Sunday, September 20, 2009

Choosing Three--JUST THREE--Favorites - Oh Help!

I've been assigned an impossible task. I have been told I must choose "3 of your favorite poems written for children." I've been mulling this over for two days now, wondering how in the world I'll choose JUST THREE. What criteria should I use? Should these be poems I loved as a child? Poems that speak to me now? Poems I know or think kids will love?

After sitting on the floor of my office and reading through my poetry books for more than 2 hours, I now have a short stack with post-it notes sticking out of the pages. There are 26 poems by 14 authors. It is from these poems that I will ultimately choose my three favorites. In reviewing them I have found a few threads that connect this seemingly unrelated set of poems.
  • Making the ordinary extraordinary or beautiful - A number of these poems take everyday items or experiences and point out their real beauty. I guess I could call this poetic wabi sabi.
  • Form - Many of the selections fit into discernible poetic forms, like villanelle, pantoum, haiku, acrostic, list poem and more.
  • Surprise - Some of these poems surprise the reader with the twist of a phrase or double meaning.
  • Concrete - Each and every one of these poems paints the subject so clearly I can see it.
  • No rhyme - Don't get me wrong, I love rhyme. How I ended up without any rhyming poems is a bit of mystery. I do see/hear some near rhyme, however.
  • Economical - Not one of these poems contains an unnecessary word.
  • Science and Nature - Yeah, in some way, every poem is related to science or nature. Sorry, that's just a personal quirk/love.
I guess I'll just need to bite the bullet and pick three. However, my three favorites today may not be my three favorites tomorrow! Oh heck, how will I choose? Before I jump off the diving board here, perhaps you can give me some much needed help. What makes a poem "a favorite" for you? Please share! I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Oh my...that IS an impossible task! My very favorite poems for kids share the same qualities you already mentioned.

    Probably the two most consistent for me are vivid nouns and words that make me feel like I am THERE, in that world of the poem, and poems that contain a surprise of some kind, whether that's a twist ending or just something unexpected, like a poem that makes an unexpected comparison.

    Good luck! I hope you'll share your three.

  2. Reading your post, a poem sprang into my mind, Walter de la Mare's Silver, which begins, "Slowly, silently, now the moon/Walks the night in her silver shoon..." It's one of those poems which still makes me shiver with delight when I read it. Emily Dickens "A narrow fellow in the grass," especially "zero at the bone," does that too me, as well. But yes, not a word wasted. I like your criteria very much!