How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

One of the benefits of being part of a community is the ways we offer our interests to one another. It’s clear in the comments (and especially on Friday!) we have some truly gifted poets here and decided it’s high time we create intentional space to talk about poetry.

Wait, wait before you say, “Note to self: take week off from Velvet Ashes, re-engage next Monday,” keep reading.  And for those of you who are more advanced than me, this is your week. Enjoy! (And know that you are rubbing off on the likes of folks like me.)

The love of poetry skipped a generation in my family and landed firmly on my nieces. To see what I mean, I received the following email a couple of years ago from my oldest niece. In it she expresses herself in a way that never in a million, billion, zillion years would occur to me: poetry. As a point of reference, I am The Math Fairy (the back story will have to wait for another day) and share the following with her permission.

The subject line read: Math Fairy I Need You

Dear Math Fairy,

I am in desperate need of your help! I wrote a poem about math to help you understand my feelings towards it. Hope you enjoy it :-(.

What Math is to Me
By Emily

Math is evil,
Math is hard to understand.
Math is way worse than a first-grade band.
Math is hated,
Math is hard for me.

Wow.  I have never written a poem to express my feelings about anything without it being assigned. Clearly, she has strong feeling about Math and TMF (The Math Fairy) wrote the following response:

Dear Emily,

(This is Math speaking, by the way, I’m borrowing Aunt Amy’s computer),

I thought I’d start off with a poem about what you are to me.

What Emily is to Me
by Math

Emily is kind,
Her smile warms me.
She helps people
and her laugh is like listening to a cool summer brook
She is loved.
I want her to be my friend

Hey, what was Math doing on here? This is now Aunt Amy …. looks like Math wrote something. Let me see what she said. (I’m back now, I scrolled up) I agree with Math’s poem about you! It seems that Math knows you well and that it’s a little hard for you to know math. Is that another way of seeing it? (She’s not really evil, you know. Not like a wicked step-mother in Cinderella!)

I am seriously sorry that math is so FRUSTRATING for you. But know that Math WANTS you to “get” her. She’s not playing hide and seek or being mean. She likes you. Not as much as I do!!!!!! But she DOES like you.

And I LOVE you :)!

Love, AA


Through this exchange (and the subsequent emails) I discovered that Emily has a poetry notebook and often writes poems to process and express her life. That’s right. Poetry. Take that all those who fuss about “the youth of today.”

So, how does this love of poetry become instilled whether young or old? Last week after dinner I asked my mom, sister, and nieces if they’d share their favorite poetry books with us (come back tomorrow).

A buzz started to stir.

Girls went off in search of books and it was like I was at the most bizarre word party where suddenly everyone became a bit tipsy. Girls returned clutching books to their chests, someone would start to quote a poem and beam at others at the table, squeals of joy at old friends rediscovered.

And I thought to myself, Maybe I have misjudged you poetry. Maybe you are not dry and long and dull. Maybe, just maybe, we can be friends.

Lest you think they are just “exceptional” or freaks, and you or your children could never become poetry nuts aficionados, I asked my nieces, ages 12, 10, 8, and 6, what had helped them love poetry — to the point they will memorize them on their own to perform at holidays, memorize a poem as thank you instead of writing a note, choose “poetry” for kindergarten show and tell, or process their experiences in poems. Their responses were poetically simple.

  1. Receiving poetry books each April for Poetry month (insert Grandma’s influence).
  2. Listening to poetry a lot when we were little (especially Mother Goose) and later reading it to ourselves.
  3. Growing up with it.
  4. Grandma quoting poetry. Mom reading it to us. We were influenced by the things around us.

So, it basically comes down to exposure. Were they born with a special penchant for poetry? No. It was more about nurture and poetry woven into life. In a similar vein, this week we are going to share poetry resources, ways that poetry is used in the Bible, and give you a chance to express yourself in poem. Exposure, baby!

Get your iambic pentameter on! Find your inner limerick! Or if need be, lament with those who mourn. Our God is one of vast creativity and we will explore and celebrate the poetic way he expresses himself as we, as image bearers, follow suit.

Do you like poetry? What poems hold a special place for you? What makes you tipsy with joy?

Photo credit Nick Kenrick via Flickr


  1. Kimberly Todd February 23, 2014

    This post makes me tipsy with joy. I love your conclusion and wholeheartedly agree. Exposure nurtures a love of good things. And poetry is a good thing.

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      I think exposure is like little kids and new foods. You might have to throw away a good bit, but then suddenly one day they eat without protest. And you walk across the red sea on dry ground 🙂

  2. Shelly Page February 23, 2014

    I can’t say I was nurtured in poetry, though I wrote some for classes and on rare occasions have taken a stab at it for no other reason than to just do it.  It seems that when I entered “work” my meandering over words diminished to the point that I have forgotten how to drink in words, slowly, like savoring a cup of hot tea.  As with my morning cup of tea, I too easily get attracted to something else I could do, and the tea gets cold, reheated, cold, reheated. Drinking becomes a task to just finish since I made it.  Poetry (and beautiful prose, I would add) asks that I sit for a spell and not be in rush to get to the next thing.

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      Ah, sitting. I’m finding my “smart” phone is influencing my ability to focus more than I’d care to admit. Not sure yet what to do about it, but I am NOT KEEN on what I see being born in me. Not keen at all.

  3. Morielle February 23, 2014

    Mountains make me tipsy with joy. So do rivers, and lakes, and people’s faces when they’re laughing. Oh, and STARS! And, of course, Psalm 19, because even though it is just some typed words on a flimsy white page, reading it makes me feel the same way I feel when I gaze at God’s creation: crushed by awe and fear and joy all at once.

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      Oh Morielle, you are so much more pure than me! My heart skipped a beat yesterday during worship music. Why? Because some man to my left made a gesture that looked like “first down” in football! But that IS what God does … keep the ball moving (at times). But stars are probably far more likely to be eternal than football 🙂

  4. M'Lynn February 24, 2014

    I made myself finish reading this for fear a poetry assignment would follow. A greatly formatted Excel spreadsheet I created myself makes me tipsy with joy. Or an amazing photo I snapped myself of my kids. Or a super fun birthday cake I made from scratch. Poetry, not so much. But, for the sake of community I’ll try and stay tuned this week!

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      Excel sheets make you tipsy?! I’m glad they make someone tipsy. I’m updating my supporter list today and this is decidedly an ANTI-AMY day and activity. I think a part of me has died :). But tis what I needed to do! AND there will be a book on the book club list that Jeremy will love :)!!!

  5. Laura February 24, 2014

    I’ve taught and analyzed poetry, but it definitely doesn’t make me tipsy. I prefer the grammar side of English to the literature side. However, teaching poetry did help me learn to enjoy it more. Looking forward to Friday. 🙂

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      Laura, I agree, teaching something often does foster a deeper appreciation in me 🙂

  6. Mark Allman February 24, 2014


    I love poetry and have written some over the years.  I wrote a long poem for each of my three children when they graduated from high school that was their life in poem.  One of my most favorite books on poems is Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’neill.  It is a book of poems on color.  Here is a little from the Purple poem:  Time is purple just before night, When most people turn on the light, But if you don’t it’s a beautiful sight, Asters are purple, there’s purple ink, Purple’s more popular than you think… it’s sort of a great Grandmother to pink……

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2014

      Mark what a wonderful gift for your children! And I think I’ve heard the name of that book mentioned by someone in my family. Thanks for including a bit of it 🙂 … I did enjoy it!

    2. M'Lynn February 24, 2014

      hmmm…I liked it, too. Guess I’d better not give up on poetry just yet!

  7. Debbie February 27, 2014

    I have always loved poetry from an early page. My Mom has what was probably the first poem I ever wrote in first or second grade. I must have been mad at her because it was not very nice. There are some many different ways you can express yourself in a poem.: some rhyme and some are just thoughts but either way it is another way of expression that doesn’t lead to your ordinary every day sentence.

  8. Brittany March 4, 2014

    I loved this post!  I hate poetry.  Oops, there, I said it!  It’s never been cultivated in me, ha!  At school, it was a chore.  I don’t understand it.  But deep down, I kind of want to.

    I’m not gonna like, I’ve been avoiding the blog this past week.  I feel like poetry is a reminder that I’m not classy or refined.  I’d even like to be a poet, but I’m not.  But I’ve spent some time this morning reading the posts from last week and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it!  Maybe I’m not able to express myself in poetry, but wow, my heart is FILLED by reading others’!  Maybe this is a practice the Lord wants to cultivate in me.  Or maybe He just wants to bless me through the practice of others.  =)

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