HaShem, or: Elohim

She deserves a poem true 
Her faithfulness confuses
me
    Just yesterday after pre-
school
I'd picked her 
up 
    -my pup- 
    she spoke with such indignity
about a friend -a six-year-
old- who wrote God's name 
and 
    "put an 'X'"
"Do you mean she crossed it out?"
"Yes and said her fam-
ily
    does not believe, nor she
    but that's not why she doesn't"
"Which name did she 
write? was it 'HaShem'?" "No
    she crossed out 'Elohim'
    and showed her friends"
"So what do you think about that?"
"How can she-
    we must respect-
    our teachers and our parents 
are
    in charge
but God is the most 
powerful he's in charge 
    of every-
thing"
Why is my child 
    so...
Where does she get...
"Yes, that is what some 
    people 
think" "Well 
our teacher says that we should 
believe in God" At a 
    state-secular 
pre-
school! And -then- today 
before pre-
school: "If God can speak to any-
    one, that means He can speak
    all languages!"
"Well, yes..."
Perhaps this is a poem, 
for-
    perhaps it's faith 
that's
    po-
  et-
  ry-

Today, for d’Verse’s “Open Link Night”, I’d like to share a poem that I wrote last June, a couple of months after creating this blog.

I decided to share this poem because recently I’ve been writing a lot about my daughter on this blog. She is now 6-years-old. When this was written, she was 5⅓-years-old… and to this day, she maintains her fascination with the concept of God and insists that she believes everything that is written in the Torah. Suffice it to say that she doesn’t get such ideas from me.

Six-year-old burgeoning poet

A couple of days ago, you provided me with an outpouring of wonderful advice, as to how I might nurture and develop my six-year-old daughter’s poetry talents. Truly, the many suggestions for approaches, games, techniques… were simply amazing. Thank you so very much.

By coincidence, the very following day my six-year-old told me that she wanted to write a free verse poem with me (“a poem that doesn’t rhyme,” she said). I explained to her that poetry doesn’t have to follow the rules of grammar and that lines can break wherever the poet so choses. Also, I emphasized that poetry is intended to express feelings ~ that the most important thing is to feel the words.

Shortly after completing our first collaborative free verse poem (which she deliberately wrote in a silly way), she asked me if she could try to construct a poem with me online on MagneticPoetry, as she had seen me do several times myself. To be honest, I was somewhat hesitant about this because I thought that the aspect of playing with the magnets would distract her from attempting to construct a poem, but many of you (and my mother) had suggested than I just let her play and learn by doing… so I agreed.

Below are our latest pieces, both free verse:


Two poems, a collaboration

by David (41) and Liorah (6)

1.

The car found a cat
The bar found
a bat
The bat was hanging
The cat was
banging
The bat said “can you stop that?”
The cat said
as he walked
on the bar to the car, “I
don’t want to!”
“Why?
Are you not going to stop that?”
Atop the car, beside
the bar, the cat
stared at the bat
from afar
He said to the bat, “I do not want to
because I like it.”
He banged on the bar; it
made the bat cry.
“I am so 
sorry!”
For the cat was now
worried about 
what he did.
The 
bat 
said, 
“Why 
did 
you 
do
that?”
The cat sat
then lay flat
on a mat
near the bat;
put on his hat
and said to the bat,
“Sometimes
it’s hard to control
myself, you see.”
The bat
said, “Yes
I do see.”

NOTES:

I was not the one who began this poem ~ she deliberately wrote something silly about a car finding a cat because she liked the concept and because the two words sound similar. Following her lead, I wrote: “The bar found a bat.” After all, fair is fair – am I right? 😉

Liorah and I took turns with this piece, and upon writing the ending, she asked me, “Do you like my ending?” I smiled. “Very much,” I said and hugged her.

2.

Liorah’s first Magnetic Poem (Feb. 16, 2021)
bluest sky the girl sees
spring goddess in diamond red
gown let storm beauty soar
sweeter and music mist spray
on those forest lake winds

NOTES:

I had to teach her about the magnets with word endings like ‘est’, ‘s’, and ‘er’, as well as how to manipulate the mouse to drag the virtual magnets to the left side of the screen.

Also, when it was my turn to add some words to the poem, she became a bit impatient as I scrolled through all of the available words looking for some that spoke to me. I had to explain to her that this is how I personally write Magnetic Poetry, but she remained rather irked with me. I guess I’m just an old fuddy duddy.

Teaching poetry to children? Help!

Despite have been born in and growing up in Israel, my six-year-old speaks, reads, and writes English better than she does Hebrew. In fact, I think she also writes and reads (and maybe speaks) better Russian than Hebrew, thanks to her mother’s efforts.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned in passing, our little girl is well aware that I write poems for this blog of mine; and she’s taken to rhyming words all day long herself. Sometimes she’ll unintentionally make off-rhymes, pause thoughtfully, sound them out to herself aloud, and then say, “well, that’s just an off-rhyme, but we could still use it in a poem.”

Now, I have done all sorts of fun writing exercises with her in English, and my mother in America has also taken to writing snippets of short stories back-and-forth with her on Facebook Messenger. Her grammar and punctuation aren’t perfect, but she’s learning very quickly. Just recently, for example, she asked me to show her how to write lowercase letters by hand because she knows that her penmanship needs work too.

Several days ago, out of the blue, she asked to write some poems with me on my computer (we used Microsoft Word) and was very intent about having me share them on my blog. She even asked me, “So what tags are you going to assign them? When will you decide? When will other people read them?”

Our three poems are below, in case you’re curious; but I am actually drafting this blog post primarily because I want your feedback: how do I teach her to write poetry?

Here’s where she’s at right now:

  • As I mentioned above, she is very comfortable with rhyme
    • For example, for one of the poems below, she suggested the word ‘coffee’ instead of ‘tea’ because she realized that the second syllable of ‘coffee’ rhymes with ‘tea’, and we had already used the word ‘tea’ in the previous poem.
  • She is less comfortable with rhythm and counting syllables per line, although I tried demonstrating those concepts to her while we were writing the short poems below. This is something that I don’t quite know how to get across to her.
    • I tried explaining these concepts by counting the syllables aloud with her and tapping my fingers on the table, while saying, “bum, bum, bum-bum, bum.”
    • Still, she tends to write lines of inconsistent lengths and rhythms if left to her own devices, as long as they include (and especially end with) rhyming words.
  • Also, I am having difficulty with teaching her about creative imagery and devices like alliteration, assonance, etc. She’s very bright so when I manage to explain things well, she usually gets them, but it’s not so easy for me to convert and upload my thoughts into her child brain.
    • To her credit, she was able to understand what I meant by ‘metaphor’ when I explained my last nature haiku to her and pointed out that the language of the poem was making a comparison between plants and poetry with its use of the word ‘seeding’.
  • Lastly, since she’s so focused on rhyming, she doesn’t quite understand how to write non-rhyming poetry. She has finally accepted that such a concept exists, but it remains fairly hard for her to grasp. How would she go about writing a non-rhyming poem, she wonders?

Three poems, a collaboration

by David (41) and Liorah (6)

1.

The dog found a log 
that fell from a tree 

She sat on the log, 
happy as can be 

Then there was a fog 
‘twas too hard to see 

She sobbed in the fog, 
wishing she could flee 

She got off the log, 
squinting hopefully 

Wind blew away the fog; 
dog whistled happily

2.

Then there was a squirrel, 
sipping a cup of tea 

Squirrel saw a girl 
swimming in the sea 

Then the waters whirled 
very dangerously 

Quickly, ran the squirrel, 
reaching desperately 

Stretched out her hand, 
poor girl, begging – please save me! 

They ate ice cream swirls 
once he pulled her free

3.

The cat found a hat 
and thought, “This is for me!” 

Then came out a bat 
and offered her coffee 

On her head she sat 
stirring daintily 

Then came out a rat 
Sniffing greedily 

They said, “GET AWAY, RAT!” 
and he cried tearfully 

When they noticed that, 
they felt so, so sorry!

Two teeth, or: A reminder

My 6-year-old lost two teeth in one day;
and, as always, she had something to say.
To her father the blogger,
she said: Might this not augur
a sweet poem about me- sans cliché?

Dedicated with love to my precious little daughter, who asked me to write a poem on the occasion of her losing two teeth last Friday and then repeated her request to me again several days later (an hour ago).

Fairies, or: Favors

On Friday, our six-year-old lost her 7th and 8th baby teeth within the span of a few hours. The first had been noticeably wobbling so we weren’t surprised at the event when she bit down into a crunchy cookie, but the second one came out unexpectedly, while we were having Shabbat dinner. We were both shocked when our daughter suddenly exclaimed, “Another tooth just fell out! Does that mean the tooth fairy will give me two presents?”

After the excitement had died down, she followed up by asking us the classic children’s question about the existence of the tooth fairy. She’s no dummy, and she’d heard some of her preschool classmates, as well as one of her teachers from last year, speaking about the tooth fairy as nothing more than mere fantasy. Now, personally, I’m not one to encourage anyone’s belief in fictional characters of any sort; but my wife likes the idea of encouraging a child’s sense of wonder and expresses disappointment whenever I suggest the possibility of their non-existence. That’s why I carefully stayed quiet. “I don’t know much about the tooth fairy,” I said, “You’ll have to ask Mama’chka. She knows more about it.”

Cleverly, my wife managed to circumvent the question with a discussion of whether or not a child should receive two gifts for two teeth that fall out on the same day, and our daughter forgot about her question. On Shabbat morning, after waking up during the night in excitement and anticipation to check for favors beneath her pillow, our little girl awoke early to find two separate little gifts waiting for her – and neither of the two teeth she’d lost.

Fallen leaf headrest
Shifted gingerly by fae
Reveals dawning joy

The above is my second attempt at a classic haibun (here is my first one), which includes a traditional haiku, entailing the following:

  • haibun includes 1 to 3 prose paragraphs that must be a true accounting, not fiction,
    followed by a traditional haiku which MUST:
    • be nature based
    • be three lines (5 – 7 – 5 syllables OR short-long-short)
    • have a direct or subtle relationship to your prose paragraphs: enrich the prose without condensing or summarizing it
    • include a KIGO (word or phrase associated with a particular season).
    • although only 3 lines in length, it must have two parts including a shift, an added insight. Japanese poets include a KIREJI (cutting word).
      • BUT there’s no linguistic equivalent in the English language therefore punctuation creates the cut: we can use a dash, comma, an ellipsis, an exclamation point. Sometimes it’s simply felt in the pacing or reading.

Social skills taught at preschool

The Jerusalem municipality offers a service to selected children at preschools to help them improve their social skills, as I just found out today.

Upon my dropping off our daughter at preschool this morning, the head teacher asked to speak with me and told me that she had selected her as one of seven children to meet twice weekly with a specialist to develop her social skills. She handed me a permission slip, which I will be returning signed to the preschool this afternoon.

We can tell, and the teacher confirmed to me this morning, that our child’s social skills are stronger this year than they were the year before. Still, for all of her innate intelligence, she is often awkward around other children, and there are some likely reasons for this.

First of all, as an only child, our daughter spends a disproportionate amount of time with me and her mother, having conversations with us at a fairly high level about complex and sometimes philosophical matters (she’s not quite six-years-old yet). Relatedly, she has an incredibly vivid and active imagination and regularly engages in conversations with her group of imaginary friends who live in her rich, imaginary universe of heroines, heroes, and villains. If other children aren’t interested in hearing her fantasy stories, she dramatically loses interest in playing with them.

Also, she speaks well in three languages and thinks about the intersections between these languages. She thinks about which words have similar and dissimilar meanings in Hebrew, Russian, and English; about which words rhyme; about what letter sounds exist in her three languages; about how some expressions can be translated directly from one language to another, whereas others cannot… This is only my personal perspective, but our daughter seems to often be bored in conversations with other children.

Still, it is abundantly clear that our daughter yearns for meaningful relationships with other children. Whenever we go to the playground, she always expresses a desire to play games with others, but she never quite knows how to initiate interactions with them. She’s not shy; that’s not the problem. But she can’t seem to keep conversations going for long with other children and tends to bore quickly of their children’s games and conversations.

Our preschool teacher is a lovely woman with many years of professional experience in education, and she confirmed and affirmed all of my sentiments. It was difficult, she told me, for her to select only seven of her students for this special program, but she decided to primarily favor those preschoolers who would be entering first grade next year, as she wants them to be maximally prepared for primary school.

In any case, I feel very grateful for our daughter to have this opportunity. I know that socializing with other children is something that she needs to work on for the sake of her happiness; and while I burst with pride in describing her exceptional communication and critical thinking skills, I also worry that these set her awkwardly apart from the majority of her peers.