08 May, 2018
THE WONDER OF WORDS
I invite you to think of the many poems yours parents read to you. They may have read Dr. Seuss stories or nursery rhymes like “Humpty Dumpty,” Little Bo Peep”, or “Mary had a little lamb.”
There is something charming, even magical about poems that help you to remember them. Sometimes they rhyme, and other times the words have a special sound or feeling without rhyming; but because of the arrangement of words and the feeling they give, they are remembered and enjoyed.
My book, READING IS FUN! IMAGINE THAT! is filled with story-poems that can help you to discover the fun of your own imagination, just as those stories and rhymes help you to picture the meanings of words that are read to you and remembered.
There is something about the rhythm and sound of a poem that helps a child to memorize and remember a poem for years. The rhythm of a poem is not only pleasant to hear, it also helps us to feel the meaning of the poem and want to remember it.
Have you ever noticed how your lips move when you talk, and how some letter in words make you blow air or have your lips come together? There are letters that you can’t speak without doing things with your tongue, lips, or breath. For example, you have to smile when you say the letter “A”. When you say a word that starts with an “M” there is a humming sound in your mouth. Just try saying “my.” To speak a word that starts with a “T” you will notice a sudden burst of air. Say “try,” and you’ll see what I mean. The letter “P” is an explosive letter, too. You can’t say “puppy” without causing bursts of air. Each letter changes what you do with your tongue, lips, cheeks, and breath. When you read silently, none of this happens, and you can read faster.
It takes months for a baby to say its first word, because each word is made with different sounds and movements. The baby might say “ma” or “da” or say them twice. Those words are always a thrill for the parents because they hear it as if the baby were saying “Mama” or “Daddy.” For the baby, it may simply be sounds.
As you read this story-poem from my book aloud, notice the rhythm of the words. Be aware of how your mouth, tongue, and breath are used when you pronounce the words. You may find that there is a natural rhythm or beat to the words. The first and third line of each stanza have an eight-beat pattern like: tada, tada, tada, tada, and the second and fourth line have a six-beat rhythm tada, tada, tada. In this poem, the first stanza is spoken by a girl, and the second and third stanzas are what a boy explains to her. As you read, give the bold word more importance.
“Why are you playing in the mud?
That’s what I never did,
except when I made mud pies once,
when I was just a kid.”
“I think you haven’t noticed that
these aren’t just pies I’ve done.
I’m forming sculptures made with earth,
you might try making one.
“This dirt contains adobe soil,
adobe’s like a clay.
It’s dark, heavy, and holds its shape,
so forms will stay that way.”
These words were spoken simply by using your tongue, lips, cheeks, and breath. You’ll find that the rhythm and the sound of the words become almost like the words of a song.
If the words and the sounds of a poem are well chosen, this adds to the meaning, feelings, and to your memory of the poem. The author wants a poem to be a description in sounds as well as meanings. In this way, it’s a bit like writing music.
The feelings of a poem can first be noticed when we are babies and are being held gently and lovingly by our parents. The poem may be used to calm or relax us, or to entertain and soothe us. The way a story or poem is read to a baby is one of the earliest expressions of love. It is a way to relax, listen, and enjoy the sounds, even without knowing the words.
As we grow, so does our understanding and our use of words. As we learn words, it is natural to use them and build our vocabularies so that we can express our ideas, thoughts, feelings, awareness, and our reactions. Those who write poetry select words very carefully so that the sound and the feelings of the words add to their meaning.
Talking and writing a letter or a report for school are very different than writing or reading a poem. Talking can be more casual, where words are used to give facts, information, explanations, suggestions, points of view, tell jokes, etc., using more casual words than those selected for their rhythm and special personal, creative feelings in poetry. Here is an example: a person may notice the moving clouds and say, “Look at how the wind is moving those clouds toward the mountains.”
A poet might write about the same experience, but say it differently in order to share the feelings of what is happening. “The silent breeze is nudging lazy clouds against and over the crests, to where they can relax among the sleeping hills.” There were no rhyming words in this poetic thought because many poems are simply thoughts expressed in unexpected ways so that they give a human feeling to words. Poetry selects words and ideas so that they give unique and sensitive meanings to experiences. This is why writing poetry can be more difficult than writing a letter.
~ Ruth A. Radmore
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