One of the most enjoyable pieces of being in the US for this year and having a book out at the same time has been the opportunity to do school visits and to share books and writing and poetry with students. Watching a child’s eyes light up when they come up with an answer for our impromptu poetry rhyme jams, or feeling like I can hear the click that occurs in their brains as they figure out how to use metaphor effectively, or seeing the joy on a sea of faces when they connect with a poem I’m reading aloud — I tell ya, those are some swoon-worthy moments.
I’ve been reflecting lately on how to nurture calm and focus — in my own life, in my children’s lives, in everyone. We all need a little, right? Someone told me recently that you can measure your level of calmness by the temperature of your fingertips. When you are calm and less stressed, your fingertips will be warmer. They actually make fingertip thermometers that measure this sort of thing. So the thermometer is the device to tell you where you stand, but if you’re not actually calm and focused, how do you bring warmth to your fingertips? How do you de-stress enough so that your body will quit sending all its heat to your core and warm you from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes?
My answer is poetry — the writing of it, the reading of it, the sharing of it. It’s a bowl full of soup on a biting cold day, and oh so much more.
My poem for Poetry Friday this week is a poem I shared with the fourth-grade students of Heritage Elementary at my most recent poetry workshop. I’m not completely pleased with it yet. I haven’t yet been able to make that second line fit the rest of the rhyme scheme. But it says what I wanted those fourth graders to hear about poetry, and calm, and focus, and the truth that rests deep in us all.
A poem is as simple as a bowl full of soup,
as warm as a blanket in winter.
It’s a belly of laughter, some jelly on toast,
a walk on the beach with the one you love most.
A poem is a ride on a carnival wheel
that swings you up high on a circle of steel.
It gives you a view of the widest of wide
then sails you to Earth in an effortless glide.
A tall glass of cool on a piping hot day,
a friendship that drives all your lonesome away,
It’s rhythm, it’s music, it’s dancing, it’s LOUD,
It tiptoes. It whispers. It’s quiet and proud.
It’s thunder and raindrops, it’s sunshine and heat,
the roar of a lion, a baby’s heartbeat.
A poem is inside you, it’s waiting down deep
and YOU are the poet to wake it from sleep.
–Kristy Dempsey (2010; all rights reserved)