Friday, October 11, 2013

Poetry Friday: Mortimer Minute

I was tagged last Friday by Liz Steinglass.  Here are the guidelines for the Mortimer Minute:

1) Pose and answer three questions you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview about children’s poetry. (Ideally, use one question posted by the person who invited you to the Hop.)
2) Invite one, two, or three other bloggers to go after you.
3) In your post list the names of the bloggers you invited and give the dates when they’ll be posting.

I don't know that I've always wanted to be asked anything at all in an interview about children's poetry, but using one of Liz's questions and two of my own, here goes...

How did you come to love poetry?

We always had poems in our home.  I remember my mother quoting, "How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the sky so blue?  Oh, I do think it's the loveliest thing ever a child can do," from A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I remember my dad reading "The Bells," by Edgar Allan Poe, to me, and I was thrilled by the repetition and the wild way the sound of the bells builds through that poem.  (Incidentally, my students are less thrilled by this poem - I have tried it a few times, with no success whatsoever.)  In school we had to choose poems to memorize, and there was a big competition every year.  I remember learning "Disobedience," by A. A. Milne, and I can still recite it these many years later.  We had a teacher in high school who used to spend one period a week on poetry, and I always loved those purple dittos (I saved them for years - I wonder where they are now?).  Favorites were "The Great Lover," by Rupert Brooke and  "The Rolling English Road," by G.K. Chesterton.

In college, my love of poetry directly led to finding other love.  In an American Literature class, the professor asked me to read an Emily Dickinson poem aloud.   My husband says that when he heard my voice (which in those days had a trace of an English accent from my years in British boarding schools, apparently rendering me quite irresistible), he knew he wanted to get to know me.  He cleverly orchestrated a meeting by pretending he needed to borrow my notes, and now we've been married 24 years, and have regular poetry nights with our children.

How about writing poetry?  When did you start that?

I have always written poetry of various kinds.  I liked playing with rhymes, and as an adolescent I wrote many angst-ridden, emotion-filled poems.   For years I was inhibited by my studies of literature, and downplayed my own work, using words like "doggerel" and "little ditties."  It's only in the last few years that I've admitted aloud, "Yes, I write poetry."  After the Haiti earthquake, I seemed to get a little bolder, and I started sharing some of my own writing here on this blog.  For the last two years, I've participated in readings at the school where I work.  In my job teaching middle school English, I encourage kids to get involved in poetry, both reading it and writing it.  Many of them do!

If you could have any "superpower," what would it be?

After the week I've had, I'd have to say that I wish I had some extra teaching superpowers, like Seventh Grade Wrangling or Super-Speed Grading.  Both of those tasks (for which I am not equipped with superpowers) have occupied my week, which is why I waited until the last minute to ask my tag-ee if she would accept the Mortimer Minute next.  I'll write a post later in the week revealing my tag.

Meanwhile, check out the roundup, which is hosted here today.


jama said...

Ooh-la-la, liked hearing about the college romance. Who can resist a British accent? :D

Mortimer has once again uncovered some interesting tidbits for us to enjoy. Thanks, Ruth!

LInda Baie said...

I always love hearing about your family poetry nights, Ruth, and know that you are indeed a poet, with your sharing here on your blog. It's lovely to hear a little more about you and poetry, especially that romantic part with your 'now' husband!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Loved the story about you and your husband, and that moment of "I want to meet her!" - and now you've continued that love of poetry with your family. That story made me smile, Ruth.

Violet N. said...

Your voice is still irresistible, Ruth. I love it that you and your husband have family poetry nights, and that you met over poetry. I don't know that I've been around when you posted one of your poems here. I must go in search. Thank you, Mortimer, for an interesting minute!

Mary Lee said...

I need that speed-grading superpower this weekend. And a parent-conference-prep superpower to go along with it!

laurasalas said...

Fantastic Minute, Ruth. I love the story about meeting your husband (I met Randy in my first Creative Writing class in college, and we've been married 25 years). And I especially love that you're getting bolder and owning your poetry. It took me a very, very, very long time to do that, too. And I think tragedies, both world and personal, open our eyes to the importance of art and expression, and the UNimportance of embarrassment and fear. Yay, Ruth--thanks for sharing, and I wish some of those superpowers for you!

Julie Larios said...

You know, Ruth, I've taught poetry classes at the University of Washington where I watched people fall in love over a poem - it's something a teacher notices, the way a guy is looking at a girl while she reads - always an inspiration. LOVE AT FIRST POEM! Wonderful. Thanks for your Mortimer Minute.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Sounds like you and your husband are a great match for each other. How wonderful that you're instilling that same love of poetry in your children!

We may have a difference of opinion when it comes to little ditties, however. ;)

Author Amok said...

I'm fascinated by this secret society of people who know Milne's "Disobedience" by heart. I'd love to hear more about how you came to memorize the poem.

Donna Smith said...

A Child's Garden of Verses was how I got hooked on poetry! Wonderful interview! Mortimer is visiting me tomorrow.