When the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside ;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide ;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren’t waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven’t guessed)
You’re ‘Fifty North and Forty West!’
– from “How the Whale Got His Throat” by Rudyard Kipling
Poetry is boundlessly entertaining.
Studying Rudyard Kipling this month has been a real treat for the kids and I. Kipling was born in 1865 to British Ex-pats and travelled extensively while he was a young student. Although he had a difficult childhood, he was brilliantly blessed with empathy and imagination. It is no coincidence he authored one of our favorite book/movies… The Jungle Book. Kipling’s poetry is playful, colorful and tries hard to make sense of the world. In his works, he gave animals human-qualities and reason to the animal-instincts in man. We feel a certain kinship with Kipling, so we decided to study his life, some of his poetry and in particular, his collection of “Just So Stories” published in 1902.
Kids on a dinghy-adventure in Palm Beach. Playing around/down-time is key for building the imagination. Imagination is key for writing poetry.
I have included in Sophia’s 7th grade curriculum, a specific study on poetic language. She is learning about hyperbole, similes, metaphors, imagery, idioms, paradoxes, oxymorons, personification, alliteration, symbols, etc… Understanding these secret ‘codes’ in our language unlocks mystery after mystery for a teenager. We have both enjoyed this unit of study. Words are only a part of HOW we speak, as the nuances of the english language are infinite. This. This! is what makes poetry so much fun.
Beaches are a great place to study poetry. Limited distractions, lots of space for the mind to roam…
The poem below is one of our all-time favorites, written by Edward Lear. We first read it in Ibiza (2014) and again recently as we were cruising south down the ICW, en route to Biscayne Bay… *Some of our best friends are Jumblies, btw. You know who you are.
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
Sophia wrote this poem titled “Life”, as part of a school lesson using symbolism:
In the springtime,
Our paths are many.
We look for roses and clovers,
But sometimes there is rain.
Fall arrives after the sunshine of summer.
In the end, winter sets in.
Seal Lullaby by Rudyard Kipling
Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow;
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas.
And one more favorite from Sophia and I:
Trust your heart if the seas catch fire (and live by love though the stars walk backward).
– e.e. cummings
The Poetry Foundation for more on Kipling: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/rudyard-kipling | For more on E. Lear: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/54364
“Life” by Sophia Rey, February 2017