Happy National Poetry Day – 3 October 2019!
Often, poetry receives a bad press because it can be considered elitist or difficult, but children respond very well to it and to nursery rhymes and riddles. This is because poetry can help children understand how language works, particularly the rhythm of their own native language. Morag Styles became the first Professor for Children’s Poetry at Cambridge in 2011, and here she explains why poetry is so important:
“Children’s responses to poetry are innate, instinctive, natural – maybe it starts in the womb, with the mother’s heartbeat? Children are hard-wired to musical language – taking pleasure in the rhythm, rhyme, repetition and other patternings of language that are a marked feature of childhood. … Just think how, faced with fretful babies, we rock them rhythmically, dredging up old nursery rhymes, lullabies, or chants to amuse and pacify… This early sharing of musical language is often physical, too; bumping toddlers up and down on our knees and often ending with a kiss. Early poetry is about the expression of love.
At around 7 or 8, children enter the domain of playground rhymes, a private club from which adults are excluded, where chants, rhymes and parodies accompany games, or are just belted out for the sheer communal pleasure of it, the ruder and more shocking, the better!
You can read more of this interesting article here: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/the-case-for-children%E2%80%99s-poetry
Today I have been sharing poems with the children – mainly nonsense poetry from the likes of Spike Milligan and Roald Dahl. We discussed rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty and Hey Diddle Diddle and it was encouraging to see that these are still recited to and with children.
To mark this day, I chose two poems to put up on the door of the Library: ‘She Walks in Beauty’ and ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ – quite chalk and cheese in nature! But I thought a romantic, more serious one would complement a totally bonkers one that I’ve recited faithfully since I was little and show how poetry can explain all types of emotions.
I’d love to hear your favourite poems – please feel free to send them in!
She Walks in Beauty, by Lord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!