I can’t remember when I didn’t love poetry. Somebody forgot to tell Mama about the hazards of reading above the heads of her four girls so I loved things like “and may there be no moaning at the bar when I put out to sea” and “nor the demons down under the sea, can ever dissever my soul from the soul” without having a clue what they were talking about. I loved the music of the words long before I appreciated the meaning in “Crossing the Bar,” “Annabel Lee,” and their many cousins.
I took a page from Mama’s book and read poetry, often just for pleasure rather than for teaching, with my children and students. Between them, my poem books are a bit the worse for wear.
In a bit of serendipity, since teachers in military communities seldom have the privilege of knowing what happened to their students, I recently ran into one of my long ago second graders here in the Pine Belt. She, now a creative award-winning teacher in the neighboring town of Petal, said what she remembered about my class was that we started with a poem every day. I’ll take that!
In recent years, I’ve become enamored with writers who create whole novels in verse. I’m not alone since the Newbery Committee has often chosen to award these books like Tranhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, and Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover. My personal favorite authors for writing verse novels are Margarita Engle and Helen Frost. The words seem to flow in poetic form from their pens into exquisite stories. (Reality check: Any writing that appears to be that easy represents what Churchill would call “blood, tears, toil, and sweat.”)
So in this March poetry month, do yourself a favor. Reach back and reread one of those old loved poems that you understand better now that you are older, or grab a current novel in verse to give yourself a special treat. Margarita Engle and Helen Frost are a great place to start.