Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Woman who Lives in the Sun

Recently I saw a call for ekphrastic poetry written for kids ages 11 and up. There isn't enough good poetry for kids that age (well, ages, really: 11-12; 13-14;15 up) -- too much of it is of the Shel Silverstein variety, or the "School of (Adult) Quietude". It's a hard age for which to write poetry that seems authentic. And, especially at the younger end of the spectrum, many kids respond to poetry that I wouldn't like to write (or read.) But you have to respect that. The poetry is for them after all.

Writing for kids is like that. It's a balance between writing what you'd like them to read, that is, writing that you think brings something new to their reading experience, but yet will attract them, and writing what interests you as an adult writer. It is liberating though, because mostly, you're not writing for yourself directly, for your own sensibility. You're trying to write for an audience that isn't you. Well, at least that isn't you now. Perhaps the younger version of you (either in memory or in some other strata or modality of being within you.) I love meeting kids who have read my work. The response is so authentic, direct. The idea that I am able to contribute some imagination or joy to their reading lives is intoxicating. And they are thrilled by the idea of writing, by the idea of being a writer.

I'm currently working on a little story for chickaDEE magazine, which I do every few months. I write these little themed stories for kids aged 6-9. The magazine editors give me a basic theme. The current one, for the December issue, is "Winter Fun." They'd like me to incorporate some family or holiday celebration. And it is to take the form of a Mad Lib (i.e. a fill in the blanks story.) It should be 300-400 and will be illustrated. Sometimes I write for Chirp, which is for even younger kids

I'd like to write some funny, thoughtful, sad, sensitive, insightful, goofball, accessible and brilliant poetry for those ages. OK. I'll confess it. I'd like to write some Stu Ross poems for that age. But in the meantime, see below for an ekphrastic (sort of) poem that I wrote in response to the call. It doesn't meet the goal of those adjectives up there, though.

I've another version about "The Woman who Lives in the Son." The mother's inside him, nagging, asking him to clean his room, to pick up socks, to chew more times. She weeps in the dark. She tidys up. Her little hands stick out his ears. She makes him brave.

Which reminds me of this story a friend of mine told me. She is a doctor and when a young patient complained of an earache, she looked down the young girl's ear canal. She was stunned to see a little eye peering back at her. After taking a moment to recover from the surprise, she realized that it was a little plastic doll eyeball that had got stuck there.

The Woman Who Lives in the Sun

someone bit my father’s hand

right through the glove

he needed stitches

things like that happen

all the time, he says

to dentists

each morning before school the door

like teeth snapping shut:

Dad leaving for the land of the pearly whites

my mother visible only during the day

her almond eyes

her nose like a pear

the roads of her warm breath

as she laughs with me

I sleep outside and she warms my arms

everything in the garden reaches toward her

even my heart, a red fist


finger by finger


Alixandra Bamford said...

You covered a good portion of those adjectives, I'd say.
*claps politely*

Amanda said...

Lovely post on children's poetry. I am very fond of Robert Priest's poetry for that. The Secret Invasion of Bananas is great. It sure beats the Victorian stuff my father recited to me as a child.
"I speak severely to my child.
I beat her when she sneezes.
She only does it to annoy
because she knows it teases."

Razovsky said...

I'll look after writing the Stu Ross poems! But thanks for the compliment.


gary barwin said...

But what am I to do with my Stu Ross poem-o-matic? It has two settings, the early "funny" poems, and then the later deep and serious ones!

If I were to write more kids poems, I would only aspire to those adjectives, and try to realize them in my own way. And of course, I admire how you are able to in your work which is always a major favourite with kids. Ever thought of writing poems for kids (wink, wink, nudge, nudge....)