Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 2, 2012

Winnie-the-Pooh as Poetry Buddy

Whenever a student mentions a memory of a parent reading a book, I smile as if that mom or dad just slipped into the room. There seems to be a pretty direct line between those happy moments and my students’ interest in looking back. Rereading Winnie-the-Pooh, I remember my dad changing his voice for the characters, as my brother, sister, and I cuddled close. But like my students, there’s much of the text I never noticed or forgot. This time through, I took note not just of Pooh’s poems embedded in the prose, but how much the humble bear has to say about “this writing business. Pencils and what-not.”

We get a glimpse into Pooh’s process when “he was trying to make up a piece of poetry about fir-cones, because there they were, lying about on each side of him, and he felt singy.” He studies the fir-cone, feeling something ought to rhyme with it, and when he fails, steers himself to other sounds. Shortly before the “Expotition to the North Pole,” he composes a song, “singing the third and fourth lines before I have time to think of them.”  In House at Pooh Corner, Pooh asks Piglet what he thinks of a poem, and Piglet objects to one word. Pooh explains that this word wanted to come, so he let it. “It is the best to way to write poetry, letting things come.”

It’s tough for poets to find eager audiences, and Pooh keeps us company in scenes such as the one in which he approaches Kanga and asks, “I don’t know if you are interested in Poetry at all?”

“Hardly at all,” said Kanga.

Pooh tries to push on, “Talking of Poetry…” but Kanga is more interested in Baby Roo, who busily practices jumps.

In the last chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, a party is held to celebrate Pooh’s rescue of Piglet. When Pooh opens the present “He nearly fell down, he was so pleased. It was a Special Pencil Case. .. There was a knife for sharpening the pencils, and India-rubber for rubbing out anything which you had spelt wrong, and a ruler for ruling lines for the words to walk on, and inches marked on the ruler in case you wanted to know how many inches anything was, and Blue Pencils and Red Pencils and Green Pencils for saying special things in blue and red and green. And all these lovely things were in little pockets of their own in a Special Case which shut with a click when you clicked it.”

I nearly fell down, too. Who wouldn’t want to write with a case like that? I think I must at least capitalize Pencil.

For more Friday Poetry post, please visit Dori Reads.

 

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Responses

  1. oh, a Special Pencil Case !
    I do love Pooh.

    • It’s a lovely passage. I googled Pooh pencil cases and was disappointed to see quite pedestrian plastic cases with Disney images: not three Colored Pencils in a case that clicked when you clicked it.

      • I do think it may be the kind of Special Pencil Case that looks better in our imaginations… but oh, Milne, for capturing that perfect feeling of pleasure in a Poet’s Tools!! and in Pooh, of all characters! (I love that, because I feel Pooh makes an Excellent Poet of the Everyday).

        …the more it goes (tiddly pom) ….

  2. I love Pooh, but only read the stories as an adult. We read lots, but just not Pooh. I think I would have just loved him as a child. What a wonderful segment on writing!

    • Hi, Donna! The stories are pretty perfect for read aloud, as there is so much there for both grown and not-yet. It is a lovely memory for me because I believe my dad heard them as a child, then passed them along.

  3. Oh Jeannine, you’ve made me want to read it all over again. My daughter and I read it often, I read it to my first graders (long years ago) and I sewed all the animals for my daughter; we still have Eeyore and piglet! What a beautiful memory you have written. Milne was a poet too; I love “Now We Are Six”. Thanks for this.

    • That’s great you have so many memories of it, Linda. And I do seem to focus on new things every time. How wonderful you sewed the animals for your daughter, and two remain! I wonder if she didn’t play with Eeyore as much, so he survived more intact, but I’d think she’d adore piglet. Several students told me they’d assumed he was a girl.

      I also love “Now We Are Six.” My daughter’s teacher had them do riffs on that..

  4. It’s been a busy day, and here I am sitting in your lovely window seat to read about Pooh as a writer. Oh, what could be better! My son loved (and still loves) Pooh’s wit and sweetness, and it was such a pleasure to read aloud together. Just recently when I was looking through my music stacks, I found a little handwritten piece that my son composed for the piano entitled, Tiddly Pom. Just makes me smile to think about it. Thanks for a fun end-of-afternoon post. 🙂

    • Lorraine, I love that your son felt chummy with this little bear and still find him witty and kind. What a gem that little composition sound to be! Glad the post reminded you of such treasures.

  5. This is the best post I’ve ever read in my entire life.

    You are the smartest poet I’ve ever known.

    Pooh and I are friends, you know, and all you say is true.

    Love,
    Cornelius
    xo

    • Cornelius, you make me blush. I didn’t know you and Pooh were friends, but I suppose that explains why I feel I’ve known you my whole life. Thank you for the sweetest note, and please give a hug to your friend, Jama!

  6. I treasure those stories of Pooh and his band of friends – so many memories are associated with my children, who were devotees of Pooh. My parents live three doors down from Milne’s home in Chelsea….whenever I walk past it I think of Pooh sticks and Tigger’s huge heart, and the essential kindness and goodness of Pooh world. We need more of that in our world, don’t we? And perfectly composed pencil cases, too.

    • I’m so happy to know your children were Pooh devotees, and how cool your parents lived close to an old home. I read that Mr. and Mrs. Milne used to serve sherry from piglet-shaped cups. Very cool, though still not as cool as those pencil cases.

  7. I never read Pooh as a child either, but have loved him as an adult. He makes me feel so “singy.” Love this post, Jeannine.

    • I kind of feel there really is more there for an adult than a child; like some of my students, I was read the tales, but am keenly aware reading now of all I would have missed, certainly much of the humor. Glad to know Pooh makes you feel “singy.” Yes, the perfect Pooh word.

  8. Oh, now I must go and fall right into those Pooh books once again! Thank you for the warm and woolly invitation on this winter day, Jeannine. I’m thinking about spring when we’ll be down Raiber road playing Pooh sticks through the culvert. You are good to us! Tiddly Pom indeed! Happy Poetry Saturday! a.


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