Saturday, 17 October 2009

baby bard

Our son is showing poetic tendencies.

It all started when we popped into the children’s section of our new town library.

It was nice - a lot smaller than the lovely children’s section of the old library just round the corner, the one which is being closed down, the one which cannot contain all the mums and babies who turn up for the weekly singing and reading slots, the one which is situated in the middle of a grid of residential streets which makes it a lovely local focal point away from the hubbub of the town centre.

Still. At least we still have a library and it will provide a quiet refuge from the maelstrom of the high street, not to mention a good pee-and-nappy stop.

So we popped in, clocked the children’s reading area and the loos, picked up our recycling bags from the counter (maybe they used all our old bean cans to make their new chairs) and were on our way out when I noticed the poster announcing that is was National Poetry Day. I am not sure what made me stop and say: “Oh look” to Snooks, as if he would know what the poster meant and as if it held any significance for either of us.

It just marked a pleasant change from National (Terminal Illness) Day notices. Also, I have a friend who is a poet and it felt like her name up on the wall there in library. It is just good to be reminded that there is poetry in the world still. Sometimes we forget.

Actually I remember the same event last year when Snooks was just a seven month old bumble and an actor employed by a local café to mark the day, read to him so beautifully, it made me cry.

Anyway I had drawn the attention of the assistant there who told us that by the time we returned we should be talking in rhyming couplets.

So it has been since then, with the library lady’s challenge locked in my soul, that I have started to hear poetry in my son’s wonderful babbling. I say babbling in the most complimentary sense. This is how the experts describe the speech of children his age, but in fact Snooks does not so much babble as assert, in short, very punchy sentences.

He has now started to link adjectives and nouns and even throws in the odd verb, making perfectly respectable conversation, the sparkle of which is only tarnished by the rather too frequent repetition of recurring themes; the crane at the end of our street; the tractor in the local park which the council workers use to ride around the grounds; the bin men and the street cleaners who pass by in sync at around 7am on a Wednesday morning.

So we have: “Crane skip lift high,” and “Tractor man leaves lights” and “Bin truck clean. See!”

I must say I rather enjoy this form of communication and as a jobbing journalist of many years am quite envious of his ability to nail it in so few words. I also find my tolerance for long windy dialogue, which was never great, has diminished considerably since I have been conversing, for at least half of my time, in this way.

Then he seemed to grasp the notion of rhyme, of sorts, experimenting with the words he knew to produce the legends, “Big pig” and a somewhat Shakespearean “Double bubble.”

But it is the gems of his accidental metaphors, which should be stolen and set in poetry.

This thought first occurred to me when he insisted that the geese on the local pond were bears. It got me thinking. Water bears. They are rather like bears – grumpy, lumbering, fast and powerful

And then last weekend the Engineer and I took him to the London Aquarium , a trip inspired by a bath book he was given which has introduced him to the existence of sea weed, sharks and crabs.

There, the spectacular larger tank included many creatures he recognised - a turtle which swam right towards us and caused him to spin in my arms with fright, a number of really menacing looking sharks and a giant graceful ray which dipped and swooped like a… like a…

“Kite!” shouted Snooks.

A kite. Of course. Has anyone every written a poem about kites and thought to compare them to stingrays? Pass me the pen. I’m going in.

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