The P in April is for ?
We played a game in our family that involved verses.
When I was six, seven, eight, my Aunt Florence if she was visiting,
but more often my mother, would point to me.
Then began the count, out loud: “ 1, 2, 3….
By 10, I had to start saying a nursery rhyme or poem.
I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one…
Then it would be my turn to point to one of them and count,
“O captain, my captain…”
“Woodman spare that tree…”
“The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea…”
That Edward Lear ditty would be recited by Aunt Florence, who would give her other kidney in transplant to a cat if it would have prolonged the pampered life she provided her felines.
It would seem silly to the sisters, Florence, Marian and Lilly, to create only one month for poetry, when limericks, light verse & poetry, including patriotic ballads, filled a walloping large part of their world.
Today it might take a college poetry class to inveigle a young person to memorize a poem. But the gals finished their high school learning that poetry is meant to be heard. They carried their memorized recitations, declamations & elocutions with them, & shared them as portable nourishment all their days.
With the memories of those performances as part of my literary legacy, I was thrilled this month to visit a public school & find that a first grade teacher I’ve always suspected of being wildly creative, intends to lead her class in learning by heart one poem ( Shel Silverstein’s -“Sick.”) Not only will her wiggly ones be challenged to recite it, but they will also be asked to create their own list poem about sick days they have experienced & to create other responses. If there is a National Poetry Foundation or Library of Congress poetry honor for school teachers, I want to nominate her.
Also in this poetry month I was surprised to hear writer Laura Lascarso asking me for a poem as we chatted together at our downtown spring festival.
I expected to send her one on a Florida topic that is to be published later this year in a small journal. But instead I found that the hard-worked farm across the road from me in my child years before Florida, sprang to mind. I wrote a new poem thinking of that farm; the result, not light verse, is “April is Open.” I invite you to read it and please leave a word or two about it on Laura’s site.
I started poetry month with the gift of a how-to book intended for younger writers, WRITE A POEM, by JoAnn Early Macken.
I wish Aunt Florence were around to appreciate like I do, the lines:
looking for a rat
leaps to the window
I thank JoAnn Early Macken for this guide, which brings with it a plan, tools and model poems that are sure to lure words out of little ones and into the lines of poems . She shares with us that her verse above originally was this:
in the window sat
wearing a hat
looking for rats
and then she is patient in illuminating the substance of how & why the revised lines sound better. When I am done devouring her guide (I’ve read it once & I like to read books three times through if they are the kind to inhale,) I think WRITE A POEM is headed over to a certain first grade poetry palace.
Question answer: Although the P in April is for poetry, it is also for performance.