Sing with more terror!!!
June 8, 2015 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Those lines from fourth-graders poked my brain-heart. Great find!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:38 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sad times. By middle school/high school, the average student has learned how normal people talk.

The kids haven't "learned" anything by middle school - they've just had their souls stripmined.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:47 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

My favourite:

“The choir enters, and the director screams
‘Sing with more terror!!!’”

posted by turbid dahlia at 9:48 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

“My brother went down/ to the river
and put dirt on.”

Oh my god.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 PM on June 8, 2015 [19 favorites]

"Snacking on this and that

my friends and I keep the party going

even when it is over”

Sounds like a Journey concert.
posted by clavdivs at 9:53 PM on June 8, 2015

[Writing about a terminal illness:]
“I am feeling burdened
and I taste milk……
I mumble, ‘Please,
please run away.’
But it lives where I live.”

This just... my heart goes out.
posted by biddeford at 10:35 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just forwarded this link to my father, who still finds it hard to believe that I am a worse writer than I was in fourth grade (which is also when my mother died.) I've never been able to recreate the (alleged) angst-ridden greatness of my younger self.
posted by that silly white dress at 10:44 PM on June 8, 2015

and now I realize that aforementioned greatness was probably founded in the speakers' sympathy as opposed to my skill. huh.
posted by that silly white dress at 10:46 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was really bad at poetry as a kid, and I think it's almost entirely because I read too much (including poetry). I knew how it "should" sound and so everything I wrote was some sort of bland imitation of someone else's style, and full of cliches.

I remember in English class when I was about ten being so mad because the teacher loved the other kids' poems more than mine, and yet I had spent days carefully honing the lines and making it sound like "real poetry" while the others had just thrown some words together over lunch. But even then I was extra double mad because I could tell that theirs sang in a way that mine didn't.
posted by lollusc at 2:03 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Children are instinctive storytellers. When Tolstoy got young peasant children to write stories he was electrified by the clarity and precision of their imagery, and the careful, conscious choices they made.
posted by colie at 4:49 AM on June 9, 2015

“The choir enters, and the director screams
‘Sing with more terror!!!’”

And good night, Night Vale. Good night.
posted by Foosnark at 4:56 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

This reminds me of a Life in Hell strip - I can't find it online but I'm pretty sure it's the preschool installment of the "School is Hell" series - that talks about how early childhood is the last time you can be truly creative, so seize the opportunity to paint the walls and mess everything up "before the grown-ups show you how to do it the right way."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

But surely it's a tradeoff, right? When you're ten, you may have a spark that's not modulated [much] by dealing with existing forms, but you also have only the experience and outlook of a ten year old. And while I know some great ten year olds who are perceptive, brilliant and kind, they just aren't going to produce, say, Diving Into The Wreck or even "In Memory of WB Yeats". And there's quite a lot to be said for knowing how to work the idiom of a genre - Delany's Neveryona books, for instance, are better than his Fall of the Towers books because he's grown as a writer, better understands the genre and has more control over how he writes - and Delany is a stone genius.

Marilyn Hacker produced some pretty darn good juvenilia:

The child of wonder looks in bed
At naked ceilings overhead.
Infinity eats up the skies
as burning teardrops cauterize
his wet white eyes....

The child of wonder cannot pass
the curved rococo looking glass.
Suspended in between the pair,
body and image frozen there,
he whirls to stare....

I think there's this weird tendency to fetishize children's artistic production as ipso facto "original" and "pure"....but where the hell are these kids getting language? Maybe they're not reading Tennyson, but they're watching movies and TV, listening to pop songs, looking at the internet.

Looking back, what I remember from adult praise was being a bit baffled by it - I wanted to change and improve, and sometimes the kind of praise I would get (no doubt for my "original" "pure" style) was about things that I did not intend or control.

As a teacher, I know I've given that kind of praise, too, usually out of the best intent. But I can think of at least two times when I've praised someone's "naive" work (not that way - I mean, I didn't say "this is so naive and wonderful" or something) and had it backfire, because I did not pay attention to or try to intuit what the person wanted to achieve. It's like, if I drop some paint by mistake and everyone fawns all over it when they normally turn away in polite silence, what does that say about the paintings I produce when I'm actually trying to use a technique that I want to master?

I don't think kids have "alien consciousnesses". I think that's a really weird thing for Piaget to say....and I also think that this whole thing risks tipping over into extreme individualism, like if we were not all polluted by society (society is dumb! I am smart!) then we'd all be producing, like, awesome art. But being around other people - sheeple! - doesn't, like, teach us or give us useful models or help us find an artistic or cultural community, no, it shuts off the light of creative production.
posted by Frowner at 6:05 AM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

As a child, you're free to imagine and explore in a way that is simply unavailable to adults. The world lacks the thick film of memory and association that dulls down the bright glow of constant wonder that radiates from all things. Is it any surprise that, as children begin the long nightmare of adolescence, their writing becomes prosaic, boring and adult? Everything in their lives is pushing them to conform their worldview with the majority, forcing their language into tight and tiny boxes, and dragging their wide gaze to the narrow world of petty social concerns.

I don't mean to imply that childhood is superior to adulthood. There are plenty of benefits to growing up and childhood can be difficult and lonely and miserable and confusing, but the loss of wonder and the grinding conformity of life beyond 10 years old sucks pretty damn hard.

I hope to foster creativity in my children, to teach them that the best worlds to live in are their own, but I fear that no matter what I do they'll end up ground down to adults, just like the rest of us.
posted by Lighthammer at 6:59 AM on June 9, 2015

All my favourite poets are either ESL (Ondaatje springs to mind) or ones I read in translation -- I think it has to do with how language is accessed, and without getting into things like the purity of experience of children, I think it's fair to say that they have less... stricture... in their understanding of words and language, which in turn gives them freedom to express ideas in ways inaccessible to people who have had 30+ years of "this word means this" hammered into them.

They don't have to reach to find creative ways to express things; they don't have a "should" attached to expression, so they express things in ways that people with decades of "should" would never think of.
posted by Shepherd at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have provisions. Binary muffins.
It’s an in/out/in/out kind of universe.
We cannot help you,
this is a universe factory.
A sound of rolling symbols.
Disappearing rocks, screams of lizards.
Sanity must prevail. Save vs. Do Not.

I liked this one, weird as it is, especially the second line.

It's tough to unlearn the cliches and familiar patterns of language we inevitably fall into as we get older. Kids may not have the life experience or maturity to write with the depth and breadth of adults, but they can still color outside the lines with language in a novel, unforced way. It's nice to be reminded of that.

Another poem from a third grader that I quite like and which is surprisingly chilling, via Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin:

Football Game

The smallest
player ran
a touchdown.
The unruly
coach laughed.
When he looked
up he was in
the back of a
police car. He screamed,
“I’m 60 years old. I’m too
young to go to jail.”

I mean, never mind the language, those line breaks! Kids can write really great poems, which I think also speaks to the form's accessibility, both in terms of writing it and reading it.
posted by yasaman at 10:06 AM on June 9, 2015

Kickin' in the front seat
Sittin' in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

posted by webmutant at 2:47 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

ITT: Poetry: So simple fifth graders do it better than Metafilter
posted by Jacen at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2015

« Older They Took Our Myths   |   Government to Forgive Student Loans at Corinthian... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments