Poetry Friday — A Bit Early
(The Fairies Made Me Do It)

h1 May 28th, 2009 by jules

I’m a big advocate of reading poetry to children. At home and at work — when I was in a school library, that is. One of my favorite school librarians, under whom I once interned, would open up his time with his middle-school students by simply reading a poem to them each time they visited the library. No analysis, no quizzes. Just hear and enjoy and savor. And I fervently hope my girls grow up to enjoy and read poetry on their own. Instilling an appreciation for poetry in young children is really quite simple, too — and very fun. Read it to them. Read read read poems. Play with the rhymes. Emphasize the sounds of words. Poetry celebrates the rhythms and sounds of language and word play, so if you read it a lot—outloud—and dance and snap and clap and play, they’re gonna get it. And they’ll likely enjoy it.

I’ve been reading Favorite Poems: Old and New, originally published in 1957 by Doubleday/Random House. The poems were selected by Helen Ferris, and it was illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. It includes over seven-hundred poems divided into eighteen categories—from silly to somber, from story poems to scary poems to Bible prose, from Mother Goose to Walter de la Mare, from Shakespeare and Dickinson and Tolkien to Carl Sandburg and Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot (and JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING in between)—and is quite the comprehensive introduction to poetry. Visiting its home at Amazon, one can see that it inspires such user-review statements as, this is “PURE nostalgia!!!” and “the ONLY children’s anthology you’ll need.”

And, back to the subject of poetry-reading with children, in her introduction to the anthology, written in 1957, Helen writes,
“{t]his book had its beginning years ago when two parents, loving poetry, made it as much a part of their children’s every day as getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, going to school, playing outdoors until suppertime…to have Mama read them aloud gives us a warm feeling of the day ending as it should end. And to our profound satisfaction in hearing the familiar words over and over again is added our pleasure in the cadence of her voice…It did not matter, {Mama} was convinced, if we could not understand all the words. We could enjoy the beautiful sound of them. So it was that for Fred and me Mother Goose flowed easefully into Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow into Shakespeare.”

So, to celebrate those poems begging to be read aloud, those poems whose rhythms are irresistible, I chose one of my favorites from this anthology. This isn’t a deeply thought-provoking Poetry Friday submission. This falls into the category of: Just Try Not to Read This One Aloud. And clap and do a little dance. I’ve read this one so much to my own girls, we’ve probably got our own little jig down. I see at the poet’s Wikipedia entry that the poem was set to music by English composer Liza Lehmann. Not surprising.

Children will also truly dig the humor in this one. I mean, rabbits holding lights for the fairies made me laugh outloud. And the grandiloquent image of the Fairy Queen and King floating down in the fairy-car? I love it.

I try to limit posting pics of my children (they are arguably only interesting, after all, to the parents or doting grandparents), but I just had to include this one above of my oldest when she was younger. If you read the poem, you’ll see why. (Instead of being at the “bottom of a garden,” she’s feeding the slightly cross-eyed Cat #1 in our home, who is a few sandwiches shy of a picnic, bless his heart. But the photo still basically works.)

This is “The Fairies” by Rose Fyleman, who was evidently noted for her writing on fairy folk.

I’ll come back tomorrow to edit this post to indicate tomorrow’s Poetry Friday host, if you’re so inclined to read the ol’ round-up. ‘Til then…

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Edited to Add on Friday: The Poetry Friday Round-Up today is at Irene Latham’s Live. Love. Explore! Enjoy.

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12 comments to “Poetry Friday — A Bit Early
(The Fairies Made Me Do It)”

  1. What a lovely picture and poem!


  2. Hmm. We do a lot of poetry memorization here but I’ve yet to find an anthology I ADORE, so I’m going to look out for this one. Thanks for the heads-up.


  3. Your daughter is adorable! I love the wings and the poem.

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. Ok. I’m sold on reading poetry to my daughter! We already read Mother Goose rhymes, so to have a broader selection of all types of poetry in one book – how great is that?? Thanks, Jules!


  5. Oh, someone paint me rabbits holding lights for fairies! No nose twitching, though, or the bouncing shadows will disrupt the dancing. They must be stately bunnies.

    That’s the best pic of a fairy I’ve seen in a long while. Of course fairies feed sandwiches to cats!


  6. I don’t think, growing up, we ever had an anthology of poetry. (Though we did have a BIG book of jokes of all kinds — shaggy-dog stories, puns, “funny song lyrics,” etc., and I wish I knew the title of that ’cause I’d scour eBay, Alibris, etc. for a copy even now.) But this one looks pretty great.

    Still, this post makes me wonder a couple things (unknowing as I am of kids’ lit):

    (1) Do poets still write kids’ poetry about fairies and such? or is that pretty much a thing of the past?

    (2) More generally: From the Amazon page which Jules linked to, I see — front flap via the “Look Inside!” feature — that the book contains both “classic” and “modern” poems. Yet the contents don’t seem to have been updated in the 40ish years it’s been out. If the 7-Imp audience were doing an updated edition, what more recent poems would be included? Anything specific stand out — I mean, specific poems as opposed to “Oh, anything by [insert poet's name] would do!”?

    JES,
    Always Willing to Re-route Someone Else’s Comment Thread


  7. Hi girls! I’m writing as I wanted to THANK YOU for your absolutely wonderful blog. I found you by chance, and you can’t understand how happy I am I did, as I was looking for information on some authors I am reviewing for an Italian magazine… yes, I’m Italian, I live in Parma a nice little town in northern Italy, where every Feb. we have an amazingly nice Children’s Litterature Festival called Minimondi (Miniworlds) and everu June we have a Poetry Festival. I am now starting a new activity together with a private University about children’s books, and probably will start soon lessons for parents as well… lets say I’m quite and happily busy, this is also why I am soooooo glad I can read such amazing blogs as yours!
    If I can, I would like to signal some authors that you might or might not know yet, but I believe they could fit in your blog, such as Carll Cneut (from Belgium), Herve’ Tullet (from France) and Anna Laura Cantone (Italian)… I hope you won’t mind if I take this freedom but, as you gave me soooo much I just wanted to give you something nice back. I wish you a wonderful day, Cristiana


  8. Oh, I love when you post pics of the girls, and I see Max in his wolf suit there, lurking in the background.


  9. Thanks, everyone.

    John, excellent questions. As for #1, I’m sure they do. I’m going to ask Elaine Magliaro and Kelly Fineman, two excellent poetry sources. That’s the easy way out.

    As for #2: Too hard! I’m gonna break the rules and name poets anyway. Will you forgive me? David McCord, Jane Yolen, Douglas Florian, George Ella Lyon, J. Patrick Lewis, Maya Angelou, Adam Rex….I could go on.

    Cristiana, thanks! I’ll email you.


  10. I love it when you post photos of the girls, especially when there are wee toes involved. I wish that there was more poetry reading and listening that was just that– not analysis. Analysis comes too early, I think.


  11. I love this post. I read poetry to my daughter- lately it’s ‘Animal Poems’ but Mother Goose is always there.


  12. Thanks again to everyone who visited….Farida, I was going to ask if you have ever heard that poem put to music (which, as I noted, it evidently was)?

    John, I consulted Elaine Magliaro and Kelly Fineman, two of your finest resources when it comes to children’s poetry, and here’s the response I got, in a nutshell:

    Contemporary poets write about pretty much everything, not surprisingly, including fairies. However, as Elaine pointed out, poems about fairies and brownies aren’t in vogue as they once were in the first half of the 20th century. (Indeed, the anthology featured in this post has an entire section devoted to “My Fancy and I,” poems about fairies, elves, goblins, mermaid, mermen, etc.) Elaine added,

    “You’ll find lots more books of humorous/silly poems being published today. In addition, publishers now look for collections/anthologies with a ‘hook’ or a theme (animals, school, etc.)–as opposed to books of poems about a number of different subjects.”

    BUT, as Elaine pointed out, fairies have made sort of a resurgence in other books — Tinker Bell and her buds are big now; my daughter is currently all wrapped up in this series; and much more. Kelly also mentioned (back to poetry) the Flower Fairies series by Cicely Mary Barker, for which several books are available.

    Kelly also wrote this poem, posted here at Elaine’s blog in April of last year. (Kelly gave me permission to post it here, too.) This was Kelly’s response to the ring/drum/blanket-poem challenge. (Read the linked post to find out more.)

    “Inside the Fairy Ring”
    By Kelly R. Fineman

    Inside the fairy ring,

    awash with silver light,

    sprightly dancers caper

    on a blanket of dew-dappled flowers.

    When grassy pipes and acorn drums fall silent,

    all will fade away

    to dawn.

    Thanks to Kelly and Elaine!


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