How to Get Your Kids into Poetry: Granny is a Vintage Cheese

I’ve been a lifelong fan of poetry. My love of it was instilled in me by my dad who called it ‘poultry’ and for years, I thought the written word was closely linked to chickens.

When he wasn’t reading poetry aloud in a wildly theatrical voice, my dad would be listening to it and crying.  33rpm vinyl Dylan Thomas crackled into my childhood dreams as he played the records at midnight.

My father left behind reams of his own poems, written in his spidery handwriting, the wiry, right-leaning slant of which I inherited. It is because of him that I love words, and it’s something I wanted to pass on to my own children.

This is a great game to play with your kids as soon as they have developed any kind level of symbolic imagination. I call this game, Granny is a Vintage Cheese. I find it works best from about age 6 plus, but it depends on your child.

Here is what you do to play Granny is a Vintage Cheese

  • Grab a pen and paper.
  • Ask your child to think of a person they know and keep them in mind. Get a photo out if it helps.
  • Then ask your child what colour that person makes them think of .
  • What kind of weather would the person be?
  • What kind of road, fruit, sound, flower, music, country, smell, sky, animal, temperature would they be? What kind of journey, what texture?
  • Write everything down.
  • Ask any questions that inspire your child to think symbolically.

You will end up with a list something like this ~ The Biscuit Thief aged 6 describing one of her friends:

Yellow, Strawberries, Bells, Scotland, Sunny day, A muddy path through a field, Chilly, A cup of tea.

Then, you put the images into some kind of shape like this:

MUDDY FIELDS

I loved that sunny day in Scotland,

When the yellow light helped the wild strawberries grow.

We ate them until our cups of tea,

turned chilly in the wind.

We walked home;

a muddy path through the fields,

to the sound of distant bells.

Voila! You have a poem by a 6-year-old (with a little help).

Give the poem title by picking one of the images, or just using the person’s name. Obviously, the more images you get out of your little one, the richer the symbols in the final poem will be.

The poems make great presents by the way! (Unless the all the associations seem to be about poo, wee, and plop.) Just print them off or get your child to write them out and then frame them.

Here’s another one, based on the images the Biscuit Thief associates with me:

MUMMY, by the Biscuit Thief, aged 6.

I ate old bananas,

In the heavy rain storm.

The pig smelled of roses

and an old rusty car that had broken down

In Guernsey.

Thanks Biscuit. Please add yours in the comments…I would love to see them!

An Ode to Nits

In the interest of contributing great poetry to the world here is (drum roll…) my Ode to Nits.

Nit

A nit

nits, oh nits

you itchy little shits

the pain that you cause

is disproportionate to your size

like wisdom teeth and paper cuts

and dust  in your eyes.

(and the Krankies)

if I cannot undo you

maybe I’ll just sue you

for time spent crying in the bath

while you lay eggs and laugh

bastards.

Words

When I was a child I carved my name in the sand with my toes.

Later, I wrote tortured poetry, reams of the stuff.

It saved me.

In my twenties I was a musician,

and songs rose up and through me like tides,

like hunger,

like blushes.

In my thirties, I wrote press releases in Silicon Valley

and was very handsomely paid

thank you.

Now in my forties, I just write.

Emails to teachers, status updates, blogs,

and pages and pages of the unpublished novel of course.

Words are my common-thread, they are my signifiers.

Words are the bones of me.

And it only makes sense that someday,

what will remain are a few choice ones carved on a rock,

although my preference would be a tree.

13 Today

(For Lily)

My girl is unfolding like a geisha fan,

Time moves on inflexible and ruthless in its plan.

Almost imperceptibly a borderline was crossed,

A smile for what was found today, a tear for what was lost.

What Am I?

I swing from joy to exhausted despair within minutes.
I constantly clean, incessantly question,
I hold a million plans in my head and have abandoned self-care.
I never truly sleep, perpetually vigilant.

What am I?
a) Mad
b) A mother