Last week I introduced a new series of posts presenting some of my earliest writing. The response to the first entry, in which I took a critical look at a story called "The Craziest Rainbow", was enthusiastic and perceptive. Commenters provided insightful feedback and clever ideas for improving the piece. I may or may not get right on that.
But now, more juvenilia!
I'm not a poet, and I know it. In my early years, though, I was still exploring my poetic identity, and records of this remain from several distinct periods. Today we'll look at a small collection of poetry I wrote circa fourth grade, in a little heart-covered book:
The small size of the book, about 4 by 5.5 inches, may have contributed to the brevity of the poems inside. It might also have produced some confusion about the placement of line breaks. For ease of readability, I have transcribed the opening poem with lines that match up with the rhyme scheme, but as you can see, the original deviates from this system:
Today, Today is Letter Day,
time to write the letters.
Should I write to the pussy cats
or to the Irish Setters?
Oh, I love to write letters on letter day,
so get out your pens and pencils and put everything else away.
The first poem in a collection might be expected to establish a theme or topic that will recur. That's not the case here, unless you count the mention of animals, which do show up later. I can't guess at what inspired this poem, and I don't recall having any particular passion for letter-writing. It is worth noting that I had a pet Irish Setter.
Swaying in the breeze,
Climb in them,
Rest by them,
Is there any poetically inclined child who hasn't written about trees and the breeze? This poem is interesting only in that it demonstrates I didn't feel constrained by rhyming, which isn't evident in most of the rest of the collection. The page itself also displays a curious feature of this book, the appearance of sections that were erased and either written over or left blank. Apparently I had quite specific ideas for curating this collection, and the resulting palimpsest nature of the book amuses me almost as much as the poetry. On this page, it appears there was initially going to be a poem about weather. It presumably would have been just as derivative.
Some donuts have holes.
But if you take some holes
And some donuts without holes
And put them together in a box,
Will you get donuts with holes,
Or a whole donut?
I didn't pen this collection as part of a school project, but I shared it with my teacher, Mrs. Martin, who left a note inside. "I loved them all, but I think my favorite is 'Donuts'," she wrote. I can't say I share her enthusiasm, but many thanks to Mrs. Martin for her kind encouragement over the years!
There is a companion poem entitled "Cats". You can guess how it goes. No really, go ahead and guess all the lines in that poem, then check your answer.
for a dish,
with a swish,
just like thish?
By now you're probably able to detect the influences on my early poetry, which include Ogden Nash and... well, pretty much Ogden Nash.
Growing on apple trees.
Red, ripe and delicious
I love apples
For some reason this poem is buried somewhere in the middle of the book, and I hope the reason is embarrassment. I mean, come on. "Yum yum / Juicy apples / I love apples"? Was I even trying?
I think that's more than enough so-called poetry for today.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ In The New Yorker, Nicholas Dames explores the history of the chapter: "What the chapter did for the novel was to aerate it: by encouraging us to pause, stop, and put the book down--a chapter before bed, say--the chapter-break helps to root novels in the routines of everyday life. The chapter openly permitted a reading oriented around pauses--for reflection or rumination, perhaps, but also for refreshment or diversion."