Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Get Your Seuss On

On Wednesday, I did my first Skype visit with a school, for their Book Fair and Literacy Night. My favorite part? When the kids came to the computer and asked me questions, things like: "What's your favorite Olympic sport?" and "Can you write a book in a day?" and "Are there really little green army men in your book?"

So much curiosity. So much energy. So much fun.

Which brings me to today's Poetry Friday selection.

Tuesday, March 2, is Dr. Seuss's birthday, and in elementary schools all over America, that means it's also Read Across America Day, a day to go wild and crazy about reading. There will be Green Eggs and Ham eating, Horton Hears a Who elephant trumpeting, Cat in the Hat jigs, and even some Hop on Pop Hopscotch.

And, if schools are savvy, lots and lots of poetry writing. There's something about the rhythm and wacky logic of Seuss's rhyming cadence that frees a writer of any age to get zany.

I'm sure you can find evidence of this poetic hurly-burly all over the Internet, but today, I'm pointing you to some third graders who got their Seuss on.  Here are some snippets of their poems about unusual pets.

I like to take hairs out of heads.
And I keep them on all my pink beds.


Every day I feed him my teachers,
And all of my crazy cool creatures.


It floats in a bubble
The only thing it says is subtle.

I've wondered at times about how my work of writing books for kids and my recreational love of poetry fit together. But in reading this article which mentioned Dr. Seuss, I came across Robert Frost's definition of poetry as "serious play."

OH. Right. Yes.

Too often for me,  literature has divided itself into separate camps: The Serious Camp. And the Play Camp. (Translated: "literary" and "commercial" fiction.)

Sorry. I don't want to choose. I need/crave/desire both the profound and the playful. Poetry does it for me. Kids' books do it for me, too.

So go ahead. Get your Seuss on with me.  Lots of ways to do that here. Or at the very least, open your life up to some "serious play." (Olympic snowboarder Shaun White's McTwist 1260 comes to mind.)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jone at Check It Out.


  1. I love that definition of poetry! Especially when it comes to poetry for kids. Serious play is what they engage in much of the time!

  2. Yes yes yes, serious play! I like taking hair off heads too. :D

  3. I love this article. Who wrote it? Some staffer at the site?

    First, Naomi's quote is beautiful. (So is: "At that intersection of love and language is poetry." Ah.)

    Secondly: It's so true that children love to play with language and are natural poets. Piper seems to EXTRA love words, too. For the longest time, for "yes," she'd say "yippodo," and now it's evolved these days into something like "yippodididodatdatdat," like a two-minute response to a simple question. I told her she was scatting her "yes"es anymore, as if a jazz artist. Anyway, my point: It's something that comes naturally to kids, as pointed out in the article. Love those teachers who take advantage of it.

    Last (though it seems like I had more things to say): The point about children enjoying sophisticated poetry at a really young age. SO TRUE. Remember Liz's posts about her daughters learning Shakespeare at school? Oh how I wish all teachers did this. They can love it. They really can. Bravo to those teachers.

  4. P.S. LOVE LOVE LOVE that you Skyped with those kids. I'm reading the ARC of a great new book that I think folks like you would like. I'll probably post about it soon. This: It's great for adults even. Like Anne Lamott for kids. Sara, I think you'd be such a fabulous visiting author at a school, such an inspiration for teaching children about writing and poetry and the love of language. Anyway, this is a great book (and Matt Phelan's illustrations make it even better!)

  5. Oh, I am ALL ABOUT serious play! My son is 10, and he still loves it when I read Dr. Seuss to him. Just last night we did Too Many Daves, a story I had just about forgotten. Love laughing with him over a book. And love your Skype questions too. Great kids! :)

  6. If I can't play, then I can't get serious. Don't most poets play with words to get into a poem?

    Laura Evans

  7. Jules, I can't find who wrote that article either, but it's packed with great stuff. And I hope you do post about Spilling Ink---I wish Amazon had the "look inside" feature enabled for it, but if you blog, I know you'll get permission to share Phelan's art and some zingy quotes too.

    Skyping was awesome. I'll try to pull together a post about that too.

  8. Serious play. Yup. That's what I get paid to do with 4th graders every day.

    All day long we weave back and forth between their first-ever Literary Essays, basketball in P.E., thank you cards to the firefighters at the nearby fire station (cards that turn into multi-media pop-up extravagandas), equivalent fractions, and finding idioms in Popeye and Elvis.

    Serious play. I'm all about that.

  9. Serious play. And that also means being not self conscious, as children are. I'm working on that.

    I thought since you enjoy poetry that I'd invite you to contribute your list of favorite poems to my survey. Read more about it here:

  10. Go Dog Go...I'll always remember that book. God bless ya Dr. Seuss

  11. Serious play. Love that definition. Poetry should never be drudgery!

    Would love to hear more about your Skype visit, too!