Monday, April 11, 2016

Poetry Teatime

In a list of concrete things that bring me joy, poetry and tea are quite near the top. Poems were the first medium I employed to express myself through writing. Discovering that I come from a line of women poets made me believe I had inherited a beautiful treasure to protect and explore. I still write poems in my journal, and read my favourite poets work whenever I want to feel inspired. Poems help me to look around and see extraordinary beauty without judgements of worth.

And tea? Don't get me started on tea. Afternoon tea, tea after a cold morning walk, tea after the kids go to bed, there is always a time and occasion to be marked by a good cup in my home. All our family gatherings featured tea time, and still do. The girls are old enough to manage sipping from small cups of rooibos tea (no caffeine for these already hyper ladies), with milk (not too hot, they beg) sweetened with honey.


I am pleased as pie to put my loves together (poems, tea, my girls) for a new afternoon ritual called Poetry Teatime. This isn't my idea, in fact it's a homeschool-started practice to introduce poems to young learners in an easy, enjoyable atmosphere (because poetry has become kind of intimidating and inaccessible, hasn't it?). The idea resonated, though, and my girls have taken to it quite well. 

We light a candle, steep the tea, put out snacks on pretty napkins or plates, set the table and sit to listen to a few poems. Sometimes I use a picture book told in rhyming couplets (a fantastic way to wade into poetry and improve literacy in young kids). Sometimes I read a few poems from a collection. We recently bought a book of well-illustrated, short simple-language poems the girls and I love.


I read them a poem, we talk about what it means, we imagine "what if it happened to us?", and we discuss themes (cold days, the stars in the night sky, etc.) Sometimes we sit and think about them quietly while we finish our snacks and tea. It makes me so happy, to share something I love so much with my girls. Language can take us places, help us express ourselves, and be used to make sense of our world. It is a gift that has made all the difference in my own life. As these girls' mother, it is my gift to pass onto them to use as they will.


Today we read poems about winter, to help us deal with the confusing and rather depressing winter scenes that have been greeting us each morning (did Mother Nature forget it is mid-April?). Before I knew it, the girls were describing how it felt to be out on our morning walk, caught in cold rain-snow drizzle using short descriptive stanzas. I took out a marker and they helped write their first collaborative poem. Robin and Hailey proudly stood up and used their memory and very early letter recognition to decipher the words, reading the poem out loud. I cried happy tears. 


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