by Heather Lee Leap
Poetry suffers an undeserved reputation as something cool and standoffish, but that may be because poems are often left to lie flat and lifeless upon the page. This April, in celebration of National Poetry Month, give breath to poems. Like blowing on fading embers, finding the glow in poetry will light a fire in children and adults as they discover the art of words. Share poems, read them aloud and they come to life. National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry and its vital place in our culture. Whether you are a life-long poetry fan or giving poetry another chance for the sake of your children, let these ideas inspire you and your family to explore poetry this month and throughout the year.
Choose a Poem of the Day. Have family members take turns choosing a poem to share at breakfast, at dinner or at any time you can all be together. Sixth grade students at the Metropolitan Learning Center, a K-12 charter school, hear a new poem each day in the classroom and use journals to capture their impressions. When introducing poetry to children at home, consider the rhythm, cadence and emotion in a poem rather than pushing your kids to search for meaning.
Offer poetry as a snack. Copy a short poem onto a slip of paper and tuck it into your child’s lunchbox as a surprise.
Celebrate “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” On April 24, select a poem, carry it with you and share it with others throughout the day.
Read poetry and sing songs to babies and toddlers. Infants will build language skills, absorbing rhymes and the rhythms of music and poetry, long before they comprehend the content.
Write your own poems. Try a progressive poem where each person begins a poem, then passes the paper to the next person to add a line. Read through various types of poems and see if you can mimic a particular style.
Read poetry for your next book group, or begin a children’s book club by reading a book of poetry. Choose a volume and ask the kids to take notes or use sticky notes to mark and then share the poems they liked best from the selection. Encourage them to read their favorites aloud to the group. Discuss your varying interpretations of the poems and what thoughts or feelings they evoke.
Volunteer to lead a poetry group at your child’s school or homeschooling group. Read poems aloud and choose poems to memorize. Include time to write poetry and share your creations.
Visit your public library. Look for announcements of upcoming poetry events. Ask a children’s librarian for recommendations and bring home an armload of poetry books to peruse.
Memorize and recite poetry. In addition to hearing and responding to poetry, children who memorize poems can experience art and feel beautiful words in their mouths. Children can practice in pairs, reciting aloud and prompting each other to aid in memorization.
Find an audience and set a goal. Memorizing with the intent to perform at a specific time and place establishes a deadline and purpose and can provide momentum and boost enthusiasm for the challenge of learning a piece by heart. Invite friends to a poetry slam at your home, and perform your own work, or recite favorite poems by others. Prepare a poem to recite for grandparents, perform a poem at a senior center or register for a public event.
The simplest version is a water resistant box with a clear acrylic window (the type used by realtors to display sale flyers) attached to a post or fence in full view of passersby. Place a poem within and you create an opportunity for neighbors to connect. Display your own work, the work of favorite poets or that of local writers. Some post owners encourage sharing by providing extra copies in the box for visitors to take away. Others offer up poems with a note inviting neighbors to swap the proffered poem with another and establishing a take-a-poem-leave-a-poem system. The novelty of a post in a neighborhood causes passers-by to slow down and read what is there. They pause on subsequent occasions to discover the latest offering. Poems and the post itself become conversation starters. Install a post on your property, and you may find folks going out of the way to visit, crossing the street to savor the latest gem. For inspiration or to order a custom poetry post, visit poetrypostspdx.com.