Like every young girl, I fancied myself a poet from the ages of twelve through sixteen. I filled notebook upon notebook with angsty couplets about boys on whom I had crushes and my (mostly) self-imposed alienation from my peers. It took a college poetry writing class for me to discover how truly difficult it is to write phrases that are moving without being trite. It is work best left to those far more talented than I!

I didn't really read any poetry in my younger years. My only exposure was the half a unit that we did every semester in high school English classes. It wasn't until I got to college and took my first literature class that I was introduced to writers of words the really shook me to my core. 

The first was Edna St. Vincent Millay. We read Fatal Interview for class and I found myself repeating the sonnets over and over again, whispered under my breath. The first poem that she ever wrote, "Renascence" became a meditative mantra. Any time that I found myself in a season of my life where confusion and desperation reigned, I found solace in her words:

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see:
These were the things that bounded me...

Can you believe she was only 18 when she wrote that? I always wanted to memorize the entire poem (it's a long one!), but never quite got around to it.

Ranier Maria Rilke was next, first reading him in a translation class. I had the following words piped onto our wedding cake in both English and the original German:

Extinguish my eyes, I'll go on seeing you. 
Seal my ears, I'll go on hearing you. 
And without feet I can make my way to you, 
without a mouth I can swear your name. 

Break off my arms, I'll take hold of you 
with my heart as with a hand. 
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat. 
And if you consume my brain with fire, 
I'll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.

A bit melodramatic? Perhaps. But then again, so am I, so it seemed fitting.

Tracey over at Clover always opens her blog posts with the most thoughtfully chosen poems and quotes. I love it. I love how those words set the tone and mood for what is to follow. I love how the cadence lingers with me throughout the day after reading them. I love slowing down and pausing to really (I mean really) think about what words mean when we string them together. I love that she takes the time to include them. Poetry is so absent from our daily lives and I think that's a tragedy.

I would like to inject a little more poetry into my everyday. I have a very small collection of poetry books that are housed in a cabinet by the front door. I think that when I opened it to take these photos, it was the first time they'd seen the light of day in three years. So, that's the place to start. Even though National Poetry Month isn't until April, I'm going to select a volume that calls out to me and leave it out where it is accessible. Trying to set aside a quiet moment to read and ponder a single poem each day. Hopefully, Silas is amenable, because, really, it's for him too. I want him to grow up with a love of language and literature and he won't develop that spontaneously.

Do you have any suggestions for good, quality children's books of poetry? Or even just poetry suggestions in general. I always love sharing in the favorites of others.


  1. Wow, thank you Courtney! I wasn't sure anyone else appreciated the quotes and poems,but I like them. I have keep journals of little sayings and poems I like since I was a teenager.

    A few books for Silas? How about...

    The Real Mother Goose [I think every child should hear these]

    The Oxford Book of Children's Verse, edited by Peter Opie

    The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry, selected by Louis Untermeyer

    And when he is older I have more on my list! ;)

  2. I think your selections are beautiful, and it will be so nice for your son to hear the cadence of the lines even if he doesn't understand some things. I found that poetry means more to me as an adult (now that I've had life experiences) than it ever did as a child or highschool student.

    I think some funny poems for him to listen to are a good introduction as well to poetry. Something that might make him giggle. Not necessarily the best written poems, mind you, but silly. (Miles of Smiles - Bruce Lansky: look up the one about the boy who loved the tall girl - my sons just cracked up about this one)

    We also like
    All the Small Poems and Fourteen More (Valerie Worth)
    Favorite Poems Old and New (Helen Ferris)
    Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku & Tanka (Myra Cohn Livingston)

    Can't think of anymore right now!

  3. Robert Louis Stevenson and Shel Silverstein are great poets for children in my opinion. They will draw your child right into the world of poetry.

  4. such a lovely post, it is fun to see all your poetry books and hear your favorite verses. they are beautiful. and how romantic to have those words by rilke added to your cake.

    i was going to say robert louis stevenson. i have a collection of his books, had a poem of his read at our wedding, and chose our honeymoon place partly based on the desire to see his home and final resting place. i guess you could say he is one of my favorites (mary oliver and pablo neruda are right up there too).

    i think it's a wonderful idea to leave a book out, i've tried to do that also, even though they keep getting buried under other things!

  5. I love the poetry of W.B. Yeats. Poetry is something I often want to write, but seem unable to.
    Hope you find a good book to read to your little one.x

  6. Yay for poetry! I've loved reading everyone's comments--I've been looking for good children's poetry books, too, and will check out some of these suggestions. For baby board books, my daughter loved Haiku Baby by Betsy Snyder. And for myself, Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, and Wendell Berry are at the top of the list. I also subscribe to the Writer's Almanac emails and occasionally come upon a really good poem that resonates with me when I take the time to read them. Thanks for the inspiration to make space for poetry!

  7. you have such a way with words!



  8. I wandered through the poetry section at the library today. I am too busy with kids and homeschooling and committees to indulge right now, so I left the books where they sat. I love e.e. cummings. I have a huge anthology that my dad gave me one year for Christmas... it's all dog eared and ripped. I carried the huge tome around with me the last year of high school. It was my reading of choice.

    Thank you for the verses you shared.

  9. I agree, Tracy's openings are wonderful. Rilke, Yeats and Oliver are my absolute favorite poets. Everyone goes on about Christina Rossetti for kids, but so far, I haven't found any of her work (on my own) that I'd recommend. I'm probably missing the obvious there.

  10. Thanks so much to everyone for their wonderful poetry suggestions! I have added them all to my library list and am looking forward to doing a little reading.

  11. Finn loves Shel Silverstein. I love Basho and Dickenson. I don't read as much poetry as I should...

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Pablo Neruda. I heart him.

  13. Shel Silverstein of course. For silly, fun poems try Dennis Lee. In fact, I'm a children's librarian with a homeschooling blog, and planning an upcoming issue of my monthly booklist on poetry. This has so inspired me! Not long ago, I promised myself I'd start writing (and reading) more poetry again. Again, thanks for the reminder, and the lovely suggestions.

    Just came across this link, too: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/children/
    I'll be having a look around.

    All the best,