Like sunflowers on a summer afternoon,

they stand on risers in the big auditorium,

girls in spring dresses

and boys like little men in pressed shirts and ties,

reciting poem after poem by heart.


Smiling like the sun from the front row is their teacher

as they recite without pause words of

Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein and William Wordsworth.


They are only eight and nine years old with innocent new faces

and yet the words of more than 50 poems and songs flow out,

delivered with humor, passion and careful inflection.


They know “O Captain, My Captain,”

“The Gettysburg Address”

 and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”


And while they speak in the big chamber

there are no jitters.

The guidance from their teacher is casual and warm

and it feels to their guests like a rare look inside a classroom

without time or generation

where one can see the private bonding of teacher and student,

the comfort and familiarity that comes from learning together

the shared joy of words.


Knowing the works of poets like William Butler Yeats

has given their feelings wings,

and they write to understand their grief,

to capture a moment, to paint a picture.


They share their own works, including

“If I Were a Pet,” “My Box” and “When Outside is Grey”

along with child favorites like

“Frog,” “Three Ponies” and “Jabberwocky”

before ending with “We Are a Thunderstorm”

and the theme of the night, “Keep a Poem in Your Pocket.”


Their teacher says the poems are learned first in the classroom

and then polished in spare moments all school year long;

while lining up at recess,

between lessons

or on a walk.


Never a chore, the poems are honey for the soul,

teaching the power of memorization and the glory of words.

The young voices unite as they repeat the poems together week after week

becoming a chorus of friends who know from their core

the difference between a single flower and a field of sunflowers

on a summer afternoon.

"Poetry Night is Honey for the Soul"

By:  Lori Ruhlman


Editors note:  Lori Ruhlman found “Poetry on Parade,” the Fifth Annual Poetry Recital by Janet Fagal’s third grade class, too rich for ordinary words.  She tried to convey what she saw in a poem about the young poets.


This poem appeared in the Skaneateles Press in June, 2009

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