This series was begun two years ago at another blog. I am going to begin reposting it here as a weekly series, and then continue on with new additions, insh’Allaah. MY HEAD IS FULL OF POEMS So stated my six year old daughter the morning after we began spending an hour or more each evening together, writing, drawing, laughing and sharing. The night before I had found some old calenders someone had sent us and shown them two pictures- one of moonlight on a river near my old college campus, and another a springtime scene outside of an old red barn. “Write”, I told them. “Write not only what you see, but write what you feel. Write your heart, and that’s a poem.” I realize that poetry teachers all over the world would shake their head at this definition, but my children, ages 5, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 (little Asmaa, who is one, simply colored her poetry onto paper, and my eldest is out of the house already) understood exactly what I meant. I gave them each a special notebook for their creations, and put crayons, markers, colored pencils and pens all in a big joyous heap on the floor for them. “Color your poems- make your words speak with more than one voice.” it is spring a new baby colt born a weavy, windy day early morning by his mother big red barn blue sky above trees blossom picture of spring -Maryam, age 6 The next night I show them a picture of fireworks shouting joyfully into the sky in Colonial Williamsburg. Although we don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, the children had studied American history and know why fireworks are shot off on that day. They had seen fireworks in action during wedding celebrations in Sana’a, so they could bring that experience to the table as well. “Don’t just be an observer,” I tell them. “Experience it, and make us experience it too.” Sukhailah, my 17 year old, made her poem in the shape of fireworks bursting into the sky, and colored it with bold, bright colors.
colors shoot through midnight sky red white yellow green I look out a clear glass window fireworks in the night -Mu’aadh, age 8 Here I go, flying high splashing light into the sky toss my arms, with a pop and roar I’ve never had such fun before light me, throw me, into the sky watch me flying! Soaring high! With an explosion gay and bright remind you of the long hard fight between the British and Americans here in fact, in a spot you’ll find quite near Here I jump to the sky again me and my friends in groups of ten -Juwairiyah, age 13 The next night I wanted to try something different. Alongside our poetry pictures, I again put out the fireworks picture and the moon on the water picture, and I told them to color them- not to draw them, but color them- not as they saw them, but as how they felt them. Or, they could write about one of the new pictures I had chosen. I was surprised, as I often am with these children- my eldest daughter colored a beautiful picture, and my six year old went with words again. I had thought it would be the other way around. Another night I told them to use all their senses to describe something. “Don’t rely on the obvious sense,” I told them. “Like taste for an orange, or sight for the moon. We don’t experience life with one sense- write life on your paper.” sunshine taste melts in the air I gulp it in, laughing, leaping sunshine fills me smooth vanilla pudding forgotten on the counter happy like a giggle… -Sukhailah, age 17 And so our nightly ritual continues, as I continue to strive to teach my children to not just live life, but to experience it fully. To help them to see with their hearts as well as their eyes and minds. To know the beauty inherent in every day, as well as in the wild and chaotic universe around them. To respect and honor the world they live in, and to live in it consciously, with all of their senses. Sound good to you? Come along, and we’ll take you for the ride!