On Halloween morning, Pooh Bear came for a visit on our porch. There was coffee for her parents and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles for her, as well as a round of pastries for all. A lovely morning, however distanced and masked we had to remain.
This adorable Pooh is loquacious — her parents talk and sing and read with her all the time and so at the age of two she could basically hold her own on a speech or debate team. She has at the ready countless little verses and songs with which to entertain. (Her father is an elementary school music teacher.) Like Pooh, she enjoys the rhythm and song of words, as well as clever bits of repeated syllables and nonsense expressions. She cracks herself up, and anyone listening as well.
She’s new to Pooh, but she fell for him hard. And I suspect she will grow to love his little hums, his murmurs and songs, his verses and lines, as she learns them in the stories. She’s just that kind of kid. Having had that kind of kid myself, I had little bits of Pooh poetries running through my head the rest of the day.
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly….
The more it SNOWS-tiddely-pom,
The more it GOES-tiddely-pom
The more it GOES-tiddely-pom
Pooh’s “hums,” as he likes to call them, were my introduction to poetry. It’s also sort of where my early poetry education ended. My mother read us Winnie-the-Pooh and I always liked the bits of verses Pooh’s “very little brain” came up with on walks in the hundred acre wood. I especially liked the tiddly-poms and tut-tuts and tra-la-las.
I read the same Pooh stories to my kids. And #1 Son listened to a BBC produced Pooh audiobook at bedtime until the cassette tape was worn thin as lace. He could tiddly-pom with the best of them at one time.
Children’s poetry has increased several fold in the last couple of decades — so many more choices! We can now read fantastic poems that don’t always rhyme. We can enjoy rhythms and sounds from a variety of cultures. There are new forms to delight in, and whole novels written in verse.
I continue to add to my collection, even though I have no young readers at home anymore. Beside Pooh’s hums on my shelves I have the work of poets I know: Joyce Sidman and Laura Purdie Salas. I have Out of Wonder, and We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices facing out because the titles and the art speak to me — not to mention the poetry inside. I have two copies of I’m Still Here In the Bathtub because we loved it so much when the kids were small. I’ve got William Carlos Williams poetry next to Shel Silverstein books, and several volumes of dragon and dinosaur poetry.
I was committed to working poetry into our regular reading when I was still reading to the kids. Sometimes we did this with success. Often it was the art that kept them listening to words along side — poetry books are often beautiful visually in addition to aurally. But I always felt like I wasn’t doing the poetry genre justice.
But now — now there’s this thing called Poetry Tea Time! I so wish this had been a movement when my kids were little. I think it’s the food and drink that makes it work — it certainly would’ve helped my poetry parenting efforts. I follow these poetry tea timers on the social medias and I’m here to tell you, #poetryteatime will fill your feed with joy and goodness. Children gathered around the table or the picnic blanket, reading poetry, passing around books, laughing, munching thematic (or nonthematic) treats, sipping tea (or lemonade or hot chocolate). There are no rules about this — something easy, something yummy, something beautiful, and a side of poetry. I suspect poets are nurtured at such tables.
This poetry and tea thing has the power to change your outlook on life. Hope and joy can be yours, my friends! I have started reading poetry during my afternoon tea time (a new covid ritual!) and it has made all the difference. Try it and see if you don’t Tiddly-pom!
Should you be inspired to have a Pooh Poetry Tea Time, well simple ideas are a click away.