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July 25, 2009

On Thursday night, Dave asked, “What’s that old book?” and pointed to the navy-blue cloth-covered book in the stack of books next to me. “It’s The Oxford Book of American Verse. Want to see it?” He made a terrible face, which I interpreted to mean “no fucking way,” even though my husband rarely (never) swears. (I’m always exaggerating his responses in my mind; he’s most always lukewarm.)

On Friday morning, after arriving at the summer camp bus stop early, the kids asked, “What’s that book?” and pointed to the same volume, now on the passenger’s seat of our minivan. When I asked them if they wanted me to read them something, they cheered, “Yes!”

Really? Oh, my! What a surprise! (And a little bit of panic: “They’re showing interest. Don’t blow it!”) Ben rushed in with a suggestion: “Is Poe in there?” A teacher had read “The Raven” to his reading group, and he wanted to hear it again. And so waiting for the bus, I read aloud to them, pausing only to “explain” the most obscure language and make sure they could picture where the narrator was in time and space.

(It gets better.)

Even when their friends arrived at the bus stop, they didn’t rush out of the van to greet them. They listened intently. Jack did mention once when I turned the page and he saw more verses that it was a long poem, but he stayed put. And then we talked about it.

I shared with them that I had heard James Earl Jones read “The Raven” live (phenomenal!); they know him as Mufasa in The Lion King and were impressed on that account. Ben passed along that the raven was just a statue (obviously the interpretation given to him by the teacher). Davin wanted me to tell him with 100% certainty whether the raven was or was not alive and was or was not talking to the narrator.

I had a chance to tell them about how poets enjoy creating things with many possible meanings. I had a chance to tell them about the power of obsession and imagination and how it can make things appear different than they actually are. It was fantastic. I was on some other planet. It was not the world I’ve known. I was far from the world of ice hockey and Nintendo. A bright spot from a dark tale in a week in which I needed a bright spot.

  1. July 26, 2009 1:35 am

    Poe is a long ways from ice hockey and Nintendo. I hope they spent the day with their imaginations working overtime to determine if the Raven was real and if it spoke.

  2. July 26, 2009 1:45 am

    !!! That’s so wonderful!

  3. July 26, 2009 1:51 pm

    It’s almost as though it were an alternative universe. But it’s not. It’s yours. All yours. And the very cool boys, of course.


  4. July 26, 2009 9:00 pm

    That’s awesome!

  5. July 27, 2009 11:05 am

    This is awesome! I’ll have to try this at home! And what a great prompt, hidden in there: write about an obsession and include a talking animal… You see, good things CAN happen in the suburbs!

  6. July 29, 2009 9:13 am

    Great story! If Poe had lived in our days, I wonder if he would have written the story line to video games… . Just kidding! You sound like you were in the zone, and so were the kids. Go figure! Poe…. .

  7. July 29, 2009 2:29 pm

    I’m cruel, I’m always forcefeeding my kids and my husband poetry…….Roald Dahl’s Dirty Beasts is a firm favourite of the boys’……maybe you should try your kids on it if they don’t know it, it’s fab.

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