Literary Blog Hop-My Favorite Poem

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Literary Blog Hop
Welcome to this week's installment of the Literary Blog Hop, hosted my The Blue Bookcase.  What is the Literary Blog Hop, you say?

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion
This week's question is

What is your favorite poem and why?

Oh, Literary Blog Hop, we were getting along so well!

The fact is that I read almost no adult poetry.  I'm an elementary school teacher, so I do read lots of kids poetry, but not much for the over 10 set.  It's not that I dislike poetry, or find it boring or difficult to understand.  When I hear people read their poetry out loud I usually enjoy it, and I will occasionally run across poems that I love through random encounters.  But sitting down and reading a book of poems is just not my thing.  I think it has more to do with their relative brevity than anything else. I don't read short stories as a general rule either.  I guess I prefer the longer, overarching narrative, with lots of plot to keep me busy.

Now, my favorite children's poems are easy to identify.  Shel Silverstein's "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out", and "Life Doesn't Frighten Me At All" by Maya Angelou.

The Silverstein poem is actually one that I read as a child myself, so we have a long-term relationship.  The title explains the events of the poem pretty well, but it is the disgusting imagery that I love:

Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fries and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
" Life Doesn't Frighten Me At All" is a wonderfully empowering poem for children, and in my head when I read it I can hear Maya Angelou's strong beautiful voice.  I tried to choose my favorite few lines to share, but I love it all so that I didn't want to break it apart:

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hail
Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all
Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys in a fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.
Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys pull all my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve,
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Not at all
Not at all
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

While I don't seek out adult poetry, I do occasionally stumble upon it (through no fault of my own), so I'm not completely ignorant of poetry in the 20th/21st century.  "Phenomenal Woman", also by Maya Angelou is another one of my favorites.  One poem that I discovered by accident that I love is "Stream of Life" by Rabindranath Tagore.  It was used during a Sunday morning service by the minister of the Unitarian Universalist church I was attending:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

 The imagery is gorgeous, and I love the way that the word sound together when said aloud.  The language dances and flows so effortlessly, much like the life spirit that Tagore is describing. Of course, have I ever sought out another Tagore poem?  No, because apparently I prefer my relationship to poetry to remain random and spontaneous.


  1. Even though I teach Eighth graders, I always use the Silverstein poem to teach hyperbole. It's a poem that both the kids and I enjoy, even though it's young for them, and makes the point really well.

  2. On the Ning Nang Nong

    On the Ning Nang Nong
    Where the cows go bong
    And the monkeys all say BOO!
    There's a Nong Nang Ning
    Where the trees go ping
    And the tea pots Jibber Jabber Joo
    On the Nong Ning Nang
    All the mice go CLANG!
    And you just can't catch 'em when they do
    So it's Ning Nang Nong
    cows go Bong
    Nong Nang Ning
    trees go ping
    Nong Ning Nang
    the mice go clang
    What a noisy place to belong
    is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong


    Things that go "bump!" in the night
    should not really give one a fright
    it's the hole in each ear
    that lets in the fear
    that, And the absence of light

    Both by Spike Milligan

    Loved your childrens poetry, so responded with some favourites of my own

  3. I love that Ning Nang Nong poem! I'm going to steal that to use with my class!

  4. I know what you mean about acquiring poems through spontaneity rather than sitting down and reading a book of them. I can't do it either, though I've tried a few times. I only seem successful with poets like Silverstein. Nice choices by the way!

  5. You shared three so beautiful works!

    Being a poet, I can’t imagine my life without poetry. I live and breath it. I have loved to read a lot of poets and poetry over the years and still find something new every day. I have gone through phases liking, poets, and moving over to the the next. So many yet to read.

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

  6. I read more children's poetry than adult poetry too, simply because I'm reading it to my kiddos. We love Silverstein too.

  7. Jack Prelutsky was a favorite with my daughters growing up. Some brilliant person gave them one of his books, and it was love, love, love.

  8. That Shel Silverstein poem would be awesome for kids to perform! It's great to get them motivated to read poetry if it can be a readers theatre or done with actions :)

  9. I love Shel Silverstein's poetry.... read the books over and over when the kids were little!

  10. Love Shel Silverstein. Love Jack Prelutsky. Never knew about Maya Angelou. We're hoping to do a little Poem in My Pocket event in April, so I need to start seeking out poems.

    Billy Collins is Shel Silverstein for grownups, I think. He's delightful and thoughtful.

    Here's my post:

    You could use this one with your students at school.

  11. Hi Heather, NingNangNong Was the first poem my daughter could recite in its entirety. It came from a book, the complete book of childrens poems by spike milligan & I used to read it at bedtime. Glad you enjoyed it.


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