I am teaching a unit on poetry to my 2nd graders. We've been reading some children's poetry so far and today, we were to start writing our own poems. I thought I'd encourage my students by showing them my own poetry book from when I was their age. So I brought my firstever poem book in to class.
This is the first page in my poem "diri" (diary). I was 7 when I started writing poetry. My cousin Emme who is 3 years older, had come down for her holidays and I wanted to do EVERYTHING she did. If her favorite hymn was 'Abide with Me' it was mine too. If she marched around her grandparents home shouting "I am the heir to this house" then I did too! "I am the air to this house!" . So naturally, when she had a little book of poems, I wanted one too. So I got an old diary from my father and made it my
poem book diri. If you're wondering what a 7 year old was doing with a pharmaceutical company's diary, let me remind you - both my parents are doctors. ( sad life)
This was the first poem I ever wrote. I wrote this because Emme had a poem about their dog Brownie in the book. We didn't own a dog, but I knew my grandparents did own one ...er.... before I was born! I asked my Mother how Lassie had died. She said it was rabies. I didn't know what that meant, anyway, it didn't sound exciting, so I decided that in my poem Lassie had died of poison. Much more dramatic, don't you think? The last two lines of the poem are a literal translation of the Malayalam/Tamil phrase "paavam paavam" . There is no equivalent for that word in English. Those two words convey sympathy. Another meaning of the word 'paavam' is 'poor'. My Mother convinced me that 'How sad, how sad!" would be a more fitting last line than "How poor how poor!"
This poem was written a year later, while I was at my other grandparents house in Kerala. They live very close to a river and everyday, my parents would take me and my cousin there for a swim. I learned my swimming there. (Or at least I thought that was swimming until a more experienced friend saw me "swimming" and called it doggy paddling!) Anyway, this poem was written from my heart. It was, in retrospect, a "spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in (the) tranquility" of my Appacha's old easy chair. I wrote it, felt quiote proud of my achievement and then when I went back to school, submitted it for our school's "Wall Magazine". I thought, if it gets published there, then I would send it to 'Young World' - a children's supplement in the newspaper.
It was rejected. Outright! The teacher in charge refused to believe that an eight year old could write this. She scolded me for passing off something written with parents help as my own work. I was crushed. I didn't write poems for a couple of years after that. And even when I did, it was for myself and my parents to see only!
hmmm.... that was a long time ago. Ive regained my ability to write and take rejection since then.
But one thing I know is that I will never, and I say a strong word like 'never' with confidence that I will never do what was done to me to any of my students.