Thursday: Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

Quarantined with your kids?
Here’s the fourth of five lockdown lessons that also sneak in some valuable life truths.

It’s Thursday. If you missed—or want to pass along—any of these “lessons with layers,” the best option is probably to go to the blogsite where they are all archived. (That’s actually where you are now.)

Thursday March 26, 2020
Ask any kid — from 1st grade through high school — “Do you like poetry?”

After they grimace and groan, force them to sit down and read a few carefully selected poems. Maybe right out loud. Don’t pull out some old epic poem like Beowulf or try to explain one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Instead, find something they’ll enjoy immediately, but still has a bit of depth or humor. You can’t go wrong googling Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky.

For your convenience, allow me to cut and paste a few of my short favorites. What’s not to like?

Purple Cow
By Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

I Eat My Peas with Honey
By Anonymous

I eat my peas with honey;
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.

The Bat
By Theodore Roethke

By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.
He likes the attic of an aging house.

His fingers make a hat about his head.
His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.

He loops in crazy figures half the night
Among the trees that face the corner light.

But when he brushes up against a screen,
We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:

For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.

The Base Stealer 
By Robert Francis

Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker,
Fingertips pointing the opposites,
Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on,
Running a scattering of steps sidewise,
How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases,
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,
He’s only flirting, crowd him, crowd him,
Delicate, delicate, delicate, delicate—now!

If your son or daughter is now yearning for more, go exploring on the web . . .

“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
“In Flanders Field” by John McCrae
“To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Houseman
“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan thomas
And, of course, “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

If they still resist, groaning or rolling their eyes, insisting they hate poetry then remind them that the work of Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, as well as all those nursery rhymes they loved as a kid were mostly poems.

Are they still not convinced of the beauty, impact, and wonder of poetry? Then mutter something about the fact that they have already memorized scores of poems. When they deny that assertion, offer them a few first lines of some wonderful poems from the last half century and see if they know the next line.

“It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crows shuffles in.”
“The seaweed is always greener on somebody else’s lake.”
“I’m gonna be a mighty king so enemy beware.”
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”
“You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht.”
“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.”
“Is it getting better? Or do you feel the same?”
“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.”
“A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.”

Admittedly, these poetic opening lines reflect lyrics rattling around in my own head. Your son or daughter will have their own favorite songs with their own opening lines. But the point remains. Their personal playlist features both music and lyrics. Feel free to wonder out loud whether or not great songs are simply great poems put to music. That concept alone might be worth a discussion with a teenager you know and love.

Finally, some of the greatest poems every written are in your Old Testament. Before leaving this topic, I totally recommend you peruse my personal favorite and see if it applies to your family. That’s Psalm 127.  It may even be worth memorizing.

Be well,

What’s up with Jay? Hoping you visit my newly reformatted website. Especially checking out The Jesus Dare, What If God Wrote Your Bucket List?, and the ebook Point/Line/Plane/Eternity. Maybe even pre-ordering The Prayer of Agur.


illustration by Geneva’s own Rex Bohn

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