by Karen Reading

Quoting Poetry

My life can be traced in the lines of poetry

Before it was popular to read to your baby before birth, my mom was reading nursery rhymes and Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry to my brother as he sat on what was left of her lap, and I was listening.


My earliest memories of my mom and dad reading to me was poetry. Even today when I read my grandchildren “The Owl and the Pussycat  went to sea / In a beautiful pea-green boat,” I hear my dad’s voice.  “I’m hiding, I’m hiding, / And no one knows where!” was read a thousand times.  At Christmas or birthdays, I could expect a doll, which would not last, my mom told me, and a book of poetry, which would last. Someday I shall write a poem based on that thought.

Yep, that’s 48 years ago.

And so I am forever quoting poetry.


When my children would ask “Why?!?!” my first answer always came back, Theirs not to reason why, /Theirs but to do and die…


And when I ponder the “Why?” of my own choices, I turn to Robert Frost,  Two woods diverged in a wood—and I/Took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference.


When frustrated by children answering, “I don’t know,” I quote e.e. cummings out of context, and only the snow can begin to explain / how children are apt to forget to remember.


Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll often seemed a picture of our children and my husband and I endlessly quoted bits of it while throwing up our hands: Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: / All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe.

Truly Jabberwocky deserves quoting when you have children because when you reach a mountaintop one must say,  And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? / Come to my arms, my beamish boy! (or girl) / O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Don’t you love the price?

Do you give poetry to your family and yourself?

You can give poetry to your family and to yourself by reading it, buying poetry books, downloading it, encouraging poetry writing, and quoting it.

Carl Sandburg said it well, “Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes. ”

This one came from a friend on my 13th birthday. I’ve read and reread it numberless times.