What the Heart Knows: More Poetry for April

whattheheartknowsI don’t often take a week off from blogging, but the end of the semester got away from me until I realized I almost let National Poetry Month go by unrecognized—can’t have that! Of course there are lots of ways to celebrate, starting with the 30 Ways to Celebrate from the American Academy of Poets or activities from the International Reading Association. Dr. Who fans might want to listen to David Tennant bringing sensuous life to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 126. Some students may never find sonnets boring again!

But for today, I wanted to share a new discovery, Joyce Sidman’s What the Heart knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings. I love this book. I particularly love the fact that Sidman writes for children with a respect for their intelligence that makes her poetry powerful for all ages (but recommended for 12 and up). What the Heart Knows is inspired by the chants and charms that have been used across history to change minds and hearts. She says, “

We may not longer believe that words can make crops grow, prevent illness, or keep rivers from flooding. But we still believe in the power of the words themselves. Why else would we pray, sing, or write? Finding phrases to match the emotion inside us still brings an explosive, soaring joy.

Sidman asks the question, “Where do we need chants, spells and blessings in our 21st century world?” and provides the beginning of the answer. You provide the rest.

Her Chants and Charms include “Chant to Repair a Friendship” and “Song of Bravery.” How about a “Lament for Teddy” or “Blessing on the Smell of Dog”? They are filled with phrases that do match the emotion inside us. Who, who has loved a dog, would not offer these blessings?

May the grass cling to his paws,

The loam to his belly;

may his fur hold the wind’s breath.

Of course what I love best about What the Heart Knows is the beginnings of new chants, blessings, and charms that are prompted by its pages. What a wonderful way to step beyond Haiku and diamonte! Sidman sparks young people to think about where their lives need charmed words, then gives them examples with such dignity that they make be inspired to write with power beyond “Hocus Pocus.”

Today, her words make me think I need both a praise song for hard working students and a lament for papers never submitted. Perhaps I should take a break to write them. I’d love to hear the chants and blessings you invent.

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