Poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich hooked me at the start of her Children’s Book Festival presentation beginning with her “Where Does A Poem Start?”
In the middle of August,
halfway to nowhere
six steps from the moon,
in the barely there
of a spoon…
Her gentle voice reeled me in as she laced her presentation with her poems and joy of writing. I was firmly caught when she got to her book Bella and Bean with the two friends of opposite interests: Bella who wants to hole up and write poems and Bean who wants to be out and about. The book’s charm was complete when I read it in light of her explanation that she was Bella, and her husband was Bean. He called to her upstairs office window to come out and see his work in the yard, but she resisted as inspiration for a poem held her in its grip. The relationship’s resolution comes on the last page with its final poem. A charming picture book for kids turned into a warm fuzzy for this adult.
Her presentation took me back to a favorite poetry experience. When I taught second grade, once we got the notes from home and lunch count attended to, our day began with a poem: “Casey at the Bat” for baseball season; “Some One” at Halloween; and “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” on Louisiana days when we wished for snow. Favorites were repeated with student requests balanced with teacher choices. The children soon memorized a favorite by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers from the repetition. It begins:
“Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely at night when you’re in bed.”
We didn’t analyze or discuss excessively – just enjoyed. One day Jennifer Fuller came up to my desk and said, “I have made up a saying.” Her “saying” became the theme for a poetry bulletin board, and I used it every year thereafter in second grade:
A POEM A DAY KEEPS THE GROUCHIES AWAY
Maybe Jennifer was onto something. Do you have the grouchies? Pull a poem from your pocket. I think Rebecca would approve.