My Little Poet

All of my kids love poetry, but one of them loves it even more than the rest. I would never have guessed that it would be my eleven year old boy, Liam. He is all boy – doesn’t like to write, doesn’t care much for reading, plays online games constantly, loves sports, animals, the outdoors… I would never have guessed he’d like poetry.

He is also the one who at age five said to me, “I will not be taught.” How true that has been!

He spends an enormous amount of time on the computer every day (more than most moms would ever feel good about) playing versions of Warcraft. He then moves to the X Box when his “turn” is up.

He has struggled with writing, though he taught himself to read. He is a whiz at math and enjoys it a lot. He is also my partner in bird watching and keeps our feeders stocked. And he is passionate about animals so he will pop in our Discovery Channel DVDs to keep up with his interest in them.

What fascinates me, though, is that he isn’t interested in reading to himself, nor is he interested in writing. He hasn’t done much of either for three years. That’s right… THREE years.

This summer on our trip to Italy, he took with him a little journal I had given him two years ago. I noticed he occasionally jotted down words… words he wouldn’t share with me. He also read a full length novel because his dad and brothers were reading it (Ender’s Game).

Still, over the last three years, one passion has remained consistent (besides computers and animals) – his love of poetry. Nightly in bed, he reads Great Short Poems, a slim little volume I picked up at a homeschool convention for a dollar. He then in the morning will often tell me about the best ones (he’s read the whole thing more times than I can count and the paperback cover is coming apart). This year, he even became interested in copying some of them
out longhand for himself (breakthrough!).

A few days ago, though, really rocked my socks off. He told me he had written his own poem at night in his little journal. Turns out his journal is filled with all kinds of writing… his own writing–I didn’t know.

He finally let me read his original poem after rewriting it on a piece of paper.

Blew me away.

It isn’t that it is perfect poetry… it’s that it is poetry that reveals how many poems he’s read for the last three years. It sounds like a cross between Robert Frost and William Blake… with a bit of Lewis Carroll thrown in at the end.

It sounds like poetry, not just rhyming sentences. No instruction. No suggestion that he try to write one.

The poem is short – one stanza. But it is formed out of his saturation in poetry; it’s clearly his attempt at insight and depth and beauty. It is POETRY in all caps – it sings and it sounds like him. It rhymes and has the hope of sophistication.

If he gives me permission, I’ll share it.

For now, I wanted to share that waiting and trusting so often pay off, at least they have for us. This may seem a tiny thing to celebrate, but in fact, for me, it is the validation of a whole way of working with him– which meant not working so hard with him while exposing him to wonderful experiences and letting him find his way. And since we like to encourage each other, I thought I’d share my story hoping it will encourage some of you too… look for the tiny iris under the pile of bad punctuation… remember.


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