Monday, July 11, 2016

Power of poetry for our children: Hope with Wings

I've been thinking about the power of poetry lately, how it helps us share our stories, reflect on emotions and have room for our own experiences to meld with author's ideas.

Yesterday, Kwame Alexander was interviewed on NPR about his reflection on talking about the tragedies of last week, with the police shootings. His comments have stayed with me today, and I'd like to share them with you. Below I've paired Kwame Alexander's words with a beautiful painting that Christian Robinson, an artist whose work I admire deeply, shared this week.
poem by Kwame Alexander, painting by Christian Robinson
As Kwame says, these troubles are not new, but he's writing from a space of "how can I make the world a little more beautiful? How can I make the world a little more hopeful." My personal conviction, as I wrote about yesterday, is we need to pay attention to the way we foster our children's imaginations, so they can create a better world. And literature, especially poetry, helps do this. Here is the poem Kwame shared on NPR:

the world is not so beautiful
the flowers waste water

the women can no longer find their song
the children refuse to play

there are no men to teach to love
the ground inside collapses

the coldest winter screams
the summer burns red

the sea is full of blues
and the sky opens up

At least I’ll have poetry
a gathering of words

a get-together of emotions
a font of ideas

hope with wings

-Kwame Alexander
Today I visited the 9/11 Memorial, a powerful combination of historical site and memorial to honor those who were killed. I was struck by how much the New York community came together during this crisis to help each other. As I think about the tragedies of last week and talking with students, I want to honor the emotions of fear and anger caused by police brutalities. I also want to help our children see a positive way forward, to think about the world they want to help create, and how they want to respond to difficulties.

The 9/11 Memorial has an incredible education division. I'd like to share here a poem they present to children who come to visit the museum. It's called The Survivor Tree; it tells the story of a tree at the World Trade Center that was severely injured but was nurtured back to life. It's a beautiful poem, performed by Whoopi Goldberg.

I especially want to thank authors, illustrators, and actors--like Kwame Alexander, Christian Robinson and Whoopi Goldberg. They help bring hope into our lives, help make this world a better place, especially for those of us who work with children. I'd like to end with the same commitment I ended my past post:

There is a storm raging around us. We have to acknowledge this, bear witness AND hold a torch to create change. I am convinced that books help light the way, both in our souls and in our communities. We must take on this work and speak up for change.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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