Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poetry for Kids

"The Arrow and the Song" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"A Poem Is..." are mini segments which air on Disney Junior that I often catch passing through the house while my sister watches the channel. I love how the kids interpret poems, and, frankly, the plain fact that Disney is promoting works from poets like Robert Louis Steven and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to such young children! The poems are matched up with Disney movies to help convey the meaning of the poem and to keep the child interested. Really, I probably enjoy it more than the children, but that's okay too.

"My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

"What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

In the poem "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed," the speaker feels particularly alone as a rainstorm pounds on her windows. She painfully recalls the company and love of men, whom she once had with her during these nights, that will never again come for her. Although she cannot remember each individual man, she misses the companionship and love all the same.

The speaker goes on to compare her loneliness to a tree, who does not know how many or which birds have come and gone, like the speaker and her men, but the tree is still alone all the same. She continues this to mark how summer once encompassed her, but now she has become like a tree in the winter: alone and lifeless.The saddened tone help to mark the overall emotion that stands out in the poem, that of hopelessness and abandonment.

Personally, "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" may just be my favorite Millay poem. I just love the metaphor she draws between her own loneliness and the that of a tree, barren and bereft in the wintertime. Also, one of my favorite, most loved lines of all time appear here:

"I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more" (lines 12-14)

I think Millay is so perfect at capturing emotion, whether it is wonder in "First Fig," or elation in "Recuerdo". Those last three lines of "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" hit the reader, so that they can truly understand the complete abandonment the speaker feels.

"Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay


We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable–
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;                             
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;                    
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,         
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

In Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Recuerdo," a couple enjoys a night of riding back and forth on a ferry, staying out all night and stopping off at different places. The couple go to dinner, lie on a hilltop and look at the sky, and buy apples and pears that they eat as they watch the sun rise. In the morning they see a poor woman who they buy a morning paper from that they never read, and give her all of their apples and pears, as well as all the money they have besides their subway fare. The poem closes with the woman being so grateful she cries and blesses the two.

What is so beautiful about this poem is the sense we get from the speaker. It would sound as if she was a young girl, experiencing love for the first time and wanting to remember every bit of it. The title is even called "Recuerdo," literally "to remember" in Spanish. Also, probably the most distinct aspect to this poem is the repetition. "We were very tired, we were very merry–/We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;" appears as the first two lines of each of the three stanzas. She stresses this, as if this sheer fact of staying out all night, exhausted and elated, is all she needs to convey to her audience the excitement of it all. She repeats this in the first two lines of each stanza, and the other lines are what tell the story.

The rhyme scheme is also very consistent throughout: AABBCC AADDEE AAFFGG, in this eighteen line poem, every two lines rhyme with each other. It helps draw continuity in the sometimes scattered thoughts of the young girl in her excitement.

The tone is whimsical and magical. Everything about the night they had was perfect, the night, “...we lay on a hill-top underneath the moon,” (line 5) even the ending of it all, when “...the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold” (line 12). The descriptions of the events in this way shape the tone to make it one of fantasy and elation. The poem serves to capture the memory of one meaningful night, where the narrator spends all night out and has difficulty explaining in words, thus the repetition of the first two lines, just how special it truly was.