August 26, 2008

We set out for our morning walk yesterday. As we walked I asked the kids if they could define poetry, "what is a poem?" They had fine interesting answers and we talked about poetry writing for the rest of the walk. Ry reminded us that she is a poet. She said to wait until bedtime and to lie very still and to think A Lot. That's how she writes. I was gratified to learn that she thinks of herself as a poet. I wasn't sure she even remembered her last one, Mermaid In The Sea. It was written way back when she was 7. She is so much bigger now at 8.

Then last night I was lying in bed reading Ellen Gilchrist's The Courts of Love: "A psychiatrist told me a lovely thing. She said a great mother produces an irrational sense of security in a child. I'm irrationally secure. That's why I can do such an insecure thing for a living. Once I wrote three mediocre, almost bad, books in a row and still I kept on believing I was a good writer." When I was interrupted from my reading by a small knock. A squinty Ms. Ry was there with her raggedy little girl teeth and rumpled hair and fresh warm smell, blinking in my harsh light. "I've written a new poem."

And yes Ma'am, she certainly did write a poem. Two things strike me about her writing. She composes entirely in her head. No one stands up at the board and writes down lines and rereads them to her as she shouts out more. She keeps all the work orchestrated inside and then recites it finished. Also, I've never read poetry to her. We have talked about poems. Incidentally, she has seen some. But we haven't studied other people's poems. An omission we should correct. But not too quickly. At this moment, she is writing with an innocent originality. Isn't there something so beautiful about that? She isn't studied. She is natural.

The river is strong
The river is fast
As I flow along in my raft
Down the river I go
I see frogs and fish and other things so
But alas, I'm not content
And so I sail down the river away
Never to be seen again that day

After we got her poem transcribed and after we celebrated her work, she went back to bed and I went back to my book. Our bed is under a window which, almost all of this bizarrely cool summer, has been open. I was reading and interrupting Joe every 45 seconds to reiterate how great Ry's poem is, when a Barred Owl started calling and purring and hooting in our yard. He was so close you could hear that deep soft mystical growl in the bottom of their call. Oh my God, how full I felt right then. He kept calling. I lay there soaking it up, grateful the children get to be home with another uninterrupted year to set their own pace and explore their inner landscape. Ry and I decided that we will collaborate on a book of her poetry this year. A happy project for a small unschooler. Then another soft knock, another poem.

Hoot hoot
The moon is up
The owls are below
And everything is quiet
Except for the hoot hoot
For that is the way the owls go


Heather said...

Wonderful! Every time you post about something your children wrote, composed, or said, I'm impressed with their vocabulary. Around here, we know what words like "alas" mean, but we don't use them. And having never studied any poetry at all, those poems were pretty fantastic. I especially liked the last one.

Just a few days ago I was discussing with a friend how parents' love and admiration for their children is projected on their kids. I think the way in which it is projected determines how the child uses it. "Irrationally secure" is one outcome. (Unfortunately, so is "perpetual disappointment" for some kids.) If you're shooting for security, I think you've hit your mark beautifully. I'm aiming for fearless.. which is really almost the same thing, isn't it?

I wouldn't bother with studying poetry, unless she wants to. My most satisfying artwork was done before I learned the "rules".

Katherine said...

thanks Heather.

I'd say my kids are secure, cautious, and occasionally petrified. We have more work to do with fearlessness.

I have seen talented people schooled right out of everything brilliant and original about their art. Apparently Keith Carter, who is a famous photographer, begins his workshops by writing "NO FUCKING RULES" on the black board. Oh yeah! Come to think on it, his entire artistic education was unschooled...

And also, we don't say the word alas around here. I don't want to give that impression. When we were talking about poetry she mentioned special words and using words in special ways. Alas must fall in that category.

Alas, I am rambling here. ;)

MOM #1 said...

Alas, she certainly is talented and a natural composer at such a young age. It's going to be an amazing experience to see who she becomes as she gets older. That's the FUN part of parenting.

Mommylion said...

She is really good. Spontaneous children's poetry always brings tears to my eyes.

Have you found this site yet?
For under $20 you can get a full color book printed. I told my girl she could make one for a project this year and she has been gathering photographs and dreaming up possibilities.