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Friday, September 11, 2015

I was asked

by Make it New to recommend three poems each for four different age groups, so here they are:

Ages 4-6:

Chocolate Milk
Ron Padgett

Oh God! It’s great!
to have someone fix you
chocolate milk
and to appreciate their doing it!
Even as they stir it
in the kitchen
your mouth is going crazy
for the chocolate milk!
The wonderful chocolate milk!

Little Fish
D. H. Lawrence

The tiny fish enjoy themselves
in the sea.
Quick little splinters of life,
Their little lives are fun to them
in the sea.

There was an Old Man with a Beard
Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.”

Ages 7-8:

The Germ
Ogden Nash

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ

The Pig
Ogden Nash

The pig, if I’m not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham, and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big—
I call it stupid of the pig.

The Mountain and the Squirrel
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
“Little prig.”
Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

Ages 9-10:

The Door
Miroslav Holub as translated by Ian Milner and George Theiner

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

The Tenants of the Little Box
Vasco Popa as translated by Charles Simic

Throw into the little box
A stone
You’ll take out a bird

Throw in your shadow
You’ll take out the shirt of happiness

Throw in your father’s root
You’ll take out the axle of the universe

The little box works for you

Throw into the little box
A mouse
You’ll take out a shaking hill

Throw in your mother pearl
You’ll take out the chalice of eternal life

Throw in your head
You’ll take out two

The little box works for you

Suzanne Knowles

Children sleep at night.
Children never wake up
When morning comes.
Only the old ones wake up.
Old trouble is always awake.

Children can’t see over their eyes.
Children can’t hear beyond their ears.
Children can’t know outside of their heads.

The old ones see.
The old ones hear.
The old ones know.
The old ones are old.

Ages 11-12:

Contrary Theses
Wallace Stevens

Now grapes are plush upon the vines.
A soldier walks before my door.

The hives are heavy with the combs.
Before, before, before my door.

And seraphs cluster on the domes,
And saints are brilliant in fresh cloaks.

Before, before, before my door.
The shadows lessen on the walls.

The bareness of the house returns.
And acid sunlight fills the halls.

Before, before. Blood smears the oaks.
A soldier stalks before my door.

Dog with Schoolboys
Jean Follain as translated by Keith Waldrop

For fun the schoolboys crack the ice
along a path
next to the railroad
they are heavily clothed
in dark old woolens
belted with beat leather
The dog that follows them
no longer has a bowl to eat from
he is old
for he is their age.

I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


After I posted the above, I realized Make It New wanted poems for grades 4-6, etc., and not ages 4-6! I made my task harder than necessary since a kid aged four isn't really ready to read anything, much less a poem. I just emailed Make It New to tell them I'll start all over.

This is what happens when you jump abruptly from learning "stinksauer" to recommending poems for kids.


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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.