Wit of the Day: John Ciardi

“You don’t have to suffer to be a poet;
adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.”

~ John Ciardi

I’m not sure if Mr. Ciardi means our own adolescence, or the pain associated with teenagers living in the house. Either way, I’m pretty sure that both instances provide equal opportunities in the suffering department.

Anyway, if you pen poetry, you may know John Ciardi’s book, What Does a Poem Mean? It’s one of those classic books about reading, writing and teaching poetry, and just as relevant today as it was in 1959 when it was first published. He was also a columnist for the Saturday Review (and the poetry editor). He even had a network show, back in the day when really smart people were on TV. But it’s John Ciardi, the children’s poet, that has a special place in my heart.

When the Junior Halls were very junior (and still listened to me), I’d force-read them poetry. It did not always go over so well. And then I came across You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, by brilliant John Ciardi. Holy poetry, those kids loved that book! I loved that book. We almost tore that book up, we read it so much.

Here’s one of the first poems:

About the Teeth of Sharks

By John Ciardi

The thing about a shark is—teeth,
One row above, one row beneath.

Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind?

Still closer—here, I’ll hold your hat:
Has it a third row behind that?

Now look in and…Look out! Oh my,
I’ll never know now! Well, goodbye.

How can you not love that poem? So if you want to spark a love for poetry in your wee, little kids’ heads, try good, old wickedly witty John Ciardi. But please do not blame me if your child grows up and decides to get a degree in English (Creative Writing, heavy on the Poetry). At least said child will have a bizarre sense of humor (which comes in handy when dealing with adolescent angst).

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