I love poetry, as the students know, and I gave a lot of thought to this week's selection. I considered some of my favorites that I have read aloud at school many times: Once I Ate a Pie, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest; Guess Again! by Mac Barnett; One Leaf Rides the Wind, by Celeste Mannis; Hotel Deep, by Kurt Cyrus; Song of the Water Boatman, by Joyce Sidman; or Casey Back at Bat, by Dan Gutman. Unfortunately none of these is in the County of LA public library's digital collection. (I love our public library, but it feels like someone over there thinks young people don't like poetry, which I have not found to be true!) You can look for them in the Pennekamp library collection when we go back to school.
I decided on 16 Words. It is a new (2019) book--I have not previously read it aloud--and I like it a lot. "The Red Wheelbarrow" is a well-known poem that is often read by young people, and according to the author's note of 16 Words, it was William Carlos Williams's favorite of his poems. The University of Pennsylvania has made available for educational use five different recordings of Williams reading "The Red Wheelbarrow."
An interesting fact about Williams is that he was a medical doctor as well as a poet, and 16 Words shows his work as a doctor and his work as a poet existing side by side, not in opposition. Many of us are trying to perform different types of important work simultaneously right now; I like how different aspects of Williams's life supported rather than precluded each other. Williams's inspiration for the poem is believed to have been what he saw out his window in the yard of his friend and neighbor, Thaddeus Marshall. So while many of our diversions and destinations are not available, "The Red Wheelbarrow" takes its inspiration from what is at hand. It reminds me to look carefully and thoughtfully at my surroundings.
Included beneath the readaloud is an animation of the poem, which circles around the words and images without insisting on a particular interpretation. (As always, supervise young people on YouTube as comments and related content often include words and images that are not suitable for children.)
What does "The Red Wheelbarrow" say to you?