Friday, October 23, 2015

Poetry Friday - Poems Children Will Sit Still For

I recently picked up this 1969 publication ...
I had to laugh when I read the back cover, though I wholeheartedly agree with the sentence I've highlighted.
When a favorite aunt is reading to her favorite nephew (and she has her arm around him) she can read Shakespeare's sonnets or Milton's epic verse or T.S. eliot's Wasteland and still hold - if not the child's attention, as the leas the child himself. 
In the classroom, as every teacher knows, it's different. Each of the 106 poems in this this book was chosen with this difference in mind. They were chosen expressly for a teacher to read aloud to—and with—her class. Every selection invites the listeners' participation—vocal, physical, or emotional. 
The selections cover an extensive range of primary-grade children's interests and experiences. There is plenty of nonsense and humor, and there are some sad poems too. 
For many of the poems, we have offered a few suggestions for reading, of for audience participation, or for possible discussion. But it is well to remember that a poem doesn't have to lead to discussion , or art activities, or anything at all. A poem can simply be enjoyed for its own sake. We hope this little book will help you transmit to your boys and girls the joy of poetry.
This text is actually excerpted from the introduction to the book. There are a few additional sentences, some of them about how to actually read a poem. But I thought this one was most interesting.
The only rule we would like to insist upon is: If you don't like a poem, don't read it. (Enthusiasm and boredom are equally contagious.)
When I read a poem and at first glance (or listen) don't like it, I actually re-read it, multiple times. I want to know what doesn't work for me. Why don't I like it? It becomes a puzzle I need to figure out. Is it the rhyme? Or meter? Is it the subject?

This book is divided into the sections (1) Fun With Rhymes; (2) Mostly Weather; (3) Spooky Poems; (4) Story Time; (5) Mostly Animals; (6) Mostly People; (7) Seeing, Feeling, Thinking; (8) In a Few Words; (9) Mostly Nonsense; and (10) Numbers and Letters. I will admit I found it odd the Frost's poem Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening was in the Spooky poems sections!

I suppose I decided I needed this one because it contained Sanburg's Arithmetic, as well as poems by Mary Ann Hoberman, Karla Kuskin, John Ciardi, Eve Merriam, Myra Cohn Livingston, and others.

Today I'm sharing two poems in this book by Karla Kuskin, from the sections Spooky Poems and Mostly Nonsense.

Knitted Things
by Karla Kuskin

There was a witch who knitted things:
Elephants and playground swings.
She knitted rain,
She knitted night,
But nothing really came out right.
The elephants had just one tusk
And night looked more
Like dawn or dusk.

If I Were A . . . 
by Karla Kuskin

If I were a sandwich,
I'd sit on a plate
And think of my middle
Until someone ate
End of the sandwich.

Not sure these are worth sitting still for, but I enjoyed them.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Happy poetry Friday friends! 


  1. I always enjoy Kuskin's poems. Hadn't seen these before, so thanks for sharing!

  2. As Jama said, I enjoy Kuskin's poems, buit had not come across these...thanks!

  3. I love the Knitted Things! And I agree about not reading poems you don't like, but then I think you have to find other ways to share a variety of poems in the classroom. Some people have very narrow tastes in poetry, and if they only read the poems they themselves like, they aren't giving their kids the advantage of exposure to a wide range...

    1. Well said, Laura. I think it is important to share a range of poems with kids, whether teachers like them or not.

  4. I, too, enjoyed the poems you shared especially Knitted Things. The line, "The only rule we would like to insist upon is: If you don't like a poem, don't read it," is one we should all heed. Poetry needs to be full of joy.

  5. These are wonderful! I love Karla Kuskin's poetry. I love that she knitted rain.

  6. I LOVE Kuskin's poetry! One of my all-time favorite books is Kuskin's book of mask poems titled "Any Me I Want to Be."

    Here's is one of Kuskin's poems that my elementary students enjoyed:

    A bug sat in a silver flower
    thinking silver thoughts.
    A bigger bug out for a walk
    climbed up that silver flower stalk
    and snapped the small bug down his jaws
    without a pause
    without a care
    for all the bug’s small silver thoughts.
    It isn’t right it isn’t fair that big bug ate that little bug
    because that little bug was there.

    He also ate his underwear.