Ballads, Grasses and Bliss


When I was a child, I loved slipping a stalk of Timothy from its grassy home, pinching it between my fingers and putting the sweet end into my mouth. How delightful, then, to have my nine-year-old celebrate this simple grass with a spring poem.

"At Last"

Timothy, I hear Timothy,
surrounding me
everywhere a breeze
blowing its furry fluff
of warmth to last it
through the frozen days.

At last the coming of
spring's luscious sound,
hors d'oeuvres
before the dinner of
warmth and blossoming

ready to move life to the
sunset road of eternity,
and eternities of happiness.

— by Sonia

On a different note, I began reading a book on poem-making to my girls. While I was reading the section on narrative poems, my Eldest tried her hand at one form: the ballad. Hers is not quite a ballad, but it's a good beginning. And she seemed to understand enough about the concept to go searching for Tolkien and share with me her favorite ballads tucked between battles and journeys. Here is her own try...

"The Ballad of Narrative Poems"

Mommy read a chapter
of narrative poems,
I went up to look
for a book,

that book had a good
poem, more than one,
of narratives there
were tons.

A ballad, said Mommy,
is something true,
can't be about me,
could be about you.

I've read a few ballads,
all in books,
but the books, well,
they were all fiction.

— by Sara

And here's a poem I just found in my study. I love that any occasion is becoming an occasion for poetry!

"The Worst Thing [or, Grandpa used to get comp copies
and when he cleaned out his study he passed them along to us]"

Well I was reading a book,
but it was the second.
What came before?

I know he did
one thing,
I know he did another,
but what was the whole story?

I wanted to know,
but I never will.
The book was from
a series that grandpa had.

They were given to him,
but then, not all!
Every single series
has at least one missing book.

But this was the best book,
so this is the worst.
It's the same person,
and it happened right after!

So this is the worst thing,
it really is true,
when you haven't read 1
but you have, number 2!

— by Sara

Over at Seedlings this week, I wrote about following one's bliss. It's becoming clear to me that poetry is one of those bliss-places I want to further-cultivate in my life and in the lives of others. Indeed, I have been doing it almost without thought... the way those lovely succulents at the top of this post were growing so beautifully by a fountain, way off in Texas (another source, I am finding, of bliss).

You could say that poetry is my Timothy, waving in the breeze, my little ballad of bliss.

Succulents photo by L.L. Barkat.

Postscript: My favorite "overheard" statement this week from another 11-year-old to mine... You mean your Mom's MAKING YOU learn Old English? [mine replied: NO! I'm teaching it to myself!]

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Blogger Beth said...

Do you know Luci Shaw's poetry. I've been enjoying her writing lately.

10:34 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

i wish i had written that poem about timothy.

At last the coming of
spring's luscious sound,
hors d'oeuvres
before the dinner of
warmth and blossoming
flowers ...

10:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

What talented little ladies you have. The apple doesn't fall far...

I am curious about the book you are reading to your girls. Would it benefit and more mature poetry student such as myself? I am trying to share what I learn with my boys, as well...but I feel like I am floundering a bit in the teaching. I do want them to have an appreciation of the poet's work, as it moves me so deeply in many cases.

I have been reading some of Samuel Hazo's selections to them (their favorite's are the ones where he curses), but wonder if you could recommend a better place to start? My boys seem to grasp a lot of the complexities in Hazo's work, but maybe something with a more simplistic beauty?

I'm boggled because there is so much to explore.


3:09 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Beth, yes Shaw is good. It's been a while since I read anything by her.

Kirsten, maybe you will write your own poem about Timothy. I bet you have it in you...

Laura, one of the best books on poetry I've read is The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser. Other than that, I think the thing is to read good poetry. It's how we seamlessly take it in. I credit my mom's practice of reading to us daily (Keats, Frost, other lesser known poets), for stirring the poetic in me. My Masters at NYU (and particularly a class on T.S. Eliot) almost killed my love for poetry. But mom's gift prevailed! If your boys like Hazo, read Hazo. The key is to read what they seem responsive to, and maybe throw in a few other things to push the envelope as you go along. (Best Loved Poems of the American People has some narrative poems that I always loved as a kid. Not always the "best" poetry, but it hooked me.)

3:25 PM  
Blogger sojourner said...

these were sweet words from blossoming poets - made all the sweeter because they are shared -i liked them very much -

4:21 PM  
Blogger laure said...

sonia and sara,

how you receive all that is living with you ... around you ... matters. your telling of it even more so.

your presence | a mellifluous gladness

11:15 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Wonderful!And so neat that your offspring are following in the path you've traversed before them...Sharon

10:05 AM  

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