Today is a great day. Because I get to talk about my favorite poem of all time. After Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein was the first poet I ever fell in love with. I read A Light in the Attic over and over until I could recite half of it. I still know several and have been known to perform them on occasion. There are a lot that I love, too many to count, but my favorite is definitely, definitely, “The Language of the Flowers.”
You don’t have to know me very well to know that I am obsessed with Peter Pan (Barrie in general, Peter in particular.) I fell in love with Peter at least three times. I loved the Disney movie as a kid, and we had the taped version of the Mary Martin musical which I watched all the time. I also read our old children’s version of Peter Pan all the time. I had dreams of playing Follow the Leader with the lost boys. Then the live action film came out, and Finding Neverland, and I read the full-length novel. By the end of that, I was too far gone.
The thing about Peter Pan which appealed to me most was the connection to the world which children have and adults don’t. There’s some part of growing up that makes us lose something. Maybe it’s worth it. I would argue Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials says so. And maybe there are ways to retain it, or get it back, like when Nita talks to the trees in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series. The idea shows up in all sorts of forms, The Lord of the Flies, The Polar Express, Brittney from Glee. Heck, I’ve been talking about it to several teachers the last few weeks: how the pleasure of teaching seven year olds is that they haven’t yet figured out they can’t do things. Which means that if you want to teach them about the circulatory system, or negative numbers, or how gravity works, or what emaciated means, you can. And they’ll get it. Because they haven’t figured out they’re not supposed to.
Kids understand everything, on this ridiculously deep, imperceptible level. I like to believe that there are a few rare people who manage to keep that connection to the world long after they’ve physically grown (and I believe Barrie to have been one of them), but most of us lose it at one point or another. We discover limits, we stop believing, and we forget how to fly. Now, we view Neverland on the horizon with the bittersweet knowledge that we will never return. This is what “The Language of the Flowers” is about. So my recommendation for you today is go to your local library and pick up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends. Read “The Language of the Flowers,” and all the rest of the poems for that matter. And if you want, you can enter to win a copy right here. Who cares if you don’t have a kid to read them to. Take the cruise back to Neverland for a little while.
Today’s prompt is to write an un-love poem. Can’t be too hard, considering there are a lot of people I’ve run into lately who don’t seem to love me too much.
I love you as I love
rotting in the compost heap