Friday, January 30, 2015

revision II

I'm just ruminating over my last three poems, where I got going on a set of Spoon, Knife and Fork.  Atypically for me, all three are rhymed, similarly metered, and all share a basic 4-line stanza. I could keep going like this for a while, I guess, picking kitchen items and writing each its little ditty (see all the "Deeper Wisdom" poems featured at Today's Little Ditty, of which "What Does the Knife Know?" is one).

But would that make a readable collection, a saleable collection?  When I started typing this, I was planning for the answer to be "NO; that would be a little boring and samey and in a way unchallenging for both writer and reader," and then I was going to contrast that with any collection of "traditional" haiku, which would be therefore by its very nature boring and samey and unchallenging, and then I was going to wonder why haiku collections don't seem that way.

And then as I entered that second paragraph, I got walloped upside the head by Jack on one side and Shel on the other, and A.A. Milne appeared to wag his clever ghostly finger in my face, reminding me how many, many classic poems and entire volumes of poetry for children are rhymed and metered and kind of about the same things (although not usually kitchen items).

Now I'm wondering what it is that makes me want a new shape, a new rhythm, a new challenge each time I begin a poem. I never cook the same recipe or meal the same way twice, and at school I'm forever devising new greetings, new center activities, new routines (and creating a lot of work for myself).  While I craved novelty as a kid, I understand that for many students, sticking with one thing for longer is what's needed for competent mastery, and that too much "new" can be stressful.

Well, it seems that in the spirit of my OLW for 2015, I'm revising my 2nd-paragraph thinking.  I still think it's important for young writers to learn that poetry is not all rhythm and rhyme, and that for most beginning writers those things are hard to pull off and probably best avoided.  But golly, when 2/3 of a class of kindergarteners need to be TAUGHT to hear rhyme instead of having grown it into their bodies, and in the knowledge that I am not a beginning writer myself and quite enjoy the challenge of hewing to a rhymed and metered form, perhaps Spoon, Knife and Fork are suggesting a less varied--but no less tasty--diet of poetry for now.

Revision (with apologies to A.A. Milne)

Heidi Heidi
Mordhorst Mordhorst:
As teacher and poet she
Took great
Care to seek freedom,
Craving the novelty.
Heidi Heidi
Said to herself,
"Self," she said, said she:
"You must never get stuck at the end of the town
  called Free-Verse Poetry."

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Today's Little Roundup is with Paul at These 4 Corners.  Hope to see you there!


  1. Great post. I love free verse, but some poems just demand to be written in rhyme, which is a good thing because kids love rhyme.

  2. First of all, I miss you. Secondly, there was a lot to chew on with what you wrote about rhymed, unrhymed, forcing kids to stay on a form to long. How I long for the kids to have TIME to find their muse.

  3. Hey, Heidi,
    I enjoyed your ditty. What fun.
    I'll bet Jack, Shel and A.A. are applauding.

  4. Heidi, I would buy that Kitchen Utensils collection in a heartbeat! Do it! (and, yes, please, more metered poetry for kids - it is their help-mate for memorization, and the true companion of music, which still flourishes. More meter and rhyme!)

  5. I never know how a poem is going to be structured until I start banging it out, word by word, line by line...and I start seeing how it wants to be formed. And personally, I think a collection of kitchen poems is a great idea!

  6. A.A. would be proud! Love the idea of a utensil poetry collection. Amy Krouse Rosenthal had success with a couple of PB about utensils (Spoon and Chopsticks). I say go for it!

  7. I'm loving that last line, Heidi. It's true we should avoid getting stuck with any kind of poetry. I read your delightful poems Scoop, Knife and Fork. Keep going with the utensils! They're fun poems with real craftsmanship. It's nice to read the different opinions on meter and rhyme vs. free verse poetry for kids. Can it be that we offer them rhyme to read for rhythm exposure and encourage free verse so their ideas can flow freely? I usually teach free verse but understand that students today often are missing the nursery rhyme exposure that many of us grew up with.

  8. I doubt that any collection you put together would be "a little boring and samey." You do have a knack for the unexpected!

  9. What Julie said...I would buy it and savor it in my kitchen!

  10. Gah. I missed the knife and the fork and your illness. Hope you are better. Hope it was "just" a vile version of kid crud.

    You are TOTALLY onto something with a new kitchen collection. (be sure to include some kitsch)

    And I love being able to watch over your shoulder as you REVISE your thinking!

  11. Add me to the list of folks who think a kitchen anthology for kids would be great idea, Heidi! It's a room they can relate to, "feel at home" with, and all those kitchen tools and gadgets have fascinated many a youngster. I enjoyed following your thinking in this post, pondering what makes some similar rhyme and meter anthologies stand out while others, a much of a muchness. And I loved your closing Milne tribute!

  12. What I like most about this post is how I feel we are having a conversation. I could be right there with you discussing what I should or shouldn't do when writing. We are always questioning ourselves as writers, even when we have been validated. Doubt goes with the territory. I only wish I could catch the rhyming bug. Some of my students are very good at it. I accept that I am not. Somehow they seem to love me anyway.
    Keep on, Heidi, Heidi!

  13. Lovely seeing you and the fam! I think being willing to revise is another way of flexing your creative muscles, so go Heidi! Perhaps your new challenge will be tapping into the part of you that can find something fresh in a repeated form?

  14. Sounds like a wonderful challenge for yourself. And a great idea for a collection. I'd love to hear what the spatula says to the griddle. In rhyme, of course.

  15. I love your reflections here and how deliberate and reflective you are when it comes to introducing poetry to children - as something that fits into the rhythm of their little bodies. Loved reading your poem aloud.


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