Poetry was something always in the background growing up. It wasn’t that my parents were particularly fond of it, or that I was private schooled with teachers that had us reciting Shakespeare at age 5. No, my upbringing was pretty normal – lots of running around, jumping in puddles, getting myself dirty (so I’ve been told). However, so many of the picture books I owned were not only brightly coloured, but in rhyming verse.
A particularly popular children’s book in New Zealand is Hairy Macleary from Donaldson’s Diary by Lynley Dodd. It sparked a series of wonderful books about Hairy Macleary and his friends, all in verse. The feel of the mete is just so natural to children – beating in time with the heart – ti-tum, ti-tum, ti-tum.
There are lots of poets whose best work catered to children, and who remain in the hearts of many as they grew into adults. I had copies of A. A. Milne’s (of Winnie the Pooh Fame) poetry collections. Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, T. S. Elliot and of course Dr Seus – some of the most recognisable poets wrote for children.
When I was about six, I remember having to memorise and recite The Owl and the Pussycat in front of the class. To this day, I can still recite it without a pause.