Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Small Things

Today I'm thinking small, and for me that immediately brings to mind Valerie Worth.
All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, written by Valerie Worth with pictures by Natalie Babbitt, is a compilation of all four of Worth's Small Poems books in one volume. There are fourteen new poems that extend Worth's meditations on the world around us. All of these poems are written in free verse and make extraordinary the very ordinary things we see.

In Pass the Poetry, Please!, an introduction to children's poets by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Worth said, "Written poetry is simply a way of revealing and celebrating the essentially poetic nature of the world itself." Here are two poems that celebrate and reveal things we often see, but don't really think much of.

Grass on the lawn
Says nothing:
Clipped, empty,

Grass in the fields
Whistles, slides,
Casts up a foam
Of seeds,

Tangles itself
With leaves: hides
Whole rustling schools
Of mice.


The lawnmower
Grinds its teeth
Over the grass,
Spitting out a thick
Green spray;

Its head is too full
Of iron and oil
To know
What it throws

The lawn’s whole
Crop of chopped
Green hay.

Poems ©Valerie Worth. All rights reserved.
I posted this picture with the Gone to the Dogs post, but it's worth posting again, since it is a Valerie Worth poem.
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Poems About Small Things, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, is a collection of poems about the little things in life. There are poems here by Karla Kuskin, Langston Hughes, Charlotte Zolotow, David McCord, J. Patrick Lewis, X.J. Kennedy, Shakespeare, and more. Here is a poem from each of the three sections of the book.
The chicken scratching
for food in the dirt stirs up
tiny tornadoes.

Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.


In the soft summer air
a piece of fluff from some milkweed
drifts by
like a little floating cloud
full of seeds

Poem ©Charlotte Zolotow. All rights reserved.

Time Piece

Take the back off the watch
and see that universe of small parts,
bobbing and turning,
each doing what it should be doing,
and ignoring you completely.

Poem ©William Cole. All rights reserved.
I'd like to leave you with these words about poetry. They can be found in the book The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work, a book edited by Paul Janeczko that contains the poems, advice, anecdotes, and recollections of 39 poets. Here's what Worth had to say.
"One of poetry’s most wonderful features is that it can get beneath the surface of things and explore them not as mere objects but as remarkable phenomena with lively personalities of their own. Articles as coat hangers can take on unexpected dimensions within the realm of a poem; and if this can happen with coat hangers, then the world must be filled with other ‘ordinary’ subjects just waiting for poetry to come along and reveal their extraordinary selves."
I hope you'll take some time to explore ordinary things made extraordinary in these poems.


  1. Ooh, all of these are lovely. These are the types of short, "common" poems I like to think of etched on stepping stones or painted on fences in a big garden...

  2. Love, love, love these - I never tire of Valerie Worth poems. The perfect month to ponder the "eternal" in the ordinary. Thanks for sharing!