Father Goose

Please welcome Charles Ghigna as today’s guest poetry poster!

“I hate poetry.” I’ve heard that a million times. I used to say it myself.
As a teenager, I thought poetry was for sissies and grandmothers. I didn’t want any part of it. I was only interested in cars, sports, and girls — not necessarily in that order. I thought poetry was something I had to agonizingly memorize and embarrassingly recite in front of the class. Something we had to study, analyze, and write essays about. Something we had to take tests on. Something whose meanings only teachers and poets understood. I thought poetry had no place in my life. I was wrong.
“Show, don’t tell.” I learned that from a teacher. “A poem should not mean, but be.” I learned that from Archibald McLeish. I learned that just like a good poem, the meaning cannot be told, it must be shown.
I was in high school when a teacher finally showed me the truth about poetry. He invited us to write poems from the inside out. When we read poems from our textbooks, he did not tell us the meaning, he invited us to tell him what the poem meant to us. Poems are like that. They invite us in, show us around, hope we enjoyed the visit.
We always left his class with that joy, with a new sense of discovery, of seeing the world and ourselves from new points of view, of wanting to express ourselves freely on paper in new ways.
I always try to remember that feeling whenever I write my poems and whenever I talk about poetry with young people and teachers.
Teachers often ask, “How do you get ’em hooked on poetry when they say they ‘hate it?'” I had that same question in mind when I was a teacher. I always wished I had a book of poems that I could whip out and hand to my students who avoided poetry like the plague.
If we writers, educators, and parents cannot interest our children in the reading and writing of poetry during their teen years, we have probably lost them to the joy and wonder of poetry for the rest of their lives.
Poet John Ciardi once said that he wished he had written a book of poems for boys who hate poetry. My poet-friend X. J. Kennedy reminded me of Ciardi’s wish. My 14-year-old son, Chip, reminded me of it as well. I knew I had to face that challenge, that reward. I knew I had to write that book for the boy I once was, for the son I now have, for the kids who still say, “I hate poetry.”
Charles Ghigna (a.k.a. Father Goose) is the author of more than 30 books of poetry for children and adults. He is presently working on a book of poems for teenagers that will be out next year from Boyds Mills Press — its working title is Poems for Boys Who Hate Poems.
His recent books include Animal Trunk: Silly Poems to Read Aloud, Christmas is Coming! and One Hundred Shoes.

Recent Comments

  • Janet F.
    April 23, 2012 - 9:14 am · Reply

    Looking forward to your new book, Charles. I hope you will take a few minutes to look at the previous day’s guest blog entry from Laurel Snyder and my comments. I have found a way to get kids to invest in poetry from the inside in elementary school. It is a simple little system full of learning opportunities with and from poetry. My favorite part is that the boys are as much invested and interested as the girls. If you would like to get a sense of it please visit my rather simple website and look for a poem about my poetry called Honey for the Soul. (poetry on parade dot com, no spaces between the first three words). My question to you is….what about all of the kids, who like you, hated poetry in the teen or even pre-teen years and never made the leap as an adult? And some of these people are now parents and teachers. As I ponder the new standards initative that is the Common Core and try to find ways to include the magnificence of poetry as a learning opportunity for life (among all the other curricular benefits it must be tagged with….) I hope to show that using poetry in elementary school where children develop a taste for it, if not a true love, will allow many NOT to abandon it in the older grades and college where the focus is so much on the analytical aspects (and I am not saying some of that is wrong, but there needs to be a balance). Plus think of all of these non-poetry lovers who grow up to be teachers who may unwittingly and subtly convey that poetry is not “fun” or worse, that it is hard and just something to get through in the curriculum. I think you would like what I have developed.

  • Charles Ghigna
    April 23, 2012 - 12:23 pm · Reply

    Thank you, Katie! You’ve given us all so many reasons to celebrate National Poetry Month this year! I’ve been reading and enjoying everyone’s enthusiastic comments and contributions!
    Janet, thanks so much for introducing me to your wonderful website! I love your great suggestions and will do what I can to spread the word. Here is another blog you might also enjoy @ HOW TO WRITE A POEM Blog

  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
    April 25, 2012 - 12:11 am · Reply

    What a beautiful poem Charles reads here! And the following advice is just as beautiful. I am tickled to hear about this new book, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it for our son and nephews. Charles has a gentleness and wisdom that we can all learn from – I have learned a lot from reading his poetry blogs. Many thanks! a.

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