penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

How to eat a poem

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April is National Poetry Month.  Here it is, very nearly a month and I have not written a SINGLE poem.

Sometimes that happens. 

I started to write a poem about bugs early this month.  Yes, bugs.  There really can be poetry in six legged, wavy-antennaed creatures.  Especially if you think you are writing a silly nonsense rhyme for your seven year old – who may have inspired the idea in the first place.  Here is how it (sort of) started:


Lady bug lands on my nose

Ants come crawling

Across my toes

Butterfly wings

Alight on my back

Spider venom

On the attack

Crickets on my jacket

Their legs are

Making a racket…


Fizzle.  Hmm. Nothing else forth-coming, and nothing really to keep it going.

Maybe I will come to it another time and there will be more to say.  Inspiration often works that way – an idea shoots across the brain, only to burn up on entry into the consciousness. 

I do love silly rhymes and poetry too and a write a fair bit of it when the goofiness permits (check out my page of poems here).

I was so very lucky that I had parents and teachers that seemed to love poetry too.

My earliest memory of poetry is hearing Alligator Pie.  I don’t remember the context, but the imperative of getting some or dying has always stuck with me.

My father, had from my grandfather, a wonderful record album of Robert Service poems read by Canadian music artist Hank Snow.  It had a fantastic picture of a snow-capped mountain top on the cover.  As a kid, the poem “The Cremation of Sam Magee,” “Dangerous Dan McGrew” and “The Face on the Barroom Floor” (also attributed to Hugh Antoine D’Arcy) were haunting and tragic.  Eventually I got in trouble for trying to drop the needle on the precious plate myself (rightly so) and it was confiscated and hidden away.  But its influence has remained and I still have parts of it ingrained in my consciousness today.

My first book of poetry, which I may (or may not) have stolen from my grade six class room, was “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle.”  It was my first exposure to a book of modern poetry. Who knew that poems did not necessarily have to rhyme?  And that they could be typeset in such a fascinating fashion to imply how they should be read – or not?

I was encouraged to memorize poetry by teachers and as a result, have squirreled away in my cranium bits of “The Owl and the Pussy Cat,” “Casey at Bat,” “Ulysses,”How do I love thee,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “The Hollow Men” among others.

I often think “I felt a poem, in my brain,” and it echoed forever.

We have tried to introduce poetry in our children’s lives. 

We have read them as much Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl poetry as possible.

We’ve exposed them to Jabberwock and the Glump.

We’ve listened to John Terpstra and moved to Burlington in our sleep (Nod me in eh?).

I’m glad my daughter’s teachers have taken the month to teach her about Haiku (the most inscrutable form of poetry in my mind – all of those syllables make me confused). 

But I am so happy to talk to my children, to hear from a new generation that bites into poetry.  To sink their teeth in, whether it be at the dinner table, or on the walk home, or during our bed time stories. Because, the meaning of poetry is there to keep, a seed to plant within ourselves, a rind to chew upon, a core to save, for our children and for ourselves to drink deeply upon and not to throw away.


Written by pennyinacastle

April 28, 2014 at 1:54 am

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