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Flashback Friday ~ National Poetry Month

Welcome to the
Childhood Poetry Edition
of Flashback Friday.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants to know:

What poems do you remember from your childhood? Did you have to memorize many poems for school when you were growing up? Did you learn any just for fun? Do you remember which ones they were–and can you still recite them? Did you have a poetry book that you liked to read? Do you enjoy poetry today? Do you prefer rhyming poetry or free verse? Whimsical poetry or epic poems that tell a story? Do you have a favorite poem or poet? Have you ever written any poems?

The first form of poetry I remember is Nursery Rhymes. I loved them!  In fact, I still do.  One of my favorite silly ditties, which I learned in first or second grade, is made up of a combination of Nursery Rhyme and song bits:

My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I
Sing a song of six pence, pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing
Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?
Where oh where can he be?
He’s in the corner with Little Jack Horner
Eating his one-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot crossed buns!

In the third grade we studied a unit on weather and had to learn to spell whether and weather. We were also asked to memorize the following poem:

Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
Whether the weather be warm
Or whether the weather be not,
What ever the weather
We’ll weather the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

That was also the year we learned:

Thirty days has September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one;
Except that quite contrary, February,
Which has twenty-eight most of the time,
But in leap year twenty-nine!

From 5th to 7th grade I carried around a volume of Ogden Nash. One day I put it down and it simply disappeared. I don’t know if I left it somewhere or if it grew legs and walked off. You’d think as many times as I read the book I would have something memorized, but I don’t.

In the 7th grade I memorized all of Hiawatha. Every word! I had to recite it aloud as my semester final. Today I remember only the first line, just like most everybody else in the world. I have no idea why memorizing that was supposed to be a vital part of my education.

I still remember one of the first poems I ever wrote — I don’t know why I couldn’t remember one of the better ones instead of something silly, but silly rather fits who I am. [shrug] The poem was written in response to a lot of ribbing. I won a huge purple teddy bear at the fair and lugged it home (three mile walk) right through the middle of town where, apparently, everybody and their Aunt Velma saw me. So:

I resent people saying I’m stupid.
I’m not. I’m really quite smart.
But when it comes to reality
With my teddy bear I won’t part!

I guess, given all that I’ve already written,you won’t be at all surprised to learn that Shel Silverstein is one of my all time favorite poets.  I own all of his books, and have memorized a number of his poems.  One of my favorites became my teaching motto:


Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me–
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

-Shel Silverstein
1932 – 1999

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. .
    Hi Quilly. I am glad to see you again in FlashBack Friday. I thought of you as I wrote mine because I knew you love poetry and would write of your interesting poetic experiences. And of course you write poetry on your blog quite often. One a day here for National Poetry Month.
    I had forgotten learning the “Thirty days HATH September … (note my KJ here, we used that a lot in Nebraska). I was so glad to learn the “count knuckle method to use instead.

  2. Oh I’m so glad you jumped in on this one! I knew if you had time that you would have a great flashback!

    Shel Silverstein wrote some great poems. The one you wrote reminded me of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books – Oh The Places You’ll Go. Such a clever book!

    I had forgotten the weather poem. And I remember my mom reciting “By the shores of Gitchee Gumee”. I never learned that one though!

    I always enjoy your poems!

  3. Cruising along the I-10 in west Texas, nibbling a raspberry Pop Tart, drinking ice water, and reading your blog imagine R’s surprise when I started reciting The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow! I memorized it in perhaps the 5th grade, not sure, but it was a very short recitation this morning since I can’t recall much of it. After looking it up though, I fell in love with it again…such a beautiful story and valuable life lessons.

    Oh my, here I am typing so had put my camera down and we just passed a group of four Javelinas grazing along the interstate…darn.

    Back to poetry. Here is a long-time favorite of mine, probably because it reminds me of my mental state some days…giggle.

    As I was going up the stair
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today
    Oh how I wish he’d go away.

    I finding that this is an excerpt from a poem called The Psychoed by Hughes Mearns

    I’d better get my eyes back on the road…hoping to see more javelinas!

  4. Oh yes — Hiawatha! I don’t think we had to memorize it but I do remember hearing/reading it.

    I like the teddy bear poem!

    In the course of our move I rediscovered a notebook of poems I wrote as a teen, but I didn’t have time to look through it for today’s flashback.

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I used to write some poetry but not much anymore. It depends entirely upon my mood. My grandmother wrote a lot of poetry and stories. Being a genealogist I find them fascinating. I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite author. There are many I like.
    I enjoyed reading yours. How cute the poems we make up when we are children. Love it!

  6. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Barlow, had us write out a stanza of a 5 stanza poem for an entire month for penmanship. AND we recited it after the pledge of allegiance and singing either “America the Beautiful or My Country ‘Tis of Thee” I still remember September, because it was a new school for me and I never heard the Pledge etc called morning exercises, (I thought we’d do jumping jacks or something)

    Helen Hunt Jackson

    The goldenrod is yellow;
    The corn is turning brown;
    The trees in apple orchards
    With fruit are bending down.

    The gentian’s bluest fringes
    Are curling in the sun;
    In dusty pods the milkweed
    It’s hidden silk has spun.

    The sedges flaunt their harvest
    In every meadow nook;
    And asters by the brook-side
    Make asters in the brook.

    From dewy lanes at morning
    The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
    At noon the roads all flutter
    With yellow butterflies.

    By all these lovely tokens
    September days are here,
    With summer’s best of weather,
    and autumn’s best of cheer.

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