There is a history of poetry here, of course. The White Mountains, and the forests and fields and villages around them, have inspired countless writers and poets, including Robert Frost, who lived for a time down the road from where I live now. My daughter’s recent poetry, not surprisingly, is inspired simply by the happy thoughts of a 7-year-old.
So far, she has waxed poetic about rabbits, dogs, cats, and the month of April. In one poem, she combined all of those things: April rabbits/April dogs/April cats/I love them all. Sometimes she writes her poems into big hearts she’s drawn on the page. She likes to use her new sparkly pen and write in her new sparkly notebook. She is a girl who loves to throw a little sparkle into everything she does.
Before my daughter wrote poems, she wrote books. These tended to center around seasonal themes – the bats and ghosts and witches of Halloween, the sand and seashells of a summer trip to the ocean. When she feels like writing, she sits down within the lively din that is nearly constant in our house, touches the end of her pencil (or pen) to the side of her mouth, opens to a new page, and just starts writing.
I love that my daughter writes. In this, she is like me. I have loved to put words on paper since I was old enough to climb the tall pine tree in the backyard of my childhood home and sit there with my notebook, surveying my world, thinking thoughts, writing some of them down.
In many other things, my daughter is quite different from me. She has, for instance, this confident sense of style that allows her to pair patterns and colors and textures that seem outlandish, but somehow work for her. While she struts like a fashion diva, I walk like a tomboy. Where she manages to always be fashionable – even on the soccer field or in the sand box – I can’t even manage to be fashionably late, preferring instead to be a few unfashionable minutes early to everything.
For the first two summers after my children were born, I worked as a docent at The Frost Place, that house just down the road where the great poet and his family lived nearly a century ago. It was there that I realized how powerful, and how meditative, poetry can be. I spent many a quiet afternoon reading Frost’s poems, his words strung together in timeless lines and stanzas. I already knew “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by heart and “The Road Not Taken” nearly as well.
In those summers, I discovered other Frost poems – “Revelation” and “Reluctance” among them – and other poets. One night, there was a reading with three contemporary poetry greats: Maxine Kumin, Galway Kinnell, and Donald Hall. I don’t remember which poems they read that summer evening, but I left Robert Frost’s old barn feeling both contemplative and euphoric. That is the power of poetry. It is in song lyrics and music, in really well-written prose, in nursery rhymes and children’s books. It can be soulful or silly, graceful or gritty, straightforward or nuanced with hidden meaning.
The first lines I ever memorized came not from a poem, but from a famous passage in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which I was required to learn for a high school English class. I remember the lines all these years later because they seem relevant now as they were when I was a teenager: “This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (There is a lot of other good stuff in that speech by Polonius, but I didn’t have to memorize all of it.)
Be who you are, and the rest falls into place. Those are good words to live by, I think, words I’d like my children to heed as they find their way in the world. I don’t know if my daughter will continue to write poetry, or if this is a fleeting interest. But I hope she’ll stay true to her sparkly, fashionable, confident self. And I hope she’ll always find a bit of poetry in her life.