Twinkle, Twinkle / Tyger, Tyger

100_4417 I haven’t discussed it so much on this blog because I have another one, an alter ego blog about all things family, but I am a fairly new mom.  My daughter, now 8 months old, is getting to be a lot of fun. 

We’ve been reading aloud to her since she was an embryo.  We’ve included in the repertoire all the children’s picture books that you might expect– Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon.  But I’m not a big believer in the educator’s notion of "age-appropriate literature."  Neither is Writers in the Schools (WITS) where I work .  We find that Neruda’s "Ode to my Socks" is really as "age-appropriate" as Pippi Longstocking.  It all depends on the presentation.

In addition to reading books, I also recite poems that I have memorized over the years.  That short list includes "Kubla Khan" and some of Blake’s songs, and sonnets by Keats and Shelley.  I can manage chunks of "The Idea of Order at Key West" and some James Tate poems and a few by Elizabeth Bishop.  As you can probably tell, I had to memorize some of these in grade school, but when you memorize a poem, you own it for life.  [That might be a quote by Robert Pinsky, but I’m not sure.]

I would love to hear what you read and/or recite to your kids.  Even if you don’t have kids, tell us what literature you think children might love to hear.


  1. My dog loves me to sing Billy Bragg songs, literally.
    But for more traditional poetry, I can’t imagine much better for kids than Hopkins. “Sibyl’s Leaves” or “The Windhover,” maybe?
    And then there’s O’Hara: “Mothers of America / let your kids go to the movies!” How fun!
    🙂 She’s quite lovely, Robin.

  2. Oh my god your daughter’s beautiful. There is no such thing as age-appropriate, true. But my boy didn’t much like Roethke’s nursery rhymes. He more closely attended Hardy’s Song, easy to learn and quite lovely on the ear:
    If it’s every Spring again
    Spring again
    I shall go where went I when
    Down the moor cock splashed and hen,
    Seeing me not amid their flounder
    Standing with my arms around her
    If it’s ever Spring again, spring again,
    I shall go where went I then.
    There’s another verse, too.

  3. songs i make up on the spot, same with stories. I like to let her take them places and i “fill in the blanks” it leads to some very.. very strange stories 🙂
    Mrs Pepperpot is always a fancy of hers too, she is 9 years though and reads them herself along with the non typical pre-teen escapades of a girl who is looked after in a home and often magicaly aquires mischief. hehe

  4. I’m reading “Goodnight Moon” and “Hop on Pop” to my 2 month old. I like the rhymes, and I think they’re good for her. We sing songs to her whenever possible, and dance like there’s no other grown-ups around. We’ll have to get around to Neruda and other fun stuff soon. I would want to read her Lewis Carroll stuff too – beware the Jaberwocky!!
    P.S. Your next post about one handed poetry is perfect – I’m trying to master the art of one-handed typing – while holding the baby in my other arm.

  5. Mostly made up stuff, very young. Just like giving a 1-yr-old an old telephone book and letting ’em rip is as good a toy (actually, much better than) as any produced and marketed, adult-defined thing, so it is with poems. Just whatever’s at hand.
    A little older, Jonah’s liking his books of funny poems. As far as ‘adult’ poetry goes, I’ve tried various stuff on him, he is happy to listen to Yeats’ more mythical Celtic Twilight stuff (“Song of Wandering Aengus” is a fave), Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll of course, and the unlikely one is David Wagoner’s collection “Who Shall Be the Sun?”, wherein he versifies various Northwest Native American myths and stories. They can get pretty grim–a boy turns into a salmon, goes swimming and eats lots of fish, returns upriver and his (still-human) father spears him, and he is gutted and dried by his (still-human) mother–like European fairy tales. He loves those.

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