News / Arts & Entertainment

Poetry Offers Insight Into Children's Lives

Children awaiting their turn to read while poet and educator Dave Johnson looks on. (Jayne Parker/Poets House)
Children awaiting their turn to read while poet and educator Dave Johnson looks on. (Jayne Parker/Poets House)
Adam Phillips
Poetry is often associated with difficult to understand literature. To counter that perception, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs launched Poem in Your Pocket Day as a way to introduce the joys of reading and writing poetry to everyday people.

Dozens of children gathered at Poets House, a 50,000-volume poetry library and resource center in downtown Manhattan, to read their poems aloud, all at the same time.

The exercise is meant to help the kids work off some of their nervous energy, as they await their turn at the microphone in front of the room.

They've spent many months in classroom workshops, learning to appreciate reading and writing poetry.
Poetry Offers Insight Into Children's Lives
Poetry Offers Insight Into Children's Livesi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Answer My Questions is read by its author, an 8-year-old student named John.

“Do you know why worms have to get back to the dirt to survive?
Why does the Sun have to rise and then fall?
Why can’t male animals have babies?
Why can't magic become real so we can do anything we want?
Does a peacock know how to dance?
Have you ever seen a mermaid play soccer without feet?”


Poets House Director Lee Briscetti says that kids’ active imaginations and endless curiosity make them natural poets.   

“Seeing children as they are going through language acquisition is experiencing the joy and plasticity of language,” she said.

Take for example the quirky, if technically correct, title of fourth grader Kadijatou Darboc’s poem Elatedness is Everywhere.

“On the street of elatedness
a cowboy catches a pig and slaps his
leg and says, “Yee-haw.”
On the street of elatedness
a girl gets a horse painted with splats of red, white and blue with 50 stars on its face. On the street of elatedness 
gooses talk to humans and aliens 
are a girl’s best friend.”

 
Kadijatou also likes to hear other people's poems. 

"Because you get to know how people's experiences are like and their feelings and how they can express themselves in different ways," she said. "It can make me see who they really are and what kind of person they are. 
 
The children's poetry can offer insight into their lives. Third grader Mia LaBianca wrote about her community in On the Colorless Street

"On the colorless street
a man walks in gray
with no expression.
Like an ant, no expression.
On the colorless street,
a woman dresses in white,
like a ghost.
On the colorless street a boy wears black,
as if he is a shadow.
On this street,
no one cares for
color, NO ONE cares.”


A poem can give expression to emotional subject matter that might be difficult to broach directly in a conversation. Here is an excerpt from I Wonder, by Ava Gardner, age 9.

“I Wonder
I wonder, does the Earth sing to the Moon when it’s tired?
Does snow yell to grass when snow is melting?
… When plates are struck, are they moaning and groaning? When people yell, do your ears burst?"


Poet Dave Johnson, who led the school workshops for Poets House, says poetry can help build a sense of community. He admits it can be scary to read a poem you've written out loud, to open yourself up to criticism. But taking that risk, he says, can promote trust and inspire empathy from listeners.       

“We had a reading this morning where one lady was petrified of getting up in front of this huge room of people…and when she finally got the courage to read, she was crying a little. They all rushed up and hugged her," Johnson said. "And I thought ‘You know, it’s poetry.' But it’s more than that. It’s coming together, this communal act of saying ‘It’s OK. We’re together and we’re listening to you.’”

Poets House recently published A Neighborhood of Poems, an anthology of the work created during this year’s project in the New York City schools.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Z B from: ALGERIA
May 01, 2013 3:57 AM
Wonderful ! Wonderful ! Wonderful !
Sharing poetry is -probably- one of the most best experiences in our life and especially with children. We sometimes forget they are all poets and they are the sustainable devlopment. We must encourage them and listen to what they feel, what they think, what they can offer.
All my congratulations to Poets House and to Dave Johnson.
When poetry exists, hope exists, humanity exists.
Once again thanks and good luck in your next activities

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”