I will always be glad of the way Ms. Steele, my sixth grade English teacher, introduced myself and other children to poetry. Sixth grade wasn’t the first introduction to poetry as a whole- it’s near impossible to get through childhood without poetry of any kind- but as an introduction to reading and understanding it as well as writing it. As a fantasy-driven kid, I loved when the assignment was to make up words like they were commonplace, while my very stoic friend liked the strict rhyme schemes. It was interesting to think of how many ways thoughts could be put to paper, how creativity could be expressed.
Poetry lost its free form as I grew older, becoming something somber and lyrical. Poems were written about the forest and love and wondering about which path to trod. While I understood and even enjoyed some of these poems, I never realized how much I missed the freedom of the children’s poems. They were written for simpler thinking, for the bounce of the sounds and the lightness of topics. Sure, they didn’t quite make sense and they bent rules just for the hell of it, but it was fun. Kids didn’t care how it was written, just as long as it was entertaining, and while poetry is some sort of game for adults, finding meaning in the nuances and listening to schemes, I love the simplicity of children’s poems.
One of the poems I remember reading and enjoying in sixth grade was Jack Prelutsky’s “The Average Hippopotamus”:
The average hippopotamus
is big from top to bottomus,
It travels at a trotamus,
And swims when days are hotamus.
Because it eats a lotamus,
It’s practically a yachtamus,
So it’s a cinch to spotamus
The average hippopotamus.
Sure, the poem makes words rhyme with hippopotamus forcefully, but it’s an enjoyable poem to read. Also, how many poems are written about hippos? Not many that I know of.
I guess I just felt like reflecting back on the poetry kids get to read, how poetry nowadays tackles objects a lot heavier than hippopotamuses (which is hard to do (sorry for the bad joke)), and I like the lightness of kids’ poetry. Makes it easier to forget about the doom and gloom that is reality.
Note: Hippopotamus is not fun to write, especially in plural.