So Long as Men Can Breathe and Kids Can Recite Poetry

by neverlandking

After a lovely hour of trawling through poetry books looking for the perfect poem to learn and read aloud to her classmates, Katie, seduced by the darling buds and promise of summer, settled on Shakespeare’s Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

Perfect!  Everything about the poem is a gift.   The enduring message beautifully wrapped.  We read it aloud together to get a feel for the sound of it.  And then the magic happened.  Katie recited it perfectly.  She couldn’t necessarily “read” every word.  She simply recited the whole poem – beautifully.

Poetry is magic.  Meaning is secondary and sound is everything.  Kids love sound – it’s what they hear and how they learn language –  imitation, intonation, rhythm and pace.  And that’s why kids and babies love poetry – motherese (babytalk) IS poetry!  Poetry, with all its exaggerated intonation and rhythm, rhymes and assonance.  Unlike the muffled, mundane, monotonous, everyday mumblings of most adults, poetry actually speaks to children.

Shakespeare knew this.  He knew that we need to “breathe” poetry and “see” poetry.  He knew Katie would see the poem one day and he knew that whatever the rough winds do shake in Katie’s world she’ll always have the poem – it’s hers to keep now!

Incidentally, she wasn’t allowed to use the poem in the end.  Her sometimes-too-hot teacher felt that it was “too difficult” for a class of seven year old children.

Not to worry – she set an excellent homework task and Katie learned two poems – one about the wonder and permanence of art, the other about the wonder and permanence of pet germs!!

I have a half a billion germs
I keep as tiny pets.
They're cute and clean and never mean
and give me no regrets.

They spend all day engaged in play
upon my skin and hair.
They're on my clothes, between my toes
and in my underwear.

They dance and shout and bounce about.
They run and jump and slide.
My epidermis teems with germs
who party on my hide.

I never fret about the pets
inside my shirt and socks.
I love them there but wonder where
they keep their litter box? --Kenn Nesbitt

You can read more poetry by Nesbitt and others here: