Someone asked me to recommend poems for their 4-year-old to memorize. Rather than question this parenting technique (or why she would ask a humor writer for poetry recommendations), I immediately came up with a few poems to recommend. None are kids poems (neither written by nor, to my knowledge, for children). Here they are:
- Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg – Yes, I started with a Ginsberg poem with intimations of grocery-boy seduction. I figured they would miss that reference, but get a kick out of babies in the tomatoes.
- This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams – It’s cute. It’s cuddly. It’s funny. It’s the Elmo of modern American poetry. It’s also one of my favorites (though I don’t care for Elmo).
- The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams – It’s short and well-known. Like Herve Villechaize.
- Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams – It’s probably not appropriate for a 4-year-old, upon further consideration. Or is nude dancing in these days?
- Mending Wall by Robert Frost – The only poem I know to feature elves in it. OK, not exactly feature, but mention. It’s also a great poem.
- Sonnet 6 by Rainer Maria Rilke – I had to fit in a sonnet and Rainer Maria Rilke somewhere. Not my favorite poem of his, but one of few online for whatever reason. And if something isn’t online, it may as well not exist. Am I right?
- Why I am not a painter by Frank O’Hara – This was a reach. A not-very-poetic poem. I included it mostly because of that, so that the kid would learn early that poetry is big. Bigger than sonnets, bigger than Dickinson, bigger than limericks or iambic pentameter.
So that’s the list. Whaddya think?
- “This Is Just to Say,” William Carlos Williams (snarknotes101.wordpress.com)
- The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams (jeromecueto.wordpress.com)
- #DailyBookQuote 11Sep13 : Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)