Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kid Poets

Lately, in this massive band of bloggers, I've only been marking time while others contribute to the symphony. In the past, my first reaction might have been an apology, but life makes its own demands on all of us, and we owe no apologies for that.

The youth organization where I work hosts a poetry contest every summer, and each location is required to submit at least 25 entries by the deadline (this year, July 3). That puts the pressure on the staff to get the kids enthusiastic about something that smacks not of summer fun but of school-year work. Sometimes, we are reduced to small acts of bribery: "Finish your poem today, and you get a free ice cream!"

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon helping young poets start and complete their work. The theme is "What is Beauty?"--difficult enough for adults, more so for kids.

We have the following:
a haiku about the birth of sea turtles;
a free verse reminding us that actions and character make us beautiful;
a description of summer, comparing the faint smell of barbecue to an elusive whitetail deer;
a list of beautiful things, such as a puppy's soft fur;
an immersion in the senses that ends "Beauty is in me";
and the one that gets me the most, though when the boy started working on it, it was just a description of flowers that left me flat:
a free-verse poem about the roses and sunflowers in his adoptive mother's garden, with tulips as pink as his birth mother's dress, and how beauty is mixing the soil and the fertilizer to help his new mom's garden grow.
Sometimes, I wouldn't trade this job for anything.


Lavinia said...

To paraphrase an old saying:

Out of the 'pens' of babes....

I fervently believe that poetry should be encouraged in children. That they should both read and write it. Heartening to hear that you are doing your bit in this endeavour...

Eaglewing said...

Excellent work you're doing there. Kids can be quite creative. Oh, and ice cream makes everything better :)

Keanan Brand said...

Lavinia - Friday afternoon, one girl who wandered in for the free ice cream wanted to give up before finishing her preliminary notes (I told the kids to write down things, events, sights, places, people, actions, etcetera, that they considered beautiful).

Typical for her, she did not follow instructions, and tried to construct vague ideas into a poem, and found the going harder than expected. She complained, she fidgeted, she wanted to leave. I, being the terrible martinet that I am, told her that free ice cream came only AFTER the poem was finished.

About forty-five minutes later, when we were finally taking her notes and constructing them into a poem, she smiled and said, "This is getting easier."

The end result is actually quite good.

Keanan Brand said...

Eagle - Thanks, and, yes, ice cream does make everything better!

The first poem in the contest was turned in at the end of May, because the boy is doing other things this summer and will not be at the Club. He's a highly functional autistic, and he wrote the haiku about watching sea turtles being born. Good stuff.