I’m happy to report (as promised) that our first official monthly Family Poetry Night was a great success.
In July, each family member chose a poem to recite by heart in a month's time. Due to changing work schedules, last-minute baseball games, and other various summer fun, it ended up being close to five weeks – which was far too long according to the younger members of the family. Not wanting to put it off any further, we recited them at 10:00 PM on Wednesday. As is my wont, I volunteered to go first (upon getting no other immediate volunteers). This strategy has the advantage of not only getting it done first, but also of not having the added pressure of someone else being awesome right before you. Oh yeah. It’s also good to set an example for the children. That’s the most important part of going first.
Two terrific things were obvious to me during the course of the recitation: everyone enjoyed performing his own recitation and was clearly interested in the recitation of others. As the official keeper of our many educational vacation 3 ring binders, I was glad to see that their earlier training had prepared my older children to be enthusiastic about any goofball plans I might come up with because they would, no doubt, learn something and enjoy it, damn it! (And while my language could use some work, I stand by the method.)
Another amazing fact that became quite clear is that the training my 12 year-old had done in her monthly recitations some time ago must have really helped her make some tremendous connections in her young brain. While her poem had great meter and internal rhymes to assist in its storytelling-like recitation, she was by far the best presenter with one of the longest poems. Because I did not stand up for my recitation, my son did not stand up for his (in case you were wondering, it’s better if the example you set is a good one), but the little one stood right up and recited beautifully and with tremendous enthusiasm. She set the example for her sister and father. (For the record, Stephen would have stood up anyway as he has in the past when inspired to recite a poem like a Shakespearean actor – it’s what he does.)
Since my main objective is this exercise is to increase our opportunities to appreciate the clever, complex, and creative use of language as well as the inspirational ideas presented in good poetry, I may limit the choices to a list of suggested poems for the next recitation. This time, simply the choice of poem for recitation tells me a little something about its presenter: some through subject matter, some in level of difficulty, but each a little window into the way his mind approaches the poetry challenge. It was a decent foundation on which we can build.
Here were our choices in order of recitation:
The Coming American by Sam Walter Foss – Lynne
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost – Andrew
The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet by Guy Wetmore Carryl – Victoria
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S.Eliot (first 36 lines) – Katy
I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke – Stephen
For September’s Family Poetry Night, we’re each going to try our hand at writing a sonnet. While iambic pentameter is encouraged, only the rhyming scheme and fourteen line form are required.
This ought to be interesting.