My Childhood Poetry

A Walk Down Memory Layne

Yes, I purposely misspelled “lane” to be clever, because this article is about me—not the current me, but the little me. I put one of my poems in my “Cats I Have Loved” Hub (it’s the longest poem I’ve ever written), and where appropriate, I will put other poems in Hubs. I have published many poems, a number of them in the “Shoreline” column of The News Guard, Lincoln City, Oregon, many years ago, and now many in the newsletter I edit, “Sweet Comfort,” as welll as other publications. Some of the poems in the newsletter were actually written when I was only ten. They come from a book I wrote and illustrated in 5th grade.

At home I have oodles of files in several file cabinets, and I’m not always sure what’s in them. Some have things that need to be thrown out, but I have to sort them to separate them from things I want to keep. One day not long ago, in one of those manila folders I came across a treasure:

My 5th Grade Poetry Book
My 5th Grade Poetry Book

Dreams of a Young Bookmaker

The image is cropped improperly because the scanner chopped off the S at the end of the title and my name at the bottom, but you get the idea. It wasn’t the first book I made. In 2nd grade, I made a picture book, a simple story about Halloween, by staying in recesses to put it together in crayon. I don’t know what happened to that book, but I remember the story. Two children went trick-or-treating and saw scary sights. Then they came home to a surprise party. On one page, I forgot to draw the girl’s hair so she was bald.

I was an unpopular little thing, so I determined to grow up to be a famous artist and writer so that people would read about me in the newspaper and be sorry they picked on me. The cover of My Poems bears testimony to my putting art before writing in those early years. I drew the cover first and was more ambitious in my plans of content than the actual book would cover. Within its pages are no kiwis, no monkeys, no turkeys, no Abraham Lincoln, no Valentine’s Day poems. There are eleven poems, under the categories Holidays, Nature, True, and an unnamed section in which the final poem, Good-bye appears.

The Illustrations for the Sections in My Childhood Poetry Book

First section: Holidays
First section: Holidays
Second section: Nature
Second section: Nature
Third section: True--The illustration is my dog Mitsie
Third section: True--The illustration is my dog Mitsie

My Beloved Teacher Gave It an A

Miss Hodder wrote: A most interesting poetry file and worthy of an A. I hope you will use and add to your collection!
Miss Hodder wrote: A most interesting poetry file and worthy of an A. I hope you will use and add to your collection!

A Child’s Books for Children

I later tried my hand at children’s picture books to send to Gotelot (I don’t know how to check the spelling of this), which published books by children for children, but was told by my instructor, “Neatness counts.” The illustrations were well-drawn for someone my age, but the coloring was apparently not up to standard, so they were not submitted to the publisher. As for the stories, the ones that made it to finished form were not entirely original. The Zonks was similar to Dr. Suess’s The Sneeches, although the solution to the problem was different. I got the idea for Arthur was an Aardvark from a song by Allan Sherman. You may be saying I also borrowed the aardvark’s name, but this was decades before those books and that TV series came into being. I don’t know what has become of my old children’s books, which I so lovingly bound with thick cardboard with decorative cloth glued onto it.

Illustrating My Writing

As the years passed, my love of art more and more took a back seat to my love of writing, although through high school I took art classes every semester and tried to be a graphic artist by trade. It might have bode better for me had I gone to art school, but that “neatness counts” advice still haunts me. I’m not good at hand lettering. I still dabble in art, but mostly to illustrate my writing. Some of my art can be seen in some of my Hubs, including “Vampires: Legend vs. Fiction,” “The Lighter Side of Vampires” (I’m quite proud of those color illustrations), and the cartoons in “Apostrophes for Dummies” (the latter is illustrated with cartoons, which don’t show up very clearly because the lines are thin. Unlike my cartoonist daughter, I take a long time to do one picture, so that slows me down on some of the Hubs I want to do. Since I must not use anything copyrighted by someone else, so I use my own drawings, paintings, or photographs. Last September I worked on pictures for two Hubs at a campout.

Recently I was able to plug my scanner to my own computer that is in my room, instead of having to use my daughter’s, which is attached to her computer in the living room. So I have more freedom to scan my artwork. I bought a digital camera before Christmas, and you may have seen some of its pictures already. These two pieces of technology will help assure me more creativity speed with my Hubs and my newsletter. I bought two clip art CDs, which I can use on the newsletter, but the user agreement says not to use them on the Internet. That seems odd to me, but if I understand the agreement right, I will not be able to put the clipart on my Hubs.

Early Pet Poems

Okay, you want to read some of the poems? I wrote the original version of this article for my newsletter, and those readers have already been inflicted—ehem, gifted?—with some of those childhood poems. They are not as good as my later poetry, except perhaps where I basically plagiarized family members, but here goes.

M is for Mitsie

M is for Mitsie,
She is my dog, 
I really love her,
Even in fog.

G is for Goldust

G is for Goldust,
She is my cat,
She’s very old,
So what do you think of that?

 

Wait, before you run away. There are better ones.

The Black Cat

 
 
As I was in the back yard
I saw a strange black cat.
My dog started barking,
But the cat still sat,
But finally she started to run,
Up the fence he went,
But when I fed my cat
She picked up the scent,
She chased away my cat
And ate her food.
She soon did this every night
Until we got in a bad mood.
We threw rocks at her,
We chased her,
We let the dog chase her,
And finally we realized
This cat had no home
So to our house she would roam,
So when we feed our cats
We put out two dishes
and fill them both.

As you can see, my passion for pets was spilling out into my writing even then. If you want to read more about my pets, see Gabriel: Remembering an Exceptional Cockatiel and Cats I Have Loved.

Okay, just one more for now (more in a later Hub, if there appears to be an interest).

The Deserted House

As I walk into this dark, deserted house
I hear the door and shutters
Banging in the wind,
Or is it the wind? Could it be ghosts?
A dead body lies at the bottom of the steps
As I walk into the dark basement;
A skeleton lies on the back porch,
eyeless sockets gleaming at me;
A howling sound comes from outside,
On this dark and windy night.
Alone!
In the dark!
In the night!
No one will hear me if I scream!
The closest village is ten miles away!
There’s a banging like footsteps out in the dark
And on the door!
The walls and ceiling are starting to close in on me!
I start to run out of the house,
When a mouse runs in front of me.
The banging grows louder!
And so do the shutters!
I stand frozen still, just ready to scream!
When the clouds blow away from the moon.
The room is filled with light.
I look around
And I see that the banging on the door was only a tree,
And that from out further 
Was only lemons falling on the ground from the deserted
lemon trees,
And that on the shutters only the wind
And the howling only dogs.
There’s nothing mysterious about this house,
A sad house,
Crying for its lots family,
Its lost love.
The skeleton, which was that of a cat
Must have been the family’s cat.
The body was a toy soldier
Of the little boy who once lived there.
The people left the house
And even the family cat.
The cat stayed there and died there.
Now, the house is dying, and crying,
Crying for its lost love.

The Story Behind "The Deserted House"

I fudged a bit when I put “The Deserted House” in the “True” section. Actually, I must have decided on the category before I completed the poem. There is an interesting story behind this one.

What really happened was this: On some sort of trip with my family, we came upon a deserted house and investigated. We joked that it was haunted. There really was a toy soldier at the foot of the stairs, and my brother said it was a “dead body.” There really was a skeleton of a cat, but the reality was scarier than the poem: It was in a small tree or large bush.

I was going to describe everything as we saw it, embellished by the pretence of hauntedness. Whether I was going to reveal the true nature of things, I don’t remember. But it was my father, who advised me in a lot of my writing, who both introduced me to blank verse for the purpose of this poem and who suggested the house was pining for its lost family. On that note, he suggested I put the cat on the porch to give the impression it had died alone, faithful to the home whose family had deserted it.

Our House in My Youth was Not Deserted

Dad, Mom, me, and Mitsie
Dad, Mom, me, and Mitsie

About Other Poems

Other family members helped with other poems. My eldest brother Dave dictated possibly all of “The Pumpkin” to me. And my second eldest brother Mike gave me the quote a friend of his: “First there was beauty, then there was man,” which I quoted almost exactly in my poem, “Then Came Man.”

Now that I have perked your interest (at least, I hope), I will leave you wondering about the poems I didn’t post and maybe pick up the rest of the theme later.

Children and Poetry

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I am fascinated by the clarity of your memory of how this childhood book of poetry came to be. You've given us a bright window into a child's thought and creative processes. Making the chapter titles first and then making the poems fit later is something I can really identify with. I found myself smiling at your telling, and imagining saying to myself as a child, "Good. Now I have the book. All I have to do is fill it up!" Miss Hodder must have been a gem of a teacher, complete with her beautiful penmanship.

Thanks for a delightful morning read.


Robin Layne profile image

Robin Layne 7 years ago from Oregon Author

Yes, Hodder was one of a kind. I could tell stories just about her. It was my first class in the "mentally gifted minor" program, which I got into by scoring high on an IQ test. My second grade teacher, whom I also adored, told my parents she thought I was retarded. Mind you, that one was the teacher under whom I did my first picture book! Hodder treated us like adults, razzing the razzers and calling them by their last names. In the middle of the room she set up a carpeted reading area with pillows. I felt I was in with the other weirdos now, but I was even weird to THEM. Now I'm happy to be "weird."


loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 6 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

this is a very nice selection, i wish that i still had all of my past poems.you seem to have been a very happy child with memories to last a life time.


Robin Layne profile image

Robin Layne 6 years ago from Oregon Author

I'm glad that happiness shows in the poems, but I don't remember most of my childhood as very happy. Other kids don't like creative types or anyone else who is somehow "different" from themselves. Throughout later years, a good part of my poems expressed negative emotions because writing poetry was a way to deal with my problems. Fortunately, I have a pretty wide range to pick from.

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