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The Power of Poetry: Make poetry a part of you.

Catherine Al-Meten

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky
Where all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by….”

These words that I learned so long ago as a child in third or fourth grade, are forever in my mind and heart. The words come to mind, and flow off my tongue as easily as a simple childhood prayer, or the names of my favorite flowers. Commiting the words of a poem to memory is a gift we give ourselves and pass along to our children and grandchildren. Often the words we memorize as young children, provide us with the seeds of creativity, the source of strength, courage, and hope, and the visions and images that lift and guide us throughout our lives.

As I sit today looking out to the sea and the clear, blue sky, and as I watch a sailing ship make her way out to sea, this poem stirs me. Young children love to memorize and store up beautiful words in their minds. Songs, which are types of poetry, provide us all with an easy way to memorize beautiul poetry. Consider sharing your favorite poems with your children and grandchildren, and find something worth memorizing this week yourself. Start with something short and simple, perhaps one stanza of a poem at a time, and pretty soon you will have commited something beautiful to mind.
From September 14-16, we will be celebrating International Poetry Day. Plan a poetry party, or have a poetry reading at lunchtime. Put a poem in your pocket, and read it throughout the day. Make copies, and pass them out to friends and strangers. Enjoy the beauty of poetry.

Some poems that you might consider include riddles, prayers, poems or about animals and birds, nature, haikus, nursery rhymes, odes, and sonnets. Pick a favorite poem, and begin memorizing it. Share poetry with your grandchildren, and let them share their favorites with you.

A Riddle

by Christina Rossetti

There is one that has a head without an eye,
And there's one that has an eye without a head.
You may find the answer if you try;
And when all is said,
Half the answer hangs upon a thread.

Morning Prayer

by Ogden Nash

There is one that has a head without an eye,
And there's one that has an eye without a head.
You may find the answer if you try;
And when all is said,
Half the answer hangs upon a thread.

The Canary

by Elizabeth Turner

Mary had a little bird,
With feathers bright and yellow,
Slender legs-upon my word,
He was a pretty fellow!

Sweetest notes he always sung,
Which much delighted Mary;
Often where his cage was hung,
She sat to hear Canary.

Crumbs of bread and dainty seeds
She carried to him daily,
Seeking for the early weeds,
She decked his palace gaily.

This, my little readers, learn,
And ever practice duly;
Songs and smiles of love return
To friends who love you truly.

The Sheep

by Ann and Jane Taylor

"Lazy sheep, pray tell me why
In the pleasant fields you lie,
Eating grass, and daisies white,
From the morning till the night?
Everything can something do,
But what kind of use are you?"

"Nay, my little master, nay,
Do not serve me so, I pray;
Don't you see the wool that grows
On my back, to make you clothes?
Cold, and very cold, you'd be
If you had not wool from me.

True, it seems a pleasant thing,
To nip the daisies in the spring;
But many chilly nights I pass
On the cold and dewy grass,
Or pick a scanty dinner, where
All the common's brown and bare.

Then the farmer comes at last,
When the merry spring is past,
And cuts my woolly coat away,
To warm you in the winter's day:
Little master, this is why
In the pleasant fields I lie."

The Wind

by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you;
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Robin Redbreast

by William Allinghamn

Goodbye, goodbye to Summer!
For Summer's nearly done;
The garden smiling faintly,
Cool breezes in the sun;
Our Thrushes now are silent,
Our Swallows flown away-
But Robin's here, in coat of brown,
With ruddy breast-knot gay.
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
Robing singing sweetly
In the falling of the year.

Bright yellow, red, and orange,
The leaves come down in hosts;
The trees are Indian Princes,
But soon they'll turn to Ghosts;
The leathery pears and apples
Hang russet on the bough,
It's Autumn, Autumn, Autumn late,
"Twill soon be winter now.
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
And what will this poor Robin do?
For pinching days are near.

The fireside for the Cricket,
The wheatsack for the Mouse,
When trembling night-winds whistle
And moan all round the house;
The frosty ways like iron,
The branches plumed with snow-
Alas! in Winter, dead, and dark,
Where can poor Robin go?
Robin, Robin Redbreast,
O Robin dear!
And a crumb of bread for Robin,
His little heart to cheer.

Little Things

by Julia A. Carney

Little Things
~Julia A. Carney

Little drops of water,
Little drains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land.

And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

So our little errors
Lead the soul away,
From the paths of virtue
Into sin to stray.

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above.

My Shadow

by Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest things about him is the way he likes to grow-
Not at all like proper children, which is always very SLOW;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

The Star

by Jane Taylor

The Star
~Jane Taylor

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you SHOW your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveler in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut you eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveler in the dark-
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


by Catherine Al-Meten


Robin sits outside

my window today

Far south for the winter

Still, unmoving

Except to glance in my direction

Staring, delivering the message

Soon, it will be time to fly north.

Soon, it will be time

to return home.

Soon robin signals.

Brown wings,

Full, red belly

Nourished, rested

Ready to head home

North to the tall stands

of pine, yew, and fir

North to the rivers and streams

Teeming with fish, bugs, life.

North to the high mountains

Lush forests, and full-bodied Life.



by Catherine Al-Meten

Biting winter winds

Stinging, cutting, biting eyes

Noses, hands, feet, skin.

Books of poetry, including Chicken Soup and Rice, Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic, A.A. Milne’s When We Were Young, R.L. Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse, Sad Underwear and Other Complications by Judith Viorst, Every Time I Climb a Tree, by David McCord, Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, and The Poet’s House by Jude Brigley, are just some of the many excellent collections of poetry for children.

Find time to read, recite, and memorize a line of poetry during the week. Share your favorite poems with friends and family, and try your hand at writing a poem or two yourself.

And the whole of that beautiful poem written by John Masefield and published in Saltwater Ballads in 1902:

Sea Fever

by John Masefield

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over."

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