Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

“Fall, Leaves, Fall”by Emily Jane Bronte

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;

Lengthen night and shorten day;

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow

Blossom where the rose should grow;

I shall sing when night’s decay

Ushers in a drearier day.


For Baby…

With a little revision this poem can be perfect for baby. For example, where Bronte tends to be overly morbid (“die, flowers”) you may want to revise to more baby friendly language (“bye bye flowers”). You may even want to stick with just the first four lines of the poem.

My son loves the word “day” for some reason. Well, actually, I do know the reason. On one of his baby sign language DVDs, he’s obsessed with this song, “A New Day.” To sign “day,” use one hand to grab your opposite elbow and point your index finger of your other hand up to the sky. While your saying the word, move your pointed finger across to your other elbow, to simulate the sun setting over the sky.

For Mommy…

My first thoughts – does she just like being miserable? After a few readings, however, I thought that maybe Bronte has a point. Even those of us who despise the end of summer have to admit that there is something very beautiful about the fall. Yes, it does ultimately lead us to a point when everything seems to “die” as Bronte so bluntly puts it. But, is there beauty in death? Our culture doesn’t seem to like confronting it (although, sometimes the cover of the NYTimes makes me think differently). Is it safe to say that we are a “youth” culture? It almost seems like every cosmetic product is designed to diminish the signs of aging. Why don’t we consider wrinkles beautiful?! My good friend once said she hopes to one day have deep smile wrinkles as marks of a life spent laughing. Anyway, back to Bronte… I thought it was interesting to note that this famous author of Wuthering Heights died after refusing to take medicine when she was sick with the flu. I would love to know when this poem was written. Could it be symbolic of her own personal experience with death?


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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art & Poetry

Daily Subject: Poetry

Our next poet’s work gives voice to the artwork we observed last week. Please click on the link below to read “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

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For Baby…

It seems like the mother in the poem is talking to a grown child. However, after thinking about it, I thought it would be a good read for any age group. One of the most important skills in becoming an avid reader is understanding the importance of showing emotion in your voice as you read. This poem is very powerful and will have you bursting with emotion as you read it to your baby. I truly believe that fundamental reading skills can be shaped even before a child can actually read (or talk). I love hearing my 1 year old “reading” his books. I watch as he flips through the pages (often upside down) imitating the intonations he hears when I read to him. Reading to your baby with almost exaggerated expression will teach him/her that changing the pitch and tone of your voice has meaning.

For Mommy…

A successful poet and writer in the 1920s through the 1960s, Hughes’ poetry chronicles the foundations and hardships of the civil rights movement. A social activist, Hughes was determined to use his work to showcase the life of the average African American. Take a peek at his biography at the Poetry Foundation to see how his work caused controversy with other prominent African American figures of his time.

“Mother to Son” reminds me of the concept of genetic memory. I know there is much controversy over whether such a concept exists, but, more specifically, I’m referring to the way in which parents pass along their own life experiences to their children. I’m thinking of that quote, usually attributed to Sir Isaac Newton,  that we are “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isn’t our job as parents to impart our understanding and experiences of the world to our children?

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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art

Daily Subject: Poetry

If Catlett’s work teaches us the power of the image (see yesterday’s post), our next poet teaches us the power of the word. Maya Angelou continues to be one of the most inspirational female figures of our time. There is no end to her accomplishments. Click on the following link to read Angelou’s poem “Woman Work.”


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For Baby…

As stated in earlier posts, babies thrive in the beauty and magnificence of nature. When reading this poem to baby, you may want to start at the second stanza. This second part seems as though it should be sung. Have fun using your voice to express the power of the words!

For Mommy…
The historical background of this poem adds to its significance and importance as part of our country’s collective memory. I believe the poem was first published in the 70s but it seems to point to an earlier period. On some small level, however, I feel that even the modern-day mama can relate. Rocking my little one to sleep last night, I was going over my list of to-dos. They seemed endless. Then, out of nowhere, I hear this beautiful choir singing. No, I wasn’t hallucinating (although I was a little nervous at first). There is actually a church behind our apartment building where, I guess, this very talented choir was practicing. It made me take a pause in my endless mantra of to-dos and appreciate the beauty of what I was doing, rocking my beautiful baby boy to sleep. The experience reminded me of Angelou’s poem. The first stanza is basically a list of to-dos. To me, it doesn’t even seem that there is a tone of complaining but more of a simple recitation of all there is to do. In the second part of the poem, there seems to be a shift in consciousness. The imagery focuses on nature, which always tends to have a calming effect. How can we be inspired by Angelou’s poem to seek the calm amidst the chaos of our hectic lives?

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Senryu is a type of poetry that was first introduced during the Edo period (see Wednesdays post). The term senryu actually refers to an Edo poet, Senryu Karai, who first put together a collection of poetry of this kind. Today’s poem is actually not from the Edo period but by a Japanese poet who lived in the 20th century, demonstrating the resilience of the art form. Take a look at the following poem by Shuji Terayama (1935-1983):


Hide and seek

Count to three

Winter comes


For Baby…
The first two lines of this poem are perfect to read to baby. All babies love a simple game of peekaboo and that’s exactly what you could do with these carefree lines of Terayama’s poem. The basic format of senryu and haiku poetry typically include two contrasting ideas, hence the depressing tone of that third line. For baby, you could change the third line to something more fun like “Mama sees you!!”

For Mommy…
As a mother, this poem is reminding me of how fast time is flying. Our children are only babies for a such a short period of time. I cried the day my little one took his first steps. I was so happy for him but, surprisingly, a little sad that he was stepping into a whole new world, one that wouldn’t require me as much.

From a historical perspective, Terayama was just a child during the end of World War II in the Pacific. Perhaps the poem is referring to a childhood cut short by the devastation of war. I guess, overall, it reminds us that everything in this life is temporary. But isn’t that what makes it all so precious?

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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child
Weekly Content: Japanese Art of the Edo Period, 1600s – 1800s
Daily Subject: Poetry

As stated earlier, the Edo Period was a prosperous time in Japanese history, a time when much focus was on the arts and literature. During this period, several new forms of poetry came into being. The haiku, now a very popular form of poetry, has it roots in the Edo period. Short, but powerful, these poems are meant to strike a chord with readers. Another form of poetry that came about during this period was the senryu. Similar to the haiku in format, the senryu is unique in its use of humor to emphasize a point. Take a look at the following senryu:

Enjoying the cool of the evening

A mother comes out with her child

Smothered in powder 

Anon. Senryu (pub. 1765)

(R. H. Blyth, Japanese Life and Character in Senryu (Japan, Hokuseido, 1960), p.18)

For baby…
Poetry such as this is extremely fun to read to baby. Perfect for the short attention span, the haiku format lends itself as a quick but meaningful way to entertain baby. Take some creative license to change a few of the word in the poem so it’s more fun for baby. For example, add the word “breeze” to the first line and make the sign for breeze by waving your hands side to side. Changing the word “powder” to something like “kisses” or “tickles” might make a fun game for you and baby.

For mommy…
So, as stated above, there must be some satire in this poem. The use of the word “smothered” seems to insinuate that the mother is going a little overboard. How do we succumb to this in our own lives? Doesn’t modern day society force us into thinking that we need the best products, the best education, the best EVERYTHING for our child? Keeping up with all the latest trends and products could drive even the savviest mom mad. Maybe the author of this poem is trying to remind us to, more often, just simply take in “the cool of the evening” without all the other hoopla!

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Monthly Theme:  Mother and Child

Weekly Content:  American Women of the 19th Century

Daily Subject: Poetry

If Emily Dickinson quietly asserted her voice through her poetry, this next poet did just the opposite. Charlotte Perkins Gilman used writing to loudly express her opinions about the culture of the day.  In her autobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Gilman exposed the lunacy of a common practice of solitary confinement for women who were suffering from what we now understand  to be a form of depression, specifically post-partum. For more specific details about this very important work, take a peek at the following post at “The Errant Aesthete:”  http://theerrantaesthete.com/2009/08/26/a-gilded-cage-of-yellow/ 

In the following poem, Gilman addresses the complexities of identity. The sing-song melody of the poem brings enjoyment to baby while providing food for thought for mommy. 

A Conservative

by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman [1860-1935]

The garden beds I wandered by
One bright and cheerful morn,
When I found a new-fledged butterfly,
A-sitting on a thorn,
A black and crimson butterfly,
All doleful and forlorn.

I thought that life could have no sting
To infant butterflies,
So I gazed on this unhappy thing
With wonder and surprise,
While sadly with his waving wing
He wiped his weeping eyes.

Said I, “What can the matter be?
Why weepest thou so sore?
With garden fair and sunlight free
And flowers in goodly store:” –
But he only turned away from me
And burst into a roar.

Cried he, “My legs are thin and few
Where once I had a swarm!
Soft fuzzy fur – a joy to view –
Once kept my body warm,
Before these flapping wing-things grew,
To hamper and deform!”

At that outrageous bug I shot
The fury of mine eye;
Said I, in scorn all burning hot,
In rage and anger high,
“You ignominious idiot!
Those wings are made to fly!

‘I do not want to fly,” said he,
“I only want to squirm!”
And he drooped his wings dejectedly,
But still his voice was firm:
“I do not want to be a fly!
I want to be a worm!”

O yesterday of unknown lack!
To-day of unknown bliss!
I left my fool in red and black,
The last I saw was this, –
The creature madly climbing back
Into his chrysalis.

 For Baby…

This is a great poem to incorporate movement.  Make up your own signs or use ASL to “act out” the poem (think “Itsy Bitsy Spider”).  Remember, baby may not yet have the stamina to listen to the entire poem.  Pull a few of your favorite stanzas to read with baby. 

For Mommy…

The way this poem reads, you would think it was meant for children. Children’s literature, especially poetry, include messages that can be very meaningful to adults. As mothers, we have many different layers to our lives.   Being a mother is an extremely important part of our identity.  However, in this mama’s opinion, it is unhealthy to solely identify with this role.  Just like the butterfly in the poem remembers her days as a worm, moms must remember and continue to develop the parts of themselves that make each unique.  How do we fit ourselves in to our own busy lives?

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Monthly Theme:  Mother and Child

Weekly Content:  American Women of the 19th Century

Daily Subject:  Poetry

Our next poet was born around the same time as the other two American figures that have been included in this week’s posts. Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in the year 1830.   I’m not even going suggest that Dickinson socialized with the likes of Cassatt or Alcott, well, because Dickinson just didn’t socialize. A very private, secluded individual, she was not even famous for her work during her own lifetime.  One commonality between these three famous American women, however, is that they were all surrounded by knowledge. During the 19th Century, Amherst, MA, was a hub for education.  Dickinson’s family, well-respected in the community, had connections with many famous writers of the day.  Here’s your six-degrees of separation, Dickinson’s family was friendly with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alcott’s childhood neighbor.

Nature, the gentlest mother by Emily Dickinson

Nature, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest,
Her admonition mild

In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.

How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon,–
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down

Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.

When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky

With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.

For Baby…

Forget about all those fancy toys that light up and make techno sounds, your baby thrives  in nature. Whether you take baby to the park or are lucky enough to have your own backyard, baby learns best in a natural environment.  When reading this poem to your baby, use your voice to emphasize the nature words in the poem – “squirrel,” “bird,” “sun,” “flower,” “sky.” The most authentic experience would be to read the poem in the park or backyard, so that you can point out the words with baby.  If you don’t have this option, act out the words the best way you know how!

For Mommy…

Of course, it makes sense to compare nature to motherhood. We are all familiar with the concept of “mother nature.” At first reading, though, I felt that Dickinson’s choice of words such as “gentlest” and “mild” portrayed mothers as passive and weak.  It wasn’t until my second or third reading that I realized what I interpret as the true meaning of the poem. We can only appreciate the peacefulness and serenity of nature because we know the power of its strength. How are the acts we do as mothers simultaneously gentle and powerful?

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