Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A. A. Milne



One of the earliest and most important influences on my understanding of poetry were the two books of children's poetry by A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I like Winnie-ther-Pooh as much as anyone but the poems were always front and center for me. Each jewel from these collections sings without being read aloud. Each is at once innocent yet wise, traditional yet modern (for 1924!). And, like the Winnie-the-Pooh books, the writing is intricately linked with Ernest H. Shepard's pen and ink drawing.

In 5th grade, we actually studied the Pooh and Poetry books as serious literature and, at the end of the term, I wrote my very first paper, "Christopher Robin Comes Home". It was a shining moment! Although I can't remember the teacher's name, I will always be grateful to her. She helped to fan my growing enthusiasm for language and literature.

I grew up in a household where poetry was recited aloud daily as a matter of course. No special occasion needed. I still recite, in my head, if not aloud, several A. A. Milne poems — Halfway Down is a favorite. But I think the one that (too) often comes to mind is this:


Politeness


If people ask me,
I always tell them:
"Quite well, thank you, I'm very glad to say."
If people ask me,
I always answer,
"Quite well, thank you, how are you today?"
I always answer,
I always tell them,
If they ask me
Politely...
BUT SOMETIMES

I wish

That they wouldn't.



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3 comments:

Leena said...

Good Wednesday morning Suzanne!
When we were waiting a train on the Paddington railway station in London, children were thrilled!The wanted to see Bear Paddington :) We did not see him, but they forgot the bear, when we were driving by old fashioned taxi of London. You know those big black cars with a glass wall between a chauffeur and customers.
I was about ten, when I started read poems. My granddad bought all poetry books of our best poets, I got them and now and then I take some of those old books and read and feel.

Have a your great day, Suzanne!

Leena said...

Sorry, I should be more careful in my writing because it have to be difficult enough try to understand what are my meaning without spelling mistakes :)

They wanted . . .
when I started to read. . .

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hi Leena!

Not to worry about spelling or grammar! I don't think I've left you a comment in Finnish yet (and you may never read one!). Anyway, I'm lad you had a chance to visit Paddington Station with the children.

My mother kept the Oxford Book of English Poetry by her bedside always. I would be very interested to read some great Finish poets (in a really good translation). I don't know if I could name one. If you read this, feel free to make some suggestions.