Monday, September 30, 2013

Early art

Art in Kindergarten
should have been a joyful time,
the rounded tops
of so many crayons
sailing smoothly across
clean sheets of paper.
But I was scolded by the teacher,
as old as my grandmothers,
who labeled me predictable.

Once again I composed
my drawing—little-girlchild
beside a small square house,
delivering her bouquet
to the person lying ill inside.

Then the public rebuke,
"What you do is always the same.
But look at this picture"
(by the new girl in class):

Someone flat on a table,
globs of blood dropping.
And the elaborate tale
to accompany it—
an accident with a saw.
This, the bar that had to be met.

And so I learned I must have stories
of gore and pain and hope
and raw, rugged flesh
and began to draw my life
in varied themes, with colors
befitting a wounded soul.

ken*again, Fall 2013

My first longer "free-verse" poem in several years—currently appearing in the online e-zine ken*again. I think I'd like to write more such poems in the not-too-distant future, while not abandoning tanka, my "true love."

P.S. The "new girl in class" became my best friend in first and second grade.

This marks an end to my 2013 "Back to School" theme. Thanks for following along!

Sharing with Poets United, Oct. 6, 2013


  1. A very poignant story about the effect messages that adults send out to children can have – in sharp contrast to the photograph you previously posted (a fun shot of a group of little girls ready to have a great time at the park). Ah, if only childhood days could all be so simply and pleasant. And I loved your line: “This, the bar that had to be met.” So true.

    I’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Tanka from your blog. Though, this longer free-verse is excellent, as well. You have a knack of injecting (from time to time) a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor into your poetic captures (regardless of the form) that is quite lovely.

  2. Thanks, Wendy! I suppose Kindergarten is as good of a time and place as any to start to learn about life, but my teacher certainly seemed a bit prickly at times (not warm and friendly like the teachers at my sister's children's schools). Never again did I draw about life in the same way!

    Glad you've enjoyed being exposed to tanka. About the humor, I do get told that sometimes (just this a.m. someone else noted my "wry" humor in a certain tanka). I don't really try, but I guess bits of our personalities seep out in things we create. I'm not sure that I can get through most days without some humor or silliness - or sarcasm!

  3. I can so relate to this story, brings back a lot of painful memories of Kindergarten, taught by a harsh teacher who always compared me to the other girls. Beautifully written!

  4. Thanks, Lisa; nice to see you again. I'm glad you can relate to my story. But then again, I'm sorry about the painful memories; maybe you can release them now? (Of course, I guess that's one main reason why we write.)

  5. A very well-written and relatable poem--oh, the unintended lessons children learn! My kindergarten teacher scolded me for coloring a cow unrealistically red--guess I shoulda been more predictable! But now, thank goodness, we're grown up and we know that our creativity and our stories emerge from both the imagination and from the ordinary, miraculous dailiness of our lives--if we are paying sufficient attention!

    1. Thanks. That's funny: I was too predictable, and you were unpredictable! Apparently, neither were appropriate. Yes to imagination as well as "the ordinary, miraculous dailiness of our lives."

  6. Oh wow. The public humiliating. I like the picture you drew! Makes me wonder about the story behind it. I had an unkind Kindergarten teacher (seems many of us have) and have never forgotten! It makes me think that maybe some people just should not be teachers, especially of the younger ones. Great poem. Loved this read.

    1. So you, too - less-than-favorable memories of your Kindergarten teacher! Mine was probably a decent-enough person, but I think softer is better for a child's first teacher. Thanks for your comments, as always!

    2. I, too, was unrealistic in my drawing----my trees were red and purple and shaped like lollipops and was told those were not real colors.


  7. Did you stop coloring them like that - or ignore the teacher? I have a feeling that nowadays children are allowed to be more creative.

    1. I made the trees green after that. I already had been in enough trouble in kindergarten on the first day, crying and sceaming so much so that others in the class began crying as well. The principal was sent for and I was put across her knees and received a smack on the bottom. I stopped crying after that. I wanted my mother to stay, even if she could have stayed outside the door would have stopped my crying, but in those days it was not a practice to give reassurance to the child. Obey or else! Well, I got the Or Else.


    2. That's quite a story; maybe you should write a haibun about it.

    3. striking and powerful... the messages we send as adults have consequences....

  8. ugh...sad, first that the teacher can not see beauty in the art of all the students and compares...and what was taught inadvertantly in that as well...i think we can find ourselves learning the same of our poetry too if we are not careful

  9. Ugh, I had something similar happen. During "drawing time," I once drew a rocket ship. The teacher praised me for it, which she hardly ever did, so the next day I drew another rocket ship. Then the teacher told me, "You drew a rocket ship yesterday, you should draw something new like so&so is doing."

    Well guess what? I LIKE drawing rocket ships!!! Anyway I really liked your poem and the story it told.

  10. Thanks, Robert, Brian, and perpetualpoet for visiting! I enjoyed your comments and stories. I've learned in posting this poem here that I wasn't alone!

  11. You are right, art in kindergarten SHOULD be joyful. My granddaughter is in kindergarten now; and I hope no thoughtless comments will disparage what she creates, take away her confidence in what she draws or paints. There truly should be NO comparing one with another at that age. Children are very sensitive, and it could take away the joy in something for a long, long time (if not forever).

    Not in kindergarten, but in college, when I was taking a 'kiddy art' (for education students) class I had an instructor who looked at what I created and said these exact words, which I have never forgotten: "I never saw someone with such a lack of artistic talent as you!" And that has stuck with me for decades!!

  12. It should have been a joyous time! But I loved this piece--and would like to read more of this style from you--really lovely!

  13. Oh my God. We can only hope that teachers today are more cognizant of children's tender feelings. Sigh. Art, especially, should be whatever the artist wishes to express. I much prefer a child drawing a cute little safe house, to one indicating by blood and gore that things have gone awry at home - if I were the teacher I would worry far more about that child. Glad you became friends and hope her home life was okay:)

  14. Mary - Thanks for stopping by. What a rotten thing to be told by your instructor!

    Audrey - Glad you enjoyed this; thank you! Perhaps I'll write some more longer free verse soon.

    Sherry - Yes, her home life was fine; I was over there a lot. I believe the wounded person may have been her father or other relative. Thanks for posting!

    Yes, it's too bad regarding thoughtless comments to young children. On a positive note, perhaps, at least I grew up to be somewhat unpredictable. ;)

  15. Oh, this is really good! That criticism that we receive early on as a child can really have an impact on self-esteem ... on our life perspective. But encouragement and positive feedback can make us shine. Thanks for sharing :)