Forget-Me-Nots : Poems to Learn by Heart
Selected by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Michael Emberley
The Snuggery is trying to make a pitch for poetry this April, in celebration of National Poetry Month, initiated in 1996.
Did you know it’s a registered trademark of the Academy of American Poets? Begun after the successes of February’s designation as Black History Month, and March, as Women’s History Month, the Academy deemed April the month where poetry could receive a wider focus in the culture.
I venture to say that there are more than a few parents and grandparents out there who can still recite, remember, and regale an audience with the words of a poem that they memorized in elementary school.
Maybe it was “Fog” by Emily Dickinson who squirreled away bits of her poetic papers in drawers. I always loved the line describing the slow creep of fog rolling in that “comes on little cat feet.”
Or, maybe it was Christina Rossetti’s, “Who Has Seen the Wind?”
Can’t you almost feel it on your face, with these lines?
“But when the trees bow down their heads, The wind is passing by.”
It evokes a feeling, and the shared emotion of an universal experience, captured in a mere thirteen marvelous words.
Carl Sandburg’s “Summer Grass,” is so vivid, with its suggestion that the grass almost humanly “aches and whispers,” for the “something” that it wants and craves, and eventually, is granted:
The rain hears; the rain answers; the rain is slow coming; the rain wets the face of the grass
Mary Ann Hoberman, former Children’s Poet Laureate in 2008-2010, and author of some thirty children’s books, provides the introduction.
As designated Poet Laureate for Children, the honoree usually spends one’s tenure visiting schools and libraries, as spokesperson for both children and adults of the accessibility and joy of reading and memorizing poems.
Just how do you inspire young readers to a gradual love and learning of poetry?
May I venture to say, it’s a bit like getting them excited about reading. They should have tons of opportunities to see, hear, read and be read poems; and may I suggest all kinds of poems, starting perhaps with many of those marvelous Mother Goose nursery rhymes.
Just as in a child’s food likes or dislikes, you may have to read widely with them, till you both discover what poetic types, suit their particular taste.
And, April is the perfect time to start that taste test!
Here, in Forget-Me-Nots, with illustrations by New England native, Michael Emberley, he provides a great artistic melding of his own poetic matching counterpoint to the poems, with accompanying illustrations that range in style from the bold and the bright, to subtle pastel perfection.
Both classic and contemporary poets are included; 120 poems in all are there to savor and sample with your young reader.
The poems are arranged in eleven categories that contain kid-friendly topics such as “Weather and Seasons” “Poems from Storybooks,” “Happiness is” “Delicious Dishes” and “Beautiful Beasts.”
And, since life is ever changing from one emotion to the next, even for the youngest, included are poems reflecting life’s entire gamut. There is even one category of poems entitled “Sad and Sorrowful.”
This is a rare and rich blending of poems both old and new with illustrations that are whimsically appropriate.
Why not savor one a day this April? Or even try a Poetry Night where the family can choose and share favorites from this, or other sources of poetry that touch and speak to them.
Read them aloud with your young readers, and talk about how the words make them feel and what pictures the words paint in their minds when they hear them.
You, and they, may find a small seed planted for future poetry lovers.
Here’s my favorite:
The Road goes ever on and on
(from the Fellowship of the Ring)
The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
by J. R. R. Tolkien
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