Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 2011 Poetry Challenge

It is September and in the United States that means the children are going back to school. As children walked by my home to the nearby elementary school, I started thinking about some of the poems I loved when I was a child.

What poems were your favorites? Styles in poetry change, and favorites vary from country to country. My children were very fond of Shel Silverstein’s poems. What were (or are) the favorite poems of your children? If you are a grandparent, what are some favorites of your grandchildren? If enough readers respond to these questions (respond to wildamorris[at]Ameritech[dot]net, I’ll publish a list of the poems mentioned most.

Maybe one reason I was fond of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was that my school was named for him. "The Children's Hour" was (and still is) ne of my very favorite . It is a poem of family love. Perhaps because I grew up in my grandparents’ home, I pictured the speaker of the poem as a grandfather—one as kind and loving as mine. Usually “The Children’s Hour” is printed with every other line indented, but this blog won’t accept indents, so all the lines in this and other poems are left-justified.

The Children’s Hour

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here are a few more of my childhood favorites:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,--
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish,--
Never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,--
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
'Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:--
And Nod.

~ Eugene Field

Animal Crackers

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers, I think;
When I'm grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.

What do you choose when you're offered a treat?
When Mother says, "What would you like best to eat?"
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It's cocoa and animals that I love the most!

The kitchen's the coziest place that I know:
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.

Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don't have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said he would like to be me
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea!

~ Christopher Morley

James Whitcomb Riley was one of my favorite poets. Among his poems that I enjoyed was “The Raggedy Man.” The stanzas below are the ones that were in my poetry book. By going to I learned that there are several additional stanzas I did not read or hear as a child.

The Raggedy Man

O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An' he's the goodest man ever you saw!
He comes to our house every day,
An' waters the horses, an' feeds 'em hay;
An' he opens the shed -- an' we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf;
An' nen -- ef our hired girl says he can --
He milks the cow fer 'Lizabuth Ann. --
Ain't he a' awful good Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

W'y, The Raggedy Man -- he's ist so good,
He splits the kindlin' an' chops the wood;
An' nen he spades in our garden, too,
An' does most things 'at boys can't do. --
He clumbed clean up in our big tree
An' shooked a' apple down fer me --
An' 'nother 'n', too, fer 'Lizabuth Ann --
An' 'nother 'n', too, fer The Raggedy Man. --
Ain't he a' awful kind Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

The Raggedy Man's so good an' kind
He'll be our "horsey," an' "haw" an' mind
Ever'thing 'at you make him do --
An' The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes,
An' tells 'em, ef I be good, sometimes:
Knows 'bout Giunts, an' Griffuns, an' Elves,
An' the Squidgicum-Squees 'at swallers the'rselves:
An', wite by the pump in our pasture-lot,
He showed me the hole 'at the Wunks is got,
'At lives 'way deep in the ground, an' can
Turn into me, er 'Lizabuth Ann!
Er Ma, er Pa, er The Raggedy Man!
Ain't he a funny old Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

The Raggedy Man -- one time, when he
Wuz makin' a little bow-'n'-orry fer me,
Says "When you're big like your Pa is,
Air you go' to keep a fine store like his --
An' be a rich merchunt -- an' wear fine clothes? --
Er what air you go' to be, goodness knows?"
An' nen he laughed at 'Lizabuth Ann,
An' I says "'M go' to be a Raggedy Man! --
I'm ist go' to be a nice Raggedy Man!"
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

~ James Whitcomb Riley

Free Verse for Children

The poems above are all rhymed and metered poems. This is not true of all poems for children. Go to and you can watch a video reading of "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes. I’m sure it would have been one of my favorites, had I heard it as a child!

NOTE: The poems reproduced on this blog entry are, I believe, in the public domain. I have given the link to Langston Hughes’ poem rather than reproducing it here, because I believe it is still copyright-protected, and because I think you will enjoy the video.

September Poetry Challenge

For September, write a poem for children between the ages of six and eleven. Your poem may be free verse or formal verse. If you use a form, please specify what form you are using. If you invent your own form, please include the rules of the form.

The deadline is September 15. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

Due to formatting restrictions on the blog, all poems should be left justified. Unfortunately I am unable to publish indentations, shaped poems or even extra spaces between words or phrases.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, please include publication data. Poems submitted after the September 15 deadline will not be considered.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. Be sure provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

NOTE TO POETS: The Illinois State Poetry Society has an annual contest for poets. If you are interested, you can find the rules at

NOTE TO TEACHERS: Let me know if your class would like to submit poems on this challenge, or if you would like to work with me on selecting a challenge for later in the school year.

© 2011 Wilda Morris