Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Emily Dickinson Month

It's been Emily Dickinson month at our house. This wasn't intentionally planned, but it turned out to be one of those happy "coincidences" of a love-of-learning life.

Although we generally study/appreciate one new musical composer and one new visual artist every month (or every four-five weeks) we've not yet really gotten into a rhythm with studying poetry. Maybe because we read a lot of it in a casual, almost every day kind of way (well, if not every day, than at least often). Word play and poetry are a big part of our family's life, whether or not we're consciously "studying" poetry. And I like that it's such a seamless part of our learning environment.

But in recent months it began dawning on me that I wanted to make sure to begin introducing my seven year old to certain poets. Not just children's poets ~ though I mean that term in no way disparagingly, as I love certain poets who write almost exclusively for children ~ Mary Ann Hoberman springs to mind immediately. I decided to start with a classic poet who did write a lot for children, the poet who probably influenced my childhood more than any other (save the apostle John or the psalmists) Robert Louis Stevenson.

The sweet girl was familiar with a few of Stevenson's poems already, the much anthologized ones like "The Swing." But last fall we read together the Robert Louis Stevenson volume from the "Poetry for Young People" series, which is fast becoming a favorite around here. I like this series for all sorts of reasons (which you'll see if you click through links to my reviews) including the fact that each book provides a well-written biography of the poet, geared to a child's interest and understanding (but not dumbed down) and because the books are beautifully illustrated, a plus for drawing in my very visual little learner. The poems themselves are also well-selected and just a joy to read.

Well, that was last fall. We didn't rush our way through Stevenson, but spent time savoring the poems and enjoying learning about his life. I wasn't sure who I wanted to turn to this spring, but I went back to the series and ended up choosing Emily Dickinson. I'm not sure why I've had Dickinson on my mind so much, but clearly I have...around the time I was trying to decide what poet to read next with my daughter, I signed up to receive a Dickinson poem a day through DailyLit. Thus it was that I was reading Dickinson myself, with my morning tea, as I began reading with the sweet girl...and it's just turned into a wonderful month for Emily!

I wonder if I didn't think of Dickinson because the world is beginning to wake (oh so slowly and gently, despite snow piles) to spring. It just seems like the right time to read words like this:

The grass so little has to do,
A sphere of simple green
With only butterflies to brood
And bees to entertain.

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything.

I know we're not quite to the carefree greenness of this poem yet, but we will be! We will be!

More soon, I hope, on Emily's poetry and on reading poetry with children. I find I've got all sorts of thoughts pushing up through the soil.

No comments: