them yet but I know she appreciates the lyrical quality of poetry. She finds it soothing and fun, especially the silly children’s poems and nursery rhymes. Her current favorite? This short rhyme by an anonymous poet:
I eat my peas with honey
I’ve done it all my live
It makes my peas taste funny
But it keeps it on the knife.
Thankfully, there have been no attempt to eat peas with honey, yet. But I am currently plagued with questions about the Owl and The Pussycat. Questions like “Why did they use a five pound note instead of a 10 pound note?”, “Why a pea-green boat and why not purple?” “Isn’t a nose ring like an earring? Isn’t that different from a ring you put on your finger?” Edward Lear, you have a lot of answering to do…
I’m not an expert in poetry or children but I have seen and experienced how wonderful it can be when you expose children to poetry early on. At an age when they’re starting to learn to read, write, and speak, poetry gives them a whole new playground where they can explore the limits of language.
To a child, there’s no right or wrong with poetry. For them, if it feels right, if it sounds right, if it expresses their thoughts and emotions at that moment in time then its poetry. And no parent (or literary critic) in their right mind would criticize them for their ignorance of structure or form or use of metaphors. You can’t get anything more real or honest from anyone else than from a child. And when a child can relate to your poetry, appreciates it, you know you’ve created something truly universal.
John Donne’s Song
I know it’s not a big deal but it meant a lot to me that she’s appreciating poetry because there was a time that it was the only way I could communicate with my daughter. It was probably the hardest, most painful time in my life, and poetry was one of the things that helped us get through it.
A few days before my due date, I was forced to deliver through C-section due to several medical complications. She had to be taken to the NICU after birth because of those complications. But due to my weakened state (and due to hospital policy at that time) I can only spend a couple of hours a day with her and I had to leave her in the hospital after I was released.
It was painful to see my beautiful baby girl with a needle in her arm. It was so heart-breaking that I couldn’t bring home the daughter I waited so patiently for. And because I wasn’t able to spend so much time with her, we didn’t feel comfortable with each other. She didn’t like being in my arms and I didn’t know how to get her to recognize me.
I used to read and sing a lot to her before she was born, so whenever I visited her in the hospital, I would bring John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets. I would read Song to her again and again because it seemed to relax her. And also because Song expressed everything I felt during our separation. I wanted her to know that even if she didn’t know me yet she will always be the best of me.
Sweetest love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me;
But since that I
At the last must part, ’tis best,
Thus to use myself in jest
By feigned deaths to die.
Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here to-day;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way;
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.
O how feeble is man’s power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall;
But come bad chance,
And we join to it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o’er us to advance.
When thou sigh’st, thou sigh’st not wind,
But sigh’st my soul away;
When thou weep’st, unkindly kind,
My life’s blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lovest me as thou say’st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
That art the best of me.