Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post-Seuss Children's Poetry

I'm addressing a Children's Literature course tonight at Mt. San Jacinto College. Among the interesting questions that emerged for me was: How many children's poems since Dr. Seuss can you name that have really caught on like wildfire, where we could realistically be seen to be repeating them decades, even a century from now?

I certainly hope Go the F* to Sleep won't be a poem we're seriously reading to our children as part of their growing up experience once it's past its novelty era.

Whereas we may have taught poems like Hickory Dickory Dock or Humpty Dumpty alongside One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish or Green Eggs and Ham, children's literature seems to have moved thoroughly towards the comprehensible, structured narrative, and this, I would argue, will move us towards our probable, horrifically unimaginative dismay.

When I run into youth who have trouble with real imagination, abstract thought and grasp of concepts like irony and hyperbole, genuinely aghast at A Modest Proposal I wonder if a lack of leisurely exposure to poetry growing up may have something to do with it. 

I think good children's poetry has an element that reveals the playfulness and mystery of language. If everything is only literal, we head towards an Orwellian world of newspeak and the wooden language that has intellectually asphyxiated so many of our modern nations today.

But if children's poems can lead to greater lifelong engagement with the arts and vibrant creative life, which are your favorite gateway poems that you consider essential to a child's appreciation of our human journey?

1 comment:

Steven Withrow said...

Hi, Bryan.

Interesting post. You might be interested in joining Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults:

Steven Withrow
Providence, Rhode Island